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All the usual. Part One of this story does contain some violence. No sex, but it's a given that the warrior and the bard enjoy it on a regular basis. Part Two gets much more interesting -- but much darker.
Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.
NOTE: All works remain the © copyright of the original author. These may not be republished without the author's consent.
An Amazon Falls
"Aaaarrrggghhh!" Gabrielle crumpled the papyrus in her fist and shook it. "That's a myth, a stupid myth!"
"Yeth, what ith?"
Gabrielle gave Xena a dark look. "Go on, chortle at your own wit. Xena, look at this!" She flattened the lined paper against her flat stomach as she walked, then thrust it under her partner's chin, one finger tapping the page rapidly.
"Want me to read it or eat it?" Xena snatched the page and scanned it idly. Then her face brightened. "Gabrielle, hey! This is wonderful! You're listed as a featured performer at Potadeia's harvest festival! And they spelled you right, look -- "
"Gabrielle, Our Own Little Bard of Potadeia!" Gabrielle made an unladylike retching noise. "They make me sound like a talking baby lamb! Little Bard, honestly..."
Xena wisely resisted the urge to point out that "baby lamb" was redundant. She kept silent, letting Gabrielle stalk a few steps down the trail, muttering to herself. Argo whickered behind them, and the tall warrior threw a cautioning look over her shoulder. The bard had traveled with them long enough to recognize horse laughter.
Gabrielle turned back, waving the flyer at Xena as though it were a hopelessly dented frying pan. "I am not short, Xena, and this is all your fault. The entire civilized world thinks I am a short person, and I am not. I never have been short, I am not now, I do not plan ever to BE short -- "
"Gabrielle, cool off." Xena gave up trying to hide her smile as she drew abreast of her partner. She slung a long arm around the irritated bard's shoulders and urged her on down the path. "Short of stature doesn't mean short of intelligence, or competence, or kindness -- "
"Or temper," Gabrielle warned. She ducked out from under Xena's arm and side-stepped, looking up at the warrior's height with annoyance. "You try walking beside the Colossus of Amphipolis for four years, they'll call you a shrimp too."
"I'm certain they will," Xena agreed gravely.
It took a moment, but Gabrielle finally cracked a smile and slapped the wrinkled paper against her thigh. They walked on in a comfortable silence, the kind that appeared and held more often between them as the years passed. Gabrielle's once endless chatter had given way to lengthening periods of peace, as the bard learned to share Xena's joy of listening to the world.
They were making good time. They should reach the Amazon village by nightfall. Gabrielle had missed Ephiny fiercely this past season, and though she was less willing to admit it, so had Xena. Gabrielle blended happily, with a sense of relief, into the company of the women she ruled. There was a distance imposed by her rank that all were aware of -- except for a close circle of friends that included Eponin and Solari, few Amazons treated Gabrielle with the relaxed warmth she wanted to share with all her clan. But she'd grown to love her difficult sisters, and relish her brief sojourns among them.
Xena's anticipation was more capricious. She would be happy enough to greet old friends, and she looked forward to trading stories with them around a nightfire. But the incessant combat drills the Amazons practiced were sure to draw her in. She'd be asked to demonstrate a particular kick, and then spend the rest of the day fending off one playful challenge after another. Amazons had a competitive streak ten layers deep, and a renowned warrior in their midst was too much to resist. Xena knew she'd receive at least one challenge intended to provoke a true match. It was wearing.
"Amazons think I'm short, too," Gabrielle sighed. Just because she'd learned to enjoy silence didn't mean she'd stopped shaking any topic that interested her in her teeth like a terrier. "Ah gods, you're right, I'm short."
"I never said you -- "
"Queens are supposed to be towering and majestic. You'd make a good queen." She looked up at Xena pensively. "How am I supposed to command an Amazon I'm squinting up at, it's just not -- "
"Try glowering up at them, and you're about to get some practice." Xena stopped Gabrielle with a hand on her arm and nodded up the trail. "Aren't those two yours?"
Gabrielle saw two young women sprinting down the path toward them. They were dressed in the unmistakable feathers of Ephiny's clan, but her pleased recognition soon gave way to low-grade alarm.
The two Amazons were young, hardly fully adult, and they'd obviously been running for a long time. Both loped with an exhausted, stumbling gait, and even spying Xena and Gabrielle couldn't galvanize their pace. The warrior and the bard jogged to meet them, Argo trotting behind, and the two women collapsed on the ground and let them come.
They struggled to sit upright as Gabrielle knelt before them, and two fists thudded into two heaving chests, and then extended palm down to the young queen.
