No words were necessary, as Gabrielle and Teklai rode from the Amazon village to Artemis temple. The young Queen had no desire to speak. Thankfully Teklai did not attempt to force a conversation. *I am so stupid! Oh, Xena .why does my father bring out the worst in me. I pushed you away and hurt your feelings. HADES!!! Sometimes I dont think I deserve you my beautiful Warrior. * Glancing over at her riding companion and escort brought a smile to Gabrielle. "Teklai, Im sorry, if I was a bit bossy back there."
Unable to suppress a smile the Captain of the Royal Guard looked into the gorgeous green eyes of her Queen. "My Queen, you are suppose to be bossy. You are ruler of a nation." A small giggle escaped Gabrielle so Teklai continued. "You should see how bossy Shulaba is, when you are not around. But dont tell her I told you that."
Several tears slipped from Gabrielles eyes. She understood that Teklai was attempting to make her feel better. "Thank you my friend."
Teklai could hear the approaching horses and stopped her horse and Gabrielles in order to access whether the riders were friendly or foe. Both women quickly saw Xena and Shulaba heading directly towards them and waited. As the Warrior came up alongside of Gabrielle, she could see the redness in Xenas eyes and the reality that her Warrior Princess had been crying struck a dagger through her heart. The Regent and Teklai guided the horses a respectful distance away giving their friend privacy.
"Xena, Im sorry. My father just makes me crazy I never meant to hurt you." Argo and the chestnut somehow managed to move right next to each other and for a second Gabrielle wondered, if the two horses were talking. Extremely close to her soulmate, Gabrielle circled her hand around the base of the Warriors neck and stood in the stirrups to kiss Xena. As she hoped, Xena pulled her from the horse onto the front of Argos saddle and enthusiastically claimed Gabrielles lips. The kiss was a renewal, the kiss spoke of their love and the few purrs that escaped both women talked of their passion.
Aware of the desire running through her body, Xena pulled away, while Gabrielle continued to leave tiny kisses on her face. "Hey we better get to the temple. I want this Maris incident over quickly. We have a wedding, remember?"
This caught Gabrielles attention and she looked into the blue eyes, which held her happily as a prisoner. "Thats right. Which means, we can have a second wedding night."
Remembering the lustful fire that burned through them both on their wedding night caused Xena to shudder slightly. Her desires for Gabrielle caused a flame to build rapidly between her legs. Xena knew that soon it would be uncontrollable and she would take her lover on the back of Argo. "Uh maybe you should ride the chestnut the rest of the way or we might not make the temple."
Loving the thought that Xena was unable to resist her, she let her hand slide down and rubbed the dampness between her Warriors legs. This sneaky maneuver caused the Warrior to jump slightly, moan and then quickly regain her surroundings. "Oh no you dont." Xena grabbed Gabrielles hand tightly. "Tonight, my sweet wife, I will possess you until you scream."
As each looked deeply into the eyes of the other, Gabrielle watched the eyebrows rise on her Warrior and could not help but giggle over the continuing game of love they enjoyed playing. Soon Xena joined her giggles with laughter and grabbing the reins of the chestnut mare she nudged Argo to catch up with Shulaba and Teklai.
"Lila, I dont want you going to Poteidaia! I am firm about that." The innkeeper was pacing the floor of her kitchen fairly rapidly. The message arrived yesterday and Cyrene was concerned that Herodotus was not found because he chose to hide. Ever since he sent Gabrielle that cruel message she refused to trust the man. "Look, Im sure Vanaska would have sent a message to your sister. It probably went to the Amazons. Why dont we take a trip there and see what Gabrielle has to say."
The young brunette tapped her fingers on the table and watched, as the woman who took her into her home was pacing the floor and visibly concerned. "Cyrene, I want to go to Poteidaia. If my father is there, he wont hurt me. Its Gabby he hates."
The innkeeper spun around and stared at the young brunette and wanted to slap her. While she was aware that Herodotus abused Gabrielle, Lila never indicated the problems with such harsh words before. "Hate is a powerful word Lila. Why? Why does your father hate her so much? And why and how can you possibly continue to love that man?"
Shrugging her shoulders Lila decided she said too much already. "Cyrene, I love you and I know you worry about me. But I need to go. If you want you can come with me. I have friends in Poteidaia, so I wont be totally alone. I just need to see what is going on. I am not going to wait for my sister to make up her mind whether she wants to go or not."
