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Xena, Gabrielle, Joxer and gang belong to MCA, yada, yada BUT this story is originally written by me. This is my second attempt at writing fanfic so do tell me if I'm getting there. Comments will be very much appreciated, just email me at email@example.com and send me feedback. I'm dying to hear from you. :)
This story contains violence, a blinded (I didn't say clueless!!) bard, a certain demented warrior queen and is subtext-friendly (as always). Don't read this story if any of the above totally icks you out. I won't be twisting your arm or attempt cutting off the flow of blood to your brain just to get you to read it. Really. (I'll just take an aim on my "round-killing thingie").
Big thanks to Autolycus and Hazel for their encouragement and help. Without them I would never have completed my very first fanfic, The Eye of Hera, in the first place. Thanks you guys! As they always say on radio, pleasant viewing...
As they always say on radio, pleasant viewing...
"I was made to send this to you, Xena," Joxer told me as he passed me a letter. He looked flustered and sported a number of fresh bruises and a small cut on his pale forehead. I took the thick-feeling brown envelope from his shaky hand and glanced at it.
"It's from Callisto," Joxer gulped as he watched me examine it suspiciously, turning it over and shaking it. Gabrielle walked over from tending Argo, her sparkling green eyes locked in interest at the small package I held in my hands. Her sunny gold locks looked brilliant in the morning sun, light bouncing off it. She wore it down loosely, just below her shoulders.
"What's inside?" the bard asked, eyebrows gently arched. As inquisitive as ever, I noted with a slight chuckle. How very Gabrielle. I felt two pairs of eyes looking at me expectantly, silently urging me to open the letter.
"I don't know, but it can wait 'til breakfast,"I replied nonchalantly as I turned my head towards the breakfast basket Gabrielle had laid out earlier. I was quite famished and my stomach growled at the sight of the basket's contents. I started towards the breakfast basket, knowing I was probably killing the two, especially sweet Gabrielle, with curiosity. I wanted to know what Callisto had written too, but right now, my main criteria was Breakfast.
"Oh c'mon, Xena," Gabrielle chided as she playfully snatched Callisto's letter from my hands," we'll just take a peek at it." She smiled at me mischievously, her emerald eyes twinkling gaily at me as she ripped the envelope apart. I rolled my eyes at the impatient bard. So typical of Gabrielle. She could *never* wait.
As soon as Gabrielle tore open the envelope, a heavy puff of thick white powder flew out of the letter into her face, caking it almost instantly. It would normally have been a funny thing, something to laugh at. But this letter came from THE dangerous Callisto, my demented nemesis. And instead of breaking into a smile, my Amazon bard started screaming in pain.
"Gabrielle!" I called out, rushing to her side instantly. I caught her as she fell twitching to the ground, her pretty features screwed up in immense pain and agony. It had to be the white stuff from the letter- it was hurting her.
"Xena- my eyes, they hurt!" Gabrielle screamed, tears of pain streaking down her face, washing some of the white powder down with it. I had to hold her hands down from scratching her eyes out.
"Joxer!" I yelled at the perplexed man standing panically beside us," go get some water- now!" Joxer rushed off at lightening speed and came back with our waterskin, sweat beaded on his upper lip. I immediately tried washing Gabrielle's eyes with the cool, clear fluid but that hurt her a lot and she struggled.
"Try to relax, Gabrielle, I'm going to wash it away," I tried comforting my best friend as I pried away her fingers that held the hand holding the waterskin. My heart bleed at her pain, her agony. I felt angry at myself for letting her take that letter away from me. It was meant for me. Not her. And I should have know also, I chided myself, the letter was from *Callisto*.
Joxer was helping me to hold Gabrielle down as I attempted washing the white stuff out of her eyes. He received a few hardy kicks and blows from the suffering bard but he still stood his ground and continued assisting me. He might drive the both of us crazy most of the time but he had a good heart. Argo tried helping too. She nuzzled Gabrielle tenderly, trying to comfort her as I attempted washing her eyes clear of the irritants.
It took sometime before I managed to clean her eyes completely and all the while Gabrielle was in immense discomfort; fingers digging into the soil beneath her at the unbearable pain or hitting Joxer with brute strength originating from the great hurt her eyes were causing her.
"All right, Gabrielle," I spoke gentle as I brushed away a few strands of damp hair from her forehead," you can open your eyes now. " I passed the waterskin to a bruised Joxer who fell backwards upon catching it. I watched my pretty bard as she slowly blinked her eyes, staring straight at me. There was something different about those eyes now... they seemed to have lost their bright sparkle. They now looked dull and empty.
" Xena," Gabrielle whispered weakly as I helped her up to a sitting position,"...why is it so dark?" She blinked a few times as if confused and she stretched out her arms as if she was in the dark,"Xena?" I waved five fingers in front of her unblinking eyes and got no reaction.
I bit my lower lip and felt sad tears well up in my eyes. No, I told myself, not Gabrielle. Not my best friend. Damn that Callisto bitch. No, why did it have to be Gabrielle? It was meant for me...all these- not poor innocent, sweet Gabrielle.
"I'm here, Gabrielle," I spoke gently as I clasped my hands unto her searching ones," I'm here." Her eyes were wide open, but she couldn't see. My bard had gone blind.
"How are you feeling?" I asked her as the two of us sat on the soft grass, having breakfast. Joxer was with Argo, some distance away. My appetite had died and Gabrielle hardly touched anything. Her eyes were puffy and red from crying and she looked downright miserable. I felt frustrated too, for failing to protect her. I blamed myself.
