Disclaimer: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle and others mentioned, belong to
MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No infringement on their rights are intended.
Subtext Disclaimer: If youve been reading the series, you know that their two thousand years old, back in their original bodies, in love and have a very hot sex life, but not in this story. Sorry. In this story original bodies are really original.
Timeline: Plan D #8e. (Almost done. One more to go, see note.)
Shock Factor: 5. This story has moments of extreme graphic violence and you may want to keep a box of tissues handy. (Celine, maybe you should have a couple of boxes handy, hormones and all.)
Note: As youve figured out by now, Im laying the foundation for a new character in the Plan D series and through the last four segments, youve had to put up with that tedious process, so for this story, Ive decided to summarize a lot of the scrolls that Xena is reading. Hopefully, this hasnt come out like VCR instructions and youll be able to follow along. There is one complete scroll, after the summarization and then there will only be one scroll left, for the warrior to read. So breath a sigh of relief, as Ancient Secrets (F) will be the last one, I hope, then back to the present with Faith and Grace.
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Ancient Secrets (e)
Rolling up the scroll, Xena smiled. The prize. Chuckling, she tossed it in the safe and sat back in the chair, running her eyes over the remaining scrolls. What to read? Picking one up, the warrior read the title and set it on the holder.
As the day wore on, Xena continued to read the scrolls and reminisced about the times shed had so long ago. She remembered the events, as though the had occurred that very day, and felt the tug of her emotions as she read.
After the incident with Nados, Xena would still sometimes feel a twinge of jealousy, where T was concerned, especially where the bard was concerned and her running rivalry with the King was a constant source of irritation, but despite these things, the warrior also found a growing respect for her friend and her abilities. Ts strength and skill proved themselves to be most worthy of pride and notoriety, but neither appeared as the King kept herself as anonymous as possible, when she traveled with the warrior and bard, wearing her baggy clothes and saying that the last thing she needed was a Nados of her own. Foregoing this, T never failed to use her abilities and her resources when it came to the protection of Xena and Gabrielle and over the years brought out the Ungara when greater numbers were needed to keep them safe. Despite all this, the one thing the warrior most respected her friend for was Ts absolute refusal to allow anyone to take any form of pride in her skill. According to T, any hint of arrogance or pride was the equivalent of pissing on the lives of the people who had suffered and died to keep her alive and the sorrow and pain shed survived was the only thing she would ever attribute her skill to. It was also this mentality, Xena surmised, that made T the most efficient and lethal of killing machines. Though T only killed to protect, she was never showy and never wasted a move, but would defend herself until it became evident that the attacker wouldnt give up and then she would strike with a precision and strength to end the engagement with as little suffering on the part of her opponent as possible. The only exception to this, was when Xena and Gabrielle would suffer from any delay and then T would simply remove the danger in the fewest number of strokes required.
Over the years, the bard and warrior found out many insightful and interesting things that went along with the King of the Ungara. Like the hidden daggers in her gauntlets, that she could make appear with a flick of her wrist, which came in handy on more than one occasion, but remained a mystery, none the less. Gabrielle, who for some unknown reason, was very intrigued by Ts claws, took it upon herself to keep them trimmed, which T used as another source of irritation for the warrior and would often come over to the bard, looking very pouty and holding up a chipped or broken one. Then Gabrielle would break out her cutters and file and repair the injury, while T smiled wickedly over her shoulder at Xena, who would mutter nasty and unkind curses on T and sharpen her sword with vigorous fervor.
Fortunately for Xenas sanity, T didnt come with them as much as the King wanted to and would stay in the Palace to do her kingly duty and await their return. It was during one of these interludes, that the bard and warrior went to Britania and suffered at the hands of Caesar and Dahok. After their return to Greece, Xena and Gabrielle made their way to the Palace to sort out what they felt and take comfort in solace of the forest. It was then that the bard told T of what had happened, despite the warriors better judgment and the King of the Ungara had blown up like a ball of Greek fire. Roaring with rage and fury, T somehow managed to relate to them another interesting tidbit of Ungaran history. Apparently Dahok, who was Ungaras twin brother, was also the evil Ancient god that had been beaten and trapped so long ago and had somehow managed to find a way to use the mortal key to his confinement and chosen Gabrielle as that key. This knowledge in hand, the warrior waited for the smoke to clear and used Latour to gain as much information as she could about Dahok, but was disappointed when the apprentice failed to provide her with anything other than what she already knew. Frustrated, Xena then asked T, who flatly refused to divulge any knowledge and said that Dahok was her problem and not the warriors and therefore made Xena a very unhappy camper.
But, as things tend to do, eventually the atmosphere returned to normal and the three friends got back to the job of getting on with their lives. They even decided to take a vacation from the beating up bad guys business and planned a trip to Potidea, so T could meet the bards family, to which Xena smirked, and to enjoy the Harvest festival. Sadly, while on their way, they were joined by Joxer, whos introduction to his pals other friend was getting lifted off his feet and slammed into the ground by T, when he came running at Gabrielle for a friendly reunion. As compensation for his injuries, Joxer was allowed to accompany them on their vacation and spent much of the time being extremely jealous of the interaction of the bard and T, which Xena found most amusing and completely missed the irony. Stopping by a river, for a needed break from riding and Joxers pratter, Xena and T fished. As they both returned to the tree where the bard and Joxer waited, they were soaking wet and had big smiles. The warrior, thinking she finally had the King, presented a whopper with a flourish of water droplets. However, T had a whopper of the same size and Xena was ready to settle for a tie, when T presented three more whoppers to go with the other one. Disgruntled, Xena threw hers back and pouted, then had to put up with T, when Gabrielle made the King go make nice and thumped T in the forehead, which miraculously knocked her unconscious, spread eagle on the ground.
Directly after her recovery, three seconds later, T climbed to the top of the tree when she heard the familiar sound of hoof beats coming from behind the ridge on the other side of the river. Fearing the worst and spotting more, she saw Draco and about three hundred of his nasty buddies gather, then head off in the direction of her vacation destination and yelled the news down to the others. Then, she dove out of the tree, into the river, swam across and proceeded to chase the despots on foot. Xena, Gabrielle and Joxer were forced to gather their stuff as quickly as possible and head up stream two miles, on Argo and Artaq, to where the river was passable. Chasing after the King and Draco, they made Potidea an hour after sundown and found the bards home town burning and in chaos. They also found T in the middle of everything, wielding her golden sword, cutting down Dracos men and trying to get the villagers to safety. Coming into the fray, Xena took her place beside T and started driving Dracos men back, forming an invisible battle line, while Gabrielle and Joxer moved the women and children into the temple. Sometime between midnight and sunrise, Draco lured Xena across the battle line with taunts and threats, and engaged her in a personal fight on horseback. Battling back an forth amongst the fighting, Draco struck Xena with a thrust to her side and while the warrior clutched her wound, T shouted to Argo the command to return across the line and taught Draco the meaning of U nu ru, U kara, you hurt her, you die and cut him into a lot of little pieces.
With Xena injured, T pushed the battle line further back and around a corner in the village, disappearing from sight and echoing her roars off the smoldering buildings. At dawn the echoes stopped and the warrior and bard waited for Ts return, but were anguished to find the Kings fallen body amongst the mud and the blood of the pieces Dracos men. Feeling a faint pulse, Xena, Gabrielle and Joxer took T to the temple and the warrior and bard managed to save their friend, after a frantically working to close her wounds and begging her to stay when Ts heart stopped. After the wounds were closed, it took T three days to wake up, which was attributed to a great loss of blood, but when she did, the King promised the warrior and bard that she would never leave as long as there was a drop of blood in her body and even then, shed hang on. Thus ended the first of many disastrous vacations to come.
Never giving up on a good idea, the trio planned a trip to Amphipolis and were again disappointed when another warlord blocked their fun, by raiding a village they were passing through. Taking their frustrations out on the gang of ruffians, Xena, Gabrielle and T ran them out of town, but were surprised when the warlord rallied his men and came charging back into the village in a stampede. Spotting a child in the path of the horses, Xena caught her and only had time to cover the girls body with her own, before she was trampled by the raiders. Turning for another round, the warlord changed his mind, or his horses changed their mind when T came running to the warriors body and roared in fury and heartbreak as Xena crossed to the other side.
