Disclaimer: The characters all belong to Renaissance Pictures, MCA/Universal Pictures and Xena Warrior
Princess. No copyright infringement is intended. There is absolutely no profit for me in this - Im just having a good time. Any characters mentioned that are not in the syndicated television show are of my own creation, as is the story line. If you wish to borrow any of them, please let me know.
Content Warning: This story contains references and descriptions of intimate activity. If you do not wish to read about this type of relationship or are under 18, please feel free to go elsewhere.
Violence: Some, not much.
Hurt/Comfort: Yes; appropriate for the story line.
Spoiler Warning: At this point none.
NOTE: This story follows my on-going fan fiction series, which started with The Mist of Pieria, A Journey of Love and Home and A Bonding of Hearts. Hope you enjoy!
COMMENTS: I welcome comments and can be reached at email@example.com
Building Our World Part One
Pondering whom her mighty Warrior could be thinking of the feisty redhead was not too sure she liked this little game of questions. Smiling across the table at the woman who captured her heart the first day they met, the young warrior asked the next question. "Is it someone you fought in battle?"
"No, we never fought."
Picking at the food left on her plate Amarice was ready to give up. *Stupid game. Why do we have to play this anyway, I never get any of the answers right!*
Eponin smiled at her young lover. "Are you going to finish the food on your plate?"
Shaking her head no the dark hair Warrior reached over and picked up Amarices plate dumping the contents on to her own. Tossing a piece of fruit in her mouth Eponin chuckled softly at her partner. "You really should eat. Keeping you healthy is important." Xena suggested this little game would be one way to help build her relationship with Amarice. Eponin remembers asking Xena if she really liked this game or was it because Gabrielle enjoyed it. The Warrior told her that at first it was only because of Gabrielle but now she actually enjoyed the silly game. So Eponin introduced the game on their way back to the Amazon Village after Xena and Gabrielles wedding.
"Was it someone you made love too."
The Warrior almost choked on her food. "What kind of questions is that?"
Before Amarice could pursue the question further a lone sentry came bolting into the dining hut screaming at the top of her lungs. "AMAZONS TROUBLE ON THE WESTERN BORDERS." Without questions or hesitation the dining hut emptied into the compound in front of the Queens newly built hut. The Regent Shulaba was already standing on the small platform located to the left of the hut. The only thought entering Eponin was that the Romans changed their minds and would no longer honor the peace treaty. Climbing the platform to stand next to her Regent and Teklai the Warrior could see the concern marking Shulabas face. Within moments every Amazon available was in the compound waiting for their Regent to speak.
"Immediately any Amazon under the age of sixteen winters will be pulled from the surrounding borders. I want absolutely no young Amazon on the perimeters. No exceptions will be entertained." This command drew several questions from the crowd and even Eponin was slightly surprised. Currently, the young Amazons patrolling the borders were considered the best in the age class and the most prepared. "Furthermore no one may travel outside of our territory without proper escort. Absolutely NO ONE will travel alone. Captain Teklai is to be informed of anyone who wishes to travel." The whispering and mumbling between the women increased and Shulaba understood she would need to explain her reasons. "Listen Amazons! We have a sniper on our western boundaries taking shots at our sentries. So far no one has been killed but last night there were three Amazons injured. They are being brought back to the village, as we speak. Teklai and Eponin will organize a party to find the sniper and they will also ask several of you to begin patrolling our perimeters." A random question was shouted from the crowd and Shulaba responded. "I do not know how many snipers are out there. For now it appears to be only one and he or she are using arrows. At present the arrows do not appear to be poisonous." Finding she needed to say no more the Regent dismissed the crowd and like many times before the women of the village understood the responsibilities necessary to keep their home safe.
"Shulaba, is this something random?" Eponin still was not pleased with Shulabas facial expressions. Theyve had snipers before and neither the Regent or the Queen had pulled the young ones off the patrols.
"Lets talk in my hut." Once again Shulaba led her friends to her own hut rather than the Queens hut. She still refused to use the hut in Gabrielles absence. Once inside Shulaba turned to Eponin and Amarice. "Here read this." The Regent handed Eponin a folded piece of parchment. Opening the note Amarice leaned in to read the message.
Your Amazons will begin to die one by one. The injured are the first warning. Soon the warnings will stop. The killings can only stop once your nation delivers to me Queen Gabrielle. Anytime you dispatch a messenger in hopes of reasoning or appealing to my human side I will kill that woman. Deliver the Queen to me or suffer death.
The four Amazons could do nothing more than stare at each other and reread the note several times. Finally Eponin looked at her friends. "It has to be Maris."
"That is what I was afraid you might say." The Regent and Teklai came to the same assumption. They thought that if Eponin also believed it to be Maris, then it probably was. "She is crazy. Lets talk to Stella and Pippa. Maybe one of them might know where Maris could be hiding."
"Shouldnt we send word to Gabrielle and Xena? They dont need to walk into this." The young redhead could feel her anxiety rise over the thought of once again loosing her Queen.
"No, not yet. Lets talk to the prisoners and try and find Maris and whoever is helping her. I do not want to pull them away from the cave and their time together celebrating their marriage until I have no other choice."
On the sixth day after their wedding, Xena and Gabrielle were surprised to find Argo and the chestnut mare stabled in the section near the front of the cave. The Warrior always believed it to be a perfect area to stable several horses and had thought maybe one day this would actually become a reality. That morning as the newly-weds laid wrapped in each others arms the sound of the horses whinnies caught the attention of the Warriors ears. At first, Xena thought someone had stumbled on to the cave and she quickly bolted to her feet grabbing her sword. Her lover was right behind her staff poised ready to do battle. After investigating the source of the noise the two horses were discovered. Assuming that Artemis probably had them transported the women greeted the horses with soft conversation and two apples. Over a morning meal Xena told Gabrielle that there must be an easier trail out of the mountain than the one they followed the last time. Artemis would never have left the horses, if riding them out of the mountains were not possible. So far the eastern side beyond the stream had not been thoroughly explored by the pair. In fact since they arrived the majority of their time was spent in each others arms. Therefore, Gabrielle agreed with her soulmate and the lovers decided to venture outside of the cave for the day.
The decision to walk over riding was easily made and the lovers followed the stream north for over a candlemark until the water dumped into a small mountain lake. On the opposite side of the shore they were standing on, a rocky profile jutted straight from the water to a height neither was able to guess at. Surveying the area Xena realized they could circle around the lake and get closer to this strange cliff-like formation.
"Look!" The Warrior pointed to a trail between the rock formation and the mountain. Sure enough there was a small pathway that would allow one horse, at a time, to pass through. The women followed the trail for less than a candlemark on foot and found it opening into rolling hills and the valley below. Taking this trail would allow the women to ride the horses. "The trail will take us out through a northern route. We will probably be closer to Amazon territory this way." Pleased with their discovery the women went back to the lake deciding a swim and some food would be wonderful.
The lake water was cool and loaded with fish. This fact alone made the Warrior happy. The lovers spent time swimming and playing in the water. For no other reason than honing her skills Xena caught several fish by hand and released them immediately. Swimming to shore where Gabrielle had been watching the Warrior could see the smile across her face. "Are you happy my little Bard?" Xena plopped her wet body next to her lovers dry one and pulled her into a hug.
Without any complaints Gabrielle slid onto Xenas lap and pushed her to the blanket. "Yes, Im very happy. I love you Xena." There was no way the Warrior would escape or wanted to escape from the kisses Gabrielle began planting all over her face and neck. Abruptly the Bard sat straight up while fiddling with the beautiful ring her Warrior gave her at their wedding. The inscription read Hold My Heart and Gabrielle understood the significance those simple words held. "Do you have any idea how much I treasure your love for me."
A smile flashed across Xenas face and she remembered how Gabrielles tears would not stop on their wedding night after reading the inside of her band. Her Bard finally tugged on Xenas ring and the Warrior slipped it off to find Gabrielle had the words All of Me is Yours engraved. Her blue eyes produced tears immediately upon reading those words from Gabrielles heart. Now reflecting back at that wonderful day and night the Warrior understood the power of their love; it was unstoppable. Breaking her away from her musings quiet kisses, from the only lips the Warrior ever wanted touching her intimately, were once again smothering her face and neck. "Mmm, you are so easy to love Gabrielle. No one has ever loved me like you." Xena wrapped her arms around her lover and was soon lost in the unconditional passion Gabrielle gave her so willingly.
The remainder of the day was spent at the lake falling in love with each other all over again.
"Shulaba!" Abruptly interrupting the Regents evening meal Amarice was all out of breath. "A seventh woman has been hit with an arrow. The healer does not think shell survive." Leaving her meal Shulaba and Teklai followed Amarice to the healers hut. Two more days had passed since the first attack. Maris had been ruthless and wasted no time injuring some of her best Amazons. She also seemed to attack from different parts of the territory. Shulaba assumed there was more than just one sniper.
The healer, Lillioka, just finished tending to the wound and upon seeing Shulaba enter she just shook her head sadly. The young Amazon was just eighteen winters and the arrow came too close to the heart and the girl lost too much blood. Placing her hand on the Regents shoulder Lillioka whispered. "She never regained consciousness. She will be dead before the sun sets."
