Disclaimer: This story was written for my own enjoyment and not for profit. The characters of Xena and Gabrielle are owned by RenPic and are used without authorization.
This is a story about choices and letting go, as sad as those partings may be. Id like to thank Cath and The Tavern Wall regulars, Mary Morgan, and as always Archaeobard. Bless her disgusting mind and compassionate heart.
Mail is always answered and welcome at Kamouraskan@yahoo.comAcceptance
"Where have you brought me?"
A feminine voice responds. "Dont you recognize it?"
The lone figure looks about at the remains of old burnt out foundations. There are weeds growing though the bricks. The wood is charred and rotten, hurled about by some past violence. The remains of abandoned personal articles are scattered throughout the brush.
"It could be any of a thousand villages that were attacked and burnt out by some warlord."
"It is. Its Amphipolis."
"No." The figure is trying to deny the evidence of her own eyes. But the landscape and the familiar mountain ranges in the distance contradict her.
"It will be rebuilt someday. Some survivors may return, but now theyre scattered, still cursing the two warlords they blame for its destruction." The voice paused.
"This was once the tavern. Youre standing on the very spot where they stoned to death one of the warlords. And then the second one swept down, razing the town and setting fire to the fields."
The figure becomes agitated. "No. It didnt happen that way."
"This time it did."
"Would you rather see the remains of the Amazon village, or the Centaurs?"
The figure is silent. Then turning to the skies she demands. "Why?"
It is with sadness that the Goddess replies. "All for Love... misguided, perhaps, but nonetheless Love."
The traveler was flung from the vortex, landing awkwardly and she staggered to a halt. The sound of the portal ceased and she was left in the hushed darkness. Directly in front of her was her first objective; the apothecary shop. Knowing time was limited, she entered the shop, ransacking its shelves without any attempt at subtlety. Her broad healers education paid off again, and soon she was hurrying towards an undistinguished farm on the edge of this insignificant town. The town of Potadaia.
Entering the farmhouse was not difficult. All of the residents were in bed, and she made her way silently through the house. Listening carefully to the various noises of sleep, she stopped at one of the doors and saturated a rag with the contents of the jar she had stolen from the shop. One of the persons in the next room was only feigning sleep, and she would have to be swift and deft, or the struggle would awaken the entire household.
She waited until the younger of the two sisters made a particularly loud snore, and slipped into the room, dropping soundlessly to the floor. Her heart pounding, she crept towards the second bed. There was a shifting of weight, and she knew that the occupant was about to get up. Clutching the rag in her left hand, she swung up and grasped the girl by the throat, pressing the cloth into her face. There was a choked gasp, but the young girl was easily overpowered by the superior strength of the attacker, and after a moment she succumbed and collapsed. The intruder looked over to the younger sister, but she slept on unawares. The schedule being all that was important, the intruder moved to find the clothes that had been laid out and readied by the expectant runaway. There was a suitbag hidden in the corner. She quickly stripped out of her own clothes, trying to ignore the bloodstains on them. The old blue dress did not quite fit her, but the intruder had to believe that in the dark it would be satisfactory. Next, she found a shawl to cover her hair, to make her face difficult to see. Her visitor would be here soon, and she had very little time to be outside and intercepted.
She grabbed the satchel, and exited the room and then the building without disturbing anyone. She had not gotten far when a strong arm pulled her towards the shrubs. Though she was anticipating the attack, the suddenness of it still jolted her.
Backing away quickly so that the deception would not be detected, and finding her voice, she whispered "Xena!"
This wasnt the noble warrior of legend. This was a broken woman, on her last mission. Barely able to stand, the once brilliant eyes were now bloodshot. This she had expected. Only moments before this woman had been lying on the ground in a Roman prison courtyard, watching her peaceloving soulmate kill over half a dozen men. Lying helpless with a broken spine, until her gentle partner collapsed staring in shock at another bloody dagger in her hand.
Then Ares had appeared. Stopping time. And for once Xena had listened. Listened and accepted the bargain to appear at this time, knowing she would never survive the changes she would initiate. She would never be his Chosen again.
The impostor knew she must react as the young Gabrielle would have reacted. She tried ineffectually to loosen the obsessed warriors grasp.
Her resistance earned a growl. "Stop struggling, I have something to tell you."
What would the farmers daughter have said? "You just want to stop me. You cant...I will follow you, no matter..."
The dark woman bore down on the smaller woman. "Listen to me. LISTEN TO ME! I cant explain how, but believe what I am telling you. Think of this as words from an oracle, because I have seen the future. I KNOW the future. If you try to join me, you will destroy everything you love. Do you hear me, everything and everyone you love."
"Youre just saying this..."
"I KNOW. I know everything that will happen. I know you were born with six toes, GABRIELLE. I KNOW, do you understand? If you succeed in following me, you will destroy yourself. You will bring shame to your parents. Perdicus? He will die in front of your eyes. Can you understand that? You will be attacked by an great evil, raped, and forced to bring a demon into this world.
"no..." the intruder found herself backing away under this onslaught.
"That demon will destroy my only child, MY CHILD! The one thing in this world that means anything to me...And then..."
"No..." Please stop this. Please.
"...you will be the reason both of us die. It will all be on YOUR head."
"Gabrielle, You and I will be crucified. Nails driven into these soft hands, and hung up on a board to die."
"Will we die together? " The words slipped out without thought.
The warriors voice became even harsher. "Everyone dies alone, Gabrielle. There is no together. And it will have been your fault."
"No..." This was not fair, this was going too far.
The warrior moved forward, breathing heavily, tightening her grip on the impostors arm. "Gabrielle, YOU will be what kills me. I will not allow it. You dont want to make me angry, do you?"
