Chalice of Blood – Part 3

by S. Singer

 Chapter 15

They spent the night in the village with the villagers telling Gabrielle about the work they had completed, and Palaemon showing Xena what had been reconstructed. Just before they turned in to sleep Teyah approached them and with a smile she asked if she could join them at their camp. "Sure, we will be camping together for a long time, so why not start now." Xena agreed. Watching Xena, Gabrielle realized what a strain this association was going to be on her friend. Something about Teyah just rubbed the Warrior Princess the wrong way and it was not a good thing to have Xena irritated.

Later Xena went off to check the perimeter and find a private place to think about the responsibilities ahead. The complication of the Gray Dragon was almost more than she could face.

The Gray dragon, the woman who had found her…

Xena woke up feeling broken and sore all over. She had used a last effort, that even she didn’t know she had, to force the Sheran-Khan to retreat. But she was paying the price…. She had dragged herself and the Chalice to a cave a few miles away from his fortress and collapsed, exhausted. She had her sword and her chakram but no horse, no food and no other supplies. For now she just wanted to sleep.

She woke for the second time feeling worse, if that was possible, but she knew she wasn't alone. Lying still, pretending to still be asleep, she tried to feel what sort of threat had caused her to leave the relative bliss of the dream world. There was another person in the cave. Xena saw a woman sitting across from her, lighting a fire. At first she thought Lao Ma had followed her, but as the woman turned and looked directly at her she saw it was not her friend.

This woman was very similar. Long dark hair, graceful movements, but with a cruel twist to her mouth. This woman was not here to be her friend and the only other option was an enemy. Xena began to plan her defense.

Suddenly the woman laughed. It was a high harsh sound that had no mirth at all. "Do you think you can fight me off? I know you have been watching me for many minutes now. Relax I am not here to harm you. I am here to honor you, the first to defeat the dark one, Sheran-Khan. I want to learn you secrets."

Xena didn't relax, she felt even more threatened than before the woman had spoken. She did open her eyes all the way and sit up. "Who are you, and why are you here?"

"I have no name, at least no name in this world. I am called the Gray Dragon. I have chosen to leave the path of the white magician and I am too smart to be completely coerced onto the dark path so I am known as the Gray Dragon. I am here to help you and learn how you overcame the wise black wizard Sheran-Khan." As she spoke she heated water and mixed a potion of herbs. She held this out to Xena. "You can trust me to help you or you can die here in this dirty cave, but I promise you I am no threat to you…yet."

Xena thought about her choices, and taking an inventory of her injuries realized that she indeed was in very bad shape. She reached out and took the drink. She smelled an unusual combination of scents and looked questioningly up at the woman. "Why would you want to help me?" she asked.

"I have waited for a long time to see that man beaten and I never expected it to be by a foreign woman. I feel the influence of an old friend of mine on you. A woman I knew very well…Do you know a woman named Lao Ma?"

In the morning, Palaemon and Teyah mounted their horses and Gabrielle was pulled up behind Xena on Argo. They set out toward the South. Carrying basic supplies for the trip, they planned to pick up what they needed as they traveled. They were moving swiftly and so they didn't want to carry any extra weight. Xena set the pace and the others tried to keep up, Argo proved her power and stamina, carrying two she still led the way, moving swiftly along the path.

"If we meet up with any trouble on the path we will simply ride on past, we don't have time to stop for every fool that wants some exercise," said Xena with a smile. "We will have more than enough trouble at the end of the trail, we don't want to indulge in fun here and miss the show."

They traveled for most of the day over seldom used roads, avoiding the more traveled routes to make better time. After a brief pause for a noon meal they set out again, Xena wanted to get as far along their way as possible that first day and she set a blistering pace. By the end of the day they were all glad when she left the faint trail she was following and found a stream with a deep pool to make a camp.

Palaemon sat away from the fire, off by himself. He was feeling sort of out of place with these three women. All his life he had worked hard to act like the toughest, baddest, meanest guy around. That was how he had gotten the scar on his cheek. Here there was no one to compete with. Here it reminded him of his home, where he had three sisters. But not quite….

He looked over at the fire and watched Gabrielle cooking the dinner. She was beautiful. Long strawberry blond hair, well proportioned, compact body. Her eyes, green, but not just green, all of the shades of green, depending on what emotions were passing behind them. She had changed a lot since the first time he had met her. He was truly ashamed of how that first episode had gone. If only he had known then what these two women were like. Then, she had been just a kid, and he had only seen the chance to goad the Warrior Princess into a fight, with a profit on the side. He'd kidnapped the sidekick and sold her. Now he didn't think he would be able to get anywhere close to her if she didn't want him to. He had seen her doing drills with her staff with Xena. They were magic to watch, the two of them moved gracefully, fluidly, like in a dance, a deadly dance that was totally mesmerizing.

