characters of Xena, Gabrielle, Argo, Yodishi, and the Lord of the Darkland
belong to MCA, USA, Universal and Renaissance Pictures.
No infringement was intended when I wrote this bit of fan fiction.
this is based on events that happened in the final episode of this television
series and contains huge spoilers. If
you haven’t had a chance to see the final episode, A Friend in Need, then
please give this a miss until you do.
is only maintext in this story, so be prepared for some scenes dealing with a
loving relationship between two consenting females.
and other burnt offerings can be directed to me at ArdentTly@home.com
Do Or Die
must remember this
kiss is still a kiss
sigh is just a sigh
fundamental things apply
time goes by
when two lovers woo
still say I love you
that you can rely
matter what the future brings
time goes by
still the same old story
fight for love and glory
world will always welcome lovers
time goes by
forests from Tokyo along the coast to Osaka and the Kii Peninsula were still
ablaze, the light breeze fanning the black clouds to a higher elevation before
sending them out to sea. The battle
was now over between Xena and Yodishi, Lord of the Dark Land, but the after
effects would be felt for a long time to come.
Gabrielle wandered in a daze, hardly seeing the damage around her.
Images of Xena’s broken body lying at her feet roused her from her
stupor. As she refocused Gabrielle
knew she only had minutes to get the warrior’s ashes into the Fountain of
Strength in order to restore Xena to life.
heart still pounded with adrenalin from watching the energizing display of power
during the battle. Images of
decapitation flashed through her brain and although Gabrielle knew Xena would be
the ultimate winner in her battle against evil, there was a part of her that
feared for their future together. They
had both cheated death on more than one occasion. Something about this one seemed so…final.
Her heart was clutched in a fist of ice, very much like the small urn was
between her two hands. Time was
She scanned the area and at first failed to see where the warrior had
gone. Her vision was partially
obscured by smoke and ash but Gabrielle knew the tears she’d been holding back
since discovering Xena body were the real culprit.
Placing the urn near the fountain, the bard used the sleeves of her now
ruined kimono to wipe her face.
settled behind the bard in a blaze of glory, her body transformed into a tower
of fire. The blaze continued until
suddenly the warrior’s form appeared looking none the worse for wear.
She watched the bard moving towards the fountain, the grief plainly seen
on her face. It had been a trial of
strength and endurance for her friend and Xena felt such pride at the woman’s
accomplishments. It seemed all the years of teaching the young bard the art of
self-defence and the ways of the warrior had paid off.
Part of her was torn, however, because she remembered how young and
innocent Gabrielle had been, long ago when their travels together had just
begun. It pained her to think of the journey the bard had made, all because she
wanted to follow in her footsteps, making the world a better place.
The strength of the young woman had always surprised her.
While her own motivations to change the world had been purely selfish and
based on nothing other than domination, greed and the lust for power, the bard
truly believed that love could triumph over any adversary. Although there had been a number of in-depth discussions on
exactly how love could break the cycle of hate, the bard had been proven right;
her quest had become Xena’s, too. But
it was a hard road to travel and each had paid a heavy price.
Xena regretted the bard’s loss of innocence.
She wanted more for the woman than the pain that had been a daily
occurrence during their life together. And
now here she was, at the end of her personal journey, and she had to give the
bard one last ultimate gift of pain.
ticked by like hours for both women, each locked in a quest that paralleled the
other – one looking to restore life, the other looking to preserve it.
Xena knew the next few moments of her existence would be the deciding
factor: she couldn’t let
Gabrielle be selfish any more than she could bend to it herself.
Her heart felt shattered as the bard wiped her face free of tears.
Although she knew what she had to do it would be so hard.
How could she possibly explain her decision to Gabrielle?
was plain to see the pride Gabrielle felt as she held the urn reverently.
She’d beaten impossible odds in order to get to Mount Fuji and had
successfully battled the man who had taken Xena’s head in rousing combat.
The muscles in her jaw tightened as she thought of the dead man lying at
the foot of the mountain. He may
have thought himself an honourable warrior but there was no way she would ever
consider his defilement of Xena’s body to be honourable.
Her heart felt clenched in a very large cold fist as she thought of
discovering Xena’s grisly remains. ‘Oh,
Xena. I wish you’d told me, not
that I’d have let you sacrifice yourself like that.
I always thought we’d both go down fighting together.
But to die alone, without me…’ A teardrop fell from her eye and
she tried to concentrate on how it was slowly soaking into the fabric –
anything to take her mind off the utter contempt the samurai had held for her
friend. A brief question entered
her mind as to the origin of her sudden prowess in using the chakram and then it
was gone. There were more pressing
things on her mind: Xena.
uncapping the urn, Gabrielle released a breath and then prepared to complete the
ceremony that would restore Xena by dumping the ashes into the fountain.
Mere inches were all that remained before the deed would be done when the
strong hand of the warrior stilled her motions.
warrior sat beside the waters of strength looking into Gabrielle’s eyes.
Xena, I have to drop your ashes into the water before sunset.”
She glanced quickly at the sky and felt her heart still.
There was only a little time left.
Gabrielle. I have to stay dead, I
pulled back in shock. “What?
Why do you have to stay dead? The
40,000 souls are free, you told me so yourself.”
are saved from Yodishi, yes. But if
I don’t pay for their deaths with my own then they are condemned to be
tormented forever. I can’t let
that happen. Don’t you see?”
stood up and put her hand to her mouth, understanding that Xena had already made
her decision. There would be no
discussion between them on this. It
always came down to the greater good.
rose in the bard and she turned away. She
wanted to scream, seeing just how calm and settled Xena was about making a
decision as drastic as this was. She
could feel the warrior move close behind her and tried to control her mounting
not right, Xena.” The pain of her
decision was evident and Gabrielle’s heart was seared by their combined
torment. “I don’t care about
those 40,000 souls. I care about
you. You’re my whole life Xena,
and I won’t lose you again! Can’t
you see? We’ve been
through so much. We’ve both paid
a heavy price every day of our lives. Can’t
we be happy, don’t we deserve to have peace, and can’t we just be selfish
stood up, pulling the bard to her feet.
because of you that I can do the right thing, Gabrielle. If there is a
reason for our travels together, it's because I had to learn from you
learn the good, the right thing to do.”
She paused, a tear slowly making its way down her cheek.
“This is the right thing to do.”
She paused, her lower lip trembling, and then delivered the truth. “It’s my choice - I can't come back."
I love you, Xena.” Gabrielle’s
face was a mask of sorrow as her true feelings for the warrior came out.
She thought of all the nights they’d sat together in front of a fire,
or walked side-by-side sharing their lives, and never once had she spoken the
words she needed to say. Why had
she waited so long?
stroked the young woman’s cheek softly. “I know.” Tears
welled up in the bard’s eyes and the warrior’s heart was breaking.
Everyone she had ever loved had been taken from her; everyone she had in
her life was destined to suffer pain and anguish, either by proxy or by her own
hand. Well, no more.
Now it would end.
have been selfish, Gabrielle. My whole life with you has been something I’ve always
wanted but never dreamed could come true. I
don’t deserve to be happy and have love in my life, not for all the terrible
things I’ve done. I deserve
nothing less than death – eternal death, Gabrielle.”
bard held the urn tightly against her chest, the tears falling freely from her
it’s not fair, Xena!”
warrior felt so torn. She would
give almost anything to just put the needs of the one before the needs of the
many, but she knew in her heart that it would be something that would stand
between them forever. After all,
hadn’t they sacrificed everything in their lives together for the grand notion
that the greater good was all that mattered?
She couldn’t let Gabrielle forget that, not for one moment, even though
it would be so easy to just let her drop the ashes into the pond.
Her eyes flashed open at the change in the young woman’s voice.
The rancour dripped from each word and Xena felt her heart twist. ‘Don’t you
become the monster, Gabrielle. I
couldn’t stand that.’
is helpless in the face of cruelty.”
looked at the bard in shock. “What
do you mean?” Gabrielle’s mouth
had twisted into a cruel thin line. “I
always thought it was the strongest power on earth, that it could change us,
could redeem you, and show the world just how much a difference each of us can
make – with love.” She
spat the last word out as if it were a bitter thing caught in her throat.
placed her hand on the blonde’s shoulder.
“No. No, Gabrielle.
It can, it has.”
snorted softly. “If anything,
love has shown me that the price we pay for finding it and keeping it isn’t
worth the bother, not if it means nothing when it should count for
winced as the warrior’s fist clenched around the muscles of her arm.
“No! Don’t you see? Your
love showed me the way, Gabrielle, and allowed me to find the road to
redemption. Without it,”
pulled away from the warrior, put her face in her hands and cried.
Xena’s shoulders relaxed as the bitterness seeped out between the
don’t understand, Xena.” Gabrielle
paused momentarily. ‘I love
you with all of my heart.’ She
wiped her face and then continued. “How
can I go on without you?”
looked into the sky, her heart heavy as the sun began to set.
She pulled the smaller woman into her arms and the two walked over to sit
on a nearby log. She gazed at the Water of Strength, hoping that perhaps it
would give them both what they needed to do the right thing.
I know how you feel, Gabrielle. Believe
won’t be without me, Gabrielle.” She
kissed the sweet smelling tresses, her hands revelling in the warmth of her
friend against her, sealing their memory within her heart.
“I’ll always be with you. Always.”
bard clutched the urn and placed her head against the warrior’s shoulder.