The innkeeper was not fooled by Lilas sudden show of strength. Something else was going on and Lila was not going to tell her. "Okay, Lila. I will go with you but Im also sending word to the Amazons." Leaning onto the table and peering directly into the big brown eyes of the young woman, Cyrene wanted her to understand that whatever she was hiding would soon be discovered. "You, however, had better start telling me why your father hates Gabrielle so much. You may not know all the reasons but I have a feeling you have pieces that might help find answers. Its time to grow up young lady and stop acting so fanciful. Your father has been extremely cruel to Gabrielle!"
Lila nodded her head and the innkeeper sat next to the younger sister of Gabrielle. For several candlemarks Lila spoke of a number of incidents where she was witness to the abuse. She had not been witness to all of them and was told by her father that Gabrielle had troubles with her mind. She was dangerous and needed to be controlled. The stories were one way she could control people make them believe they were happy or sad.
"WAIT you believed all of this crap? What did you mother say?" The innkeepers heart hurt horribly, as she heard the sickness that must have been running through Herodotus mind. "Lila, stories dont control people."
"No well maybe. I dont know Cyrene. I just know, when Hope came and pretended to be Gabrielle and then that evil monster attacked our home and.."
"And nothing! Lila .oh Lila .what am I going to do with you?" Shaking her head back and forth the innkeeper was exhausted just hearing about the foolishness of people.
"Mother loved Gabby a lot. I sometimes think Gabby was always her little girl and I was fathers." The young brunette walked over to the window and stared at absolutely nothing. She just had to move. "Cyrene, I love Gabby more than anything .she just scares me sometimes. Our mother was just too weak to fight father. I can remember times, when she would beg father to stop hitting Gabby .and he would stop. Father loved mother and he would stop."
Uncharacteristic of the innkeeper she became furious and with surprising strength lifted the table tipping it over. "ENOUGH!" Holding her hands out in front the innkeeper had enough of the sickness and insanity that Lila was willing to believe. "I will have Uncle Tensandi escort you to Poteidaia. When you are ready to return, I will still welcome you and love you." Turning away from Lila who made no attempt to talk, Cyrene decided to find Tensandi.
The day spent with Helena at the temple was helpful for Gabrielle. It took her mind off of the message from Poteidaia and gave her an opportunity to learn more of Amazon history, culture and laws. In the late afternoon Artemis appeared and claimed the attention of her Chosen One until sunset. While Gabrielle was with Artemis the Warrior sent Shulaba and Teklai back to the village with the instructions from Helena to prepare Maris for her trial. Then the Warrior waited outside the temple for her soulmate.
"Warrior!" Jumping to her feet Xena spun around to see Artemis with her arm draped around Gabrielles shoulder. Xena was surprised to actually see Artemis smile at her. "You protect my Chosen One well. You better continue. She is happy with you, why I do not know. But as long as my little one is happy, then I will continue to be available for you both. I anticipate an Amazon wedding within a few days. Do we understand one another Warrior?"
*Goddess, they have such egos.* The Warrior boldly took the temple steps three at a time and grabbed Gabrielles hand pulling her from Artemis grasp. "Do not ever doubt my love for Gabrielle. And you know fully well that I will give my life to protect her. So, lets stop all the cryptic chitchat. Once this Maris incident is over I will marry your Chosen One in Amazon tradition. And then we are leaving. We do have a life Artemis, that I would like us to live without the gods constantly interfering."
Crossing her arms, acting as if she was irritated at the Warriors offensive position toward her, Artemis began laughing. "Warrior, remember my words to you. And do not forget to be at Iasons before the summer solitise."
"What exactly does Iason want .." With a flash of light and a slight rumbling of the ground Artemis disappeared. She had no intentions of answering the Warrior. Looking around, as if she was not paying attention, Gabrielle tried to suppress her giggles. Wrapping her arms around her soulmate, the Warrior knew that Gabrielle found humor, when Xena argued with any of the gods. "Oh so you think this is funny do you."
"Yes, I do. And there isnt a thing you can do about it."
"Oh, isnt there?" Lifting Gabrielle in her arms Xena hopped the temple steps passing right by Helena toward one of the back rooms. Before slipping through the beaded curtain separating this room from the main temple Xena glanced at the grinning priestess. "Excuse us Helena. Gabrielle issued a challenge .and well ."
