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Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.
NOTE: All works remain the © copyright of the original author. These may not be republished without the author's consent.
This story depicts scenes of violence and/or their aftermath. Readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of depiction may wish to read something other than this story.
SPECIFIC STORY DISCLAIMER:
The story itself is about two women who are madly in love, and there will be some scenes depicting that love. There will, however, be NO explicit sex in this story! I figure you all would rather use your imagination for that stuff.
By the way, this is my first attempt at fan fiction, so please let me know what you think by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org Constructive criticism only! All other kinds will make me cry...
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THE DARKLING - PART TWO
By Lynne Knowlton
"Xena?", the strawberry-blonde bard looked up at her friend.
"Well. This is supposed to be a vacation, right?"
"Well, if this is supposed to be a vacation, why are we rushing to get to Amphipolis? We're three days out, and well... it's not going anywhere, and well..."
Xena, astride Argo, looked down at the bard with an amused smile. "There's a lake just to the south of here. Why dont we head that way?"
Gabrielle's eyes widened with surprise. "Really?" She rested her hand on her friend's thigh. "Oh, I can't wait to get some of that bass!" She frowned a bit. "Unless...well...unless you're just doing this for me. I mean, we don't have to go to the lake. We can just head straight for...I mean, I know you haven't seen your mother in a while..."
"Gabrielle!" Xena grinned. "It's OK. You're right. I've been pushing too hard. We could use a little break and I can't think of a better place than the lake." She held her arm and motioned for Gabrielle to grab hold. "Come on. The sooner we get there, the sooner we can get some bass."
Gabrielle allowed herself to be pulled up behind the dark-haired warrior. She wrapped her arms around the slim, muscled waist and locked her hands together. Besides lying next to Xena on their bedrolls, this was her favorite place to be. "Of course, I could never let Xena know that. She'd probably run screaming for the hills. Well, maybe not screaming...and maybe not running...but she'd definitely head for the hills." She smiled and laughed to herself.
Xena looked over her shoulder at the bard. "What's so funny?"
"Oh, I'm just enjoying the ride." Gabrielle responded with a happy sigh.
"Gabrielle." She heard her name being called from a distance. "Gabrielle!" This time the voice was louder. She started and nearly fell backwards off Argo when she felt a strong arm reach around and pull her forward.
"Whoa! Not so fast!"
"Xena! Wha....did I fall asleep?! What time is it?" She blinked several times, trying to figure out where exactly she was. It took a moment or two before she realized that she was still sitting behind Xena.
"Yeah, you fell asleep. And we have about an hour before nightfall." Xena jumped to the ground and reached up to help Gabrielle dismount. "Hope you didn't drool on me." She tied Argo to a stubby tree about twenty feet from the shore of the lake. "Come on. Let's get some fish. I catch, you cook."
"I dont drool!" Gabrielle retorted. She staggered a few steps, trying to get the feeling back into her legs. "Yikes! I've got to do more stretching exercises!" she grumbled to herself. "Hey! Why do you always get to catch and I always get to cook?" she ran after Xena, who was heading toward the shore.
Xena stripped off her boots and leathers, and waded to her knees in the lake. She raised her eyebrows at her disgruntled friend. "Because if you did the catching, we'd starve. And if I did the cooking, we'd die."
The dark-haired warrior turned her head, as if to listen for the elusive bass. "Quiet. You'll scare the fish."
Gabrielle looked miffed. "Scare the fish? Scare the fish??" she grumbled under her breath. "Hmph. Fine. Ok, Xena Warrior Fisherwoman. You catch the fish, and I'll cook the fish...again..." She pushed her way through some tall reeds, toward a stand of trees.
As the bard worked her way toward the trees, she heard a low moaning. She stopped and focused on where the sound was coming from. She followed the sounds into the small wooded area until she found...."Uh oh... ", She breathed, eyes growing wide. "Xena!", she yelled as she slowly backed away, wishing she had brought her staff with her. "XENA!" She turned and ran right into a boulder...or what she thought was a boulder, until she felt a gentle hand on her shoulder.