Breathing was almost too much to bear and she wondered if the tightness
around her heart would ever ease.
Xena,” she said in anguish.
sat quietly and watched as the last fingers of sun drew back from the
approaching darkness, and as the light winked out of existence so did the
tear slid down the bard’s face as her heart was broken into a million pieces.
dragged by and as day became night and the sky was filled with a million stars
the bard knew where her heart had gone; she had loved completely and would never
give her heart to another – Xena would hold it for all time, until they could
be together once again.
was a hard task finding a path down to the foot of Mount Fuji, and Gabrielle was
surprised she’d made it in one piece. She stood, her fists clenched by her side and screamed to the
After everything we’ve done, all that we’ve gone through, why can’t
we just be together?” Her hands
cupped the black urn tucked safely in the front of her kimono and she felt such
sorrow. The night held no answers, silent and impartial, and even the crickets
were in mourning as they held off their serenade.
was almost daybreak when Gabrielle found the remains of the fallen horse.
Feeling along until she had removed everything worth keeping from the
saddlebags, the bard clutched her meagre possessions to her and then headed back
to Haguchi. Although heartbroken, a
steely resolve was building where a soft heart used to be.
With one hand on the hilt of the sacred katana and the other resting
lightly on Xena’s chakram, the lonely bard made her way through silent
onlookers and then over to the dock.
she had even opened her mouth, a throng had gathered.
She flinched at their scrutiny and then remembered the state her clothing
was in. An old man stepped forward,
bowing deeply, and offered up a bundle of heavy navy blue cloth.
would please this old man if the warrior would accept his offering.
Although it is a poor gift, one who was a tailor to royalty gives it with
great humility. I would be most
grateful if you would allow me to fashion such unworthy cloth into robes that
might, if nothing else, protect you from the harshness of the long journey that
blinked as she concentrated on understanding what the old man was saying.
Then, his meaning finally clear, she bowed in return and followed as he
led her away from the dark oily waters of the Sea of Japan.
the red clouds of dawn streaked across the sky, Gabrielle kept looking over her
shoulder, expecting to see the warrior going through her customary drills.
A painful sigh was released as the truth of Xena’s death was born anew. She had no idea how she’d managed to survive the long cold
night, knowing it was only the first of many to come.
miss you so much, Xena.” The ship
rocked back and forth in silence.
sudden slapping of a sail made her jump and she turned back to the railing
feeling quite foolish. How many
days would go by before she could actually let her guard down and accept that
she was alone – now and forever? Sneaking
a quick glance toward the tiller assured the bard that although the Captain was
indeed attentive to his tasks he hadn’t noticed anything untoward in her
strange behaviour. The man had been
waiting at the dock when she’d returned wearing her new kimono, the tailor
following close behind with a bundle of other goods prepared for her journey.
Although her offers of money had been politely refused, Gabrielle had
secured more supplies than any boat’s crew would ever need, even on the return
voyage. If nothing else, the Captain and crew would be well fed while
in her service. Both gratitude and
respect had been reflected in his eyes as everything had been loaded aboard the
people of Higuchi had treated her with honour and something akin to reverence
but she could also detect a decided relief when it was learned she was headed
back to the land from whence she came.
chest tightened with the knowledge that while the trip home was something
she’d yearned for it was not going to be the same without…
ship wallowed for a moment and Gabrielle waited for the tell tale sign of a sour
belly. However, it wasn’t
forthcoming, a side effect the warrior would have been pleased with, having
taught her a mental focusing game during their sea voyage to Japa.
lip quivered as she remembered how Xena had kidded her, saying she was such a
poor student at the game. Just to prove her wrong, she had practiced deep into the
succeeding nights and had finally perfected the gentle state of mind needed to
find the balance within. She never
did tell Xena how she’d been able to master her seasickness.
And now she never could. How
many times had she wanted to just jostle the woman awake to share her newfound
freedom from constantly bruising the inside of her wrist?
But watching Xena sleep was a pleasure not to be interrupted or denied. A smile curled at the corner of her mouth, the images of a
softly snoring warrior tickling her memory.
was never one to pay any real attention to the affects her beauty had on those
around her, but for some reason the idea of snoring bothered her.
do not snore, Gabrielle!’ she’d grouse indignantly.
The bard felt the tell tale burning of more tears and rubbed them away
fiercely. Hadn’t Xena known that
every idiosyncrasy, every small thing that might have seemed annoying were the
very things that endeared the woman to her?
No, of course not. Xena’s strive for personal perfection was totally
unrealistic and yet that very imperfection was what made her…perfect.
snorted loudly and then was momentarily struck with poetic inspiration.
as long as there are stars
the moon continues to shine
my love remain a constant
heart ever shall be thine.”
tensed suddenly as she felt a hand touch her shoulder.
once cold heart began to beat in earnest as the warrior’s hand moved up into
the prickling hairs at the nape of her neck.
She blinked fiercely as her vision doubled and then tripled and then the
weight of her sorrow pulled her eyes tightly closed.
she be tormented by the image of a ghost forever?
got your tongue?”
jumped and then whirled around in surprise.
Are you…or am I…have I lost my mind?”
warrior’s grin drew up on one side of her mouth and Gabrielle felt the intense
need to touch the woman’s lips with her fingers. ‘Only in my dreams.’
then her chin was lifted and she felt such warmth pressed against her mouth as
she was gently kissed. Her hands
moved up and she gasped as she could feel the familiar leather and brass.
here? But how can you be?
Xena?” ‘I thought I’d
never see you again. Oh, Xena.’
warrior pressed her cheek against the top of her friend’s head.
“I told you I’d never leave you, even in death.
I mean to keep that promise.”
million questions entered the bard’s mind and although they fought to bubble
forth, she held them tightly behind her lips. There was no way she was going to ruin whatever psychotic
episode she was having by injecting reality into things.
long…?” Xena’s smile seemed
to freeze in response to the question. “I
only have until sunset, Gabrielle. As
for how long I’ll be able to come back to you…that I don’t know.”
She frowned. “It doesn’t
feel temporary. It feels…it feels
like it did in the Underworld when I was fighting Yodishi at the tea house.”
She plucked at the skin on her arm.
you feel this?” She placed her
hand against the bard’s cheek. “Does
it feel real to you?”
leaned into the woman’s touch and nodded.
let’s enjoy it while we can.” Xena
smiled and then wrapped an arm around the bard’s shoulders.
“How about that new manoeuvre I was showing you last month?”
nodded quickly and wiped her eyes. “All right.” ‘I’d
rather have you hold me, Xena, hold me like you’ll never let me go.’
smiled awkwardly but said nothing.
the day wore on, Gabrielle found a familiar ease to how she was interacting with
the ghost of her friend and before the sun had risen to its highest zenith had
even forgotten she was virtually alone on the ship.
Most of the small crew paid her no attention and since the bard was
content to stay at the bow of the ship, her fears of being labelled as a lunatic
and chucked overboard slowly disappeared.
women had relaxed into their usual routine and as the afternoon progressed their
easy banter was fluid and without a false note.
Although the warrior was more affectionate and demonstrative with her
feelings, the bard chose to revel in it rather than pick it apart and examine
things too closely. It was enough
that she could actually feel Xena’s warmth as she was cradled in the larger
woman’s embrace as they lay comfortably in her cabin.
She wiggled her toes against the coarse blanket and breathed in a lusty
mouthful of salt air.
know, I never thought I’d say this, but I like lying here on this boat with
you.” Xena chortled and her
leathers squeaked as she resettled her tall form against the bulkhead.
after all those years of showing you that trick you finally got it right.”
Gabrielle turned her head and looked up at the brunette’s strong jaw
and features. “No, that never
seemed to last for me. I used that
focusing technique you taught me only....”
‘Only a few nights ago,
brow furrowed, oblivious to the bard’s distress.
“I’m crushed.” A dark
eyebrow rose. “Here I’ve spent
all that time with positioning and technique and you got it through a game I
taught you to pass the time?” She
shook her head melodramatically.
was too busy trying to hold back the tears to really pay attention to what the
warrior was saying. ‘Damn
tears,’ she thought and closed her eyes even tighter.
Xena could withstand any source of pain you could conjure up, endure any
wound without complaint, but when it came to intense displays of emotion she was
totally out of her element. Tears
made her very uncomfortable. ‘But
I can’t help it, Xena. I can’t
go on without you, I can’t.’
one eye open, the bard was surprised to look up into the worried eyes of her
bard sniffled and rolled over onto her side. ‘You
left me, Xena.’
bard’s thoughts stabbed at her and yet Xena waited patiently, knowing the
blonde would tell her what she need to say when she was ready to.
looked across the cabin and out the portal, watching the gulls dip and turn as
the men got rid of the day’s refuse. There
were only a few hours left before dusk fell.
Her belly lurched. If she
wanted to help the bard deal with things before she had to go…’Maybe
I won’t be able to come back?’
total feeling of sadness griped her and her hands tightened around the
The young woman’s body stiffened and the warrior ran her fingertips up
into straw-coloured tresses, down and over the tip of the dragon’s head
tattoo. Her nostrils fluttered as
she remembered holding the young bard while Akemi applied the sharp needles to
the woman’s skin. While she had
never been interested in having a tattoo grace her body, she couldn’t deny the
somewhat crestfallen feeling that overwhelmed her whenever that image of
Gabrielle lying on the floor nude rose up in her mind. ‘I would do that for
you, Gabrielle. It would be
something of you. Sword, chakram
and scroll, I think.’
thoughts were dashed as the blonde rolled over and fixed her with an angry look.