With laughter shaking her body Helena held up her hand to stop the Warrior from speaking. "Say no more Warrior. You will not be disturbed." As the stars filled the heavens, Helena was thankful for the door on her room. Kneeling at the small altar she lit the candles and prayed to a new God, one that Artemis instructed her to include. Normally Helena questioned Artemis about any new gods that were born but she did not question her about this God. Helena knew this one God was the most powerful one and it was also the one that brought Gabrielle and Xena back to life. Tonight Helena would pray to this God asking for guidance in her life and that of the Chosen One and her Warrior.
Early the next morning Helena accompanied Xena and Gabrielle back to the Amazon village. The Queen insisted that Helena ride her horse, while she rode double with Xena. "Does your horse have a name Gabrielle?" The priestess thought the chestnut was a beautiful color and was amazed to hear the horse was a gift from Hermes, as the god does not typically give gifts to anyone much less a mortal.
"No, not yet." The Bard was sitting behind Xena and had her arms wrapped tightly around the Warrior. "I suppose I should name her. Just did not think I was going to keep her." A warm hand squeezed hers and Gabrielle kissed an exposed shoulder.
"Are you ready for today my Queen?" The goddess knew that due to the nature of Maris crimes it would be hard for Gabrielle to do anything other than issue a punishment of death.
While she understood what Helena was referring too, Gabrielle spent most of the night awake, while Xena slept cuddling in her embrace. A sentence of death was what the law mandated and Gabrielle searched the scrolls trying to find a way around it. Protecting Xena and herself from death by killing was one thing but she did not know if she could order the death of another. The young Queen also listened to Artemis counsel, yet if she could find a way around this she would. It would depend a great deal on Maris. Realizing both Helena and probably Xena were waiting for her to answer the question, Gabrielle spoke honestly. "I am having a difficult time with this. I know what I will probably have to do and I dont know if I can do it. I stayed awake all night trying to figure a way around this."
Unaware that her soulmate stayed awake all night disturbed the Warrior. She was just so exhausted from the past several days that she fell asleep quickly. Now her soulmate was again struggling with what would be right and wrong for her path of peace and Xena knew she could not give her the answer.
The trial was held in public view outside of the council hut. A small platform was built which would hold the Queen and the Regent. Helena would stand next to Maris and attempt to represent the rebel. The women of the village would form a half circle around the proceedings maintaining a respectable distance from the accused. At midday Maris was brought before the Queen and Regent in shackles. Two guards remained standing on either side of the prisoner. The rebel was rather lucky, as Gabrielle had ordered that the woman not be touched or beaten. Thus other than the several bruises she suffered during her capture the rebel was in good physical condition.
The Regent would take charge of the trial, as required by Amazon law. "Maris, do you understand the charges against you?"
Spitting on the ground in front of her, the rebel sarcastically responded. "Yeah, so what if there are a few dead Amazons around, who cares."
"The priestess, Helena, is here to represent you and assure you a fair trial."
Looking over at the priestess Maris spit in her face. "You can go to Tartarus bitch. I dont want anyone to talk for me."
Wiping the saliva from her cheek Helena smirked at the rebel and stepped to the side of the platform withdrawing her representation. This was extremely easy for the priestess to do, as she too had a difficult time sleeping last night. Silently Helena thanked the high God for guidance.
Shulaba unrolled the scroll listing the names of the dead Amazons, the injured Amazons, the kidnapping of Amarice, the injuries of Amarice, the injuries of Eponin and the attempts made on the Queens life. Basically Maris entire history from the day she was banished to her capture was retold in the scroll. Without emotion, Shulaba asked, if any Amazon could prove the charges were false. The silence in the village became the answer the Regent anticipated. "Maris, do you have anything to say in your defense about these charges?"
The rebel glared directly past the Regent to the Queen. "No, what could I possible say. You deserve to die my Queen." The sarcasm dripped from Maris voice and Xena struggled to maintain control. She saw the deadly stare Maris was giving her soulmate and then she realized Eponins hand was on her shoulder.
Shulaba handed the scroll to Gabrielle. "My Queen, do you have any questions for the prisoner?"
Tossing the scroll to the ground Gabrielle stepped off the platform stopping only several paces away from Maris. Immediately Teklai and four guards surrounded the Queen in protection. "Youre pretty brave, when you have protection. Are you as brave, when you dont?" Aware that Maris was challenging her, Gabrielle raised her hand and motioned for the guards to retreat. The Warrior hated it, when her soulmate accepted challenges like this. Thoughts of how Gabrielle ran out to give water to the Horde came flashing back through her mind.