Xena, she was the same as he remembered her.

Growing up he had always heard stories about the Warrior Princess. He had even seen her in action once. She had led her army to his village and leaving the men outside the perimeter, she had ridden into the square and just waited. She was a vision, dark, strong, commanding. Her black hair gently blowing in the breeze, and her cape draped casually over her weapons, showing them just enough to let people know that they were there. Her whole attitude said that she would use them. She didn't have to wait long. Very soon the whole town council was gathered around her. She just sat on that big black horse and looked down at them and told them what she needed for her men. Then she turned and with a final feral grin over her shoulder, she told them where and how she wanted the supplies delivered. Just like that, there was no doubt that they would be, and sure enough they were.

That had made a major impression on the young boy. After that he had tried to copy the look, the feeling of confidence, the attitude, he had seen that day. He had begged traveling bards to tell him stories about Xena, the Warrior Princess until he knew everything about her, he thought.

By the time he met her again, he had convinced himself that he was just like her, that he was as good as she was. That he could take her in a fight if he could just get her to fight him. He had worked hard at looking the part. However, when he had met her that second time and actually had a chance to fight her he found out to his frustration that he had underestimated her, way underestimated her.

He had underestimated her fighting skill and more importantly he had seriously underestimated her character. He had fought well. That was the one thing he could do, fight. Nevertheless, she had beaten him, even after being sprayed in the eyes with oil that would eventually blind her if the antidote was not applied. Then she had forced him to lead her to her friend, refusing to go first for the antidote. It was then he began to see the depth of her heart. It hadn't even occurred to him that she had one. In the next few hours he learned more about being a human being than he had in his whole life.

As they had approached the castle, the guards had attacked them. By now Xena was more than half blinded, yet she had freed him from his bonds and had given him a sword to defend himself, against the guards. She fought like a master, using her sword, her feet, her fists, her whole body and when it was over she had managed to place a manacle on his wrist connecting them and forcing him to be her eyes. Even blind she had shown such courage and sacrifice that he was lost and confused by this new image. He had built this illusion of her in his mind and worshiped it, and but now he was learning that there was so much more to her.

When he had boasted of killing several warlords to impress her he hadn't seen her sad smile. Later when he had mentioned it again she had called him a liar and he had demanded why. Then she had told him that she knew he had not killed those men. When he had demanded how she knew that, she had simply said, "Because I did." He had felt embarrassed, but he had been thrilled with the idea of her power.

Then while running from the men who were searching for them in the woods she had fallen over the cliff, not seeing it in her blindness. His heart had nearly stopped as he pulled back and felt himself being dragged over the precipice behind her. What she did next had confused him even more. She broke the chain that bound them together, saying, "There is no reason for both of us to die," and she had plunged from his sight, into the canyon, with the rushing water so far below.

Thank the gods she had grabbed a vine not too far further down and he had been able to pull her up. Making one more attempt to save his pride and his illusion, he made her promise to fight him to the death when her sight was restored. Later this attempt at bravado had made him feel foolish, but at the time he needed to sound, at least to himself, like he was who he thought he was.

Finally, after fighting their way through the castle guards and finding Gabrielle almost cooked in the crematorium, he had finally found the answer to his heroine's new depth. Seeing Xena pull Gabrielle from the coffin, and hold her so tightly, like her heart was being restored, he understood. This was the answer. The strength was in this friendship. The two of them clung to each other as if they were two halves of a whole. He had heard the old story about the people with four arms and four legs and two heads, but he had never understood it until now seeing them like that. The two half souls united into one.

When the antidote was finally, and lovingly applied by Gabrielle to Xena’s eyes, and the Princess looked into the green eyes and joked, "Now there's a sight for sore eyes," he had known that his world was changed forever. As he straightened from where he was leaning against the wall and Xena had stood fluidly drawing her sword as if to meet a challenge, it had startled him. She had not forgotten the promise he had forced from her, to fight him as soon as she could see again. However he had forgotten it, and even found a new mission. Before he left them he said, "If you are going to pretend to be somebody, make sure it is somebody you can live with." And he had walked away promising himself that he would try to truly become like this Warrior Princess, the real one, not his illusion from the past but this noble, brave woman who, he realized with a start, he loved with all his heart.

All of this was running through his mind as he watched the camp settle into a pattern, a routine with the three women, the warrior, the bard, and the…. Who was this new woman?

