Late that evening as Hercules and Iolaus settled under the Grecian night sky, they agreed to stop arguing over who knew first about the love Xena and Gabrielle had for each other. Hercules was actually the one who saw the new love in Xenas eyes, when they joined forces to free Prometheus almost four winters ago. Hercules had only kissed Xena out of friendship. In fact, when the two of them watched Iolaus kissing Gabrielle under the tree, the Warrior had to turn away and try hard to contain her anger. The big guy actually remembers telling Xena that her soulmate might be right in front of her. Unfortunately it took the stubborn woman a while to stop denying her feelings.
*Stubborn half-god!* The stocky, curly hair blond rolled over on his side trying to get comfortable. *Herc, you are so wrong about when Xena fell in love with Gabrielle. It was not until Xena died. With me standing right there, Gabrielle told Xena how she loved her.* Iolaus continued to toss back and forth for awhile wondering if this marriage between a warrior and a bard would work. True Gabrielle stepped up and protected Xena and true they seemed to be destined and favored by the gods but he was having a hard time believing that love would seal any difference in their beliefs. Before drifting off to sleep Iolaus decided he would pray hard for them, as he really did love both women.
Less than a half candlemark away Maris rested high in a tree. She followed Hercules and his stupid sidekick for most of the evening. Both were too busy arguing to pay any attention to their surroundings. Maris had no quarrel with Hercules nor did she wish too. Once the men stopped traveling and started a campfire she was careful not to be seen by either man and backed off settling in a tree for the night. Although she would sleep lightly tonight, Maris mused over the early arguments of the two men. So Xena was indeed marrying the Amazon Queen. While she had heard this mentioned before, Maris had not given it much attention or thought. In Maris mind Gabrielle should have already been dead. That plan unfortunately went astray when that little brat Pippa squealed on them. *Umpf Pippa, dont get too comfortable in that Amazon jail cell. I will be coming for you.* At this point, Maris was not sure how much Stella talked when she was captured. Figuring the bitch probably spilled her guts to save that retched unwanted daughter of hers, Maris added Stella to her list of people she would kill. *You are so stupid, Stella, that brat has no idea you are her mother. Anyone who risks their life for a child deserves to die.*
Early the following morning Xena woke up and decided to let Gabrielle sleep longer. Giving her a delicate kiss on the top of her head, she pulled a tunic over her tanned body and remaining barefoot she slipped out of the room in search of her mother. Last night after Xena was finally able to calm Gabrielles fears down the Warrior spent some time thinking about their marriage, Gabrielles father and his abuse of her lover, along with the messenger that tried to kill Gabrielle. The inn was not yet open for the morning meal and so it was easy to find her mother sitting in front of the fireplace in the main room with a cup of tea. Xena approached her mother with a big smile and bent over giving her a kiss and hug good morning.
"How is Gabrielle doing? I am so sorry about last night everyone just was so excited. I forgot totally about how Gabrielle might be feeling." Cyrene lowered her head to stare into the embers burning brightly.
Pulling a chair close to her mother, Xena reached out taking her mothers hand. "She is okay, mom, just overtired and her arm was sore. No one is angry. You know how Gabrielle is, she does not want anyone to know she is hurting and she tries to hide it. Eventually her emotions catch up with her and she collapses. I want to talk with you mom about a few things. The wedding and I want to see the message. Gabrielle said she thought you might have it."
Indeed the innkeeper had the parchment and she reached into her apron pocket and pulled it out. The parchment was quite crumbled and stained with a mixture of blood and sweat. The Warrior read the message for the first time. My dearest Gabrielle, I know you believe you are my daughter you are not. You belong to another. How does it feel to murder your mother?
Rage filled the Warriors spirit and she too crumbled the parchment in her hands. Ripping the chair she was sitting on from underneath her the Warrior threw it with tremendous force blindly across the room forcing several other chairs to spin off of their legs violently.
"XENA! LISTEN TO ME!!!" Cyrene was quickly to her feet throwing her body into her daughters chest and wrapping her arms around Xenas waist. "Calm down Xena .this will not help Gabrielle nor will it help you. Please! Sit back down."
The Warrior crumbled to her knees and Cyrene followed her daughter to the floor. Unable to control the overwhelming emotional pain she was feeling for her soulmate Xena broke down and sobbed without shame. All Cyrene could do was hang on to her daughter and rock her back and forth hoping the motion would calm her. The chairs crashing around the room brought Amarice, Teklai and Minya racing down the stairs to the main room. The three women moved cautiously toward the crying Warrior and were soon joined by Gabrielle who bolted by them to her sobbing soulmate. With inviting arms the innkeeper opened up to allow Gabrielle to scoot in and hold Xena tightly to her chest. Cyrene then wrapped her arms around both women. Soon Lila joined the group of observers and together they sat at a distance holding hands waiting and guarding their friends. No one is sure how much time passed, when Xenas sobbing slowed to sniffles. Throughout the entire time Xena cried Gabrielle never let go. Eventually Cyrene pulled away leaving Gabrielle with a nurturing smile and kiss. Joining the other women she led them to the kitchen. Delicately Gabrielle lifted her lovers chin to look into her red eyes and tear stained face. That was when she saw the crumbled up message clenched between Xenas fist. Holding Xena with one arm Gabrielle caressed Xenas cheek with her free hand. In her attempt to calm her soulmate Gabrielle pressed her lips lovingly to Xenas. A desperate hunger immediately consumed the Warrior. The kiss turned demanding and before Gabrielle could react she was pinned to the floor by the weight of her Warriors needy appetite. As quickly as the urgency took control of Xena it ended. Realization of her actions flooded the Warrior and she quickly lifted herself off Gabrielle. "Im sorry."
With Xena helping, Gabrielle stood. "Why are you telling me you are sorry? For needing me, for loving me why?"
"For not protecting you. My craze over Caesar killed you. If I had taken you with me this Tartarus of a messenger ." Lowering her head, Xena paused to wipe the tears still seeping from her eyes. "You would not have killed. Ive brought you so much darkness." After several deep breaths Xena looked directly into Gabrielle eyes. "I should have protected you Im Im sorry."
"Xena, you did nothing wrong. Please dont take on a burden you had no control over." Sliding her arms around her soulmates waist the Bard continued. "There are so many things you have taught me and because of them I can defend myself and now I can protect you too. Caesar was destiny yours and mine. The messenger was a killer. Because of you and what you taught me Im standing here alive. The darkness that you fear has helped us find our way to the light and goodness."
Ever so gently the Warrior brushed several silky blonde strands of hair away from the Bards face. Xena saw so many things in Gabrielles eyes. Most of all she could see the love this young woman had for her. "Im so overwhelmed with you. By the gods please never leave me."
Gabrielle smiled at her lover. "Xena, we are together for a reason. Our rebirth brought us gifts we have yet to fully discover or understand. Look at how fast my body is healing look how you felt my pain at the exact time it happened. Do you remember Carriers words to us? Do not fear being either weak or strong. Embrace each lesson." Reaching up to wipe the continual tears falling from Xenas eyes, Gabrielle smiled. "I will never leave you Xena, not even in death." The Warrior let a huge smile cross her face. Gabrielle had used the same words on her that she told Gabrielle a few seasons ago after she was struck by the Persian arrow. Xena pulled her soulmate tightly to her body. "Xena, let me love you sweetheart ..let me love you."
The Warrior laughed lightly and looked down into her lovers smiling face and questioned. "Sweetheart?"
Her question of the term raised a seductive smile from Gabrielle. "Mmmmm .yes, Xena. To me you are the sweetness that captured my heart." Several kisses later the couple decided to join Cyrene and their friends.
As they turned in the direction of the kitchen, they managed to catch the women peeking through the doorway. Glancing at each other both shook their heads, held hands and joined the women. As they crossed the threshold, the Warrior yelled out. "Okay mom, lets talk wedding plans!!" Over a morning meal, cups of tea, good friends, family and acceptance that at times the road is tough to travel, the conversation regarding the wedding of Xena and Gabrielle filled the kitchen.
