Gabrielle heard an approach. She had fallen asleep. The lodge was dark.
How long had she been unaware? Her
hand took hold of her knife prying it from the dirt.
Held in hand she focused on its weight and balance.
It was her only means to debilitate the aggressor.
She felt weak. Her head fell back. Her breath was shallow. The wetness surrounding her wound had traveled
down her tunic. With the blood loss went her
The voices were muted. There were at least two. And then came the motion. The entrance leather cover was flung aside. With this came a minor light. Her head fell forward. She did not have the power to hold it erect. She was attentive to the shuffle of feet moving
towards her. She looked ahead. Before her were vague outlines of legs and feet. She felt a body coming closer. She raised the knife and cried out. A hand grabbed her wrist halting the thrust.
Ariel knelt before her queen. Gabrielle, its all right. Youre safe now.
Gabrielle dropped the knife and fell
into Ariels arms. Ariel held Gabrielle
guardedly. She felt a rising panic. How close was death? She shouted.
Damia, help me! Jamine run
ahead and tell Malina we are bringing Gabrielle.
Ariel quickly examined her queen. An
arrow wound to the shoulder. Ariel
looked down at her own hand. It was covered
with Gabrielles blood. Shes
lost a lot of blood
Jamine heard the second assessment just
as she set at a run towards the village. The
Captain of the Guards was tall and lanky. She
moved like a doe over the forest floor alarmed by the image of Gabrielles blood
soaked body. Her vision was split between
what she was facing ahead of her and what she just left behind. To counter the disorientation she was feeling she
focused on her breath. Her lungs expanded and
contracted. Each breath giving her the means
to close the distance to their healer.
Damia came to Ariels assistance. Who would have done this?
I dont know. Whoever it was will see the end of my sword.
Tovi came to Ariel who was standing
outside of Gabrielles lodge. I
want to see her.
Ariel was dispassionate. You will.
Tovi insisted. When?
Ariels patience thinned. When I say so.
Thats not good
The Northern queens fury
surfaced. Someone just tried to kill my
Tovi pressed. Our Queen.
Ariels accusation was
unforgiving. Right! The queen you have tried to use to your own
The truth was bitter. I never imagined something like this would
Of course not.
Tovi looked beyond Ariel to the
queens quarters. Ariel, she is my
queen too. And she was also becoming my
friend. Tovi reined in her fear. She lowered her voice and turned her gaze back to
Ariel whose own eyes were fixed upon the dirt. How
The uninterrupted heart beats only
measured a false calm. Ariel exploded. She thrust her arm against the void. Her anger was keen but it had no target. I dont know! She froze in place.
Only her rapid breath betrayed her. She
felt crazed. She knew this feeling. It came to her in the heat of battle. But here she had no one to fight. She wanted to match swords with the assailant. The Fates did not oblige her. Not yet. Instead
Tovi stood beside her. Tovi was struggling as
well. They should help one another. Ariel knew this.
It was just so hard to be so helpless. When
she spoke, what carried across the narrowing distance, was her feeling of defeat. By the time I got her back here her blood
covered my own clothes.
The two women stood before each other
silently. It was a painfully grave moment. Tovi needed to know more. Did she say anything.
Ariels hadnt the strength
to disguise her despair. Nothing.
Gabrielle felt the soft warmth of the
blanket over her body. A feather pillow lay
underneath her head. The pain in her shoulder
had eased. Her mouth was dry. She felt a human touch. Xena?
Im sorry my Queen but I am
not Xena. Do you wish me to send for
Gabrielle opened her eyes. An elder stood over her. The womans hair was silver with age. But her blue eyes were as bright and clear as a
childs. How bad is it?
The elder covered Gabrielles hand
with her own. You lost a great deal of
blood. You will need to rest to regain your
strength. If there is no infection I will
grant you leave from your sick bed in a handful of days.
Who found me?
Ariel, Damia and Jamine had
sought you out.
How long have I been
It is well past midnight. The elders voice conveyed a thoughtful
concern. My Queen, should I send for
No, not yet.
Are you sure?
I want to talk to Ariel
She has been impatient to see
Please call her.
Not yet my Queen. You need to drink liquids and I must change your
dressing. If you do not fight me I will allow
you your visitors.
Who is queen here?
You alone. As your healer my responsibility is to care for
you in spite of your better judgment.
I will add your name to the great
healers whose services I have had the misfortune to need.
I am honored.
Tovi and Ariel stood before their
queen. Ariel had finished her report
describing how Gabrielle had been found. Without
invitation Ariel had exonerated Tovi by noting that she had been within Ariels eye
view during most of the evening. Gabrielle
took notice of the apparent attention the Northern queen was bestowing upon the Southern
queen. There was no hint that distrust was
Ariels motivation. There was in fact a
resonating connection between the two. Gabrielle
could only hope that the distress of the moment did not taint the emerging bond.
Gabrielle needed to ask. And Seda?
Ariel was indignant. I cant imagine the old crone could
still pull a bow.
Tovis responded with a formal
petition. Ariel, Seda is our priestess
and though you disagree with her faith she still deserves to be treated with
Ariel would have none of Tovis
correction. She spit her words. The same respect she showed our altar.
Tovi held firm. She would not suffer her dignity for this
inconsiderate exchange. It was an
unfortunate demonstration. As Sedas
queen I have given you my apology.
Ariel felt the notice of both women. Gabrielle had remained silent as the two argued
out their frustrations. Ariel knew she was
the instigator and thus it was for her to close the subject. She turned away from Tovis gaze and walked
toward the door. You owe me no apology. Sedas attitude is of no consequence. There will be no breach between us.
Tovi felt free to defend her kinswoman. She spoke to Gabrielle. It was not Seda.
Pivoting her body Ariel turned. One of her followers then?
Gabrielle was weary. She would soon need to rest. Tovi will speak to Seda.
Tovi understood she was being
dismissed. She bowed to her queen. As she raised her eyes she caught Ariels
gaze. Tovi was uncertain of what she saw in
the Northern queen. It was obvious that
Ariel was not ready to leave Gabrielles company.
Gabrielle waited for Tovis
departure. Ariel, tell me. Can you be certain of any of your tribe
Yes, my Queen. I for one. Damia
and Jamine who were with me when we found you. We
were together from the moment you left us at the mid-day meal.
You said the attack came when the
sun had traveled three-quarters toward the horizon.
Im sure the three of us
could name the women near by. Do you want a
There could have been more than
one conspiring against my life but my senses tells me that there was only one in the wood. The more women that can vouch for their presence
the better. I want you, Damia and Jamine to
discretely speak to the tribeswomen. They are
not to think they are being questioned. Let
them know the time of the attempt on my life and try to learn where they were and who they
were with. Compare your findings. I want to know all the women who were alone or
whose companion did not vouch her story. Ariel,
if it takes days to complete this task without stirring bad feelings it will be well worth
Gabrielle slept fitfully. The pain in her shoulder was not the primary
cause. She needed to decide whether to summon
Xena. She awoke with the morning dove. Soon afterwards she reached for a scroll and pen. Would that a muse would whisper in her ear as she
completed her task.