With Xenas death, Gabrielle and T completed the trip to Amphipolis with the warriors body, in a non stop two day ride and brought her to her Mother. Placing Xena in one of the side rooms, T stayed with her and stood a silent vigil over her friend, protecting her in death as she had failed to do in life. Gabrielle and Cyrene made preparations for the funeral and were surprised when old friends started showing up at the Inn. Wondering how word had spread so quickly, the bard realized from the stories Hercules, Iolas and Ephiny told her, that T had used her airborne messengers to deliver the news. Hercules and the others were of great assistance in the preparations, but had a problem with T, who refused to move from Xenas side. Not knowing what to do, they turned to the exhausted and distraught bard, who simply took Ts hand and moved her to the back of the room, so the others could say their last good byes. Feeling theyd caught a glimpse into the friendship of the stranger and the bard, they said their good byes and left the two to morn in peace.
One more mourner arrived, the night before the funeral and was faced with the unknown factor of the King of the Ungara. Ares, thinking he was invisible to the mortal eye, came to pay his last respects and was not only seen by T, but was chased from the room at sword point and escaped with a cut to his hand. Seeing the immortal blood on her sword, T remembered an old Ungaran tale of raising the dead. Torn in her loyalty to Xenas memory and wishing for her return, the King drew a dagger from her gauntlet and inserted it into the warriors breast, all the way to her heart. Running her fingers along her sword, she brushed the blood onto the dagger and watched it descend into the heart of the warrior. Removing the dagger, T didnt know if Xena would recover and said nothing the following morning, when the funeral began. Watching the warrior closely, as she walked behind the wagon, which carried Xenas body, T listened with her half god soul enhanced ears, waiting and hoping. Making their way to where Lyceus was entombed, she suddenly stopped the procession and jumped up onto the wagon, scaring the piss out of everybody, who already had notions about her and started shouting for everyone to shut up. Startled, Gabrielle came to T, completely confused and was informed in a hushed whisper of what the King had done. Slowly the crowd got quiet and the bard and T waited, until the King smiled when she heard a faint heartbeat. It took several more anxious minutes before Xena showed any signs of life and was heralded back to the land of the living with gasps, cheers and several fainting friends.
After they brought the warrior back to the Inn, the Amazons started a celebration, as theyre prone to do and an all out party ensued. This was the time that Ares chose to make another appearance and again, found himself unwelcomed by T, who tossed his invisible butt out and further informed him of his persona non gratis status, by pinning him against a tree and digging her claws into his neck, stating that if he ever harmed a hair on Xena or Gabrielles head, shed hunt him down to the ends of the earth and kill him and that was a promise. Now since his hand was still recovering from its cut and his neck felt like a pin cushion, the God of War took the warning seriously and was relieved when the warrior showed up and he was released by the menace to his immortality. Straightening himself up, Ares took in this new enemy, who stood in front of his old warlord and irritating blonde and prepared to find out all he could and started to lay plans for Ts demise.
It was after the party had ended and the King had finally gotten a much needed, two day nap, that the other friends were introduced to T. Unfortunately, her hair looked like Medusa, her baggy clothes were showing the trails of continued wear and she smelled, since she hadnt taken a bath in a week and was exceedingly hungry and giving Iolas an inquisitive appraisal, which made the man extremely uncomfortable, seeing himself as a possible snack. Taking this into consideration, Xena and Gabrielle had a bath waiting for her when she woke up and were forced to chase the buck naked T around the bathing room after the King jumped out, yelling accusations at the warrior and bard of trying to turn her into a lobster. This was when Iolas had his suspicions confirmed, when hearing the chaos from behind the curtain that separated the bathing area from the rest of the Inn, he stepped too close and was grabbed around the ankle by T and pulled half way under the curtain, before Hercules came to his rescue. Solving the dilemma, Cyrene put a liquid in the bath an made it froth up with bubbles, which got Ts attention and Xena gave her a model Roman warship to play with. Contented, T got back in the bath and proceeded to recreate some great battle between a claw headed sea monster and Caesar, splashing Xena and Gabrielle and making a complete mess.
Eventually, the bath was completed and T, having been scrubbed, shampooed and had her claws trimmed, made another appearance. Since her baggies were capable of standing on their own, T made her grand debut in the king outfit and got the same reaction from the onlookers as she had from Xena and Gabrielle the first time theyd seen it, except this time Joxer and Iolas fainted.
Unlocking another of Ts little secrets on one of their trips, Xena and Gabrielle were quite startled to discover that the King had a unique and fairly dangerous allergy. Apparently the King of the Ungara was allergic to alcohol, which wasnt a problem because she didnt drink. But, thanks to Joxer filling an old port skin with water and leaving it around as a water skin, the exact allergic reaction soon became evident, when T passed out cold after taking a good swallow of the concoction, and then popped up like a cork. Thinking the trauma was past, Xena and Gabrielle were knocked for a loop when T tried to maul Joxer, or basically rip all his clothes off and attempt to use him as a sexual slave. After shaking off the horrid visual image, they pulled T off Joxer, who wasnt adverse to the slave thing and proceeded to chase T when she took off like a shot after sniffing the air and saying something about virgins. To the duos horror, they found the King in a monastery chasing the male equivalent of Hestians around and somehow managed to catch her and drag her off again, giving many apologies to the head monk, whos robe was now in shreds.
Taking no further chances, they chained the sexually charged T to a tree and got just enough coherent words out of her to find out that the effects only lasted until sundown. Considering that it hadnt even reached mid day, Xena left with Joxer, hoping to find some kind of antidote for T, leaving Gabrielle as a safe guard against another virgin buffet. This was when Ares saw his chance to carry out his plan and conked the bard on the head, intending to skewer the helpless T, but like all bad intentions, they were lost along the way, when the King smelled the male God of War and broke the chains. Thinking his life was over, Ares was astounded when he found himself flat on his back with a tigress in heat on his chest, trying to devour him in a fiery kiss. Never one to adhere to a plan for the sake of principle alone, Ares went with the flow and led T to a cave a couple of miles away and spent the rest of the day turning an icy pool into a steaming bubbling sauna. Ares was also grateful for his godhood and for the fact that he didnt need to breath to survive and hoped there wouldnt be any permanent scaring from the claw marks on his back.
Somewhere in the unseasonal fog bank, while Xena, Gabrielle and Joxer searched for their friend, the sun went down and to everyones complete and utter amazement, the God of War and the King of the Ungara stayed in the cave and switched from bawdy carnal sex into making love. Needless to say, the world was never quite the same. Of course, T was banned from drinking water, by Xena and forced to drink milk after that.
The planned vacation for the following summer was canceled due to the deaths of Solan and Hope and the encounter with Callisto. After Katai had relayed the news to T, she had taken off and found her friends frolicking on the beach and spent the next week grinding her teeth and sending the Ungaran ensigns in search of Callisto, who had become public enemy number two, behind Dahok.
Despite all its horrific ramifications, the ordeal did finally get Xena and Gabrielle to admit their true feelings for each other and T sighed with a big well duh and moved the two small beds out of their room in the Palace and had one large one take its place. After that, T got even less sleep, when Xena and Gabrielle came for visits, due to the fact that her enhanced hearing drove her from her own chambers out of a sense of decency. However, it didnt stop her from getting endless enjoyment out of sneaking up on the couple when they were necking someplace and scaring them into celibacy, or having Bud steal their clothes when things really got steamy. Xena, of course, sought revenge for the interruptions in her love life and got even more frustrated when T would disappear into the trees with a chuckle echoing in her place. Gabrielle got even by sewing up the leg holes in all Ts king outfits, which gained the couple a few hours peace. Then T put on her baggies, snuck up again and gang tackled them, taking the warrior and bard into the river. Bud joined in, just for fun.
It wasnt long after that, that the warrior and bard departed, feeling a need to get back on the road and gain some monicom of privacy. Thats when T got her chance at Callisto, Dahok and public enemy number three, Hope. But was devastated by her timing, when she arrived with her army and discovered the bard had made her sacrifice, to save Xena, by taking Hope into the lava pit and the warriors assassination of Callisto. In her state of devastation, the warrior was left to face the King and felt her wrath when she wanted to know why they couldnt wait for her to arrive. It was then, that T found out about Ares involvement and left Xena, to fulfill her promise and hunt down Ares, and kill the god that had betrayed her love.
