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By Stephanie Negroni
" I spy" said Xena mockingly and exasperated.
"Gabrielle, I am sick of playing these STUPID games. How am I supposed to guess what you are talking about with just one color? Open your eyes, there are colors everywhere." Xena said guiding Argo on a deep rich, earthen path. The green trees were in prime fullness; the sweet grass was soft as a bear fur, soft under the feet.
"I don't know Xena...I always win don't I?" she looked at Xena and cocked her head in a challenging way. "Blue", she said.
"Hmmmm... the color of your face trying to get me to play this game?" Xena said, cocking her head right back at her shorter counterpart. Gabrielle gave her a hard glare and a roll of the eyes.
"You're right, I should know someone like you doesn't like to use their imagination...where I like to" her voice growing romantic and nostalgic as if she were remembering a great part from her favorite play "pretend, dream and am fine just thinking by myself, as much as I like to talk to others." She was looking high in the air; her eyes close a slight smile on her face.
"Great", Xena said, "this is your chance to catch up." Xena said, Gabrielle's moment came crashing to the ground while Xena walked ahead...leaving her friend to reflect with herself.
Gabrielle quickly opened her eyes. Trying to redeem herself...."But I am fine with other people..." she said running up to join her friend again "I am willing to greet and meet a new person with a smile on."
"Yeah, yeah" said Xena...looking away and smiling, so that Gabrielle couldn't see her.
"Sorry," said Gabrielle, quickly coming back down to earth. Deeply humbled. Looking down and then up at her friend. "Did you ever say something that you didn't mean? Well that was me...huh <laughing in that way she laughs when she is nervous> just now."
"Sometimes" said Xena "you have to put your dreams aside and face reality".
They walked on the path, in silence.... Enjoying the beauty of nature.
"Carrissa, leave me alone and stop splashing over here. You are getting blots on my music" said Elle, who was sitting by the river, watching her little sister swim. She rubbed her fingers across the brown parchment and shook her head in disgust. The sweet sound of her flute filled the air, drowning out the hustle and bustle of the town not far away.
"I wish you would come in and play with me" said the swimming figure in the water. "The water is nice".
"First of all, you're not supposed to be playing, you are supposed to be bathing. And I am working on my music."
She looked up at her sister, and couldn't help but feel sorry for her. But the age difference was great. Carrissa was 11, Elle was 19. That weird age. Too young to really talk to, and to old to be cute. Old enough thought Elle, to bath by herself. But her father insisted there had been a band of strangers hanging around the local villages and she shouldn't be left alone. Whatever thought Elle, who looked back down at her music and began to fix what the water spots had done... again.
"Elle!" cried Carrissa.
"What" shot Elle, not taking her eyes off her parchment was growing impatient. When there was no remark she said, "then shut up".
"Elle!" again screamed Carrissa, this time the urgency in her sister voice made her look up. She saw her sisters' face had a blank look of fear. She was looking past Elle. Elle quickly turned around to see the town in a blaze.
"gods!" she gasped. She quickly got to her feet, threw her sisters clothing at her to get dress and started toward the town, all in a couple seconds.
She and Carrissa ran as fast as they could, there was fire everywhere, men dressed in black burning, screaming and killing. Elle ran past dead friends, teachers, and merchants to reach her family. She was grasping her sister's hand intensely. Pulling her along. Carrissa's feet were not even moving, she was crying, a heavy weight to Elle, who was dodging swords and falling, bodies in their way. She reached her house and found a dead woman's body on the ground, her mother, barely recognizable from the blood. And a man with a sword sticking out of his quivering stomach. Carrissa was screaming and lying on her dead mother. She pulled the tiny dagger out of her mother and went out to the fighting to kill something...to relieve some anger. Elle quickly went after her, emotions aside.
"Carrissa...get back here," Elle said, at the same time she looked outside of the doorway she saw a man sticking a sword through Carrissa's slip of a body. Elle screamed in horror and ran to her. The man just rode away... off to destroy another. The fighting was slowly dying off.
"Carrissa" she said..."hold on". She swooped her up in her arms, which were quivering out of shock, and took her inside the once thought indestructible home. Her safely, her shelter. She put her sister down. And shook her, "wake up...hold on, talk to me!" She squeezed her pulling her bloody body up to her own...her still damp body made warm with blood stopped shaking...she was gone.
"Oh, gods" cried Elle.
"Quiet" she heard a voice say. The voice was quiet, gurgled and hardly recognizable. She picked her head up and saw that it was her father, still gripping the sword in his stomach.
"Father..." she said quickly crawling over to him..."what can I do" she asked desperately. "Who did this" her voice growing quiet and raspy. "And why".
"Not for such a pretty face to worry" he said, raising his hand and stroking her face. "Listen to me", he said, wincing at the pain.
"I'm listening father," she said wincing at his pain. "I'm listening". Elle was leaning over him cautiously but heavily, struggling to hear his last words.
"You must go and find your sister, you twin sister...stay with her."