It was late afternoon, when Hercules and Iolaus bounced through the front door of the inn. Autolycus caught up with them just before Amphipolis so the three men came into the inn yelling for Cyrene and huge plates of food that they assumed she would feed them. Xena was extremely happy to see Hercules walk through the door and the big guy was the recipient of a huge hug. After reassuring Autolycus that she would not punch him in the eye again and saying hello to Iolaus the Warrior pulled Hercules off to the side.
"Thank you for coming. I owe you so much Herc." Lila brought two mugs of ale along with several plates of food to the isolated table the two friends were sitting at. No one interrupted, as it was apparent that Xena wanted some time alone with Hercules. "I just dont know where to begin to thank you."
Shoving two pieces of lamb into his mouth, Hercules quickly chewed and swallowed. "Xena, where is Gabrielle?" Glancing around the room he noticed she seem to be missing.
"Shes taking a nap. I did something stupid this morning ..lost my temper and then I cried over ."
The son of Zeus spit his ale across the table just barely missing Xena. "You WHAT did you say you cried?"
Realizing her friend had only heard whatever rumors were floating around the country side about her death and rebirth, the Warrior decided to start at the beginning and take him up to the point of her tears early this morning. As Hercules ate, the Warrior talked and soon several candlemarks passed. By the time the conversation was complete, Xena also heard about the dead man and horse which Iolaus and he discovered. Both assumed the messenger was probably the cause due to the manner in which the poor man was killed.
"Xena, I am happy for you. Whatever part I played in your life was very small compared to what Gabrielle has helped you with. But, my friend I think even Gabrielle would tell you that you are the one walking the path and only you are responsible for your changes." Accepting a fourth mug of ale from Lila who made sure both friends had plenty to drink and eat, Hercules continued. "When will you approach Herodotus?"
Finishing her current mug of ale, Xena thanked Lila and asked if Gabrielle was awake yet. The young brunette giggled, as she saw Hercules smile at her and responded that her sister was taking a bath. She then scooted off to wait on other customers filling the inn. The Warrior raised her mug in a toast and Hercules accepted it with laughter he was proud of his friend.
"To answer your question about Herodotus, Im not sure. I dont want to push Gabrielle into something she is not ready for. However, I do have questions and I know she does too."
Xena kept the parchment containing the message. Pulling it from the pocket of her tunic Xena allowed Hercules to read it and watched as the anger crossed his face. "What does he mean I know you believe you are my daughter you are not. You belong to another. Isnt he Gabrielles father?"
"I asked Lila that same question. She just said that her father always treated her sister different. He had no patience with her and he always favored Lila." The Warrior guzzled down her ale and waved to catch Lilas attention for a fifth ale. "Lila told me she would not talk about Gabrielles beatings."
The half-god waited until Lila refilled their mugs and left before speaking. "Why would she not talk about it?"
"Because Gabrielle told her not too. Evidently Gabrielle does not want me to know about it. There is something about this whole matter that bothers me. Obviously the abuse alone is hard but now this message opens up other questions ..it just angers me. Hades, Gabrielle has already been through too much." The Warrior reached over to take her friends hand. "I dont know what to do."
Accepting Xenas hand he gave it a firm squeeze. "Yes you do Xena. Just love her and be with her, when Gabrielle is ready she will let you know."
Before they could take the conversation any further Iolaus sat down next to his traveling companion with three mugs of ale. Placing them in front of his two friends he took a drink from his own mug and looked directly into the Warriors sapphire eyes. "Sorry, but I am tired of listening to Joxer whine about Gabrielle marrying you." The son of Zeus slapped his sidekick on the back and the three burst into laughter over poor Joxers dismay. While normally they would not have laughed over Joxers continuing heartbreak for failing to win Gabrielles heart, the huge quantities of ale they were consuming began to take control.
Three more mugs of ale passed through each of them before Cyrene cut them off. Returning to the kitchen she went directly to Gabrielle. "Your Warrior is pretty drunk."
"Why is she my Warrior when she is drunk and not your daughter?" Gabrielle grabbed Cyrene by the face and planted a big kiss on her forehead. Receiving a motherly slap on the butt the Bard added. "I suppose you want me to get her out of your dining area before she passes out."
"Yes, and you better take Amarice and Teklai with you to help with Hercules and Iolaus. They are just as drunk, as your soulmate."
As the three women entered the dining room they were surprised to see it so crowded but then Hercules was always quite an attraction. Cyrene would be extremely busy tonight. The Queen and her Amazons could hear the laughter all the way across the room. A concerned Teklai voiced her thoughts, as they approached the table. "We are never going to get them to move." Before the three women could reach the table five local villagers joined the table. "Oh great! Gabrielle, now what do we do?"
"Well, I guess we will see just how drunk they are. Im not going to fight them. If we cant get them to come with us we just leave them." Although Gabrielle did not mind her Warrior drinking or even getting a little drunk, she did not want her getting totally intoxicated. However, she also refused to fight with her. Unfortunately the group of men who joined Xena, Hercules and Iolaus brought mugs of ale with them for the three friends. No one was paying attention and it took a moment between the laughter and boisterous talking for Xena to notice Gabrielle standing with her arms crossed. She was not smiling.
Iolaus slammed his hand to the table when he saw Gabrielle and the two Amazons at her side. He tried to speak but his words came out slurred between laughter. "Ohhh, rooks ike .someone . has trouble." Hercules punched his friend in the arm and the Amazons thought he told Iolaus to be quiet and no one would notice they were drunk. The three sober women shook their heads and exchanged looks indicating that Xena and her two friends were extremely drunk. A villager just about fell out of his chair so Gabrielle could get next to Xena.
Unexpectedly Gabrielle was pulled demandingly onto Xenas lap. For the time she allowed the Warrior to hold her and she wrapped her arms around Xenas neck. "You are drunk." It was a statement of fact and the Warrior realized there was no need to deny it. Rather than talk Xena found having Gabrielle sitting on her lap was arousing and she slid one hand up the Bards thigh while burying her lips and teeth into Gabrielles neck. This action produced several howls and whistles from the men around the couple. Gabrielle pushed Xena back and managed to squirm away from her prying hands. Without so much as one word or look the young blonde shoved her way through the crowd and back into the kitchen. Amarice and Teklai followed their friend after shouting several chosen words to the men howling and some warning looks directly at Xena. Iolaus made the mistake of telling the Warrior she would be sleeping alone tonight and Xena reached over the table punching him hard enough to send the drunk to the floor. The son of Zeus and surrounding villagers could do nothing but laugh. By the time everyone finished the ales, the whole incident was forgotten. The Warrior forgot Gabrielle was anywhere near her.
Joxer attempted to talk with an irate Bard, as she entered the kitchen. While her bruises had healed quickly, her arm was sore after pulling away from Xena and she could now feel a bite mark stinging her neck where the Warrior had been overly aggressive. "Gabby! I would never do that to you .why dont ." The Mighty Joxer had no chance to duck and the Bard slugged him directly into the eye. His scarecrow-like body fell backwards and he tripped over a chair landing on the floor.
Amarice squatted down next to him. "That was really stupid Joxer. Really stupid."
Deciding to say nothing and stay busy Lila and Minya grabbed several plates of food and returned to waiting on tables. Concern poured through Cyrenes emotions and she approached Gabrielle who was rubbing her neck. "Honey, are you okay. I did not realize she was that drunk. Im sorry."
Attempting to bring a brave smile to her face Gabrielle gave her Warrior Mom a hug. "Ive never seen her this drunk before. Im not sure a like it." The Bard covered her face with her hands for a moment. Dropping her hands to her side she patted Cyrene on the arm. "Im going to see Memnos and have him change the bandage. Ill be back later."
Without asking Amarice joined Gabrielle, as she walked out of the kitchen and through the front door of the entrance. Cyrene was extremely angry with her daughter and planned on telling her once she was sober.
Later in the evening Cyrene was able to get Uncle Tensandi, Autolycus, Joxer and several friends to move the three drunks from the chairs to their beds. The drunken villagers were tossed out and forced to sleep where they landed or crawl home. Gabrielle stayed away with Amarice for the remainder of that day and evening. By the time they returned the Warrior was already sleeping off her drunken state. The Bard would not even enter the bedroom instead borrowed a nightshirt from Lila.