"Okay lets send word to Gabrielle. Send two guards to inform Artemis. The Goddess will be able to contact our Queen." The Regent was not pleased with this. First it had only been nine days since the wedding and Shulaba wanted to give the lovers time together. She had hoped this incident might be settled before dragging her Queen into danger but now Maris was fulfilling her promise to kill the Amazons. The scouts had absolutely no luck in tracking the rebel. With great expertise Maris hid among the trees and on the ground leaving no tracks. This made things even more difficult, as Shulaba was reluctant to send out scouts too far for fear they would be killed.
Leandra sharpened her sword listening to Scorpios argue with Maris about his needs to take one or two Amazons for his own sexual pleasure. "Maris part of the reason I agreed to this little escapade of yours was so I could have a little fun with some of these women. Im tired of waiting. The next one I shoot is mine."
Lacking fear and only determination Maris glared the archer down. "You my little man will do as I say and when I say it. You will get your opportunity but not until I say so. Gabrielle has yet to arrive in the village. For now I want death to draw her here. Knowing that little bitch, she will not be able to resist helping her Amazons. I do not want her killed until we have our fun with her." The rebels laughter was straight from depths deeper than Tartarus. "Then I will let her death be slow and painful. Caesar will look like a grandmother compared to what I have planned."
Satisfied for the moment Scorpios sat down across the fire from Leandra and continued shaping the obsidian he found close to the Amazon territory. Chipping at the obsidian with his hammerstone this killer was known for creating dangerous arrowheads.
Storms covered the mountains that evening after Xena and Gabrielle returned from the lake. There were several periods of time, when the lighting and thunder became so severe that controlling Argo and the chestnut became formidable. Eventually Xena decided to let them loose and the horses could choose where they would feel safest. Much to her satisfaction both horses elected to stay under the shelter. Gabrielle brewed some hot tea and encouraged Xena to leave the horses and sit with her before the fire. With a few kisses the Warrior was easily persuaded. As the rain continued to fall, the thunder rolled through the valley below and into the mountains while the lovers snuggled in front of the fire drinking their tea. Eventually Gabrielle placed her cup to the side and curled up between Xenas legs so she could burrow her face into her soulmates neck. To Xena this was heaven; there was nothing more she delighted in than when Gabrielle cuddled with her. Chuckling silently she stroked the beautiful blonde hair fiddling with the several braids that her Bard liked to wear.
*Oooo another mushy word. This one sounds sexy.* Lifting her head to smile at her soulmate the Bard quickly kissed her Warrior under the chin. "How long can we stay here?"
Looking into eyes of green Xena smiled realizing the kiss was acceptance of the new little word she used describing her lover. "Well, forever is okay with me but I know we promised Artemis we would say our vows in front of the Amazons. And, there is the matter of Stella and Pippa. And, we have to get to Iasons before the summer solitise and we need to visit your mothers grave and there is a small matter of your father." Knowing full well that she was pushing the limit with her ands the Warrior decided to slip the topics in to see what kind of response she would get. On and off since they found out Hecuba had died the Warrior helped Gabrielle deal with her shock and grief. However, the time was coming where Gabrielle would need to visit the grave and hopefully complete the cycle of grief she would need to go through in order to move forward. Her father was a separate issue and the Warrior had not pushed her about him before now. Lila had informed Xena that Gabrielle did not want her to know anything about the abuse and the Warrior had left the topic alone. Since they married, every time Xena made love to her soulmate, sadness would pass through her heart for a brief moment over the possibility that anyone could harm Gabrielle physically. The thought that Gabrielles father abused her only continued to anger the Warrior. The message sent by Herodotus also replayed over and over in Xenas mind. Herodotus seems to indicate that Gabrielle may not be his true daughter. If not, why tell her now and then why not tell her who is.
Quickly her emotions turned to sorrow. The loss of her mother had devastated Gabrielle bringing with it a great deal of guilt. She felt somewhat responsible for her mothers death and when the message from her father was received, he had managed to increase her guilt with his accusations. While she wanted to visit her mothers grave, Gabrielle was also afraid of running into her father. At least the man she believed to be her father. Knowing Xena would protect her from harm the Bard was also fearful that her Warrior would lose her temper and strike out at the man. "Our promise to Artemis is important. Lets go there."
"Gabrielle .." As she thought, her soulmate had no intentions of responding to her comments about returning to Poteidaia. Before she could go any further Gabrielle kissed her quickly on the lips and stood.
"I think Im going to turn in. Im tired and have a small headache. The rain makes me sleepy and .well, I dont want to talk about any of this."
Scooting to her knees the Warrior observed her soulmate slip off her tunic, slide into a nightshirt and crawl under the blankets. The last time Gabrielle went to bed without Xena was the night the Warrior got drunk with Hercules and Iolaus. Silently cursing herself for mentioning Poteidaia, the Warrior decided to check on the horses one last time before joining her soulmate. "Argo, I blew it. Had to open my big mouth about her mother and father. I dont know what to do anymore. She has to face this or it will only fester inside and cause bigger problems for her."
"Well Warrior, youll just have to take her there."
As far as Xena was aware, Argo had not learned to talk so she quickly spun around to see Ephiny standing behind her. "Ephiny! Ease dropping again?" Stretching her arm out to greet her spirit friend the Regent accepted.
"You have to take her to Poteidaia. Tell her you are going and she can either choose to come or not. Gabrielle is just scared. The reality of her mothers death will become very real, when she visits the grave. Herodotus is a whole other issue. Just dont kill him Xena."
"Yea, I thought of telling her that I was going to visit the grave. But what if she says - fine go, I will wait for you to return. Then what do I do? I cant tie her up and force her." Crossing her arms Xena gazed outside the entrance into the rain and darkness. "By the way does Artemis know you are here?"
"No, she gives me more freedom to float around. Anyway she is busy teaching Solari those wonderful do and dont rules spirits have to follow."
The Warrior and her Amazon friend talked awhile longer until Ephiny heard her name being called and had to leave. Returning to the interior of her home, Xena noticed Gabrielle was missing from bed. Walking toward the back she found her lover meditating in the altar room. The desire to join her tugged at the Warriors heart. Rather than distracting Gabrielle, Xena sat down behind her soulmate and closed her eyes. Her success at visualizing peace within was more difficult alone than when she had her soulmate guiding her active mind to a state of calmness.
Unsure how much time passed the Warrior opened her eyes and realized she actually had some success silencing her thoughts. While they were not completely quiet, they were at least peaceful. Her soulmate was still sitting in front of her only her head was lowered and her arms were relaxed. "Sweetie you okay?" Her body started to tremble slightly and the Warrior could hear the sobs escaping from her lover. Quickly Xena hustled up behind Gabrielle squeezing her into an embrace. "Sssssh .hey baby. Oh, well get through this, okay. I wont let anything happen to you." The Warrior held her allowing Gabrielle to cry. Finally encouraging her to stand Xena lifted her and carried her to bed.
That night was filled with dreams for the Bard. Almost impossible to stay sleeping Gabrielle would wake frequently screaming for her mother or crying in fear from the memories of her fathers abuse. It was a mixture of fear and sadness for Gabrielle and a combination of anger and sorrow for the Warrior. *Tomorrow my love we will have to talk about going to Poteidaia. My God I ask for your help with this.* A sudden unexplained calm spread through her body and she continued holding a now sleeping soulmate.
The flames that lit up the night sky over Poteidaia brought the villagers from their home with buckets of water in an attempt to squelch the fire consuming the barn and house. The chief elder of the village council eventually stopped the people from their battle. It was too powerful and he did not want anyone getting injured. As chief elder, Vanaska surveyed the flames leaping high into the sky with several of his council members. "No one as seen Herodotus. Think he might have gotten trapped in the house?"
Not especially fond of Herodotus, the elder still hoped the old man was not trapped. "Hard to say. Well have to wait until the fire dies down and cools off before we can search. I have an odd feeling that we will not find him in there." Vanaska wiped the soot from his face on the back of his sleeve. "Silias, send several of the men to search the perimeters of the land. Maybe Herodotus is lying somewhere out there. If they come back empty handed, we will just have to wait until daylight."
The following morning the rain continued to drizzle and the mountain was blanketed in a mist. Hesitating about getting out of bed, the Warrior did not want to leave Gabrielle. She had finally fallen asleep less than two candlemarks ago and had gripped tightly to Xena. Now that she was asleep her grip relaxed. Unfortunately her body functions won the battle and the Warrior slipped out of bed. Dashing out of the cave, she was quick and returned without stopping to pet either horse. Tossing several pieces of wood on the burning embers the fire was quickly re-ignited and the Warrior was startled by her soulmate wrapping her arms around her waist from behind. Spinning around Xena held Gabrielle tightly. "Did I wake you. Im sorry why dont you go back and get some sleep."
"No. Im awake. Anyway sleeping is not very enjoyable right now."