"Father...she is right there ...she is dead!" she said. What was he talking about? 'He must be hallucinating' thought Elle, 'loss of blood'.... She looked at her father and wanted to do something to help him.
"How can I help you." She said applying pressure to his stomach with her strong yet gentle hands. "Here let me..."
"Elle," he interrupted, his voice was stern. A tone Elle was familiar with. "You are adopted, your birth parents couldn't take care of you. We...." He looked away in pain and weakness. When he regained his last few breaths he continued. Elle was confused; shocked, disappointed ...a flood of emotions overtook her. She sat hunched on her knees, holding his hand tightly.
"Gabrielle of Potedia..." he said again wincing...this time it would be his last.
She sat there and gathered her family together clutching a piece of each. She held her mothers' hand, her father's hand and rested her head on her sister's shoulder. She shook and screamed. She didn't care who found her and if they had taken her life. She cried herself to sleep, on this, the eve of her birthday, The worst day of her life.
Xena and Gabrielle arrived at Potedia at mid-noon. Gabrielle was exited to see her family. It was her birthday. Her mother made the bast cake, her father said that he would make her a new scroll bag. God knows she needed one. She was sick of Xena making fun of the holes that were in her present one. And, best of all, here sister told the juiciest gossip. They walked up to the house. Gabrielle's father was in the hut where he kept his harvesting tools. As Xena tied Argo to a tree and gave her some feed, Gabrielle went to greet her father. She found him bending over his mare, mending her hurt leg.
She snuck up from behind and put her hands over his eyes.
"Guess who", she asked, as if her couldn't know. Anyone could have heard her scrolls bouncing around in her bag as she ran with her clumsy gait.
Athena" he said, In good humor. "Come over here and show me how you have changed." He said turning around and drawing her close to him.
"It has only been a couple months father. I do have a new freckle!" she said. The sun tended to do that to her.
"I see, as so does your sister Lila."
"Where is Lila?"
"She is at the market, she will be back soon."
Gabrielle nodded her head. But she knew full well that Lila was with that guy she had told her about. She smiled a little. Xena appeared in the doorway.
"Hello Xena" said Gabrielle's Father.
"Hello". Said Xena politely.
It was a known fact that the whole village of Potedia held a bitter hatred toward her. She had taken their little bard away from them and endangered her.
"Father" she sensed the uneasiness" I'm only going to be here until tonight. I, we, have to leave soon."
"Ok... well go and say hi to your mother. She has been waiting for you all day. I'll be right in."
She gave her father one last hug and moved into the house.
Xena loved to see her friend around her family. She glowed, and Xena was Envious of what she shared with her family and town. A great love and pride dwelt in Potedia. A love of art, education, of themselves and those around them. She was also saddened at what Gabrielle had left behind. But she left it behind; she was not taken forcibly by Xena in any means. But Xena couldn't help think sometimes if this lifestyle was really for Gabrielle. She hurt her so much, so often.
As they drew near the house the smell of sweetness filled the air. Fresh apples and cake with fresh cherries were proudly displayed on the table and Gabrielle's mother was dipping the last of the dishes in the water basin. When she saw her daughter walk in she dropped the dishes, making a splash of water.
"My Gabrielle", how have you been." She said grabbing her daughter with her wet hands.
"Fine, mother, and yourself". Said Gabrielle not minding the wetness.
"Fine, the years catching up to me I guess. A new wrinkle everyday I believe."
"Oh mother, wrinkles are a sign of wisdom...a sign of dignity." Gabrielle was looking upward again. Face held high, eyes close. Xena rolled her eyes.
"Same as ever, my daughter, huh Xena". Said Gabrielle's mother, also noting this romantic journey down memory lane. "You would think that she was nearing the end of her life with all of her poetic mumbling and wisdom. I don't know about this generation." Said Gabrielle's mother as she dried the dishes that she was pulling out of the sink. Just then Lila walked in the door and hugged Gabrielle furiously.
"How I've missed you, my older sister." Said Lila
"Oh me too" said Gabrielle squeezing her sister as hard as possible. "So what do you have for me. I want to hear everything"
"Well... Sarah and Lexis have been..." said Lila with the eagerness of a little girl.
"Girls, there will be time for that gossip later. For now set the table. Xena would you go and get some firewood?" said Gabrielle's mother.
"Sure, I'll be right back" and she soon returned with the wood.
That night they all shared stories news and a great time in celebration of Gabrielle's birthday. When night fell they were on their way. Gabrielle, with her new scroll bag, and Xena, feeding Argo her piece of cake.
The sound of the birds woke Elle the next morning. They must not have known what happened last night. How could they act like nothing happened. She hated the birds. There was not one moving body in the village and her house was one of the last standing shelters. The sun was bright, but it could not penetrate enough to warm her heart. She hated the sun. As far as she was concerned she could do whatever she wanted. She could go east to Thrace or West to Potedia. She went to the stream where she and Carrissa had been just the day before and cried. She lay on the ground and let her emotions ooze from every pour on her body. She closed her eyes and let the sounds of the last night echo through her head...she couldn't help it. She opened her eyes and saw a mother bird feeding its young in the tree above her. Family. She had none. Just a sister who didn't know she existed. A twin actually. A soul mate that she had never even missed. Would she be accepted if she even found her. Would she fit into her life, and what right did she have to expect that? None. But she needed someone. She was like that.