Once Xena discovered that Gabrielle was alive and found her and ended Hopes life and the child of Ares, the bard and warrior went to tell T and were told that she hadnt been seen since shed left the temple that day. They spent the next year searching for her and traveled to the far reaches of the world to find their friend. On their quest, Xena uncovered the alliance between Callisto and Caesar and found the bard in the prison Brutus had brought her to. The plan to rescue Gabrielle, Amarice, Eli and his followers failed and she and the bard were crucified, at which time the heavens shook with the roar of anguish from the King of the Ungara as she stared up at their lifeless bodies, having arrived too late, again.
Having failed to protect the ones she loved and lost the family shed made and best friends shed known, T returned to the Palace and started a slow descent into despair, rage and ultimately a form of madness, that crept into her sleepless dreams and drew the attention of the one person she was meant to destroy. Dahok, feeling the fall of the King, sent her guilty nightmares, tempting T to the darkness of evil and seducing her with his twisted delusions of escaping his molten confinement. Angry and tormented, T left the Palace and went to a cave, on the other side of the mountain, just outside the range of Ungaras influence and there was suckered by Dahoks tendrils of flame and promises of peace through annihilation. On the brink of giving in to the Evil one, T found an anchor in the one she sought to kill.
Ares, having made his bed with Dahok, learned the hard lesson of dealing with powers greater than your own and came to the cave, searching for T in the place they regularly met, in hopes of being forgiven for his transgressions and to find the love hed desired and betrayed. When he arrived, he found T wrapped in Dahoks flames and drew his sword, intending to break the gods hold. He failed and was thrashed around the cave, by Dahok as T watched with amusement. Ending up beaten and broken, Ares raised his eyes as Dahok instructed T to kill him and waited for the golden blade of Ungara to strike, which it did, severing Dahoks hold on him and sending the Evil one into a flaming rage. Spinning her sword, T sent it hurdling into the fire, with a roar as Dahok vanished before it arrived and managed to escape any more injury. Coming to the God of War, T didnt off her condolences for his wounds, or thanks for his attempt at rescue. She merely sheathed her sword, silently and started back for the Palace, walking through the valley that was behind the mountain and held the horses of her army. With the rage gone, she was devoid of all emotions, eyes staring blankly at the soft green grass below her feet. Entering the mountain, through the same tunnel her mother had used to escape after her birth, T made her way to her chambers and found the bard and warrior sitting on her couch, eating fruit. Stunned and not believing her eyes, T fell to the floor, eyes brimming over with tears and unable to speak coherently.
Once the King calmed down, Xena and Gabrielle explained about the resurrection and Eli and even told about Callistos salvation, which T found the hardest to believe, but didnt look a gift horse in the mouth and thanked Ungara and every god she could think of, for the return of her friends. Not wanting to taint their return, T failed to inform the bard and warrior of her encounter with Dahok and Ares and vowed to end their reign of terror, when the chance arose.
Then Eve was born and the fates made their decree and T spent the twenty-five year absence of the warrior and bard, trying to get Ares to tell her where hed put them. Failing that, even with an infinite number of threats of death to the God of War, T was again surprised when they popped up and the showdown started. Unfortunately, it was also at that time, that Dahok raised his ugly head again and set into motion the chain of events, that would not only end the reign of the Olympians but would bring about the end of the friendship of the warrior, bard and King.
Staring at the last two scrolls, Xena fiddled with them, trying to decide if she really wanted to read what she all ready knew. The memories shed invoked had her remembering the end without having to read the words. Closing her eyes, the warrior sighed and opened them up again. Picking up one, she unrolled it and read the title. The Last King. Setting it into the holder, she began to read, not out of want, but by some other emotion that didnt have a name.
I sing of Tiegra Empario de na Nihate, the Last King of the Ungara. Who understood the true meaning of friendship and love and who never failed to remind us what price their was to freedom.
Gabrielle stepped out of the tent, leaving Xena inside, sharpening her sword. Taking in a deep breath of the night air, she looked up at the stars. What a beautiful night, she thought ruefully and saw a star shoot across the sky.
I hope thats a good sign. Ares said, popping up beside the bard.
Shouldnt you be rallying the forces or something? The bard rolled her eyes and sneered.
Good point, but actually Im here to make you a deal. Smiling his godly smile, Ares moved to stand in front of Gabrielle.
I thought you wouldve learned your lesson by now. Smiling smugly, the bard raised her eyebrows. Go home, Ares.
What if I offered to end all this? Raising his eyebrows as well.
The answer would be the same the one we gave you the last time you offered that. No. Walking away, Gabrielle sighed, when she heard him follow.
But this time, Im not offering it to Xena. Im offering it to you. Walking by her side, the smile never left his face.
Well, if you havent learned your lesson, I have. Shaking her head, Gabrielle stopped and faced him. Im not making any deal with you, Ares. Not again.
But this one wont hurt anybody and in exchange, Ill deal with the Olympians and end this war. Folding his arms across his chest.
Gabrielle rolled her eyes. No.
Dont you want to hear it first? Smiling warmly, Ares lowered his voice.
No. Turning back, the bard sighed when he popped up in front of her. Go away. Sounding as frustrated as she felt.
Just hear me out and if you say no, Ill go away and wont bother you again. Holding out his hands in an innocent manner. Promise.
Closing her eyes, Gabrielle sighed a heavy sigh, knowing that shed have to listen just to get him to leave. Spill it, Ares. Ive got stuff to do.
In exchange for ending this war and stopping the battle to come, I want one night with you. Smiling wickedly, until the bards eyes shot open and he went back to looking innocent.
What? Staring at him like his hair was on fire, Gabrielle couldnt believe what hed said.
I want one night with you. Stepping closer to the bard, Ares dropped the smile and raised one eyebrow.
You have lost your mind. Shaking her head, the bard poked him in the chest. Not only is the answer a resounding no, but what under the heavens made you think I would get within a mile of you, after what youve done to Xena and T? Poking him again with as much fervor as she could muster. First you seduce Xena into becoming a warlord, then you dump her for T, who you betrayed with my daughter, then you chase Xena again, offering her all kinds of deals, if shell give you a child and then you try to me? You are either as dumb as you look, or you must think Ive gone brain dead. Brushing past him, Gabrielle went back toward the tent.
Stepping into the night, Xena saw Ares pop out and the expression on Gabrielles face.
What was that all about?
Stalking around in utter rage, Gabrielle threw her arms in the air. Ares just offered to end the war with the gods if Id sleep with him. Spitting out the words with disgust.
Xena rolled her eyes and the flap open for the bard then followed her inside the tent. What an idiot.
The next day, the battle of the Twilight began and the Olympians fought with all their powers, trying to destroy Xena and Gabrielle.
Where is she? Xena deflected a bolt of lightning.
Shell be here, we just have to hold out. Hitting the dirt, as a bolt of something few over her head, Gabrielle looked up.
That woman has got to work on her timing. Xena muttered as another blast bounced off her chakram. Running behind some rocks, she signaled to the bard. Get over here.
Rolling her eyes, the bard scampered to the rocks. Looking over them, she saw the gods regrouping. Come on, T. Ducking back down, she caught her breath and glanced at the warrior. What now?
Ill hold them off and you go see if you can see her. Standing, the warrior blocked another bolt.
Xena! Gabrielle shook her head. Im staying with you.
Go find her. The warrior shouted and jumped over the rocks. Ill cover you.
Growling, the bard sheathed her weapons and took off at a run, away from the battle. Nearing the beach head, she came to a sudden stop, when Ares popped up in front of her. Not now, Ares. Side stepping him, she was caught by the arm and spun around. Glaring at him, she kicked his shin. Let me go!
Sorry, Gabrielle. Shaking his head, Ares wrapped his arms the bard. You shouldve taken me up on my offer.
XENA! Shouting at the top of her lungs, Gabrielle saw the warrior turn around and send the chakram their way.
Chuckling with an evil glint in his eye, Ares disappeared with the bard, as the chakram embedded in the rocks behind where then had stood.