The couple stood next to the fire for a short time holding each other. "How about some tea and a few biscuits?" Concerned that her soulmate would stop eating the Warrior was pleased, when Gabrielle agreed. Although they ate in relative silence the Bard smiled, when Xena spoke about the horses and then about her mother and that awful betting. She retold the story of how Cyrene won the bet about Eponin and Amarice. "By the way, my beautiful Bard, how was it my mother won our bet and you did not?"
Gabrielle placed her teacup down and crawled over to Xenas lap avoiding the question. "Make love to me Xena. Dont stop just keep loving me."
While normally Xena would have been immediately aroused and more than willing to take her young lover, there was a desperation in Gabrielles voice and a despondency in her eyes. *She is loosing hope. I cant let her mask that with physical love.* Running her long fingers through the beautiful blonde hair the Warrior kissed her soulmate on the nose. "Is that what you really want or are you hoping it will help you forget?"
Gabrielle became instantly irritated and pulled away from Xenas embrace. Standing up she went to the chest, which was added to their cave since their wedding. Artemis had all their belongs waiting for them at the cave. Pulling out the new leathers she purchased in Amphipolis the Bard spread them out on the bed. The Warrior was extremely pleased with this new outfit Gabrielle had purchased. The skirt was made from deerskin and the soft brown coloring gave one the impression that the body underneath was just as soft. While Xena knew her lover was extremely soft to touch and love, the muscles in her small frame had become quite lethal over the past few seasons. Even Xena did not wish to fight her. Like the Bards previous wrap around, it allowed her thighs exposure to everyones eyesight, when she walked, knelt or sat down. This skirt was also shorter in length. Held in place by a wide leather sash that tied in the front with leather strips, the Bard now carried two small daggers opposite each other and almost to the back. This allowed Gabrielle to either reach directly back with her hands or else cross her arms over her waist to reach the daggers. Either way the positioning of her new weapons could be easily accessed. Xena was not pleased with the fact that her soulmate was carrying daggers but she decided not to argue the point. Things had changed since their rebirth and the Warrior understood that Gabrielle would no longer run from a fight. After she killed the Romans trying to protect Xena, the dark hair beauty accepted that her peaceful Gabrielle bloomed into the best friend she could ever hope to have. Looking back up from her musings Xena watched, as Gabrielle pulled the halter-top over her athletic frame. *By the gods you are a beauty.* Her new top was a soft leather and fit snugly over her breasts. The straps were about the same width, however the front of the halter crisscrossed at the breasts and clipped to the sides almost under her arms. Unwilling to wear armor Gabrielle agreed to wear leather guards on her wrists. Around her neck she wore a thin leather choker adorned with one ivory bead engraved with the symbol indicating her status, as Queen. Covering her feet were brown leather boots that laced up the side. Slipped outside her left boot a small pouch holding four streamlined darts was easily available. In the Warriors mind this also made her soulmate an extremely dangerous adversary. For now Gabrielle refused to carry a sword and Xena was grateful. Her chosen weapon continued to be her staff. Completely caught up in the vision of her lover the Warrior almost forgot Gabrielle pulled away irritated from her arms. Quickly she stood and placed herself closely behind Gabrielle blocking the entrance. There was no way she could get by Xena without acknowledging her and the Warrior decided to force the issue. "Where are you going?"
Spinning around to face her soulmate Gabrielle was visibly upset. "Its time for us to leave. Im going to the Amazon Village. What are you planning to do?" As soon as the words came out of her mouth, Gabrielle regretted the harshness of them. Covering her eyes with her hands she took a deep breath and felt Xenas arms wrap around her firmly.
"Honey, dont be angry with me. Im on your side, remember?" Xena bent down hoping her soulmate would look at her. Instead Gabrielle buried her face into Xenas chest slipping her arms around the Warriors waist.
"I know. Im sorry Xena. Im just scared and confused. I know I have to go back to Poteidaia. Im just not ready."
Loading the top of Gabrielles head with kisses Xena rubbed her back. "Listen, why dont we go to the Amazons, make Artemis happy and then we go to Poteidaia. I will be with you through everything. I promise not to leave your side." Xena tilted Gabrielles head and gently kissed her Bards sensuous lips. "Mmmm .there is no way I will ever let you go. And " Unclipping Gabrielles halter top the Warrior placed tender nibbles along her lovers neck. "Mmmm whenever you want me to make love to you .dont put your clothes on." A number of quick, soft moans slid easily from her Bards lips and the urgency in Xena to taste her wife increased rapidly. With the halter gone the Warrior shoved Gabrielle gently onto the bed and latched on to her exposed breasts. The nipples were already hard and firm waiting for the Warriors tongue and lips. Within a matter of moments the skirt and boots were gone and Gabrielle squirmed under the sophisticated touch of her lover. No one could ever compete with Xena is this arena. The young Amazon Queen was convinced that she married the best lover in the universe. This woman fulfilled all her fantasies and Gabrielle had no curiosity or desire to seek love from anyone else. Slowing her pace the Warrior made love to her soulmate gently, exotically and completely. By the time both had exhausted the other it was midday and the rain had stopped. Snuggling in Xenas protective arms Gabrielle found a more contented sleep. This time Xena did not move, musing that they would not be leaving today. No further than a few winks of an eye passed, when the Warrior joined her lover in the land of Morpheus.
It took until late the following day before the village council could enter the burnt out home of Herodotus. Searching through the ruins most everything was destroyed. The fire burned fast, although not as hot as other fires Vanaska had seen. There was not much remaining; a few pieces of metal objects that did not melt but otherwise most everything looked lost. Since Hecuba died the place went to shambles and Vanaska wondered if the fire was started carelessly. The council was pleased that no bodies lay among the ruins. After checking the barn it was just as empty.
"Vanaska!" The elders friend, Silias, advanced as he left the skeleton of what was once a home. "There is no sign of the old man. Do you want to continue searching?"
"No, it is probably better that he is gone. We will send word to Lila in Amphipolis and let her decide what she wants to do with the rubble and the property. It is hers to sell, as long as the old man is not around."
Silias agreed, as did the remaining council members. "What of Gabrielle? Should we send word to the Amazons?"
The elder council member nodded his head in agreement and added that it would be the proper and respectful thing to do. "Silias, let them both know that we did search for their father."
Late that evening the two Amazons were snuggling under the blankets listening to the rain that started once again. The redhead glanced up to see that the eyes of her strong Warrior were closed and her heart melted easily at the thought that Eponin finally surrendered to her love. Amarices thoughts moved to Gabrielle. Accepting her Queens suggestions about encouraging a warriors surrender was perfect. They had all worked and Amarice would have to remember to thank Gabrielle once again. "Eponin, shouldnt we at least ride out to the edge of the territory and escort Gabrielle and Xena to the village."
Holding her young lover in her arms Eponin ran her fingers through the long red hair that she found extremely seductive and soft. "Mmm no. Artemis will send Ephiny and Solari for them. We dont need to move."
Since they returned to the village Amarice had not yet moved her few possessions in with Eponin. Instead she left them in the communal hut she shared with five other young Amazons. Her mighty Warrior never asked her to share a hut so Amarice decided not to say anything. Her biggest fear was that Eponin would tire of her after a while. This caused Amarice to cry at the worse times. Several times Eponin caught her crying and was shaken by her tears. When asked why, Amarice made up some excuse like a headache or she was thinking about her adopted mom and how she missed her. Her Warrior never pushed her or questioned whether she was being truthful. Even though several days had passed since they were interrupted from playing that stupid question game, Amarice could not help but remember the last question. Eponin, was it someone you made love too? The Warrior choked on the food in her mouth and the young redhead did not miss that. Instead Eponin responded in turn by asking Amarice what kind of question that was. *Are you hiding something my strong Warrior. I know it would be foolish of me to believe you never had lovers but was it someone special enough for you to choke on your food.* Understanding that she was feeling a bit insecure and jealous Amarice decided to pursue the question once again. Before doing so she lifted her body on top of the Warriors and kissed her deeply eliciting several wonderful groans from her lover. "Oh, Eponin do you remember the game we were playing and I asked you if that person you were thinking of was an old lover? Well Im still waiting for my answer."
*Hades, I guess there is no pretending Im asleep now.* Caressing Amarices cheek with her hand the Amazon looked into the flirtatious hazel eyes of her partner. "Why do you ask me a question like that? Im with you Im not interested in anyone else. Leave the past alone. Okay. And no Im not thinking of a previous lover." By the end of her statement, Eponin was annoyed and pushed Amarice back gently, as she jumped out of bed. She began to put her clothes on and the young redhead once again questioned her.
"Where are you going it is pouring rain out there!"
"To check the village perimeters. Dont wait up for me Ill be back ..whenever!" Knocking two chairs over, as she bolted through the door, Eponin wondered what in Hades was wrong with her. *I wonder if Xena went through these feelings of guilt with Gabrielle.* Stomping through the mud puddles across the compound toward the sentry tower on the south end of the village, Eponin reflected back over the question that Amarice just asked her. Yes, the Warrior had many lovers over the course of her life. Some were exciting most were not. Either way, none were as loyal and arousing as Amarice. She gave her body and heart completely to Eponin and it melted this old Warrior into nothing. That feisty little redhead owned Eponin heart and soul, the Warrior was just not ready to let her know that yet. As she climbed the tower to relieve the sentry posted, she wished Xena were around to talk with.