She rose to her feet grabbed her flute that she had left yesterday. Stood a moment. Remembering that moment. That feeling. That smell and that sound. Felt that sense of purpose that did not include her past life and those who lived it with her. She bent and picked up her flute, tucked her music in her shirt, and she started back to her old house. She stood there, looking at the doorway. Not knowing what she was going to do next. Her hands lifted to her mouth and she played a song for those in the house, and for the dead who lay around her. Music was sometimes the only way she could truly express herself. It was true and uncomplicated. Her song filled the air. And for the first time since the night before, she did not hear the sound of the men, the fire, the killing. She lowered her head, and then lifted it to the sun. Her blue eyes squinting in the brightness, she turned around and walked away- to never look back again. She walked toward Potedia, and a potentially new life.
She walked on and on. The trees were beautiful; she was never one to deny nature. No matter what her life was like. No matter what hardships came, there was one constant. The changing of the colors of the trees, the sounds of birds, the rising and setting of the sun.
"Where do you think you are going...all alone?" said a dirty looking man, he was alone, and so was she.
"I am going the Potedia", she answered, and for fear that her silence would provoke his anger. She had been prepared to fight. She was a roughen and used to play with the village boys on a regular basis, even thought she had grown too old. Their play had turned more and more likable.
"Oh yeah, I hope you don't plan on getting there soon." He said, with an evil grin.
She ran and ran...he chased. 'Great,' she though, 'this is all I need.' She stopped suddenly and bent down. Her assailant tripped over her. He was vulnerable. She kicked him repeatedly in the stomach until he lies there in pain. Moaning. And just when he couldn't take any more, she kicked him one last time really hard.
"That's for thinking you could hurt me, remember that" she said as she walked away. She expected to get a sense of satisfaction from hurting another. Relief. Payback. But none came. And no one could bring her family back to her.
The rest of her trip was uneventful. When Potedia was in reach she stood silently and took a deep breath, closes her eyes and started to walk closer. She noticed a small vender selling new scrolls, how they smelled. She could smell that musty freshness from miles away. 'Would she ever find a soul-mate to share her love of scrolls?' she asked herself. It was definitely an acquired liking. 'Probably not' she answered herself.'.
"Oh, Gab... " Said the merchant behind the scroll stand. "Oh, Sorry" he said. " I almost mistook you for someone else. "Oh well... Can I help you? Can I interest you in this one?"
He held up a new scroll with an ivory handle. "It is one of a kind.... And truly worthy of your beauty." He said letting her get a closer look. She admired it lightly, but couldn't help but remember the task at hand.
"Yes, its nice Do you know where I can find a Gabrielle?" she asked.
"Oh, yes. She was here last night. She moves around quite a lot. Now that she has joined up with Xena, the WARRIOR princess." He said rolling his eyes at warrior.
"Oh" said Elle, in semi-disgust. Her sister was a warrior. Did she WANT to meet her? "Which way did she go?"
"North I believe. They left just a couple hours ago." He said, pointing to a path that cut though a thick mountain.
"Thank you.... I have nothing to give you.... But my gratitude." Said Elle.
"What's that in your hand?" inquired the merchant looking at the instrument in her left hand.
"Oh, my flute." She said.
"Will you play me a song...you know...for my troubles?" asked the merchant leaning on his table, ignoring the other customers.
"Ok" said Elle eagerly.
She played a song. A song of sorrow and suffering.
"Such sorrow for a young beauty" commented the merchant with sad eyes.
"Well, that's life.... It happens" and she lowered her flute and turned.
"Wait, take this" he held out a rugged bag, it had a hole in it. This was traded yesterday for a better one; I can't get any dinars for this" he said holding it closer for her to examine it. "You can put your flute and music in it."
"Thank you" she said lowering her head and forcing back the tears at his kindness, to her a perfect stranger. And this is how she walked away. North.
She ran. She ran hard to a new life and now she was on the right track. Soon she would be united with her sister, Her only surviving family. She ran, remembering how she was the best athlete among the village children and later the most like by the boys, until she could no more, which was when she heard the talking. Quiet, quite a distance ahead on the path.
"There are something's that you cannot change, Gabrielle." Said a tall woman dressed in leather. She was leading a horse. A pretty one. Blonde with a white mane.
"Gabrielle, I'm sick of talking about that stupid game from yesterday. You didn't hurt my feelings, really. You can rest well tonight."
Xena was surprised that Gabrielle had such energy. She wasn't complaining though. It was good to see her full of life after the year that she had. Her first killing, Dahok, Hope, and that time spent in Illusia. She was glad to have her back to her old self. Xena would do anything to not let anything like that happens again to her.
"Let's set up camp", said the tall one with a strange tone in her voice. Bringing the horse to a halt.
