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Disclaimer: The characters all belong to Renaissance Pictures, MCA/Universal Pictures and Xena Warrior Princess. No copyright infringement is intended. There is absolutely no profit for me in this - Im just having a good time. Any characters mentioned that are not in the syndicated television show are of my own creation, as is the story line. If you wish to borrow any of them, please let me know.
Content Warning: This story contains references and descriptions of intimate activity we are in maintext folks. If you do not wish to read about this type of relationship or are under 18, please feel free to go elsewhere. There are plenty of wonderful and fascinating stories in the General Fiction category.
Violence: None. There is reference to abuse, however, nothing graphic.
Hurt/Comfort: Part of the healing process there is a lot in here.
Spoiler Warning: Warrior/Bard fans should recognize references to various episodes.
NOTE: This story is the follow up/sequel to The Mist of Pieria. There are references to this fan fiction and you might enjoy this story more, if you read the first one.
I welcome comments and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sequel to The Mist of Pieria
A Journey of Love and Home
The lovers traveled all day stopping only to eat and rest the mare. Gabrielle walked most of the way until about midday, when Xena insisted Gabrielle double up with her on the mare. The Warrior was determined to make Amphipolis by nightfall. The crescent moon was high in the night sky when Xena and Gabrielle rode into Amphipolis. Most of the homes and businesses were dark and Xena noticed only old man Alexos tavern still had the fires burning with the hard core drinkers keeping him in business. *Some things never change.* The Warrior smirked and realized not that much time had actually passed since she was last home. *It seems so long since we celebrated Gabrielles birthday.* The couple soon found they were in front of Cyrenes. A low light glimmered through the front window of the inn.
Gabrielle riding behind Xena gave her Warrior a firm hug. "You okay Xena?"
The Warrior nodded yes and halted the mare in front of the inn. She jumped down and reached up to help her soulmate off the mare. At the front door, the Warrior paused, taking several deep breaths to steady her heart rate and slow her pulse. Closing her eyes she gave a sincere thank you to her Creator. Grabbing the handle on the front door Xena felt like time had stopped and she was moving in slow motion. Stepping over the threshold into the inn both women found the main room dark except for the burning embers in the fireplace. Looking to the back Xena saw a warm glow coming from the kitchen. "Mother must still be up." Taking her sword she placed it on a table and reached for Gabrielle hand.
"You go Ill wait by the fire." Gabrielle firmly believed this reunion between mother and daughter should be private and sacred.
"Are you sure...I...."
Reaching up to lightly kiss her Warrior on the lips, "Sssshhh...yes, take your time. Ill be here, when you are ready."
Xena bent over kissing her soulmate gently, "I love you Gabrielle."
"I know. Now go." Gabrielle watched, as her soulmate moved cautiously to the kitchen. Then she retreated to the warm fire and the cozy oversized rocking chair sitting next to it.
Xena stopped in the doorway to observe her mother looking out the rear kitchen window. Cyrene seemed to have her eyes closed and her head raised as if she was reaching to the stars. Little did Xena know that Cyrene was deep in prayer and thoughts about the little girl she lost to the Romans. Almost in a whisper Xena called out, "Mother."
Cyrene heard the voice and at first though she was dreaming. Turning to the voice the innkeepers heart rate picked up rapidly, her body began to tremble and she collapsed to her knees. "Xena? Is....is it really you?"
The Warrior raced across the kitchen to her mother joining her on the floor. She forcefully and protectively held onto her mothers shoulder looking into her eyes. With tears now streaming down Cyrenes face all her little girl could say was, "Hi mom."
Tears now pooled in the Warriors eyes and she pulled her mother in tightly. For over a half candlemark mother and daughter sat on the floor and could do nothing more than cry, kiss, hug and rock one another. Eventually Cyrene with her face still buried in her daughters shoulders asked, "Xena what happened...did you really die?"
"Yes mother, but Im back now." Backing away from her mothers hold, the Warrior wiped her tears with the back of her hand and then began wiping her mothers. "Come on, lets sit and Ill explain." Xena helped her mother to stand but she could tell Cyrene was jumpy and nervous. *I have to remember to be careful what I say. I dont want to hurt her.* This was all Xena could think about. She would have to choose her words carefully especially around the horrors of being nailed to the cross. Protecting her mother became extremely important to the Warrior.
Cyrene walked over to the stove nervous and afraid this was just a cruel dream and yet knowing it was not. "How about a nice hot cup of tea. Ill add some lemon. You always did love lemon in your tea. Do you remember Xena, when you were five or six summers old and you tried to convince me lemon in tea was your favorite!" Cyrene placed a pot of water on the stove to boil, and chuckled quietly. "I found out later, you just like to suck on the lemons so you could make your cheeks and lips pucker horribly. Then you use to chase poor little Lyceus around telling him you were possessed and would eat him, if he didnt run."
The Warrior smiled warmly at her mother. "Yes mom...and lemon is still my favorite." Xena did not miss that her mothers hands were still trembling from the shock and Cyrene began to babble bouncing between Xenas childhood stories and events in the village. The Warrior approached her mother. "Mom, slow down, Im really here and Im not leaving. Now, you sit down and Ill finish up the tea." The innkeeper gave her daughters hands a squeeze and sat down. While the water was heating Xena began her story starting with Ephinys death. Even though Cyrene already knew about the loss of Ephiny from Shulaba and Eponins visit, she did not wish to stop her daughter from talking. She just needed to hear Xenas voice. Two candlemarks flew by as the two sipped on lemon tea and Xena relayed the tale of Caesar, their capture and death. She purposely toned down their death on the cross trying to spare her mother and she was not over anxious to talk about that herself. The Warrior told her about their spiritual encounter and how an apparition put both her and Gabrielle back on their paths.
Just then it hit Cyrene and she felt ashamed for not asking sooner. "Xena, where is Gabrielle?"
"Shes with me, mother. Gabrielle is in the main room."
"Is she okay? I mean does she know.....has she been to Poteidaia yet?" The innkeeper was extremely worried and frightened for the young blonde whom she considered a second daughter.
"No mom, she hasnt. Whats going on?"
"Lila is living with me. I gave her Toris old room upstairs in the back."
Xena shook her head not fully understanding why Lila was living here and what was it Gabrielle obviously did not know. "Mom, why? Can you tell me?"
Reaching for her daughters hand across the table Xena felt her mother tighten her grip. "Lila came to me five days ago. Her mother had been so distraught after hearing about Gabrielles death..," Cyrene paused to organize her words, "...well you already know Gabrielles father loved the ale...unfortunately to make matter worse Herodotus began drinking heavier and heavier spitting out horrible words of hatred and vengeance. He stopped working the farm and spent all their dinars on drink." Then pausing again Cyrene knew what she would tell Xena would anger the Warrior. "Herodotus started yelling words of disgust about Gabrielle...and Hecuba could not take the way he was slandering Gabrielles memories. He hit her hard with his fist sending her into the wall. Lila jumped between them to stop her father...and he started slapping her. Evidently Hecuba managed to get up and jumped between Lila and Herodotus, but he just struck her again in anger." Cyrene paused to take a sip of her tea. "Lila said her father went charging out the door and...."
The Warrior was visibly shaken by what she was hearing and stopped her mother to ask, "Where is Hecuba...is..is she okay?"
"No, Xena. She died two days after the fight. The healer said her heart just gave up and stopped. Nothing could be done." Cyrene watched as her daughters eyes filled with fear and pain. "Lila buried her mother the next day and came to me. Poor girl said her father kicked her out. Said it would be best, if she did not stay. Xena as sick as that man is Herodotus had enough sense to send Lila away before he hurt her. Lila did not know where to go - so she came here."
At that moment, the Warrior felt like someone reached down inside of her and ripped her heart out. She began to shake with fear and anger at Herodotus. *There was no way Gabrielle could have known of the death of her mother.* Trying to hold back the tears Xena stood and held her hand out for her mother to take. Together mother and daughter walked hand in hand to the main room. They could see Gabrielle sitting with one leg curled up under her in the big old rocking chair next to the fireplace. The warm red embers and occasional flickering flame bounced and danced off of Gabrielle profile. Both women witness the Bard deep in sleep. Her head resting back and slightly tilted to the side, her arms draped loosely over the arms of the chair and her hands open and relaxed. Xena did not want to wake her knowing her young life would again change so drastically.
Cyrene sat in the rocking chair opposite Gabrielle. Xena knelt down on one knee next to her soulmate. Mother and daughter did not disturb the Bard they let her sleep for just a bit longer. Finally unable to hold her hands in place Xena reached up lightly brushing the bangs from Gabrielles face. "I love her so much mother."
"I know you do, dear."
Smiling at her lovers peaceful face, "I asked her to marry me, mother."
"It is about time, dear. I suppose I dont have to ask what her response was." The innkeeper reached out and patted Xena on the shoulder. "Would you like me to leave you two alone."
The expression on Xenas face was sheer heartache. "Please stay mother. I think she would want you here....and so do I." Cyrene simply nodded understanding her daughters needs. The innkeeper had experienced many tragedies in her life. Many were dropped in and mixed among happy times. In wisdom grown from living life for so long, Cyrene knew this death would be hard on the two young women she loved so deeply. The Warrior delicately picked up Gabrielles hand intricately weaving their fingers together. This action caused the Bard to stir slightly. Bringing their intertwined fingers to her lips the Warrior gently kissed each of Gabrielles fingers. "Gabrielle, wake up."
A huge smile crossed the Bards face and her eyes barely peeked through her eyelids. "Mmmm, is it time to get up already?" Not hearing a response Gabrielle opened her eyes to find Cyrene sitting across from her while Xena was kissing her fingers. Being Gabrielle, the playfulness in her voice was apparent, "Hello, Warrior Mom......were back."
The innkeeper smiled back at the amazing innocence that at times radiated from Gabrielle. "Welcome home sweetheart. I missed you."
Not wanting to break the moment and yet knowing it would only be worse if she waited, Xena squeezed Gabrielles hand. "I have something to tell you." Xena lowered her head to catch her breath and then looked at her soulmate. "It is not good."
Lying with her head against the back of the chair Gabrielle shook her head lightly. "What is it Xena."
Briefly closing her eyes and taking a deep breath the Warrior looked straight into Gabrielles questioning eyes. "Youre.....youre mother passed away seven days ago. Her heart just stopped."
Gabrielle made absolutely no sound or motion. She just stared with out reaction or expression directly at Xena, as if she did not hear what was said.