Very late that same night the two Amazons and Iason arrived in Amphipolis. Eponin took the three horses to the stables while Shulaba introduced Iason to Cyrene. Teklai wasted no time grabbing on to her lover, which left Iason with the innkeeper. The old priest remembered Cyrene from many moons ago and thus the two had an enjoyable time catching up on old and new gossip before retiring. The innkeeper put Iason in the small cabin located behind her flower garden. The old priest was extremely pleased with the womans generosity and knowledge that he required a certain amount of privacy. That night as he looked out the window from the cabin he nodded his head waved his hand and several rows of mixed flowers appeared in Cyrenes garden.
When Eponin arrived inside the stables she was pleasantly surprised to find Amarice hauling bales of hay from one side of stable to the other. Quietly she observed Amarice until she realized that the young redhead was crying. Concern for the apparent dismay the young Amazon was in Eponin walked over to her. "Amarice everything okay?"
The young Amazon was startled by Eponins presence and with tears streaming down her face she rushed into Eponins waiting arms. The dark hair Amazon embraced the young woman she had fallen in love with and tried to calm Amarice down. Something was wrong and the Amazons years of experience knew it had to be more than loneliness. "Ssssshhh .calm down, what is going on. It is so late, what are you doing out here?" The young woman tilted her head up to look into the big brown eyes she fell so in love with. At this point, Eponin believed she could not live without this woman and she bent her head to meet Amarice. Their lips met softly, as they let the sensations and taste of the other run through their heart and soul. The young redhead moaned softly and reached up behind Eponins neck encouraging the kiss to deepen. By now it was too late for Eponin to change her mind. The Warrior was captured and surrendered to the young feisty redhead. As their passion increased, fears and worries dropped. Eponin pulled away from the kiss only long enough to wipe Amarices tears. "Is this okay with you?"
The young woman nodded her head pulling Eponin with her. Leading the Warrior to an empty horse stall, she grabbed a blanket resting over the half door and threw it on the ground. "Yes, Warrior now teach me how to love you."
*Oh sweet Aphrodite, let me not disappoint this woman.* The Amazon who had spent so much of her life alone and in search of not only her way but her soulmate was coming home. With tenderness and a sweetness that makes one come back for more, Eponin taught Amarice how to love.
Applying a cold compress to the Mighty Joxers eye the innkeeper brought the man a hot cup of tea and sat down next to him. "Why, my friend, dont you let go of Gabrielle?"
Thanking Cyrene for the compress and tea the young man sipped at the tea collecting his thoughts. "Because I love her. Cyrene, I love Xena too but, but shes a warrior and that means trouble will always be there. Gabby could get hurt."
The innkeeper was well aware of Joxers love for the young Bard. "Joxer Gabrielle is in love with my daughter. You cant change that. If you really love her, then let her go."
"Hi Joxer, you okay?" The young brunette placed her hand on the misfit warriors shoulder and squeezed lovingly. "Can I help you?"
Before Joxer could respond Cyrene spoke up. "Why yes Lila. Come sit with Joxer and make sure he keeps that compress on for awhile. Oh, and get this man to finish his tea and eat some food." Without hesitation the innkeeper left the couple together. She knew Lila was in love with Joxer and if the lionhearted man would just open his eyes, he might find love sitting next to him.
Purely accidentally Gabrielle and Lila discovered the sleeping lovers in Cyrenes stables located behind the inn. Quietly giggling Lila slipped back out of the stables and ran to the kitchen. Gabrielle grabbed a rein and whispered into the ear of the chestnut mare. The horse followed her new owner out of the stables. Once outside Gabrielle fitted the mare with the reins jumped on and rode bareback out of the village. She had absolutely nothing with her except for the clothes on her back and the boots on her feet.
The innkeeper was just sitting down at the table for a midmorning cup of lemon tea when the young brunette came bursting through the back door trying to catch her breath between giggles. "Slow down child, what is the matter?"
Lila pulled on Cyrenes arms and hands forcing her from her chair. The young woman was obviously very excited and it took the innkeeper a moment to settle her down from dancing and hopping around. "You won you won. Cyrene YOU WON!!!!"
"I won???" Then it hit Cyrene like a raging bull and she threw her arms up in the air grabbing Lila in for a hug on the way down. "HA HA I WON! YES YES YES ONCE AGAIN THIS OLD WOMAN CALLS LOVE FOR WHAT IT IS."
In the middle of her mothers excitement Xena stumbled into the kitchen holding her head and groaning about her hangover. The innkeeper glared at her daughter and asked Lila to brew some tea with her homemade herbs to help Xenas hangover. "Sit down Xena, you should take it easy or your head will pound all day."
"Will you stop, please mother. Im not sure what happened." The Warrior directed her comments to her mother with some impatience.
"My daughter I have no sympathy for your pain. Oh and did you hear I won the bet." Very smugly the innkeeper handed her daughter the specially brewed tea. "Drink and stop complaining."
At that point, Shulaba and Teklai entered the kitchen followed quickly by Minya who asked. "Cyrene did you win the bet the one about Eponin and Amarice?" The three women each intentionally shouted hello to Xena who only scowled at them while she sipped the tea.
The women joined Cyrene and Xena. The innkeeper was extremely proud of winning another bet and decided she would brag about this one too. "In the stables first night back after a separation."
"Tartarus! You women even call the location!!!" The Warrior was shaking her head and could not resist laughing. "By the way, Mother .you neglected to tell me who won the bet about my surrender."
Feeling rather proud of her uncanny ability Cyrene spoke up. "Actually my beautiful daughter .I won that bet too."
"NO impossible .we werent even around here how how " The Warrior found herself completely astounded over the whole betting game. "And you even got the location??? But how did you know??" Realizing Gabrielle had to tell her mother, the Warrior raised her one eyebrow and pressed her lips together in concentration. Then it hit her. "Where is Gabrielle anyway, she wasnt in bed this morning?"
"Or last night my drunken daughter. You managed to make quite a fool of yourself along with Hercules and Iolaus." Before Xena could question her further, the Amazons and Minya were begging for information about the bets on Xena and Cyrene complied. "It was actually predictable. The last time I saw the two of them ..well Xena, I love you dearly but you were tripping and falling all over Gabrielle. Anyway, do you remember the visit? It was right before you went to the Amazon village to celebrate the new births?" Xena nodded her head yes and began on her second cup of tea. "Well, I gave my bet to Gabrielle and she submitted it to Ephiny and ."
Sitting back in her chair the Warrior raised her hand indicating she needed to ask a question. "You mean to tell me that you and Gabrielle talked about this?"
"Oh no, Xena .we were not allowed to do that." Cyrene reached across the table and patted Xenas hands. "There are guidelines to this betting. It would be cheating if we talked. I just handed her a pouch with your names written on a piece of parchment and my guess at a time and location and told her it was a bet. Gabrielle knew what to do."
The Warrior was surprised her mothers secret brew was actually helping her head. Very aware that she still did not know where Gabrielle was Xena assumed she was probably angry. Starting to become concern that she stupidly got too drunk the Warrior asked once again. "WAIT please. Where is Gabrielle?"
Placing several plates of food on the table Lila answered. "She slept with me last night and then rode off a while ago on that new horse." This news even surprised Cyrene.
Before anyone could question Lila further Joxer came tripping through the entrance mumbling about Gabrielle riding bareback and directing the horse to gallop out of the village and she seemed to be heading northeast. From what he could tell she had absolutely no provisions, food or water with her and Gabrielle did not even carry her staff. The Warrior shoved the chair back sending it across the room and demanded Lila to tell her where Gabrielle rode off too.
"I dont know. I didnt even realize she left until I turned around and saw her leading that horse out of the stables." The young brunette was getting irritated at her sisters soulmate. "Gee the way you treated her yesterday I cant say Id want to be around you right now either."
Rushing back to her room the Warrior tugged on her boots and grabbed her sword. She almost knocked her mother over leaving the room. "Was I that bad mother? Did I hurt her?"
"You were pretty drunk, dear. A bit too playful maybe .look just find her." Xena bent down to kiss her mother accepting the waterbag and small bag of food she prepared. "Im betting she rode out to the land Uncle Tensandi gave to the both of you as a wedding gift." The Warrior bolted out the back door and ran to the stables. Apologizing to Eponin and Amarice for the disturbance Xena saddled Argo in record time and rode out of the stables. Cyrene was standing by the door and shouted as her daughter rode by. "Last night Iason said the ceremony would be tomorrow at sunset. You both need to go through some kind of purification separation before the wedding. You better get back here tonight."