" Xena you have been acting weird since we passed that pond back there, what's wrong?" Gabrielle asked, but she was not very concerned, because she knew it couldn't be anything important. Things were going pretty smooth lately. No run in with warriors, her and Xena were getting along well. Weeks free of poison darts, kidnappings and other events that had become ordinary.
"I am hungry and there is not another village for a while yet, that's all" Answered Xena. But she knew the real reason. She had sensed that the two were being followed for a while. But there didn't seem to be a threat.
Elle stood quietly behind a tree some distance away, she could hardly make out the words. A twin, her very own.
"She looks just like me," said Elle quietly to herself.
"Good, I am always hungry.", said Gabrielle.
"Is Aphrodite the god of love?" added Xena with a cynical tone in her voice.
"Funny... I saw some really nice berries just a little back. I'm getting sick of plain old fish, we need some variety will go pick some" said Gabrielle, emptying out her new scroll bag for a place to put the berries. Meet you here"
"Yes, variety" She looked in the distance, as if to gather her thoughts. "It is the spice of life", she said. "Oh, I should write that down." And she grabbed a scroll out of her bag and wrote feverishly.
"She writes...." Said Elle quietly to herself. "She really is from Potedia.... 'The spice of life', I'll have to remember that for one of my songs." She began to feel her knees hurting. So she crouched down. The blonde began to walk back on the path.
"gods!" said Elle. She quickly but quietly crawled to a gully behind a bush and lay quietly. Gabrielle was getting closer; she was going bush to bush along the path as the tall dark one was staking out a rabbit up ahead, she had gotten out of Elle's sight.
"Variety is the spice of life...the SPICE of life", Gabrielle was saying to herself as she walked closer and closer to Elle's bush. "The spice of LIFE", she said again this time stopping to hear her new poetic saying ring through the air. Soon she was standing over the bush Elle was hiding behind.
Elle's heart was racing. She slowly looked up. Her eyes were green, a light friendly green. She had a little nose. A button nose, Elle's father had called it and he would lightly touch the end. She looked like Elle. Except for the eye color. Elle' s were blue. She wanted so much to say something. To call out her name, just so hear what it would sound like. But instead she sat quietly and held her breath, her heart pounding in her chest. 'Maybe this wasn't a good idea. Maybe she should go home' she thought. 'What home' she answered herself. Gabrielle looked so peaceful and content. Maybe she was weak and couldn't handle what a new person might bring to her life. Especially a sister, a twin. She carried that stick around. She must surely be a weakling.
Gabrielle turned around and started to the campsite, admiring her gathering. Holding them up to the sun and sampling their sweetness. She closed her eyes with every bite. Savoring everything. 'Life was sweet, in spite of it's sourness' she said to herself. "Wow, I am on a roll!" she complemented herself.
"Xena, Xena...I have the berries. They are goooood," she said. Xena appeared from out of the woods holding a rabbit.
"He was a tough one," she said holding up the labors of her hunt. "He should cook really well, too".
"Well, we'll see about that." Said Gabrielle holding the poor rabbit in her hands. She loved to eat it, but not seeing it or cleaning it. But you can't have one without the other.
"Next town, we eat at a tavern. Ok?" she said putting down the rabbit with a grimace on her face. She began to clean it
They cooked and ate, as the sky was growing dark. That air was getting a little cool. Elle's made herself a bed of leaves under the bush that Gabrielle had earlier picks the berries from. She could smell the sweet food, and hear the laughter that was shared. And longer for both, plus a blanket. She longed to play her flute. To calm herself and do something that was so familiar to her. But they would hear her for sure, and she wanted to just observe for now. So she laid on her blanket of leaves, shivering lightly as quiet tears rolled down her face. She knew not what for, just that they fell and she could find no comfort.
She was awakening next morning to the sound of pots and pans, light talking and birds chirping. The sun streamed warm on her face. Could she pull off going a whole day of following without being found out? She would see. Her stomach was grumbling, her head was pounding. Tonight she would find a softer rock to rest her head upon. As Xena and Gabrielle began to set out she started to get ready. She wanted to walk to the nearest stream and splash some water on her face. To wash the sleep out of her eyes but instead she followed quietly and dutifully. She was walking for a while, admiring the beauty of the early morning, when she sensed some action ahead. She went a little closer so that she could see what was going on. Hiding behind a tree she saw that Xena and Gabrielle had come upon a man lying on the path.
"Hey, wake up. Are you ok?" asked Gabrielle of the cloaked figure.
No answer. Xena undid his cloak.
"No wounds, no blood." Said Xena
"He's breathing...," said Gabrielle as she bent over him to check.
"Oh.... That's bad" She quickly drew her head up. His breath was staunch.
"A drunk, huh." Said Xena as she smiled at the sour face on her friend. "He'll be fine.... We'll just pull him over here." And she lifted the body by the underarms and pulled him to the side, out of the way.
"I'm glad you don't drink Xena...." Said Gabrielle she watched Xena struggle to pull the overweight and floppy body to the side. "I don't think I would be able to pull you like that."