"Yeah, yeah," Gabrielle said, patting the hands once each to lower them. "Look, concentrate on breathing, you can revere me later." She looked over her shoulder. "Xena?"
"On my way," Xena called. She was unlacing a waterskin from Argo's girthbelt.
"Queen Gabrielle," the red-haired Amazon gasped. She was the larger of the two, and she swept one haphazard arm out to point back up the trail. "Ephiny...Pendrites..."
"Hold on, you can't talk unless you can breathe," Gabrielle interrupted. She swept the dark hair back off the second Amazon's damp brow to see her eyes. They both seemed all right, physically, just spent. To Gabrielle's surprise, the young Amazon she was touching blushed scarlet.
"I'm Kella, she's Jesstin," the smaller Amazon got out, before heaving for air. "There's a band -- of Pendrite -- before nightfall -- "
"Listen to your queen, girl." Xena crouched beside Gabrielle and handed the dripping waterskin to the taller Amazon. Jesstin took it, looking up at Xena with a dazed expression. "You're both wasting time. Gabrielle needs your message short, concise, and accurate. Now shut up and get your breath back, as she ordered."
The young Amazons had never met Xena, but they were discovering the descriptions of the warrior's imposing presence were quite accurate. They shut up entirely. They studied each other instead and obediently pulled for breath.
Gabrielle sat back on her heels and quirked a bemused eyebrow at her lover. "You know, I do have to admit there's some advantage to having a Queen's Champion who's taller than your average sapling."
"Don't call me that, Gabrielle, you know I hate that," Xena sighed. She watched Jesstin hand the waterskin to Kella instead of drinking first herself, and figured there was a champion-wannabe in their midst.
"Hey, I didn't make up the title," Gabrielle reminded Xena, but then her smile faded as she turned to her two subjects. Their mission was obviously urgent, and another flicker of disquiet sounded in her belly. "Are you both coherent, now?"
The one named Jesstin nodded, contrite, as she scrubbed water from her lips. "Finally, Lady. Okay." She straightened her back, and looked directly into Gabrielle's green eyes. "There's a band of Pendrite sorcerers advancing on our camp. Pendrites swore vengeance on all Amazons after one of our exiled warriors knifed the king's son -- "
"It's a long story and we already know it, that's okay, go on," Gabrielle coaxed gently.
"Ephiny thinks they want Amazons for slaves." Jesstin leaned forward. "Kella and I were with the war party she led to intercept them. But Gabrielle, there are hundreds!"
"She sent us to find you." Kella, the small, dark-haired Amazon took up the report. "Ephiny wants you to organize our main camp for battle." Her pretty eyes were frightened. "I don't think we can avoid this one, Lady."
Gabrielle let out a long breath, staring over the two women's heads. "You might be right, Kella." Silently, she blessed Ephiny for sending these two out of harm's way. They were doubtless the youngest, and least seasoned, of her regent's patrol. She touched both Amazons' shoulders. "All right. Xena and I will ride for the camp. We can make it before dusk if we push."
Xena rose, and jumped lightly onto Argo's back. This was Amazon business, and she would follow her young wife's lead. "We might not reach Ephiny in time, but we can meet her at the village."
Gabrielle nodded agreement without turning her head. "You two follow us as quickly as you can, but don't kill yourselves getting there. Save your strength, you might walk in on a fight. Are we clear?"
The two voices spoke in ceremonial tandem, and Gabrielle blinked at them, then grinned and ruffled Kella's dark hair before rising. "Good."
Xena held one wrist down for Gabrielle's grasp. The young queen swung easily up behind her, the movement as natural as breathing, and clasped the dark warrior's waist. "Get something to eat on the trail," she called down to her subjects, sounding like a stern mother, "and watch your backs."
The two young women thumped and saluted again, and Argo skipped into a fast gallop, pelting them with gritty dust.
_____ *** _____
It was a bitter battle, and hellishly long for an impulsive clash, but the small number of lethal casualties inflicted was nigh onto miraculous. Few Amazons fell because Ephiny and Eponin had trained them hard and long for combat, and most of their clan were seasoned fighters. More were saved because Gabrielle knew to rely on the counsel of her most trusted advisers, Xena chief among them, and the Amazons' battle strategies proved effective.
There'd been no time for greetings, of course. Ephiny fought far from the warrior and the bard, and it wasn't until the Pendrites were in full retreat that the separate battalions gathered in the center of the Amazon camp.