No one had told him anything. Oh, he did know that they were on a mission of some sort to retrieve a chalice or something. He knew they were going far, far away. And he knew that he probably wouldn't get to go all the way with them, Xena kept saying things like, "until we get to port," or "I know you don't like to travel by ship, Palaemon." Which was true. So he had a pretty good idea he would only get to go part way. But who was this third woman? She didn't look like any woman he had ever seen. She was tall, as tall as Xena, and the color of her hair was like a fire, blazing red. She seemed to glow with an inner light, it radiated from her. She had fine bones and the grace of an angel, but she carried a fighting staff like Gabrielle’s. She seemed nice enough but he wondered why she kept to herself in spite of the efforts of Gabrielle to draw her in. Like now as the meal is ready, Gabrielle is motioning him to join them, but the other woman is thanking her for the food and moving off by herself.

As Palaemon approached the food, Xena told Gabrielle to leave Teyah alone. "She needs lots of space, Gabrielle, she has a lot to deal with out here." ‘Now what does that mean?’ he thought, still perplexed.

As the three old friends sat down to enjoy their meal, the darkness began to thicken, and the night sounds began to be heard. ‘All in due time, I guess,’ Palaemon thought to himself, ‘All in due time. For now I am going to enjoy every minute I have with these two wonderful women.’


Chapter 16

On the morning of the second day, Teyah waited until Xena and Palaemon had left to gather food for the morning meal, and she approached Gabrielle. "We have lots of work to do before we reach the White Mountains, Gabrielle. Ariana told me of your progress and gave me some suggestions for helping you to continue."

Looking up from her morning preparations, the bard smiled realizing that this training would help her do her part in the final plan. She eagerly replied, "I was wondering when it would begin. I have been thinking about what happened in the caves and I would like to ask you a few questions. First, I don't know what Ariana has told you but there were a few moments on the last day when I thought I saw something…. It was something I had been working with the day before and I was thinking about it and then… then, I almost thought I could touch it. It was so real. I don't understand any of this but I really thought it was there…. Is that possible?"

Teyah looked at Gabrielle closely, she searched her face and it seemed to Gabrielle that she searched her very soul. Then she began, "Usually, people think that it is the mind that concentrates. This is not true. The mind is substance, a sphere of living atoms…er, particles. When we are talking about concentration we are talking about the power of the will. It is by the power of will that the mind is focused, or a thoughtform is held steady, or a particular mental activity is insulated from destructive influences. Without the development of the will it is impossible to succeed in concentration, and the will can not be developed without self-discipline."

"The caves, because of their location and the activities carried on within them, are conducive to interesting phenomenon. It is much easier to control the…uh…elements…the, uh…. Well, stuff just happens easier there, that's all. Ariana told me about your tapestries the other morning. She was very happy with your ability to remember details and focus enough to begin to call them to you."

As she spoke Gabrielle’s face registered confusion and then surprise that Ariana had seen what had happened, and finally she blushed at the compliment. She watched Teyah’s hands as she talked. She moved them gently in the air in front of her, gesturing almost in a pattern.

"On our journey together we will face many surprises. There will be many things for you to learn, and our lives may depend on how well you learn them. I will be helping you, Gabrielle, but you will have to do all of the work. You have made a good beginning. Tomorrow we will continue." Teyah’s voice was soothing, and as Gabrielle watched her hands she thought she saw something forming between them. "I know the Chalice will be returned to its rightful place and the forces of evil and darkness will be overcome…" The shape between Teyah’s hands was almost real…

"But now we must help the others prepare breakfast." As Teyah abruptly stopped her hands the object disappeared.

Gabrielle looked up at Teyah’s face and saw the blue/green eyes looking directly at her. Again she felt as if the other woman could see deeply into her very thoughts. With a deep breath the bard stood up as she saw the two warriors returning to the clearing.

Later as they all prepared to break camp, Gabrielle pulled Xena aside. Trying to get her attention she asked her, "Does Teyah know you from before? Have you ever met her in your past?"

They were both a little startled by the question. Gabrielle hadn't been planning to ask that at all, and Xena hadn't really decided whether she recognized the girl or not. "I don't know for sure, Gabrielle. There is something about her that is nudging the edges of my memory, but I don't know for sure what it is. Maybe she reminds me of someone else, maybe I knew her when she was a child. I don't really know."

"Can you tell me anything about her? Anything you know that I should know?" Gabrielle asked, finally putting into words what her thoughts had been just moments before.

Xena looked away, wondering how much to tell her. Deciding the truth now would probably help her to work with Teyah she led the smaller woman over toward the river and acted like she was filling the skins for the days traveling. "She is an initiate, probably an adept, Gabrielle. She can do things that you and I can't. She can read your mind, even your soul level thoughts for example, so don't try to hide anything from her. She has some very interesting skills as well," Xena said with a smile. "So pay very close attention to her. Maybe some of it will rub off."