They continued to walk on. " You know, plus the smell." And their voices began to trail off as they walked away.
Elle watched in excitement. Maybe he had something to eat on him, some dinars, anything. She waited for the two to walk ahead more and moved up to him. He was still out cold and would be for a while. She searched him frantically, nervous about being seen by someone. He had 3 dinars in his pocket, and that was all. So she began to walk off, when she turned around and decided to take the very cloak off of his back. She struggled getting his arms out and had to turn her nose at the smell of him.
"This will do me good tonight", she said as she took it. "That is what you get for drinking too much", she said as she walked away pulling the cloak over head and following after the two further up on the path.
As the sky began to grow dark she wished she could make out what they were saying ahead. What a perfect opportunity to get to know her sister, in her own environment. She seemed so caring so kind that Elle wanted to call out 'I am here...I am your sister' and run up to her and hold her so long sharing without words all the thoughts and moments that had been lost. She had always wanted an older sister, at least someone older that Carrissa. Not that she would give anything to have her back. To hear her again, to yell at her again, this time she would hold her and tell her she loved her.
"What are you going to have...pork?" she heard Gabrielle ask.
" Gabrielle, is that all you think about is food?" Said Xena looking at her from atop Argo.
"NO," said Gabrielle defensively and loudly. Then she caught herself,
" But sometimes I can't help it. I can't help that I am a growing young woman." She said defensively dragging her staff in back of her with a slight pout on her face. "Plus I get bored. You can look around from up there. While I am stuck down here.... And I'm not that tall the way it is. Plus, sometimes I just run out of things to say.... You (great Exaggeration on the "you") don't like to play games; you get bored with my stories sometimes. Sorry."
"Calm down...its ok, I didn't ask for a list. Anyway, how did you know I wanted pork." Said Xena
"Instinct.... Plus anytime we pass through this place, you always get the same thing...old predictable." Said Gabrielle with a challenge in her voice.
It was getting darker and darker; nearly unbearable to see. Elle was stumbling on her own feet in the dark. As she was listening to the talk up ahead she tripped over a branch that we lying on the path.
"Umphhhhhhhhh" she couldn't help it. It just came out.
She quickly got to her feet and hid behind the nearest tree.
"Xena, what is it?" asked Gabrielle. She did not ask again. She knew when Xena had that look on her face that she was to keep quiet no matter what.
"Chhhhhhhyyyyyyyaaaaaaaaaaaaa" rung through the air.
Elle cloaked with her hood up came out from behind the tree to see a very ready-to-fight warrior princess.
"You have been following us for a while...why?" She was demanding an answer. I haven't had a good fight I have had in a while, so you had better speak up, unless you want to be an exception."
She went to pull the hood down to reveal that the figure was when Elle hit her hand away and hit her in the stomach.
"Ughhhhhh" said the figure as it grabbed it stomach and readied to fight. Hands up, Elle was in the ready position. This was an invitation to pursue the fight to the Warrior Princess. The warrior threw a punch directed to Elle's head; she lifted her hand and directed it in another position. She did this again with the other hand. And soon she had Xena cross-armed, and was going to kick her, when she felt her legs get swept out from under her. She went flipping through the air and found herself flat on her back, hard. Her hood fell back and revealed what she was.
She lay there with her eyes closed. The trees were spinning, as were the two women above her head. When she went to lift her hands to touch her head she found that they were tied.
"Hello" Said the blonde one. A wet rag in her hand placing it gently on Elle's head.
"Who are you and what do you want?" said Elle pushing Gabrielle's hand away from her head. "Sorry" she apologized. "I guess I am just on edge. I am not used to getting my butt kicked." She glanced to the tall dark one.... Wait there are three of them...she squinted her eyes a little harder...no, it is just my head spinning.
"Well" said Gabrielle helping her to a sitting position, " you shouldn't go picking a fight with a warrior princess. " And she gave a light chuckle.
"Words to live by. Thanks, but next time would you speak up sooner." And she stood up.
As Xena offered her hand, she asked, "where are you going?"
As Elle stood she threatened to topple over a little. She quickly grabbed on to Xena and Gabrielle's arm. She wasn't shy.
"Nowhere...just somewhere. I guess the most appealing (shaking her head to stop the spinning) village.
"Well, are you hungry?" asked Gabrielle.
"I am starved...haven't eaten for days." Not since her mother had made that great chicken stew and nut bread. Her last meal with her family. She looked down at the ground to fight off the tears, and pulled her cloak over her head.
"Well, lets go then," said Gabrielle as they began to walk along. "My name is Gabrielle and this is Xena. What is your name?"
"Elle" replied Elle, quick, not wanting to give out anymore information...yet. And Gabrielle sensed this. So they walked along the dark path.
When they reached the town a little later Elle could hear her stomach rumbling at the sweet smells. They walked to the front steps of the tavern and Xena tied Argo to a post.
"You go ahead," said Xena to Elle. "Get us a good seat, ok". As she signaled Elle to go inside, she grabbed Gabrielle's arm.