“I should hate you, Xena. I’ve
tried to.” A tear rolled down Gabrielle’s cheeks, causing the
warrior’s heart to slow its beat. ‘If
she only knew the power she holds over me.’
Xena forced a smile onto her face.
herself into a sitting position, Gabrielle glared at the warrior momentarily
before covering her face with both hands.
thought about all the ways that question could be answered.
spent so many years hating myself that it’s become second nature.
When we first began our journey together I never knew you could be so
strong. I thought you’d fold
early and be on your way.” She
touched the woman’s nose. “And
there were days when I wished you would.”
pained expression raced across Gabrielle’s face.
“But I thought you liked having me there. I never knew…” Her words trailed off and she squeezed her
eyes shut again. ‘She
never wanted me around, not really. How
can I tell her my feelings now?’
changed somewhere along the way,” the warrior said in a voice filled with
surprise and delight. “I can’t
say when exactly, but the excuses for leaving you in one town or another became
harder to come up with. I guess you
blossomed from an irritation into a beautiful,” her voice cracked and then she
went on, “into something I couldn’t live without.
But it was your lessons, Gabrielle, that helped make an intolerable
situation a little easier to bear. My
life was nothing but pain and suffering until you entered it. And for that I’ll be eternally grateful.”
captured the warrior’s strong calloused hand and held it against her chest.
It took a moment but then both eyes settled onto each other and any
recriminations the bard had fell away.
pushed her lips out expelling a breath and then settled her lower back against
the bunk. Although it was the same
question, this one was infinitely harder to answer. Why hadn’t she told the woman about her growing feelings?
The urge to touch the bard became almost unbearable.
How many nights had been spent staring off into space, willing away the
passionate thoughts that all but consumed her?
She remembered the soft lips pressed against her own as the healing
waters were transferred from the bard’s mouth into her own. She
wished she’d been able to show Gabrielle just how much she loved her.
But telling her now would only be cruel.
was never enough time, Gabrielle. We
went from one dangerous situation to another.”
The words seemed hollow even to her.
pushed some hair out of her eyes and then moved to sit beside the warrior.
Xena’s hands sat forlornly in her lap.
you think I’d laugh or run away, or…”
smile painted on the warrior’s lips wavered.
blinked as the truth hit her.
were afraid to tell me.” The
stricken look on the warrior’s face slapped at her.
“Oh, Xena…I’m sorry. I
didn’t mean to say that.”
out loud, anyway.’
Xena sighed and then her fingers found a bit of leather to play with as
she faced the truth and tried to formulate exactly what she needed to say.
watched the woman’s mouth open and close a few times and mentally kicked
herself for causing her such agony.
shadows began filling the cabin, chasing the fading pink glow of the sunset
took Xena’s strong hands into her own. “Tell
warrior’s eyes closed momentarily and then she spoke in a quiet voice.
never been in love before. And
telling you would have served no purpose. Can’t
mouth dropped open. “You say
telling me that you loved me in that way would have served no purpose
like it should make perfect sense.” She
pulled at the woman’s hands. “How
does that make perfect sense?”
pushed off from her position on the bed and began pacing. “I knew you wanted a family and I can’t give you that.
All I could give you was a life filled with violence and torment.”
She turned to face the blonde.
“I wanted more for you.”
set her jaw as the woman resumed her pacing.
“You were all the family I ever needed, Xena.” ‘There were things
we both should have said. Gods, why
didn’t I ever show you? And now
it’s too late.’
stopped dead in her tracks. “It
was implied, all right? And it’s
never too late - I knew how you were feeling.
It was obvious every time you looked at me that hero worship had changed
into something more.” She put her
hands on the portal and her head against her arms.
“Look, I should have told you. I
know that now, but then – well, my own shortcomings in that area were hard
enough to deal with.”
bard’s mouth hung open as she stood behind the warrior. “You can hear my thoughts.
I never thought…” And of course it made perfect sense.
Why hadn’t she figured that out earlier?
And then she blushed thinking of all the things she’d had on her mind
earlier. Then unbidden, other thoughts that hadn’t quite been on her
mind this day fluttered across the backs of her eyes and she blushed harder.
thoughts hardly registered with the warrior who was far too focused on her own
torment at that particular moment. Why
hadn’t she told Gabrielle how she really felt and then acted on it?
Now it was far too late…for both of them.
But what kind of life could she offer her?
Sooner or later every bad thing she’d ever done would revisit them.
How long would it be before one or both of them paid the price?
Could she have lived with herself if Gabrielle had become badly injured
or killed in a fight? She knew
without a doubt that killing those who had harmed the bard would only be the
beginning. Once her brutal nature was unleashed there would be no
stopping her. And what of the
promise she’d made the young woman years ago by the waning light of a
campfire? Silence had seemed the
only option available. She squeezed
her eyes tightly and wondered if Ares at least was having a good time with her
plight. There she was this big bad
warrior, conqueror of hearts from Greece to the Bay of Bengal, and she
couldn’t even tell a young villager from Poteideia that she loved her.
light was almost gone from the room when Xena finally raised her head and turned
to look at the bard. “I
wasn’t sure how you’d react to a romantic relationship with a broken down
ex-warlord. And then when I
could have said something you were wrapped up in guilt over Hope and Solon
and,” she took a breath, “I was looking for the right moment.
I just always thought we’d have time, Gabrielle.”
Xena.” Gabrielle reached out a
hand to touch the woman’s face. Her
heart broke as Xena began to shimmer and then she was gone.
both hands covering her face, the bard stumbled back to the bunk and curled up,
her heart breaking as the reality of what they could have had pierced her.
was a long time before she slept.
torment the warrior felt was complete before she winked out. It was quite one thing to have told someone you loved them
but hadn’t been able to consummate such feelings and quite another to have
never spoken those feelings and therefore had no chance whatsoever to have had
them validated and then acted on. The
horror of it all was just too terrible.
of the many times they’d told each other how they felt raced through her mind.
The depth of the feelings they had for each other was obvious to anyone and yet
it had never been discussed. The
many missed opportunities flitted around her like angry bees, the truth the very
honey that drew them to her.
pain of love unrealized settled on her shoulders along with the other sins of
her past. She wondered what
happened to people when they died, now that there was no Underworld and
therefore no Elysium Fields? Never
having taken the oath before the Amazon tribe, would she be forever separated
from the bard? Perhaps she’d find
judgment Oriental style?
fine hairs on the nape of her neck bristled and she adopted a defensive stance.
Her fingers went immediately to her side but there was no chakram.
A look of confusion crossed her face as her hand closed around air
instead of the familiar hilt of her sword.
She relaxed somewhat upon noticing that her armour was still firmly in
place. At least she could defend
herself. After all, when had a lack
of weaponry ever make a difference?
shrouded figure beckoned and Xena walked slowly towards it. As they moved along the hallway, the warrior took in her
surroundings and then studied the figure ahead of her.
A brief image of Ming Tien entered her mind and then she wondered if Ares
had a hand in things. Finally, with a shrug of her shoulders, Xena began to relax.
She had many enemies, why bother worrying which one would spend eternity
tormenting her? Either way she’d
find out soon enough.
large oak door stood closed before them and Xena started to ask what lay beyond
when the figure raised a hand and the door opened.
cold feeling of unease settled across her shoulders and although her instincts
were hair trigger, Xena pushed them down firmly, waiting to see how things would
play out before making her move.
doors led into a large room filled with rows of empty benches. There on the dais, however, was a bench of judgment.
An eyebrow rose. So, the final Day of Judgment was upon her?
Was she ready?
was surprised to find that despite a few reservations she was.
images of Gabrielle suddenly surrounded her, making the warrior more than a
little uneasy. She could pick out
individual scenes of their lives together, interlaced with scenes of horror and
betrayal, death and destruction.
at least a dozen torches blossomed with fire and people began to appear in the
seats facing the bench. Xena
swallowed hard as they turned to look at her.
While there seemed to be far more enemies than not, Xena recognized a few
friendly faces as well.
hooded figure moved up to the dais and was seated.
Then two figures popped out of nowhere beside her.
One’s face was twisted cruelly, pointing at her with acrimony.
The other smiled coldly and led her to the docket.
Xena felt a shudder run through her as their faces slowly became more
distinct. It was her face they both
first, no words were spoken as the case began. Scenes from Cirra filled the room
and the many lost souls of Haguchi howled and wailed their torment as they
commiserated with the victims. Fire
and destruction raced from scene to scene and then suddenly M’lila’s sweet
face appeared and everyone in the courtroom viewed her death.
Xena’s shoulders drooped as her culpability was pointed out again.
“Everyone in your life was destined to live and die a painful death,
isn’t it true?” demanded the prosecutor.
The woman from Gaul reached out her hand and smiled.
“I died for you because in my death was your rebirth.”
Xena’s fists pound against the railing.
“Yes, I was reborn…as a monster.
Look at the pain and suffering that brought!
You died for nothing, M’lila, gods help me.
I wish Cortez had never come to our village, or that I’d ever taken up
the sword, even that I’d ever been born at all.”
the young woman shimmered and then faded away, Ming Tien and his father Ming Tsu
appeared in her place. “You
profess to feel remorse for the lives you’ve taken and destroyed.
I find it difficult to believe, Xena, since you took such pleasure in
tormenting and destroying the life of my young son.