Tovi came to Gabrielle immediately
after receiving her summons. My
Gabrielle was sitting up in her bed. Tovi perceived no improvement in her queens
complexion. She feared that it had worsened
throughout the night. In the light of day
Gabrielle was pale and worn. However, the
strength in her voice gave reassurance. Tovi,
I need to ask a favor.
Gabrielle marked Tovis lack of
hesitation. She believed she could indeed ask
anything of the young queen. Gabrielle took
the scroll from her bedside. I want you
to deliver this scroll to Xena. Wait for a
response and return immediately.
Tovi swallowed her disappointment. I would be honored to be your
The anointed messengers pout was
transparent. Gabrielle would have smiled if
she didnt fear giving offense. She
needed to explain. I have my reasons
for asking you. I need someone I trust to
deliver this message. I dont expect
Xena to take my words easily. Im also
concerned about how your tribe will react to my attempted assassination. I believe it will be reassuring to your people to
see that you are well. I need you to keep the
calm. And, Im counting on you to travel
Tovi felt a rising shame. She underestimated Gabrielle. Her queen had commissioned her with a sacred
trust. She took the scroll in hand. It will be done.
Thank you. Gabrielles voice was throaty. Tovi measured her queen. She regretted her flawed plan. In the hours of the night she had tried to justify
her actions by arguing that Gabrielle had been aware of her intentions. Still, she felt Ariel was fair to accuse her of
duplicity. She had used both Ariel and
Gabrielle and could find no solace in arguing that the means justified the anticipated
end. An end that was unraveling as doubt and
fear touched the heart of the Northern village.
Not knowing what the morrow would bring
Tovi was compelled to speak. My
Gabrielle wondered what remained
Tovi matched the queens gaze and
then looked away. Im sorry.
Gabrielle nodded. I know.
Now go, and travel with an easy heart.
Tovi felt a profound relief. She wanted to thank Gabrielle for her generosity
but she also felt any more words would intrude. Redeemed
by the queens grace Tovi bowed and left.
I give you my word that I am well. I took an assassins arrow in my shoulder. The wound is near to the one I suffered from the Persians. No poison this time.
I beg you to stay in the south. If you come to me the passions of both tribes will
only rise. Now more than ever there must be
I hope to return to you by the crescent
moon. The wound I need healed is not of the
flesh. I feel this betrayal in my soul. Whoever tried to take my life is against
everything the sisterhood stands for. It is
not easy for me to forgive.
Xena continue to hold the scroll. Her eyes returned to the words, I am
There must be calm
forgive. And then the last, Gabrielle. She raised her eyes. Cici stood impatiently. Xena knew Gabrielle was right. She had to stay as a calming influence. She was certain Gabrielle knew it would take all
the control she was capable of to do so.
Xena looked to Tovi who remained
impassioned during the silence. Gabrielle
said her wound
Cici cried out. Wound.
Xena was non-pulsed. She spoke deliberately. Gabrielle took an arrow in her
shoulder. Xena returned her focus to
the messenger. Tovi, tell me the truth. How is she?
Tovi responded with a reassuring
composure. She suffered blood loss. Enough to weaken her. Melina, our healer, dressed the wound and has
given her herbs to fight infection. Our queen
is strong. Tovis last statement
was stated with a gentle smile. And
Xena concurred. Yes, she is both.
Cici interrupted. When do we leave?
Xenas impatience had grown fine. We dont. We wait.
Cici would not be deterred. Xena, someone tried to kill Gabrielle!
Tovi defended her people. Xena, you know the depth of our allegiance
to Gabrielle. Whoever harmed her is not of
Not in sisterhood, Tovi. But the assassin may still be standing beside you
as an Amazon. What were your
To return immediately.
How long have you traveled.
You did well. Rest here tonight.
See me before you leave in the morning.
Tovi knew that before Xena she was not
a queen but a subject. There was no place for
ego or pride. Of course.
Xena turned and began to walk away. Her heart was consuming all space in her chest. She found it hard to breathe.
Cici watched Xenas departure in
disgust. What kind of love does Xena
claim to have for Gabrielle?
Tovi remembering her promise to her
queen suppressed her anger.
Tovi sought out Karis at the cross
bridge construction site. She caught sight of
her premier engineer standing off the trail where she could view the bridge in its
totality. Karis surveyed the days work
and planned what needed be done next. She
would share her thoughts with Xena at morning meal. She
had learned a few new techniques from the Warrior Princess.
She took pride in knowing that she was able to teach Xena a few of her own
construction innovations. The finesse
exhibited by the two had one common element, nuance.
It was a matter of looking to the minute detail, as well as to consider all the
elements that would impact the bridges utility from anticipated use to the affects
of heat and cold, and dry and wet weather. Karis
was more than satisfied with their progress. Xena,
and to a lesser extent she begrudgingly admitted, Cici, were both valuable assets. Karis also enjoyed the prospect of Tovis
return. She valued Tovis regard above
all others. Securing Tovis assessment
of her projects was always an unspoken motivation. Tovi
was Karis sole family and she had never lost the deep-rooted need to hear that she
had done well.
Youve made great
Startled, Karis turned sharply drawing
her knife, not having had time to absorb the meaning of the spoken words and the identity
of the speaker. Before her, stood Tovi. Karis challenged, I could have killed
For the first time in many days Tovi
felt light at heart. Last time I give
you a complement.
Karis struggled with what seemed a
ghost. What are you doing here?
Reminded of her mission Tovi renewed
her seriousness, Playing messenger between Gabrielle and Xena. I return to the north tomorrow.
Karis allowed herself a gentle gibe. Messenger?
Does this reflect the esteem Gabrielle holds for our queen or did you simply seek
an excuse to come back to friendly grounds?
Gabrielle took an arrow to the
shoulder by an unknown assassin.
She is healing well. She had good reason to send me back with a
Have you seen Xena?
Yes, she is hard to read. Gabrielle has asked her to stay here.
I dont think shell do
She will. She said as much.
Im surprised. As Karis regained her composure she judged
Tovis state of health. To say Tovi
looked ragged would have been generous. Her
fatigue was clear to any eye that could see. You
look tired. How long have you traveled?
You couldnt have gotten any
Have you eaten?
I rather sleep.
Then lets get back to the
Karis, Im worried. We need to make sure no one from our tribe shot
You dont really
Tovi interjected. No, I dont but I must prove it. Anyway, Xena will demand an accounting. Its better if I offer than wait for her to
make the demand.
Youre right. She wont expect anything less. If only so she feels she is being useful.
Come, lets walk. Tell me. How
have you gotten along with the Warrior Princess?
Good. She is a gifted engineer. I wonder if there is a limit to her knowledge. And, no one works harder. Karis chuckled.
Xena has little patience for fools. Cici
found herself taking the brunt of Xenas ire more than once.
Cici? What did she do?
No surprises. She wagged her acid tongue and would wait for no
one. Not an acceptable ethic, especially for
the work were doing. Its hard to
see what Ariel finds attractive in the miserable snipe.