"I'm blind, Xena," Gabrielle sniffed, sitting cross-legged on the grass beside me, her staff on her lap. Her eyes looked empty, and they just stared ahead. "I shouldn't have... been so stupid-" Gabrielle choked, her head bent as her tears rolled down her cheeks,"I shouldn't have snatched it from you... You would have checked it for suspicious elements in it before opening but I-"
"No, Gabrielle, no," I comforted her as I reached over to hold her in my arms,"...it was *never* your fault. I should've checked it out completely before handling it over to you. I should be the one..."
"Xena, I'm so sorry,"Gabrielle sobbed into my shoulder, holding me tightly like a child. She was like a child, so vulnerable, so innocent. And Callisto had hurt her. I gritted my teeth in anger.
I found Callisto's letter lying on the ground nearby, where Gabrielle had dropped it. I picked it up and sniffed at the residue of powder left. I grimaced. It was Andrianan, an active blinding agent that acted on almost immediately. It was rare but deadly. Its antidote was the sweet sap of the Halada palm, which was even rarer in these parts of the world.
There was a small note tucked inside and I picked it up carefully. It was a normal letter with no booby tricks attached. Just Callisto's bold handwriting. I fumed inwardly as I read her note. Callisto wanted to challenge me to a duel, one on one. If I didn't, Gabrielle could then kiss her chance of regaining her sight goodbye. She was sly, very sly, I cursed as I crushed her letter and threw it to the ground.
"What was that?" Gabrielle asked suddenly as she slowly released her embrace,"I heard you crush something- was it Callisto's letter? What did she say?" She had lost her sight but not all her senses. She was still my best friend. My inquisitive, talkative bard.
I looked over at her face. The twinkle of her eyes had gone, but she still looked beautiful. Her radiance glowing from within. I inhaled before answering her questions," Callisto. She wants to have a personal one-on-one with me. If I win, we'll get the antidote for your eyes, Gabrielle..." I smiled at her tenderly as I touched her cheek,"...then you can see again."
"And if she wins?" Gabrielle inquired further, her eyebrows raised, concern written on her face. That caught me, I hadn't expected her to ask me that.
"C'mon, Gabrielle," I chided her softly," surely you've got confidence in me? She won't win." I gave her hands a reassuring squeeze as I tried escaping her question.
"No, Xena," my bard returned the squeeze affectionately,"I believe in you. But surely Callisto must have made some demand if she won. What did she ask for? Xena?" She was determined in knowing. And she wouldn't leave me until I'd told her.
"She wants 50 dinars if she wins," I replied as I stood up to leave but I was immediately pulled back by the Potedaian. I sighed. Gabrielle might have lost her sight but not her mind. She knew.
"50 dinars? Xena who are you trying to kid? It's Callisto we're talking about," Gabrielle frowned,"Please Xena, tell me the *truth*."
"All right, all right,"I threw up my hands in surrender,"she wants 50 dinars *and* my chakram. My *beloved* chakram." I looked straight into her dull green eyes,"Okay?"
"You're not lying to me are you, Xena?" Gabrielle questioned, a slight show of doubt on her face. The breeze caught her hair then, and she looked positively radiant. She had her whole life in front of her. So much things to do, so many things to complete. She was so young, so innocent.
"I wouldn't lie to you, Gabrielle,"I stood up and patted her shoulder. I quickly left before she could bombard me with more of her questions. I silently cursed myself as I walked away. I had lied. To a blind, defenseless young woman. To my bard. My best friend. Callisto didn't want money. Or my chakram. If only things were that simple, I wished. Callisto wanted my heart.
"Joxer," I called out as I approached him. He had been talking to my horse, probably about his life story. Poor 'ol Argo, I chuckled slightly,"I need you to take good care of Gabrielle for me. I need to get the antidote to treat her eyes. I promise I won't be long."
"Sure, Xena," Joxer promised as he puffed out his skinny chest," You can count on me- Joxer the Mighty." I knew he wasn't much of a fighter but he was a good, loyal friend. I needed him by Gabrielle's side.
"Joxer, I..." I pulled his lanky frame towards me and whispered into his ear," Joxer, if I should never come back... please, please take *good* care of Gabrielle."
"If you should never...?"Joxer cried out in surprise. I clapped his mouth shut quickly, and just in time too, before he spewed out the words.
"Shhhh!!!"I warned as I whispered fiercely,"I'll be meeting Callisto for a duel. If I win, I'll get the antidote for Gabrielle's eyes and she will be able to see again. BUT, *if* anything should happen to me, I want you to take good care of her- bring her back to Potedaia. Bring her back home. Make sure she's happy. Gabrielle's only hope lies in my hands- I've got to fight Callisto." I explained to Joxer before releasing my hand over his mouth.
"But couldn't you get the antidote from Athens or something? If you want, I could run there now and get it," Joxer offered graciously," Anything to help Gabrielle." He was sincere about it, I could see.
"No, Joxer," I sighed,"this is different. The antidote is rare. Very rare. And Callisto's got it. If Gabrielle doesn't get the Halada sap soon, she'll loose all chances of recovery. That's why I had to go *now*. I have to get the antidote from Callisto."
"But how do you know Callisto *really* has got the antidote?" Joxer asked, his face serious, all goofiness erased from his face. He looked a different man,"What if- what if it's all a trick to get you to fight her for nothing, Xena?"