"Do you trust her, Xena?"

"Our mission, our very lives, depend on our trusting her, Gabrielle. She has a very difficult task in front of her and she needs our help. She is different from anyone we have ever traveled with before and that is the only reason we feel a little uneasy. We will get used to her. Maybe you could get her to open up a little and talk about her past. If you knew her better maybe you would get to like her."

Standing up and returning to the others the two women tried to act normal. Everyone mounted up, with Xena and Gabrielle taking the lead. Teyah followed on her horse, and Palaemon brought up the rear. The day's journey had begun.


After just a few leagues, Xena asked Gabrielle to walk for a while, she needed to do some scouting and suggested maybe now would be a good time for the little bard to get Teyah to talk. Lifting her down, Xena circled Argo back and she rode beside Palaemon for a short while before disappearing into the woods.

Gabrielle let Teyah catch up to her and began to walk beside Teyah’s horse. "What is it like being able to read other people's thoughts?" Gabrielle gasped, as she heard these words fall from her lips. Too late to take them back now, blushing a hot red, she looked up to see Teyah smiling gently down on her.

"Don't worry Gabrielle, these slips are because you are opening yourself up to me. I truly hope to gain your confidence, so that the tension which causes this to happen will be gone." Teyah dismounted and walked beside the bard. "Words and the thoughts are usually kept fairly separate after we learn our social manners. Right now you are being reconstructed and your mental and emotional muscles are being suspended for a little while. Don't worry."

"What are you talking about? I didn't do anything to…"

"I have been working on you for two days now, Gabrielle. There are many things I can do to make your job easier. I know I should have asked, but I didn't think I could explain it. There is so much to do and so little time. Please trust me. I have only the best interests of all of us in mind and I would never do anything to hurt you."

"Why should I trust you? I don't know anything about you. Some people I don't know, tell me you have to go with us and I have to trust you?" Gabrielle felt like she was losing control. "Who are you anyway? Have you ever met Xena before? How did you get all of this power?…How do I shut my mouth!?"

Laughing out loud, Teyah took the distraught girl by the arms and held her still. Gabrielle felt a strong current of energy pass through Teyah’s hands into her body, making her strangely calm. Teyah led her over to a large rock and asked Palaemon to go find Xena.

"Gabrielle, you have been told many times in the last few days how important your part in our adventure is. To take someone with no training and expect them to be the focus of an operation like the one we are planning, and Xena knows nothing of the plans by the way, is not fair to you. Especially if we don't explain. I had hoped to be able to make a few changes without you knowing but you are very sensitive. This will ultimately work in our favor, but for now it has caused you some embarrassment, and I'm truly sorry."

As Xena rode up to them, Gabrielle was reaching for Teyah’s hand, and saying, "I just want to know what is going on."

"Yeah, me too." Xena added. "There have been two men following us since we left the village but now there are ten. They wear the symbol of the Gray Dragon. I don't like it at all! I have a plan.. We need to try to get them off our backs, I'm sure they are keeping track of us for her. If we can get away from them maybe we can buy some time."

"I agree that it is unfortunate that they are here, Xena." Teyah said, "but as long as I am with you they know where we are. I think they have been sent to harass us and perhaps slow us down."

"Then they have to be eliminated. Palaemon, come with me." Xena and Palaemon left the other two in the clearing.

Just moments later they heard the sound of battle. Gabrielle casually walked over to Argo and reached into a bag for an apple and offered one to Teyah. Teyah, with a curious look, accepted. The two of them were siting down to wait, when, from the other side of the clearing some men came charging at them. Gabrielle jumped up, the apple forgotten, and readied her staff. Teyah realized too late that her staff was on the other side of the clearing, by the rock where they had first stopped. In the seconds it took for the men to get to them Gabrielle realized Teyah’s problem. Moving toward her to protect her she was startled to see Teyah disappear. So were the charging men and they paused in their headlong rush. They were all amazed to see Teyah reappear by the rock and grab her staff. Just then the first one reached Gabrielle and the fight was on.

Gabrielle had become quite good with her technique and didn't find these men to be much of a challenge after sparring with Xena. She quickly disabled three of them and saw that the other two were circling Teyah, trying to find an opening. Watching the action Gabrielle noticed that Teyah used the staff well and she marveled at her grace as she moved. She had a new respect for her as she finished the two men off, knocking them both out with a final roundhouse swing of the staff to their heads.