Gabrielle! Seeing them disappear, Xena screamed and drew her sword. Turning back to the gods, she let out a battle cry and charged them. Swinging wildly, she felt the sand beneath her feet start to vibrate and glanced over her shoulder.
The Olympians felt it as well and stopped their attack, watching the distant beach head, as the thunder got louder.
T came around the beach head, riding Artaq like a tornado, followed by twenty thousand mounted Ungarans in a very bad mood. Drawing her sword, she roared, raising the golden blade high into the air.
Holy shit. Discord whispered, as the entire beach filled with the army and she popped out and was followed by the rest of the Olympians, believing that theyd rather risk the Twilight than certain death.
Xena spun around and saw that she was alone. Growling, she threw her sword into the sand. ARES! Looking skyward, the warrior shouted over the din of the approaching army.
Popping in, the God of War saw the army and moved behind the warrior. You called?
Turning, Xena grabbed him by the throat and drug him to the ground. What did you do with Gabrielle? Punching him in the face.
Taking the blow, Ares shook his head. What are you talking about? Looking to his right, he cringed as the hooves got closer.
What have you done with Gabrielle! Punching him again, to regain his attention.
Xena! T shouted as she brought the army to a slow halt. Jumping off Artaq, she ran to the warrior, sword at the ready.
Tell me, you bastard! Slapping him, Xena was tossed off and fell beside T.
I dont know what youre talking about! Ares said angrily, getting to his feet, then stood perfectly still as the golden tip touched the base of his throat.
Whats going on? T asked, letting her eyes change as she stared at the God of War.
Springing up, Xena pointed to Ares. He took Gabrielle.
Shocked, Ares shook his head. I did no such thing. I just got here.
Bullshit, Ares. Stepping to him, Xena grabbed him by the collar. I saw you.
It wasnt me! Keeping his eyes on the sword, he held out his arms.
Ares. T growled.
I swear! I dont know what shes talking about. I didnt even plan on coming to this shindig until she called me. Pleading his case as the tip drew blood. I swear!
Liar. Xena shouted. You showed up last night and offered to end this mess if Gabrielle would sleep with you.
T raised one eyebrow.
Youre insane! Shaking his head, Ares eyes shot open. I dont even like her! And shes your plaything, not mine. I wouldnt touch her with a ten foot pole.
Xena growled and pushed Ts sword aside. You bring her back now, or Ill let T rip your heart out.
Xena, I swear. I dont know what youre talking about. Looking over the warriors shoulder, Ares stared at T. And besides, I couldnt take her unless she was dead or unconscious. Pointing to the golden bracelet on Xenas wrist. Those things wont let me take you, unless you want to go.
Looking at the bracelet around her wrist, Xena growled and released Ares with a shove. Turning to T, she saw the scowl on her face as she lowered her sword. Who could do this?
Thinking of the possibilities, T closed her eyes and growled a low throaty growl. The one person whos been stalking Gabrielle since you left Britania. Raising her eyes to meet the seething blue, T felt the dread coming up from her toes.
Britania? Shaking her head, Xena suddenly felt her heart sink. Dahok. Whispering the name.
And people think I cant get over an old flame. Rolling his eyes, Ares didnt see Xenas elbow coming at his face, but fell backwards when it made contact.
How do we get her back? Staring into golden tiger eyes, Xena watched Ts anger rise.
We dont. Sheathing her sword, T turned away and drew a dagger from her boot. I do. Walking to Artaq, she cut his saddle loose, letting it drop to the sand.
No! Hold on. Xena shook her head and joined T.
Returning the dagger to its sheath, T jumped onto Artaqs back. This is my fight, Xena. Dahok is my problem and Ill deal with him. Kicking the stallion into a gallop, the King spoke to him.
No! T! Xena shouted and ran after the stallion, then watched in amazement as wings started to spread from Artaqs body and shouted again, when he took to the air. T!
I guess hes got a lot of his old man in him. Ares said, getting up off the ground.
Turning her attention to the God of War, Xena grabbed him by the collar again. Do you know where shes going?
Xena. Lemet said, riding up to them.
Not now! Glancing at the Captain, over her shoulder, the warrior asked again. Do you know where shes going?
Yes. Ares whispered.
Can you take me there? Bringing her face close to his.
Xena, no. Lemet said and tried to interrupt.
This is Dahok were talking about, Xena. Shaking his head, Ares broke the warriors hold on him. You dont know what youre asking and well never catch her.
Coward! Xena raged. Youre going to let T take him on by herself.
I dont have any power in his realm, Im mortal there, just like you. Defending himself.
You yellow bastard. Picking up her sword, out of the sand, Xena pointed it at him. I shouldve know. Youre on his side.
No. Ares growled. I learned my lesson where Dahok is concerned. I am not on his side.
Then help me. Turning to face the silent army, Xena closed her eyes. Im not asking you to fight, just get me there and . . . Ill owe you one.
You really do love them that much? To go into the pit of Dahoks lair to get them? He asked, knowing the answer.
Yes. The warrior whispered and opened her eyes. I do.
Lowering his head, Ares sighed and thought about what was at stake. Shaking his head in resignation, he closed his eyes. I can only get you to the gate. My power stops there.
Fine. Turning to face him, Xena sheathed her sword. Lets do it.
Xena, no. Lemet dismounted and went to the warrior.
Do it! She shouted and ignored the Captain.
I cant believe Im doing this. Shaking his head, Ares put his hand on Xenas shoulder. I must be crazy. Closing his eyes, he popped them out.
Or in love, you big dummy. Xena chuckled and rolled up the scroll further and read on.
Ares! Gabrielle shouted and pulled on the chains that held her, spread eagle on the large bed. Ares! Searching her limited scope of vision, the bard saw him across the room. Ares, let me go! Yanking on the chains around her wrists.
Im sorry, Gabrielle. Shaking his head, he came to the bed and ran a finger up the bards exposed thigh. But I need you.
For what? Moving her leg away from his hand. Another notch on your sword belt? Pulling her legs against her bonds.
Nothing so trite, Gabrielle. Smiling, he pulled off the leather coat, crawled onto the bed and hovered over her. My purpose is much more significant than a simple tryst.
You touch me and Ill rip out your eyeballs. The bard ground out, through gritted teeth.
Chuckling, he leaned down, kissing her arm. In fact, youre a very important part of my plan. Pulling a dagger from his boot, he sliced one of the straps on her top.
Dont even think about it, Ares. Watching the dagger slice the other strap, Gabrielle closed her eyes. T and Xena will hunt you down.
Oh, I hope so. Smiling, he started to pull the top down slowly, then stopped when the doors to the chamber burst open. Raising up, he saw T come at him like a shot.
T roared, springing the distance from the doors to the bed in one leap and took Dahok with her as she flew over the bard. Hitting the floor, on the far side, they slid into the wall. Drawing her sword, T swung at him as he jumped up. Getting to her feet, she came at him, swinging high.
T! Gabrielle shouted, looking through her feet at her friend and pulling on her chains.
Laughing, Dahok kept the form of Ares and avoided Ts sword. So we meet again, oh mighty King.
T stepped back, holding her sword tightly and watching him. Youre day is done, Dahok. Youve crossed the line. She whispered.
But my return isnt complete. Raising his hand, Dahok wrapped his fingers around the sword that appeared in the air. And I shall have my day, Tiegra. Line or no line.
Over my dead body. Growling loudly, T swept her sword upward, feeling the reverb form impact and roaring. Spinning around, she grazed his bare chest and heard him roar in anger.
Stepping back, Dahok wiped his had across his chest, smearing the blood. Glancing up from the wound, he had fire behind his eyes as he came at her.
Pulling as hard as she could, Gabrielle felt the steel bite into her skin, but ignored it as the fight grew more intense. Watching T, she shouted her encouragement and wished she could cover her ears as the echoing roars and clash of blades made her cringe.
Gabrielle! Xena shouted, running up to the door and stepping over them.
Xena! The bard shouted and craned her neck back and blinked. Ares?
Coming up behind the warrior, Ares saw the fight and his image battling T.
Rushing to the bed, Xena brought her sword down on the chains, severing them. When they were all cut, she pulled the bard off the bed and drug her back to the doorway.