It wasn’t enough that you bricked the boy up behind a wall, leaving him
to feel as if he’d been left to die. No,
you had to return years later under the direction of that evil whore Lao Ma, and
finish the job!” Ming Tien gazed
about the crowded room and a hush fell over them.
His face seemed to change, finally displaying the ruined flesh that Xena
had wrought in their last encounter. “See
what she has done to me? My evil
mother sent this woman to hunt me down and kill me!
Lao Ma, the sorceress who kept her own beloved husband hanging between
worlds just so that she could reap the benefits of his position and respect, she
who would show her son nothing but cruelty and the weak ways of a woman!”
A roar filled the air and Xena’s eyes locked on the Green Dragon, her
ex-lover’s hairpin protruding horribly from his right temple.
He grinned wickedly. “You
know you meant nothing to her, Xena. You
think she had any more love for you than she would for her own child, a boy she
would later condemn to a painful death at your hands?”
The warrior’s hands gripped the railing and she tried to ignore the
man’s barbs. A soft breeze
ruffled Xena’s hair and the scent of Jasmine filled the courtroom.
Lao Ma appeared wearing the soft pink robe Xena would forever see her in.
She bowed once to the judge and the prosecutor and then faced the jury.
“Why am I here? My death was of my own choosing although the manner was taken
from me.” She gazed lovingly at
her son. “His soul was twisted by
his father, a man who knew nothing of love and therefore nothing of forgiveness.
He is destined to an existence filled with endless torment.
Is it your desire Xena, to join my son and his father in such a joyful
frowned. “If I hadn’t tried to
kill you in a jealous rage then you probably would have dealt only with Borias
and our paths would never have crossed. I never would have betrayed the love you offered because of
my hatred for Ming Tsu. And chances
are, you would have lived a long and prosperous life filling that book with
thoughtful insights and good deeds. As
it was, you not only lost your life in the most painful of ways but had to pass
final judgment on your own son.”
Ma smiled an inscrutable smile. “I
did not pass judgment on my son. For
that you are truly guilty.” Xena
reeled back as if struck. She had
expected to have the woman confirm her culpability in his death and would accept
penance for the destruction of her son but all this time she had assumed she was
fulfilling the woman’s last wishes.
she stammered. The Oriental reached
out to stroke Xena’s face. “I
only wished to have my son deposed, Xena, not physically destroyed.
Although I should have realized you would react in such a fashion, I had
hoped the years would have lent you the wisdom I failed to.”
The judge brought the gavel down with a crash and the room fell silent.
a crimson sleeve, the judge directed the prosecutor to continue.
rose up before her docket and Xena looked at the anguished face of her mother as
she writhed against her bounds. An accusing finger was raised her way and Xena lost her
composure and broke down weeping. “Oh,
mother! I didn’t know.
I would have done anything to protect you, you know that.”
Cyrene shook her head slowly as the flames rose higher and then she was
gone. A tall warrior pushed through
the crowd and Xena’s heart sang as she recognized her brother Lyceus.
“Mother’s been silenced by her own guilt, Xena.
She feels she’s done you a terrible wrong, denying you a haven in which
to grow up and a loving parent who would love you unconditionally.”
He hugged her quickly and then frowned as the prosecutor pushed him
before the judge. The figure on the
dais leaned forward and Lyceus felt such sorrow and remorse that he shrank back
uneasily before turning to look at the crowd.
“It’s true, although a case could be made to show that Xena was
responsible for my death, the Fates gave her another chance, showing her that it
was my own nature that got me killed. We
all have choices and although we have to pay for them I believe my sister has
done so, at least three times over.” The crowd jostled and hissed their displeasure.
blonde warrior shoved roughly through the crowd and all eyes burned with
intensity as Callisto was recognized.
yes,” she said purring, “of course Xena’s tried to pay for her
crimes.” Callisto smoothed the
leathers across her bosom. “Why,
she became a veritable vision of goodness and light a few years before she died,
now didn’t she.” The singsong
tone of her voice belied the poison seething just below the surface.
Many in the crowd gasped with shock as she whirled, her face contorted
with malevolence, and stretched out a finger at the woman in the docket.
this should balance out the pain and suffering dealt out to the innocent around
Is it fair that she destroyed my family, burned my village to the ground,
and ruined my life and then gets a shot at redemption at the end of it?”
She walked slowly over to the bench, her face once more that of an
again.” Tilting her head this way
and that, it was very easy to see the young girl she once was.
Then she clapped her hands with glee.
“In fact, I’m very surprised that she’s subjected herself to trial
by jury at all. And all without
counsel? My, my…now, where is
that irritating little friend of yours, Xena?
Not that I blame her for hiding. After
all, you pretty much destroyed her life, too, didn’t you?”
She wiggled her fingers at the crowd.
“I might have helped a little in that regard with that weanie of a
husband she was married to, but that’s neither here nor there, is it?
I’m not the one on trial, she is.”
She rolled her eyes at the brunette who stood stoic and silent.
“Oh, tsk, tsk, Xena. You
must have lost those winning ways you were always so eager to flaunt.
If you’d been your usual seductive self, why you would have had the
little blonde wrapped around your baby finger and she never would have thought
about marrying some idiot warrior wannabe.”
She tapped her front teeth. “But
perhaps she wasn’t your type. Not
that it would have made any difference. M’lila
wasn’t your type, was she? You
were perfectly willing to use her to your heart’s content, convincing her that
she’d be more than just a roll in the hay.
Tell me Xena, did she throw herself in front of that arrow or did you
jaw resembled a block of granite as she fought to remain silent.
It didn’t matter what Callisto said, whether it was true or not,
because the endless suffering that comprised her life was only a small part of
the horror Xena had inflicted on everyone around her.
every single person that has meant anything to me, has been marked and destroyed
in one way or another.’
strode over to the bench. “Someone
so intuitive such as yourself,” she said, arching this way and that as she
tried to peer under the hood, “should be able to see that she’s beyond
redemption, your honour.” She
turned and faced the crowd. “How
about a verdict now?”
slightly more beautiful and infinitely calmer mirror image of the Goddess of
Chaos appeared before them, suspended in mid air, radiating a perfect white
you beyond redemption, Callisto?” The blonde shrank back in horror. “You! I
don’t know which is worse, convincing this crowd full of losers just how
totally, rapturously,” she sighed passionately, “and completely this bitch
was immersed in evil or,” the venom dripped from each word,
“having to face the fact that the sweet innocent disgustingly boring
other side to me is here to lecture us on how love conquers all,” she drawled,
spitting in the angel’s direction and pacing in front of the judge.
can’t trust her, judge. She’ll
say things, many things, any things, just to show you how virtuous and how very
worthy of redemption Xena truly is.” She
ran her fingers through the disordered mass of tangles covering her head.
“It’s not fair!”
whirled on the Warrior Princess. “How
dare you be the one to save me? After
all I’ve done to destroy you, after all the terrible things you made me
do…how could you?” Covering her
face in her hands, Callisto wailed painfully for the final battle she’d lost
before it had ever been fought. How
could she argue against the truth as it floated there before her?
With just one touch the Warrior Princess had taken all of her pain away
and had given her everything she’d ever wanted – true peace and a reunion
with her loving family. But that in itself was a hell befitting her own dark deeds,
angel calmly floated closer and then her visage changed into that of
Callisto’s mother. With a sobbing
wail the Goddess of Chaos murmured, ‘mother?’ before running into her arms.
The angel that wore Callisto’s smile nodded towards the judge and Xena
knew she had at least one point in her favour.
room erupted into a hellish racket as the members of the jury and audience let
their displeasure be known.
verdict, VERDICT!” they shouted, stomping their feet in unison.
The gavel came crashing down again and the prosecutor got to her feet and
went to stand beside someone in the crowd.
stood up, his eyes flashing in anger. “She is guilty of more than pure violence for its own sake.
Xena twisted my heart, finally convincing me that I was in love with her.
I left my wife and child for her and what did I get in return? She betrayed me and abandoned our child!
Her evil thoughts of conquest and tyranny erased any maternal thoughts a
normal woman should have. And it
was because of my own blindness to her true self that I risked everything to
save her.” He glared at the Warrior Princess, his lips curled into a
snarl. “I died trying to protect
both her and our son.” The
crowd’s angry response left little doubt as to how totally devoid of any
compassion they thought Xena was.
his further rant that held her responsible for the destruction of the centaurs
it seemed as if the whole weight of the world was settled squarely on Xena’s
back. Her head dipped lower and
lower with each accusation, knowing she had no defence for the black days of her
past. Self-damning tears rode
silently down her cheeks as she tried to recapture her mask of stoicism.
The battle she fought in this regard was almost won when Solon appeared
silently beside his father and waited until Xena raised her head.
‘I’m sorry, Solon. I
should have told you the truth.’ His
smile reached out to the darkest areas of her soul, filling it with light. Rubbing her nose with the back of her shaking hand, the
former Destroyer of Nations looked away, humbled by the purity of his love.
voice rang out with clarity as he stood before the court and Xena couldn’t
help but find her eyes settling on his face with open pride and adoration.
“My mother didn’t hesitate to make sure I’d be safe and brought up
by those who would care for me the moment she realized that life at her side
would destroy me. Her actions saved
me and I grew up knowing my father as a hero.”
He looked pointedly over at Borias and the man dropped his gaze.
“She taught me how to fight but she also taught me patience and love.
Even though she did so as a friend and not as a loving parent.”