Watching her daughter ride out of town the innkeeper turned her attention to the Amazons in the stable. "Well, you two better get your things together. I have a lot for you both to do before the ceremony!!" Turning her back to them the innkeeper stopped suddenly and yelled back. "Oh and I won the bet!"
Gabrielle made no attempt at hiding her tracks. She just needed to get away and breathe. Assuming Xena would sleep all day the Bard wanted to be alone. The events prior to their death and since theyve been back had been extremely overwhelming. Wishing they had spent more time at the cave, Gabrielle was pleased when Xena suggested they go back right after their marriage. They could spend the time turning it into more of a home and this would allow them to explore the area and possibly find a more suitable trail to get in and out. Her arm was feeling much better and Memnos told her the stitches could actually come out today. The old healer was unable to explain the amazing rate her body was healing and assumed it had something to do with her rebirth. Today on her way back to Amphipolis Gabrielle planned to stop by and have the stitches removed. The land was beautiful this way and the Bard found the horse to be high-spirited and willing to obey her every command. It was as if the mare was bred especially for her. Guessing she had been riding about two candlemarks Gabrielle decided to stop by a small stream running through the land and allow the mare to graze and drink. She was also thirsty and scolded herself for not at least bringing a waterbag. Not really planning on riding out here today the thought just jumped into her heart and she went with the flow. Assuming Xena would not miss her and she would return in time before her soulmate awoke, Gabrielle rubbed the side of her neck to feel the bruised area caused by Xenas overzealous need for attention. Kneeling down on the edge of the bank Gabrielle scooped the water with her hand and drank until it satisfied her thirst. Laying on the warm grass the young woman looked up through the treetops to the white puffy clouds in the sky. Through her mind ran the entire past moon and all the people good and bad that crossed their paths. Thinking about the man who tried to kill her the Bard found acceptance for her actions. Had she not defended herself the man would have murdered her in cold blood. Why her father was he her father? Either way why he sent such a hateful note was beyond Gabrielles imagination. Herodotus was a sick man and never really liked Gabrielle but he never disowned her before; or had he and she failed to notice. The thought that her mothers death was her fault was overwhelming and that accusation sent her spinning out of control. The Bard was aware at a young age that her mother had a weak heart. These were her reasons for insisting that in her absence Lila should take on more responsibility. Dont allow mother to fetch water and collect wood; it would always tire her too much. Now she was not sure why her mother really died. It would be something Gabrielle knew she would have to face. For now the young woman believed burying this pain away would be the best thing to do. After the wedding she would deal with it. The mare apparently decided her owner spent enough time daydreaming and came over nudging Gabrielle in the side.
"Okay okay, I get the hint." Grabbing both the rein and the horses brown mane she swung her leg upward jumping with ease on to the horse. With the slightest nudge of her knees and tug on the rein the horse obeyed and began walking away from the stream. Not much time passed, when Gabrielle heard a voice shouting her name. Stopping the mare she turned around to see her soulmate on Argo trotting toward her.
Even though she was scared that her lover was mad at her for getting so drunk, Xena did not like Gabrielle riding off without leaving word. Now that she had her in sight the Warrior was not sure whether to scold her soulmate or kiss her. And she was not positive how Gabrielle would accept her presence. As she got closer Xena could see the smile crossing her lovers face. Stopping Argo right next to the mare the Warrior decided she better apologize right away. "Honey, Im so sorry. I dont know why I allowed myself to get so drunk. Can you ever forgive me?"
"Im not mad at you anymore. I was a bit miffed last night but I cant stay mad at you Xena. I love you too much." The Warrior reached out and with amazing strength pulled her soulmate off the mare so she could sit sidesaddle in front of her. Gabrielle responded immediately by wrapping her arms around Xena claiming her inviting lips in a sensitive and reassuring kiss. Leaning back from her soulmate Gabrielle searched the deep blue eyes that were controlling her heart. "Come with me, I need to touch you." Allowing Gabrielle to slid off Argo the Warrior jumped off and grabbed the rolled up blanket from the saddle. Taking her lover by the hand Gabrielle led her to some tall grass and with a fair amount of force pulled her to the ground.
Xena pushed her back gently and unrolled the blanket. Both women scooted on top. With a need to command their lovemaking Gabrielle began removing the tunic Xena wore. Allowing her lover to take the lead Xena helped her Bard remove the tunic exposing her voluminous breasts to her lovers grasp and mouth. With unrestrained passion the young woman filled her mouth with Xenas breasts, tugging and teasing. It only took moments for Xena to lay down and give up her heart and body to her soulmate. As the Amazon Queen slid down Xenas body, she manipulated her tongue sensually around the tattoo on her Warriors hip. Lately during their lovemaking each spent time licking, nipping and kissing the tattoo. It became a habit that each enjoyed. The tattoo signified their bonding and loving the skin it was under acknowledge the importance of their devotion. Lifting Xenas thighs over her powerful shoulders Gabrielle attacked the wetness and treasure that Xena allowed her entrance too. "Oh, Gabrielle .yes, oh please yes .more ." Slipping her tongue like a dagger deeply inside of Xenas fevered passage caused the Warrior to scream and her body began trembling, as she lifted from the ground. Refusing to let go of her lover the Bard scooted to her knees and raised Xenas hips and legs with her shoulders and hands. Burying as much of her face as she could into the Warrior raven mound Gabrielle feasted aggressively has her lover cried with pleasure begging for more. Quickly Gabrielle brought Xena to a number of tiny orgasms. Pulling her tongue away for a second to slip in several fingers the Bard sucked furiously with her mouth, licking with her tongue while the friction from her fingers inside Xenas treasure caused unbridled vibrations to exploded throughout the Warriors entire body. As the final climax took over Xenas body, her muscles collapsed and her soulmate lowered her to the blanket. At once Gabrielle crawled up to hold her lover tightly in her arms.
Catching her breath proved to be more difficult than Xena thought and for a moment her eyes would not focus correctly. "My sweet Gabrielle, oh how I love you." Gabrielle increased her hold and Xena finally regained her breath and her strength. Without warning Gabrielle was soon without her tunic and that was when the Warrior noticed the bite mark on her neck. Silently cursing for not noticing sooner Xena immediately sat and tilted Gabrielles head to take a better look at the mark. It was small, bruised and the skin did not appear broken, however, the impression of at least one top and one bottom tooth was apparent. "I did this to you last night, didnt I." The Warrior was not looking for an answer because she already knew it had to be her. "What did I do to you. How badly does it hurt? Hades, why do I have to be such a monster."
"NO, Xena .that is not true. You are not a monster and it was only because I pulled away. It was my own fault not yours. You were trying to kiss me and I was mad because you were drunk." Although Gabrielle realized this was not completely true, she had no intentions of letting Xena feel bad over this. The Bard lifted Xenas chin with her hand. "Now my lover. I do have something I would like you to bite on." No more needed to be said. With a slight growl from Xena and many moans and groans from Gabrielle the Warrior made love to her soulmate.
Numerous paces away Maris was well hidden among the treetops scanning the land and watching the lovers. She was actually impressed by how passionate they were with each other and it fueled her own needs. Biting on several leaves from the tree to muffle her screams Maris brought herself to three orgasms while watching the two women. Alone she had no chance in killing Gabrielle and beating Xena. Breathing deeply to calm her inner tremors Maris made a promise. *I can be patient Gabrielle. I guarantee you that I will have your body and your Warrior will be made to watch. Even if I have to break her legs and arms so she can not move. She will watch you scream in ecstasy when my tongue rides your body. Then I will kill you slowly so you can continue to scream and she can continue to watch your life slip away.*
The couple returned to the inn by early evening. Gabrielle was riding in front of Xena on Argo. The Warrior was emotionally bewildered and needed to keep in physical contact with her partner. While the women spent the day making love they also spent quality time talking about their deaths. It was the first time the topic went beyond a few words. Together they spoke of the events that took place those horrible few days. Time was also spent in joint meditation. Something Xena had come to enjoy. Partly because it tightened her bond with Gabrielle but there was also a comforting factor of unexplained power that would surge through her body. She knew it was not of this land or this time, however, Xena did not question this power; she accepted it. Her Bard had a great deal more of acceptance regarding their destiny with Caesar than the Warrior had. It was difficult for Xena to let go of the guilt. Emotionally Gabrielle gave her more comfort and reassurance than the Warrior thought she deserved. Once again the young woman from Poteidaia amazed Xena with her ability to love so deeply.