Just then Xena and Palaemon returned and finding as much mayhem, if not as much blood, Xena demanded, "What's this?"

"A test," Teyah answered, "and I think we passed,… for now."

Xena looked for someone that looked like the leader and finding him, she shook him until he regained consciousness. As he opened his eyes she smiled at him and jabbed him with two fingers to the neck. "I have just cut off the flow of blood to your brain, you have thirty seconds to answer my questions or die."

The man's eyes grew wide and he nodded his head. "Who sent you and where is she?" This confused him because it implied that she already knew the answer to the first question and he didn't know the answer to the second, so his eyes grew even wider and he his shook his head in a negative way. Xena realized she had confused him and she released the neck pinch saying, "I can do that again so don't get any ideas." As the blood rushed to his brain again the man almost fainted from the pain and decided that whatever this blue eyed devil wanted he would give it and hope he lived to tell the tale.

"I…I don't know where she is. I don't know where I am. We were having a beer in a tavern and this beautiful exotic woman came over to the table. She was alone and she looked very vulnerable. One of my friends made a rude remark and reached for her and … his hand burst into flames. We all got up to run and she said ‘kill them all’ and then we were here. Wherever here is. I just want to go home." He finished with a sob.

The other men were beginning to wake up so Palaemon rounded them up. When they were all in a bunch Xena told them, "There are some more of your friends up the road, take them with you and go back home. If you ever see that woman again, tell her we enjoyed the exercise." She motioned with her sword for them to go.

"Let's get back on the road, I want to make it to a campsite I know of, and, Teyah, I want to have a talk with you!" was all Xena said as she mounted Argo, and pulling Gabrielle up, she rode out of the clearing and down the road.

When they reached the site Xena had in mind, they began quickly and efficiently to set up camp. Xena sent Palaemon out to find something to add to the stew pot and she asked Teyah to follow her out of the camp. Gabrielle was a little irritated that she wasn't included but decided that now wasn't the time to push it. She would find a way to let Xena know that she didn't like secrets.

Teyah and Xena found a spot along the bank of the stream and Xena said, "This will do. Now I want to know what you meant about them knowing where we were as long as you were with us."

"Well,… I have a very distinct and strong energy with me Xena, you know that and your friend can track us using that."

"Would you stop calling her my friend!" Xena exploded, "She was never a friend of mine! She saved my life, but that was it! When I left her she said she hoped it was for ever."

Teyah noticed that the warrior looked worried, and tired. She knew what Xena was concerned about, "Gabrielle is going to be fine, Xena. She is doing very well. I am sure that by the time we need her she will be ready."

Xena was startled and then remembered whom she was talking to. She stopped her pacing and sat down on a large rock. Holding her head in her hands she quietly said, "What have I gotten us into? I can't defend us against men who are apported from nowhere. How can I plan defenses against the many strange things that are going on. Teyah, I need you to tell me when things like that are going on. I know you can feel movement like that. We need to work together. Please." Looking up at the other woman she asked, "Do I know you? Have I met you before?"

Now it was Teyah’s turn to be startled. "Yes, Xena, I have met you before. You wouldn't remember it. It was a long time ago."

After studying her for a few moments, Xena walked over to stand directly in front of the red head and looking into the blue/green eyes she said thoughtfully, "It was about eight years ago, and you were injured. You were traveling with your family, but I don't remember meeting your sister, Silvia. It was outside of a large forest, and I was with just a few of my men scouting for supplies…." her eyes narrowed as if remembering something just at the edge of her memory, "Your father had just died and your mother was trying to get you to a healer. I set your leg and helped you as much as I could, but after a while I sent you and your family with an escort to a village nearby…. Why didn't you say anything before this? Why the big mystery?"

Turning away, Teyah said, almost too softly for Xena to hear, "My father had just died defending our village against your army. I was injured pulling my brother out of our house as it burned. My mother was too afraid when you and your men overtook our wagon to say anything…. Silvia was taken by your allies into their camp. She escaped and caught up with us just after you sent us on our way."

Xena sat down heavily on the rock, as if her legs had given out. As Teyah turned back to her she felt the anguish and shame the dark warrior was feeling and reached out to her. When she touched her Xena pulled away as if burned. "That was the past, Xena. You were a different person. Even then you helped us. You did all you could, and the healer said that if you hadn't done what you did I would have been crippled for life. I forgave you long ago."

"Why did you agree to this mission knowing I would be here?" Xena asked looking at the water as it swirled past.