Taking several steps forward, Gabrielle was within arm length of the prisoner. "Maris, do you regret any of the charges? Are you in the least bit sorry for any of them?"
The prisoner began chuckling. "You got to be kidding. You really want me to answer that?" Gabrielle simply nodded her head yes. Looking to the right and then the left, Maris then looked directly at Gabrielle and spit in her face.
Wiping the spit from her face Gabrielle turned around. Without warning and with total surprise to everyone the Queen swung around and backhanded Maris across the face so hard she sent her flying through the air landing at the perimeter of the Amazon circle. She did not look back and she did not look anywhere else. Instead Gabrielle took her place back on the platform. The women of the village started talking among themselves and Shulaba placed her hand on Gabrielles shoulder. "You okay?" A simple nod of the head spoke volumes to Shulaba. Her Queen had taken a stand of power in front of her nation and anyone who would dare go against tradition. The Regent understood that Gabrielles actions were appropriate and would be highly respected by all Amazons but she also could see the pain in those green eyes at the need for violence. This was very difficult for her emotional Queen.
Looking past Gabrielle, the Regent could see the anxiety in Xenas body and face. Eponin and Amarice both had a grip on the Warriors arms and Shulaba nodded her head at the Warrior hoping it would offer comfort.
The prisoner was forced to her feet and made to stand in the same spot she was just tossed from. Blood dripped from her mouth and she spit out several teeth. The power and hit startled the prisoner and this managed to subdue Maris for the first time in her life.
"My Queen, do you wish to announce the punishment now or later?"
So many thoughts and memories flashed through Gabrielles mind and heart at this very moment and it took all her concentration and will power to not break down in tears. Rubbing her eyes with her hands Gabrielle looked directly into the pure brown eyes of her Regent. "Now, there is no use putting it off."
Raising her hand in the air without speaking the Regent drew the attention of the village and all were quiet. "Maris you have been found guilty of all charges."
With that being announced Gabrielle stood by her Regent. "For the nature of your crimes Amazon law dictates death, as punishment. As Queen of the Amazon Nation, I will honor that law and sentence you to death. It is to be carried out at sunset today." Incapable of saying anything more Gabrielle turned away and was caught by Shulaba. She understood that she did not mention the method of death. "Shulaba choose the appropriate method, I can do no more than Ive already done." Stepping off the platform an internally shaken young woman walked away toward the Queens hut escorted by Teklai and two other guards.
The Warrior wanted immediately to run to her but knew better. The show of power was necessary and she did not want to risk taking that away from her soulmate. Shulaba ordered her death by hanging. It would be quick and swift. Originally Shulaba wanted her to suffer a more painful death but knowing Gabrielle would have to be present to watch, she did not want her Queen to be subject to anymore guilt. Once the sentence was announced, Eponin and Amarice let go of Xenas arms.
The hut Xena shared with her soulmate was dark. The shades had been pulled and it seemed too quiet. Adjusting her eyes to the lack of light, at first she wondered if Gabrielle actually returned to the hut. Then she heard the muffled crying. Racing across the room she found Gabrielle on the far side of the hut on the floor in a corner. In one fluid movement Xena swept Gabrielle in her arms and took her to their bed. Leaning against the headboard the Warrior embraced her tightly and tried to sooth the crying Queen. Between rocking and telling Gabrielle that she loved her, the Bard cried for a long time before she eventually drifted off to sleep from exhaustion. Refusing to move Xena slid down the bed bringing her soulmate with her. Stroking and running her fingers through the blonde hair the Warrior finally allowed her own tears to flow. "Oh baby, everything will be okay. Ill make sure you get through this. Please, please dont blame yourself for any of this." Kissing Gabrielle on the forehead several times, Xena closed her eyes and exhaustion claimed her body, heart and spirit.
Just before the sun was due to set a knock came to the Queens door. Sliding out from underneath Gabrielle, who was still sleeping, the Warrior answered the door. "Xena, it is time." The Regent was standing with Teklai and both were obviously nervous.
"Come on in. I have to wake Gabrielle." Returning to the bed, the Warrior sat on the edge and began rubbing Gabrielles back in hopes of waking her gently. After several moments and no movement from her soulmate, Xena bent over and kissed her several times on the cheek. "Hey, sweetie its time."