As they rode into the village, it was impossible not to notice a great deal of commotion going on outside of the inn. Bypassing Memnos home the lovers went directly to the crowd and found as they got closer, the noise was of laughter and happiness. Lila greeted the women along with Shulaba and Teklai. Even though she knew Gabrielle was quite capable of getting off of Argo without her help, the Warrior still reached up placing her hands around her lovers waist. This was one habit the Warrior was not willing to give up. It meant she could hold Gabrielle. Prior to declaring her love, helping Gabrielle off Argo allowed her to touch her Bard without casting suspicion. As the Warrior hoped, her lover was true and as Gabrielle slid off Argo she wrapped her arms around Xena and brushed her lips to the Warrior. They suddenly found themselves surrounded by not only Lila and the Amazons but also a rather large assortment of villagers congratulating the pair.
Gabrielle let go of Xena and grabbed Lilas hand. "Lila, what is going on?" Giggling the young brunette told them of Cyrenes planned pre-wedding celebration. It was meant to be a surprise and it was. Shaking her head as if she knew there was no way to stop her mother from being in charge, Xena held Gabrielles hand and the lovers attempted to make their way through the crowd of people and friends to get inside the inn. The level of the noise made it tough to understand what everyone was saying to them. There was also music in the background adding to the confusion. Just past the front entrance the two were pulled apart by excited friends each demanding time to wish them happiness. Many of them spoke of homes and children, many spoke of wealth and prosperity, and others wished the couple for health and continued love. Eventually Xenas mother stepped in front of her and grabbed on to her daughters arm pulling her to the bar. Iolaus and Autolycus were tending bar for Cyrene and each handed a mug of port to Cyrene and Xena. "Oh no mother Im not drinking. Not after yesterday."
"Drink it is only one and I want to toast my beautiful daughter. I am so extremely proud of you Xena."
"So am I."
Xena spun around to find her brother, Toris, with his arms stretched out waiting for his hug. Accepting her brothers invitation for a hug Cyrene soon joined in. Cyrene and her two children along with Iolaus and Autolycus toasted the marriage of Xena and Gabrielle. Toris teased his sister about her surrendering to love and how he was not surprised his sisters heart fell to the young Bard. "Did you bet on my surrender too?"
Toris busted with laughter and patted his sister on the shoulder. "No, but I understand mom is real good at that. And by the way, where is Gabrielle?"
Just as he finished his question, Joxer popped up behind them. "Gabby is way over on the other side surrounded by a bunch of young men all trying to get her to dance with them."
Slamming her mug on the bar Xena spun around and started shoving politely through the crowd to find Gabrielle. Cyrene and Toris watched her go. "Mom, does she get jealous easy?"
His mother just shook her head and laughed. "You my son should ask Autolycus. And yes, Xena is rather possessive of Gabrielle." Placing her arm around Toris she added. "I guess I would be too, if I had to go through what they have both been through. Let me bring you up to date on the news." As mother and son headed toward the kitchen, Iolaus looked to Autolycus and questioned what the King of Thieves could have possibly done to make the Warrior Princess mad."
It proved to be rather laborious to reach Gabrielle. The inn was packed and there was very little room to move comfortably. The closer she got to her Bard the louder the music became and people dancing made it impossible to slip in-between. Thus Xena searched for another way around. With a smirk on her face she stopped behind Eponin and Amarice. The Amazon Warrior had the little redhead pinned up against the wall and was aggressively running her hands and lips up and down the young womans body and neck. Unable to resist Xena tapped Eponin on the shoulder. The Amazon released her hold on her young lover and turned to find Xena grinning at her. Eponins eyes were glazed over and the Warrior believed if she had not interrupted, her friend might have seduced the young redhead on the spot. Xena wondered if she looked that way, when Gabrielle had her sexually aroused. "Eponin, surrendering isnt so bad, is it?"
"My friend .I have no words to explain how Im feeling." With a pat on the back the Warrior left the two lovers and proceeded to find Gabrielle. Witnessing Eponin pinning Amarice to the wall excited Xena and she could feel the heavy wetness between her legs. *Only one more day my love and you will be mine completely.* Suddenly she felt a tug on her arm. *Oh gods, not another interruption.* Turning to face the person demanding her attention she came face to face with Tara and Andros.
"Xena, congratulations. I already spoke with Gabrielle. Gods, does she love you." Tara accepted a hug from the Warrior who helped her out of trouble on several occasions. Andros offered his hand to Xena and she happily accepted. "Andros and I are getting married before the winter solitise. You and Gabrielle will come wont you?" Spending sometime talking with the young couple Xena assured them that both Gabrielle and she would be at their wedding. Tara rushed through a series of questions about their death and rebirth and Xena tried to politely answer all of them. Finally Hercules came up behind Xena and assumed she might need rescuing. He had been observing the young men flirting with Gabrielle and watched as Xena tried to make her way over. For some time the son of Zeus found it entertaining until he saw several of the young men maneuver Gabrielle toward a corner. While they did not appear to be threatening Hercules did notice the Bard appeared uneasy.
"Excuse me, Xena I think you better follow me." Thankful for the interruption the Warrior followed Hercules as he managed to move the people out of the way. Xena looked up to see Gabrielle pinned into a corner with three very drunken young men attempting to fondle her. Although the men were only touching her shoulders and arms, Gabrielle looked as if she froze. Hercules grabbed two of the men by the shirt collar and lifted them from the floor. The Warrior moved between her soulmate and the third man and punched him in the stomach sending him to his knees. Moments later the three were apologizing to Gabrielle and were lost among the crowd. Xena thanked Hercules and turned to face her partner who remained leaning against the wall. Suddenly seducing Gabrielle changed as she witnessed a slight fear in her soulmates eyes. "Hey, did they hurt you?" The words would not come out of Gabrielle so instead she wrapped her arms around Xenas waist. The Warrior held her tightly and kissed her on the top of the head whispering words of comfort and love. The Amazon Queen could not explain her sudden fear over the three young men. She just suddenly felt trapped and fearful. Memories of long ago flooded her mind when the men surrounded her. Shutting her eyes tightly Gabrielle willed the memories away; she refused to let the past haunt her life with Xena. Looking up into deep blue eyes she saw the concern. "Im okay just tired and Im a bit hungry." A strong hand titled her chin and she met the lips of her soulmate. *Thank you Creator for this beautiful Warrior.*
The festivities were disrupted by the appearance of Aphrodite in the middle of the room. Without her normal arrogance and flamboyance she flipped her delicate hand around indicating people should move out of the way. Hercules approached his sister. "What are you up to sis?"
The Goddess of Love giggled at her half brother and scooted over to Xena and Gabrielle who like everyone else watched Aphrodite. "Xena .tomorrow at sunrise you are coming with me. And Gabrielle .ooooo, wait one candledrip." Bending her head to the side she rubbed the bite mark on the young womans neck. The Goddess smiled seductively at Xena. "Oh, Warrior you are hot arent you."
"Aphrodite what do you want."
"You my sexy Warrior." Aphrodite rubbed Xenas arm playfully. "But since your heart belongs to another then Im here to prepare you for your wedding to this very tempting blonde." Winking at Gabrielle the thought of bedding both of these women was extremely exciting for the Goddess of Love. "Anyway, sweet thing let me take care of that nasty little bite." All it took was a wave of her hand and not only was the bite mark gone but so was the bandage, stitches and cut on her arm. "A bride must look gorgeous on her wedding day. The muscle in your arm still needs to mend, however, that scar had to go." Aphrodite never ceased to amaze Xena. Clearing the crowd out of their way the Goddess of Love led the women toward the kitchen. Uncle Tensandi was standing by the doorway in front of the kitchen and was quite taken by the Goddess, as she passed by blowing him a kiss. "You big fella stand guard." Hercules patted Tensandi on the back and together they pulled up a few chairs and guarded the entranceway.