I dont presume to know what
goes on behind closed doors.
Well, I have a healthy
imagination and I dont hesitate to guess. They
did keep separate quarters while Ariel was here. I
dont think royal discretion or an inordinate modesty would have kept them
Enough, before you make me
Since when have you been so
Tovi preferred to change the topic. Any other news?
Karis lovingly put her arm around
Tovis shoulder. No, my Queen. You can rest assure that your people have gotten
along fine without you.
The three stood before the queen. Jamine spoke her frustration. It doesnt make sense. The few that were alone havent the skills to
shoot a bow.
Maybe that is why Im still
Damia objected. The arrow was too close to your heart to
make light of your assassins skills.
Gabrielle was touched by Damias
passion. The hunting party?
Jamine reported. They were hunting on the east plateau and
were within sight of each other.
Damia interjected. Unless the lies are many I dont know
what to think?
Gabrielle looked to Ariel who had
remained silent during the exchange. My
Queen, what if it was not one of our tribeswomen? What
if by killing you on our lands we were meant to bear the shame of your death? I would not wish to face justice at the end of
Xenas sword were she in such unimaginable grief. The young warrior took a step forward. I do not say this to lessen our
responsibility. Our guards failed to keep a
I understand. Gabrielle had had the same thought. For now she would not echo it. The question was then what woman in the Southern
tribe had been away from the community for at least three to four days?
Xena entered her quarters. The nights murmurs did not soothe her. For days she had been haunted and today she
learned why. She had not spoken her concern
to anyone. Instead she tried to use the work
on the bridge as a means to placate her presentiment.
She did not want to be where she stood. She
did not want the separation for another moment.
Gabrielle closed her eyes. She felt Xena envelop her in an embrace.
My Queen? Jamine interrupted Gabrielles reverie.
Gabrielle opened her eyes. Its late. Well talk in the morning.
Damia and Jamine nodded ascent and
exited. Ariel stayed.
Gabrielle waited for the remaining
warrior to leave. When it became apparent
Ariel would be a lingering companion Gabrielle voiced a curious, Yes? to break
Many are quick to anger. Our inquiries were taken as accusations. Some of my sisters feel you do not trust
them. Ariel paused to gather her
quickening thoughts. There is a sense
It was difficult for Gabrielle to hear
this admonition. She felt a growing
disappointment in the young queen. She had
given direction to take care, to be reserve in their investigations. Next time you disagree with my instructions,
Ariel shook her head as if to break
free of a bridle. I did not disagree
then and I dont disagree now. I just
thought you should know.
Gabrielle felt Ariel was abdicating her
responsibility. Whether she was doing it
consciously or simply out of ignorance was a question that needed to be posed. Ariel, there are many leaders here. You, Tovi, Seda and Isra are recognized by title
and position but you are not the only ones. Those
who have earned the respect of their sisters can change the direction of the foul wind
that courses through the woods. Dont
ignore them. Dont underestimate their
power. As queen you must do all you can to
manage their impact.
Ariel shifted her weight. Are you saying one of them shot the
It seemed to Gabrielle as if Ariel
could not hear her. What Im
saying is that my wound is the least of my worries. What
was suppose to be a friendly visit can erupt into a breach within and among the tribes. It doesnt matter how certain you may be of
Tovi. A queen must have a tribe willing to
A growing sense of desperation entered
the young warrior You are the final arbitrator.
You are the queen of north and south combined and you are the one with the
Gabrielle could see that as far as
Ariel was concern it was for her to resolve the conflict.
I am not so arrogant to believe that my voice alone will still these rising
I am confident you will.
Feeling faint Gabrielle took hold of a
nearby chair. Gabrielle met Ariels gaze. I
might if I make it through the night. Call
Ariel gave an anxious bow and left. Gabrielle closed her eyes once again. Xenas name slipped from her lips.
Xena, lying back on her pallet
concentrated on the bard. In her minds
eye she held her in an embrace both firm and tender.
Gabrielle felt the pressure and the
safety that came with it. She moved to her
pallet and lay down. She fell asleep in
Malina found Gabrielle asleep. She dismissed Ariel who had accompanied her and
then turned to her patient. The healers
touch woke the queen.
Malina censured. You promised not to over exert
Gabrielle responded with whatever
remaining humor she embodied. I never
left the room.
The healer registered an appropriate
dose of skepticism. Indeed.
Gabrielle smiled. Dont scold me. Its been a tough day.
Malina continued in her jovial mood as
she placed a fresh salve on Gabrielles wound. The
privilege of your position.
The queen sighed. Thank you.
Malina deflected her patients
gratitude. I am only practicing my
But Gabrielle would not be denied. And giving me a reason to smile.
The healer placed her palm on
Gabrielles forehead. Oh, what
joy is there in life without a smile. And
yours can break a heart. Malina swept
Gabrielles hair to the side as if her queen was a mire child.
Gabrielle was enjoying the diversion. This was all the care she needed - to be taken
away from the intrigue. Melina, are you
flirting with me?
The healer burst out in unrestrained
laughter. This old crone? You flatter me.
The queens own laughter joined in
a jubilant melody. No, it is you who
With her aged but capable hands Malina
ensured that Gabrielle was well blanketed. Get
some rest. You have no objection if I forbid
you further visitors until morning?
Gabrielle was ready to surrender to
sleep. None, whatsoever.
Good. I will enjoy putting Ariel in their place. The healer took in the queens questioning
gaze. She answered the unspoken question. Wisdom has not impressed herself upon my
young queen. It is often only with the
searing touch of life that one learns.
Gabrielle understood more than she
wanted to admit. Good night,
Sleep well, My queen. Malina walked out into the coolness of the night. Ariel and Damia stood in wait. With the wave of her hand for emphasis, the healer
made her instruction known, No more!
Ariel would not be put off. I just want to see her.
Malinas temper rose quickly. Have you not done enough to sap her
Feeling accused Ariel demanded an
explanation. What did she say.
Melina was more than willing to
chastise the young pup. Nothing. She allowed me to care for her without protest. Gabrielle is a queen. She is my queen.
You would do well to listen and observe her instead of badgering her into her sick
Damia was relieved to not be in the
line of verbal fire. Where it not for the
presence of the two Ariel would have whimpered like the very pup Melina thought her to be. Ariels dignity was sustained in the ensuing
silence. The healer walked on. Out of sight of the two Malina allowed herself the
luxury of a wicked smile
Ariel waited until mid-morning before
visiting Gabrielle. How are you
Anything I can do for you?
Stay and keep me company. Gabrielle motioned to a chair situated by her bed.
Ariel took her place. You must miss Xena. Im no substitute.
No, youre more
talkative. They shared a smile. Gabrielle continued lightheartedly. Must be hard to get a word in with
Ariels demeanor dampened. Her eyes went to her locked hands resting on her
lap. I dont know.
The queen realized her error. I was joking.
I know. Ariel looked up to Gabrielle. She can be overwhelming. Sometimes I find it hard to breathe when
shes beside me. Its not wrong to
want time away, is it?