A few groans of discontent slipped from the Queen and she rolled over to her back looking directly into the sapphire blue eyes of her lover. "Xena no, I cant."
Lifting her to a sitting position Xena kissed her gently on the lips. "Yes, you can. I will be right by you."
Glancing toward the center of the room Gabrielle realized Shulaba and Teklai were there. She simply nodded and with Xenas assistance she got out of bed. Attempting to straighten her clothing and hair she became frustrated and yelled a series of words that made no sense. It was very apparent to all that she was deeply stressed about the decision she was forced to make. The table next to the bed had her hairbrush and Gabrielle started running the brush through her hair. Finding a snarl she tugged at the hair and eventually screamed throwing the brush into the wall. Xena was up behind her immediately and spun her around. "Gabrielle, calm down. This is not good for you."
"CALM DOWN, ARE YOU CRAZY. IM ORDERING SOMEONE TO DIE AND ." Unable to complete her sentence the Queen realized it made no sense. Maris had in cold-blood killed and injured many. She held absolutely no remorse or regret for her actions. The woman was dangerous and needed to be stopped. Covering her face with her hands she began mumbling apologies and soon found she was pressed firmly against her Warrior.
Moments later Shulaba was brushing the snarls from her Queens hair. "You are only doing what the law dictates. Maris is an evil woman. She will not stop killing, if someone does not stop her."
Gabrielle could hear the words from her Regent and knew deep down that Shulaba was right. Lifting her head to look into the blue eyes of her soulmate, Gabrielle could see the pain and fear her Warrior was feeling. "I am so selfish Xena, are you okay? By the gods, I am so caught up in my pain that I failed to notice yours. Im .."
Placing her fingers to her lovers lips the Warrior did not want Gabrielle to worry. "Ssshh I am doing okay. Im just so worried about you. Let me help you with all of this. Please dont push me away. Let me carry at least some of this burden."
The love Xena had for her overwhelmed Gabrielle so frequently. She thought immediately to the engraving on her ring and the shared tattoo placed there by their God. "Okay lets go and get this over with." Standing on her toes Gabrielle quickly kissed Xenas lips. "I want to marry you again in front of this nation."
Together the four women left the Queens hut and walked to the oak tree just south of the village. A hangmans noose was in position and Maris was sitting on a horse with her hands tied behind her back. It then dawned on Gabrielle that she had no idea the type of punishment that Shulaba had chosen until now. *This will probably be the quickest for you Maris. I know you probably desire worse.* Musing that her Regent made a wise choice Gabrielle took her position opposite the oak tree. The Regent was to her right but stood a step behind the Queen. Teklai and Xena were behind the Regent. Eponin and Amarice soon joined the group and stood behind Gabrielle and off to the left. Without looking Gabrielle extended her arm and hand behind her hoping to find Xena. She immediately felt the warmth of her soulmates hand accepting hers. With a slight tug Xena was standing by her side. Whispering so only those close to the couple could hear the Bard circled her arm around Xenas waist. "Please stay close. I need you." Easily Xena slipped her arm around Gabrielles shoulder pulling her close. Without a doubt the entire Amazon Nation knew that Xena was their Queens Champion in all ways. Even though Amazon law had not formally joined them, there was not one woman who would dare question or challenge any direction or command issued by Xena. The nation had come to depend and trust in this Warrior for too many seasons. Therefore, when the Queen commanded that Xena stand by her side, as an equal, the Warriors word was as good as the Queens.
The Amazon guard, who would be responsible for forcing the horse to run, asked Maris if she had any last words, before the sentence of death was fulfilled. Staring at no one else but Gabrielle the rebels laughter was pure evil. "I will haunt you Gabrielle! You little miss peace maker will be a murderer with my death. Oh and dont forget Leandra is still out there."
The Warrior could feel her soulmates body tremble over the command she must issue. *I cant let you do this Gabrielle.* Standing by the side of the Queen meant the pair was as one under Amazon law and Xena depended on the women respecting this without question. The Warrior realized if she spoke to Gabrielle, it would be a sign of weakness in their oneness. Therefore without words, the Warrior gave Gabrielles shoulder a squeeze and raised her hand to the executioner. With absolutely no expression and a simple dropping of her hand the Amazon swatted the backside of the horse and before you could blow the flame of a candle out, the rebel was hanging at the end of the noose. Absolutely no one questioned Xenas authority to issue the command.