Xena moved closer taking both Gabrielles hands. "Gabrielle, did you hear me?"
Gabrielle heard clearly what the Warrior was telling her but she found her voice could not form words properly. Feeling the increase rate of her heart beating the Bard asked, "Wh....where is Lila?"
Cyrene spoke up, wanting desperately to help. "Lila is with me Gabrielle. She came after your mother was buried. She is doing okay. Gabrielle I am going to take care of her."
Gabrielle could not move. She could not even respond to the love and concern she heard in Cyrene. The Bard became afraid to physically move from the chair. If she did that would be it, she would fall apart. The chair was safe right now. After a few moments which felt to Xena and Cyrene like an eternity the women heard Gabrielle mutter a single question. "Did he kill her?"
Although Gabrielle would need to know the whole story, both mother and daughter glanced to each other and without words nodded in agreement that now was not the time. "No, Gabrielle. Her heart was just weak."
"Yes he did....he killed her." After speaking Gabrielle did something that could not have been predicted. Xena and Cyrene anticipated the Bard would collapse in tears. Tears she would need to shed in order to begin healing. But Gabrielle did not cry. Instead Gabrielle shocked both mother and daughter. She let go of Xenas hands and stood up. With her eyes staring straight ahead, as if she was blind, Gabrielle mumbled, "Im really tired, I....Im......Im going to bed."
Gabrielle staggered without emotion away from the two women. Xena froze in place feeling helpless and scared. "Mom, what do I do....what...."
"Let her go to bed and give her some time. She is denying what she heard." The innkeeper hoped her advice would help both women. "Xena, the loss will eventually hurt too much for her to pretend nothing happened. And then you and I will both be here for her."
The Warrior could do nothing but watch her soulmate drift into the back area of the inn, where they shared a room Cyrene kept for them. Her mother wrapped her arm around Xenas waist and the two stood there for sometime in silence before Cyrene suggested another cup of tea. The Warrior would give her soulmate a little more time alone and then she would join her. For now she would listen to her mother and the two women returned to the kitchen. With a hot cup of tea in front of them, mother and daughter talked about the bitter sweetness that reunions sometime brought. This night in Amphipolis both happiness and sadness entered the inn simultaneously. In the morning Gabrielle would have to face Lila. The thought frightened Xena. She hated this helpless feeling, she was a warrior strength and having the solutions to win battles were all valued gifts for a warrior to possess. If this new warrior path meant feeling helpless, then Xena feared the journey might already be over before it could begin.
Without thought Xena spoke, "I refuse to remain helpless!"
The innkeepers bond with Xena enabled her to just about read her daughters thoughts. Now, Xena verbalized the unmentionable. Her beautiful, strong, loving child thought she was a helpless warrior unable to help her soulmate heal. "Xena....you are thinking too much. Youre tired."
"Mother, Im suppose to know what to do...how to help...Im a warrior!"
Moving around the table to hug her daughter Cyrene searched her long years on this earth to answer her daughter, "Xena, you told me a wonderful story about a power that brought you back to life with the sole purpose of letting you walk your chosen path. Dont question yourself when tragedy strikes. Instead draw on what you know...listen to that warrior spirit stay on your path."
"Mother, you are so wise." A few unshed tears fell from the Warriors eyes.
Cyrene laughed lightly and squeezed her daughters hands. "Go to bed, Xena. Go to your soulmate. Ill talk to Lila when she gets up in the morning."
One candle was still burning when Xena entered the bedroom. She could see Gabrielles figure lying in bed facing the wall. Quietly the Warrior removed her tunic noticing that Gabrielle had left her some cool clean water, some soap and a towel. *My Bard, you still think of doing the little things for me...even now.* Xena knew Gabrielle was probably trying to stay in a routine to help keep control over her emotions. When she was done washing, the Warrior slipped on a short nightgown. Her mother always left little things in the room for the women in case they should ever visit. Blowing out the candle the Warrior slipped under the blanket. She was careful not to touch Gabrielle right away. Unsure about what her Bards needs would be at this point Xena did not want to scare her. A small part of Xenas heart dreaded that her Bard might not want to be touched. The Warrior listened for the pattern of Gabrielles breathing to determine if she was asleep or awake. All of a sudden Gabrielle rolled over moving closer to Xena. She whispered, "Hold me...please. Dont let go, just hold me." That was a request Xena had no trouble with and had actually hoped for. Pulling her in tightly the Warrior kissed Gabrielle many times on the top of her head. "I love you, Gabrielle. I promise I will never let go."
A good candlemark passed before either woman drifted off to sleep. A sleep brought on by emotional exhaustion.
"MARIS STOP HITTING THE POOR KID." Stella was loosing patience with the constant threat and slaps Maris was dishing out to Pippa. "She is telling the truth. I heard the same rumor in the tavern that Pippa heard in the stables.
Leandra could no longer contain her humor and began laughing. "This is really rather ironic dont you think Maris. How could it get any better."
"I still cant believe they cheated death!" Maris sat down in front of the campfire. "Well this just changes plans a bit. Actually it may even be sweeter." The black-eyed Amazon rebel pointed her finger at Pippa in a threatening manner. "Youd better hope that blacksmith in Therma was telling the truth or I will kill you for his lie!!"
"Maris Im assuming we are now going after Gabrielle?"
With evil laughter filling the night air like a demon Maris answered the question. "Oh yes Leandra our destination is to kill one Amazon Queen. We will see how well she can cheat death this time." Maris threw her dagger into Pippas bedroll. "You my child better get some sleep because tomorrow we look for tracks. Gabrielle will only go one of two places home or Amphipolis." Retrieving her dagger Maris added, "Tomorrow we split up. Leandra and I will go to Poteidaia and Stella you take the brat and check out Amphipolis. We meet at the crossroads tomorrow night. I dont care how hard you have to ride you just be at the crossroads."
The following day the sound of movement in the room was enough to wake Xena. Instantly the Warrior sensed the empty space next to her and scanned the room to find an already clothed Gabrielle on a chair tugging at her boots. It appeared to be pass midday and well into late afternoon when Xena realized they slept through most of the day. Wanting to say something caring and loving to Gabrielle but not sure of how she would react Xena blurted out, "Are you hungry?" Instantly regretting her choice of words *Great going warrior are you hungry sure thatll show her you care.*
"No, not really. Sorry if I woke you."
There was absolutely no hint in the tone of Gabrielles voice to indicate anger, sadness or love. She just simply answered Xenas question. With her boots on the Bard walked toward the bedroom door, opened it and walked out of the room. No final see ya later or come with me and no kiss or hug. She just left. A horrifying weight punctured the Warriors spirit. This sensation terrified Xena and she was unsure which hurt more, watching Gabrielle physically die or watching her emotionally die. The Warrior slumped back on the bed pulling Gabrielles pillow over her face and sobbed.
Gabrielle found Lila and Cyrene in the kitchen with two of the innkeepers employees who cooked meals, cleaned rooms, served customers and tended bar. When Lila came to Cyrene, the innkeeper without hesitation offered her a job. She prayed her decision would inspire independence in the young brunette and help her heal from the deaths of her mother, Gabrielle and the abuse of her father. Cyrene was pleased, when Lila agreed. Deep down inside Cyrene welcomed the freshness youth could bring to a home. Now that Gabrielle was alive Cyrene mused it could only help Lilas healing. When Gabrielle emerged into the kitchen Cyrene quickly shooed her employees out to give the two sisters privacy. Before leaving them alone the Warrior Mom watched them embrace furiously. Xena came up behind her and placed her hand on Cyrenes shoulder.
Turning to wrap her arm around her daughters waist the innkeeper whispered, "I explained everything to Lila. She wanted to wake Gabrielle up but I convinced her to wait."
Xenas body language was clearly sad. Also obvious to Cyrene was that she had been crying and her daughter did nothing to hide her emotions from her mother. "Im afraid mom. Afraid I will loose her....she wont talk."
Before leading her daughter from the kitchen both women could not help but notice, as Lila was rapidly sputtering the events that transpired with their parents and then suddenly she would switch to her happiness over Gabrielles rebirth. Alternating between the two topics without a pattern Lila was clinging desperately to her older sister. Lila cried as her voice ranged up and down in varying tones. What saddened both Xena and Cyrene was that Gabrielle said absolutely nothing. She held Lila like a small child occasionally wiping Lilas tears. But the Bards face was without expression and without tears. Lilas older sister was totally detached from all emotions. The passion, innocence and excitement of Gabrielles personality were missing. Leaving the young girls together Cyrene took her daughters hand and led her to the garden in back of the inn. "Lets sit on the bench Xena. Im worried about you."
"Mom, I will be okay, as soon as Gabrielle is okay."
As they sat close to each other, Cyrene pulled her daughters head to her shoulder and began rubbing her back. "Hmm.....I suppose this is the soulmate bond you two have. Sounds like a very big obligation."
Not sure quite how to read her mothers statement the Warrior sat up straight feeling she needed to clarify her bond with Gabrielle. "Mother this is an obligation that both of us agreed too. I know we will go through times when we are sad or hurt, as well as arguments." Pausing for a moment the Warrior kissed her mom on the cheek. As they journeyed to Amphipolis, her guilt kept pointing the finger at her heart. She blamed herself for Gabrielles death and every time the inner voice would come up, Xena masked it with fear and denial. They should have stayed longer at the cave. They should have given themselves more time to heal. Tears were running down Xenas face, as if the dam broke.
Cyrene guided her daughters body so she could cradle Xena. "Oh, my child I know you are suffering with memories that are hard to share. When you are ready remember that I am always here to listen." Fully aware of the suffering and pain Xena and Gabrielle experienced at the hands of the Romans, she realized that her daughter was unaware of the horrible stories that drifted through Greece concerning their deaths. The innkeeper did not want to bring the topic up until her daughter was ready. There was, however, another matter, which Cyrene knew in her heart that she had to tell Xena. Cursing herself for not telling her sooner the innkeeper decided it would be best, at this time if Xena heard about Gabrielles abuse from her. "Xena, I must tell you something that I should have told you years ago. Please forgive my dreadful timing and please forgive me for not telling you sooner." The no-nonsense seriousness of her mothers voice caught the Warriors attention. Her tears stopped and the Warrior sat up. "My daughter, I had hoped Gabrielle would tell you and a part of me prayed you would see the bruises once you became intimate with her but...."
"Bruises? Mom what are you talking about?"