No, I soon learned that Xena
needed to be by herself. Once I stopped
worrying whether I had gotten on her nerves or offended her in some way and just accepted
that that was the way she was it became easier.
I cant imagine
Oh, you didnt know me when
I was younger. I never stopped talking. I had so many questions. I commented on everything. In our travels everything was so new to me.
How did Xena stand it?
Gabrielle smiles more to herself than
to her visitor. It wasnt all
torture. A truth entered her memory and
she grew serious. I took Xena away from
her darkness not that I understood it at the time. Funny,
she always noticed when I got quiet. It would
be her turn to be fearful that something was wrong.
Xena, fearful? Was there something wrong?
Not always. The queen laughed, There were times I even
got tired of my own voice.
Ariel shook her head and grinned,
acknowledging the queens self-depreciating way of easing the tension. Shes changed. Ariels seriousness renewed itself. The young warrior sighed. Cici. I
dont really understand why.
You havent known each other
very long. Are you sure shes change or
are you just seeing her for who she is?
How long did it take you to know
I wonder if Ill ever
completely know Xena. We had been friends
long enough to share both joyful and difficult times.
Ariel did not veil her doubt. Friends?
Ariel, Xena and I were first
friends. It took years for us to realize and
then admit to each other that we were soul mates. And
longer still for us to become lovers. My way
is with Xena. She is my life."
The Northern queen was intrigued. Does she understand?
Oh yes. And its because she understands that
Im certain she will wait for my return.
Im not so sure. There are wagers of when we will see her
Gabrielle could not fault the mischief. And what was yours?
If it takes Tovi five days to
reach Xena I say Xena will be at your side in another three.
Youre wrong on both counts. If will take Tovi no more than four days and if
Xena chose to she would take two horses and be here in two days.
Will you wager?
No, I have an unfair
Ariel leaned back in her chair. Her focus once again went to her hands. Gabrielle observed the volatility of Ariels
mood. It flickered like a flame in a swirling
wind. What is it?
I cant pretend to
understand what you and Xena share. I do
know Cici and I dont have it.
I dont want to tell
Gabrielle wondered aloud. Are you sure she doesnt already sense
The two queens walked side-by-side. Gabrielle leaned on Ariels offered arm for
support. Malina had given Gabrielle
permission to get some exercise. She did not
delay in taking advantage of the beautiful day.
Ariel felt a growing intimacy with her
queen. Much of the original formality that
imbued their words had been set aside. It
is told that you knew Ephiny.
Gabrielle smiled at the remembrance of
her great friend. Yes, from my first
days with the Amazons.
Was she as brave as they
Yes, but more importantly Ephiny
was a wise and fair leader.
Ariel wished to confirm. She was your friend.
I loved her. The sentiment slipped easily to the surface for it
was a truth that death did not diminish. Gabrielle
noticed that her companion had grown silent. What
is it Ariel?
Ariel hesitated. I fear being misunderstood.
Dont fear the truth.
Though I am the queen of my tribe
when you are with us, I am equal to your regent am I not?
Gabrielle would not argue with the
Ariel continued. As Ephiny was.
Gabrielle stopped and fixed her gaze
upon the young warrior queen. Ephiny
was a queen in her own right.
Ariel struggled for her courage. For me to be your regent you must trust me. You must trust me with your life. You must trust that I will not betray you. That I will do whatever must be done to see your
orders are carried out. Ariels
confidence grew with each word. I
believe you hold me in such trust. I believe
that with time
Gabrielle tried to help. With time
My Queen. During this time we have spent together Ive
watched you. You have a discerning mind, a
brave and gentle heart, and a joyful smile. I
hope that we can become friends. I know I am
not Ephiny but my regard for you is sincere.
Gabrielle turned and took Ariels
arm once again and renewed their walk. Ephiny
didnt like me at first. She heard
Terreis give me her right of caste. Still, it
was hard for her to understand how I, a complete stranger could enter the Amazon nation
and suddenly become a princess. In spite of
her doubts or maybe because of them, Ephiny began to mentor me. Her first lesson was how to use a staff. That was easy compared to the lessons I needed to
learn to become a rightful queen. Both Xena
and Ephiny kept close to me as I faced the challenges of leadership. I still have Xena.
And in my heart I will always have Ephiny. She
still speaks to me. I havent lost her. You never lose a true friend. The two continued to walk in silence. After a few steps Gabrielle mused. Ive often wondered why it can be so
hard to tell a friend you love them. You
share your hopes and dreams, your disappointments and sorrows, you trust them with your
life but you never say I love you. At
the same time there might be someone in your life who does not touch your heart and you
allow them to believe the intimacy you share is greater than it really is.
Ariel considered her queens
words. The reason is the same. Rejection is painful to receive and to give.
But if it werent for your
honesty I wouldnt know that I can lean on more than just your arm. I wouldnt know that you are my regent for
the Northern tribe.
Its time you start calling
me Gabrielle. We wont worry about
As you wish.
Gabrielle noted the continuity of
Ariels formal address. She stopped her
progress once again. Ariel, if we are
to be friends you must see me as the woman I am, separate from my place as queen. You must feel free to take me aside and speak
frankly whether you agree or disagree with me.
Ariel offered. Will you accept my words now?
Gabrielle assured, Yes.
I thought about our meeting last
night. You will not find your assassin
Ariel was pleased. She shared her conclusion with assurance. It was a follower of Artemis.
Gabrielle again noted the quick shift
in Ariels tone. Suddenly, the Northern
queen seemed so sure of herself. Maybe. Or it could have nothing to do with the reason for
my visit. Xena and I have a knack for
The gentle correction did not diminish
Ariels confidence. With our
renewed security I can guarantee your safety.
Were there any guarantees in this
precarious life? Gabrielle wondered. Her
response took a slightly different tone. There
is more to life than safety.
When do we leave?
Gabrielle smiled approvingly. I should be strong enough to travel in a
day. We wont leave until I can defend
Xena would approve.
Im not sure she
wouldnt forgive an imprudent act if it brought me back to her a day earlier.
Xena, Im ready to
Xena had not slept. She hated the moment. Tovi, please give this to Gabrielle and
Tovi took the offered scroll in hand. You wont come?
No. Xena spoke softly holding in a temper that had no
patience with such a question. Tovi did not
conceal her smile well. Xena spied it and
demanded, Why are you smiling.
Tovi realize the discourtesy of her
behavior. I just won a wager. Xenas gaze could have killed. Tovi attempted to abate the danger. I meant no disrespect. I said you would honor Gabrielles wishes and
wait for her.
Xena steadied her desire to slap the
fools who thought her pain was worthy of a wager. Very
Xena, I know its hard but I
believe my queen is wise in what she has asked of you.
The warrior had enough. Tovi you know nothing of what I feel. If I had gone it would have been a reflection of
my weakness not Gabrielles. In these
things she has always been the stronger. It
takes both wisdom and strength to lead. Many
know what should be done, few can stand alone and do it.
Gabrielle is not alone, she has
Your wrong. As long as she remains your queen she is alone. Even I cant take away her burden. Now go and keep her safe.