Amarice was crushed over Eponins reaction. Quickly getting dressed the young Amazon slipped out the door into the rain and headed to the stables. Saddling her horse she galloped out heading west. Her tears were falling as heavy as the rain and she prayed her horse would keep its footing and just take her away. This late at night the stables were unattended and no one saw the heartbroken young Amazon.
By the time Eponin reached the tower platform and argued with the sentry to stand down Amarice was already out of the village and lost in the darkness and rain.
The woman standing before Maris with her arms crossed would never consider grasping forearms in greeting. Elmira had no qualms about ending a life and it did not matter if that life belonged to a woman, man or child. Although her preference was only to injure and then rob that victim of all their possessions, Elmira would kill, if the victim fought. What made her unique was her knowledge of pressure points. This talent would allow Maris to match Xena at her own game. The renegade realized the Warrior would not be willing to give up her precious Gabrielle that easily thus bringing Elmira in, as a combatant opponent, would keep Xena occupied.
"Well Maris, Ive come a long way. Your message said the Queen is the target."
Raising her mug of ale to her lips, Maris would delay her response, as a show of authority. Waving to the barmaid for a refill the rebel tapped her fingers on the table until she had a full mug in front of her. "The Queen is the target, I however, want you to take care of Xena. She will not be willing to let Gabrielle walk into danger. You my comrade will sneak into the village and take the Warrior out before she has a chance to move."
"Are they in the village?"
Maris peered into the blue eyes of the woman sitting across from her. Not much taller than Maris, this woman wore her black hair in a single braid that hung down her back to her waist. Wearing billowy robes rather than tighter clothing for battle, Elmira believed it concealed her own pressure points making it difficult for any opponent to accurately strike the first time. Under her left eye she wore a tattoo of a badger. Maris mused that this woman would indeed be capable of killing the Warrior Princess. "No, not yet. They will be soon. I plan on killing a few more Amazons tonight. With this weather they will not venture far beyond the village perimeter. I plan on sending in Leandra and Scorpios to take at least two more lives."
"Leandra ..hmm, interesting choice." A smile crossed Elmiras face, as she remembered the last time she rode with the tall and lean Leandra. "Is she still as evil?" About four seasons ago, the pair helped the warlord Hexis take several villages on the Island of Crete. Elmira remembered how Leandra ruthlessly executed a number of women after raping each. Although Elmira was disgusted by the evil in this woman, she knew better than to cross her and did nothing to stop the torture.
"Yes, she is still without a soul."
"Scorpios are you absolutely out of your mind! Do you have any idea who you just tied to that tree?" Leandra was angry at the young mans boldness in taking the young Amazon. While she could care less that the man wanted to relieve his sexual needs with an Amazon or two, she agreed with Maris that prisoners would be too much of a burden and any good Amazon left alive would only slow their movement around the territory.
Running his tongue up and down the cheek of the young Amazon, the assassin fondled her breasts until Leandra slapped him in the back of the head. Stepping away he winked at the Amazon who only spit in his face. Filled instantly with rage he punched her, which only served to knock her unconscious. "Bitch! I will teach you how to respect someone like me."
Shaking her head Leandra was frustrated. Grabbing Scorpios from behind the rebel held a knife to his throat. "Touch her again and I will kill you myself. Do you understand me?"
Laughing in spite of the knife Scorpios pushed Leandras hand away and turned to face her. "Oh come on Le you cant tell me you actually plan on following through with Maris plans? And anyway, she is just one puny Amazon, what do you care. Ill share her with you when Im done."
This statement caused the Amazon rebel to snicker. "Yeah, well youre wrong there. I have every intentions of killing the Queen." With that being said Leandra walked over to the young Amazon.
"Who is she Leandra?"
Checking the ropes to make sure the prisoner was tied securely to the tree Leandra smiled at Scorpios. "Her name is Amarice. All I know is she is one of the Queens favorites. Wonder what she was doing wandering around in the rain and dark." Realizing it did not matter, Leandra returned to the small burning ember they started due to the cold and rain. Rethinking the situation the rebel began to wonder if the young redhead might actually come in handy, as bait.
Deciding to stay a few more days at the cave the newly married couple wanted to get the horses out for some exercise. The downpour of rain turned to sprinkles and both were anxious for some fresh air. Gabrielle did not yet have a saddle and Xena cursed her foolishness for not thinking of it sooner. The extra rein in Argos saddlebag allowed Gabrielle to at least control the chestnut mare easier. "Gabrielle ride with me okay. Its too muddy out there. If that horse slips you could fall and get hurt."
Grabbing her Warrior by the cheeks Gabrielle gave her a huge kiss. "You worry too much. And if youll remember, the horse was your idea. Anyway my legs are strong enough to hang on."
"Oh yea dont I know what its like to have those powerful legs wrapped around my .."
The Bard slapped her Warrior in the shoulder before she could finish the statement. "Yea well youd better just remember that the next time youre in mmmm that position." With an extremely seductive smile Gabrielle jumped onto her horse, pulled her cape over her head and led the mare out of the cave.
Mounting Argo, the Warrior draped her cape over her shoulders and head and growled lovingly. "Dont expect to stay on that horse too long." Xena had every intentions of testing those leg muscles out soon. *Me and my big mouth should have never talked her into that horse.*
Riding the horses cut their travel time to the lake and the small hidden trail behind the towering rocky face. As the Bard turned the mare around to head back to the lake, the Warrior brought Argo alongside. Xena had enough of this solo riding and catching her soulmate off guard lifted her from the mare and sat her in front on Argo. "Told you not to expect to stay on your horse for too long." Gabrielle spun around in the saddle facing her lover playfully kissing her until the heat increased and two sets of lips became one. Deciding she would take lead of their lovemaking on the top of Argo, Gabrielle slid her arms under the Warrior cape and started unfastening the leather shoulder straps. She wanted to taste the firm breasts of her soulmate. Just as Gabrielle tilted her head to capture a harden nipple the Warrior pushed her away roughly. "What are you doing Xena?" The Warrior was smiling at someone and Gabrielle looked over her shoulder to see Artemis.
Both women almost fell off Argo and Artemis had to call upon all her resources to stop from laughing. Once both were standing on the ground Artemis cleared her throat and approached the soulmates. "Having a good time I see. Sorry to interrupt."
"My Goddess, is something wrong?" Not too sure why Artemis would appear to them, as she typically did not, Gabrielle intuitively realized there was a problem. "Are the Amazons okay?"
"My little Chosen One, there is danger. I must transport you back to the village." Artemis placed her hand on Gabrielles shoulder intentionally ignoring the Warrior.
"Not without Xena you wont."
*Oh, baby be careful. You dont want to anger Artemis.* Concerned over her soulmates defensive stance with a goddess, Xena flashed her best smile at Artemis. Hoping that Artemis would not retaliate in anger the Warrior loved it, when Gabrielle became her protector. As she hoped, Artemis was all hot air. Gabrielle could probably do anything to Artemis and the Goddess would find a way to accept her actions.
"Hmpf okay Gabrielle, she can come too. Might need her help anyway." Artemis was secretly pleased with her Chosen Ones boldness. It was a trait Gabrielle would need to defeat enemies and protect a nation. The goddess had decided Gabrielle would have to handle this situation without her help. While Artemis could step in and easily destroy the source, she would not interfere. Her Chosen One had to deal with this and her bond with Xena was a part of her strength.
It was not until midday, when the sun chased away the rain clouds that Eponin left her post. Hoping Amarice would forgive her for running out, the Warrior was amused that she was willing to crawl and beg, if necessary. A sudden flash of light filled the center of the Amazon Village. As the women rushed to see the source of this phenomenon, they discovered the Queen, her Warrior and their horses.
"Hades, I hate it when she does that. Shes been hanging around Aphrodite too long." Nothing irritated Xena more than a god who showed off. Hearing her soulmate giggle she shot Gabrielle a raised eyebrow and a sly smirk.
"Oh is that a promise for later, my love." Knowing full well that Artemis display of godhood was to annoy her Warrior, Gabrielle could not resist teasing her a bit.
As the Amazons surrounded the soulmates with greetings and cheers, both women realized this was the first time many of them had seen their Queen alive since they returned to life. While some had attended the reunion celebration in Amphipolis, the majority of the women had only heard the stories. Jumping off of Argo, Xena held out her arms for Gabrielle knowing full well that her partner was capable of dismounting alone. This had just become a routine over the past season and Xena had no intentions of changing it. It gave her one more opportunity to touch and hold her lover.
Sliding off of the chestnut and into her lovers embrace was always easy for Gabrielle. Intentionally keeping her arms around the Warriors neck, she smiled sensually into blue eyes and kissed her Warrior passionately without concern for the watching eyes around them. This pleased the Amazons who roared and howled encouraging the kiss to continue.