"I know her, Joxer,"I told him simply as I turned back to say a (final?) goodbye to my best friend. I didn't really know Callisto all that well. I just wanted to believe that she had the cure for Gabrielle's blindness. I had to believe.
"Gabrielle,"I called out softly as I touched her shoulder. She had been seating cross-legged quietly,her eyes shut as if in meditation. She slowly fluttered her eyes,"Xena?"
"Gabrielle, I have to leave now,"I spoke, my heart heavy,"Joxer will keep you company. I know you'll be all right." I flinched when she suddenly touched my hand. Her touch, so soft, so gentle... I would miss it.
"So soon?" my bard said almost regretfully,"But you'll be okay, right?" She looked up, trying to face me,"I'll be fine, Xena. But please be careful- it's Callisto we're talking about. I know your chakram means a lot to you but your life is more important. Give it to her if she wants it, Xena, don't waste your life like that."
I could have broken down then, seeing how innocent she was. I was beginning to feel regretfully guilty about lying to Gabrielle. But if I didn't, I knew she would never allow or approve of my going to fight Callisto. It had to be done.
"I'll be all right, Gabrielle. I will,"I reassured her as I kissed her gently on her forehead,"you just stay here with Joxer and be good. He'll... he will take care of everything if anything should... go wrong." I gave her a final hug before leaving. I couldn't bring myself to turn back and take a final look at her before I rode off on Argo. I couldn't.
Joxer waved me good luck before heading back to Gabrielle as I rode Argo on full speed to meet up with my demented enemy.
Callisto smiled as she devoured another round, juicy grape. She had her men thrash up a scrawny Joxer and send him on an errand of passing an important letter to the converted warrior princess. It was of course, no ordinary letter. It was triggered in such a way that lethal eye-blinding powder would burst out once the envelope was opened. It was a wonderful plan, using it to get Xena to fight her. She would win, of course. She knew she would.
A dark-skinned man with numerous tattoos and scars on his muscular body entered her room, bowing slightly in respect to his beloved warrior queen. Callisto looked over at him as she casually spat out a seed.
"What is it Theodores?" Callisto eyed her right-hand man nonchalantly as she plucked a round grape off its stem. He appeared slightly flustered and excited. Callisto knew he had something for her but nah, she wasn't interested.
"It's Xena- she's riding this way," Theodores informed his queen dutifully as he watched the blonde beauty crush the grape in her hand slowly, the juice trickling slowly down her hand.
"She is... isn't she?" Callisto asked sweetly, insanity flashing in her cold hazel eyes,"Just as I expected. To save her friend."
"How did you know it would be the blonde girl who would open the letter?" Theodores asked as he approached the blonde woman, kneeling down in front of her as he licked the juice off her palm, almost sensuously, with slow deliberate movements of his leathery tongue.
"I just knew," Callisto stated simply as Theodores slowly ran his tongue up her arm. In her other hand, she crushed the bunch of grapes cruelly, hatred burning in her cruelly insane eyes.
Joxer watched as Xena rode out of sight, swallowing a lump down his throat. The warrior princess hadn't sounded as confident as she should have.
He sat down on the soft grass beside Gabrielle. Studying her closely, he sighed. Xena had entrusted him the duty of protecting Gabrielle. Joxer knew they hadn't thought him much of a warrior but he felt honoured that Xena had trusted him with her best friend's life. And other things as well, Joxer noted Gabrielle's ample bosom. Stop it, he chided himself sharply.
"She's gone, isn't she?" Gabrielle asked him flatly as she turned her face towards the sound of his creaking armour. She was fingering her staff thoughtfully, as if deep in thought.
"Yeah," Joxer confirmed as his hand came into contact with the note Xena had crushed up earlier,"Hey, what's this?" He started opening the crushed letter.
Gabrielle's ears pricked up almost immediately. She leaned over,"Read it to me Joxer, the note. Everything- word for word."
Joxer shrugged as he started reading Callisto's bold handwriting. Gabrielle listened intentively, fingering her staff the whole time. She suddenly had a strange feeling... an uncomfortable feeling of dread. It started building up as Joxer read down the lines.
"...the wins are simple," Joxer read out,"if you win, Xena, you can get the antidote for your special little friend. And if *I* win, I get to...." Joxer stopped short. His beady eyes nearly bulged out of his head. She couldn't be serious! Callisto wanted Xena's *heart* ripped out if she won? No, it-
"Joxer?" Gabrielle's voice broke his train of thought,"Why have you stopped?" Joxer looked over at the bard. No, Xena wanted her to be happy. And he would do just that. She would be too upset if she knew.
"Well, I was taking in some fresh air," Joxer remarked, hoping against hope that the Gabster wouldn't prompt him to complete the sentence. He scolded himself for picking up the note; Xena would never have crushed it in the first place if she hadn't wanted anybody to see it. Stupid, stupid, stupid-
"Well continue reading it anyway,"the Amazon bard urged him, still fingering the staff,"...go on." She was insistent on it. Joxer decided to "continue" reading the letter. He'll just substitute certain words. Yes, that would be a great idea.
Clearing his throat, Joxer went on,"...if I win, I get to... ahem, uphold the title of the best warrior woman in the whole of ancient Greece, beating you, you... you unworthy warrior princess to the-"
"What?" Gabrielle asked, frowning. She didn't like what she was hearing. Not one bit. The sick feeling in her stomach started growing. This was not good. "Joxer, can you say that again... please?" Something was wrong... very wrong.