With my life. Tovi felt her foolish error deeply. She wished she could have somehow taken back the
last few moments and started anew. Impossible,
she did the only thing she could do. She
pledged her life to protect her queen.
Tovi heard the contingent before she
saw them. Jamine led. Her queen and Ariel road parallel to one another. Damia trailed.
Tovis first emotion was a two-fold relief.
To see her queen strong enough to travel and to find friends on her journey. She guided her mare back on the path in ready
sight of her new traveling companions.
Jamine turned to Gabrielle. Its Tovi.
Ariel spoke the most comforting
thought. Shell have a message
Tovi was cheerful Its a good day. I didnt expect to see you return so
Jamine spoke with a lingering edge of
criticism. Our queens work for
now is done in the north.
Tovi was cautious. Is it?
So youve made progress. I knew
our differences werent so great.
Ariel spoke softly to Gabrielle. Is Tovi na´ve or simply optimistic?
Gabrielle did not appreciate the tone. Were her optimism infectious I would make
sure you spent more time with her.
Ariel was stricken by the quip. There was truth in Gabrielles not too subtle
Tovi maneuvered her mare to
Gabrielles side. I hope
youre feeling better.
Good enough to travel. Gabrielle was impatient with the courtesies. Did you find Xena well.
Tovi spoke honestly. She was distressed to learn of your injury. She asked that I give you this. Tovi reached into her saddlebag and retrieved a
Ariel and Tovi exchanged knowing
glances. It was Ariel who offered Gabrielle
relief It would be a good time to rest
Tovi concurred. Yes, I could use a rest as well.
Gabrielles gaze encompassed both. Thank you my friends. I wont be long. The queen swung her leg over her saddle and
dismounted by holding the saddle horn with her good arm as she gently slid her body down. Ariel held the reins of Gabrielles mount as
her queen walked away, seeking a modicum of solitude.
Her escorts silently watched her.
Gabrielle walked until she came to a
small clearing. A large stone provided a
place to rest. She broke the wax seal and
unrolled the scroll.
I am at a loss for words. Last night I
reached out for you and felt your wound. It
pained me more that I was not with you. I
will stay as you ask but know that it is my place to be with you. Your are my first light. All comes from you.
Gabrielle shed a single tear. She whispered. And you are my light.
Tovi was unwavering in keeping her
injured queen within her sight. It
wasnt long before Gabrielle returned to the contingent and without word secured
Xenas scroll in her saddlebag. Everyone
followed their queens lead and mounted. Their
pace was steady. Tovi knew her remaining
three traveling companions matched her interest. A
number of suggestions to moderate their effort were forwarded but Gabrielle was determined
to ride as far as the horses could endure which all knew was less than what their queen
would endure given the opportunity. During
the remaining days travel, the queens unyielding resoluteness was conveyed by
her steadfast silence.
With dusk upon them, they made camp and
ate a diet of bread, fruit and cheese. Gabrielles
fatigue was great. She laid her bedroll at
the perimeter of the camp and fell quickly into a deep sleep. Xenas scroll rested near her hand. Jamine was on watch. Damia rested for second watch. Ariel and Tovi sat quietly by the fire.
Tovi spoke softly. Im afraid for Gabrielle.
Ariel attempted to reassure. Shes stronger than you may
I heed Malinas caution. Gabrielle is mortal. I dont think my concern is any more than
Xenas and she knows Gabrielle better than anyone of us could hope to.
When did you speak to
Before I left. I stopped by her lodge. I was hoping to secure a promise that our queen
would be waiting for me upon my return. Malina
pledged her best skills would be devoted to making Gabrielle well but in the same breath
she said that the goddess takes a soul when she is ready and Gabrielle was as mortal as
any other Amazon.
Tasting Malinas bitter reproach
anew, Ariel desired to redirect the conversation. How
did she react? Xena?
True to legend. Stoic. She
told me to see her before I left and then she walked away to be alone. There are no queens as far as Xena is
None except Gabrielle.
No, I disagree. In Xenas eyes Gabrielle is not a queen. There is no distance between them.
Ariel accentuated her next questions
with the rhythm of her voice. Can you
imagine dying on the cross side by side? What
kind of bond holds them?
Tovi maintained a modest tone. The kind the poets can only dream
Ariel did not hide her awe. To know such love. Or a love that would simply near it.
Tovi was thoughtful. When I think of the Warrior Princess and the
Bard of Poteidaia, I have hope that anything is possible.
When the distance seems the greatest there may be an unknown bridge that will make
the crossing possible.
I wonder, what has made their
I dont know. Whatever it is, its theirs alone. The world will always be on the outside of the
life they share.
Ariel took note of Tovis gentle
heart. You are a romantic.
The Southern queen affirmed. Yes, I am.
Ariel attempted to confirm what she
believed to be a fact. But you are
Tovi answered the question true to
Ariels terms. Yes.
Ive wondered about that
You could have any partner you want.
Tovi allowed a subdued smile. Ive had a few follies but nothing
true. I rather be alone than feel the
loneliness of being with a woman who is not my mate in heart and soul.
Ariel was somewhat dismissive. You ask for everything.
Tovi refused to compromise. Anything less is nothing.
The Northern queen thus concluded. Then I have nothing with Cici.
Tovi was taken by surprise. Ariel looked away into the fire. They fell silent.
The quick flicker of her truth had subdued Ariels bravado. A truth had escaped her and leaped into the space
situated between her and Tovi. She
didnt know why but she wanted Tovi to understand.
She needed Tovi to understand. I
shared the same truth with Gabrielle before we left my village. When you stand witness to a love shared as
Gabrielle and Xena share theirs, the lies pale in contrast and you. Ariel stopped.
She was being too objective. Her words
were lifeless. I, its I who cannot deny
the lies. Im grateful that I
havent taken Cici to my bed. I think
thats one reason shes become desperate with me.
As if bedding each other would fill the emptiness. Ariel paused.
Her discomfort was acute. This
has become a mournful conversation. With good
travel we will be at your village by the morrows evening meal. There will be at least on joyful reunion to take
Tovi was sincere. Im sorry.
Dont be. The pity is when one doesnt even see the
lie. Ariel took Tovi in. She enjoyed the company of this philosopher queen. This thought led to another. I almost forgot. I have something for you. Ariel got up and went to her things. She returned with a satchel. You left your scrolls.
Tovi took them in hand. I wanted to travel lightly.
Ariel quipped. Im sure your mount appreciated the
lesser weight. She then spoke
seriously. I didnt know if or
when you would have reason to return to the north.
Tovi inquired. Did you ever think I left the scrolls as an
excuse to return to your village?
Ariel stumbled. I thought you said you wanted to travel
The Southern queen was enjoying
herself. Couldnt I have more than
Tovi, you dont need a
pretense to visit us.
Here, Tovi took advantage to broach a
painful subject. In spite of my
manipulation of you and Gabrielle?
Ariel considered the woman before her. In her own mind she had swept aside the weight of
their previous confrontation. I
apologize. I spoke harshly.
No. You spoke the truth. It was the truth that was harsh. I tried to tell myself that because Gabrielle
understood what I was doing, I hadnt really manipulated her.