Attempting to gain some composure before she seduced Gabrielle in front of everyone, Xena pulled her lips away. With a smile and a few random kisses on Gabrielles lips the Warrior pressed her forehead to her soulmates. "You my love are very good at centering the attention around me, when I am at my weakest." Receiving raised eyebrows and a sensual smile from her soulmate, the Warrior tugged on Gabrielles arms causing them to release from her neck. "Later you and me .Queens hut." Inclining her head to peer into the already glazed over green eyes, Xena smiled knowing that not only did Gabrielle have control of her but she also had Gabrielle at her mercy.
With that one inviting sexual promise of the evening to come Gabrielles knees became weak and if it wasnt for Shulaba grabbing her from behind in a big hug the Bard would have collapsed. Xena was an expert in seduction and on many occasions Gabrielle would get beat at her own game, as the Warrior would turn the tables and become the pursuer. Anything Xena wanted from her, Gabrielle would give her. *Oh, the games yes my Warrior how I love to play.*
"Thank Artemis you are both here!" The Queen spun around to face Shulaba giving her a hug in return. "Im so sorry we had to interrupt your .well, you know." The Regent blushed slightly, as she noticed the smile across Gabrielles lips and the one raised eyebrow and half smirk crossing Xenas face. Without hesitation Shulaba handed her Queen the note sent several days sooner. The Warrior wrapped one arm around Gabrielle and leaned over her shoulder to read the message.
Handing the parchment to Xena, the Queen rubbed her temples and closed her eyes. Only a moment passed, when she spoke to her Regent. "How many Shulaba how many are hurt or "
"Ten have been injured and will survive. Two have been killed."
Eponin patted Xena on the shoulder and the Warrior spun around to greet her friend with a hug. "Xena, why dont we go into the council hut and talk about this." Everyone agreed with Eponins suggestion and the group politely left the Amazons who were huddling around their Queen. For the next candlemark Shulaba and Eponin filled the soulmates in on the details of what they knew about the threat, who had been injured and killed, along with the procedures they have been following to ensure safety.
"Shulaba ." Just as Gabrielle was about to question her Regent, the Captain of the Royal Guard, Teklai bolted through the front door out of breath.
"My Queen welcome home." Nodding her head respectfully to Xena, the Amazon handed a small piece of parchment to Gabrielle. "It was left pinned to a tree with this dart. No one saw who left it." Teklai handed the dart to Xena. "It had to happen, when everyone was welcoming you home, my Queen."
Opening the folded parchment Gabrielle read the contents to her friends. Amarice is ours. We will trade. Bring Queen Gabrielle to the Point. We will give you Amarice, alive. We know she is in the village. If we do not have the Queen by sundown tomorrow the Amazon dies.
Before the message was completely read, Eponin bolted through the door knocking over an undetermined number of Amazons on her way to check her hut for the redhead. That was the last place she saw Amarice, when she left last night.
"Follow her Teklai, make sure she does not leave the village." Gabrielle was quick issuing this order.
"I know who this dart belongs too." The Warrior twirled the dart between her fingers. Moving over to stand by her soulmate Xena squeezed Gabrielles shoulder. "An assassin named Scorpios. He is extremely dangerous and very accurate with both darts and arrows. He is your sniper. We take him out and we have a chance to beat Maris."
Slipping one arm around Xenas waist Gabrielle laid her head on the strong shoulder of her soulmate. "I wont risk your life Xena and I wont risk Amarice. We will make the trade."
Both Xena and Shulaba shouted together. "NO."
Spinning her soulmate around so she could look her directly in the eyes the Warrior would never allow Gabrielle to become a target like that. "No, Gabrielle, we can figure a way out of this. You will not risk your life and that is the end of this conversation. Do not argue with me." Realizing that she would never win the argument Gabrielle relented and instead hugged her soulmate.
Laughing unbelievably, Maris was actually pleased, when she discovered Amarice tied to a tree and heard the demand that Scorpios and Leandra sent to the Queen. "This is actually beautiful." Standing close to Amarice she yanked on the red hair. "You my little one will not only deliver the Queen to me, you will bring me Xena and probably the Regent."
"They will never come Maris. Youre wasting your time." The young redhead was frightened but she was also angry with herself for running out into the darkness without thinking. If that horse had not slipped on the muddy ground, she would not have fallen and hit her head.
Maris would do nothing more than laugh at her captive. "We move her tonight, when it is dark. Stake her to the ground at the Point. She can lay there until her heroes come along." Her voice dripped with sarcasm, as her companions joined Maris in laughter. "Then we split up and take them all."
"What about killing a few more Amazons tonight?" Elmira was quick in reminding Maris of her earlier promise.
"No, they will not wander from the village tonight. They know we have the redhead. They will be much more alert. We will focus on moving to the Point and then I will explain the changes to my plan."
The fair-haired Stella whos home is the prison within the Amazon village, was not unaware of the events that transpired. Although she was kept separate from Pippa, the two were allowed four candlemarks each day to spend with each other. Over that time frame, Stella told her daughter the truth. At first Pippa refused to believe her, until Stella began explaining certain events and people in Pippas life. Eventually the young girl believed and was now attempting to accept Stella, as her mother. The Queen did nothing to hide the most recent message, as Xena thought it might be a good idea to spread the word and see if there were any additional traitors hiding in the village.
"Stella, you asked to see me?" The Warrior walked through the prison door to find Stella looking through the bars of her window.
"Yes, Xena thank you for coming." Stella approached the Warrior extended her hand in friendship. Xena accepted. "I have an idea that might save both the Queen and the young Amarice. Will you hear me out?"
The thought that this woman appeared concerned had Xenas curiosity. At this point, since she was not yet sure what she would do, so decided to listen.
Teklai was able to stop Eponin from leaving the compound, when she told her it would only be foolish. She would only place Amarice in more danger. Deciding she would find Xena, the Amazon saw the Warrior leaving the prison and ran to catch up with her. "Xena .what do we do?" Both anxiety and anger was apparent in Eponin and the Warrior understood the helpless feeling her friend was having. So often Gabrielle had been in trouble and the pain cut through Xena like a knife.
"Ive been talking with Stella. She actually has a plan that just might work. Lets find Gabrielle and Shulaba. The two Warriors found the women in the dining hut consuming a loaf of nutbread the cook baked, when she heard the Queen was in the village. Sitting down next to her lover, Gabrielle was happy to see her and gave Xena a sweet kiss. "Mmm, you taste like nutbread."
"Are you complaining?"
Grabbing Gabrielle by the waist Xena guided her to her lap. "No, not at all. In fact I think I might just like to taste that ag " Before she could finish her request the Queen locked her lips to Xenas and the game of who was in charge began.
After several moments of heated kissing, Eponin slammed her fist on the table. "Look you two, the woman I love is out there some where, do you mind concentrating on how we are going to get to her!!" The Warrior would not normally react so poorly and so boldly with the Queen, in front of a dining hut filled with Amazons, but at this point, she cared for no one but Amarice.
Both women stared at Eponin and could see the fear and the tears pooling in the large brown eyes. Xena spoke before Gabrielle had an opportunity. "Sorry Eponin. Okay, I spoke with Stella, who actually came up with a plan that might work." As the Warrior told her friends the plans, all the women agreed it actually might work.
That night Maris, Leandra, Scorpios and Elmira dragged Amarice to the Point and staked her on her back to the ground. Falling back under the cover of the forest Maris told her rebels of the plan. Believing that the Amazons would never give up their Queen, Maris would leave Elmira and Scorpios behind tomorrow morning to kill whomever attempted to rescue Amarice and hopefully Xena would be with them. Then they could do what they wanted to the young redhead.
"So you really do not think Gabrielle will come?" Elmira was rather curious, as to why Maris would believe this.
The rebel chuckled believing she would outsmart the Queen and her Warrior. "They think Im stupid. They will send a decoy. It might look like Gabrielle from a distance but it wont be. And Xena will probably be with them to make it appear real. Thats when I want you to take her out." Looking out at the stars in the sky Maris was grateful that the night was dry. "They will leave Gabrielle back in the village with her precious Captain of the Guards. Leandra and I will leave now, which will put us in place before sunrise. Thats when we will strike."
Late that evening Stella was brought to the Queens hut. Immediately dropping to one knee showing respect for her Queen she heard the familiar gentle voice. "Please stand Stella." The Amazon stood proudly. "Are you sure you want to do this?"
"Yes, my Queen. I am yours to command." The plan was simple; Stella would stay in the Queens hut pretending to be Gabrielle. She believed that Maris and Leandra would use Amarice, as a decoy, and Maris was smart enough to predict Xena would never place Gabrielle in harms way and thus send out a decoy. The ex-rebel, Stella, felt Maris would circle back and strike the village early. It was just her style.
Eponin came into the hut. "Everything is ready. The guards are in position and the sentries are gathered throughout the treetops." Xena approached Stella and offered her forearm in thanks. "Stella, as far as Im concerned youve redeemed your honor in my eyes. Thank you." The Amazon smiled. "Just catch them Xena."