"Uh," Joxer blinked, clutching the note in his clammy hands,"...as I was saying, ah, ...if 'I win, I get to be the most powerful warlord'..." No, that sounded funny... not like what he'd said earlier. Oh no...
"Is something wrong?" Gabrielle asked sweetly, her hands gripping her staff tightly. Her smile was stretched and tight, as if forced. She turned her face to the direction of Joxer's quick gasps of air.
"Really Joxer," the bard laughed hollowly,"you ought to practise your reading... doesn't it state that if Callisto wins, Xena has to pay her 80 dinars and be her slave for a week? ...Xena told me herself." Gabrielle tightened the grip on her staff, her knuckles turning white.
It made sense, Joxer analysed as he listened to Gabrielle. He reckoned that since Xena had already made a version of it, he might as well played along. "Ahahahahaha," Joxer laughed forcefully as he slapped the bard on the back,"You are *so* right. Yep, Xena has to uh, pay Callisto 80 dinars and be her *slave* for the week. Yessire-"
He had barely finished his sentence when he found the end of Gabby's staff just inches away from his face. He stopped short.
"Liar!" Gabrielle cried out, threatening to shove it nearer,"Joxer, read me what Callisto *REALLY* said. Please." The bard was blind, but not stupid. Joxer nodded as if in a a daze, lowering the staff away from his face.
"Okay, okay,"Joxer sadly agreed as he read out Callisto's demands,"...if I win, I get to rip your heart out personally and claim it for my own-"
Gabrielle stood up instantly, staff in hand. "Joxer, we've got to get to Xena- I'm not going to let her risk her life!" No, she couldn't let her warrior princess do that. She was sacrificing too much. She wouldn't allow it.
Joxer got up slowly, tucking the crumpled note into his pocket. Xena's gonna kill him for this, he swallowed.
I rode on hastily as I neared Callisto's campsite. Passing several of Callisto's men, I noticed them grinning evilly at me, as if welcoming me to my doom. It was like they had been expecting me to come in the first place. I narrowed my eyes as I urged Argo on faster. I had to get that antidote for Gabrielle. She had her future ahead of her. I couldn't ruin it for her. No, I wouldn't be able to live it down. I had to win.
Callisto suddenly pushed away Theodores' rough face, just as his lips inched close to her neck. Callisto got off her throne and walked towards the entrance. "She's here,"Callisto spoke to no one in particular, madness showing on her overly cheerful face. People that cheerful had to have some problem up there.
Theodores grunted in frustration as he picked himself off the floor. He had been close, but not close enough. Callisto only had Xena on her mind. He didn't stand a chance. But no harm trying, he reckoned.
Picking up her sword, Callisto left to welcome the warrior princess, a disappointed Theodores trailing gruffly behind her.
Two figures were on the road, a lanky stringbean man of a warrior and a young blind girl-woman who walked with the aid of a hardy-looking staff. The warrior had his sword drawn and had a nervous gleam in his beady eyes, as if expecting trouble. The girl on the other hand, appeared to be strong-willed, insistent on heading to a place the man feared- Callisto's campsite.
"Joxer, are you sure we're heading the right way?" Gabrielle asked doubtfully for the third time, skeptical of Joxer's navigational abilities. She was holding unto Joxer's belt as she walked beside him using her staff to aid her. She had tripped, stumbled and fallen along the way but she was still very much determined to press on, no matter how hard Joxer insisted that they stop and rest.
"Ye-eah,"Joxer huffed as he held his sword out, glancing around worriedly like he suspected they were in some ambush,"the both of us are on our way to our doom." He gulped before adding,"...Callisto's campsite." He had a stinking bad feeling about the whole thing and he knew he wasn't being paranoid- he believed that they weren't alone.
True enough, a group of mean looking men suddenly came out of the bushes, surrounding a terrified Joxer and an unsuspecting Gabrielle. Joxer swallowed when the leader of the pack stepped forward from the circle they had formed around the two. It was no mistake. Theodores stood there, arms folded.
"Tie them up!" Theodores ordered and almost instantly, Gabrielle felt rough, uncouth hands grab her and bind her with rope. Her staff was wrenched out of her hands forcefully.
"Joxer?" the struggling bard managed to call out before she was gagged. But it was no good. Joxer had been knocked out cold, his sword taken. Gabrielle was then dragged against her will by Callisto's men towards the campsite. Joxer was left out cold on the road, a bad looking bruise starting to form on his pale forehead.
I got off Argo as Callisto approached. Theodores had left to follow his queen's orders with some of his henchmen, I noted. I suddenly realised with a start that they might be going out to get Joxer and Gabrielle. I had a sick feeling about it. I glared at my crazy blonde nemesis. I had to hand it to this woman, I told myself, she's insanely crazy but is a sly genious. And I made her.
"I've missed you, Xena," Callisto purred into my ear as she circled around me, a slender finger tracing my jawline,"...welcome."
"Cut the crap, Callisto,"I broke acidly, brushing away her "friendly" finger,"When's the fight? And where's Gabrielle's antidote?"
"Uh-uh-uh," the unstable warrior queen taunted playfully as she wagged her finger at me like I was some small kid. I growled inwardly as I glared harder. "Not so soon, Xena... we want some audience before we fight. It adds more...spice, don't you think?" She smiled broadly, in an innocent child-like way, her hands behind her back.
"Do you *really* have the antidote?" I asked coldly as I turned to face her madly grinning sunny face. I prayed to Zeus that she really had the cure for my best friend's blindness. At least then Gabrielle had hope.