He walked over to the dock and placed his hand on Xena’s.
“Even when I had made my own choice to keep my memories and not go on
to the Elysium fields, she put her own life at risk to spare me from an eternity
couldn’t leave you there, Solon. Even
though your small collection of memories only had snippets of my involvement in
your life you were still willing to have them rather than live without thoughts
of me at all.” Her lower lip
trembled as her son looked up into her eyes, the love shining fiercely.
‘I know, mother.’
elbowed her way up to the front and banged her staff three times on the floor.
Solon and his father faded back into the crowd as Julius Caesar opened
his mouth and tried to gain the attention of the judge.
Two rather burly women growled his way and he fell silent, sneering in
their direction but sitting back down with a huff.
cloaked figure on the dais gestured for the leader of the Amazon Nation to
continue to plead her case.
has had many dealings with the Amazon Nation.
She is guilty of mass murder, attempted murder, brutally attacking our
Queen and being responsible for the decimation of our nation to the point where
we can never return to our former glory.”
The judge leaned forward and for a moment Xena thought she could see who
it was behind the dark crimson cowl but the shadows prevented it.
Amazon walked over to where Xena stood and crossed her arms over her chest.
“Can you deny these atrocities?”
Xena remained silent, knowing she’d been guilty of far worse than
she’d ever be accused of.
the double doors at the back of the room were pushed open and the crowd growled
as Gabrielle made her way to the bench.
won’t defend herself against such accusations.
But I will,” said the bard above the din.
warrior closed her eyes and tried to will the young woman away.
What was she doing there anyway? She
should have been asleep on the ship that was slowly making its way toward the
China Seas, bound for home.
pulled in a slow breath and tried not to stare at the warrior.
She could feel the anguish rolling off her and knew that Xena was more
than a little uncomfortable about having anyone plead her case.
looked at the judge and waited.
clenched her fists and stared belligerently at the prosecutor, silently urged
the woman to do something, say something – anything at all – anything to
make Gabrielle just…go away.
won’t go, Xena. Can’t you see
that? You’re my whole world and I
won’t let you go, not without a fight.’
focus shifted from the smug look on the attorneys face onto the bright and eager
face of her friend.
don’t belong here, Gabrielle. There’s
more at stake than you know.’ If they lost then the burden would rest on the bard’s
shoulders as well – was it something they could both live with?
silent battle of wills continued between Xena and Gabrielle as they both fought
for what they knew was in the best interest of the other.
can’t save me, no one can.’
leaned forward, one hand covering the larger one as she sought to connect with
you understand, Gabrielle, that I’ve got to pay for the sins of my past?
That’s what my whole life was about – the search for redemption.’
bard gripped the woman’s hand and then moved closer to the docket.
looked down into the green sorrowful eyes of her best friend and knew her heart
would break if things were allowed to continue.
have to go back now, back to the ship, back to sleep, back to finding a life
said you’d never leave me!’
I won’t. I’ll always been with
you…in your heart.’
I don’t want you just in my heart, Xena!” she yelled.
“I want you in my life, in my arms!
Don’t you see? I can’t live…” The gavel came crashing down, startling
both women. The crowd was in an
uproar as the room was filled with loud recriminations, the most vociferous
designed to point out that the accused had no right to expect anything but the
most severe of verdicts imaginable.
A booming voice grated through the room and even Caesar ceased his rant
and meekly sank back into his seat.
what right do you defend such a wretched soul?”
released Xena’s hand and then walked to the bench.
Bowing with respect, she clasped both hands in front of her and then
cleared her throat. She winced as
negative thoughts bombarded her from the woman behind her.
‘I can’t listen to you now,
Xena. I’ve made my choice.’
bard felt a slight easing of tension and with a shock realized it was because
she’d silenced the Warrior Princess with her mere thoughts. A blonde eyebrow rose as she thought about the ramifications.
‘She can hear me just as I can
honour, I claim the right by virtue of being her soul mate.”
judge was silent for a moment and then conferred with both prosecutor and
defence counsel. nodded and
gestured for the woman to go on.
swallowed and then turned to the audience.
was once known as the scourge of Greece. Some called her the Destroyer of Nations, and I’m sure far
worse. She’s killed thousands,
probably hundreds of thousands, and has been responsible for creating at least
one monster who in turn carried on in the same vein but with a much colder
nervously and yet somewhat warming to her subject, Gabrielle studiously avoided
looking anywhere near her friend and instead chose to pick out a few familiar
faces in the crowd.
helped both Kings and commoners, priests and parishioners, even a god or two,
along the road to righting the wrongs of her past.”
She looked up at the judge. “She’s
paid for her past, your honour, thrice fold.
And she’s done such good in her life.
I would never have known the joys of friendship, duty and honour if our
paths had never crossed.” She
finally raised her eyes to look across at her soul mate.
‘And I would never have known true love.’ “Her
life has been the cause of much sorrow, your honour, but she’s been
responsible for much happiness as well. Cyrene
might have lived her life alone, believing her daughter was nothing but a
monster. Xena stepped back into her
life and let her experience the joys of being both a mother and a grandmother.
My sister’s daughter would never have been reacquainted with the touch
of a loving mother if it weren’t for Xena.”
large indistinct face appeared before them all, and although Gabrielle
couldn’t make out any features, there was no denying the voice:
it belonged to Hope.
what about the loving touch of my own mother?”
Guilt tugged at the bard’s heart.
“I loved you, Hope, you know that.”
laughed coldly. “Yet it didn’t
stop you from trying to destroy me, did it Mother?
You have a strange way of showing your maternal instincts.”
She glared hotly at both women. “You
both hunted me as if I was some sort of animal!
The only affection I have ever known is this.”
A pit of fire erupted beneath her and the image of Hope was consumed in a
wave of heat and ash. A disembodied
voice rose from the black abyss created. “Because
you abandoned me when I was a child, the only emotion I’ve ever known is the
pure hatred from my father! How
dare you consider yourself worthy to defend such a heartless criminal when
you’re no better yourself!”
turned away from her daughter and clutched the railing.
One of the most difficult truths she had had to face over the years was
her relationship with Hope and her failure as a parent.
should have listened to Xena. She
knew what you were when you were born. But I couldn’t, I didn’t want to believe her.
And because I put my needs before others her son had to die!”
reached down and covered the woman’s hand.
“I’ve forgiven you for all of that, Gabrielle.
It was wrong of me to force you to make a choice.
Would I have acted any differently if it had been Eve and I’d known of
the evils she would cause? Now you
have to forgive yourself.”
how can I?” the bard pulled at her hair in torment.
Perhaps Hope was right? She’d
failed as a mother and ultimately failed as a friend.
“I failed her just as I failed you!” The image of Xena’s bloody
chakram appeared before her eyes and she shrank back in horror.
should have stopped you, Xena. How
could I have been so blind? Of
course you’d be the one to face Yodishi in the Underworld! Kenji told me only a ghost could kill the Dark Lord.’
closed her eyes in pain, realizing that the woman now believed herself
responsible for her decision to die in battle.
Breaking off the telepathic bond they shared, Xena stood tall and looked
into the crowd. Although a few still continued to hurl insults toward the
bard, most of them became quiet, all but shaking in their boots.
Pleased at the response, the warrior resettled her gaze on her friend.
please. You don’t understand.
Even if you did know and you tried to stop me I couldn’t let you.
Harokata, the Ghost Killer, told me that he had the strength to kill
Yodishi but that he couldn’t because he was only mortal.”
She reached down and touched the blonde’s cheek.
“Even in the Underworld he didn’t have the strength, Gabrielle.
There was no one but me that was capable of doing this job.
You can’t blame yourself for not reading my mind.
Not even the Dark Lord could do that.”
shouted two members from Akemi’s household.
“It was because of you that Akemi was able to murder her own father in
cold blood! She committed the worst
crime a child can! She, a worthless good for nothing who had no respect for her
station in life! You compounded
your crime in the taking of her head! Yours
was therefore forfeit!”
placed both hands over her ears as the crowd roared for blood.
give us a verdict!” they shouted.
gavel was raised and lowered once again, the resounding crash enough to have
everyone in the room shaking in fear. All but Xena, who stood tall, facing the judge, her
expression set in stone. ‘Gabrielle
doesn’t know what she’s doing. You
can’t hold her responsible for coming to my defence.
If I’m to be judged, then let the sentence fall on me alone.’
judge ignored her silent plea and gathered some papers on the desk.
you anything to say in your defence?” boomed the judge.
glanced quickly at Gabrielle, who stood silently, the tears running freely down
her face. ‘I’ve always loved
you, Gabrielle.’ The bard
tried to be brave and smile with encouragement, but she failed miserably.
Oh, how the warrior wanted to hold the young woman close and never let
her go. If they’d only had more time.
they didn’t and now it was time to pay the price.
could I possibly say? It’s all
true.” She wiped the moisture
from her cheeks. “I’m ready to
hear my verdict, your honour.”
screamed out Xena’s name and then fell off the bunk onto the deck of her
cabin. Her legs and feet were
tangled in the blanket and in her fluster took a moment to remember where she
am I?” Then the smell of the
ocean and the creak of the ship brought it all back to her.