"What do you think about her?" Xena asked of Gabrielle in a hushed voice.
"Well, " replied Gabrielle, " there is a story there...but I think it will take some time. But other then that...she is ok."
And they walked into the tavern to see Elle, sitting heavily at a booth. Hood over her eyes and head rested on her hands. She felt a deep sadness. A wind of depression swept over her.
"What are you going to have" asked Gabrielle who was taking her seat beside Xena.
"I don't know," breathed Elle...."What ever you are having I guess." Where did my hunger go? I haven't eaten in days. And that was the end of that conversation. She listened as Xena placed the order with the waiter and then to their light conversation.
Elle gave a light laughing breath. She sat quietly as Gabrielle and Xena continued to talk. 'What is my problem' she thought. 'This is what I wanted. My sister is sitting right across from me, and I am crabby. Get over it!' she silently said to herself. 'Stop feeling sorry for yourself'.
"What?" asked Gabrielle who heard her say something.
"Oh, just talking to myself...I said that this is good. " she pointed to the plate of food in front of her.
"Oh, yeah, then why aren't you eating it?" Asked Xena.
" I am ...look" and Elle picked up her fork and took a hug bite...so big that she could hardly chew it. It was all over her face.
They were laughing at her...she was laughing at herself.
'Ok' she thought to herself.
"Here, take this off," said Gabrielle as she lowered Elle's hooded, she was still laughing.
They talked and laughed all night. Elle was very tired by time they went to find a place to stay for the night. They ended up by a little pond right outside of town. Xena got a fire started. Elle sat and watched as Gabrielle wrote in her scroll. Elle knew she shouldn't invade her private time, so she resisted the temptation to ask what she was writing about.
"Xena" asked Elle, "what is you're horses name, she is really pretty."
"Argo-yes she is beautiful and very loyal, just a little jealous at times." Said Xena chuckling at the thought.
"Jealous, a horse?" questioned Elle.
"Yeah, for example, she hates Gabrielle", said Xena noticing the glare shot from Gabrielle.
"Oh" said Elle in shock.
"Does she like me?" asked Elle.
"I don't know," said Xena "come here".
"Never mind" said Elle. "I don't want to get up. Too tired. Tomorrow" she pulled her scroll bag from under her cloak, and set it on the ground, to use as a pillow.
"Where did you get that?" said Gabrielle, looking up from her scroll.
"It was given to me by a merchant. It had a hole in it- so he gave it to me, I just had to play a song for him."
Gabrielle looked at Xena; Xena had noticed it too. It was Gabrielle's old scroll bag, for sure. Elle noticed the glances, 'what now' she thought.
"Why?" she asked.
"Well, it looks like my old one...that's all, nothing big," said Gabrielle.
"It might be...I got it in Potedia." She said. She was dying inside. This old thing used to belong to her sister---'it was a sign form the gods' she thought.
She gave a warm smile at Xena and then Gabrielle. "Thanks for the food, I was really hungry. Night" Then she pulled her hood over her head, and rested her head on her, their, scroll bag. She sighed deeply and turned her face toward the fire.
Xena and Gabrielle gave a look at each other that only friends know what you mean-it said 'there's a story there'.
Xena slept, Gabrielle slept and Elle slept, her face sweet, her nightmare running rampant. She was sweating but cold. Her heart was cold as she talked to her sister at the lake. But she was swimming in a lake of blood, drowning in her own. But Elle was to occupy to notice her. Carrissa called and called her name. And she ignored her. Elle couldn't take it anymore.
"Shut up!" she screamed at the top of her lungs "shut up!"
Gabrielle jumped out of her body almost, hand on her staff Xena the same. They saw the frantic look on Elle's face.
"I am sorry" she whimpered, still sleeping.
Gabrielle quickly crawled over to her and shook her softly. Nothing. She shook her again harder. Elle opened her eyes quickly, and sat up so fast that she almost knocked heads with Gabrielle. She was breathing hard, and embarrassed.
"Sorry," she said softly and went to turn over.
"You're not going to get away with it that easily," said Gabrielle. "I want to hear about it...what is it, Elle?" she touched her shoulder slightly she could feel her shaking. At the first touch Elle gave a light sniffle and began to cry softly. She was holding back all she could. 'This will never work', she thought.
Gabrielle went to turn her over, but Elle stiffened her body. She was staying right there. Gabrielle brought her blanket over to Elle and slept by her. Elle cried herself to sleep. She hummed herself to sleep. In her song she told her sister, Gabrielle, all that she wanted to, but couldn't.
The next morning she was up before the others. She lightly moved away from Gabrielle, and took her flute from her bag. She went to the edge of Gabrielle's blanket and watched her sleep. She was deep in sleep and so was Xena. She took the sight in and walked a distance away so that she could play her flute. She sat on the ground amidst thick greenery, there were birds in the trees, and their chirp was unavoidable. She sat softly on the thick dew grass, that was cool, but the sun was streaming in on her face. She lifted her face to be warmed and took a deep breath. She did not remember all that happened last night, just that she would be embarrassed when she saw them. So she wanted some time by herself first. She lifted her flute to her lips and played. Quietly and in minor tones. She played what her heart felt. The sound echoed through the area. The Birds seemed to compliment her feeling and she would occasionally smile at this.