The determined look in her moms face told the Warrior that she needed to listen attentively. Cyrene related the story to her daughter how she accidentally discovered the bruises on Gabrielle several years ago. How the Bard had cried and how she begged Cyrene not to say anything. She then continued by relating Lilas stories of how Gabrielle was abused repeated through her childhood right up until she left Poteidaia to chase after Xena. After that the abuse was not as frequent. The Warriors anger began to take control and the innkeeper saw the change. "Xena, dont do this to yourself."
"How could anyone......I...I..." Xena started slamming her fists repeatedly into the stone bench. "How could I have missed this......I must be blind!" Then the pieces fell into place and the Warrior spoke in a murmur not conscious that her mother heard "She was afraid her father would beat her....that was the look I saw in her eyes - that indescribable fear."
Standing in front of her daughter Cyrene grabbed her fists preventing her from slamming them into the stone bench. "XENA, listen to me!! Dont be angry with you or with her. Gabrielle is going to need you more than ever....and YOU MY DEAR WARRIOR DAUGHTER will need her just as much to heal through your own pain."
Standing up the Warrior wiped her tears of anger, sadness and frustration away. "I will kill that man, if he ever comes near Gabrielle. Mother, I swear......."
"NO XENA. He is still her father. You do not need to be the one to take that away from her. Control your anger Xena or it will destroy you......please. I am begging you Xena....I CAN NOT BEAR to see you once again become that ruthless warlord you once were."
Looking at the fear in her mothers eyes the Warrior remembered how she became a madwoman with the death of Lyceus. She knew her mom was right. Anger would only destroy her and it would also destroy the woman she loved so dearly.
Unannounced and grinning ear to ear Lila came bursting through the back door stumbling into the garden stopping short of the Warrior. "Xena, thank you it feels so good to have Gabrielle back. Ive missed her so badly....and, well thank you."
The fading yellow bruises surrounding Lilas left eye and various areas of her arms were more apparent now, than when she saw Lila standing in the kitchen. The Warrior approached Lila intending on giving her a hug. Lila did not wait and threw her arms around Xena. Excited and happy Lila realized she was also pleased that Xena was okay. "Im glad to see you too. I was so unhappy when I heard about...well, the Romans......and, anyway I love your mom......she has been so good to me."
The Warrior chuckled. *Typical Lila, cant string one thought together without jumping to another.* But Xena was pleased that Lila was receptive because she could remember back to a time when Lila was jealous of her relationship with Gabrielle. "Lila where is Gabrielle?"
"Oh, I have some chores to do before the evening crowd shows up, so Gabby went shopping. Probably just as well, I did all the crying and talking anyway. I think she was getting tired of listening."
In unison both mother and daughter questioned. "SHOPPING?"
Totally naïve Lila added, "Yea, she grabbed her staff and said something about steel and leather."
Racing out of the inn, Xena knew Gabrielles comment of steel and leather meant she was shopping for a sword and clothing only a warrior would wear. The Bard had no need for either item unless she was planning to go into battle or kill someone. There was only one shop in Amphipolis where weapons could be purchased and several shops for clothing. Xena would try the weapons shop first. Her Uncle Tensandi owned the shop so Xena decided to warn her Uncle not to sell anything to the Bard. Xena was almost to the shop when she saw a crowd gathering in the village square. Just then her Uncle rushed out of his shop and headed toward the commotion in the square. Uncle Tensandi would never leave anyone alone in his shop unattended so Xena followed the growing crowd in the square.
The Warrior pushed and nudged her way though the crowds to find Gabrielle shoving her staff into the body of some poor soul that must have made her Bard angry. Moving to stop Gabrielle before she hurt this poor individual the Warrior felt the pressure of an extremely strong tug on her arm. Turing around to decide whether she would kick this person in the face Xena was shocked to find Eponin.
"Eponin? Whats going on....."
Eponin chuckled lightly and gave Xena a hard but friendly pat on the back. "Good to see you, my friend. You sure dont like staying dead do you." Laughing at her own attempt at humor Eponin pointed to the body underneath the Bards staff. "Unfortunately Gabrielle was not too happy to see Amarice."
Xena looked again and saw that the person her Bard had pinned to the ground was indeed Amarice. "Well, I see she got away from the Romans. They probably threw her out in hopes that some unfortunate soul would claim her."
The Amazon rolled her eyes, "Yea, no kidding. I was the unfortunate soul. Shulabas idea of humor."
Suddenly both warriors heard a plea of help from Amarice. "Uhhh, someone want to get peace-lover off of me."
Problem was at that moment, no one understood that Gabrielle no longer felt at peace and that she was teetering on a dangerous emotional edge. It was becoming too difficult to hold her anger and pain especially after spending time with Lila. At this point, she understood that she was loosing control and it was not going to take much to send her over the edge one way or the other.
"Hello......Eponin.....come on this woman is crazy." Amarice began to feel fear of death creep into her heart. She could see only too well that the once peace-loving woman with her staff to Amarices heart had lost complete control.
With the wisdom borne from years of battle Xena and Eponin moved swiftly and without hesitation. The Amazon kicked the staff away from Amarices heart while the Warrior grabbed her lover from behind forcing her arms down and causing the staff to fly from her hands. The sudden force overpowering Gabrielle from behind acted as a catalyst and the Bard found her voice. "PUT ME DOWN!"
Eponin helped Amarice to her feet and Xena gently released Gabrielle. Uncle Tensandi began dispersing the crowd and Xena acknowledged his help with a smile and a nod. Once to her feet the redheaded Amazon quickly moved to hide behind Eponin. No one spoke, as Gabrielle withdrew pushing her way through the remaining crowd and headed in the direction of the beach.
Eponin grabbed Xenas arm before she could follow Gabrielle. "Amarice pick up Gabrielles staff and follow her."
"ARE YOU CRAZY SHE JUST TRIED TO KILL ME."
The dark hair Amazon was in no mood for disobedience. "You heard me Amarice. Follow her just dont get close. If she attacks.....then run. If she leaves the village area, follow her and send back a message." Forcing a puff of air through her lungs to show her irritation Amarice grabbed the staff and jogged to catch up with the Bard.
The Warrior turned to Eponin. "Listen, thanks for the help, and it is great to see you.....but I have to go after Gabrielle."
"No my friend, give her some time. Amarice is capable of looking out after her. First you tell me what in Hades is going on! I thought you were dead. And whats with Gabrielle Ive never seen her like that."
With the knowledge that Amarice was following her Bard, Xena relinquished her need to chase Gabrielle. Together Xena and Eponin walked to the inn. The Warrior explained their deaths as well as their rebirth and new mountain home. Xena did not mention Ephiny. By the time Xena began telling Eponin about what she knew of Gabrielles abuse Cyrene had joined them. Although Eponin already knew about the some of the abuse, she thought it would be best to let her friend talk. For a good candlemark Eponin and Cyrene listened as Xena pour out her heart, her hopes, her fears and her dreams.
With the setting sun Amarice came through the front door of the inn still holding Gabrielles staff. The Warrior, Amazon and Cyrene were seated at the bar. Out of breath from running she told Eponin, "Listen, Im hungry. I have to eat."
"I thought I told you...."
Amarice interrupted Eponin before she could scold her any further. "Yea, yea. Shes down on the beach meditating. I figured it would be safe to come back for something to DRINK and EAT. Im starving."
Cyrene not really wanting to debate Eponins reasoning decided to speak up to ease the atmosphere. "Amarice, I dont think weve met. Come on into the kitchen and Ill get you some food. In fact you can meet Lila, I think you are the same age."
The Warrior found humor in Shulabas wisdom to match Eponin and Amarice together and decided to rub that in a little bit. "Wow, Shulaba sure learned fast how to be Queen."
Placing her hand on Xenas shoulder Eponin lowered her head and sighed. "Xena, Im disappointed. I thought you would take my side."
"Eponin, I need to go to her." The Warrior stood up reaching her arm out offering a warriors handshake, which was immediately accepted. "Thank you for listening to me. I never thought talking would be for me...but somehow it has eased some of the hurt"
It was not difficult to find Gabrielle. The lovers had a favorite spot on the beach tucked among several sand dunes. Rocky cliffs bordered to the north and the sea was in front. The waves slapping the shore were far enough so the tide never poised a threat on the nights the couple decided to sleep on the warm beach under the stars. Hoping she would find Gabrielle in this spot the Warrior was not disappointed. The Bard was in a simple yoga position crossed legs, back straight and arms resting on her knees. The Warrior located herself closely behind Gabrielle and waited. Her wait was not long.
Gabrielle opened her eyes unable to focus properly for meditation. Her thoughts were tumbling and she was unable to stop them. As subtle as the Warrior could be, Gabrielle knew Xena was behind her. "Xena, Im sorry. I know you wanted to help and I pushed you away. Ive hurt you and ignored you. Ive ruined your reunion with Cyrene. Ive shamed you in front of your village. Ive lied to you about Poteidaia and my father. I even was ready to leave you in order to kill my father. I do not deserve you Xena. I betrayed our promise to always work things through together."
Her voice was low almost a whisper, it was soft and concerning and the Warrior understood her soulmates sorrow. From behind the Warrior moved closer until she was only a breath away and paused momentarily hoping Gabrielle would not push her away. Slowly she wrapped her arms around her soulmate pulling her out of the yoga position until she rested completely and securely within her grasp. At first the Bards body stiffened but she did not reject the affection Xena was offering. Not sure whether to be serious or add some humor the Warrior decided to try both. Nuzzling into Gabrielles hair and tempting close to her earlobe the Warrior whispered tenderly. "You are not going to get out of our marriage that easy." Physically feeling Gabrielle relax she continued. "First you did not ruin my reunion with mom and you did not embarrass me. You are everything I desire Gabrielle and I dont know how I would have reacted, if the situation were reversed. I know when Lyceus died I turned to hate. Thank the gods that you have not. I know it will not be easy for you to heal the pain your father has caused or the death of your mother but I will ALWAYS be here for you. Please...please dont lock me out. I love you and we need to go through this together." They sat without conversation under the stars.
Breaking the silence Gabrielle turned her head looking up into the Warriors sculptured face. To Gabrielle she possessed the face of a god complete beauty. Softly and in a shy whisper Gabrielle made a request of her soulmate. "Xena...would you sing for me?" With a smile the Warrior continued holding and protecting her lover and the Bard allowed her too. As the stars danced through the night sky a voice pure and mesmerizing sang a song of love and faith to her soulmate. The moon was high overhead before Xena suggested they go back to the inn.