Gabrielle was exhausted, and covered with grime. A shallow cut above her left elbow still bled, sluggishly -- a dagger-swipe that had been too fast to evade -- but that was her only injury. Xena had been equally lucky, and now she helped Gabrielle patch up the most dangerous wounds others had earned in the fray. She had fought in the queen's shadow, and her arm had been deadly and sure. Gabrielle was bringing her fresh water when Ephiny finally caught her.
"Gabrielle, we need you." Ephiny's expression was grim, and the tired pleasure that lit Gabrielle's green eyes at the sight of her regent turned to foreboding.
She touched Ephiny's arm. "Are you all right?"
"It's not me." Ephiny gestured toward the far side of the camp, and nodded for Gabrielle to follow her. She lowered her voice as they walked, so her words were heard only by the young queen. "I don't think you've ever done this before, Gabrielle, but follow your instincts. You remember the Queen's Blessing?"
"Ah, gods." Gabrielle's voice deepened with dread. "Who is it, Ephiny?"
"One of my scouting patrol." Grief was heavy in the beautiful regent's voice. "We can't save her. Try to ease her passage, Gabrielle."
"I'll do all I can." Then Gabrielle stopped short, dismay sweeping through her in a sick fog. "Ah, sweet Artemis, no."
Jesstin lay sprawled in Kella's arms in the sparse grass. A horrific gash in her chest had stopped bleeding, but only because a woman's body couldn't possibly hold more blood than that which saturated both young warriors. Kella was rocking her, crooning a comforting chant in a voice that was hoarse and thin.
"Ephiny, get Xena," Gabrielle said quietly. She knelt in front of the two young women and regarded them with compassion. "Kella, are you wounded?"
Kella shook her head. "She took that sword strike for me, Lady." She looked at Gabrielle pleadingly as she rocked Jesstin. "Please, we can't let her die."
Jesstin's eyes were closed, and her face was shockingly white. Her dark brows drew together as she fought the agony of the injury that would surely prove mortal. She lay still in Kella's embrace, but her entire body shook, and Gabrielle's throat constricted with helplessness.
The bard looked up as warm fingers brushed the top of her shoulder. Xena stood behind her, her blue eyes anguished but calm as they measured Jesstin, clinically. She glanced down at Gabrielle and shook her head. Then she knelt, and quickly jabbed two fingers into the joints of Jesstin's shoulders. The dazed warrior cried out, but then seemed to relax. Her trembling lessened, as stunned nerves shut off the flow of pain. Xena stood again, and her knees warmed Gabrielle's back.
"I'm sorry, Kella." The queen bent over Jesstin, and her fingers sifted through Kella's damp hair, as they had when they first met. "Jesstin has been injured beyond our ability to heal. We can't keep her with us. We should honor her by letting her pass on, peacefully."
Kella moaned, and lowered her forehead to Jesstin's shoulder.
Jesstin's eyes opened, and she focused blearily on Gabrielle's green ones, which were filling with tears. "Lady?"
"Yes, Jess, it's me." Gabrielle lifted the dying Amazon's hand and cradled it in her lap.
"I'm glad I got to meet you." Jesstin smiled with the shy delight of a child, and tears rose in the eyes of all the Amazons who circled them, watching.
Ephiny and Xena rarely allowed themselves to touch each other. Their attraction was mutual, and had been since the day they met, but it would never be voiced. Both women gifted their primary loyalty to the young queen who knelt at their feet. As Jesstin struggled to breathe, Ephiny let her head rest back against Xena's supporting shoulder, and closed her eyes.
"I'm glad we met too, Jesstin." Gabrielle found she could still speak clearly, and she hoped Jesstin heard the genuine love in her voice. It wasn't the affection two young women might form for each other at first meeting -- it was the mature love of an Amazon queen for a warrior fallen in her service. "Are you ready, little sister? It's time to go."
Jesstin's eyes dimmed, and she tried to lift her head to see Kella. "I'm sorry, Kel," she gasped, and then she had to lower her head into her lap again. "I really love you. I'll wait for you at the next bend. Okay?"
Kella had to hitch in a long breath before she could answer, but when she did, her eyes were as rich with love as with tears. "At the next bend, Jess." She bent and rested her lips against Jesstin's forehead.
Good girl, Gabrielle thought, and smiled through her tears. She looked
down at the bloody hand she still clasped, and felt it growing cold.
Gabrielle had heard one Queen's Blessing; Ephiny had given hers to an
older Amazon who died of pneumonia during one of their visits. Every
Blessing was different, and Gabrielle's for Jesstin was simple and
beautiful and uniquely the bard's.