Gabrielle stood speechless for a moment as she stared at her friend. Xena stood barefoot and soaking wet; sword at the ready. What impressed the bard was the fact that the wet, linen shirt Xena wore hugged her body like a second skin. It was also quite obvious that the warrior was a bit...chilly.
"What is it, Gabrielle?"
Gabrielle swallowed hard and pointed to a clump of weeds near a large oak. "Over there, but it's more like who it is rather than what it is." She grabbed Xena's hand and gave it a squeeze. "Be careful."
Xena squeezed back and carefully inched her way toward the place the bard had pointed to. As she drew closer, she could hear the sound of someone in pain. She carefully parted the weeds with her sword and looked down to see..."Callisto!", she snarled. She leapt forward and pressed her sword against the throat of her most hated enemy. She was surprised to find that Callisto made no move to retaliate. She knelt down to inspect the woman and found that she was in no condition to retaliate against anyone, or anything.
Xena lowered her sword and motioned to the bard. "It's alright, Gabrielle. She's unconscious. She won't hurt anyone."
Gabrielle cautiously stepped forward and got her first real look at the woman in the weeds. Her long, blond hair was filthy; her nose was pushed over to one side of her face, which was covered with dried blood. Her torn tunic was also covered with dried blood and a smattering of vomit. Her skin was mottled with dark bruises and she had a gash on the right side of her neck.
She brought her hand to her mouth in horror. "By the Gods, Xena. What happened to her?" She dropped to her knees next to the warrior. "Who or what could have done this to her?"
Xena shook her head. "I don't know. But I plan on taking advantage of it." She stood and pulled the unconscious woman up and across one broad shoulder. She jerked her head, motioning for Gabrielle to follow. She carried Callisto to where she left Argo tied, and dropped her to the ground like a sack of potatoes. The warrior rolled the battered woman onto her stomach, tied her hands behind her back, and rolled her back over.
"Xena. She's unconscious. Do you really need to tie her up like that?"
Xena turned to look at the bard. "I don't plan on taking any chances with her...or with you." she replied quietly. She stood and put a comforting hand on Gabrielle's shoulder. "Are you going to be alright?"
The bard reached up and squeezed the warrior's hand. She looked up and her green eyes locked onto electric blue. "I'll be fine." As she stood there, she realized how hard it was for her to stop staring and she blushed. She gave the warrior a final squeeze and took a step back. "We should see to Callisto. She's been pretty badly hurt." She paused and glanced at the injured woman. "Please, Xena."
Xena shook her head and marveled at her friend. Callisto had murdered Perdicas right in front of their eyes, and yet Gabrielle could put that aside to help her. Xena would just as soon left Callisto to die under the oak, but she knew the bard wouldnt want it. She knew Gabrielle, and she knew that her friend would want Callisto brought to justice...the right way. So, she had picked her up and brought her to their camp. She would do what she could to tend to the injuries, only because Gabrielle had asked. Xena raised her eyebrows. "Alright. But if she so much as breathes the wrong way, she's dead."
Gabrielle knew by the look in Xena's eyes that she would, indeed, kill Callisto without hesitation. She accepted this and nodded. "Thanks. I'll get your pack and then go for some wood."
The warrior knelt down and roughly untied Callisto's hands. She didn't feel completely comfortable leaving the woman unbound, but there were some herbs in her pack that would keep her sleeping. It was just as well, because that nose would definitely have to be put back in its proper position. She laughed to herself as she fantasized about punching it back into place. "Boy what I wouldn't give to just pound her. But hey, it wouldn't be as much fun with her lying there like a lump." She smiled the half-smile that was her trademark and dug through her pack for the necessary herbs and salves.
Gabrielle got the fire going and brought some water from one of the skins in their packs. She also gathered some clean rags to help clean the dirt and grime from the unconscious woman. She kneeled next to Xena and looked up at her friend. "How bad is it?" She asked.