Gabrielle heard the sounds. They were beautiful. They called her from her sleep. She stills had her eyes closed but had a sense that Elle was not there anymore. She got up without even looking, somewhat out of habit. Gabrielle followed the sound right to Elle. And watched her while she played there, in the beautiful surrounding.
Elle did not know she was there. She played and played. Gabrielle admired her musical ability. Any musical ability. She did not have this gift. Just that of words and they sometimes got her into trouble. She stood and watched, leaning against a tree, arms crossed against the chill of morning. And fought the tears that were provoked by such a sad song, and laughed by the laughter of Elle. 'She looks very peaceful now, but what about last night?' thought Gabrielle. After some time, she walked closer and set herself down next to Elle, who continued to play. It was against her beliefs to interrupt a song in progress, Gabrielle understood, Elle knew it. And she did.
"My family was killed. My mother, father, and sister. Two night ago" she breathed deep and looked down at the flute in her hands. She figured she would beat Gabrielle to it.
" You didn't have to tell me," said Gabrielle " but that's what I came for. I'm sorry."
"It just made me sad.... To be around you to.... Having fun.... It didn't feel right. I wanted to tell someone, there was no one to tell...until now."
She looked at Gabrielle. She had a sympathetic eye, very intense. Elle nudged her. She didn't know why. To lighten the situation she guessed. But Gabrielle was not buying it. Elle looked back into her eyes. And then back down at her feet.
"My father gave one last request," She said looking at Gabrielle for permission to go on. 'To find my sister, my twin sister. I'm getting really close." Said Elle, still cautious. As if she were walking on an icy pond. 'Pond', she thought. Carrissa.
"Well, I want to help. Where does she live?" asked Gabrielle. She took Elle's flute out of her hand and admired it.
"She travels a lot," said Elle.
"Her name?" asked Gabrielle innocently, still not noticing the connection.
"Gabrielle", she whispered.
"What?" said Gabrielle, "I can't hear you".
Elle took a deep breath, looked from her shoes, to Gabrielle's eyes, back to her shoes and back to Gabrielle preparing herself for the moment.
"Gabrielle" she said with her eyes closed, head low, waiting for a reaction. None. Birds chirping. Her heart beating. Still none. She lifted her head, to see Gabrielle walking away.
"Hey, where are you going?" she asked in a panic.
"Xena, are you ready to go?" asked Gabrielle as she walked to the camp. "I am, let's get moving."
"Yeah", said Xena. "Is she ok"
"yup" said Gabrielle.
"Come on Elle" called Xena.
It was all happened so fast. She couldn't handle it. So vulnerable. She had to go with them. She didn't know where she was. She stood very quickly to release some of the anger.
"I'm coming " she screamed at the top of her lungs.
"You're gonna scare the wildlife away...I can hear you", chuckled Xena. Gabrielle was quietly getting her things ready.
Elle was through with fighting back tears. No more. No more being vulnerable. No more trusting. From now on she was independent and didn't need anyone. Or so she told herself. She walked heavily to the group and hopped on Argo.
"Mind?" asked Elle of Xena.
"Um.... Go ahead?" said Xena, not sure where this boost of energy came from. "I guess she likes you".
Elle rode Argo to release some anger. She rode her hard, traveling ahead on the path and then back to meet up with Xena and Gabrielle.
" She rides good," said Xena.
"Yeah, a real Equestrian, hey, watch it," said Gabrielle what Elle passed a little too close a couple times. "Xena take Argo away from her!" Said Gabrielle angrily.
"Jealous?" joked Xena
"Funny" said Gabrielle.
They walked on for a while. Elle had returned a tired Argo to Xena.
"Thank you" she said politely.
They walked ahead, talking quietly. 'No games today', thought Elle.
"Hey, Gabrielle, why don't we play a game, huh?" said Elle mockingly.
"Oh, please," said Xena sarcastically. She knew something was going on, but not what yet.
"No, not today" said Gabrielle.
"Oh, thank the gods," said Xena. They walked on more. For quite a while. Elle had not even noticed the trees, the sun, the fluffy white clouds set up in the blue sky. Not today. 'How could she. She is so kind, so generous', thought Elle, 'where was all that now. Should I feel bad for the 'inconvenience' or just let it blow by.' She grew very angry. Angrier with each thought. Her anger blew up like a balloon, like a light breeze on a light fire her anger blazed inside her. She noticed her flute sticking out of Gabrielle's new scroll bag.
"Hey, nice bag", she said as she yanked her flute out of it. "I believe this is mine." And she took her spot in back of the two. She began to play her flute loudly, obnoxiously. Sour notes, over and over.
"Would you stop that?" asked Gabrielle.
"Why?" asked Elle. And she continued.
"Because you are not playing the right notes, or something." Snapped Gabrielle.