Callisto looked at me fondly with a gleam in her eye, a finger poised playfully between her teeth,"Well... Xena, don't you trust me?" She smiled slyly as she pointed to a small bottle attached to her slim belt. The bottle that contained the treasured palm sap that would cure Gabrielle's plight.
"I'll be looking forward to seeing you later, Xena,"Callisto drawled as she signaled a nearby henchman to show me to my tent,"... we'll be having an *interesting* audience." And with that, she giggled dementedly in a childish high-pitched giggle before leaving me with her guard.
"Mmmmfphtt!" Gabrielle struggled through the ropes in an attempt to free herself. She refused to budge, giving the men no other choice but to drag her. Theodores was getting tired of the blonde. She irritated him much more than his own mother did.
"Carry that silly thing!"Theodores hollered and Gabrielle felt herself being lifted and thrown over some guy's meaty shoulder. She wriggled and squirmed, kicking her enemy the whole entire way as he carried her into Callisto's camp.
I was sitting inside my assigned tent, polishing my sword. But my mind was full of worry for Joxer and Gabrielle. I knew Callisto wouldn't have Theodores kill Gabrielle... or Joxer. But knowing her, she would probably have ordered that they be brought here to see our duel. I knew her style.
I knew I cared deeply for Gabrielle. The bard was afterall my best friend. But somewhere down inside, I knew the love I had for her was more than just friendship alone. It was something else. Something that I'd realised I had for her for quite some time now. Something which I had not had the courage to tell her. I loved her. Deeply. Passionately. Every night I watch her drift to sleep, I longed to hold her in my arms, her body close to mine, feeling her body warmth...
My eyes snapped open and my ears pricked up. There was a commotion going on outside. I was just about to investigate when the flap of my tent opened and a familiar looking Amazon stick got thrown in. I recognized it as the bard's very own trusty staff and was about to reach over and pick it up when Gabrielle got thrown in. She landed in a heap in front of me. She had been gagged up by a dry, dirty rag and she had been bound with ropes that were threatening to cut into her flesh.
I reached over to help untie her but she flinched away, kicking viciously. "MMmmmmmffpttt! Mmmfft Mfff Ppptttt!!!"she tried speaking through her gags while she trashed around wildly.
I pulled down the dry cloth that had gagged my poor bard, noting that her lips were dry. Damn bastards, I cursed Callisto's men. Couldn't they have been gentler after what they did to her?
"Let me go now you, you... son of a Bacchae!!" Gabrielle screamed as she thumped her feet against the floor,"Xena will-"
"It's me, Gabrielle,"I assured her as I undid the ropes that held her. Gabrielle stopped her racket immediately. She turned a confused face at the direction of my voice, eyebrows raised in surprise,"X-Xena?"
"Yes it's me,"I confirmed as I helped her stand,"Are you all right?"
"Oh, Xena!" my upset bard wailed as she engulfed me in a tight bearhug, her face leaning against my chest. I stroked her hair clumsily, initially surprised by the bard's sudden outburst. Then I understood how she must've felt, the poor thing.
"It's all right, Gabrielle, they've gone. It's just you and me now,"I comforted her as I led her to the side of my bed. We sat down on its edge, in the comfort of each other's arms.
"By the way, where's Joxer?"I asked gently as I dried her tears. She bit her lip worriedly,"I think they'd knocked him out cold and left him on the road, Xena. I don't think they'd taken him to the camp along with me."
"Don't worry, he'll be fine,"I told Gabrielle as I poured her some water to ease her dry, parched throat,"Joxer will be able to take care of himself." She gulped down the cool liquid in the mug I held for her, touching my hands with hers.
"Thank you, Xena," my best friend started after draining the entire mug,"Thank you."
"Silly bard,"I scolded gently as I playfully tweaked her nose,"there's no need to thank me for a little water..."
"No,"Gabrielle said sharply, turning to face me but her eyes staring straight ahead,"no Xena, not just for the water. But for *everything*. Everything."
I touched her angelic face with my hand, caressing its side,"Oh Gabrielle." She reached up and gingerly touched my hand and brought it to her lips, brushing them against my fingers. I swallowed weakly.
"You were willing to risk your life on this duel with Callisto... for me, so that I could regain my sight. You lied to try to keep me away from harm. You wanted to protect me. Xena, I...," my Amazon bard looked up at me, shiny tears glistening in her dull green eyes,"...I think I'm in love with you. You were the best thing that *ever* happened to me. I love you, Xena."
Her words took me by surprise. Zeus, I felt like I could've died and gone to the Elysian Fields. My own Gabrielle saying all these. She felt the same way too? It was just too good to be true.
"Gabrielle, you know I've never been good with words... not like you,"I stammered,"But for so many nights by the fire I'd watched you write your scrolls... I loved your company, enjoyed your stories... Gabrielle, I've liked you a lot for a long time now, it's just that I hadn't had the guts to tell you that I... I love you too."
"Until now," Gabrielle whispered in my ear as her hand felt my face. I bent over and kissed her gently on the lips, tasting their sweetness. Sliding my tongue through, I played with her tongue. She smiled as she ran her hand through my hair, her other hand on my breast-plate. We were about to get physical when the door of my tent suddenly flapped open, Theodores standing by the entrance. I reluctantly disentangled myself from my bard's arms.
"What do you want, Theodores?" I demanded angrily, glaring at Callisto's right-hand man. He really needed to work on his timing.