Xena shrugged. "The cut on her neck is superficial, but it's a little infected. She's got some broken ribs, but it doesn't look like anything vital was punctured. She's covered with some pretty nasty bruises. Not only is her nose broken, but it looks like some of the facial bones are fractured as well. That's going to take a while to heal. " She glanced at the bard. "I'll need you to hold her head steady while I set the bones."
Gabrielle scooted around and situated herself near Callisto's head. She placed her hands on either side of the woman's face and held her head firmly to keep it from moving. "Ok. I'm ready."
Xena took a deep breath and snapped the unconscious woman's nose back into place. Blood gushed out of her nostrils and down her cheeks. "Gabrielle, I need some clean cloths to try and stop this bleeding." The warrior looked sharply at her friend as she gently turned Callisto's head to the side.
"Here!" She thrust a soft cloth at Xena, who began to pack Callisto's nostrils.
Callisto moaned and began to feebly brush Xena's hands away from her face. "Please...stop...hurts..."
Gabrielle gently pushed Callisto's hands down to her sides and held them firmly. "Shhh..." The bard tried to calm the injured woman. "It's OK...it'll be OK." She released the woman's hands and wet one of the cloths and began to bathe the woman's face, wiping the blood away as best she could.
Xena raised her eyebrows and looked up at her friend. "I hope you realize that we're using up all of our supplies on her." She placed a thick pad on Callisto's face, which covered the bridge of her nose and ran across the upper portion of her cheekbones. The warrior secured the pad by wrapping several strips of cloth around the woman's head, taking care not to interfere with her breathing.
As uncaring as Xena appeared, Gabrielle noticed that the warrior watched over Callisto to be sure that she wouldn't choke on her own blood.
"I know." Gabrielle replied. She placed a gentle hand on the warrior's shoulder. "It's OK. We're only three days out from Amphipolis. We can get more supplies there. Xena...we're doing the right thing."
"If you say so." The warrior reached to grab a cup full of the sleeping brew she mixed earlier. She gently raised Callisto's head and poured the pungent liquid into her mouth. The unconscious woman choked and coughed but managed to swallow some of the yellowish fluid.
"Look. You may as well get some sleep. She's not going anywhere." Xena stood and paced the campsite. "And I'm too wired to do anything but stand guard."
Gabrielle shrugged her shoulders. She knew better than to argue with Xena when she was in one of her moods. She straightened out her bedroll alongside Xena's. She looked across the campfire and smiled at the sight of her friend watching over their most hated enemy. She knew that Xena had a dark side, and that there were times when it was barely controlled. Regardless, she realized that there was a part of the warrior that was good, and kind, and forgiving. Just watching her care for Callisto was proof enough, even though Xena would never admit it to herself.
She awoke in more pain than she had ever felt in her entire life. "I am obviously not dead. If I were dead, the pain wouldn't make me feel the urge to commit suicide right now... Oh, my face...!" She began to panic. "If I even have a face!" She tried to touch the source of her pain, but found that her hands were bound to her sides.
Xena started at the sounds of Callisto attempting to move. She stalked over to her adversary and straddled the prone body. "Don't even try to get up. I'll cut you down in a heartbeat."
Callisto pried open her incredibly swollen and sore eyes, which widened somewhat when she recognized her captor. "Pig! Of course you would bind me like this! Any threat, however small, to your supposed precious personage...! And what do you mean 'cut me down?' I'm already down, in case you hadnt noticed!" She attempted to rise and gasped as pain from her fractured ribs lanced through her chest.
The warrior smiled cruelly as she saw Callisto flailing on the ground. "You do realize that if you weren't already so smashed up, I'd do the honors myself?"