"Gabrielle, have you had anything to eat since we arrived at moms?"
"No, Ive not been hungry."
Standing the Warrior pulled her Bard up into her arms giving her a delicate kiss on the head. "Well, lets go, Im sure mom will have some nutbread hiding in a cupboard for you. Promise me youll at least try to eat." Gabrielle agreed and accepted the hand her soulmate offered.
Watching the couple leave from her position in the shadows at the top of the cliff, a lone Amazon stood guard. "Thank you Ephiny for trusting in me."
Maris and Leandra made good time to Poteidaia arriving by mid afternoon. With stern orders to the stable boy to rub down and feed the horses the women ventured to the local tavern. Typically the best place to hear rumors and find answers to questions. Neither woman was disappointed. In fact just about every drunk and harlot in the place was talking about how Xena beat Caesar. Both women were into their third mug of ale before they heard the news of Hecubas death and Lilas move to Amphipolis. The stories of Xena and her sidekick, the hometown bard, eventually turned to gossip. That was when Maris smiled at what she felt was bonus information. Gabrielles father had been abusive. Maris would find a way to use this bit of information against Gabrielle. After a fourth ale, the banished Amazons retrieved their horses riding hard and fast back to the crossroads.
Gabrielle slept on and off the rest of the night. For the most part she had not been sleeping soundly or peacefully since hearing of her mothers death. Adding to her anxiety was Lila going on and on about their father. The Bard understood that Lila needed to talk - the problem came when Lila explained that after Gabrielle left Poteidaia their father started beating their mother, as a replacement for Gabrielle. The tender emotional Bard began to blame herself for her mothers suffering. And young naïve Lila, did not have enough experience in life to include Gabrielle in her mourning. Instead she would talk and relive the events without stopping long enough to realize her sister also needed support. So every time Gabrielle was near Lila all of her sisters words would haunt the Bard.....and the guilt was becoming overwhelming. A small murmur came from her sleeping Warrior pulling Gabrielle from her musings. She did not want to wake Xena. In her emotional needs she was drawn to Xena and could not stop herself from running her fingers casually through the long silky raven hair. Last night after agreeing with Xena to eat, the Bard found food did not really have any taste to it and only consumed an apple. The Warrior made no further demands and when they came to bed, Xena just held her giving her several kisses on the top of the head until she fell asleep. It was not much longer after that, when Gabrielle woke to find their positions reversed. Xena needed to be held. Drifting on and off between the dreamworld and life Gabrielle never moved and instead increased her hold securely around her soulmate. Unrealistically believing she had caused further pain to Xena and had neglected the Warriors needs, Gabrielle began scolding herself and withdrew emotionally without realizing what she was doing. Tragedy does strange things to people.
The Warrior awoke to the feeling of her soulmates fingers fondling her hair. Rather than moving she relaxed soaking in the love she was receiving. Gabrielle was always generous and mushy with her feelings for the Warrior but with the death of Gabrielles mother - her Bard seemed to lose the ability to express her feelings until last night on the beach and at this very moment. Reality set in quickly and she realized once again that they both slept in. Xena decided to move. The Warrior wanted to get Gabrielle back into a routine hoping it would help her to talk about her grief. Leaning up to rest on her arm Xena smiled to find her soulmates eyes looking back at her. "Ready to get up. I could use a hot bath and someone to wash my hair and scrub my back. Interested in the job?" With a faint smile the Bard only nodded her head.
Running her finger over the lips she wanted to kiss Xena decided to hold back. She did not want to force Gabrielle into anything she would not be ready for. "Would you like to go shopping later? I sure would like to get back into some leathers." Hoping Gabrielle would agree and then kiss her, the Bard gave an even weaker nod of her head in agreement. Outside of holding hands, a few comforting kisses on the cheek or head and of course, the cuddling, Gabrielle did not make any attempt at intimacy. Gabrielle was always finding a reason to kiss the Warrior and she always kissed Xena when they awoke. The Bards apparent decision to hold back only confirmed the Warriors fears that Gabrielle was not emotionally ready. *Okay my love, I will not push you. What is most important now is that you talk about your pain and loss...maybe once you can cry then.....* The Warrior was pulled from her musing by a Bard crawling out of bed.
Several moments later the pair headed for the bathhouse connected to inn. Before they reached the end of the hallway Lila came strolling towards them. "Good afternoon. Boy you two are sleepyheads." Giving Gabrielle a kiss on the cheek, she then whispered something in her ear. Quickly turning to face Xena the young brunette patted her on the arm and dropped two towels over the Warriors shoulder. "Bath is nice and hot. Your mom thought you might be waking up." Tuning quickly to face her sister. "Gabby you feeling okay?"
"Yes, Im fine Lila. How are you feeling?" Gabrielle squeezed Lilas hand and returned the kiss on her sisters cheek.
Quickly Lila giggled like a small child, "I feel wonderful. It really helped to talk with you yesterday about moms death. And maybe we can talk some more later. Hades, and thanks Gabby for taking most of...well you know....the bea....." Lila abruptly stopped talking. She had almost forgotten that Gabrielle told her not too talk about father around Xena. "Well....I have chores to do, see you both later."
The Warrior did not miss how Lila dropped the subject nervously. Glancing at Gabrielle for a reaction, the Warrior found none. The wall was already built and Xena did not like Gabrielle hiding secrets. She mused that her beautiful soulmate was Herodotus target and release for his anger. This only fueled the Warriors anger.
As the women continued toward the bathhouse Gabrielle slyly offered her hand to Xena. "I have to thank your mom for taking Lila in." Pleased that Gabrielle reached out to hold her hand the Warrior squeezed it tightly and thought. *Hang in there Gabrielle we can get through this together.*
Eponin and Cyrene were having a nice cup of tea when Amarice walked in and plopped her self in the chair next to the Amazon Warrior. Refusing tea the young redhead would only accept water from Cyrene. With one elbow on the table and her head leaning into her hand Amarice watched Eponin.
"Amarice will you go find something to do. Go take care of the horses."
"Well then go chop some wood for Cyrene."
"Okay go sharpen your sword."
"Taken care of."
Cyrene was enjoying this exchange immensely. *Oh my Amazon friend, this young pup is not going to let you get off that easy.* Clearing her throat to stop from laughing only gained a raised eyebrow from Eponin.
"Amarice go help Lila with her chores."
"Chores are done. Eponin, are you trying to get rid of me?" The innocence of Amarices question sent Cyrene over the edge and she started laughing under her breath.
Eponin could not miss the shaking shoulders of the innkeeper and her strain at keeping her lips sealed together. "Cyrene this is really not very funny you know that, right?"
The innkeeper could do nothing but close her eyes, nod her head and continue suppressing her laughter that now included several squeaks slipping from her lips.
"OKAY IM OUT OF HERE." Eponin knocked the chair to the floor as she attempted to stand. Turning around to pick up the chair she slammed her shins into the chair legs. "HADES Amarice find something to do in a place where I will not be!!!" With that being said the Amazon stormed out of the kitchen.
At that point, Cyrene was in tears and the laughter no longer needed to be suppressed. "Oh my sweet young child, that Warrior will definitely be a challenge for you."
Amarice was also amused. Taking Cyrenes hands in hers and with a big smile she asked, "Do you think I stand a chance? I mean was Xena this bad?"
"Oh yes my dear you sure do stand a chance. And yes, Xena was horribly confused and clumsy and flustered before she admitted her love to Gabrielle."
The young Amazon kissed Cyrenes hands and got up to leave.
"Where are you going Amarice?" Cyrene could not let her leave without knowing.
Blowing the older woman a kiss as she ran out of the kitchen, the young woman shouted back, "Im going to find my Amazon."
The bath was uneventful compared to many others the couple had taken together. Gabrielle washed Xenas hair and scrubbed her back. She also allowed Xena to reciprocate but then quickly took the sponge, washed her body and stepped out of the tub. The normal soak, cuddle and play that often accompanied their bath time were missing. The Warrior made a promise to herself that she would give her soulmate another day before she would confront Gabrielle about the loss of her mother. She was starting to worry that pushing her might be the only way Gabrielle would grieve.
Walking toward the kitchen hoping her mom would take pity and cook something for the two of them Xena offered, "You still have one more question left."
Gabrielle knew she had been too quiet and upon hearing the uncertainty in her lovers voice Gabrielle went along with the game they had started days ago. "Okay...does this person...this female have anything at all to do with family?"
"Xena, yes or no is all you can say. You cant tell me sort of."
While she was thinking how to answer, the Warrior tilted her head back and forth pretending to concentrate eventually flashing a smile at Gabrielle. "Yes, this female is family."
Gabrielle was stumped. She had hoped Xena would have said no but she said yes. Before Gabrielle could think any deeper Amarice was shouting at them from the opened front door. "Xena, Gabrielle come out here!"
Eponin was thrilled with the impact registering in Xenas face, as she stepped through the front door to see her pale warhorse.
"ARGO!!!" The Warrior rushed to the mare swinging her arms around Argos neck hugging, patting and rubbing the horse. She was rewarded with a few warm whinnies and a shake of the head. "Oh..girl Ive missed you so much."
Xena could hear Gabrielle, "Oh, no....thats it, isnt it Xena...the answer is Argo." The Warrior answered her soulmate with a laugh and a grin. Gabrielle shook her head in submission that her Warrior once again won the game. She would have never guessed it was Argo without this reunion. The Bard joined her partner giving Argo a couple of strong pats on the neck and nose. She had to admit she too missed the horse. But right now, Gabrielle was contented to see Xena so very happy and childlike. Somewhere tucked away in her heart Gabrielle was afraid her inability to share her sorrow would become a burden. And with that burden her Warrior would leave.
On the rooftop of the inn an owl perched observing and listening to the inner voice of her Chosen One. "My beautiful Amazon Queen your pain is breeding a mask of deception and unrealistic fears." Leaving the rooftop for the blue sky Artemis prayed to a greater god that the Warrior would stay strong and protect her Chosen One.
The Warrior turned to Eponin who quickly explained that the horse came to Cyrene and she in turned asked Eponin to care for Argo. Both women soon became recipients of powerful hugs and thanks. Returning to Argo with a tremendous amount of excitement, "Come on girl you want to go for a ride?" Not waiting or expecting an answer Xena jumped onto Argos back with a single leap and then the thought hit her like a battle-ax. Xena did not want to leave Gabrielle and therefore she reached out for the Bard to take her hand. Gabrielle rested her hands on the Warriors knee and lovingly massaged the knee and leg tenderly. Xena did not miss this display of affection and instantly melted into the Gabrielles eyes. Bending down from the saddle to get closer to her soulmate the Warrior said, "Come with me Gabrielle."