"Callisto says the duel will begin at noon, in an hour's time- she wants you prepared. You know the rules, you know the stakes. And the wins," the filthy looking barbarian snarled, his body heavily decorated with knife-scars from previous fights. And with that, Theodores walked off, head held high.
Callisto was looking boredly at the blade of her sword, inspecting her reflection on its shiny surface when Theodores returned to her tent, to his warrior queen dutifully.
"I've passed the message, Callisto," the warrior reported gruffly, his eyes on the fair face of the blonde beauty,"...just as you instructed."
"Good boy,"Callisto cooed as she walked over to him, running her palm down Theodores' chest, her sword in her other hand. She sighed as she made circular patterns with her palm on his badly scared chest,"Theodores, what could I have done without you?"
Theodores flinched as his breath deepened, the agile fingers of the woman he was so in love with running down his stomach. He looked at Callisto, her hazel eyes locked unto his. She was getting very close... very intimate. Theodores ran his tongue across his lip slowly, he was itching to take his warrior queen.
"You like me, don't you?" Callisto cooed as she touched his face with a slender hand. Theodores nodded mutely, almost weakly. The woman had a strange effect on him. She was insane, he knew, but there was just something she had that made him pine for her.
"I thought so too,"Callisto purred as she gently patted his cheek,"then you better hope I win... and that Xena loses *all* that she has." Turning her back immediately, Callisto was suddenly all business again, leaving Theodores feeling so unsatisfied.
"I'll get the men to be prepared for the duel," Theodores mumbled to Callisto, her back facing him. Just to touch her golden tresses, to feel her body... Theodores grunted unhappily. She was driving him crazy. Not even turning around to face him, Callisto waved him off as she got herself ready for the fight. She had her fun with Theodores. Sort of.
Gabrielle sat on the side of my bed, facing me as I prepared myself for the duel with Callisto. She held her staff by her side and she had learnt to increase the ability of her hearing. Her ears would prick up with any sounds I made.
"Is it time?"Gabrielle asked, her eyebrows arched in worry. I walked over to her, placing my hand on her shoulder, squeezing it gently. I had to do this for her. For us.
"Almost," I said flatly as I sat down beside her,"they'll be calling us when it's noon." I looked over at her, sadness washing over me. There she was, my lover. If I do not defeat Callisto, our lives together would be snuffed out. My heart would be ripped out of my chest, personally by Callisto and Gabrielle... I hoped they would be kind to her. No, I scolded myself for thinking so negatively, I *will* win. I just had to.
"Xena," Gabrielle placed her hand on my thigh, caressing it lovingly,"I believe in your abilities. Callisto doesn't stand a chance. But I want you to be careful- she's wicked." I placed my hand over hers and squeezed it affectionately. The hour was coming soon, and I could hear approaching footsteps.
"Don't worry, Gabrielle," I whispered as I kissed her hand before the guards summoned us for the fight,"I will fight for victory. For you. For me. For us." I smiled as I saw her eyes prickle with fresh tears. Then the door flapped open, the guard waiting to escourt us to the fighting grounds.
Once Theodores left her tent, Callisto walked over slowly, coming to a stop by her throne. Sliding open a hidden compartment, she took out an old family portrait. Her family portrait. Its sides were burnt and it was yellow with age. Her parents and sister stared back at her, happy smiles on their faces.
Callisto bit back tears as she held the treasured painting to her chest. She had managed to get this family picture out of her smouldering home before it had burst completely into flames. Her mother, father and sister inside. She had tried getting them out but the smoke had been too over-whelming. It had all been Xena's fault, setting fire on her hometown village of Cirra. Now, Callisto would have her revenge. She would avenge her family. She would make sure Xena got her deserts. She had to win. Xena must die.
I was led to the inside of a huge ring, a fighting arena of some sort. Gabrielle sat in the spectators stand above, gripping her staff protectively, looking lost in the sea of noises and loud voices. I contemplated waving to her from where I stood but I remembered she wouldn't be able to see me anyhow. And the noise Callisto's men were making up there would probably drown out mine if I should call out to her now.
Then, Callisto approached, stepping into the circle. Just as she entered, one of her men brought a torch to touch the ring, setting a tongues of fire traveling through the rim of the fighting arena. So there we were, facing each other for a deadly duel, surrounded by tall, angry flames that licked hungrily.
"Nice effects, huh?" Callisto said cheerfully as she drew her sword, facing me. I drew my sword as I looked into her dark eyes, insanity sparking from within. She was clearly demented. And dangerous. Her obsession with fire, her obsession with revenge and hate... her obsession with my destruction... I made her. I had to clean up after myself. All this had to come to an end. Today.
"You're crazy," I remarked, swinging my sword in an arc as we circled each other, anticipating each other's move. Callisto's eyes burned with hatred, and she charged towards me, her sword clashing with mine. Above us, her men cheered her on.
"You made me who I am today, Xena, you know it,"the raging blonde screamed as she clashed her sword with mine again, more forcefully this time,"It was you who killed my family- my village... my home." I ducked a blow she aimed at me, narrowly missing her blade.
"You burnt my home- my family died inside... you killed them, Xena, you murdered them!" Callisto breathed as she swung her blade at my ankles, making me leap before she could slash them off,"...it was you that killed off everything I believed in- everything I loved. My family... my friends- everything!"
I doubled over when she kicked me squarely in my stomach. I was up in a flash, aiming a kick unto the side of her face, causing her to stumble backwards a little. We stood facing each other, some distance away, breathing heavily, the tall flames from the ring of fire adding to the heat.