Moving her vision between both Gods of War, Gabrielle held her top up and tugged on Xenas arm. Whats going on?
Thats not me. Ares said, drawing his sword.
Its Dahok. Xena raised her sword. Stay with her. She shouted to Ares, then charged the fray.
Dahok? The bard whispered and followed the warriors movements and saw, what she thought was Ares, change into something hideous. By the gods.
Remind me to ask you about your taste in gods, after this is over. Ares said and drew his sword.
Reaching the end of the bed, Xena lunged at Dahok, swinging her sword at this arm, trying to cut off his thrust at T and was knocked into the bed post, when he blocked the blow.
Growling, T lunged at him, drawing him away from the warrior and to the far end of the room. Bringing her sword up, she blocked his blow and winced when a fireball hit her in the midsection, throwing her up against the wall.
Youre no match for me, daughter of Ungara. Dahok snarled and sent another blast at T.
You talk too much. Xena said, driving her sword into his back, then had it wrenched from her hands when he spun to face her. Reaching for her chakram, she remembered it wasnt there and hissed.
Bringing his sword down, Dahok caught Xena on the shoulder, grazing her as she rolled out of the way. Laughing madly, he reached around and pulled her sword from his back. Spinning it as he stalked her retreating form.
T grabbed him from behind, scraping her claws into his throat and ramming her fist into his arm, making him drop Xenas sword. Jumping back, she crouched as he turned. Her eyes, red with fury, she leapt at him, hitting him in full body block, taking them both to the floor. Rolling over and over, she used her claws to wreak havoc on his body. Leaping away, she couched again as he got to his feet howling.
Picking up her sword, Xena waited for an opening, to distract him so T could do more damage and was hit in the head by something. Looking up, she saw large cracks forming in the ceiling as more pieces of the roof fell to the floor. Glancing back at the fight, she saw T slash his side and heard a large crash behind her. Making the connection in her mind, she turned to the bard. Run, this whole place is coming down.
No! Gabrielle shouted. Im not leaving you. Shaking her head, she retied the straps to her top.
Gabrielle! Gritting her teeth, Xena saw the determined look on the bards face and shook her head. Turning back to the fight, the warrior plunged in.
Dahok swung his arm upward, as the warrior entered the fray and knocked her halfway across the room. As T leapt at him, he caught her in mid air driving his sword into her chest and then smashing her against the wall with a fire ball.
Crumpling to the floor, T dropped her sword as her eyes closed.
Dahok approached T slowly, feeling the warriors sword enter his side and swung his arm again, knocking her behind him and into the other wall.
Xena! Gabrielle shouted and tried to go to the warrior, but was held back by Ares. Let me go!
I cant. Shaking his head, Ares held onto the bard.
Xena! Trying to twist out of his grasp, the bard called to the warrior, who lay on the floor, shaking her head.
Hearing her name, Xena looked at Gabrielle and saw stars, then she saw a fireball coming at her and she dove out of the way as it exploded into the wall, sending shards of stone into the air. Feeling several enter her body, Xena cried out in pain. Glancing up, she saw T laying in a heap across the room, with blood pouring from her chest and burn marks across her body. Noooo! Growling, the warrior drug her self to her feet and gripped her sword. Dahok! Charging him, Xena drove her blade into his chest as he turned.
Xena! Gabrielle shouted as larger pieces of roof started to fall and cracks ran across the floor, becoming gaps.
Watching in silence, Ares held on to the bard and clenched his hand around his sword.
Dahok grabbed Xena by the throat as she tried to pull her sword out of his chest and lifted her off the ground. Howling, he slammed her to the ground and kicked her as she backed up. You think you can harm me, mortal? Continuing to pummel her as she crawled away. No one can stop Dahok.
Xena! Bending over the arm Ares held her with, Gabrielle reached out. Xena!
Taking each blow, the warrior crawled slowly back against the onslaught. Feeling her body recoil from each kick.
Watching the warrior retreat, Dahok kicked her all the way back to the doorway and raised his sword. Gabrielle will be mine. Smiling at the bard, he brought his sword down at the warrior.
Xena! Gabrielle tried to reach the warrior who was laying semi-conscious at Dahoks feet.
Not if I have anything to say about it. Ares yelled, swinging the bard behind him and stepping over Xena. Raising his sword, the God of War blocked the blow and held it against Dahoks thrust.
Dahok laughed and kicked Ares back over the warrior into Gabrielle. You shouldve stayed with me, Ares. Now youll die for your mortal weaknesses.
Getting off the ground, Ares stepped up again. Id rather die fighting you, than live in as a slave to your evil. Spitting to the side, the God of War raised his sword. Lets see what you got.
Howling with amusement, Dahok extended his arm and slammed Ares into the door frame. Piteous fool. He growled then looked at Gabrielle. Now, Gabrielle. Its time for you to fulfill my destiny. Reaching for her, Dahok eyes grew wide.
Roaring, T plunged her sword into Dahoks back, driving it in up to the hilt. No, its time to fulfill mine. She whispered, as bloody spittle dripped from her mouth and groaned as she strained, lifting his flailing body off the ground, slowly raising it over her head. Stumbling under the weight, T moved away from them as the floor began to shake violently and half the ceiling came crashing to the ground, exposing the cavern above. As heat poured in, she braced her legs and twisted the sword, sending a river of Dahoks blood down her arms and still he held him high, feeling his struggling getting weaker as the life flowed from her body.
T! Ares shouted and made to go to her, but was blocked as a side wall came down.
Shaking her head, Xena opened her eyes and looked around. Feeling hands on her, she saw Gabrielles face. Gabrielle?
Im all right, Xena. Giving the warrior a worried look, the bard glanced at T, who still held Dahok in the air.
Following the bards eyes, Xena saw what was happening. Crawling onto all fours, she got to her feet. T!
T didnt hear the voices calling to her, as she waited for Dahok to die. Twisting the sword again, she felt his body go limp, then fell backwards as the floor broke apart, exposing the lava far below. Hanging onto her sword, with one hand, she grabbed the edge of the crack in the floor and watched Dahoks body slide off her blade, as the floor tilted downward. Gritting her teeth, she pulled herself up slowly over the edge, as her hands slipped in her own blood. Swinging her leg over, T took a deep breath and rolled onto the flat floor, onto her back and saw the wall coming at her.
Noooo! Xena shouted as the wall collapsed, burying T beneath a sheet of rubble. Running across the room, the warrior dodged falling objects and came to a sliding halt beside the rubble. T! Digging at the pieces of stone, Xena threw them aside. T!
Xena! Coming to kneel beside the warrior, Gabrielle started removing stones as well as she could.
Gabrielle, help me dig. Frantically moving the rocks aside, Xena felt the tears welling up in her eyes. I gotta find her.
I am. Tossing rocks in the other direction, the bard ignored the fact that the room was collapsing around them and continued to dig.
Ares shook his head and sheathed his sword. Running across the room, he bent over Xena. We gotta get out of here.
Im not leaving without her. Xena glared over her shoulder. You can leave if you want.
Growling Ares felt the floor start to give. Xena, shes dead. He whispered with a sigh. Save yourself.
No shes not and I dont care if she is, Im not leaving her here. Finding a twinkle of gold, Xena started digging faster, uncovering Ts sword then her hand, then her arm. Here, Gabrielle. Dig here.
Suddenly, the remaining walls fell away and Ares looked over his shoulder toward the doorway. Xena, its now or never.
Looking up at him, Xena followed his stare to the doorway, which was crumbling. Ares. Waiting for him to turn around, Xena looked at Gabrielle. Get her out of here.
No! The bard shouted and grabbed the warriors arm. Im not leaving without you.
Shaking her head, Xena looked to the God of War. Ares, please.
Shaking his head, Ares grabbed Gabrielle around the waist. Tell her Im sorry. Lifting the bard off the ground, he pulled her away from the warrior and headed for the door.
Nooooo! Gabrielle screamed, kicking and punching. Xena, no! Watching the warrior start to dig again as she was carried away. Xena! Xena!