From our first private
What did she say?
It was more how she said what she
Ariel smiled. I know.
She does have her way. Ariel sat
down beside Tovi. Gabrielle is my
queen. I dont want to but it seems as
if I keep disappointing her.
She has a forgiving heart.
Yes, she does.
I hope she will be as generous
Why? What did you do?
I behaved badly with Xena.
You dont seem the worst for
I smiled when I learned she would
not return with me. She demanded an
explanation. I mentioned the wager.
Tovi, you didnt.
I know. I should tell Gabrielle.
I dont envy you.
Grant me your pity. Tovi weighed the scrolls in her hands. Her voice dripped with irony. And I aspire to obtain wisdom.
The north meadow has always been
Gabrielles favorite respite. The
landscape of this small piece of earth is as familiar to Xena as the space traveled from
Gabrielles neck to her lower spine. Lying
together naked Xena has traveled that landscape with awe and passion. Gabrielles beauty is her simplicity of
curved flesh, supporting bone and connecting muscle.
The brook cutting across the meadow, the clusters of trees holding up the heavens,
the tall dry grasses sweeping back and worth with the wind connecting all the modes of
life that live within, between, underneath and above them.
Gabrielle said she could stand among the grasses and hear the poetry of the world
composed for her ears alone. Gabrielle had
confessed that she has known no greater peace than their time alone sleeping under the
great tree with the stars and moon as their light.
Xena stood among the grasses. They reached up to her forearm. Soon they would be harvested. She felt the grasses brush against her skin, the
sensation a stroke, a tacit gesture of the grace of life.
Eyes closed and self stilled she felt Gabrielles presence. She felt the wound further healed and less painful
to movement or touch, she felt Gabrielles touch of comfort, promise of return.
Gabrielle stood under the great oak. The sun at the horizon would soon be lost to her
until the dawn. She found the figure of Xena
in the center of the meadow. The five had
traveled hard to reach the village before nightfall.
Gabrielle did not need to be told Xenas whereabouts. She knew. She
knew that there was a greater intimacy here in the meadow than in the queens
Xenas emotions threaten to break
her asunder. After knowing such a love there
was little sweetness in life without its source. She
felt Gabrielle so close. The feeling was a
torturous gift. She surrendered to it. She allowed it to consume her.
The touch upon her forearm felt so
real, the familiar weight of Gabrielles gentle hand.
The gesture that called Xenas attention to the bard, safely pressed not to
startle or cause an instinctive violent reaction. She
heard the whisper of her name coaxing her free from her reverie. She turned very much in a dream state.
Gabrielle took great care in her
The warrior felt the loss of touch as
she turned. The touch renewed once her motion
stilled but with an added pressure. Against
her own desire, for she would stay in his safe, gentle dream state, she honored the
beckoning voice and opened her eyes. The
dream was now made flesh. Stunned Xena
hesitated. Dream was now flesh. She stepped forward fearful to touch where there
might be a wound. Her hand hovered inches of
Where were you?
Xena confessed. With you.
Im here now. Hold me.
Xena gently took Gabrielle in her arms. I dont want to hurt you.
Xena, Ive been wanting
nothing but you. Please hold me. I need to feel you.
Dont let me go.
Permission granted Xena embraced
Gabrielle completely. Gabrielle sighed
Xenas name in relief.
I sent Tovi back to you.
We met her on the path. Ariel, Damia and Jamine were my escorts.
Xena pulled back. They should have been with you. Xena explored Gabrielles wound. This wouldnt have happened.
Dont you mean you should
have been with me? Xena, you may have caught
the arrow if you had been with me but nothing is to say the assassin wouldnt have
just waited for a time when I was alone.
Uncomfortable with the truth, Xena
chose to mine a different vein. What
have you learned?
Everything tells me that it
wasnt a member of the Northern tribe. The
only way it could have been is if there was a great conspiracy and if that is true
Im sure I would be dead by now. It was
either a member of this village or an old enemy. Xena,
I find it hard to believe that a stranger to the Amazons could have infiltrated our
I dont know. Even our hunting parties havent been gone
for more than three days. It would take
longer than that to travel back and forth from the villages. We can check again but I dont think there is
anyone who couldnt account for themselves.
Gabrielle admitted. I cant help but think about Yakut and
how she mistakenly tried to harness Altis powers.
Xena countered. The Southern village doesnt have the
same traditions. Of the Olympian gods only
Aphrodite, Aries and Celeste have survived
Aries wouldnt do anything. Not after everything weve been through. Xena, there are other powers in this world. Powers we dont know about.
I can imagine.
Gabrielle was feeling her fatigue. Xena, I am tired.
Xenas concern for Gabrielle
heightened. Lets get back.
Id rather stay here
Another time, Gabrielle. The queens quarters is the healthiest place
for you to rest. I promise you we will sleep
under the oak one night soon.
Gabrielle took Xena in completely. From her first recognition of Gabrielles
return to the discussion of her wound there had been an abrupt shift in her demeanor. Gabrielle hoped Xena would soften anew but she did
not. Watching her from afar Gabrielle sensed
Xenas mystical self had been allowed full reign.
Ironically, once in Xenas arms Gabrielle felt the warrior had distanced
Xena felt a rising discomfort in
Gabrielles scrutiny. What is
Stop it. It was a muted plea. Its only you and me here.
Xena locked her gaze to
Gabrielles. Their eyes would speak
where words failed them. Xena turned grimly
taking a few steps away from her beloved. Gabrielle
knew to wait. This was not the first time an
injury to Gabrielle caused Xena to withdraw. Xena
looked to the heavens. She knew better than
to expect an intervention. She took a deep
breath and turned back to the bard.
Her speech was measured and stern. Dont ever ask me again to stay away
from you when youre hurt. You
wouldnt have stayed away if it was me.
Gabrielle did not have to consider long
to conclude that Xena spoke the truth. The
earth around her could have been consumed by fire but she would have battled through it to
get to Xena. She realized that the separation
was far more difficult for her partner than it had been for her. I promise.
Xena felt vindicated. She nodded and spoke one word. Good.
By it she affirmed that Gabrielle would never place her in such an untenable position
Gabrielle felt the press of her heart
within her breast. The magnitude of her
mistake was reflected in Xenas obvious struggle to maintain her crumbling fašade. It was wrenching to witness the impact of her
decision. Forgive me.
Forgiveness? Was it necessary?
Xenas stand clarified. She
understood that commingled with her concern was anger.
Not the obvious anger towards Gabrielles assailant but anger towards
Gabrielle. Gabrielle may not have been able
to prevent the arrow but
Gabrielles weak cry for help interrupted
Xenas thoughts. Gabrielles
legs buckled. Xena called
Gabrielles name as she surged and caught her bard at mid-fall. She cradled her in arms.
Gabrielle looked up to her. Im so tired.
Youre home now.
Tovi was not the only one who could
hear Cicis rants. Her verbal abuse
against Ariel was brutal. Cici demanded to
know who had stolen Ariels affections from her.