"I had seen the warrior, and I had heard of the hero. I wanted to know that you had truly changed, and know that my forgiveness and trust were justified. You made quite an impression on me when you helped us. I could tell from your touch as you nursed me, even in that short time, that you had a strong heart. That you had compassion and that you were going to be very important in my future. I knew I would see you again. I was gifted even then, before my training. My mother brought us straight to the village on the mountain when I was strong enough to travel.

Looking back up at the other woman, Xena started to feel some hope, "Do you trust me? Can you truly say that you forgive me, even though my army killed your father and burned your home? It was not that long ago."

"This mission is more important than either of us. The Chalice must be returned to its place. I agreed to this mission with full knowledge of who you were, and hoped to find out who you are now. I have found you to be everything that I had hoped. You are noble and skilled. You have compassion and a loving heart. As soon as I met Gabrielle and touched her energy, I knew that if she could love you then you must be worth my trust." Teyah turned and began to walk back toward the camp. "We better get back there before the meal is ruined, Gabrielle didn't like being left behind and she may not try too hard to save it for us." With those words she returned to the camp but she wasn't too surprised to see that Xena had not immediately followed her.

Xena sat back down on the rock and watched the swirling water. She smiled a little at the thought of Gabrielle being miffed at being left behind in the camp. ‘Well I'm glad you didn't hear what just went on here, my bard.’ She thought, her mind going over what she remembered of the encounter so many years ago. She remembered being curious about the red-haired girl with the broken leg and the nervous mother. She had wondered what had happened to her…and so many others. Realizing that she must keep her mind positive she pushed the shame and frustration down and locked it in that compartment deep in her soul that she seldom opened. She knew it was there and it was enough that she knew there was a key. ‘Later,’ she thought, ‘later!’

When the warrior walked back into the camp the three of them were laughing about something and she stopped to enjoy the atmosphere of mirth and goodwill. She didn't mind having such a crowd to travel with for a while but she wished she could talk alone to Gabrielle. She needed the bard's wisdom, and logic. She missed the long talks they usually had after dinner and she was beginning to wonder if they would ever get back to just the two of them. With a big sigh, she asked if there was any food left and sat down with a smile at Gabrielle.

Gabrielle saw the strain on her friend's face, and lifting a plate full of food she walked over to the dark woman and sat beside her, offering the plate. Throughout the evening Gabrielle stayed near Xena, as if the closeness would reassure her best friend. It worked, and soon Xena was feeling relaxed and almost joined into the joking between Palaemon and the blond bard. Teyah, as was her habit, had moved a slight distance away, and was thinking her own thoughts.


Chapter 17

After a few weeks of travel, Teyah and Gabrielle were comfortable with their training routine, both meditation and staff. Gabrielle was making great strides in her discipline and mental exercises, and they both worked hard at the physical exercise of the sparring.

One morning Teyah began as usual to light the incense but instead of going right into the relaxation visualization they had been working on she turned to Gabrielle and seemed to make a decision. "Gabrielle, I want to talk to you about how we can feel air."

Gabrielle just looked at her. "Feel air?" She didn't have a clue what her teacher was talking about.

"Air is like water, just because you don't always see it doesn't mean it isn't there." Teyah continued, "When you move your hand in the water you can see the swirling of the water, right? Well when you move your hand in the air it swirls too." She moved her hand in the smoke from the incense to demonstrate. "These are strongly connected particles and if we concentrate we can affect their condition." Smiling Teyah watched Gabrielle’s response to this new idea.

"We can affect them with our mind and will. We can ask them to do as we wish, and if our will is strong enough, we can influence them to follow our directions." As she spoke she turned her attention to the stream of smoke coming from the aromatic powder on the rock. As Gabrielle watched the stream of smoke began to flow directly, horizontally, toward Teyah. Then it seemed to change direction and move toward the bard. Gabrielle was astonished and amused when the smoke began to write symbols in the air before her and she read – F-E-A-R-L-E-S-S-N-E-S-S.

Surprised, Gabrielle remembered her morning in the caves working with that word. She had often thought about what she had learned that day and worked with that word on her own many times. Here it was, being written in the air by her teacher in smoke. ‘Does this word have special significance? Am I going to learn the true meaning of it before this adventure is over?’ she wondered.

"Now you try it!" Teyah startled Gabrielle with her order.

"I can't do that. I don't even know what you did."

"Try it. Just think where you would like it to go, ask it in your mind. Try to will it to go where you want." Teyah sat back to let Gabrielle concentrate.

Gabrielle turned to look at the smoke, innocently winding its way up to the sky. She held her breath, and pursed her lips. Her eyes began to bulge and her concentration became evident on her face as she began to turn blue. "Wait!" Teyah said to get her attention, trying very hard not to laugh. "You don't have to force it. You can't MAKE it do what you want by imposing your will on it. Ask it, and then gently, concentrate on where you want it to go. Gently, ask. Work with it."