"Y-oure hurting me..."
"Thats what I do... " the warrior hesitated, but began again. "...and if you attempt to follow me, I will kill you. Make no mistake. If I see even a glimpse of you, I will cut you down where you stand. Do you understand?"
"Now run. Run back home, peasant, find someone else to take you from this town, or marry. But by the Gods, keep away from me."
There was only a choking sob, but from which of the them neither knew, and the intruder floundered back towards the house, with the warriors dead eyes observing. She stepped inside the bedroom and let her heart race. She unclenched her fists, and began to try to release the anger and fear that coursed through her. She stood over the beds and checked on the two sisters. Both were still deep in sleep.
"That was quite the performance, wasnt it Gabrielle?" The intruder sat on the edge of the bed and stared down at the girl. "All the way here, I wondered what she could have said, what could ever have stopped you from leaving with her. And what was it in the end? Was it the blame for her death, or Perdicas that kept you here?"
The impostor removed the dark scarf and shook out her short blond hair. "She really didnt play fair, did she?" She whispered sadly. "She couldnt mention all the people who would die without her help; that you wouldnt be there for the Centaurs and Amazons, or for her, of course. As always, she was just thinking about you." She stripped off the dress and changed back into the bloody clothing she had arrived in.
"She let all those people just die, including herself. I should hate her what she did. But..." She thought back to the moment when time had stopped. Finding herself frozen in the instant of staring at the blood covered dagger, as the fresh Roman troops surrounded them. Caught voiceless as Ares materialized. Watching in horror as Xena appeared to be listening, and then the God of War placed his hand on her, healing her broken back. Wanting, needing to scream "NO!" as they both vanished. And then, so had the courtyard. As all of time was twisted. But she had survived with her memories intact, thanks to Artemis stepping in, and explaining what had happened. Taking her to Amphipolis just to give her the incentive to stop her partner, and now that she had succeeded, her reward was to return to her own execution.
She smoothed the long reddish-blonde hair behind the sleeping girls ears, and thought about all of the deaths their absence had caused. "Was it all for me? Or for you?" She asked the sleeping figure "Maybe I should I be jealous of you... what do you think?"
The girl stirred at the touch. The sleeping herbs were wearing off. Soon she would be dressing beneath the blankets, and preparing to leave, only to wake her sister. The intruder smiled ruefully at the memory. "Its almost time, isnt it, Gabrielle. And I have a date with a cross... and Im afraid...," her composure nearly broke, but she took a breath, and steadied herself. "...I really have to go. And so do you." She wiped a stray tear away.
She made one last examination of the room, noting every object, each once familiar shadow, listening to the comforting sound of her sisters breathing....and with one more look to the figure of innocence under the blanket, she kissed the ends of her fingertips, and gestured towards her:
Tears swelling, she stumbled outside, and once again she was stopped by the same strong arms. This time she stared directly into the sunken blue eyes, and did not disguise her anger.
"I thought it was you..." was all that her warrior could say.
Gabrielle did not restrain her fury. "How could you? You lied to her!"
There was no defense left in Xena. She muttered "I knew, that no matter what I said..."
Raging, Gabrielle angrily completed for her "No matter how terrible the truth itself was, shed still follow? Didnt that make you understand? But to make her think that she was the cause of your death...?"
"I would have said anything, done anything..."
"Even let Amphipolis be destroyed?"
The warriors passivity was shaken for only a moment. "I thought, I hoped I might have survived the stoning. But I always figured, of all the ways I could have died, that was...the one most fitting." Stonefaced, she began to move towards the hilltop. Gabrielle called to her as she ran to catch up.
"And the Amazons. And the Centaurs? And all of the others?"
Now Gabrielle saw the anguish when Xena turned to face her, and so many kinds of pain in her eyes, that Gabrielle could not bear to look. "Gabrielle. They had choices, they all had... But you, that girl, I wanted to let her know, she needed to have a choice..."
"She made her decision, I made my decision. And it was mine to make, not hers, Xena."
"I know. But..."
"What about Ares? Will you and he try again?"
There was a mirthless laugh. "No. I accept your choice; youd just follow me there too, wouldnt you?"
"Always. But Ares...."
"Poor Ares. He thought without you that I would be his again. He didnt know that I really couldnt live without you." There was another empty laugh.
"So you tricked him, knowing what would happen."
"I knew. It beat the alternative, Gabrielle." Xena looked to the farmhouse below them. "So what happens now?"
"If everything is restored the way it was, then Artemis will send the vortex and then Ill go... back. Shell probably have a few choice words with Ares, and then I guess youll follow."
The vision of what they were returning to hung between them. Her throat dry, Xena whispered "How, how can you go back to... that?"
Speaking with a assurity she didnt know she felt, Gabrielle said: "Because were together. That was the worst lie, Xena. You told her we would die alone. We wont. And it wont end there. I know it. I pledge that to you."
There was a sound and the vortex opened. "My ride is here," There was time for a quick kiss, a squeeze of the hand, and with a fear in her eyes that she unsuccessfully tried to hide, Gabrielle flickered and was gone.
Xena imagined her, staring at that blood stained dagger, with blank, hollow eyes. A shiver raced through her body.
At that instant there was a slight sound that nonetheless carried through the night. The door of the farmhouse slowly opened, and a slight figure slipped through it. Xena watched from the shadows as Gabrielle glanced furtively both ways, and then with a giddy excitement, began hurrying down the road to her great adventure.
Xena heard the grinding of the vortex opening up behind her, but she continued to watch until the figure was swallowed by the darkness, before closing her eyes. And with all of her soul open to that young girl who could not hear her, she placed her fist against her heart, and said:
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