"Your sisters are right here, Jesstin, to tell you goodbye. And to thank you -- you fought bravely and well for your clan. You can pass over. You'll find no pain on the other side, and you'll always be young and strong, there. Your older sisters are waiting for you, around a huge nightfire. There's venison and mead, and they know many stories of our mothers. You'll see us again. We'll join you there, someday. Good night, Jesstin, we love you so much."
Rocked in her lover's arms, surrounded by grieving friends, the young Amazon died between one breath and the next.
Sometime later, Gabrielle felt Xena's hands on her shoulders, and she nodded silently and got to her feet. Two Amazons lifted their hands to volunteer -- one to offer Kella what comfort she could accept, the other to take the body away when Kella was ready. The rest of the Amazons drifted quietly away from the dark young woman, and the dead warrior she still cradled, sobbing.
_____ *** _____
"That was lovely, Bri." Xena's low voice was warm as she led Gabrielle to their tent, her arm once again draped over the bard's bare shoulders. "You gave the girl a worthy Blessing. Your first, and after a night like this. I'm proud of you."
Ordinarily those words would sound a deep chord in Gabrielle, but tonight she was too deep in despair to feel it. And numb with exhaustion, after organizing the care of the wounded, the burial ceremonies of the six dead, and seeing to it that everyone fed and rested. It was nearly dawn.
She let Xena lift the flap of their open-air tent and push her gently inside. Their shelter was a quickly-built but efficient one, consisting largely of four long blankets erected as walls in a square surrounding them. Gabrielle sat cross-legged on the cool grass, while the warrior built a small fire to warm their sleep. There was no conversation as they ate the stew one of the older Amazons brought, but the silence felt soothing. Neither of them needed words to request what came next -- they were both drained, but they craved physical comfort more than sleep.
Gabrielle lay back in Xena's arms, and rested her head on the strong swell of the warrior's shoulder. They were naked, a rare indulgence when they were among the Amazons, but skin to skin contact was clearly needed that night.
Xena stared up at the deep blue blanket of stars above them, her long fingers sifting through Gabrielle's soft hair. "None of this was your fault, Gabrielle."
"I know that." Gabrielle swallowed, her hand running lightly across Xena's lean side. "I didn't start this stupid vendetta."
"Doesn't matter," Xena sighed, and shifted stiffly beneath the bard's sweet weight. "A leader always shoulders the pain of a battle, the loss of her warriors. I know I did. An Amazon queen feels guilt for every single death, because her women died for the clan, and the queen is the clan."
Gabrielle said nothing for a moment, tickling a circle on Xena's warm skin. "You know, Jesstin was probably two years younger than me," she whispered finally. "And I've been Kella, so many times. In my head, mostly. A couple of times I've really held you like that, though, when you've been hurt."
Xena shifted again, uncomfortably. "Those times were just as hard for me, Gabrielle."
"I doubt it." Gabrielle closed her eyes.
"Well, I've been on the other side of things, too. I'm not the one who leap-frogged into a lava pit -- "
"Xena, I'm terrified that I'm going to watch you die right in front of me, someday."
"Oh, please." Xena's blue eyes glittered in the darkness. "That doesn't even bear talking about. We've both done it, okay, we've both lived through it."
Gabrielle was silent.
New images, very different ones, were rising behind the bard's closed eyelids, and they unsettled her. If she'd told Xena about them, she might have received some assurance that the rage swamping her was as natural as the guilt had been earlier. As it was, the young queen struggled alone with a passion she'd never known before.
Gabrielle wanted blood. She despised the Pendrites who murdered her sisters. She was going to gut every last one of them, personally. She planned to enjoy it. In the dark, Gabrielle's smile turned feral. Then she shuddered, hard.
Xena opened one eye and peered down at the blond head, puzzled. She reached out and pulled the thick fur up over Gabrielle's bare shoulder, wondering if she was chilled. The warrior rested her lips in the lush hair, still trying to get used to it's shaggy length, that stopped at Gabrielle's soft neck. "Try to sleep, Bri. Dawn comes early."
But Xena was wrong, for once. Dawn didn't come at all.
End of Part One.
|Part Two continues this story, but not on this site. When AN AMAZON FALLS is finished, I hope to post it at X.E.N.A.D.O.M.|
Please note that this site is dedicated to Xena admirers who enjoy BDSM. This kind of sexual activity will be vividly represented in the rest of the story. If that offends you, or if you are under 21, do not read any further; let this installment serve as the entire tale. If you'd like to know when Part Two is ready, send me a private e-mail.
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