Gabrielle had been working on concentration and focus for some time now, and she could easily block out all the distractions around her. As she focussed on the smoke once more she began to see it as if it were alive, and she asked it, in her mind, to move towards her. The smoke seemed to respond and it flickered in her direction. She smiled and directed another thought to it. ‘Come to me, come to me so that I can smell you. I want to appreciate you and enjoy your essence.’ The smoke began to move toward her and gather around her head as if caressing her. Teyah watched as the smoke seemed to veil Gabrielle’s head, and then move away again reluctantly as new smoke took its place, but moving up from Gabrielle’s head and away from the normal path it would take on its own.

After some time the powder was all burned out and the smoke began to diffuse and dissipate. Gabrielle’s awareness began to slowly return to the clearing and her teacher. "What were you feeling, Gabrielle? What was it like?"

Gabrielle’s face lit up in a beautiful smile and she turned to her teacher and said, "I felt loved, I felt protected. I thought about the word, fearlessness, and the smoke, my new friend, seemed to promise me that it would protect me forever. I felt so joyful, and safe. I was so sorry to feel it leave me. What a wonderful experience! Thank you."

Teyah smiled at her, thinking how serene she looked. Gabrielle’s pure, loving heart and clear consciousness had allowed her to experience what few people reached. She had indeed made a new friend this day and she would make many more before she was truly ready for what was to come. "Don't thank me Gabrielle, as I said before, you have to do all the work. I am here to help and guide you."

After dinner that evening, at the fire, Gabrielle was telling Xena about her experience with the smoke. "Will it work with any smoke?’ Xena asked. "For instance could you do it with the campfire smoke?" The day had been damp and the firewood was smoking more than usual. It had bothered all of them all evening. Gabrielle looked over at Teyah, and raised her eyebrow in a question. Teyah was, as expected, at the other side of the clearing, but Gabrielle knew she was aware of everything that went on in the camp. ‘Worse than Xena, always knows what's going on.’ Had been her thought many times. Teyah nodded and Gabrielle began to relax herself.

Xena watched as the bard she had known for so long, began to change before her eyes. This small woman who had always been so vocal, so imaginative, so flighty had…changed. Gabrielle had seemed to gather in all of the loose ends and concentrate her energy within herself. As a result she seemed to grow. Not in size, exactly… she wasn't any larger really. She seemed more imposing, more commanding…more intense. Xena wasn't sure she liked it at all. But she had to admit, this new woman Gabrielle had become was certainly fascinating.

Gabrielle was relaxed and focused. She took a deep breath and one more look at Teyah, who was smiling encouragingly. She closed her eyes and began to extend her awareness. She began to "feel" the smoke, and some invisible connection began to form between her and the smoke. As if she used some invisible "arms" to gather the smoke to her, she began to talk, in her head, to the smoke. ‘Friend smoke, I need your help. I ask that you don't spread yourself around here on the ground where we are. We have been enjoying your smell and feel for a while now and I ask that you move upward only.’ She peeked to see what effect her words were having on the smoke. It did appear to be flowing better, clearing some of the area around the people. Gabrielle felt a little thrill of power. She looked over at Xena and winked. Xena was sitting there with her mouth open, wondering what this surprising girl would do next. Then Gabrielle closed her eyes and spoke to the smoke again. ‘Please friend smoke, flow over to my friend Palaemon and let him know he is loved.’ As Gabrielle slowly opened her eyes to peek she saw the smoke flowing over toward Palaemon, who was sharpening his sword and hadn't heard the conversation.

As the smoke became thicker, Palaemon noticed the light seem to fade. He looked up and saw the smoke coming toward him and surrounding him and jumped up to get away from it.

All three women laughed as he ran from the camp and since her concentration was broken Gabrielle watched the smoke return to its original path, however it did seem to avoid the people a little after their discussion.

Palaemon returned, wondering what had happened. When they could get their breath they tried to explain. "Gabrielle was talking to her new friend, the smoke." Xena said.

"I asked it to make you feel loved Palaemon." Gabrielle added.

Teyah came over and asked Palaemon, "How did you feel? Did you feel choked by the smoke?"

Palaemon, with a puzzled look on his face, wondering how someone made friends with smoke, answered, "I was scared! I saw the smoke coming at me and thought there was fire too…." He hesitated, "But, no, I didn't feel choked. Come to think of it I felt fine. I shouldn't have reacted so fast, maybe I could have made a friend too." He smiled and returned to his sharpening, shaking his head at the strange things happening. ‘Maybe it's a good thing I'm not going to sea with them.’