"I've changed, Callisto. I've stopped doing all those evil things... I've changed," I grunted as I blocked off another attack from the determined woman,"And you can too, Callisto. If you can just forgive-"
"Forgive?" Callisto asked incredulously as she swung her sword wildly,"Me forgive *you*?" She started laughing in an insane, creepy hyena-like laugh, shaking her blonde locks,"Xena, you've got to be kidding." She circled around me, madness flashing in her eyes,"YOU killed everything I lived for and now, you want forgiveness using the pathetic excuse that you've... changed?"
I swallowed as I felt sweat trickle down my neck,"I know it's difficult Callisto, but I really don't know what else to do. What do you want from me? My life?" I looked on sadly at the young woman in raging fury,"Tell me Callisto, what is it that you wish."
"I'm going to destroy you, Xena,"the blonde warrior snarled, contorting her pretty features,"I'm going to take away the things you love... the things you believe in... I'm going to wreck your soul, destroy your being... just like you did to me."
I dodged a punch aimed at my face by Callisto as we danced around in the ring of fire. She was crazy, she only had hate on her mind. Revenge and bloodlust. Cruelty burned in her hard, dark eyes like glowing ambers. I felt sorry for what I had done to her, her family, creating a beast within her. For making her who and what she is today.
"Urghh..."I groaned in pain as she slammed a forceful kick unto my side, making me stumble unto the ground, my sword clanging unto the hard, sandy ground. Callisto loomed above me, her face expressionless as she wielded her blade above her head. This had resulted due to my lost of concentration. There was a hush of silence amongst Callisto's men, as they watched on excitedly.
Then suddenly, Gabrielle's voice rang out loud and clear,"Xena- I believe in you! I love you, warrior princess!"
That, her voice, those words... they suddenly gave me strength. I suddenly had my will power again, the will to live. Callisto's plan on working my guilt against me wouldn't work anymore. No, Gabrielle gave me hope. And I couldn't disappoint her. No, not my Gabrielle.
I rolled away just in time before Callisto's sword plunged into the ground, at the spot where my heart would have been. I heard her outraged scream of frustration as I picked up my sword, shifting into fighting stance. I was through with defending myself. I wouldn't win this duel and Gabrielle wouldn't get her cure unless I fight. I had to start attacking and stop just defending Callisto's attacks all the time. I'll be all business now, I'm sick of the game already.
"Aiyiyiyiyiyiyiyi!"I cried out as I sommersaulted through the air, sailing gracefully to a land in front of her shocked features. Immediately upon landing, I landed a powerful punch on the side of her face, making her stumble backwards in surprise. Boy, was I charged up for a good battle.
Before she had any chances of recovery, I did a mighty spinkick, catching her squarely on the chin, knocking her backwards. She had a bewildered look on her face as she landed on her back, on the hard, flat ground. In an instant she was up, her features ugly and twisted. Little blondie was angry, I chuckled.
Callisto leapt up, swinging her sword in an arc as she circled around me, like a predator stalking its prey. Anger, hatred and madness showing in her dark eyes. Screaming her wild battle-cry, she ran towards me, sword swinging dangerously above her head. She was determined on winning, her flashing eyes showed it all.
I swooped down at the last minute, tripping Callisto as she ran into me. She sailed through the air and landed at the rim of the circle of fire, screaming in pain and humility. She knew I was using her anger against her as she had used my guilt against me. But she could not control her anger and that was giving me the edge.
She had lost her sword as it had landed outside the ring. If she stepped outside to retrieve it, I would win. I walked over to her, sword in hand. Callisto was picking herself up, rubbing her eyes. As she turned to face me, I had an ugly shock. Part of the skin on her face was burnt and peeling. Her face had landed on some hungry flames. Her eyes were smouldering, her eyeballs burnt by the fire. It was an ugly, gruesome sight. There were even gasps of horror within the spectators. She was in a lot of pain but she still pressed on.
"You'll pay for this, Xena,"Callisto screamed as she ran blindly towards me, her arms stretched out, clawing wildly in the air. I couldn't kill her, I thought sadly at the damaged young thing, after all that I've done to her? But before I could throw down my sword, Callisto plunged herself straight into my blade.
She had somehow tripped as she ran towards me, stumbling forward as a result. Her stomach came into contact with the sharp blade of my sword and her body weight plunged herself into my sword. Her blackened eyes rolled upwards in pain as she squirmed in discomfort, hands clawing at the hard ground as she collapsed.
I felt her warm blood as it trickled down my sword to my hilt, unto my fingers. I let go of my sword, watching her fall backwards, her hands on her bloodied stomach, her features twisted. Her face showed so many emotions at once, pain, defeat, anger, hate, shock and sadness. She crumpled into a heap before me, my sword inside her.
"Callisto,"I called out, kneeling down beside her. No, this wasn't supposed to happen. I wasn't meaning to kill her this way, my sword plunging through her... The blonde warrior woman flickered her eyes at the sound of her name as she twitched in pain. Her wound was deep. She knew she would die in a matter of minutes. In pain. Above us, her army was buzzing in panic. But no one dared to touch my bard.
"Xena, you won,"the bleeding woman laughed bitterly as tears rolled down her blackened cheeks. She coughed out blood. She was clearly in pain. A lot of pain. "You won again, Xena... I lost," Callisto breathed as she trashed around, the pain killing her. Her hands gripped on the hilt of my sword, trying to pull it out of her body. She struggled for awhile, tears of pain flowing with each pull of the sword. Then she stopped and smiled at me.