Gabrielle stood next to Xena and tenderly slipped her fingers into the hand of her Warrior. Without hesitation Xena squeezed her soulmates hand. They would travel through the night so they could be in position before midday. This would allow Xena to survey the area around the Point before the meeting. Teklai and Shulaba would remain behind with several well-trained royal guards. Eponin would accompany Gabrielle and Xena. If all went well, the fact that the Captain of the Royal Guard stayed behind would give Maris the impression that Gabrielle would still be in the village. Stella explained to Xena that Maris would never believe that the Warrior would bring Gabrielle on to a possible battlefield. The fair-haired Stella would wear Gabrielles clothing and stay in the Queens hut for the entire day and evening. By the time Maris realizes it is not Gabrielle it will be too late.
Riding in the dark was difficult without the aid of torches. The half moon was hidden by clouds, which also blocked most of the stars. Eponin insisted on leading and no one argued with her. Xena understood her need to keep busy and how difficult is was to not know what your lover might be going through. There were too many times, when Gabrielle was missing and the pain that drove through Xenas heart was horrible. The trio rode single file, which allowed Eponin to choose the safest path. Gabrielle was placed between them on her chestnut mare. A saddle was given, as a gift, to Gabrielle by the seven Amazon blacksmiths of the village. As usual, her soulmate was pleased and overwhelmed by the generosity of the women and her young Bard gave both tears and hugs to each Amazon. Rubbing her thumb over the ring Gabrielle had given her, the Warrior needed to touch her soulmate. Guiding Argo alongside the chestnut mare caught the Queens attention and she smiled. All Xena had to do was reach out with her arms and Gabrielle allowed her Warriors strength to pull her onto Argos saddle. Choosing to ride sidesaddle in front of Xena, the Bard slipped one arm around the Warriors waist and laid her head on the muscular shoulder. Falling in behind Eponin, the Warrior held onto the chestnuts rein and led the horse. Several kisses burned sweetly on her neck and the Warrior responded by kissing the top of Gabrielles head. Understanding that silence was important no words were exchanged or required.
A trip to the Point during daylight would only take about two candlemarks. It took the trio three candlemarks to reach the area Xena had planned. Stopping at the edge of the forest the women dismounted quietly. At sunrise Xena would be able to survey the field that separated them from the Point.
"Why wait until morning. Let me crawl out there and find Amarice." The master of the staff was anxious and afraid for her lover.
Placing her hand on Eponins shoulder the Warrior understood. "My friend, no. They will anticipate a move like this. And we dont know if Amarice is even out there. If you want to do something tie off the horses and then climb a tree and watch. We have about three to four candlemarks before sunrise."
Reluctantly Eponin nodded her agreement and moved the horses to a secure area. Before climbing a tree, the Warrior handed Gabrielle a blanket. "You should get some rest, my Queen."
Without warning Gabrielle wrapped her arms around Eponin and hugged her tightly. She was pleased, when she felt Eponin reciprocate the hug. "Amarice is strong. She will be okay. Just keep remembering that." Moments later the dark hair Amazon was hidden among the treetops.
"Shes right Gabrielle. You should get some rest." Taking the blanket the Warrior spread it out in front of a tree. Sitting on the blanket she motioned for Gabrielle to join her. Snuggling with Xena was one of the best feelings in the world. The Warriors arms were so strong that she was able to support Gabrielle easily. Xena also had an extremely warm body and as Gabrielle burrowed into her soulmates chest, the heat took away the chill of the night air. To Gabrielle cuddling with the Warrior was like a mini climax. It always filled her heart and soul with an overwhelming feeling of being loved. Looking up into those absolutely gorgeous blue eyes Gabrielle found Xenas lips. Always ready and willing to be kissed by Gabrielle, the Warrior demanded entry into the heated passion of the young woman and instantly found Gabrielle ready to explore and give as much love as she was receiving. Both understood they would not take their love further than the kiss so simultaneously broke the kiss before they could no longer control their desires.
Laying her head on the Warriors chest Gabrielle sighed with pleasure. "I love you Xena."
Hugging her soulmate tighter, Xena rested her head on top of Gabrielles. "I love you too, baby. Gods, how I love you."
During the night Maris and Leandra left the Point and circling around the field heading back to the Amazon Village. Their direction was one of constant coverage by the heavy forest, thus there would be no way they could possibly run into the trio camped on the eastern side of the field, which was more opened.
That morning the trio decided rather than play cat and mouse, they would ride out onto the field, yet stay out of arrow range. Xenas knowledge of Scorpios and her experience at battle allowed her to determine what safe distance would be. Gabrielle would wear the mask of the Queen, when they rode out onto the field. Not knowing how many people Maris had under her command, Xena assumed that at least Scorpios would recognize Gabrielle, therefore the mask would give the trio a slight advantage. It would allow them to stall for time, hopefully giving the Warrior enough time to draw out everyone Maris may have left behind. Remembering Stellas words regarding Maris, the rebel would already be on her way back to the village.
The Point was nothing more than an unusual conglomeration of boulders located on the far side of an open field. About two candlemarks after sunrise the women started across the field. Gabrielle rode between the Warrior and Eponin until they caught sight of the Point. They were not there long before they could see a body on the ground. At first, no one else was in view. Within moments a lone woman in robes stepped out from around the boulders.
Eponin was obviously ready to charge and the Warrior spoke firmly. "Eponin dont you dare bolt out there!"
"Hades, Xena that is Amarice on the ground."
"I know and if you want to keep her alive you do as I tell you."
Sliding off of Argo the Warrior started walking across the field. "Xena!"
Looking over her shoulder she understood the face under the mask and heard the fear in Gabrielles voice. Returning to her lover the Warrior rubbed Gabrielles leg, as she and Eponin remained on their horses. "Baby, itll be okay. I will be back for you. I love you." Bringing Gabrielles hand to her lips Xena kissed it tenderly. Not giving the Bard a chance to react Xena ran into the field toward the boulders. As she got closer, it was obvious that Amarice was conscious and fearful. Xena did not recognize the woman standing next to her. "Amarice are you okay?"
"XENA. Watch it - this bitch is " Elmira kicked Amarice in the chest pushing the air from her lungs. "I see you brought us the Queen?"
"Let Amarice go. That was the agreement."
"Oh, no that was your agreement with Maris and she is not here. And anyway, we all know that the woman with the mask is not really your Queen."
Xena raised her arm signaling Eponin and Gabrielle. The Amazon whispered to her Queen. "Rebels think you are a fake. Lets go." Slowly the pair jumped from their horses and walked toward Xena stopping about twenty paces behind.
"Oh .please, take that mask off." Elmira moved away from Amarice so that her back was to the sun forcing the Warrior to look into the bright rays. "Just so you know there is an arrow pointing directly to the young redheads heart. Now please take that mask off. I already know you are not the Queen. In fact with any luck your precious Queen is being raped, as we speak."
Just then the Warrior noticed Scorpios perched on top of one of the boulders. This placed him above and behind Xena, as well as directly over Amarice. The Warrior knew his aim would be accurate. "Come on Elmira get on with it. My hand is getting tired .I might decide to let go."
"Shut up Scorpios!" Elmira was irritated that the stupid archer mentioned her name and the smirk that crossed Xenas face told Elmira that the Warrior now knew who she was. Thus the element of surprise was taken away. Originally planning to provoke Xena into a physical fight, she would then force her finger into the Warriors heart killing her instantly. Drawing a short sword hidden among her robes Elmira screamed at the Queen. "I SAID REMOVE YOUR MASK!"
Xena nodded her head without looking back and Gabrielle lifted the mask dropping it to the ground. "Hades, Elmira, it is the Queen!!" Scorpios recognized the woman immediately and moved his aim from Amarice to Gabrielle. "You Amazon." Motioning to Eponin. "On your knees."
Unable to contain her anger any longer Eponin gave a warriors cry setting events in motion. Flipping across the distance between herself and Scorpios the assassin found his mark in her thigh. The chain of events caused Elmira to react and she charged directly toward Xena who ripped through the womans stomach with her chakram killing her instantly. Spinning around she watched Scorpios reload his bow and released her chakram severing the mans head from his body. Gabrielle was already holding Eponin in her arms when Scorpios lost his head. Xena quickly released Amarice and helped the young woman to her feet. Ignoring the stiffness and pain from being slapped, punched and kicked she rushed to Eponin knocking her backwards. Lying on top of the injured Warrior, Amarice poured kisses, tears and hugs all over her lover. All Eponin could do was cry and embrace her little love one tightly.
Gabrielle moved back so the two Amazons could have some privacy and watched her Warrior scanning the surroundings for any other possible attackers. Musing that there were no others Xena approached Gabrielle whose eyes were focused directly at her. Unable to stand still the young blonde ran to her soulmates waiting arms. The Warrior became instantly demanding and Gabrielle gave in to Xenas need. In heated emotions the kiss turned fast, forceful and needy. Both became consumed and lost in each other. Eponins yell for someone to pull the arrow out of her leg broke the soulmates apart. Apologizing repeatedly Xena lifted Eponin and whistled for Argo. The mare stood still obediently, while Xena lifted Eponin on to the horse and retreated to the protection of the forest. Once safely hidden, the Warrior started a small fire and prepared to treat Eponins leg. With great expertise and seasons of practice the Warrior removed the arrow, applied a poultice and a bandage was wrapped around the wound. While the Warrior did this, Gabrielle took care of the bumps, scratches and bruises that covered Amarice. The feisty redhead was fortunate and her injuries were only minor. With the young one on the move to be with Eponin, Gabrielle brewed some tea and added several medicinal herbs to help ease the pain for both her friends.