Chapter 18

When they finally reached the port city, Xena took Palaemon with her to make the travel arrangements and Teyah and Gabrielle went to shop for supplies. Gabrielle was in heaven. Teyah was watching her to see how the rush of people effected Gabrielle. After a fairly short time Gabrielle seemed to lose some of her enthusiasm and didn't haggle quite so hard to get what they needed. Soon she was exhausted and becoming irritable and she just wanted to find a room where she could rest up for dinner. Having gotten all the things on their list, they went to look for the Inn Xena had mentioned.

That night they had a party to say farewell to Palaemon, and to Greece. Tomorrow they set sail for Egypt. Gabrielle decided she better enjoy eating while she could and surprised both Teyah and Palaemon with the amount of food she could put away. Xena however had expected it, and smiled indulgently when Gabrielle asked for her fourth dessert.

Teyah excused herself early and went to her room. The others continued to enjoy the entertainment until the innkeeper came over and politely asked if that wasn't the bard of Poteidaia at their table. Gabrielle was flattered and agreed to tell a few stories. Xena was amused and watched as her friend went up to the front of the room, and the man brought her a chair. As Gabrielle got comfortable, Xena thought about how many times she had watched her friend weave her web of fascination through the crowds. Telling stories and using her body language to let them get totally involved in the tale. She smiled as she remembered some parts that Gabrielle always seemed to leave out, usually the parts where Gabrielle herself was the heroine.

Shortly after she was introduced, a polite hush settled over the crowd. Xena felt a light touch on her arm. Turning quickly to look she was surprised to find Teyah.

"Could you come outside with me for a minute?" she whispered, "It's urgent." She left knowing that Xena was right behind her.

Xena told Palaemon to stay and enjoy the stories and she would be right back as she left him to see what Teyah wanted. She wondered what was so urgent, all of her alarms were going off and she had a bad feeling. Grimly she checked her weapons as she stepped out into the night to find Teyah.

As her eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness Xena saw Teyah disappear around the corner of the building so she ran after her, catching up halfway down the next block. "What is it?!" She whispered loudly.

Stopping, Teyah pulled Xena into the alley and said, "She has sent more. I felt it. They are going to the ship and we must stop them. The Gray Dragon wants to disable this one, so there will be no one who will take us. Come quickly!"

Xena moved in front of Teyah and ran to the pier, looking all the time for a sign of unusual movement. As she ran, she thought about who might already be on board that could help them. The ship she had contracted was the ship of an old friend. A former Amazon was the captain, and she was usually on her ship. The crew members were all women and Xena knew they could fight like Amazons when they needed too. Now they needed to.… They had been on the ship for just a few moments, and had alerted the few women on board when the first men began to appear.

This was not the odd tavern louse this time. These were trained troops. There were a few too many for Xena to be over confidant. As she watched them slowly approach the ship she was planning her defense. She pulled Teyah over to the railing and whispered, "Go over to the door that leads down to the cabins and I will get them to you. You knock them out and push them down the stairs." Teyah nodded.

Xena waited until there were several of them on the ship. Her battle cry signaled the beginning of the defense. Somersaulting over their heads, she landed between them and the passageway door. With a smile she encouraged them to come closer… and they did.

Suddenly chaos reigned. The men streamed onto the ship and Xena fought them and sent them over to Teyah so she could finish them off. The crew members fought together as teams also and the men were quickly losing any ground they may have had. Without warning a large man lifted a barrel form the deck and threw it at Xena. It hit her in the upper back and she fell hard. Dazed she tried to raise herself as three more men, seeing her weakened, moved toward her with swords swinging.

Teyah became very still, and spoke very clearly, and though she spoke softly, the sound of her voice could be heard over the whole ship. "Feel the energy Xena! Use it!" Then Teyah began to glow with a white light.

All eyes turned to Xena. She seemed to be pulled up from somewhere outside of herself. She looked around with a puzzled look and then her face became a mask. Calm, cold, detached, her smile chilling the men and women alike. She stepped forward and dropped her sword. Her hands came together and she formed what looked like a ball of fire between them. She thrust it at the three men who had paused. It exploded, sending them in many directions, and in many pieces. Then she just stood there and focusing on each of the attackers, with those clear blue eyes, one by one, she sent them over the rail into the water. When the few men left saw what was happening they ran.

When they were gone, a strange laughing was heard, a woman's voice, coming from nowhere and everywhere at the same time. "I wondered if you still could use the energy, Xena. Now I know how to defeat you!" Then the laughing seemed to fade away, and Xena collapsed to the deck.

End of part 3.

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