"I'll miss you in Tartarus, Xena... but I'll be back," Callisto cooed evilly as her stained hand touched mine, grasping it tightly,"...then we'll have another duel and next time, I'll make sure *I* win." And with that, the demented warrior queen breathed her last, my sword still within her.
I pried away her hand from mine and looked at them. My hands were stained crimson red with her blood. Callisto's blood. But it had to be done, I told myself, trying to believe those words. Then carefully, I took the bottle of sap from Callisto's belt. It was Gabrielle's only hope.
Looking up, I stared at Theodores who looked completely shattered. He saw me then shouted for his men to retreat. The poor guy probably thought I was about to kill them. But I'm not that Xena anymore. Not for a long time anyway. I watched as the men scrambled out, leaving Gabrielle alone, seated at the stand, with her staff in her hand.
I sommersaulted out of the ring of fire, leaving Callisto's body inside. I took one last look at the limp body of my demented nemesis before heading towards Gabrielle. I had pulled my sword out of her lifeless body, my blade stained red from her blood. I hoped she would be reunited with her family. The family I killed. She might have liked that.
"Open your eyes,"I instructed as I tilted her head upwards, an empty bottle of Halada sap in my palm. Gabrielle blinked slowly, her green eyes glistening wet. I had just applied the antidote I had taken from Callisto and was waiting for results to come. Gabrielle should get her sight back. She had too.
"Xena?" Gabrielle called out softly as she turned to face me. I swallowed as I waved a finger in front of her face. "Gabrielle? What is this?" I prompted her as waved my finger fiercely in front of her,"One? Two? Three?"
"I don't see any... 'one, two, three',Xena,"Gabrielle remarked as she stared straight at me, her face and eyes expressionless. I covered my face with my hands, holding back tears of frustration. It had been too late... too late-
"...But what I see, Xena, is your finger," Gabrielle said softly as she tenderly pried my fingers off my face. My eyes snapped open wide in surprise. Looking up, I saw sparkling green eyes smiling mischievously down back at me. The familiar light was back, the bright twinkle evident in them.
"Gabrielle!" I cried out joyfully as I cupped her angelic face,"You can see! The antidote worked- you can see!" I hugged her tightly, probably blubbering like an idiot. I felt tears of joy and relief roll down my cheeks. My bard was cured. She could see again. And that was all that mattered- her happiness.
"Xena," Gabrielle faced me, her wonderful eyes locked in mine,"I can't thank you enough. All this time I was feeling so miserable at the thought of not being able to see you again... it was you that gave me hope and not to dwell in despair. It was you, Xena."
"Gabrielle, I would've let Callisto win the duel, with her using my guilt against me... if not for you,"I admitted as I gently traced the outline of her sunny face lovingly, immersing myself into her emerald pools,"You gave me hope and strength and courage at the critical point, Gabrielle. I owe you my life."
"Xena, I love you so much... it hurts," Gabrielle told me softly as she caressed my face. Her touch was invitingly soft and loving. It was so full of love and gentle passion. As a reply, I reached over and covered her delicious warm mouth with mine as I pulled her towards me. Her playful tongue found mine and-
"Hey, Xena, Gabby!" a faraway voice called out. We froze immediately, pulled away from each other. A warrior stood below us, hands on hips, looking proud and important.
"I'm gonna kill that Joxer!"I screamed as I reached for my sword, the unassuming guy walking towards us. Gabrielle held my hand, shaking her head. But I could see the disappointment distinctly in her eyes. Really, that idiot Joxer had to work on his timing. Men.
Joxer strolled over to us, grinning idiotically as he tried to look and to sound important,"I cleared out the whole of Callisto's army, me- Joxer the Mighty! With just one look at me, they turned and ran! Ahahahahahaha!" Then looking over at Gabrielle, Joxer asked me softly,"Hey, can she see now?"
"Yes, she sees an idiot right before her,"I grunted as I replaced my sword, making Joxer start. I looked over at my Amazon bard and she smiled, her eyes shining like a beautiful emerald-green sea. We were gonna have fun tonight... and Joxer had better not interfere or he would taste my sword.
"C'mon, lets go,"I announced as I got up, gently helping Gabrielle up as well,"let's get out of this freaky camp." I didn't look back. I didn't want to. I wanted to get the sight of Callisto's body out of my mind. And Gabrielle would be my cure. My quest had ended but Gabrielle's has just begun.
Xena: Lucy (the flawless) Lawless
Gabrielle: Renee (the gabster) O'Connor
Callisto: Hudson (the mad chick) Leick
Joxer: Ted (the guy?) Raimi
Argo: Argo <?>
Writer/Narrator: Amazon Moon (moi)
Powder really did get into Renee's eyes during filming and Ted Raimi had to run over to the local drug store to get her a bottle of eye-wash solution (a proud product distributed by Salmoneus Pte Ltd.) to get the irritants out of her eyes. Kids, don't do this at home ---unless you've got a lawyer on standby.
There you have it, my second fanfic. I know it's a lot different from the first. It's much darker, more serious and less funny but email your comments anyway. I would absolutely love to hear from you. And one more thing too- do please visit my group's website on the net at http://www.geocitites.com/SouthBeach/Sands/8775/ We're still in the midst of putting stuff up but do check it out anyway. You can sign our guestbook too, and offer comments or ideas. That would be very much appreciated. Thanks a great deal, folks! =)
Amazon Moon (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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