The innkeeper chased out the majority of the people hanging around the kitchen and shoved her daughter and Gabrielle toward the small table in the back corner of the kitchen. The Goddess sat down with them and Cyrene brought over a huge plate of food and tea for the two women. While Xena and Gabrielle shared the food Aphrodite explained to them the formalities of the wedding ceremony. At sunrise tomorrow Aphrodite would come for Xena and Artemis would come for Gabrielle. Surprised that the normal playful Goddess was actually taking this serious the couple gave her all their attention. Each of them would go through a purification bath and it was anticipated that each woman would prepare their own vows for the other. The vows were to be short and simple. "Iason will ask several questions before he will bless the joining. One will be outside your bonding circle and one will be inside. I am told Iason will also ask a question of both of you that is not commonly asked." Both women looked at Aphrodite with puzzlement. "The old fool will not tell me what he is planning to ask. He wants the answers to come directly from your hearts." The Goddess continued and explained that if they had gifts for each other, they were expected to share them when they said their vows. The ceremony would take place at the location the two women requested, which was in Cyrenes garden behind the inn. Hercules and Iolaus would make sure only invited guests were allowed. "Oh, and one more thing. Artemis and I have the clothing each of you will wear. And I think you will both be pleased." Just before disappearing the Goddess blew a friendly little kiss to both women. "The wedding will be at sunset tomorrow. Once you are with Artemis or me, you will be kept apart until the wedding. This is the time Iason chose." Without warning the air around Aphrodite began to sparkle and she disappeared.
"Mmmm gods Xena. Do you have any clue how desirable you are? I cant keep my hands off of you." Tenderly kissing her Warrior repeatedly Gabrielle was obsessed with her soulmate. Unable and unwilling to stop her Bard from the immense display of affection, Xena discovered not only did she enjoy this attention from Gabrielle, she also encouraged it.
Observing Gabrielle straddling her daughters lap in the corner of the kitchen while spreading her with kisses, the innkeeper made sure everyone stayed away from the two soulmates. For no particular reason she just felt protective and wanted no one to upset either her daughter or Gabrielle so close to the wedding. Therefore Cyrene, as well as others moving in and out of the kitchen, dealt with an over-romantic Bards expressions of love for the Warrior Princess. Several times Cyrene threw an exasperated look over at her daughter, who would just smile and wink back. Both mother and daughter knew their exchanged looks were meant to be playful. Cyrene was pleased that Xena allowed Gabrielle to be so very physically emotional with her. *Hmpf it is good for you my daughter to have Gabrielle love you so openly.* Returning to her cooking the innkeeper failed to see the man enter the kitchen.
"Glad to see you are surrendering Xena." Both women turned quickly to see Meleager standing before them with a handful of flowers and a huge grin.
"MELEAGER!" Gabrielle sprang from Xenas lap into the old mans embrace. The laughter, excitement and happiness coming from Gabrielle pleased both Meleager and Xena. The old Warrior smiled at the Warrior Princess.
"Good to see you could make it Meleager."
The Bard backed away. "Its so good to see you." Almost giddy with excitement Gabrielle accepted the flowers and skipped off to find a vase for them.
"Join us please." Xena pulled up a chair and the old man sat. "Im happy you received the invitation."
"Do you love her that deeply Xena?"
"You know I do." Xena thought his question was strange but realizing how much this old man loved Gabrielle, she allowed the question. Then a second question came.
"Will you protect her and provide a good life for her?"
"Yessss. She is my only priority. Whatever Gabrielle needs or wants I will provide for her."
"Xena, will you remain loyal to her. Love only her; be there through all her pain and happiness?"
"Youre getting kind of personal Meleager. What is going on?"
"Just answer me please. That young pup means a great deal to me." Sadness appeared in the old mans eyes and Xena was not quite sure why.
"Meleager, I love Gabrielle more than anything. No one will ever get between us. She has my soul, my heart ..I truly love her." The old Warrior extended his hand in thanks and Xena accepted.
Just then Gabrielle returned placing the flowers on the table. "What are you two talking about?"
Both hesitated and glanced at each other. In unison they replied. "You!"
Not sure she should believe them Gabrielle giggled and sat down between her lover and a man she admired tremendously. For reasons Gabrielle could not explain nor would she question, the Bard had a soft spot in her heart reserved for Meleager. The remainder of that evening they caught up on Meleagers past adventures. Xena explained the battle with Caesar and their rebirth. Nothing was mentioned about Gabrielles mother or father.
That evening as the lovers held each other, the Warrior asked Gabrielle one more time. "Gabrielle, will you marry me?"
Leaning on her elbows she looked into the beautiful blue eyes of her soulmate. "Xena, you already asked me if I would marry you. What is the matter?"
Circling her long fingers around Gabrielles neck and running her other hand up and down her Bards arm the Warrior tried to explain her thoughts. "This is forever, you know that. I desire no one but you and I will not share you with anyone else."
Giggling softly the Bard claimed her Warriors heavenly lips. "Mmmm, Xena yes I will marry you and it will be forever. Now stop talking and make love to me." That night there was no sleeping for either woman. The time was spent slowly and sensually caressing and loving each other.
The garden was especially beautiful and Cyrene realized that there must have been some magic involved. In the middle of her garden there was a circle made of flower petals where her daughter and Gabrielle would stand, as they bonded. The guests were each given candles that would be lit through the entire ceremony. Everyone would stand to form a circle surrounding the couple. As the sun began to set, the guests started to come into the garden. Iason was specific about the location each individual would stand. Cyrene did not question his reasoning which was unusual for the innkeeper. The last person to take their place was Hercules. The old priest lighted the first candle and handed it to Cyrene. She in turn lighted the candle next to her right, which was Gabrielles sister. Lila tipped her candle to Toris and the pattern repeated around the circle of friends until everyone was holding a candle with a small burning flame. With the ringing of what sounded like chimes and several colorful sparkles flying into the air Aphrodite appeared with Xena at her side. While the Warrior was absolutely gorgeous she also appeared nervous. Cyrene beamed with pride, as she surveyed her daughter. Clinging seductively from her shapely frame the Warrior wore a majestic purple tunic made from the finest silks. A black leather belt wrapped around her waist and her polished chakram hung from the belt. Knee high black boots with several falcon feathers held by leather strips dangled down the outside. The innkeeper mused that Gabrielle would be delighted with Xenas hair. The raven beautys hair flowed loosely, draping exotically around her shoulders with an occasional wisp dipping onto her breasts. Several braids adorned both sides and once again smaller falcon feathers were tied and slipped within her hair. Her lips were full with a dark red color that made anyone with a heartbeat desire kissing this woman. Cyrene mused that Aphrodite must be especially full of herself today. She took a naturally beautiful woman and made her irresistible. Pulling away from her thoughts the innkeeper smiled and surveyed the expressions of the guests. All seemed to be drawn to her magnificent daughter. *Yes Gabrielle will be pleased.* The Warrior stood outside of the circle, as she was instructed to do.
*I cant believe how nervous I am. Mother you look so pretty in your new dress.* The Warrior attempted to calm her racing heartbeat. Rubbing the palms of her hands against the side of her tunic Xena believed she has never been as nervous as she was now. This was a huge commitment for her and she wanted nothing more than to be with Gabrielle forever.
Aphrodite slipped up next to her and whispered. "Calm down Warrior Babe. Youll do fine. Smile at your mother." Thankful that the Goddess of Love was so supportive Xena flashed a huge smile at her mother and was happy when Cyrene blew her a kiss and grinned back. No sooner did she glanced to Toris and winked when Artemis appeared with out all the glitter so typical of Aphrodite. Gabrielle was not with her. Artemis was dressed in formal Amazon attire befitting a Goddess. Xena mused that she was probably a lot tougher of Gabrielle than Aphrodite was on her.
Artemis glared directly into Xenas eyes and was not disappointed. Her Queen will do well with this Warrior. She was devoted and in love with her young Amazon and this secretly pleased Artemis. Formalities being what they were Artemis agreed to this wedding as long as the two women would return to the Amazon Village and repeat their vows in traditional Amazon fashion. Both agreed that they would return immediately after spending time together at their mountain home. The Goddess stepped into the circle and waved her hand in the air. Gabrielle appeared to melt from nothing and stood next to the Artemis.