Callisto looked at Xena as if she'd turned into a Cyclops. "What in Tartarus are you talking about, you lunatic?? You're the one who 'smashed' me up to begin with!" She tried to rise again, but the pain of her injuries was too intense, as she slumped back to the ground. "Oh, by the Gods. I...I feel...strange... " She glared at Xena as the reason dawned on her. "I'm not only smashed up, but I'm drugged. Oh, it figures!"
"Yep. Nothing that a little arrowroot can't fix, though." Xena leaned down until her nose was touching the battered, swollen proboscis on Callisto's face. She smiled, showing all her teeth. "I don't care how smashed up you are. I'm gonna tie you up and drug you until I'm certain that you're no threat."
The pain was overwhelming as Callisto sunk back into unconsciousness. "You are one...rotten...Hydra-loving..." That was as far as the insult went before her eyes closed once again.
"Huh?? Wha...??" Gabrielle sat up with a start and reached for her staff. She jumped up, ready for a fight. "I'm up!! I'm up!!" She whipped her staff back and forth, waiting for the unseen enemy to attack. "I'll bust her up! I'll crush her skull! I'll...!"
"Whoa!!" Xena reached out with one hand and snatched the staff from the bard. With the other, she grabbed the bard as she raced toward the outskirts of the campsite. "Wake up, Gabrielle. Waaaaaake up." She gently shook her friend into the waking world.
The bard looked at Xena, confusion written all over her face. "Wha...?"
Xena smiled and gently guided her friend back to their bedrolls. "It's alright Gabrielle. Go back to sleep." The warrior laughed quietly to herself as the bard grumbled incoherently and fell right back to sleep. The warrior placed the staff next to her friend, in case she again felt the need to jump to the defense of their camp.
Gabrielle felt a gentle hand shaking her shoulder. "Come on Gabrielle. Time to rise and shine."
The bard opened one eye and found herself looking up at the warrior princess. "Ugh. It can't be morning yet, can it?" She tried to roll over, but was unceremoniously lifted to her feet.
Gabrielle glared at her friend and stomped over to their packs. "By the Gods! I haven't been this hungry in my entire life! And you really should find a better way to get me up in the morning!" She stopped rifling through the pack and turned to look at Xena. "You know, I had the strangest dream last night. There was a three-headed Callisto, and she was wearing this sort of...well...fruit basket on her middle head, and she was doing this...kind of...dancing thing. I grabbed my staff and whacked one of the heads and the other two started saying the most horrible things to me. I mean...a three-headed Callisto? Not like a one-headed Callisto is bad enough! What did she think I was going to do? Serve them all tea? " She paused in the middle of relating her dream and stared hard at the warrior. "I'm sure that dream was directly related to the fact that I didn't have anything to eat last night. The fruit basket thing..."
Xena raised one eyebrow and smirked at her friend. "Hey. You were the one who found Callisto and wanted to patch her up, not me."
Gabrielle stuffed some dried meat into her mouth and chewed with rabid abandon. "Speaking of Callisto, how is she?"
"Oh, she's fine. Woke up once. Fell back to sleep." Xena shrugged.
"You didn't...help her back to sleep, by any chance, did you Xena?" The bard crossed the campsite and stood over the still sleeping woman. "You tied her up again?"
Gabrielle sighed and slow smile crossed her mouth. "I can't be angry with her. I know it's just her way of protecting me." She looked down at Callisto's face and inhaled sharply as she saw the dark purple bruise covering her eyes and stretching halfway up her forehead. The rest of the bruise was covered by the bandage, which helped hold the battered nose in place. Her nose wrinkled as she got a whiff of the filthy tunic covering Callisto.
"I...think we need to get her cleaned up a little." She turned to look at Xena. "I've got a clean shift in that pack next to the bedrolls. "
Xena raised one eyebrow and stared at Gabrielle.
The bard walked over to her friend and placed her hands on the warrior's shoulders. "Ok. Look at it this way. We can either leave her in that disgusting tunic and smell her for the next three days. Ooooor, we can get rid of it, clean her up, and spare our noses the horror."