The time she and the warrior had spent enjoying each other’s company
settled over her warmly. “Oh, now
I remember. Wonder where Xena
came a tapping on her door and the bard briefly wondered why Xena would knock
before getting hold of her imagination. She was a ghost after all.
to her feet and kicking off the blanket, the bard half-heartedly smoothed the
haystack on her head and then opened the door.
cook stood quietly, hat in hand. “You
will eat today, yes?” Gabrielle’s
mouth hung open as he ushered two men in with a large tray of food.
“You did not eat yesterday, warrior.
Doing drills all day long is not healthy without nourishment.
You will become sick.” He
gave her a look of admonishment, much like a father would give his wayward
I…” Gabrielle’s mouth snapped shut. She’d been having so much fun with Xena that neither one
had thought to stop for food. And
then there was the court thing with the magistrate.
‘But I’ve been at sea for days.
How could I have been anywhere with Xena? If all they’ve seen is me doing drills, then maybe it’s
all been just my imagination.’ A
numbing fear crept up her spine and it was all she could do to push all the men
from her cabin with a brief promise that she would eat before collapsing on the
her head in her hands, the bard slowly rocked back and forth.
“She’s dead, Gabrielle, dead! She
was never here. The sooner you get this through your head…”
then her eye picked up a glint from the corner.
It was Xena’s chakram and images of her time with the warrior awaiting
judgment flooded back in. It was so real that Gabrielle had to either accept that it had
indeed happened or…
it. It’s the grief, that’s what
it is. And who could blame me?
Gods, first I have to locate her dismembered body, not to mention fight
for her head. Gods, Xena.” A
tear trickled down to her chin and then fell with an audible plop onto her
shaking hands. Squeezing her eyes
shut, she tried to push the rising feelings of hysteria away. “Then I had to climb Mount Fuji-san, fight a samurai in
single combat – gods, I hated that smug bastard!”
Gabrielle got to her feet and went to the chakram.
“I don’t know how I did it, but he deserved it.”
Catching her reflection in the sheen of the warrior’s personal weapon
made Gabrielle’s head dart back in surprise.
‘Is that snarling warrior really
he took her head,” she wailed to the heavens.
“Oh, Xena…it’s not fair!” Her
hand closed around the chakram and then her eyes spotted the small black urn
over by her weapons. The sacred
katana waited silently.
a fingertip over the outside of the urn, the bard fell to her knees and then
began to sob uncontrollably. She
didn’t realize that she’d fallen asleep on the floor until her eyes
fluttered open as her battle senses picked up a stranger’s presence in the
room. Years of travelling with the
Warrior Princess had honed these warrior instincts to a fine point.
to her feet, Gabrielle crouched low, the chakram tight in her fist.
A slight movement in the dark corner had her ears pricked.
was no answer. And then the figure
moved again and Gabrielle released the chakram with a whoosh!
It dinged about the cabin several times before heading back toward the
bard, who simply held her hand up and caught the thing as if she’d been born
was still staring with wide eyes when Xena stepped out from the shadows.
good, but you missed me. You’re
getting better at that all the time. But we’ll have to practice every day, just to keep you in
chakram dropped from stiff fingers and the bard backed away from her friend.
dead friend. Her friend that was a
ghost and couldn’t possibly be there in front of her…she was just a figment
of the bard’s fevered imagination, and nothing more.
can’t be here. You’re not
both hands up in supplication, the warrior stopped her advancement and just
all right, Gabrielle. It’s just
me. Remember we spent the day
bard shook her head slowly. “No…no,
the cook said I’d spent the day alone doing drills.
He was worried because…”
hadn’t eaten anything. Yes, I
forgot about that part of life.” She
inched a little closer to the bard. “See,
I don’t have to worry about eating now.” ‘Or sleeping either.
Or feeling the heat of your body against me in your bedroll.
Gods, I miss you, Gabrielle.’
never eat?” Then Gabrielle
slapped herself, hard, hoping the shock would bring her to her senses. “You’re not real!”
She whirled around and walked quickly to her bed.
“That’s it. I’ve
snapped, I’ve gone crazy, I’m having some sort of delusional moment caused
by stress, grief and…and…seasickness. Yes!
I’m seasick. I never learned how to fix that, not really.
I was just fooling myself.” She
grabbed her belly and began to rock as she sat on the bunk.
know, you really can make yourself sick that way.
I’ve seen it before. Usually
on the battlefield, of course, but hey, you’ve sustained a shock to the
system. The mind is a very delicate
thing, and certainly not something to fool with.”
glanced up. “Oh, good.
I’m getting mental health directions from a woman who lost her head.”
Hearing the words come out of her mouth only caused the bard more grief
and she lay back with a thump, wailing her sorrow against arms crossed firmly
over her face.
Xena! I need you so much!
Why can’t you be real?” She
cried harder as she was pulled into the warrior’s embrace and then settled
against the front of Xena’s leathers. Her
eyes fluttered open and then she wiped her tears away with a shaking hand.
took your armour off. I usually do
that for you.” She sniffled.
I know. I miss that.”
She pulled the tray of food closer but the other woman ignored her
lower lip trembled and she brought her hand up to touch the warrior’s face.
isn’t so bad being crazy, is it? I
mean, if I have to be crazy to see you then that’s all right.
Because I can’t, no I won’t live without you, Xena.”
Relief flooded through her system and she sank back into the warrior’s
caressed the bard’s hair gently, soothing her with soft words of comfort and
encouragement. The bard closed her
eyes momentarily and then a sea of green captured Xena’s gaze.
all true, isn’t’ it? You’re
waiting for your verdict.”
held the woman closer, her eyes fixed on a point not seen in the physical realm.
noticed it was early afternoon as the ship’s bell sounded.
Her belly growled ominously and she began to pick at the food on the
tray. A few bits of fruit and some
smoked meat on skewers later and the bard was pushing the tray away.
She burped carefully and patted her stomach.
“That feels a bit better. Sure
you don’t need any of this?” Xena
smirked and shook her head. “Nah,
you go ahead and eat the rest.”
nodded. “Thanks, but I’ll save
it for later.” Then her forehead
furrowed. “I thought you were
able to be with me from dawn until dusk, Xena?
Or did I imagine that?”
warrior sighed heavily. “I
didn’t want to come.”
eyes squeezed shut as the bard shuddered with each sob.
‘Gods, I love you Xena, but how can you continue to hurt me this
released her breath again. “This
will be the last time, Gabrielle. I
can’t come back to see you any more.”
bard clutched at the woman and turned to face her, the food in her belly already
starting to turn. “Why?
Is it something I’ve done? I
can do better, Xena, I can. Just
tell me how…”
then Xena kissed her. The kiss was
filled with such heat and promise. Gabrielle’s
eyes closed and her hands moved up to feel the long soft hair she’d longed to
touch for such a very long time. Both women were somewhat breathless as they broke away from
said the bard in wonder. Xena’s
mouth twitched as she thought of something to say.
There really wasn’t much she could say, except, “I’ve wanted
to do that for a long time.”
raised her fingertips to touch the warrior’s chin.
“Why didn’t you?”
was uncharacteristically silent.
leaned up for another kiss. And
then another as her actions became bolder. “I want to be with you, Xena.”
know. I want that too, but I
don’t think it would be a good idea.”
mouth slowly slid across the warrior’s lips and the larger woman couldn’t
help but moan in response.
you always have to ask that question?” she said between kisses.
breathed the blonde, her hands finding purchase at the nape of the warrior’s
neck. Pulling her down quickly,
Gabrielle began moving her hands over Xena’s neck and across each shoulder.
She could tell by the woman’s rapid breathing that regardless of what
she had said about leaving, about this being their last time together, that she
was on the right track to making her change her mind.
said the warrior slowly. “We have
to stop.” The blonde moved in for
another heart-stopping kiss and then nestled the back of her head into the
can stop for awhile if you like, Xena. But I won’t stop loving you.
And I’ll get what I want. Remember,
‘what ever Gabrielle wants, Gabrielle gets’?”
rubbed her jaw. “I did say that,
didn’t I?” The smile faded away
quickly and she squared her shoulders.
have to be serious, Gabrielle. Really.”
The blonde had begun to wrap the warrior’s long dark strands around her
bard smiled. ‘I
want more kisses, Warrior Princess. I
want to feel your lips against mine, your breath against my skin, and the beat
of your heart against my hand.’
closed her eyes and moaned deeply. “Don’t
do that, please.”
I want you and I know you want me, too. Deny
it, Xena. I dare you.’
strange look entered the blue of the warrior’s eyes and Gabrielle was suddenly
afraid. She’d seen that look a
few times before. She tried to
remember when and where and then the answer came to her. ‘So, this is battle
jaw stuck out a bit and her fingers moved in to the base of the woman’s head.
Taking hold of the blonde tresses, she gathered a bunch in her fist and
then pulled. Gabrielle’s eyes
fluttered but she refused to break their locked gaze.
this is battle lust, bard. Just be
thankful you’ve never seen it full blown.’
smiled and shook her head slightly. “You don’t scare me, Warrior Princess. I want all of you; good, bad and dangerous.”
took the warrior a moment to compose herself and then she looked away.
How easy it would be to just give into the needs so long denied.
But she couldn’t, not now, not with oblivion at hand.
She briefly wondered if she’d end up in the same place Callisto had.
Was there really such a place as Hell?
She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.
look, Gabrielle, this is important.”
bard smiled sweetly up into the warrior’s face.
“Everything about you is important, Xena.
I wish we’d done this before.” Her
eyes clouded over. “Before you
let yourself be killed.” She sat
up and glared at the woman. “How
could you let yourself be killed like that again?