Xena ignored the cries, but felt each one tear at her soul. Digging faster, she started to uncover the rest of Ts body. Ungarans always keep their promises, T and you promised not to leave, so hang on. Were gonna get out of this. Then the world turned upside down, as Xena felt the floor give way and her head slam into it.
Still fighting, Gabrielle sank to the ground sobbing, as Ares held her tight, lowering her to the ground. Xena. Watching the sulfurous smoke rise from the opening in the valley floor, she closed her eyes as the rumbling continued to shake the ground.
Ares wrapped his arms around the bard and stared, seeing plumes of lava shoot into the air, as the clouds of smoke blocked out the sun. Closing his eyes, a tear trickled down his cheek. Im sorry.
The sun crossed the sky, unseen by the god and bard as they sat staring into the smoke and rising mist. Gabrielle had cried her tears dry and she clung to Ares arm, resting her head on his shoulder, watching the glow of the lava turn the mist orange and yellow. Then something moved in the smoke and the bard blinked. Rubbing her eyes to clear her vision and looked again as the image danced in and out of the smoke. Lifting her head, she concentrated and finally made out the shape of a body, but didnt know whos and as it came closer, she could see that someone was being carried. Leaning forward, she waited and gripped Aress arm. Ares. She whispered.
I see. Unwrapping his arms from around the bard, Ares got to his knees, then to his feet.
Doing the same, Gabrielle moved toward the person and held her breath as the wind blew the smoke away and she saw Xena, battered, bruised and covered in blood, carrying Ts body in her arms. By the gods. Whispering breathlessly, she ran toward the warrior. Xena!
Xena slowly knelt to the ground as Gabrielle reached her and she laid T on the grass.
Kneeling beside the warrior, Gabrielle brought Ts head to her lap and wiped the hair from her pale face. Feeling the coolness of s skin, the bard closed her eyes, realizing her friend was gone. You did what you could do, Xena. As the tears started again, Gabrielle opened her eyes and looked at the warrior. At least you got her out.
No. Xena whispered. It wasnt me. Closing her eyes, she shook her head. It was T.
Ares knelt beside the bard and ran his hand over Ts cheek. What happened?
As the tears started to fall, Xena opened her eyes. I was digging her out and the floor gave way. Wiping her nose. I mustve hit my head, because I blacked out. Holding her breath, the warrior looked to the sky.
Looking from the warrior to T, Gabrielle took a deep breath. Then what happened? She whispered, stroking Ts shoulder.
Sniffling, Xena closed her eyes again. I heard a voice, or something and felt something hitting my face and I woke up. The warriors brow knitted as she remembered what had happened. I was dangling above the lava and I looked up and saw T hanging onto the edge of the floor with one hand and me with the other. Shaking her head, Xena opened her eyes. She mustve come to and caught me as we fell.
She got you out? Ares sat down and stared at the warrior.
No. Choking, Xena covered her mouth. When I looked up, her eyes were closed. She died while I was unconscious. Fighting for breath, the warrior shook her head. Shed dug her claws into my arm, to hang onto me. Lifting her arm, the warrior looked at the bloody row of holes in her forearm. I had to crawl up her to get out. She never even moved.
Xena. Gabrielle closed her eyes.
She wouldnt even let go when she died, Gabrielle. Staring down a T, Xena shook her head and lifted the kings hand. Shed dug her claws so deep into the floor, I had to cut her nails to get her hand loose. Letting the sobs free, the warrior leaned into the bard. She just wouldnt let go. Why didnt she just let go?
Gabrielle wrapped her arms around Xena and held her close. Because she loved you, Xena. Looking at Ares, she saw the sorrow in his eyes. Im sorry.
Wiping a tear from his face, Ares stood and walked away.
Gabrielle glanced at the glowing hole. She did what she had to do, Xena. Closing her eyes. She had to save the world from Dahok. Rocking slowly, the bard held onto the warrior. That was her destiny.
Xena closed her eyes as new tears fell on the scroll.
The next morning, Ares appeared with a wagon, that had Argo and Artaq hitched to the front. Taking T from Gabrielle, he put her into the back of the wagon and placed a cover over her body, then waited for the bard and warrior.
Xena took one last look at the glowing pit and turned, feeling its heat at her back. Walking back to the bard, she held out her hand, taking Gabrielles as the joined Ares at the wagon. Helping Gabrielle into the drivers seat, Xena looked at Ares. Whatever you want, you can have, for getting me here and saving Gabrielle.
There is no debt here, Xena. Shaking his head, Ares looked at the ground and sighed. You dont owe me anything. Glancing up, he stepped away from the wagon. Your way will be clear, I promise. Nodding to the warrior and bard, he popped out.
What was that all about? Gabrielle asked as Xena climbed up beside her.
I think he finally figured out that he loved her. Picking up the reins, Xena clucked and slapped the leather straps. Get up, Argo.
As they rode through out the day, Xena and Gabrielle didnt say much to each other. Instead they were caught up in their own thoughts about what had happened and tried to imagine life without T in it. It was late afternoon, when they arrived at the cliffs overlooking the beach. Most of the Ungara had left, but Lemet and the Royal Guard met them along the road. Pulling the horses to a halt, Xena stared at the Captain, unable to speak the words that would tell him his King was dead.
Lowering his eyes, Lemet nodded. We will escort you back to the forest. Turning his mount, he instructed six of the Guard to ride in front of the wagon and six behind, with him riding beside it. Looking to the sky, he spotted Katai and whistled, raising his gauntlet, for the eagle to land on. Nad Nabatu bre karam. Sending the bird skyward, he watched her fly south. Glancing at the warrior, he nodded.
Xena slapped the reins and followed behind the escort, as they moved forward.
It took two days to reach the road that led to the Ungaran forest and as they pulled onto it, Xena and Gabrielle saw it was lined with people for as far as the eye could see. Standing side by side, bowing their heads, or giving the Ungaran salute as the wagon passed by.
Looking behind them, the bard saw the line of people falling in behind the escort, walking slowly down the road. Turning back, she glanced at the warrior, whos face was a mask. Sighing, the bard leaned into Xena, resting her head on her shoulder.
Were almost home, Gabrielle. Xena whispered, but kept her eyes on the road.
Crossing the bridge, they were met by Alancius, his wife and their son, Tracan, who was now King of Tarlon. Pulling the wagon to a stop. Xena looked at her old friend.
Xena, Gabrielle. Alancius nodded. I know words wont take the place of T, but I want you to know, that she will always be remembered in the history of Tarlon and we, glancing at his son, will make sure that our children know of her strength and compassion. Bowing, he stepped back.
Thank you, Alancius. Gabrielle said and smiled.
Xena nodded and slapped the reins.
From the bridge to the Palace, the forest was filled with people and as the cleared they trees, Gabrielle smiled at the row of Ungaran ensign flags flying along the promenade.
Circling the wagon, Xena brought it beside the steps and pulled back on the reins. Hanging on to them for a moment, she threw them over the foot board and climbed out of the wagon. Turning to the steps, she looked up and saw Latour coming down them and waited. When he reached the bottom, she wrapped her arms around him and closed her eyes. Im sorry.
I know. Now very much a man, Latour felt his tears fall and buried his head in the warrior shoulder.
Gabrielle climbed down the other side and came around, to stand beside them. Glancing up the steps, she saw six men bringing a wooden stretched down and tapped the warrior on the shoulder. Xena.
Looking up, Xena saw them coming and let go of Latour. Moving to the back of the wagon, she let down the gate and took a deep breath. As they arrived and started to take Ts body, Xena stepped back and closed her eyes and sighed. Welcome home, T. Opening her eyes, she joined the bard and they followed the bearers up the steps.
Latour took the wagon and unhitched the horses, sending them into the forest to graze, then followed the crowd that followed Xena and Gabrielle.
Once inside the Palace, Ts body was taken to a private chamber for burial preparations. Xena wanted to go, but Gabrielle talked her into leaving them to their business and led the warrior to Ts chambers. Closing the door, she walked Xena to the couch and sat her down. Taking a seat on the table in front of her, the bard held her hand and spoke softly. Xena. I know that somewhere inside your head, youre trying to blame yourself for this, but you cant. Rubbing the warriors hand between hers, Gabrielle sighed. Not only is it not your fault, its not what T wouldve wanted.