Feeling as if she was frozen in place, the Warrior tugged at Gabrielles hand and without knowledge of where she was the Bard allowed her soulmate and friends to guide her back to her hut in a respectful manner. No one attempted to stop the Queens party, as Amazon law forbid speaking with the Queen after an execution of an Amazon. The nation believed that even the most evil of Amazons was at one time good. Out of respect for the lost good the nation would remain silent for the next four candlemarks.
Once Gabrielle was in her hut she walked to the rear window and just stared out at what remained of the setting sun. Amarice stood behind her but said nothing. Eponin turned to Xena. "Im going to order her tub to be filled. A nice hot bath may help her."
Nodding her head in agreement Xena turned to Shulaba. "I think you should get Lillioka to brew something to help her sleep. And then I want the wedding preparations to start. We need to move from this quickly." Rubbing Xena on the back, the Regent was in agreement.
In a matter of moments Xena and Gabrielle were alone. "Xena."
Walking up and wrapping her arms around her soulmate from behind the Warrior burrowed her nose into the silky blonde hair. "Yes, Gabrielle?"
"Thank you for ordering her ." Covering her face with her hands, the Bard understood that her soulmate took a great deal of pain from her by commanding Maris death. "Will you just hold me."
Increasing the embrace she already had on her soulmate, the two watched the sun disappear, as darkness conquered the sky. By the time the stars began to twinkle, the tub was filled and the Warrior guided her soulmate to the hot waters. After a hot bath and plenty of tender loving care from the Warrior, Gabrielle drank the tea the healer had delivered knowing full well that it would make her sleep. She did not care, as tonight Gabrielle did not want to dream. Not long after the tea was gone the Bard crawled into bed and cuddled with her Warrior. Sleep quickly claimed the Queen and the Warrior remained on guard.
Watching the inn for several days it was obvious to Herodotus that Xena was no where around. Only catching sight of Cyrene and Lila the old man decided he would venture into the inn today for a noon meal. He only wanted to talk with Lila and leave her with a few of her mothers trinkets that had no meaning to him. The old man did not want to scare her in any way. Returning to the small camp that he established just north of Amphipolis, he could not believe the rumors he had heard about the messenger trying to kill Gabrielle. He did not really want the woman dead, he just wanted to let Gabrielle know that she caused Hecubas death and he wanted to disown her. "Finally after all these years, I dont have to pretend to be that harlots father anymore." Packing what little belongings he had, Herodotus thought back about the fire he intentionally started on his property. "Yes, Gabrielle you shall have no memories of your mother." Laughing with vengeance in his heart the unshaven man truly learned to hate his so-called blonde daughter over the years.
The day after the execution the preparations for Gabrielle and Xenas Amazon joining moved quickly. The Warrior insisted they are married immediately and everyone agreed. Shulaba assigned various tasks to a number of willing Amazons. Eponin and Amarice adjusted the duty roster for all working areas of the village so everyone would have a chance to join in on the celebration. With Stellas assistance, Teklai arranged the patrol schedules for the royal guards and sentries. It would be important to all women that they be allowed to congratulate the Queen and her Warrior. The Regent spent most of the time with the priestess, Helena, who would perform the ceremony and who decided to stay in the village after the execution. Shulaba did not want any challenges arising to stop the marriage of her Queen thus the two women reviewed each and every tradition and law available regarding the marriage of an Amazon Queen. The fact that Xena would not acknowledge being an Amazon did not matter. She was a proven warrior and quite capable of defending Gabrielle. Artemis had already approved of Xena, as the Queens mate in Amphipolis, so the women knew that would not be an issue.
"What if someone challenges Xenas right to marry Gabrielle?" The Regent believed they pretty much covered all the laws but she was concerned that something might have been missed.
"Well, if someone is dumb enough to go up against Xena in a physical battle, the challenge has to be made prior to the ceremony. Otherwise it will not be recognized." Helena took a sip of the tea Shulaba ordered for the both of them. "And once the ceremonial bathes begin no challenges may be issued." The priestess looked across the table at her friend. "Are you worried someone might try and stop the joining?"
"No, not really. I just dont want anything else to happen. They have both gone through so much this past season."