"Not this time Warrior. You go on and enjoy your time with Argo."
Xenas heart sank slightly, "But, I want...." Unexpectedly the Warrior was pulled into a kiss, which was sensitive and sweet. Sooner than she desired the Bard also ended the kiss and whispered, "Go, my Warrior. You can take me for a ride later."
Staying upright in the saddle was proving to be difficult. The kiss and Gabrielles tenderness made Xenas muscles feel like mush. "Okay, but Im going to keep you to that promise. I wont be gone long." The dark-hair Warrior tugged on Argos rein and with untamed laughter she kicked Argos flanks directing the horse in a full canter out of the village. Cyrene just sighed aware that she would probably owe several villagers who were now vaulting out of Xenas way, an apology.
Once Xena was out of view the women entered the inn. From the window of Alexos Tavern, Stella absorbed every unvoiced gesture and every face surrounding the Queen. She also took note that Eponin and Amarice were in Amphipolis. *Umpf....I wonder what they are up too. No matter Amazons you can not stop the fate of your Queen.*
Lila laid claim on her sister as soon as they entered the inn. There were only a few customers at the bar and for the most part the inn was quiet, thus making Lila believe that Cyrene would not mind if she spent time with Gabrielle.
"Eponin, can I see you in the kitchen." Both women headed toward the kitchen with a tail behind them.
The Amazon stopped abruptly forcing the little redhead into her back. Without turning around she said, "Amarice, I did not hear your name mentioned. Go practice being nice to Gabrielle and Lila."
The innkeeper did everything in her power to suppress the grin creeping up to her face. *Very interesting Eponin....you fight her too hard.* Continuing on into the kitchen with Eponin by her side the temptation to pursue this was too great. "You like her, dont you Eponin?" There was no response, which only confirmed what Cyrene believed. Internally smiling she mused, *Looks like denial to me. And it reminds me of some other warrior I know...who was just as stubborn.*
Once in the kitchen Cyrene motioned for Eponin to sit. Pouring the Amazon a mug of ale and one for herself Cyrene sat across from her warrior friend. "Eponin, be honest with me, why are you and Amarice in Amphipolis? And why did you follow Xena to the beach? Oh, and how did you hear about Xena and Gabrielle being alive?" Pausing to take a sip of her ale the Warrior Mom added, "...and dont beat around the bush. I know when someone is avoiding the truth."
Admiring her spunk Eponin explained the incident at the Amazon village, Maris threat and Shulabas instructions to track and spy on Maris and her little group. At first she hesitated telling Cyrene about her meeting with Ephiny in the mist but quickly agreed that the truth would be important, so she relayed her encounter with the doe and Ephiny.
"What did Maris mean with her threat to Shulaba?"
"We are not sure. That is why I was tracking her until Ephiny told me to come here. I had no idea Xena and Gabrielle were alive until Gabrielle knocked Amarice to her back." Emptying her mug of ale the Amazon stated. "I have not told Xena about Maris yet."
Refilling Eponins mug Cyrenes curiosity asked, "Before we talk further, just why did Gabrielle knock that pretty young girl down?"
The Amazon started to laugh. "Cyrene, that pretty girl is not that helpless. I suppose it is not really that funny but when Gabrielle saw Amarice, she attacked her mumbling something about her being a coward and running." Eponin reached across the table to affectionately pat the innkeepers hand. "Cyrene I will tell Xena about Maris when she returns and then I will let her decide whether Gabrielle needs to know." The Amazon noticed Cyrenes mug of ale was almost empty and she reciprocated pouring the innkeeper another mug. "I have already sent word to Shulaba about Gabrielle and Xena being alive. Shulaba is a good woman and she will want to know."
Before either woman could finish their ale Amarice was standing by the table. Playing with one of the feathers in her hair, the Amazon was apparently frustrated. "Whats wrong my child." Intentionally Cyrene sounded motherly.
Amarice liked Xenas mom so she allowed the reference to the word child. "Look, I tried okay! But Lila talks way too much. And she never stays on one topic she bounces all over the place and I think shes driving Gabrielle crazy. All that peasant rambles on about is how her father beat up on Gabrielle and how Gabrielle took Lilas beatings for her.....and when Gabrielle left, her mother stepped in to take the abuse so Lila would not have too." Amarice started waving her arms around to emphasis her point and irritation. "I think Lila is a spoiled brat."
Sitting back in her chair desperately holding her temper over what she was hearing, Eponin refilled her mug again. "Amarice, go back out there and talk to Gabrielle. Interrupt Lila if you have too. Talk about the Amazons. You do have that in common with Gabrielle. Maybe Lila will calm down once she knows you are talking to her sister."
Just as Eponin was bringing the mug to her lips Amarice grabbed it from her hand causing some of the ale to spill over Eponins hand. Taking a drink from the same mug that touched Eponins lips was exactly what Amarice wanted. "Cant talk to Gabrielle now, shes gone."
Fear struck deeply into Cyrenes heart. "What do you mean she is gone.........where!!!!"
The dark-hair Amazon was out of her seat in lightening speed and almost knocked Lila over on the way into the main room. Grabbing a disheveled Lila by the shoulders Eponin sternly questioned. "Where did your sister go?"
"She said she was tired and was going to lay down."
Eponin, Cyrene and Amarice bolted down the hallway towards the bedroom. Stopping just short of ramming into the door the trio piled up on each other. Cyrene knocked on the door. Not hearing a response she opened it slowly. Gabrielle was not there.
"HADES, where could she have gone." Eponin slammed her fist into the wall. "Cyrene check the grounds around the building. Amarice check the beach and the eastern side of the village, Ill cover the remaining area." Everyone was in agreement and each set out in search of the Bard.
In their haste to get out of the inn Eponin and Amarice found themselves competing, as to whom would get through the door of the inn first. Eponin won and Amarice found herself flat on her back. Xena was just entering the village when she witnessed the struggle through the door of her mothers inn. *Yes my friend, you have it bad for that little redhead.* Xena dismounted from Argo and as she got closer to Eponin, she could see the concern in the dark brown eyes of her friend.
"Xena, we are looking for Gabrielle have you seen her."
Xena knew her soulmate was faltering on the edge of collapsing and immediately cursed herself for not insisting the Bard ride Argo with her. The mare was quickly abandoned, as the Warrior bolted into the inn. A quick check of their bedroom confirmed Amarices echoes that Gabrielle was not in there. Breathing hard just to keep up with her increasing heart rate the Warrior halted when she reached the garden and saw Gabrielle sitting under a tree with her mom close by. Cyrene immediately saw Xena. Before the Warrior could get to them both women were standing and walking to her.
Cyrene forced the conversation so Xena would have a moment to calm down. "Xena, did you have a good time with Argo. Gabrielle and I were just having a little conversation about Lila." The innkeeper gave Gabrielle a motherly hug around her shoulders.
The Warrior took one of Gabrielles hands. "Hey, you okay? Everything okay with Lila?"
The Bard merely nodded her head and offered Xena a weak but pleasant smile. "Xena, Im kind of tired. I.....I guess everything is just catching up with me." The Bards face was pale and began to perspire. Xena could feel Gabrielles hand tremble ever so lightly, her voice was lacking in strength and her eyes began to roll back. The Warrior realized her soulmate was in trouble just in time to catch her, as she lost consciousness.
Gabrielle slept through the remainder of the day and evening, waking only occasionally, when Xena massaged her body with a cool wet cloth or attempted to get her to drink fluids. The Bard really had no clue what was going on and would quickly fall back into a deep state of sleep. The Warrior refused to sleep that night. Instead she paced the floor and spent time talking with her mother and Eponin who took turns keeping her company and tried to reassure her that Gabrielle would be okay. Eponin was able to tell Xena about the banished Amazons, which unfortunately only added to the Warriors concerns. Lila stopped in to see her sister only twice. Both times she was brief and tearful. Xena could not bring herself to ask Lila any questions. Before dawn the Warrior finally fell asleep with her arms wrapped around Gabrielle. Waking by late afternoon Xena placed a light kiss to her lovers lips and left Gabrielle to sleep a little longer. The Warrior went in search of her mother. Departing the inn she was thoroughly amused to find Amarice helping Lila wait on tables and serving meals to the late afternoon crowd. Cyrene was found sitting on the bench outside the inn with Eponin, as her companion. The innkeeper and the Amazon were happy to see Xena. In spite of the fact that she still appeared tired, there was something about the way she held her muscular frame that told the women the Warrior was up to something. "What my dear warrior daughter is running through that beautiful head of yours?"
"A celebration! Mom, I want us to have a private celebration right here at the inn. Invite only close family and friends basically people who will be supportive and uplifting no talk of death. I want lots of food and drink, music, dancing, story telling...the whole works!"
"Xena, do you really think this is a good idea. Gabrielle needs to face her grief. Arent you worried this, small private celebration might help her cover her grief up."
Falling to her knees Xena held on to her mothers hands. "Mother, dont you see. Gabrielle cant shake this numbness that has taken over. She wont talk about it, she eats extremely little and she passed out because she is shutting down. Look how long shes been sleeping. Mother, she avoids anything intimate beyond a simple kiss on the cheek. That woman walking around in Gabrielles body is not my need-to-touch and feel sentimental Bard."
Laughing loudly at Xenas last statement the dark hair Amazon interjected, "Gee Xena that kiss she gave you yesterday when you were on Argo looked pretty intimate and inviting."
Xena found herself blushing slightly. "Dont you see, that was the only time since she heard of her mothers death that she even acted remotely intimate with me and then she backed away. Hades we are suppose to get married and its like..." Both Cyrene and Eponin could hear the fear of loss in the Warriors voice. Xena was desperately trying to hold on to Gabrielle and herself. Without a need to converse the women glanced toward each other and their eyes agreed that there has been too many drastic events over the recent moons. "....I need to shake her up without hurting her. If she can at least focus on the good in her life, then maybe it will help. Right how it is like nothing matters to her anymore. And anyway by the time Gabrielle and I get back......."
"Where are you going Xena?"
"Mother, I am taking my future wife to the temple overlooking Kolpos Bluff."
"Xena, that is one of Aphrodites temple. Why there?" Cyrenes motherly instinct took over and she needed to know what her daughter was up too.