And you never even told me what your plan was – you just made the
decision and expected me to live with the consequences!
That’s not fair, Xena. We’re
partners!” She settled her
breathing for a moment before going on. “You
lied to me again, Xena. Do you know
how much I hate that?”
pouched her lips out in thought. “Yeah,
I know. But you have to
understand,” her mouth snapped shut as the bard held up her hand.
yeah…I know. You did what you had
to, water under the bridge, move on.” She huffed. “I’m
trying to.” Then pushing her hair
away from her face, Gabrielle sat a little straighter and kept her hands in her
right, I’m listening.” The
warrior cocked an eyebrow her way. “Really.
I’m really listening now.” Silence
was the warrior’s response.
said you can’t come back. Go
on,” she prompted.
cleared her throat. “Yes,
that’s what I said. I see that
you were actually listening to me
but I doubt you understand.” Xena
began plaiting her hair and then shoved the thick cord behind her.
weren’t supposed to be able to follow me into the spirit realm, Gabrielle.
I still don’t know how you did it, but it doesn’t matter.
Well, it does, but…never mind.”
She pushed her bracers up and then began to fiddle with her gauntlets.
“Look, you should never have come to me there.”
bard frowned. “Why?”
you go again with that question!” she huffed in frustration.
“Can’t you do anything I tell you?
tiny smirk played on the bard’s lips and Xena relaxed her shoulders a bit.
“No, I guess you can’t. Never
could, why should you start now?”
took one of the bard’s hands. “Do
you understand that by defending me you’ve put your own soul at risk?
If we lose…”
released the breath she’d been holding. Somewhat
relieved, she smiled at the warrior and silently urged her to continue.
‘Huh, and here I thought it was something really horrible.’
dropped the woman’s hands roughly. “It is really horrible, Gabrielle!
Don’t you see? Because we’re soul mates and you’ve voluntarily offered
to act in my defence you’ve put your own soul on the line. What happens to me will be your fate, too!”
nodded slowly. “No, I understood
it the first time. You die and end
up in Purgatory and that’ll be my fate as well.
mouth dropped open. How could the
bard be taking things so lightly?
don’t understand, you can’t. Not
and act this way.” Then it was
Gabrielle’s turn to take the woman’s large hands into her own.
is how I see it, Xena. I can’t
live without you – where you go, I’ll be at your side.
So if it means we’re both given the same sentence, then at least
we’ll be together. Forever.”
shook her head slowly. “Oh, if it
were only that simple, Gabrielle. No see, it isn’t that cut and dried.” She moved the bard off her lap and then got to her feet.
problem is you think we’ll be together in oblivion.”
She turned and looked at the bard. “That’s
it, isn’t it?”
got to her feet. “Yes.
You mean it isn’t?” The
undigested bits of food began wending their way back up and the bard swallowed
convulsively. “Oh gods…I think
I’m going to be sick.”
held the woman close, rubbing small circles over the tattoo on her back.
“It’s okay, Gabrielle. You’ll
be fine. Just take a few deep breaths.”
bard complied and then rested her full body weight against the warrior.
hugged the woman closer. “If
I’ve been damned to oblivion for crimes I’ve committed then it follows that
you wouldn’t go to the same place because that would defeat the whole purpose.
have I done?”
warrior kissed the top of the woman’s head.
“What you always do – what you think is the right thing.
I can’t tell you how much I love that.”
pushed a few tears away from her eyes. “Yeah?”
pushed the bard’s chin a little. “Yeah.
You’ve been a damned good teacher, too.”
frowned. “Too good a teacher.
I wish I hadn’t…”
pressed her fingers against the bard’s mouth.
“No. No, Gabrielle.
Because of you I’ve been able to accept the redemption I’ve always
sought. Think of this as the
penalty phase, that’s all.”
placed her hands on the woman’s waist and eased back from her embrace.
“What do you mean, ‘penalty phase’?”
moved them back toward the bed. “Well,”
she said scratching her neck. “As
I understand things my death allowed me to be in a state of grace.
Akemi told me that I’d been redeemed along with the other trapped
souls.” She began to pace as the
bard sat down and picked at the tray of food.
if I was in a state of grace, then it follows that I’m capable of accepting
the redemption offered.”
broke in the bard between mouthfuls. “I thought Akemi said you were already redeemed?”
said the warrior emphasising her point with a large finger.
“That’s where it gets confusing.
See, the way I see it I have to accept the redemption.
It’s being offered to me but it’s up to me whether I think I’m
worthy of it or not. And being that
I gave up my life with you, my soul mate, for a bunch of strangers…well that
was a big point in my favour because I’d learned that selfless sacrifice is
more important than just an ordinary sacrifice.”
She shrugged. “I’m not
sure why, though.”
bard had been nodding her head, ideas forming as the warrior talked.
“Okay, I think I understand. Maybe
you always had redemption offered to you but you didn’t realize it because you
felt unworthy?” Then a look
crossed her face. “Hey, what if
you are the only one who can redeem yourself?”
She put the food down quickly. “Whoa,
that was a bit too deep even for me.”
scratched her chin and then made a face. “So, you think I was always worthy of redemption but never
knew it? Well, that’s just crazy!
And if it’s true, how come no one ever told me?”
She thought back to Najima and gritted her teeth.
“I’ll bet that Darsham could have told us.
Gods, and all this time…”
put her hand up. “Hey, wait a
minute. I’m not saying that’s
how things are, I’m just guessing. Maybe I’m wrong?”
nodded but her eyes were dark in thought. “Yeah,
maybe…but I think you’re onto something here.”
sat quietly and then wondered if the warrior knew she was going through her
usual ritual of drills while she was simultaneously conversing with her about
the serious task at hand. She was just on the verge of making a smart remark but
then Xena glanced her way and she thought better of it.
you know you’re doing drills. Fine.
I was just wondering, oh woman of many skills.”
smirked as she dipped and parried and then did a two and a half gainer, landing
in front of the portal.
helps me concentrate. Say, it’s
getting to be late afternoon. You
wanna take a stroll up on deck? You
must be getting a bit bored staying in your cabin all day, huh?”
stretched and lay back down on the bunk. “No,
I’m fine,” she sighed contentedly, amazed at just how much she’d missed
this part of their life together. Stifling
a yawn, the bard thought about how nice things were.
“All we need is Argo and everything would be just perfect.”
turned to face her. “Just
perfect, huh? Well, I hate to bring
up the task at hand, but I think things are a bit far from being perfect.”
She waved her hand at the bard. “Verdict,
oblivion, apart forever…you know?”
smiled and nodded. “I know, but
seeing you like this, Xena, and knowing you feel the same way I do…about us, I
mean. It feels so good.
I’ve wanted to reach out and touch you so many times.”
She shook her head and chortled.
well I really thought you’d have gotten my hints earlier but you never did.
And so I just thought you weren’t interested.”
both hands on her hips, Xena walked closer to the bed.
all those baths we took.”
eyebrows shot up. “Huh.
And here I thought you were just a clean freak.”
where were we? Oh yeah…verdict.
Well, Xena…this is my take on things.
If you have to suffer all the levels of hell in order to see heaven,
which is my personal view, then perhaps the hell that awaits you is indeed this
in-between state you find yourself in - able to see me and interact with me but
really unable to fully partake of the joys of a life we could have spent
took a seat on the bed. She
wasn’t too sure about the things Gabrielle was saying but there really
wasn’t any alternative. “Okay,
this is the judgment you’ve set up as punishment. You promised that
you’d never leave me so you can’t go on to the next level in the cycle of
atonement. Because of the promise
to never leave me, you’ve sentenced yourself to a life of oblivion.
You’re neither dead nor alive. Does
that make sense?”
blinked a few times, the whole idea of being ultimately responsible for her own
redemption something she’d never contemplated and she wasn’t too sure she
could even accept it as truth. Would anything or anyone have made her pay in this way?
It was too horrible a fate to even consider.
yawned. “I don’t think I’ve
been getting enough sleep, Xena. Maybe
it’s all the fresh sea air?” She
shrugged and settled herself in the bunk. “What are you thinking about?”
warrior smiled and resettled herself against the bulkhead.
“Oh, just what you said earlier.”
yawned again. “Oh.
Well, I don’t know, Xena. Although
I thought it made sense a few hours ago I’m not so sure now.
Maybe we should turn the boat around and find a Japa priest?
I’ll bet he’d know.” She
cringed as Kenji’s face resurfaced in her mind.
Xena had told how both the Ghost Killer and the monk had met their fate
at the hands of the Dark Lord. She
blinked deeply, suddenly unable to keep her eyes open.
Xena patted her arm but was lost to her own thoughts. With one last gentle sigh, the bard drifted off to sleep
leaving a very pensive warrior.
if Gabrielle was right? If you'd
spent all your life looking for peace through redemption and had never found it
then it must follow that you don't really want it...or feel you don’t deserve
it. Hence the belief that she could only find that redemption through
death. She tried so many times to
just give it up, save the day and just atone through death but it just never
worked. Xena rubbed her head in thought.
She had given it up totally to Callisto in Hell and surrendered her
mortal soul. But was it enough? She didn’t know why but it never
felt as if the total debt was paid. “It isn't one religion that
will absolve you. It isn't one
power that will judge you.” Suddenly it seemed perfectly obvioius that
peace and redemption would only be found within her own heart. She had to
believe she was worth it. Xena steepled her fingers under her chin, deep
in thought. But was she?