As if larceny could claim ones affections, thought Tovi. Whatever Ariel was saying in her defense it did
not penetrate the night. Like Karis before,
Tovi was left to wonder how Ariel could have considered Cici a potential partner.
Ariel stood in the center of her
quarters as Cici circled the room with mounting rage.
Cici charged, You havent given me a chance!
Ariel responded mildly, I know
what I feel and what I dont feel.
Cici stopped her pacing and approached
Ariel. Her manner was a desperate seduction. I know the art of love. Ariel, I will excite your passions. You have not known a woman like me. You cant imagine what I can do to you.
The words to you left Ariel
cold. She felt like an object used for the
pleasure and ego of another. She dreamed of
not being done to but being with another. Cici, Ive tried to explain.
Youll throw me aside?
I just dont
What is it that you want? Ever since Gabrielle and Xena returned you have
been moody. Tell me, how close are you to
our queen? Did you keep each other warm
during your travels?
Shut up! Say what you will of me but dont speak of
Tovi heard approaching footsteps. She glanced towards the north meadow path. Xena stepped out from the shadows with Gabrielle
in her arms. Tovi moved quickly. So too Damia and Jamine who were at the opposite
side of the courtyard.
Tovis question preceded her. Is Gabrielle all right?
Xena whispered. Shes just tired.
Cicis voice carried. Im sure Xena would want to know.
Xena requested an explanation. Whats going on?
Damia and Jamine joined them. Jamine inquired, Gabrielle?
Tovi preferred to answer the latter
question. Shes asleep.
Cici slammed the lodge door closed and
walked into the night. She took in the scene
of Xena with Gabrielle surrounded by the queens escorts. Without a word she entered the stable.
In a low but unrelenting voice Xena
demanded. Someone tell me what just
The escorts discomfort was
tangible. Damia and Jamine both looked to
Tovi for relief. Xenas eyes followed.
Tovi met the unspoken challenge. Ariel has severed her ties with Cici. Cici accused Ariel of dishonoring herself with our
Xena looked down to the woman she held
in her arms and placed a kiss on her forehead. The
brief silence was broken by Cici riding her mount from the stable, across the courtyard
and beyond the village gate.
Damia judged. Cicis a fool.
Jamine added. It may be best for her to put some distance
between herself and
eyes carried to Xena. Xenas poised
expression solicited a blush.
Xena requested, Tovi, can you
Lets go. Xena took a couple of steps and then held and
turned. Damia, Jamine. The hardest thing in life for me to accept is that
I cant protect Gabrielle from all harms. I
know you did your best. Thank you.
The two escorts had expected
Xenas ire not gratitude. They bowed to
her in unison. Xena posed a question to Tovi
as they walked. Did the whole village
Hard not to.
Tell Ariel to come to Gabrielle
in the morning.
Tovi opened the door to the
Xena paused at the threshold. And tell her all will be well even though
she might not think so right now.
Xena entered. Tovi gently closed the door behind her.
Xena placed Gabrielle on the pallet and
proceeded to undress her. The queen had
missed the ugly scene. Telling her in the
morning was not going to be pleasant. Xena
was certain Gabrielle would feel more disappointment than anger toward Cici. The question was whether any discipline would be
expected for the show of disrespect. Gabrielles
compassion for the young warrior suffering from unrequited love would be considerable. There was a time before they confessed their love
that they harbored a similar pain.
Tovi stood outside the queens
quarters for a heartbeat. Xena betrayed
nothing in regard to Cicis outburst. Her
only concern was Gabrielle. As it should be.
Ariel left her quarters. Tovi caught sight of her and followed, quickening
her step to close the distance between them. Ariel
stopped and turned just as Tovi reached her.
Her words were biting. What do you want!
Tovis momentum came to a halt. I have a message from Xena. Youre to see Gabrielle in the morning.
Ariels bitterness seeped through
her pours. Damn the Fates!
Tovi tried to comfort. She wasnt angry.
Ariel preoccupation with her own
concerns made her deaf and blind to the balm that stood before her. Am I suppose to be grateful?
Tovi took a step back. She didnt like what she saw in Ariel and
what she was feeling because of it. She
turned and walked away. Her obligation met.
Ariel watched Tovis retreat. What had she just done? Who had she allowed herself to become? She regretted her venom and wished to retract the
wound inflicted. But, it was too late. Words spoken will not be forgotten. She felt her burden doubly, first, Cicis
shameful accusation of the queen and now her own failure to treat a tribal sister with
respect. Her gaze traveled to the queen's
lodge. What reception awaited her in the
morning? Tovi said Xena was not angry. Why then a call to counsel? Was it Gabrielle who would take her to task?
Gabrielle stirred. Xena turned to her beloved. Damia was right.
Cici was a fool to think she could challenge Ariels fidelity by naming the
queen as an illicit accomplice. Xena
whispered in Gabrielles ear. I
Gabrielle opened her eyes. Tell me again.
Xena was happy to comply. I love you more than life itself. She kissed Gabrielle gently on the lips. How are your feeling?
Better. It was a hard ride.
Gabrielle searched Xenas blue
eyes. They were not soulful but bright. The bard felt the gift of grace. Thank you.
Gabrielle, something happened
last night that the queen is going to have to handle.
Cant it wait? I dont want to be the queen right now.
Ariel will be coming to see you. She let Cici know that she didnt have any
affection for her. Cici didnt take it
well and accused Ariel of being with you. She
was loud enough for everyone to hear.
The little fool.
That seems to be the
Youre not jealous?
I know who you call for in your
Yes, you do dont you. Gabrielle placed her hand around Xenas neck
and raised herself to steal a kiss. There was
no theft. Xena surrendered herself willingly. Gabrielle jerked as a bolt of pain traveled
through her shoulder.
Xena laid her back on the pallet. You need to rest.
With a sigh, Im fine. Wanting to deflect the focus away from her injury,
I am afraid Ariel wont be able to look me in the eye.
Xena was cognizant of Gabrielles
strategy to redirect the conversation. She
chose not to challenge the effort. Probably
not. Im sure youll find a way to
make her feel at ease. What are you going to
do about Cici?
Ill let her come to
And Im patient.
They heard a knock at their door. Xena called out.
Tovi said you wanted to see
Xena announced. Well, Ive got things to do. She turned to Gabrielle and smiled. Mid-day meal at the meadow?
Gabrielle returned the smile. Ill pack a basket.
Xena grabbed her pack. Passing Ariel while she moved towards the door she
placed her hand on the young warriors shoulder.
You did the right thing.
Ariel watched Xena depart. She hesitated in returning her gaze to her queen.
Gabrielle sat in a chair. I hear you had a tough night.
Everyone but me.
Ariel was incredulous. Where were you?
Didnt Tovi tell you? I took ill.
Ariels discomfort mounted. Im ashamed to say I didnt give
her a chance.
Gabrielle perceived Ariels
anxiety. Ari, are you all right?
I dont want to be
Youre free to leave.