"Mom, trust me. What better place can I possible take Gabrielle than a temple devoted to love." Xena took her mothers hand and placed her other reassuringly on Eponins shoulder. "Look, I cant explain why I need to do this. When I was sitting on Argo this white owl took a dive at me. It almost knocked me out of the saddle. Then the thought came to me about taking Gabrielle to a temple. Im praying that without distractions, especially from Lila - I just might get Gabrielle to talk to me."
A huge smile crossed the brown-eyed Amazons face and she uttered a single word. "Artemis!"
The Warrior laughed, "Yes, that is what I thought also. Aphrodites temple is the closest and somehow I cant imagine Artemis being upset with love. And the celebration well Im hoping it will ease her back into life. You both know how she loves parties and people. I want to give her something she likes."
"Okay Xena, okay. I will help you on one condition." Cyrene agreed somewhat with her daughter but was not entirely convinced this would work. "You have to tell Gabrielle why you are doing this." Xenas face had the look of rebellion. Shaking her finger at her daughter in a scolding manner. "Dont you give me that look. Im your mother. You do as I asked."
Eponin was attempting to look distracted and actually started to whistle, as if she was no longer a part of the conversation. Xena reached over and slapped Eponin in the side of the head. "YOU my friend get those Amazons in here. They are always loud and they love parties. I want this celebration in four days."
"And what will we tell everyone we are celebrating?" Cyrene had to ask if for no other reason than to see what Xena would say.
Xena gave her mother a big hug and sloppy wet kiss on the cheek. "Make something up mother. I dont care what we celebrate. I just want my Bard to be happy....I want her to heal." As the Warrior was leaving to go after Gabrielle, she turned back to her mother and friend. "Have Amarice saddle up Argo for me and have Lila pack some food and drink for us."
Eponin jumped to her feet and stopped Xena. "My friend, I hate to say this but Maris is out there roaming around. With the threat to Shulaba, if she hears Gabrielle is alive.....and Im sure she will just like the rest of Greece, then Gabrielle is no longer safe."
The innkeeper understood Eponins concern and was not pleased that Xena and Gabrielle would ride alone. The temple was a good two candlemarks away, therefore the Warrior Mom sternly stated, "Eponin you and Amarice need to escort my daughter and Gabrielle. I will not loose either one of them again." Looking to her raven-hair daughter who grew into a wise beautiful woman she concluded her demand with, "....and you will not argue Xena. They can camp outside the temple!"
The first messenger arrived in the Amazon village late in the day. The sentries escorted the messenger directly to the Queen. Hearing that Eponin sent the messenger from Amphipolis Shulaba anxiously broke the seal on the scroll and began dancing with any member of her royal guard that she could catch. Calling an immediate meeting of the village Shulaba announced the news of their Queens rebirth and that of her Warrior. The rest of the day the Amazons celebrated the wonderful news. Shulaba ordered that early the next morning an Amazon party would leave for Amphipolis to greet their lost Queen.
Teklai, Captain of the Royal Guard, caught Shulaba before she retired to her hut. "My Queen...are you okay with the news of Queen Gabrielle?"
Shulaba was indeed pleased and she wasted no time in telling her childhood friend. "My beautiful Teklai I am so happy to have Gabrielle back. She has always been the rightful Queen and Artemis Chosen One. If she would have me as Regent I would be honored but the choice must be hers. Teklai my duty and loyalty has always belonged to Gabrielle."
"Breath Xena...come on you are a Warrior. You can do this. You are stronger than she is. You love her. This is for her own good."
Amarice heard Xena standing outside her bedroom door talking to herself. "Xena, Argo is saddled and Eponin and I are ready." The Warrior simply nodded her head thanks. The young redhead was entertained by Xenas fear of Gabrielle. *Just like Eponin you big tough warrior-types always fall to us little ones.* Shaking her head and chuckling Amarice left Xena alone.
Wasting no more time Xena opened the door and knew she had to be quick yet gentle. She did not want to hurt Gabrielle and she also did not want to give her a chance to fight. With a quick prayer *Artemis help me see this through,* the Warrior approached the bed. Gabrielle did not stir as the Warrior took her in her arms. Very cautiously she carried her soulmate through the inn to a waiting Argo and friends. Carefully Eponin took Gabrielle so Xena could get up on Argo. Once settled in the saddle, Eponin lifted the Bard to Xenas waiting arms. Through all the movement the young blonde did nothing more than mumble a few indistinguishable words.
The journey to Aphrodites temple took slightly longer than two candlemarks. Xena kept the pace slower than normal. Partly because she did not want Gabrielle to wake up scared and because she needed more time to think about how she would convince her soulmate to open up about her sorrow. Through the entire ride Eponin and Amarice acted as royal guards to their Queen and her companion. There was no sign of trouble and they met no one along the way. This particular temple of Aphrodites was a smaller temple situated tightly in the cliffs overlooking the sea. The tight location was accessible only by horse or foot and was easily protected. Finally back on foot, Xena entered the temple carrying her Bard. It was agreed that Eponin and Amarice would not disturb them unless there was danger.
Once inside the temple the Warrior heard an all too familiar voice. "Warrior!" Xena turned to find herself face to face with both Artemis and Aphrodite. The Goddess of the Amazons motioned for Xena to place Gabrielle on a pallet covered with plush blankets and furs. Xena obeyed and discovered the Bard was starting to moan indicating she was beginning to wake. Artemis moved closer to the Warrior peering directly into her eyes. "Do not disappoint me Xena. You will not be pleased with my temper should Gabrielle....."
"Yea, yea, yea...come on Art lighten up - Warrior Babe will take care of blondie." Over time Aphrodite grew fond of the couple and she could trust and depend on both Xena and Gabrielle for assistance. Artemis was just being a little too demanding and she was not shy telling her. "You know she loves Gabrielle now leave her alone. I agreed you could use my temple....not run it!!"
Calming down somewhat Artemis advanced closer to the Warrior. "Dont wait too long to marry my Chosen One. I might get tired of waiting and find her another warrior." White light surrounded the Goddess and she disappeared.
"Gee get a grip Art!" Aphrodite flashed one of her many flirtatious grins at Xena. "You are protected Xena as long as you are in my temple. Now if you dont mind Im out of here. Looks like I can have a tiny bit of fun with your two Amazon friends waiting outside." The Goddess of Love strolled toward the entrance disappearing before she hit the door. Xena could hear her giggling about her new challenge of love camping outside her temple. The Warrior could only think, *Good luck Eponin...you are going to need it.*
Focusing all her attention back to her precious soulmate the Warrior knelt down next to Gabrielle and whispered softly, "Gabrielle, wake up....its time to wake up." All Xena received were several murmurs of words she could not understand. Kissing her gently on the lips, "Come on Gabrielle, wake up...I need you to open your eyes." She wanted to get the Bards eyes opened and looking at her before she did anything more. Placing several more kisses on Gabrielles lips and eyes her soulmate began waking.
Struggling to open her eyes the Bard tried to focus and felt Xena holding her. "Xena?"
That was the recognition the Warrior needed to hear and countered it, "I love you Gabrielle. No matter what happens, I love you."
Not fully awake or comprehending her location Gabrielles heart intuitively forced her to concentrated on the words of love she heard from her soulmate. Looking up she saw the penetrating blue eyes that belonged only to Xena. With fear so close to her heart Gabrielle also noticed the strange surrounding and immediately lost focus on Xena. Feeling trapped she bolted to a sitting position and attempted to stand. Xena was there to stop her from running. "Gabrielle, sit back down." Reaching for the waterbag Xena was able to get Gabrielle to drink.
"Xena, where are we and what is going on."
The Warrior knew this was her opportunity and she acted. "We are in a temple outside of Amphipolis. Here drink some more water."
Gabrielle pushed the waterbag away. "I dont want anymore. Why are we here."
"You have to talk to me about your mom."
Boiling under the surface of the young woman was a monster that had been growing. The monster fed off of all the emotional losses the Bard experienced over a short period of time. Xenas paralysis by Callisto, Xenas death on the cross, fear of Xena abandoning her when the Warrior found out about the abuse, the death of her mother and her own guilt over her mothers death. Gabrielle was no longer able to control the monster and the hidden beast came out. "MY MOTHER IS DEAD. THERE IS NOTHING TO TALK ABOUT." Unexpectedly the Bard shoved Xena back causing her to loose her balance and fall backwards.
The Warrior was quick to stand and grabbed a now running Gabrielle by the upper arms. "Oh, no...you are going to talk to me. You have to get this out before it kills you."
Green eyes scowled directly into the Warriors. "LET ME GO!" For reasons unknown to Xena, she released her grip. The Bard turned her back to Xena.
"You must talk about this Gabrielle....you cant go on like this....I dont want to loos....." Before Xena could complete her plea Gabrielle swung around with her fist aiming for the Warriors face. True to her nature the Warrior captured the angry fist before it struck. Thats when her soulmate snapped. Those same green eyes so enraged a moment ago began filling with tears, the luscious pink lips began quivering, her fingers reached out to touch the cheek she was ready to strike and the words "please forgive me" emerged from the depths of her soul. Collapsing in tears that were held back for days Gabrielle felt Xenas protective arms catching her, holding her, comforting her and loving her. The Warrior took Gabrielle back to the blankets and together the real healing process began. The tears continued for close to a candlemark before Gabrielle could calm down enough to string more than a few words together. Xena released her hold on the Bard to retrieve the waterbag for both women to drink. Joining her lover back on the blankets the two women sat so they could look into each others eyes.
Xena caressed Gabrielles cheek tenderly. "Can you talk to me."
"I dont know where to start."
Pausing to search for the best words the Warrior drew upon her experiences when tragedy struck. "Tell me how you feel right now....only for right now." Xena remembered saying similar words to Gabrielle when the two of them were striving for reconciliation and healing in Illusia. Gabrielle also recognized the words and between tears and moments of being unable to get her voice to speak the Bard told Xena how she was feeling over the loss of her mother and the guilt associated with it. To Xenas surprise Gabrielle also spoke to the loss she felt when Xena was hurt, watching her Warriors suffer in pain and die. Nothing was mentioned about the extent or history of Gabrielles abuse by her father other than she was afraid Xena would think she was shameful and her fears of loosing the Warriors love. The raven-hair Warrior encouraged her soulmate to voice everything that needed to be said, even if it only meant a few words. Hidden in-between the words and occasionally drink of water Xena made sure she was physically touching Gabrielle at all times. Xena craved this contact and hoped it would ease the pain her soulmate was feeling. Eventually Gabrielle came to a point where she could not talk anymore and she closed her eyes which were now stinging from the constant tears.