Lowering her head, Xena closed her eyes.
Dahok was always Ts destiny and no matter what you want to believe you know its true. She said so herself and she wanted to prolong the enviable, but in the end she did what she had to do.
Looking toward the door, Gabrielle heard a knock. Sighing, she got up and opened the door.
May I come in? Latour asked quietly.
Sure. Smiling, the bard stepped aside and closed the door.
Latour walked over to the couch and waited for the bard to sit. Biting his lip, he pulled a piece of parchment from his jacket pocket. Treyma gave this to me, before he died. He said that T wrote after Ares took you away and she was looking for you. He never opened it and said that if anything ever happened to T, that I should give it to you. Holding out the parchment, Latour waited for someone to take it.
Reaching across Xena, Gabrielle took the letter. Thank you. Smiling at the broken hearted boy, who had grown into a man.
Bowing, Latour turned to the door, then stopped. Taking a deep breath, he turned back. I know that Treyma wasnt Ts biggest fan. He thought that she was running off with you two, too much and that she didnt take her position seriously enough, but he did respect her. Lowering his eyes, Latour dropped his voice. He said that she may have been the Last King of the Ungara, but the compassion in her heart would one day make her the greatest King the Ungara had ever known. Looking up, he smiled. And he was right. Bowing again, Latour left.
Staring down at the letter, Gabrielle saw the Royal seal and ran her finger over the blue waxed impression of a tiger head. Do you want me to read this? Raising her eyes to the warrior.
Sighing, Xena nodded.
Opening the letter, Gabrielle unfolded it and read it aloud.
Dear Xena and Gabrielle,
Ive just come back from another round with Ares. He still wont tell me where he put you two and keeps telling me its for your safety, to which I reply, that your safety is my job, not his and so we go around and around. Im beginning to wonder what I ever saw in him. Well, other than the obvious. But anyway, in your extended absence Ive tried to find ways to occupy my time and came up with absolutely nothing, other than annoying Treyma as much as possible, which is almost too easy. Its kind of like picking on Xena, preying on the handicapped loses its edge after awhile.
Where was I? Oh, yea. Just in case something happens to me, before I kill Ares, Im giving this to Treyma so he can give it to you. Its just a little reminder that without you, life is miserable and so boring that Im starting to read the Archives. Now, if that isnt proof that I miss you, I dont know what is.
I thought I could explain to you how much you mean to me, but Im finding it hard to put it into words. I know that you know how much I care about you, but Im not sure you realize what life is like without you. These past twelve years have been the worst of my life, even including my childhood. The silence that hits me when I walk through the door is like a hand around my throat, suffocating me with its presence. Everywhere I look there are signs that you were here, but without the knowledge that youll be back, they represent something Ive lost. Youre my best friends and I miss you. No one talks to me, like you do and no one laughs like you. Your smiles make me smile and your tears break my heart, but Id take those now, just to have you with them. My searching is my only solace. I dont know if Ill ever find you, but Ive got every predator from every corner of the planet looking and my hope is firm, despite its fading glory. Treyma says he believes Ill find you, but Im not sure he hopes I will. Lemet and Latour are the most fervent about it and are always sending me out again, when I start to wander the river at night. I think they think Im going to jump in, but Im just remembering you and the times weve had. This is almost as bad as when you were crucified and though my head knows the difference, my heart and soul feel the same way.
I know that I said I wanted this to be a reminder, if anything happens to me, before you come back, but I also want you to know that if you return and Im still alive, that even though Im gone now, that I have always considered you my family and that Im leaving you everything that is mine and doesnt belong to the people, except the portrait of my parents. That goes in the Archives. My life has been built around the duty bequeathed to me by my father and I hope I have fulfilled that duty, to the best of my ability. Treyma will be in charge until the funeral and then the Ungara are yours. I have named you my heirs, jointly and although you are not of Ungaran blood, you will be given all the rights and privileges that the crown provides. If you choose to accept the crown, you can reign as long as you choose and if you decline, the Ungara will disband to the corners of the earth from which their ancestors came. Whatever you choose, you know that you have my blessing and my love and you will always have a home in the Palace, as you do now. I have never know what a real family was like, but if it is half of what you have given me, than the world will be a better place.
Be strong, my friends and please dont morn for me, just remember me.
ps. If for some reason you happen to be there when I die, Ungara forbid. Please dont let them bury me in the white outfit. Ive hated it from the first time I saw it. T.
Closing the letter, Gabrielle put it on the table. Taking Xenas hand, she brought it to her lips and kissed it. We will remember you, T.
Always. Xena whispered.
To make sure no one got their hands on the white outfit, Gabrielle burned it in the fireplace in Ts chambers, which got a smile from the warrior. The preparations were made and the ritual was explained to the warrior and bard by Lemet and Latour, who were in charge, since Treyma was no longer alive. As heirs, they would follow behind the wagon as it took Ts body to the Palace of the Ancients. Once inside, she would be laid on the altar and Ungara would take the sword and present it to them and theyd have to give their decision about taking the crown then. If they refused, the sword would be interred with Ts body in the Hall of Kings. If they accepted, one of them would take the sword and arrangements would be made for a coronation. After the choice is made, T would be taken to the Hall of Kings and placed in the tomb. The bracelets, as were Ts instructions, would stay with Xena and Gabrielle, no matter what their decision. Once T was laid to rest, the tomb would be sealed and the Kings statue would be added to the Hall. Then the ceremony would be officially over.
Coming down the staircase, Xena and Gabrielle walked side by side, dressed in the clothes T had had made for them and watching the expectant faces below. Reaching the bottom step, they moved to the throne and stood one on each side, then waited for Ts body to be brought out.
Glancing down a the crown, in the seat of the throne, Xena watched the faces reflected in the gold, then looked at the bard.
Turning her head, Gabrielle smiled warmly. I love you, Xena.
I love you, Gabrielle. Smiling a little sad smile, the warrior stood up straight as the procession came out of an adjacent hallway. Watching them go by, Xena held back the emotions that went with T and concentrated on doing what she was supposed to. When the bearers started down the steps, she reached for the bards hand and held it tight as they followed. Making their way downward, Xena noticed how T looked in the sunlight and frowned, but held her tongue.
Reaching the bottom of the steps, Gabrielle moved to stand behind the wagon and noticed the people for the first time. Everyone was dressed in their finest clothes and wore a golden torque, with a tiger head on it. Smiling, she squeezed the warriors hand.
Glancing at the bard, Xena still frowned and leaned down to Gabrielle. Is it me, or is T really pale?
Giving Xena a strange look, Gabrielle raised an eyebrow and took a closer look. She was about that pale when you brought her out of the lava pit.
Are you sure? Missing the dark bronze that was Ts natural color.
I think so. Cocking her head, the bard gave Xena a quizzical look.
Turning her head, Xena nodded to Lemet, who came over. Why is T so pale?
Theres no blood in her body. He whispered.
You drained her blood? Xena growled.
Shaking his head, the Captain lowered his eyes. We didnt have to. She didnt have any blood left in her when she arrived.
No blood? Reeling, Xena felt herself falling and her eyes roll back in her head. T!
Grabbing Xenas shoulders, Lemet caught her before she hit the ground and looked to the bard.
Xena? Gabrielle stared at the warrior and patted her cheek. Shaking her head. Put her down.
Lowering Xena to the ground, Lemet signaled for some water to be brought over.
Xena? Gabrielle continued to pat the warriors cheek as she checked her pulse, which was racing. I think shes passed out. Looking up at Lemet, then at the people surrounding them, the bard sighed. We need to get her inside.
Nodding, Lemet waved to Latour and both of them picked up Xenas limp body and carried her up the steps into the throne room and laid her down on the floor.
Gabrielle cradled the warriors head, as she knelt down and brought it to her lap. Checking her breathing, the bard felt the warriors chest moving with short quick breaths. Dammit, Xena. Whats going on?
Gabrielle? Kneeling by the bard, Latour touched her shoulder. What can we do?
I dont know. She doesnt do this. Growing concerned, the bard looked to Lemet.
Well bring Ts body back. Kneeling as well, the Captain smiled. We can wait for Xena to recover.