Helena reached across and patted Shulabas hands. "Relax, I cant imagine Artemis allowing anyone to interfere."
When the Warrior awoke the following morning, she could hear the activity throughout the village and knew that the women were preparing for the marriage ceremony. Her soulmate was lying on her side facing away from Xena and although their bodies were spooned together the Warrior could not determine whether Gabrielle was awake or asleep. Running her hand up and down Gabrielles arms she felt a hand instantly capturing hers. "Good morning honey. How are you feeling?"
Not receiving any response Xena pulled on Gabrielle forcing her gently to lay on her back. Caressing her cheeks produced a small smile from Gabrielle. "Im kind of numb. I need to center .pull myself back together."
Desperately wanting to make love to Gabrielle, the Warrior understood that her lover probably needed to meditate. "Why dont I have some food packed and take you to the waterfalls. We can spend the day there and maybe you can meditate for awhile."
Sitting up Gabrielle ran her fingers through her hair. "Okay, sounds good."
Jumping from the bed the Warrior opened the front door to find two guards standing a respectful distance away. Giving one of them instructions to saddle Argo and procure the food, Xena returned to find Gabrielle pulling out a soft tunic rather than her leathers. Deciding it might not be a bad idea to wear a soft tunic, Xena dressed in the dark blue one she favored. Just about the time they were clothed and ready to walk out the door a knock came. It was Eponin and Amarice.
"Oh, Gods Eponin, Im sorry. I forgot Hades." Hitting the side of her head in self-anger, Gabrielle had been so caught up between the message from Poteidaia and Maris she realized she had ignored Eponins wound. "How is your leg?"
With only a small limp to her walk the Amazon Warrior approached her Queen. "Im doing great. Xena did a good job patching me up. Listen we want to accompany the two of you out to the waterfalls today. You just cant go unescorted Gabrielle. We promise to keep our distance and give you both privacy."
Not giving Gabrielle a chance to refuse, Xena placed her arm around her soulmates shoulder and answered. "I agree. It is a fine idea." Realizing there would be no opportunity to argue the point, Gabrielle conceded and the four friends headed for the stables. Only Argo was ready and the Bard grinned slightly, when Xena lifted her into the saddle. Mounting up behind the Bard, Xena grabbed the rein with one hand and wrapped her free arm around Gabrielle tightly. Feeling Gabrielle so close to her caused warm sensations to run throughout her body. "Giving you that horse was a bad idea. I like this much better."
With a giggling Bard, the women rode out of the village heading to the waterfalls and a day of relaxation, meditation and Xena was sure plenty of love.
"Lila, Uncle Tensandi will escort you to Poteidaia tomorrow." The innkeeper thought her earlier decision over about whether to accompany Lila or not. Still slightly irritated at Lila, the innkeeper decided it would be best, if Lila traveled alone. *Maybe she will grow up, when she hears the truth about her father from the locals.*
Before Lila could respond to Cyrenes statement a man entered the inn and the young woman recognized him immediately. "Father?"
Cyrene picked up a broom and posed it ready to knock him in the head, if necessary. Glancing to her bartender, Adessa, she gestured that the woman should run for help.
Holding his hands straight out in front Herodotus spoke. "Im not looking for trouble Cyrene. I just want to talk to Lila and then I will be on my way."
Moving between Lila and Herodotus the innkeeper was visibly angry. "YOU are a monster and have no right talking with Lila. She is my responsibility now." A gentle hand touched Cyrenes shoulder.
"Cyrene, please. Let him speak."
Before the man could utter a word, Tensandi and three villagers barreled through the door and surrounded Herodotus. Lila screamed to leave him alone and ran into her fathers arms. Cyrenes heart went out to the poor young women; she actually loved her father. Nodding her head Tensandi and the men backed off.
"Okay Herodotus. You have managed to gain some time by Lilas grace." Closing the distance between them the innkeeper peered directly into the old mans eyes. "You can sit at that table." Pointing to an isolated table close to the door Herodotus sat with his back to the wall.
Not anticipating he would even get this far the old man could not help but smirk. He would have to be careful what he would say, as it was obvious Cyrene had no intentions of letting him be alone with Lila. "Father, why did you send that horrible message? That man tried to kill Gabby. And what happened to the house?"
Lowering his head in hopes of appearing somewhat sadden over all of the events, Herodotus could not find any love in his heart for Gabrielle. "The message is true. If your sister were not traipsing across the countryside, Caesar would have never caught her. And as far as the messenger goes, he was ordered not to harm Gabrielle."