Amarice demanded that Eponin rest in her arms. While the tears slip from her soft hazel eyes she kissed her big old Warrior continuously. "Eponin, Im so sorry I ."
"Ssshh little one. Everything is okay. I should never have left the hut." Running her strong fingers through the red hair the Amazon Warrior smiled up at her young lover. "I sure would like it, if you would move into the hut with me." Amarice kissed her Warrior tenderly whispering that she would. Pushing Amarice back gently the huge brown eyes of the Amazon darted over the beautiful sweet face of the young woman that captured her heart so easily. "There is no one in this world for me but you. Okay so dont ever think otherwise."
The Warrior walked back out into the field to retrieve the Queens mask that was left on the ground. She found herself staring at the dead bodies and realized this was her first kill since rebirth. Normally Xena would have welcomed a battle but this time she refused to play the game and her kills were quick and swift. A warm hand touched her back and Gabrielle wrapped her arms around Xenas waist. "You okay, Xena?"
Hugging her soulmate with one arm Xena kissed Gabrielle on the nose. "Yes, honey. I am doing okay. That one woman would have been a challenge. She knew pressure points. I recognized her name; a very dangerous woman." Turning away the couple walked hand in hand back to the forest. "Gabrielle, I love you."
"I know Xena. I love you too."
Allowing Eponin and Amarice to rest for the majority of the day, the women returned to the Amazon village before sunset. Just outside the village a sentry party greeted them. The plan had worked and Maris walked right into the trap. She was now currently sitting in the village prison chained to the walls. Leandra managed to get away, as she never entered the village.
The entire village was electrified, as their Queen entered the village. Excited Amazons surrounded the four women before they could dismount. Quickly she ordered several of them to get Eponin to Lilliokas hut so the healer may look at her leg, as well as Amarices injuries. The commotion brought the Regent and Teklai from the dining hut and hugs and laughter went all around.
"It worked. Maris walked right into the village carrying nothing more than a breast dagger. She claimed she had a message for the Queen from Herodotus oh, Gabrielle Im sor .." The excitement that had control over Shulaba was quickly squashed, when she realized what she was saying.
Instantly raising her hand, Gabrielle rubbed the side of Shulabas cheek. "It is okay Shulaba. I have to deal with that man soon. Please go on and tell us what happened." Two strong arms came up behind Gabrielle and circled her waist pulling her to a warm body. Xenas heart ached for her soulmate.
"Well, the guards let her in the door, as planned. Teklai and four others were hiding and grabbed Maris immediately. She was in such shock, when Stella spun around to face her that she was easily apprehended."
"Did Leandra get away?" Xena was not pleased about this possibility because it meant the assassin was loose and eventually would be a threat.
"She never entered the village. I dont think she was even near the village. The sentries posted in the trees never saw her. Stella said the two women fought all the time. Leandra thought all of Maris plans were stupid."
Gabrielle leaned her head against Xenas shoulder and could feel her Warriors lips brushing her hair. "Where is Stella? Was she hurt?"
"No, my Queen. She insisted on returning to her cell." Shulaba lowered her eyes for a moment. "I tried to tell her she did not have too."
"Shulaba, I want her brought to the dining hut. She will join me at my table." The Regent smiled at her Queen with pride. "Oh, and bring Pippa too." Spinning around to face her Warrior, she found tears in the blue eyes. "Are you okay Xena?"
Capturing Gabrielles face with her hands, Xena kissed her lover and whispered. "You overwhelm me baby. I cant get enough of you." With their arms wrapped around each other the couple made their way to the dining hut and eventually to the Queens table. Food and drinks were served immediately and the soulmates found they were hungry. Many of the Amazons stopped at the table to pay their respects to both Gabrielle and Xena. Straddling the bench the Warrior scooted close to her soulmate and kept her hand around Gabrielles waist. Totally in love with this young woman it amazed Xena how often she found herself falling in love all over again.
It was only a matter of time before Stella and Pippa were brought before Gabrielle. The Warrior stood immediately and offered her forearm in greeting and friendship. Stella accepted grateful for the friendship of the Warrior Princess. The Regent intuitively knew what her Queen was about to do and ordered that the hut quiet down. All eyes watched the Queen, as she moved from behind her table to stand next to Stella and Pippa. Her Warrior immediately stood by her side. Looking directly at Stella and no one else, Gabrielle placed her hand on the Amazons shoulder. "You have risked your life for your Queen and this nation. You are pardoned from all crimes anyone may accuse you of. I hope both you and your daughter, Pippa, will continue to live within this village and continue to live the way of an Amazon."
Stella fell to her knees in tears and was quickly followed by her daughter. In her great love for people, Gabrielle followed Stella and embraced her in a hug. The Amazons began shouting their agreement of Gabrielles decision and soon all were once again laughing and celebrating the day. Teklai bent over placing her hand on Stellas back. "I sure could use a good lieutenant. Interested in the job Stella?" The fair hair Amazon was overwhelmed by the love and kindness she was receiving and not only thanked her Queen but accepted Teklais offer. Before the evening was over, Pippa was enrolled as a warrior in training under the guidance of Eponin and both women would move into the community hut, until a private hut could be built. Gabrielle ordered several seasons ago that every mother and child should have a home of her own.
"The Warrior did an excellent job tending to your wound, Eponin." Turning to Amarice the healer could only smile at the young redhead who was turning into a fine Amazon. "Your Warrior will need to be off that leg for awhile. Think you can handle that?" Lillioka had no doubt that the young Amazon would be able to keep Eponin on her back and had to chuckle slightly, when she saw the smirk cross Amarices face.
"Lillioka, Im sure I will have no problems finding ways to keep my Warrior occupied while she is resting." The seduction in Amarices voice sent fevered waves of passion through Eponin and she could feel the wetness between her legs.
*Oh..yea, my little one. I know what I need.. and it is you.* Allowing several Amazons to help her to her feet, the Warrior could not get to her hut fast enough. That night the only medicine that Eponin needed was to touch, taste and smell her lover.
As the festivities progressed, Xena and Gabrielle were inseparable. Any Amazon wanting the attention of their Queen was required to also spend the time with Xena. The Warrior would not move from her side and kept in constant physical touch with Gabrielle. The two women continued to share hugs, kisses and held hands. Xena became extremely protective and Gabrielle welcomed the security from her mate. Xena was just reaching in to capture Gabrielles willing lips once more, when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Ready to take off that hand, Xena glared over her shoulder at the intruder. "Yes Teklai?"
Teklai smiled, knowing all too well how Xena was feeling at that moment. There were so many times, when she had to stand to the side while the Regent spent time with the women of the village. In fact, she almost wanted to tell the Warrior to be prepared to feel that way all the time, when it meant shed have to share her lover. Instead Teklai bent down to whisper in Xenas ear. "Its time you two leave. The Regent can handle anything that comes up. So go, make love to your soulmate."
Out of respect for what the Bard termed "warrior bonding" she focused her attentions on the crowd while Teklai spoke with Xena. Soon she felt Xena pulling her close and kissing her cheek. With a slight tug on her hand Gabrielle allowed Xena to draw her away from the bench. The Bard knew what Xena wanted. She wanted this too, so she let the Warrior lead her through the crowd and out of the hut.
They walked with their arms around each others waist until they came to the door of the hut they shared. Xena looked at Gabrielle. "I cant share you anymore tonight. Is that okay?"
Gabrielle reached up circling her arms around the Warriors neck. "Warrior, you are very demanding. I am Queen you know. I require a certain amount of attention. Think you are up for it?"
How she loved, when her soulmate wanted to play. Raising her eyebrows the Warrior let a smirk cross her lips and she picked Gabrielle off the ground. Kicking the door open with her foot she carried Gabrielle into their hut setting her down on the bed. The Warrior returned to close the door and immediately removed her sword and armor on the way. Sitting in the chair next to the bed Xena removed her boots. Gabrielle did nothing but watch her soulmate. Kneeling in front of Gabrielle, the Warrior decided to play the game. "My Queen, what is your wish?"
"Take my boots off Warrior." Seductively Xena ran her fingers up Gabrielles legs and while her lips worked on the knees she pulled each boot off. The fact that Xenas eyes were immediately drawn to Gabrielles muscular thighs exposed by the draping split of her leathers increased her need to take this woman quickly. Licking with her tongue up the firm and tender thighs of her soulmate Xena felt a hand holding her head from climbing further.