Closing her eyes, the bard sighed. No. Shaking her head. Xena will come to in a little while, I hope and Ts waited long enough. Take her home. Opening her eyes, she sighed again and looked down at the warrior. Xena and I will catch up.
What about the ceremony? Latour looked at his father.
Were not taking it the crown. Gabrielle smiled at him. T deserves to be the last King of the Ungara, it was what she was born to be and itll be what she is remembered as.
Nodding, Latour looked at his father again.
Well go slow, so you can catch up when she wakes up. Lemet said softly and touched Xenas shoulder.
Thank you. Nodding, the bard looked down at the warrior. Well be there soon.
Lemet and Latour stood and departed back down the steps and made a quick announcement, then started the procession forward.
Gabrielle watched it depart and saw the occasional glance their way, but all contained smiles and a few nods. Sighing, she stroked Xenas cheek. Ts gonna be mad if you miss her big exit. She whispered and leaned over, kissing the warriors lips. Come on, Xena.
Inside her mind, the warrior watched the rubble from the wall tumble into the lava, as it slid off the floor. As her mind drew her closer, she saw a hand appear and claws digging in, as Ts body went over the edge and stopped, followed by her own, which jerked to a stop and dangled lifelessly, in Ts grip. Xena saw the pained expression as T struggled to hang on to the floor above and the body below as the blood rushed from her wounds and dropped to sizzle into the lava. The warrior watched, not feeling the heat from the lava, but hearing the groans that echoed in the cavern, as T tried to bring her body back up, straining her once powerful arms, lifting upward, then falling again and again. Xena didnt know how much time passed, as she watched. She was only aware that with each effort, more blood fell to be devoured by the molten rock below. Finally, the efforts slowed, then stopped and her mind moved her closer, to see the tears running down Ts cheeks. Feeling them fall, Xena watched one descend and fall on her own upturned face. Looking back at her friend, the warrior saw the pale complexion against the orange glow of the lava. I promise I will never leave you, Xena, as long as there is a drop of blood in my body and even then I wont let go. Hearing the promise spoken so many years before, the warrior watched Ts claws dig into her arm and saw the King smile, then close her eyes. As Ts body hung, she whispered. Forgive me. Then it went limp and the last drop fell and the last tear landed on the face below as two blue eyes slowly opened. Forgive you for what? Xenas mind asked as it moved her slowly away. For never showing you this. Ts voice echoed in her mind and the warrior turned as the scene changed to a open field in the middle of the day, where T stood on a large rock, a short distance away. Walking over, Xena smiled as T drew her sword. Watching it glisten in the sunlight, the warrior stopped and waited. Slowly T started to swing it around her body, switching hands and picking up speed. Soon the blade became a golden blur and Xena watched as it moved in impossible strokes, above and below, and side to side, stopping for an instant for a thrust, the moving again. It slid over shoulder and gauntlet, rotating in circles and spinning, making golden sparks dance in the sunlight, as an aura of gold refractions filled the air. Finally, T tossed it high, making it rotate in the air above her then knelt, head down and arms outstretched. Shifting her shoulder, the sheath disappeared behind her head, as the sword came down and dropped into it. Lowering her arms, T looked up and Xena saw the twinkle in her eyes and the impish grin. Feeling a tear run down her cheek, Xena nodded. Thank you. My pleasure. T said softly then stood. Slowly, Xena felt herself being pulled away from the dream and saw T salute. Smiling, the warrior heard Ts voice as the darkness replaced the sunlit field. And would you please marry Gabrielle, she loves you, ya know. Why, I dont know, but she does. Then there was a chuckle.
Opening her eyes, Xena looked up and saw Gabrielle starring down at her, with a worried expression in the most beautiful green eyes in the world. Marry me. The warrior whispered and smiled.
Raising her eyebrows, Gabrielle smiled and wiped the tear from Xenas temple. Youve been talking to T, I presume. Feeling her own tears welling up, the bard leaned down and gave the warrior a gentle kiss. Yes.
Smiling, as the bard pulled away, the warrior sighed.
How do you feel? Gabrielle asked, running her fingers over Xenas forehead.
Closing her eyes, the warrior smiled sadly. Better. Taking a deep breath, Xena let it out slowly then opened her eyes.
Are you ready to go see T off? Smiling sadly as well.
Nodding, the warrior sat up slowly and looked around. Where is everybody?
I sent them ahead. Gabrielle spoke softly and looked out to the empty space where the people had been.
Getting up, Xena reached out, taking the bards hand and helping her to her feet. Holding on to the hand, the warrior brought it to her lips and kissed it lightly. I love you, Gabrielle. Looking down into tearing eyes, she wiped one away.
I love you, Xena. Sniffling, the bard wiped one of Xenas away.
Come on. Nodding her head toward the steps, the warrior walked to the edge, then stopped and turned around. Glancing up, she saw the portrait hanging over the throne and the smiles the it held. I love you, T. She whispered, then turned back to the steps and walked down them, holding the bards hand in hers.
Standing in the Hall of Kings, Xena and Gabrielle watched, from the bottom of the steps, as Ts body was placed in the tomb and it was closed and sealed. Smiling, Xena gave the Ungaran salute and bowed. Stepping back, she felt a hand on her arm and turned to Ungara himself, who stood beside her.
Ungara raised his hand and waved it in the air, causing it to sparkle and shimmer.
Watching the air, Xena and Gabrielle saw the statue start to form, as Ts image became clearer. Smiling, the warrior saw the stern look that T got when she was about to kick somebodys ass and the piercing dark brown eyes. As the air shimmered more, it moved downward, exposing the body of the King, in all its glory, wearing the green and blue king outfit, that T loved. Finally, the image of the sword, held in a ready position, across the front of her body, extending out a little, like Xena had seen it so many times, but from behind. Smiling, Xena turned to Ungara. Its perfect.
Yes, it is. Gabrielle whispered and wrapped her hands around Xenas arm.
Nodding, Ungara waved his hand and his ensign trotted out.
Bud! Gabrielle bent down, as the tiger came to her. Ruffling up his furry face, she smiled at him. We were wondering where you were.
Chuckling, Ungara smiled. Hes been tearing up the furniture.
Typical. Xena laughed and ran her hand over his big head. Immortal and no manners. Glancing at the King of the Ancients she winced. Sorry.
That got another chuckle from the Ungara and he smiled. T asked me to offer him to you, if you want him. Looking down at the tiger. Normally he would be retired here, but she thought that he might be better off with you two.
Lowering his head, Bud rubbed it on Xenas leg and purred.
The warrior rolled her eyes and looked down at the bard, who was smiling expectantly. Sighing, she glanced at the statue of her friend. Your final torment, huh? Thanks a lot.
Wrapping her arms around Buds neck, the bard hugged him. Thank you, T.
Hold on! Xena waved her hand. I didnt say we were taking him. Putting her hands on her hips.
How could you turn away such a cute face? Gabrielle pouted. And we dont even have to feed him.
Ungara chuckled and slipped away as the couple argued over the tiger and T stared down the Hall of Kings, watching for trouble.
Next year, were going back to Greece for vacation. Xena said and rolled up the scroll and placed it gently in the safe. Looking at the last scroll, she smiled and shook her head. Oh, Ares. You finally get what you deserve. Picking up the scroll, she unrolled it a little and placed it in the holder. The Return of the King. Grinning, the warrior started to read.
Epilogue: As the Ungara began packing and preparations were made for their disbanding, they came together one last time, for Xena and Gabrielles wedding, which was held at the altar in the throne room of the Palace. All of the couples other friends, who were still alive, came and stood by as Lemet conducted the ceremony in the Ungaran tradition. Behind him, the three smiling faces hanging on the wall, smiled a little more.
Bud was best tiger and chewed on Xenas boot laces as they were pronounced to be joined for eternity.
After everything calmed and the Ungara departed for the lands of their ancestors and the warrior and bard had gone on with their lives, Ares walked up the steps to the Palace and entered the throne room. Glancing up, he saw the portrait on the wall and smiled sadly at the face of the woman who had taken his heart and left him behind. Coming to attention, he gave her the Ungaran salute as a tear brimmed over and trickled down his cheek. Turning away, he sighed and walked slowly down the steps and disappeared into the forest.
Thanks for reading.
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