The Warrior could feel her legs suddenly weaken and believed she would collapse to her knees. The view before her radiated with a softness and purity she had never seen before. Gabrielle wore deerskin as pure as white snow, which fitted delicately across her breasts and around her hips. *By the Gods Sweet Artemis she is beautiful.* A number of intricate braids different sizes with both beads and feathers from various birds decorated her shoulder length blonde hair. In her right ear she wore the traditional feather earring of an Amazon. Eyes fell to the necklace made of jewels and beads, worn only by an Amazon Queen, as it elegantly fell between her breasts. With a sensual smile across her face Xena thought about how she would tenderly remove the necklace while nibbling on the honey coated breasts. A colorful beaded belt surrounded her waist with leather ties draping down the left side teasing the exposed muscular thigh. She was barefoot and this sent a fevered desire to take Gabrielle and make love to her among the flowers. Around Gabrielles right ankle were a series of leather bracelets adorned with silver and gold loops. Undressing her beautiful Bard with her eyes the Warrior searched the curves and dips and stopped at the yielding pink lips smiling at her. Before their eyes could connect Iason came to stand between them.
The old priest glanced to the Warrior first and then the Bard. He smiled at both and extended his arms to the sky in silent prayer. After only a moment he turned to announce to all in attendance. "I have one question for each woman." Turning to the Warrior first the old priest smiled and asked a simple question. "Is the woman called Gabrielle the one you wish to bond your soul with?"
Without hesitation the Warrior replied with strength in her voice. "Yes, this woman is my soulmate."
Walking directly to Gabrielle without entering the circle the old priest asked. "Do you wish the woman standing outside of your circle to enter and bond for all eternity with you."
Still able to control her tears of happiness, Gabrielle smiled looking past Iason directly at Xena. "Yes, for all eternity."
Aphrodite gave Xena a slight nudge and together the two walked toward Gabrielle. As the Warrior stepped into the circle to join her soulmate, Artemis stepped out and with Aphrodite they stood on each side of Iason. Lifting his arms once again to the night sky the old priest closed his eyes and mumbled words in a tongue no one recognized. After several moments he lowered his arms and entered the circle with Xena and Gabrielle. "Xena and Gabrielle wish to be joined today under a custom called marriage. This marriage will blend their spirits and hearts. The soul of each woman will surround the other and seal their fate through all eternity. As each pass through life, one will never be without the other. The highest Creator blesses this joining as good and the bonding is favored by all the heavens." Iason stepped back out of the circle and Xena realized he would ask her the next question. "Warrior, how do you wish to seal your commitment to Gabrielle?"
Taking a deep breath to stop her heart from stampeding through her chest, Xena took both of her soulmates hands. They were warm and soft and she could not resist bringing one hand to her lips. Iason did not stop her and allowed the tender show of affection. Never removing her gaze from the emerald green eyes penetrating her heart the Warrior took the ring she had tucked in her belt and slid it on the ring finger of Gabrielles right hand. The beauty of the ring and the symbolism it held overwhelmed the Amazon Queen and she had no way of controlling the tears sliding from her eyes. "Gabrielle, this ring represents my devotion and commitment to our love. Please wear it always. I will never leave you and I will always protect you. My love for you will always stand proud and strong through the good and the bad times. I ask humbly that you accept my love for all eternity." Struggling against the desire to lift her Bard in her arms and carry her away the Warrior understood that the tears flowing freely from Gabrielle were for her acceptance of their love.
Placing her hands in front of her lips, as if she was in prayer, Gabrielle closed her eyes and the tears now became unstoppable. Iason, Xena and guests could see the young womans shoulders shake, as she attempted to control her crying. Unconcerned with ceremony Xena stepped forward pulling her bride into an embrace. From outside the circle the old priest laid his hand on Gabrielles back and rubbed in a circular fashion. This attention had a calming affect that assisted the Bard in regaining her composure and Xena stepped back. Opening her eyes she reached for her soulmates hands. The Warrior latched on tightly to them. "Xena .I accept your love completely."
Responding to her Warriors question helped Gabrielle to silence her tears. Iasons searched Gabrielles face and understood that she would be okay and he wanted to continue. With an extremely smooth voice the old priest addressed the young woman. "Gabrielle, how do you wish to express your devotion to Xena?"
Before their deaths Gabrielle had purchased a gift of love for Xena. The night of Gabrielles birthday celebration she left her gift with Cyrene to hold. If Gabrielle were to die, Cyrene was to give the gift to Xena. Now she removed the gift from a small pocket in her clothing and stepped even closer to the Warrior than she already was. Holding the Warriors hands brought back memories of how Xena could be firm and strong one moment and caressing and gentle the next. The Bard found it ironic that her soulmate chose a ring, as she too decided a ring would signify her devotion to Xena. As she slipped the ring on Xenas finger, she discovered tears sliding from eyes of blue. "Xena, this ring expresses my faithfulness to our love. I will stand by your side always. I love you like no other. I will care for you, when you are sick and when you are sad. Without you I am nothing and with you I am everything. I am unconditionally yours forever. Will you accept me as I am, as your eternal soulmate."
The ring from Gabrielle was exquisite. A silver band containing one emerald surrounded on each side by two small diamonds fit her finger perfectly. Feeling her Bards soft fingers wiping her tears, Xenas heart melted into an unexplained softness. Not caring what Iason said or tradition of ceremony Xena cupped Gabrielles head in her hands and whispered. "I love you."
Allowing Xena a moment, the old priest cleared his throat gaining the Warriors attention. "Do you accept Gabrielle as your eternal soulmate?"
"I desire only you Gabrielle. Yes, I accept you as my eternal soulmate with all my being."
Unexpectedly a strange breeze kicked up in the air rustling the leaves in the surrounding trees. Strange warmth took over the air and all the flames on the candles blew out. Hovering close off the ground tracing the circle of flower petals was a stream of rainbow colors trapped in the warm breeze. Iason suddenly took on a peculiar softness to his old age and his smile touched the souls of both women. Holding his hand up to stop any oncoming questions Iason asked each woman. "What is your deepest dream for the other. No one else will hear of these dreams but I. Know that I only have the power to grant one and that one will be my choice. Do you both understand?" The soulmates nodded their heads yes. "Gabrielle tell me your dream for your Warrior."
Looking at Iason and then to Xena the Bard knew immediately. "Please bring Solan back for my Warrior. I am willing to give my life in exchange, if necessary."
The Warrior did everything in her power to not fall to her knees in tears. Completely astounded that of all the wishes in the world Gabrielle chose this one and was willing to die for her son to return. *My precious soulmate how I love you. To be willing to give yourself so I might be happy.* Grabbing Gabrielles hands Xena protested. "No, Gabrielle, I will not let you give your life."
Iason placed his hand on Xenas shoulder. "My child, would this be your choice for Gabrielle?"
His question surprised the Warrior. This was not the dream she had in mind for her soulmate. However, Xena would not let Gabrielle be taken from her and this became more important to her than anything. Long before her death the Warrior came to terms with the loss of her son and accepted it as fate. The gods needed Solan more than she did. Maybe it was selfishness on her part but Xena understood her heart could not go on without Gabrielle. While they would reunite in future lives this was the life their memories would link back too. Nothing else would matter to Xena, if Gabrielle were lost to her. Firmly she matched the authoritative stare from Iason. "Yes. I will not allow her to exchange her life nor give away her soul. Not even for Solan."
The rainbow breeze invading the garden now entered the circle and danced among the women and Iason. "Come to my temple the first day of summer solitise and for now ask no more questions." As quickly as it entered, the rainbow breeze left. All of the candles mysteriously held flames once again. There were sighs and laughter coming from the guests, as everyone was in awe of the magical breeze. The old priest spoke for the last time. "Xena and Gabrielle you are of one heart and one soul. Every law under mankind and gods will recognize this marriage between you both." Pausing for only a moment Iason crossed his arms in joy staring directly at Xena. "What are you waiting for Warrior kiss her."