Passion dripped from Gabrielles voice and Xena could feel her mound throbbing with need. "Are you hungry Warrior? I have something you might like to taste." The game was over. Xena growled with excitement and pushed Gabrielle back on the bed. Pulling Gabrielles leathers and undergarments off in one tug she spread the young blondes legs and latched on to the wet hot essences of her soulmate. This produced instant groaning and panting from Gabrielle and as Xena plunged her tongue into the fevered cavern of her lover, she licked and sucked furiously. There would be no simple caressing this time. Xenas needs were too great. Within moments Gabrielle was shaking and reached the peak of her orgasm. The Warrior would not let go and continued to suck and lick bringing her lover to a second and third climax. Eventually she could no longer contain her own need and pulled her lips from Gabrielles throbbing mound. Gabrielle understood her soulmates need and she quickly tugged the leathers off and pulled Xena up her own body until the Warrior was sitting over her face and probing tongue. As Xena rotated her hips, Gabrielle showed no mercy and forcefully and quickly took control of her Warrior. Eventually the Warrior could take no more and she collapsed on top of her soulmate. Together the two lovers cuddled and fondled each other until sleep came to both.
The following morning came quickly and the Warrior was not anxious to get out of bed. Some time in the early morning just prior to sunrise her soulmate woke up and began rubbing her hands over the Warriors body. Before Xena was fully awake Gabrielle was once again licking the essence between her thighs. *You are so wonderful my beautiful wife and so very passionate. Sometimes I think you have a fever the way you come after me.* Kissing Gabrielle on the forehead, the Warrior wanted to hold her longer and smell the scent that was only Gabrielle.
A loud knock reverberated on the door of the Queens hut startling Xena from her thoughts. The knock also served to scare Gabrielle awake jolting her from her cuddling position to sit straight up. Xena quickly grabbed her around the waist. "Its okay, just a knock on the door." Giving Gabrielle a smile and a quick kiss on the lips Xena got out of bed, grabbing a blanket to wrap around her, as she headed to the door. The Warrior glanced back to see her lover fall back down snatching the pillow Xena was laying on and pulling it tightly to her body. *Yes, definitely fevered.* Xena knew she loved this side of Gabrielle tremendously. Attempting to put her Warrior face on Xena opened the door.
Teklai and two additional guards stood respectfully and obviously on duty. Xena gave Teklai the do you want me to kick your ass across the compound for this disruption look. Then in her sweetest voice she smiled at her friend. "Yes Teklai?"
"Im sorry Xena." Teklai paused fully aware of the Warriors glaring look and respectfully bowed her head to the Warrior. "I must speak with the Queen."
The bow acknowledging her respect of the Warrior humored Xena, as she realized that if the two other guards were not present Teklai would not be so formal. Xena had a great deal of respect for Teklai and her position. "Gabr I mean the Queen is not available at the moment, can it wait?"
Teklai knowing she may end up with Xenas fist in her face bravely closed the distance between the two of them. "Xena, a message came for Gabrielle a few moments ago. It is from Poteidaia."
"Has anyone read it yet?" Remembering the last message that was delivered from Poteidaia caused great concern in the Warrior, as it obviously had in Teklai. "Does anyone else know?"
"Only Shulaba knows of the message. It is still sealed, Xena. The messenger was a simple peasant and left almost as fast as he arrived. No one has read the contents. I just remember the last time Gabrielle received .."
Xena was impressed with Teklais loyalty and ability to handle the situation and interrupted the Captain. "Yes, I know. Do you have the message with you?"
"Shulaba has it. She is in the council hut."
"We will meet you there within a candlemark. Have Eponin and Amarice meet us also." The Amazon departed and Xena tried to figure out how she was going to tell Gabrielle about the message. A chill ran up her spine, as she remembered the last message Herodotus had sent with a messenger that tried to kill her soulmate. *I wont loose you Gabrielle, I promise you I will protect you and our love.*
Looking down at Gabrielle the Warrior ran her fingers through the blonde hair. "Mmmm Xena come to bed." The plea was soft and sensual, an invitation to make love.
Dropping her blanket Xena crawled under the covers and pulled Gabrielle close. "Sweetie, we have to get up. A message came for you. We need to meet with Shulaba."
This caught Gabrielles attention and she leaned on her elbows attempting to focus extremely sleepy eyes at her soulmate. "What is the message about?"
"I dont know. It is from Poteidaia." Anticipating the worst, Gabrielle closed her eyes and buried her head into the pillow. Rolling to her side the Warrior rubbed Gabrielles back and shoulders. "Honey, it is safe. There is no messenger this time." Hoping that if she got out of bed, Gabrielle might follow her did not work right away. The young woman was not willing to move extremely fast. While she pulled her boots on Xena glanced up to find that finally her soulmate was at least sitting on the edge of the bed. "Baby, it will be okay. We will get through this together."
Watching Gabrielle slip the leather skirt around her waist Xena could not help but remember the gash on Gabrielles arm and the bruises she suffered in Amphipolis. Knowing she did not need an invitation the Warrior stood in front of Gabrielle and took the leather ties from her hands. Tying the leather sash that would hold the skirt in place, Xena was pleasantly surprised, when Gabrielle reached up and gave her a quick kiss. "I love you Xena. Always remember that."
The Warrior wrapped her arms around Gabrielles waist and pulled her tightly to her chest. "Gabrielle, I love you too. Whatever is in that message I do not want you to keep it from me."
Looking up into those deep baby blues Gabrielle saw the concern, the fear and the love Xena held for her. No, she would only hurt and scare Xena by not sharing the message. "I promise I will not keep anything from you my love."
The Queen and her Warrior found the Regent, Teklai, Eponin and Amarice waiting for them in the council hut. Outside of the friendly greetings and questions, as to how Eponin and Amarice were doing, no one mentioned the message. Finally Gabrielle sat down next to Shulaba and the Regent pushed the sealed scroll in front of her Queen. Rolling the scroll back and forth between her hand and the table Gabrielle was not ready to open it.
"Is Maris talking at all about the attack on the Amazons?" Everyone knew Gabrielle was avoiding the scroll. Shulaba quickly looked past Gabrielle to Xena, who was sitting next to her. The Warrior smiled and nodded her head.
"No, she is not talking. She is demanding a trial."
"I suppose that is the right thing to do. Set it for tomorrow at midday." Continuing to stare at the scroll Gabrielle moved her hands away. "Who will represent her?"
"Normally the priestess Helena is willing to do this." Shulaba placed her hand on Gabrielles back. "Are you going to read the message?"
Everyone could see the isolated tears slide down the Queens cheeks. With great gentleness Xena wrapped her arms around Gabrielle and kissed her on the cheek. "Gabrielle, I know this is hard but you have to look at it."
Nodding her head weakly Gabrielle picked up the scroll and handed it to Xena. "You read it, I cant."
Without hesitation Xena broke the seal and opened the scroll reading the contents. Looking to her soulmate and then to her friends the Warrior read the contents.
Gabrielle, The Village Council of Poteidaia regrets to inform you that the house and barn owned by your parents burned to the ground in a mysterious fire. Your father was not in either building. We searched the grounds for Herodotus and regret that no one could find him. We can neither confirm he is alive or deceased. A message was also sent to Lila in Amphipolis. The property belongs to the both of you. Please let us know what your plans will be regarding the land.
"Gabrielle, it is signed by Vanaska, Chief Council Elder. Do you know the man?" Making sure the message was not another ploy on Herodotus part, Xena had to be sure.
Simply nodding her head yes Gabrielle pushed her chair away from the table and stood. "I have to speak with Helena regarding Maris before the trial."
A strong hand grabbed hers and the Bard knew it was Xena. "Shulaba can fill you in on the procedures for Maris. Why dont .."
Jerking her hand away unexpectedly Gabrielle instantly became the Queen to hide her confusion and sorrow. "Xena, I must do this myself. I am the one who will have to determine her punishment." Unable to look in the eyes of her soulmate, Gabrielle realized she would fall apart, if she accepted the tenderness Xena was offering. Authoritatively she looked at Teklai. "Captain have my horse saddled immediately and be ready to accompany me to the temple." Without speaking or looking at anyone else Gabrielle walked quickly from the hut, followed by Teklai who was looking back and shrugging her shoulders with surprise.
Eponin grabbed Xena by the shoulders before she could chase after Gabrielle. "Let her go Xena."
Yanking her shoulder away from Eponin the tears were apparent in the Warrior. "I cant. She is hurting. This bastard of a man is slowly killing her. I have to go after her."
The Regent stepped between the Warrior and the door. "Xena, with your permission, I am going to send a few scouts to Poteidaia to see if this message is true."
Wiping the tears with the back of her hand the Warrior agreed to Shulabas idea and faced Eponin who was tugging on her arm. "She will be okay Xena. Gabrielle has you and you have her. Come, I will ride out with you to the temple."
Xena tried to smile at her friend. "No, you need to take care of that leg. Shulaba can ride with me. I want both you and Amarice well enough to dance at our Amazon wedding." Agreeing to Artemis wishes that they exchange vows in front of the Amazon nation was easy. Gabrielle had brought the best emotions out in Xena. Emotions the Warrior thought she would never be blessed with.