Ariel shook her head. No, I didnt mean it that way. How could Ive been so wrong about
Loneliness can drive you into the
wrong womans arms. Ariel, you are
gifted. You need an equally gifted partner. But more importantly you need to make peace with
Ariels distress turned to anger. No disrespect my Queen but it is easy to say
such words when you have found your soul mate and have her love.
As much as Xena was with me in
spirit I was still alone in the sweat lodge with an arrow in my shoulder and the fear of
my enemy beating in my heart. Soul mates
never stop being themselves. As I waited for
deaths approach I recollected and accepted the consequences of my life. Its not the first time Ive done it and
I dont expect it will be the last. No
one can take that burden from me.
Properly chastised Ariel retracted her
attitude and showed a sincere humility. Yes,
Ari, I just want you to know that
Cicis accusations mean nothing to me. And
Im certain they will mean nothing to this tribe.
She was wrong to say it. Its a matter of honor.
Cici cant take away my
honor or yours. Have you seen her
She hasnt returned. I suspect shes riding to the north.
What harm can she do?
Ariel pride reared forward. No one will believe her if thats what
The queen had had enough of
Ariels attitude. With a sharp and
impatient tone she demonstrated her capacity to be brusque.
Tensions between the tribes must be calmed.
I dont want Cici to sabotage what I know you and Tovi can create
Once again, Ariel felt the reprimand. I will send Jamine. Cici wont challenge her. If she does Jamine wont hesitate to put Cici
I would like to avoid that if we
It will be Cicis decision
Gabrielle wanted to soften the outcome
of their exchange. Ari, I plan to get
some rest and enjoy the day. Why dont
you do the same? Tomorrow I will want to
speak to both you and Tovi about the future I imagine for you and your tribes.
Tovi sat leaning against a tree as she
played her flute. The melody was gentle. From it her soul sought renewal. The past half-moon cycle had been difficult. Chaos had free reign, from Sedas outburst,
to the attempt upon Gabrielles life, to Ariel.
What of Ariel? She embodied her
namesake a Lioness of God- were she of the desert tribe of Tovis mother. Then again what is in a name. Her own, Tovi beloved- impressed upon her
the irony of life, beloved who has no love. She
continued to play, her eyelids closed. She
invited the mysteries. In the ever so brief
moment when a breath is taken and music ceases she heard the approaching footsteps. She would not be alone. She opened her eyes slightly. Before her the muscular legs of an Amazon of the
north. Her gaze traveled to the side from an
arm to a hand holding a basket. Tovi removed
the flute from her lips and gave her full attention to the uninvited guess. She thought she should be more surprised to see
Ariel. In silence Tovi waited for this
Lioness of God to speak. Humor entered her
heart as a thought crossed her mind. The
Lioness may not be as fearless as one has been led to believe.
I didnt know you
Tovi examined her flute wordlessly.
Ariel continued politely in an effort
to win Tovis favor. The song was
Yours? The song?
My mothers. She taught it to me when I was a child.
Its a wonderful legacy to
Tovi thought this was the Ari that
intrigued her. Yes, it is.
Ariel lifted the basket. I got the idea from Gabrielle and Xena. Theyre having mid-day meal at the north
meadow. Im sorry about last night. It was wrong of me
Tovi interrupted. I understand.
Say no more about it.
Gabrielle suggested I enjoy the
day. I thought we could share a meal and may
be take some time to get to know each other better. It
would be helpful for our tribes.
Tovi pointed to the basket with her
flute. So this is for the good of
No, its my way of
apologizing to a new friend.
It was a brilliant day. Gabrielle relished this moment as paradise on
earth. Xena resting after a full meal laid
her head upon Gabrielles lap. Gabrielle
gazed beyond their place underneath the grand arbor toward the tall grasses, measuring
each breath, relaxing every muscle with intention.
I love your smile.
Gabrielle regarded the sentiment with a
deep, enduring pleasure. It coursed through
her without resistance. She turned her
attention to the speaker. There was mischief
in her heart. Malina said it had the
power to break hearts.
Did she? This is the healer?
Xenas curiosity was not feigned. Is she beautiful?
Very. And she has a soothing touch.
With that last phrase Xena fell at
ease. She knew the game had begun. Did you flirt with her?
Gabrielle shook her head. Actually, I accused her of flirting with
Oh? Maybe the game wasnt a game but a truth.
Yes, my love. She laughed at the thought of it.
The warrior was vexed. She felt an insult had been laid before her
beloved. Why? I would flirt with you.
Gabrielle knew that Xena had been
hooked and chuckled. She could be my
The warrior was quick. So! You
havent been shy about being with an older woman.
Gabrielle affectionately stroked
Xenas forehead. Remind me. Why do I love you?
Xena cocked her head up and stole a
kiss. Because Im your soul mate
and you have no choice. She returned to
her rightful place.
I had a suspicion that there was
another pair of soul mates among us.
Tovi and Ariel.
That would be an alliance. Xena took Gabrielles hand and intertwined it
with her own. Is that why Ariel ended
things with Cici?
I dont think so. Anyway, I no longer see the two standing together. There is a reason why they remain apart.
Not everyone is as dull-witted as
Come on. Aphrodite was at her wits end with us.
She did say as much. Whatever it might be, I dont think Tovi and
Ari have seen their truth.
Are you planning to help them
Oh, no! Ive got my hands full just dealing with the
Youve spent more time with
our two young queens. What do you think of
Malina said Ari hasnt been
touched by sorrow. At least not the kind that
molds a queen.
You think shes right?
Yes. Ari lets her emotions rule her to the point of
losing sight of what needs to be done and why it needs to be done.
How about Tovi?
I like her. She has the potential to be a formidable leader. I do think she needs to loosen up a bit.
Xena could argue that last observation. Did you hear about the wager?
About you coming north?
Ari told me.
Seems Tovi won. She made the mistake of not masking her triumph
when I gave her the scroll.
The wager must have been between
the two of them.
I would say. Looks like Ariel is a corrupting influence.
Not the kind I would object
I felt a bit different about it
at the time.
Im sure you did. Remember, Tovi is still young.
Well, this old lady is going to
take a nap.
Xena closed her eyes. Gabrielle could hear the warrior drifting into a
sound sleep. Gabrielles hand rested
over Xenas heart. Xenas hand lay
over Gabrielles. Life could be perfect
in its absolute simplicity.
The motion was as quick as a lightening
strike. Xena caught the arrow a hand length
from Gabrielles throat. Without break
in course she guided Gabrielle flat onto the earth and covered her with her own body. Gabrielle could see the arrow still in Xenas
Xena growled. The coward.
Gabrielles retort carried her
irreverent humor. Xena, were the
ones on our belies. Can you see
Gabrielle remained silent. She knew Xenas senses would scour the area.
Where is she?
She? You sure?
Dont know. Xena rolled onto her knee and took Gabrielle by
the shoulders. Are you all right.
Gabrielle placed her palm upon
Xenas cheek. Yes, thank
you. With her other hand she indicated
the arrow. May I see it?
sure. Xena continued to scan the
landscape. We better get back. I want to have a talk with the perimeter
Comments: Always encouraged and appreciated. Mayt@aol.com
Continued - Part 3
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