The healer in Xena came from the warrior body. "Your eyes burning?" The Bard sighed and nodded her head. Xena went to her satchel to remove a soft piece of fabric and poured water onto the cloth soaking it. Returning to Gabrielle, she tilted the young womans head and dabbed the cool cloth on her eyes. After a few seconds Xena softly asked. "How does that feel?" Before Gabrielle could respond Xenas desire to reassure her of her devotion came out. "Gabrielle, I want you to listen to me. There is nothing in this life that could ever make me be ashamed of you or hate you or want to leave you. I love you sweetie....I want.." The biggest grin crossed Gabrielles face prompting Xena to stop speaking. "Whats so funny?"
Gabrielle pulled the wet cloth from her eyes. "You called me sweetie. Do you realize what you are saying?"
"Aaaa...I...I didnt think you noticed." The Warrior had intentionally called her sweetie on a few occasions. It was just how she was feeling and she actually enjoyed the mushy little word. "Would you rather I did not?"
Gabrielle inched closer so she could crawl into Xenas lap. The Warrior welcomed her and placed several tender kisses on her head. "I love when you say all those mushy words." Gabrielle looked up into the deep blue eyes that told her of the Warriors love and the Warriors needs. Slowly the Bard reached up sliding her hands around Xenas neck and let her lips caress the Warriors.
Backing away from the lips she wanted so desperately Xena asked. "Are you sure?"
"Mmmm....yes I need to show you how much I love you. I want you to let me touch you and make love to you." Gabrielle nibbled Xenas lower lip and was pleased with the soft needy moan she received.
Keeping hold of her thoughts for anything other than Gabrielles passion was soon going to be impossible for Xena and she had to tell her soulmate one thing. "I want to marry you, Gabrielle. I dont want to wait much longer. I dont want us leaving Amphipolis without....."
Placing her fingers to Xena lips she knew exactly what her soulmate was asking. "I love you Warrior and I will marry you before we leave. Now kiss me."
After candlemarks of tears and words, touching and healing, the magic that makes up the bond between the Warrior and the Bard found renewal. Exhaustion was unimportant, as the soulmates were consumed by their passion for one another and their deep need to feel alive. Unknown to Xena and Gabrielle two goddesses stood witness to the healing and the beginnings of the passion. "Okay Aphrodite, time for us to leave them alone."
"Oh come on Art just a little bit longer."
Artemis grabbed Aphrodite by the ear. "No they dont need your help or mine in this area. I think they know exactly what to do and I might add they do it wonderfully."
Aphrodite gave a squeal of delight. As the two goddesses left the temple Aphrodite told Artemis of an old temple priest who lived in the mountains north of Amphipolis. Artemis laughter roared in agreement with Aphrodites wise choice.
After Xena, Gabrielle and the Amazons left for Aphrodites temple Cyrene and Lila kept themselves busy coordinating and planning Xenas demand for a private celebration. Laughing to herself Cyrene knew her daughters demand was actually a plea for help and was for her as much as it was for Gabrielle. Uncle Tensandis son knew several musicians and they agreed to play for all the free ale they could consume at the celebration. Cyrene sent a second messenger to Shulaba instructing her to bring the Amazons for a celebration. While Eponin had already sent a messenger out about finding Xena and Gabrielle, Cyrene did not think a second message could hurt. The innkeeper also sent out messengers to close friends of the soulmates. Locally Cyrenes list of close friends and family members grew beyond the private celebration Xena had envisioned.
"Cyrene dont you think forty-two villagers, six messages, and the gods only know how many Amazons is a little more than Xena wanted?" Lila was slightly concerned that the innkeeper was asking too many people.
"Yes, Lila I am sure it is much more than Xena anticipates. But, she put me in charge and Im her mom. She wont get too mad." The innkeeper laughed devilishly. The more she went around the village looking for messengers, ordering food and drink the more her friends would ask her what the celebration was for. Well, one thing led to another...how could she ask Aunt Petrina without including her children and their families. Then the village healer Memnos overheard and....well he tended to Xenas illnesses throughout her childhood. So eventually the list grew from small and private to large and private. Enlisting the help of her employees and the various businesses donating food and drink, Cyrene was confident that everything would be ready in time.
By the end of the day both women were exhausted. Cyrene eventually settled into her favorite rocking chair in front of the fire with a hot cup of tea. Shortly after Lila joined her.
"Cyrene, what does Xena want really want to celebrate?"
Cyrene pointed to the footstool inviting Lila to sit closer. "Lila, trust my daughter. She loves your sister so very much. Xena hoped this little party would help Gabrielle."
Lila crossed her arms and leaned on her already bent knees. "Gabby is really happy with Xena, isnt she?"
"Does that bother you dear?"
"Well...at first it did. But now...." Lila paused for a moment trying to find the right words. "As long as no one else hurts my sister I am fine with whoever she chooses. And I really do like Xena, although I use to be jealous of her."
Cyrene reached for Lilas hands pulling the young brunette to her lap. Lila rested her head in Cyrenes lap accepting the love this innkeeper was so willing to give. "Lila, why dont we just celebrate life and love. What do you think?"
"Yea, I like that idea."
Stella and Pippa arrived at the crossroads close to midnight. Maris was pleased with the information they were able to gather while in Amphipolis. The rebel explained to her companions how she watched as Xena and Gabrielle left the village with the Amazons and how she stayed behind to follow the old woman that seemed to be making demands of the Warrior.
Maris was irritated that Stella did not follow Gabrielle and interrupted Stella. "Are you STUPID why didnt you follow them!!!"
At that point Stella thought about killing Maris rather than Gabrielle. "I had every reason to believe the foursome would return because Gabrielle seemed to be sick or something and their horses were not packed for a journey. Turns out I was SMART to stay. The old woman is Xenas mother and in less than four days they are throwing a celebration. This is our opportunity to strike undercover."
The leader of the rebel Amazons was pleased with this information. They would set out for Amphipolis tomorrow in order to scout the village and prepare for the assassination of the Amazon Queen.
That night as Pippa laid in her bedroll, she could not sleep because her thoughts troubled her greatly. Rubbing the recent bruise on her cheek Pippa wondered if this is the life that she really wanted to live.
The rumors about Xena and Gabrielle being seen alive trickled throughout Greece. First because they appeared to have cheated death at the hands of the mighty Caesar and second because it was Xena her reputation, as being a cruel warlord turn good, was news worth following for any Greek citizen. It did not take long for Poteidaia to also hear of the news. The village elder almost broke the door of the tavern down trying to reached Herodotus farm.
After the elder left, Herodotus entered his now empty home. The house began to deteriorate after his wifes death and Lilas departure. Angry and drunk he assumed Lila would seek out Cyrene or Minya. Herodotus was convinced Xena took his entire family away from him. The insanity controlling his mind continued to deny that he was solely responsible for his own loss. If he had been honest with himself, the old man would realize that Gabrielle was lost to him ages ago, when she was just a little girl of three or four. Spitting on the floor he poured himself another mug of ale. Talking to his drink, "Well my precious little Gabrielle it would seem you cheated death. I wonder just what you would do, if you knew it was the news of your death that caused your mother to die. My dear daughter you will replace her even if I have to kill that warrior of yours. Then maybe, I will forgive you." Staggering to the kitchen cupboard Herodotus pulled out a piece of parchment. Eventually finding a quill and some ink the angry old man sat down at his table to compose a letter to Gabrielle. Again talking to no one but his drink Herodotus laughed over the anguish he would cause his wayward daughter and the Warrior. "This should bring you home my daughter."
Finishing his cruel task Herodotus set out to find a messenger that would deliver it into only Gabrielles hands. The old man wanted someone who would also deliver the parchment for free. It had to be someone who could enjoy bringing pain to the Warrior without a price. In his drunken stupor the old man still knew any pain he brought to Gabrielle would cause twice as much pain for Xena. Realizing it would take several days to find that type of messenger Herodotus shoved several dinars in his fist and headed to the tavern. He would wait there - after all he had all the time in the world.
Lightening broke the early morning sky followed by the clapping of thunder. The violence of the thunder startled the sleeping soulmates causing Gabrielle to bolt into a sitting position. The Warrior could see Gabrielle was visibly shaken and sat up to hold her. "Gabrielle its okay, just thunder." Rubbing the Bards back hoping it would calm her down Xena suddenly remembered the two Amazons sitting out in the open. The bluff offered very little protection. "I have to tell Eponin and Amarice to get in the temple. They do not need to be out there in this storm."
"Why are they here Xena. I thought only you and I were here?" The Bard looked puzzled and the Warrior knew she would have to explain about Maris and the groups banishment by Shulaba.
"Ill explain everything once I get them out of the storm." Throwing a blanket over her shoulder the Warrior reached back down to give Gabrielle a quick kiss on the lips before leaving the temple.
Gabrielle wrapped a blanket around her body and decided she was actually hungry. It did not take long for the Warrior to return with Eponin and Amarice in tow. With a piece of nutbread in her hands the Bard greeted the two Amazons with a smile and a quick hello. Xena was pleased to see Gabrielle rummaging through the food Lila prepared for them and was not at all surprised nutbread was her first choice. Together the foursome consumed a morning meal, as the rain began to fall and the thunder rolled through the sky. As promised, the Warrior told Gabrielle why the Amazons had accompanied them to the temple and the story of Maris disrespect for the Amazon nation and her subsequent banishment.
Eponin also filled in the missing parts of how Amarice returned to the village, Brutus offer of peace and the grief of the nation and especially Artemis. The brown-eyed Amazon explained that the news of all their deaths triggered her return home from the land of the pyramids and sand. For the moment, Eponin did not tell Gabrielle of the visit to Poteidaia, which resulted in Herodotus attempted attack on the Amazons party. And no one talked about Hecubas death. When Xena had gone outside to bring Eponin and Amarice into the temple she mentioned to both that Gabrielle was finally able to talk about her grief over a number of topics, however she circled away from details surrounding her fathers abuse. Therefore although both warriors felt anger about the cruelty of Herodotus a quick glance between each other in an almost unwritten warrior code confirmed that the subject should not be brought up.
Unexpectedly Gabrielle stood up to move away from her three companions. She looked tired and on the verge of tears. Just before turning away she spoke, "Amarice I....I just want you to know Im sorry. I had no right to call you a coward and to attack you. I dont know why I did that....please forgive me."
