Written by: Caina Q. Fuller
The feel of the urn pressed to her chest had become a familiar part of Gabrielles existence since shed left the land of Japa to return to Greece. Shed already sent word to Eve, Xenas daughter, that the Warrior Princess had given her life to save the souls of victims that were the equal creation of trickery and unspoken love in the land of the rising sun.
Now that shed reached Amphipolis, the time had come for her to put the urn down and set out on making a new life for herself. Gabrielle felt as if the simple act of placing the ashes of her best friend, her soul mate, on the sarcophagus was an act of betrayal against the years of love and devotion she and Xena had shared.
Gabrielle tried to tell herself that this was not true. She and Xena had shared a ten lifetimes of love, laughter, and pain in the twenty-eight years theyd known one another. Theyd literally gone to hell and back to stay together, and it was the memory of this kind of sacrifice that made Gabrielle wonder: How could she do it?
The image of Xena pulling her ashes away from the Fountain of Strength flashed before Gabrielles eyes. Xena had chosen to stay dead. Shed chosen to walk away from everything theyd been through together to pay for the sins of a woman whod used her and betrayed her love.
The warrior bard heaved a sigh and placed the urn on the newest sarcophagus in the room, but she held on to the small black container, unable just yet to let it go. The urn hadnt been out of her sight since shed left Japa. Holding it made Gabrielle feel as if she were holding Xena, and she just didnt know if she could, or even should, let her friend go.
Sudden, inexplicable weakness flooded through Gabrielles hands, and like a silk scarf slipping through lax fingers in a summer breeze, her fingers slid off the hard, smooth surface of the urn until she was separated from it completely. Emotion flooded through Gabrielle, filling her chest with painful heat. The invisible hand of grief clamped onto her throat, doing its best to choke Gabrielle.
With a strangled sob a fresh wave of tears spilled from Gabrielles eyes. She allowed her body to drop to the cold, dusty floor of the mausoleum, and gave herself over to weeping. At first her tears had been full of anger that Xena had chosen to walk away from all they had gone through together for the souls of strangers, but now her tears were beginning to cleanse her soul of the pain of loss that only death can bring. She still felt angry at times, but slowly that anger was subsiding.
As the tears slowly abated Gabrielle thought back to the funeral of her beloved husband Perdicas. Hed come to her often in her dreams after that. He would hold her, kiss her, make love to her and tell her that one day her pain would ease and she would move on. Hed reassured her that she would find love again.
Gabrielle thought back to the night of Ephinys funeral, to the moment shed looked into Joxers eyes as Livia ran her blade through his body, to the night her sister told her of her parents death. She thought of Korahs life slipping away as he looked into her eyes with pain and confusion. She thought of the lost Amazon warriors shed lead into battle against Belleraphon. Every time shed lost someone she loved theyd come to her and comforted her from the other side.
But not Xena.
Xena had yet to make an appearance to her in her dreams. Xena had yet to come to her and tell her that everything was going to be ok. Xena had yet to come hold her close so that Gabrielle could listen to her steady, strong pulse beneath her breast. Xena had yet to come tell her that she was sorry for leaving her.
Gabrielle wasnt certain how much time passed from the moment shed fallen to the hard, cold stone floor of the mausoleum until her eyes fluttered open, but total darkness, unbroken by any form of light filled the chamber. She couldnt see her hand in front of her face even though it almost brushed against her nose.
She felt along the floor until she came to the sarcophagus the townspeople had placed in the mausoleum shortly after Gabrielle arrived in town and gave them the news that their most famous daughter was returning home for the last time.
She fought to remove the last vestiges of sleep from her mind and recalled the layout of the chamber. If memory served her the exit was just to her left, a few feet from where she was standing. She reached a hand out for the wall, but came up against warm, hard flesh instead.
Gabrielle let out a short scream of terror and danced back. Someone was in the room with her, and from the flat, hard surface of the body she knew it wasnt Xenas ghost coming to comfort her.
Whos there? Gabrielle demanded. Her hands moved to her boots but the sais were gone. So were the Chakram and her new Katana. Shed left them in Cyrenes Inn when shed come to place Xenas ashes in the mausoleum and say her good-byes for the first time since shed lost Xena.
Now her heart pounded in her chest and her breath began to burn her throat as it came in short, hot gasps. Before her, in the inky darkness, a shape began to take form inside a beautiful white nimbus until she could make out the handsome countenance of Ares, the god of War.
Ares, Gabrielle said. She was somewhat relieved to see a familiar face, even though he could pose a threat to her. If he were to become angry with her and blame her somehow for Xenas death there was no telling what he might do.
What are you doing here? she asked. A huge ball of fire took shape over Xenas sarcophagus and illuminated the room. Ares was now looking at the urn, which sat atop the sarcophagus, with such open grief that even Gabrielle felt sorry for him. Since theyd first met hed been both her worst enemy and her greatest ally, all in the effort to win Xenas love. Which would he be now that Xena was gone?
So its true. My dreams werent lying.
Gabrielle eased closer to the remains of her friend and placed her hands on the rough stone surface of the sarcophagus, resisting the urge to offer comfort to Ares by covering one of his massive, war-hardened hands with her own.
Gabrielle wasnt sure how long they stood that way, drowning in their grief over the loss of a woman they both loved in different ways and for different reasons. She didnt even protest when Ares reached out and took the urn in his hands.
May I? he asked.
Strange, Gabrielle thought, Ares asking my permission for anything.
She supposed that even the god of War was capable of respect given the right motivation. She nodded and watched him pick up the urn, and then ease the lid of the container off. He withdrew a small amount of the ash within, resealed the urn and then replaced it on the sarcophagus.
What are you doing? Gabrielle asked. Ares looked to her, his eyes moist with tears.
I wanted to keep a small part of her with me.
He turned and the light of the fire over Xenas grave began to fade away. She hurried to the exit where the stars and moon shone in full glory, washing the night landscape in a silver glow.
The god of War turned to her, his pain touching Gabrielles heart. Shes gone forever this time, isnt she?
Gabrielle hated the answer to the question, but she wouldnt tell him a lie. This time I think she is, yes.
He shook his head, took in a deep breath and looked up at the moon. It began to turn red, and Gabrielles heart raced once again, this time with anxiety. Ares was a powerful god. What would his pain lead him to do?
Now that Xena is gone, what will you do?
Ares looked back at Gabrielle, giving her question serious consideration. The same thing you will. Ill hurt, but Ill move on. Gabrielle, Im going to give you something since you allowed me this small part of Xena.
Peace. You will never see me again.
With that Ares disappeared, leaving her feeling more alone than ever. It was absurd, but Gabrielle knew she would miss Ares in her own, private way. She associated him with Xena. He was familiar and though she hated to admit it, she held some small measure of warmth for him deep in her soul.
She walked back towards the Inn. Tomorrow was another day, and perhaps she would find the strength she needed to move on with the rest of her life with the knowledge that one day she and Xena would be together again. Naimas words from a lifetime ago returned to her now, giving her some comfort as she entered the place Xena had once called her. They were as lines in the Mehndi. Separated
But forever connected.
Caina Q. Fuller.
Return to The Bard's Corner