Gabrielle had been the key all along because she offered up selfless
love. There was nothing in it for her to gain, quite the opposite. Loving
someone who is in direct opposition to what you believe in would be horribly
difficult. The words of Lao Ma swam before her eyes.
“It’s easy to serve someone you love but very difficult to serve or
love someone or something you hate.” And
didn’t she represent everything that Gabrielle had spent her life despising?
Love couldn’t be helpless in the face of cruelty, it just didn’t make
sense - wrong could never be right.
then it all made sense. Although
Gabrielle had tried to save her through selfless love, the truth was she
couldn’t because the only person who could save Xena was…Xena.
tucked the blanket a little tighter around the bard’s form.
Gabrielle moved slightly in her sleep but didn’t awaken.
Xena blinked in the darkness, never once believing that she could ever
experience the pleasure of sharing a night with the bard again.
She wasn’t too sure why she hadn’t disappeared when dusk had fallen
but she was pleased anyway. “Why
look a gift horse in the mouth? And
I’m no Trojan.”
do ghosts go when they dream? Xena
had no idea that ghosts could even dream but it seemed they did.
One moment she was sitting near the bard, watching the bard murmur in her
sleep, and the next she was back in the courtroom.
This time there was no jury, no audience, and no counsellors.
The only person in the room was the judge. Xena’s curiosity was piqued again as she examined the
you ready for sentencing?” boomed the voice.
This time, however, Xena didn’t feel any fear nor did she hesitate in
do you feel worthy of receiving this sentence?”
mouth hung open as the figure pushed back the cloak revealing someone wearing
her face. In fact, it was
her, or rather the person she’d been before Cortese. She didn’t know how she knew…she just did.
have been found guilty of being worthy. Your sentence is up to you.”
And with that, the courtroom disappeared and she was back aboard the
was still sitting against the bulkhead when rays of sunshine began to fill the
cabin. Taking only a few moments to
resettle her bracers, gauntlets and boots, Xena stood up, shook the night’s
inactivity from her body, and then kissed the bard’s brow.
and shine, sleepy head.”
groaned. “Is it dawn already?”
smiled. “Yeah, has been for
hours. I’m going topside to do my
drills. You coming?”
The bard yawned and then rolled over.
Silence. “C’mon, sleepy
head. I said,”
right, all right…I’m up. I
heard you, I did.”
Captain nodded to his shipmate and sipped a new cup of hot tea.
He motioned to another man who promptly went to adjust the sail.
His tea finished, the cup was taken away and the Captain was left alone
again. Early morning was his
favourite time of the day. His
morning prayers over, he was left to enjoy the birth of a new day and take pure
pleasure in all that life at sea had to offer.
bowed deeply as the young foreigner came up on deck.
He made a mental note to make sure someone looked in on her a little
later. Although the cook reported
that the tray of food had been all but consumed, he was worried.
She spent far too much time alone and some of the ship’s crew had
mentioned hearing voices coming from her cabin.
Had the grief of losing the other foreigner been so great that she had
been driven mad? He shuddered. For the sake of he and his crew, he hoped not.
Many demons could make their presence felt aboard ship, cursing the
inhabitants to a life of misery and doom. He
wondered if it was time to say something to the woman?
finished off another set of intricate drills and was in the act of replacing
some of her armour when the bard strolled up, the katana neatly tucked into the
belt at her waist. “Hi, I’m
ready for more drills if you are,” said Gabrielle as she felt her knees go
weak. She always enjoyed watching
the warrior move through her drills but took great pleasure in any sparring
matches with the woman. ‘She’s
Xena could have blushed she would have.
head popped up. “What?”
said I was perfect. I’m anything
but that, Gabrielle. However,”
She replaced her sword in her scabbard. “I
am worthy of the love you feel for me.” Gabrielle looked at her quizzically.
figured it out, Gabrielle. In order
to be redeemed I have to believe I’m worthy of it and then just believe it.”
mouth dropped open. “That’s
all? Why couldn’t I have thought
of it for you?”
smiled, remembering just how many fanciful stories the bard thought up – man
originating in the oceans, stars really being planets.
She covered a smirk.
I’m sure you would have, Gabrielle. But you fell asleep so the job was left to me.”
She smiled widely as the bard held a hand up.
“Yeah, yeah…a woman of many skills.”
Then Gabrielle leaned in and kissed the warrior right on the mouth.
Xena peeked over the woman’s head, checking to see who might be
watching and then rolled her eyes. No
one could see her.
smiled expectantly. “Yeah, so?”
sorted through her equipment and pulled out the black urn.
“Well, like I said…I think I’ve figured it out.
If I believe I’m worthy of atonement and am therefore redeemed then it
should simply be a case of believing that I am my own judge.”
watched the warrior move to the railing with unease.
“What are you doing?”
shrugged. “Well, I think in order
to come back my ashes have to be…gone…wet…I don’t know, maybe a
combination of the two.” She
shrugged her shoulders and made a face. “I
know this isn’t the Fountain of Strength but maybe that comes from within?”
shook her head slowly. “Oh, I
don’t know about this, Xena.”
want you to do it, Gabrielle.”
Xena, please don’t ask me. What
if I’m wrong?”
trust you with my life. You have to
do it, Gabrielle. Pour the
Xena…what if we’ve got it all wrong? I’ll not only have lost you but your remains, too.”
warrior smiled and hugged the bard close. “It’ll be okay. Besides,
think of it this way: I’ll be
fishing for eternity.” The bard
nudged her with an elbow. “That’s
not funny,” she sniffled, but laughed a little anyway.
have to believe we’ve figured it out, Gabrielle.
I have to.” She stood a little taller.
“I am worthy of redemption, my atonement is complete, and
I’m worthy of not only giving love but accepting it, too.”
smiled as the bard tickled her neck with her lips.
“Yes, you are. I’ve
always loved you, Xena, and if nothing else I’m glad that I’ve finally been
able to tell you.”
squeezed her once and then pushed her toward the railing.
“Go on.” She kissed the
woman’s head and then stepped back. Closing
her eyes and praying silently, Gabrielle gritted her teeth and then tipped the
urn over. A light wind picked up
some of the ashes and they seemed to dance across the water until finally
settling on a wave. The image
taking shape almost resembled a circle and Gabrielle leaned over to take a
Xena? Look…does that look like
a…hey, it looks like that mendhi you had on your foot.”
She turned. “Do you see
it, Xena?” But the deck was empty
but for the Captain who bowed deeply and then settled his eyes back on the
Xena. You’d better be here in the
morning or I’ll,” she wiped a tear away, “I’ll find you and never let
Captain came over a few hours later and placed a heavy shawl around her
must believe.” He bowed again,
placing the palms of his hands together. “Who are you?” she asked in a strained voice.
He smiled a secret smile. “I
am a Shinto priest, warrior. My
bloodline is tied to Akemi’s and it is with her instructions that I offered my
boat and my services as your Captain. She
thought you might need guidance but I see that you do not.”
He hesitated, his eyes all but caressing the weapon at the woman’s
side. “I would be most honoured
if you would allow me to return the sacred katana to the place of my ancestors
at the end of the voyage. ”
smiled. “I think Akemi would like
that, yes.” Then Gabrielle turned
away and looked out across the darkening sky.
‘Come back to me, Xena.’
mind was filled with questions and dark thoughts, jealousy and vengeance pulling
her this way and that. What part
did Akemi play now that her soul was set free? A feeling of panic hit her as she thought of Akemi and Xena
together on the spirit plane. She
had seduced the warrior once, would Xena be susceptible to it again?
Pushing those thoughts away, Gabrielle began the task of emptying her
mind of all negativity and centring herself completely.
She had to believe their bond was unbreakable.
If the past few days had shown her anything, it was that Xena’s
devotion was just as strong as her own. Finally,
with much urging from the Captain, Gabrielle slowly made her way back down to
her cabin. Her muscles were very
tight and sore from the damp cold air so she snuggled deeply beneath the
blankets. Beside her on the bed lay
the empty urn and Xena’s chakram.
slightly, Gabrielle awoke in the middle of the night and moved a little in an
attempt to find warmth. Sighing
contentedly, she murmured sweetly as two strong arms cuddled her close.
is it dawn already?” She opened
one eye but saw the room was still very dark.
not for a few hours yet.”
grunted noncommittally, and then jerked fully awake, moving a little until she
was facing the warrior. “Then
Warrior Princess smiled in the darkness. “I
guess the verdict was in our favour.”
bard sat up and screamed. “Really?
Oh thank you, thank you, thank you…what ever gods were listening, thank
smiled in the moonlight. “Hey,
you’re freezing. Let me warm you
then she was pulled down into a kiss and the need for warming a bard up
vanished. A few murmurs later,
Gabrielle pulled away. “You
don’t have your leathers on. How
chortled the warrior, “I thought we might start making up for lost time.”
mouth was covered with another deep kiss. “You
thought right, warrior mine.”
groaned as her fingers danced lightly across the bard’s rapidly exposed skin.
“I knew it would be like this.”
Gabrielle captured the warrior’s fingers and placed hot kisses on each
one before nibbling her way up to the wrists.
“So did I.”
almond eyes twinkled in the moonlight.
a fury of passion, two breaths of wind unite and become as one, and then
disappear into each other. Be well,
warrior and bard.” Akemi
smiled and then deeply bowed. “I
will see you again on the next plane, Arminestra."
Time Goes By’, by Herman Hupfeld