"My Queen, I do not find fault with your actions or reasons. You actually did me a favor....I too thought I was a coward. I am so sorry for abandoning you and Xena. I only ask that both of you forgive me." Amarice stood up and bowed her head respectfully. "Please excuse me, it sounds as if the storm has passed and I must see to the horses." Before anyone could stop her, the young redhead was gone.
Eponin was extremely proud of the response Amarice gave Gabrielle. "Gee, maybe there is hope for her yet." Looking to Xena and Gabrielle the Amazon smiled, "I think I will help her with the horses. When will we be leaving Xena?"
The Warrior looked to her soulmate who had already returned to the pallet and was getting dressed. "Eponin lets leave later in the day so we can make Amphipolis before nightfall. I want to give Gabrielle a little more time."
With a smirk playing across her face Eponin reminded the Warrior, "Xena, dont forget to tell her about the celebration."
"Oh...yeah. Well maybe later."
Eponin caught up with Amarice who was trying to regain the fierce little attitude she was becoming well known for. Although she was brushing her horse down after the rain, Eponin could tell she was not serious about the task. Going against the hard-nose warrior grain Eponin addressed her young companion. "Amarice are you okay?"
"Yea, sure Im fine." Not looking at Eponin was a struggle. She was so attracted to her and yet she knew Eponin was only acting like Shulaba ordered a mentor. Had their relationship been different Amarice would have reached out in tears for Eponin. She was so tired of acting like a tough brat. Deep inside Amarice knew it was a charade.
"Im proud of you Amarice. I know what you said took a lot of courage and..."
Partly fearing the affectionate words from Eponin and partly her own need to be loved she turned to face her mentor. "Let it go Eponin...it was no big deal." Before the Amazon Warrior could react or reach out Amarice dropped the horsebrush and walked away. Eponin could not help but notice the redness in her eyes and not knowing what else to do she let her go.
Once Eponin left the temple Xena approached her soulmate. She could tell it was difficult for Gabrielle to focus on what Eponin was explaining. Xena believed it would be tough on her Bard for awhile but at least now she was talking. Standing behind Gabrielle the Warrior reached out placing her hand gently on the Bards shoulder. "Gabrielle you okay. I know it is hard..."
Gabrielle turned around wiping the few tears that were falling. "Xena, I..I just feel so bad about attacking Amarice. And I feel horrible for how Ive treated you."
The Warrior would not let her finish and pulled her soulmate into a strong embrace. "No Gabrielle, dont do this, okay. I love you through good and bad. Nothing can change that. You are my soulmate forever in every life and in destiny. Too much has happened since your birthday and you are being much to tough on yourself." Xena paused to kiss the tip of her lovers nose. "If I remember we made a promise to follow our paths side by side. What I have seen over and over again is the beautiful emotional woman that I fell so deeply in love with. If you want to show me you care - then please dont ever shut me out deal?"
The Bard gazed into her lovers blue eyes. They had the color of protection and love the color of the bluest sky. "Xena, I love you and....yes it is a deal."
The lovers needed no words to show their commitment to each other. Together they shared a physical, emotional and spiritual love that penetrated and filled their souls and hearts. Accepting the need to grieve was the first step to healing. Xena knew Gabrielle had taken that step here in Aphrodites temple with her help. To the Warrior that trust Gabrielle gave to her meant the world to Xena. They would be okay.
"Gabrielle, would you like to try and meditate together?"
Normally it was Gabrielle trying to talk the Warrior into joint meditation so the Bards soul began to beat quickly at the offer. "Yes I would like to try....it has been difficult for me to focus....but, yes I would like to try."
The Warrior gave her soulmate a quick kiss and they moved to the center of the temple. "Gabrielle, think of our ocean remember the ocean of belief."
"Yessss, I do remember. It was such a beautiful place and so peaceful."
Like well-orchestrated music the soulmates clasped hands and slid into their complimentary positions. Their bodies created a meditative arrangement that spoke volumes of their spiritual and soulful bond. When both women were completely at peace their essence mingled and their souls mated as one. The peak reached with this joint meditation was the unexplainable power they could feel enter their spirits. Both women assumed it was from their Creator and a promised rainbow....and it felt as if they were receiving total unconditional love.
Later the women shared their physical love slowly and sensually. Eventually Gabrielle drifted off to sleep in her Warriors arms. Xena followed shortly after. When they woke the sun that popped out after the storm was now hanging low in the western sky. The couple packed their satchels between moments of kisses and comforting words and left the temple in search of the Amazons.
Eponin and Amarice were waiting for them on opposite sides of the temple grounds. The young redhead was standing on a boulder overlooking the sea and Eponin was sitting on a rock facing away from the temple. Xena could see Eponin throwing her dagger into the ground between her feet repeatedly. Observing the body language of both women Gabrielle asked her soulmate a question. "Xena...did I miss something?"
The Warrior wrapped her arm around Gabrielles waist pulling her close. "Looks familiar doesnt it."
Gabrielle reached up leaving a small kiss on the Warriors lips. "Yes, I guess it does. Any bets on how long it will take Amarice to wear Eponin down?"
"Bets?" Xena laughed, "Lets hope Eponin does not have to die first to find out shes hopelessly in love with Amarice." Memories flooded back to both women about the time Xena kissed Gabrielle while in control of Autolycus body. Suddenly the Warrior reflected back to Gabrielles comment of taking bets. "My Bard what do you mean when you say bets?"
Gabrielle giggled innocently before answering. "Ephiny, Solari, Eponin, Shulaba, Teklai, your mother and I all had bets on when you would fall my Warrior." Surprising Xena with another kiss she continued, "When you would fall into my arms and surrender."
Shock registered on Xenas face. "MY MOTHER???"
Before Gabrielle could respond Eponin turned to see the lovers on the temple steps and stood up quickly. This movement distracted Xena and she did not have a chance to question Gabrielle further on the bet or her mother. However, she made a mental note to speak with her later about this. The Warrior was not too sure she liked everyone betting on her day of surrender even if it was for Gabrielle.
Consumed with her thoughts of Amarice the Amazon at first did not hear Xena and Gabrielle approach. When she faced them Eponin was visibly shaken. Xena took the opportunity to rib her friend. "Slipping Eponin. Must be pretty important. Could it possibly be someone has occupied your heart." Walking right to the Amazon she added. "Normally a warrior only looses sight of their surrounding, when their heart is in control instead of their mind."
Eponin blushed and could see Gabrielles attempt to stop giggling. "Oh, very funny. Im just tired, thats all."
As Xena and Gabrielle walked passed Eponin toward Argo, Gabrielle could not resist joining in on the teasing. "Give it up Eponin surrendering is so much more fun."
By the time the foursome arrived in Amphipolis the sun was already asleep and the stars now took control of the heavens. Cyrene and Lila were extremely happy to see the women home and wasted no time showering Gabrielle was kisses, hugs and words of love. Quickly Cyrene shoved the women to the kitchen and began placing a great amount of food and drink in front of the four adventurers. No one mentioned Gabrielles pain over the last few days. Cyrene explained gently and motherly that Lila needed to let go and to give her sister a chance to heal. The innkeeper was pleased how well Lila responded. Both Xena and the Bard were grateful. Xena knew it would take time for her soulmate to work through the pain and over time it would lessen. While they were eating Lila blurted her excitement about the upcoming celebration.
"What celebration?" Totally in the dark about the celebration Gabrielle asked with curiosity.
"Xena didnt you tell Gabrielle about the celebration!" Shaking her head pretending to be irritated Cyrene slapped her daughter in the head.
Gabrielle looked to Xena for an answer. "Im sorry...I meant too, I just...well we just..."
"Oh come on Warrior you were a coward." Eponin was now enjoying how the tables were turning. "I cant believe this beautiful little blonde still scares you. I thought when you surrendered - the fear went away."
Xena knew Eponin was thoroughly enjoying this whole situation. Turning to face Gabrielle, who was actually smiling Xena, decided to use charm. "Sweetie...I.."
"SWEETIE." Everyone roared with laughter and surprise over the mighty Xena Warrior Princess Destroyer of Nations using the endearing term sweetie. Of course, between laughter Eponin could not let this opportunity go by. "Oh boy does she have you around her little finger."
Xena was dismayed to find everyone else laughing and agreeing with Eponin. Placing her elbows on the table and her hands up to cover her face the Warrior just shook her head not too sure what to do. Within seconds Gabrielle had her arm around her lovers waist pulling her strong hands from her face. Kissing her on the cheek reassuringly the Bard looked at the four laughing women. Then decided quickly to focus on one Amazon Warrior. "Oh Eponin might I remind you of one tiny little thing." Gabrielle was holding her fingers in a position to indicate the size of tiny. The Amazons laughter stopped abruptly and she knew this was the end. She was in big, big trouble now. She should have known Gabrielle would come to Xenas rescue. Sitting back in her chair she closed her eyes waiting for the attack. With a huge smirk crossing her face Gabrielle said, "Eponin, keep one thing in mind your dagger will not keep you warm at night."
With that statement the eruption of laughter from the women became uncontrollable. Eponins eyes burst open wide! Looking at a smiling Gabrielle she began shaking her finger, as if threatening to get her back. The Amazon knew, however, she could never hope to out master a Bard with words and instead began to join the laugher. "Xena, you are indeed fortunate my friend...so when is the wedding?"
The Warrior looked to her soulmate. "As soon as I can find someone who will perform the marriage."
Gabrielle took Xenas hand to hold nodding her agreement about their marriage and then added, "Xena, I love you, but you are avoiding the original question. Why dont I know about this celebration?"
"I thought a small private celebration might be helpful. We have so many people that care about us and rather than spend our time traveling all over Greece...well I thought bringing them here might be a good idea. You and I can use a celebration. Please dont be mad...I was so worried about you."
Gabrielle gave Xena a huge bear hug and a kiss on the cheek. "Its okay Xena. I understand. So when is this celebration and who is coming?"
Cyrene took this opportunity to speak up. "The celebration is the day after tomorrow and since yesterday I think we are up to fifty-eight villagers, six messages were sent out and who knows how many Amazons will show up. Although I already know Toris, Hercules and Iolaus are too far away to make it in time. But they should be here in time for the wedding."
"MOTHER I said small private."
"Yes dear, and you also promised me to tell Gabrielle. So I guess we are now even." Cyrene was rather pleased with her justification.
A Journey of Love and Home continues in Chapter 4
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