Xena smiled. "Well, since you put it that way..."
"Thanks, Xena. Don't worry, I'll do all the work."
The warrior's eyebrow rose even higher into her hairline. "Oh, I know you'll be doing all the work. I'll be watching Callisto."
Gabrielle snorted. "Oh, as if she's in any condition to do anything, Xena. She can't even roll over!" She shook her head and grabbed her shift from the pack. She also took a small, albeit sharp, cooking knife and made her way to where Callisto lie.
"Okay. These have got to go." Gabrielle talked softly to herself as she untied the leather straps that bound Callisto's hands. "Now this has got to go..." She continued to mumble to herself. She took the cooking knife and cut the tunic from the slim body and threw it into the fire. "Ewww!"
As Xena watched her friend tend to Callisto, she heated some water in a small pan over the fire. "Unbelievable." She thought to herself. "Absolutely unbelievable." What Xena found unbelievable was the fact that Gabrielle could treat Callisto as if she were actually human.
"Here. " Xena set the pan of heated water next to the bard. "I put some herbs in here. Thought they might cut down on the...smell."
Gabrielle reached out and gave her friend's hand a gentle squeeze. "Thanks." She leaned over and kissed the warrior on the cheek. "You're not so bad, you know."
Xena blushed as she realized how that gentle kiss affected her. She mumbled a hasty thanks, and sat down on their bedrolls. She pulled the small sharpening stone from her bag and went to work on her sword.
As the bard began to bathe Callisto, she marveled at the number of bruises on the pale skin. "It's a wonder she survived at all." A few minutes later, she was ready to put the clean shift onto the unconscious woman. As Gabrielle gently raised Callisto's head to pull the shift over her head, she heard a muffled exclamation.
"My face is smashed. My head hurts. I'm naked. And now I'm being suffocated." Callisto grumbled under the folds of cloth.
Gabrielle quickly pulled the shift from Callisto's head. "What? What did you say?" She glanced at Xena, who was already at her side.
"I said, and I quote, 'My face is smashed. My head hurts. I'm naked. And now I'm being suffocated." Repeated the obviously irritated woman. She stared hard at Xena. "I know who you are. I'm surprised I'm still alive."
Xena raised an eyebrow in acknowledgement.
Callisto then looked at Gabrielle. "You, I don't know. You seem nice enough. Why are you with her?"
The bard looked at Xena in confusion. "What is she talking about?"
"Dunno." Xena shrugged. "Last night she was rambling on about how I was the one who 'smashed her up'. The head injury could be making her delusional."
Callisto's eyes flashed in anger. "You're the one whos dillusional, you rotten bitch!" She tried to sit up and gasped as the pain once again lanced through her head and chest. "I swear, you'll regret the day you nursed me back to health! I will kill you!" She slumped back down to the ground as tears of pain were soaked up by the bandages on her face. "Is this some kind of sick joke you like to play with people? Why didn't you just kill me when you had the chance?"
Gabrielle pulled Xena aside and whispered. "Xena. Something's not right with this. I mean, Callisto killed Perdicas, and she has no idea who I am? It just doesn't make any sense." The bard placed her hands on the warrior's broad shoulders. "Besides...something just doesn't feel right about her. She doesn't seem like the same person."
Xena's eyes darkened. "Now, hold on Gabrielle. This is Callisto were talking about. She hasn't changed. She hasn't repented. She has no remorse for her crimes. She's the same sick, twisted person she always was."
"She wasn't always that way, Xena." Gabrielle quietly reminded her friend. "And..." she tentatively reached out and took Xena's hand. "...you changed..."
Xena grit her teeth, took a deep breath, and gave her friend a wry half smile. "Maybe not, Gabrielle. But she is what she is. And I am what I am...because of you." She leaned over and kissed the top of the bard's head. "Come on. The sooner we get her to Amphipolis, the sooner we can let the regional magistrate take her off our hands."
CONTINUED IN PART THREE
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