Looking directly into Gabrielles eyes Xena placed her hands on the young womans hips and could not help but fondle the curves that were always inviting. Finally sliding her hands around Gabrielles waist the Warrior pulled her close. Responding to Xenas desires was simple for Gabrielle and she slid her arms around her Warriors neck. At first their lips tenderly touched, as if exploring each other for the first time, then Xena licked her soulmates top lip. A slight moan came from Gabrielle and the Warrior smiled. *Works every time.* Slowly Xena pressed her lips tighter to her Bard and they found themselves consumed in each others taste and needs. Neither would ever forget the kiss sealing their marriage. This marriage was everything they had hoped it would be and the family and friends around them ceased to exist.
Unable to restrain herself any longer, Cyrene rushed to the circle. Everyone followed her and the lovers were once again pulled apart. Well-wishers bombarded both women with kisses and hugs. Amarice pushed her way past Hercules, Autolycus and Iolaus to grab Gabrielle. "Here Artemis said you should wear these boots now that the ceremony is over."
The Bard accepted the soft tan deerskin boots from her friend and gave her a big hug and kiss whispering in her ear. "How are things with Eponin?" The feisty young Amazon giggled and told Gabrielle that she had Eponin exactly where she wanted her.
Suddenly feeling a set of strong arms turning her around the Amazon Queen found her Warrior desiring more attention. "Honey, I think I may already know but why were you barefoot?"
Gazing into her soulmates deep blue sapphire eyes Gabrielle nibbled on the soft spot under her Warriors chin. Luring a sensual moan from Xena the Bard whispered. "My beautiful Warrior it tells you of my unconditional and total devotion to you. I will never dishonor you. Everything I am or will be is yours for the taking."
"By the gods woman I love you." As warm chills of excitement ran through her body, the Warrior ran her fingers through the silky blonde hair and captured Gabrielles enticing lips once again.
After Hercules congratulated the women he approached Iason. "Nice going old man!"
Shaking his head the priest smiled and led Hercules off to the side of the garden. "My friend of long ago, I see you are doing well. How is the sidekick?"
"Iolaus?" The son of Zeus smiled and crossed his arms. "Reminds me of you sometimes. I miss you my friend."
Slapping Hercules on the arm Iason laughed. "Then I should like him. I have watched you occasionally to see how you are doing. Now, I need a favor from you old friend?" The big man tilted his head in curiosity. "Come to my temple at summer solitise." Iason realized he could depend on no other but his old friend. As he explained his request, Hercules agreed and the two friends separated.
Artemis and Aphrodite slipped through the guests claiming the attention of Xena and Gabrielle for one last time. The Amazon Goddess lifted her Chosen One by the chin. "Little one, I will see you soon." Glaring directly at Xena the Goddess stated. "Warrior ..I trust you with my Chosen One. Love her and hold her dear to your heart."
"Yadda, yadda .come on Art get a grip!!!" The Warrior could not quite figure out why Artemis allowed Aphrodite to push her around so easily but then why not Gabrielle had complete control over her. The Goddess of Love pulled Xena from her musings. "Youre beautiful and sexy Xena, as normal and Gabrielle .well, mmmmmm, if you ever tire of this Warrior Babe, let me know!" With a seductive wink and several giggles the Goddess was gone followed immediately by Artemis.
Gabrielle looked at her soulmate. "You dont suppose they are lovers?" With her arms wrapped around her Bard the Warrior nodded her head yes, it was actually something Xena did think was possible.
Iason approached the women to bid farewell. As the old priest began to fade, the women heard him remind them of summer solitise. Lila came skipping up to Gabrielle. "You know such strange people." The sisters embraced hugging and laughing.
The innkeeper dragged everyone inside for food and drinks. Xena wrapped her arm around her soulmates shoulders sitting exactly where her mother demanded. All the tables were pushed together to make one huge table. There were already large quantities of food ready to eat and mugs of ale and port went all around. Toris raised his mug to toast his sister and Gabrielle. "To you my sister. May this love you have with Gabrielle always remain pure and blessed. And Gabrielle, thank you for taming this Warrior." The guests roared with laughter and the Bard turned her head to regard the expression on her lovers face. Xena was already watching Gabrielle and leaned over kissing her. Their family and friends encouraged the kiss with howls, whistles and clapping. Minya started pounding her mug on the table and was joined by the Amazons. This action only fueled Xenas desires for her lover and with amazing strength she pulled Gabrielle from her chair to her lap. The soulmates again had no concern with their surroundings and the kiss deepened invoking even more encouragement from their guests.
Cyrene was sitting to the left of Xena and reached over slapping her daughter in the back of the head pulling the women from the moment. Neither woman looked to Cyrene. At this point, it was impossible to look at anyone else but each other. The Warrior could feel trouble brewing; her Bard had that glazed over look and was probably brave enough to seduce Xena right in front of everyone. "Mom, I think it is time for us to leave."
Leaning over she gave her daughter a kiss on the cheek. "Im proud of you Xena. Dont stay away long." Cyrene then leaned over and kissed the top of Gabrielles head. She realized there was no chance in Tartarus of getting her attention, as she was prisoner in a lustful trance and was unable to release her gaze from Xena. Positioning her arms so she could carry her soulmate, the Warrior scooted the chair back and carried her kissing Bard to the garden while their wedding guest continued to clap and bellow with excitement. Once in the garden Xena set Gabrielle down so she could stand. Ephiny was waiting for them and this pulled Gabrielle from her urgent desires to seduce her lover among the flowers.
"Congratulations you two!"
Both thanked Ephiny. Xena already was aware that Ephiny was tasked with transporting them to their mountain home. "Can you actually get us both to the cave?"
"Oh, I brought a little help this time." The space next to Ephiny began to warm and Solari appeared from nothing with a huge smile on her face. Gabrielle let go of Xena and rushed to her Amazon sister. Within moments all four friends were hugging and crying tears of happiness. The Bard began to ask too many questions to answer and Ephiny stopped her. "Listen, time for all of this later. To put it simply, I was allowed a spirit companion and I chose Solari. Now lets go ..Im sure you both would rather be making love than talking." The Amazon spirits reached for their friends and from the edge of the garden Cyrene and Lila embraced, as they watched them disappear.
The newlyweds found themselves standing in front of the entrance to their cave. The Warrior immediately lifted her soulmate in her arms bringing her into their home. A fire was already burning softly. There was a small table and several chairs off to the side loaded with food and drink. Both remembered that the table was not there the last time. Xena let Gabrielle stand in front of her. They surveyed the interior of the cave finally focusing back on the table. Gabrielle walked up and popped a grape in her mouth. She soon felt Xena behind her rubbing her arms. "Are you hungry?"
Instantly Xena knew that was the wrong way to phrase that question. Turning around in Xenas embrace Gabrielle rubbed her hands suggestively up and down the Warriors body eliciting several purrs. "My hunger is for you." Tugging on Xenas hands it did not take much coaxing to lead her lover to bed, which was now covered with heavy furs and blankets. Demanding Xena stand perfectly still Gabrielle began removing her Warriors clothing. The chakram was placed to the side and the belt slipped off rather easily. Sensually Gabrielle ran her fingers between the valley of her lovers breasts separating the purple silk until it slipped seductively off Xenas shoulders and fell to the ground. "You are so beautiful Xena. I .I oh gods I have to ." Unable to speak Gabrielle discovered her lips and tongue were drawn to the luscious breasts and firm nipples begging for her attention. Releasing her hold temporarily Gabrielle gently pushed Xena to the bed. Straddling her lap the Bard aggressively claimed the Warriors succulent lips driving her to lie on her back. Moments later Xena was incapable of anything but surrendering to her soulmates touch. As Gabrielle listened to her soulmate cry with pleasure, she was positive this raven hair woman was now totally hers.
On their wedding night the lovers would find that their newly formed bond added richness to their lovemaking. The permanence of their vows and the rings they wore in honor of that bond brought together the past seasons of travel completing one of many circles. The passion and devotion they shared became their destiny.
On the forest edge outside the cave two Amazon spirits reunited for the first time after death. In quiet celebration they exchanged their vows under the stars. As the spirits rediscovered the passion of their love, a comet with a rainbow tail raced across the heavens.
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