"Gabrielle!" said Xena in a mothering tone.
"Well its true." Said Gabrielle.
"Sometimes, the truth hurts," said Elle, directing it directly toward Gabrielle. Elle could tell by the tenseness of Gabrielle's shoulders that that one cut hard. But it cut her just as hard. She walked slower and played quieter. Then not at all.
They all walked in silence this time. For quite a long time. Until Elle began to think about it all over again. Her sisters silence. How she was the victim here, not Gabrielle. She grew angry and angrier. How she walked up there. With her staff, her friend, her new scroll bag. Her silence was a direct disrespect. A way to acknowledge that Elle did not even exist in her eyes. She couldn't take it any more. She stopped walking, put her flute away, and fisted her hands really tight, in frustration. Next thing she knew she was running full forces. Her cloak was flapping in the wind. She threw her body on top of Gabrielle's. They both fell hard. A deep groan out of both of them. Xena didn't know what happened.
"Gabrielle" exclaimed Xena.
"Let me go!" shouted Gabrielle.
They punched, Elle avoided her staff. She got it good in the face and stomach a couple times. She kicked Gabrielle's feet out from under her,
"Familiar, huh" she said out of breathe and ready for more.
Gabrielle got up and pummeled her in the face; Elle caught herself and gave Gabrielle a few good kicks in the stomach.
"Alright"-said Xena after a couple minutes.
Gabrielle gave Elle a good smack across the face with her staff and Elle stood with her head and body bent over. She lifted her head. There were tears streaming down her face. She was breathing hard.
"You're my sister...my twin." She could hardly breathe.
"What do I own you? Asked Gabrielle out of breath. " I don't know you, you are..." she grew quieted by the harshness of the words to follow "nothing to me."
They both stood hands on knees. Elle gave a hard cry-out of frustration, a deep one, and then stood up slowly. She took a deep breath in and walked. Walked like nothing had happened, but slowly. ' I am not going to lose someone else.' She thought 'I won't let them leave me, so I am going to leave her.' But Xena and Gabrielle followed. Quietly. Xena, out of confusion and Gabrielle, out of a mix of anger and respect.
There would be not laughter tonight, no conversation. Nothing. The food that Xena made was left cold. To be thrown away. Gabrielle sat and pretended to write in her scrolls. Elle sat heavily, breathed heavily and stared at the warm fire. She sat so close; her cheeks were red with the heat. She wished she could be in it. And not be, period. Xena looked around. At the both of them, not exactly sure what was going on. Just that it was not good.
"Elle, don't sit so close to the fire, huh", there was an unusually understanding tone in her voice. She obediently moved back. She looked up, at Gabrielle across the fire. The light shining on her red-blonde hair. She remembered how she looked, how kind she was when she first met her. A guardian angel standing above her, although a little blurry. She chuckled lightly to herself. Then looked down. She grabbed her flute out of her bag, their bag. She played with it for a little. Admiring how it shone in the fire. She looked through it at the fire. The decided to play it, no matter what they said. She raised it up to her lips and played softly in the full moon, near the warm fire. A lonely tear rolled down her face. A memory of the day when she was 6 and her father gave her flute. How he said that it would bring her piece. How she would always be his 'little bird'. And Carrissa his 'little fish'. She hung her head low. Xena sat near the fire now too. Elle got up; she had to swallow her pride. She needed closure. And so did Gabrielle too. She looked all wrong. Elle decided that she was not going to stick around, this would be her last night -- her last chance. She stood a moment and walked slowly to Gabrielle, who continued to pretend that she was writing. Elle sat slowly by her sister and slowly rested her head on her shoulder. It felt good, like a hundred brick lifted from her chest, but for some reason she could not breathe. She said nothing, just breathed deeply.
"Sorry", she said finally. "I was wrong...I felt I had to try.... My father told me to do it. When had I ever been one to listen. By doing this I put my feelings ahead of yours. I will leave tomorrow."
"No, I was wrong." Said Gabrielle; she sat herself so that she was facing Elle. "I pride myself on helping people. By meeting needs of wounded, hungry sad...but I failed with my own sister". Elle was starting to cry, and shying away. Gabrielle wiped he tears and forced her to look at her. "Thought of you as an inconvenience. How stupid" she said, chuckling at the stupidity?
"Not stupid" said Elle. "You're feelings.... They do that"
They were both smiling radiantly.
"We really are twins," said Elle. "It's like looking into a mirror." She grew quiet. "All these years I wondered where my hair color came from...my other parents, they were dark. Olive skin, dark hair. Now I know."
"No, they were your parents. Never forget that. They loved you. Just as I love you. They were protecting you. And their love was not a lie. Never, Never forget that." Said Gabrielle as she hugged her sister tightly.
"Now lets go to bed...only good dreams tonight...ok?" She said offering Elle a blanket.
"Ok" said Elle, the fire dancing in her eyes. She accepted the blanket and stole a quick hug. Then she fell asleep. The best night sleep of her life. And they would only get better. There was a lot of catching up to do.
To Be Continued
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