Tensandi was uninvited to the conversation but did not care; he too loved the little Bard. Standing behind Cyrene, he placed his hands on her shoulders. "Old man, your lies are not welcomed here."
Glaring up into Tensandis eyes, Herodotus almost wished the big man would kill him right in front of Lila. "Im not lying." Pulling a small bundle out from his shirt Lilas father placed it in front of her. "Here are several of your mothers possessions. You should have them. Gabrielle has no right to any of them."
"Why Herodotus. What has Gabrielle ever done to you? From the stories I hear Gabrielle should hate you." The innkeeper was disgusted with the man sitting across from her pretending to be a loving father to Lila.
"Gabrielle is an embarrassment. She is not my daughter. For way too many years I just pretended she was. I burned the house and barn because it is mine to destroy. Gabrielle has no right to any of it." Looking directly into Lilas brown eyes the old man smiled. "You are my only child and have all the rights to it. Pulling a parchment from his shirt pocket he handed it to Lila. "This gives you the land. You do what you want to it."
"Father .where will you go, what will you do?" It was obvious that Lila was being sucked right into the pity her father was attempting to portray.
"I am moving to Athens. I will write to you, when I get settled."
Standing Herodotus tried to move from the table and Tensandi came around shoving him up against the wall. Lila tried to pull on his arm and Cyrene yanked the young girl back, sat her down and told her to be quiet. "You will explain to me why you insist Gabrielle is not yours."
Laughter began to pour from Herodotus. "I owe you no explanations. But actually it might be more enjoyable knowing Gabrielle is suffering over the truth. I am not her natural father. Hecuba was pregnant with Gabrielle before we got married. I was always in love with Hecuba; she was such a beauty. However, Hecuba was in love with someone else." Tensandi let go of Herodotus and stepped back. Straightening his shirt out, acting as if, the shop owner had really disrupted his clothing Herodotus continued. "The man did not love my Hecuba and raped her. Gabrielle is a bastards child. It was the only way Hecuba would marry me she needed a father for that child. So as not to cause shame and to get what I wanted I married her, we moved to Poteidaia and I pretended Gabrielle was mine."
"Who is Gabrielles father?" The old man was surprised to hear Lila ask the question.
"That is a secret I will take to my grave. I know he is still alive .and he knows Gabrielle is his daughter. He has always known."
Shoving the man back up against the wall Tensandi had one more question. "Why the abuse? She was a child."
"She was different. She has some type of power in her mind. Only demons and evil have powers like that. And from what I experienced with that demon daughter of hers, well I was right about Gabrielle. She is the monster, not me." Herodotus grabbed Tensandis hand and pushed it away. "When she was small I watched her use the power. I punished her and continued to punish her. I finally made her stop using the power." Laughing hysterically he walked toward the door. "Beating her was the only way to keep control over Gabrielle."
Yanking the man back by the cuff of his shirt collar Tensandi was boiling and pinned Herodotus to the floor. Lila jumped from her chair and began pounding on Tensandis back. Cyrene wrapped her arms around Lila pulling her away. Angry about the cryptic game Herodotus was playing Uncle Tensandi jerked him to his feet and threw him to the wall. "You better explain your words, if you want to leave here walking on both legs."
"Go ahead break them in front of Lila."
Doing everything to contain her tears Cyrene raised her hand to stop Tensandi from blocking Herodotus way to the door. "Herodotus, next time you enter my inn, be prepared to die. Lila will not be able to protect you."
Brushing the pretend dirt off his shoulders Herodotus left the inn. Lila ran to her room in tears and Cyrene could not yet find it in her heart to follow the young woman. Her body was weary, as she found a chair to sit on. Tensandi sat next to her. "I can go after him Cyrene. Make the man talk."
Grabbing the mans large hands the innkeeper smiled at her friend. "No, let him go. We do not need his blood on our hands. We would then be doing everything Ive been telling Xena not to do." Thanking Adessa for the tea the innkeeper glanced toward the hallway Lila went running down. "I will talk to Lila and then I will send a message to Xena."
"Hey! Can I get out of this water before my body shrivels up and Gabrielle does not recognize me?"
Eponin and Teklai found humor in Xenas irritation over all the little traditions a champion must complete before bonding with an Amazon Queen. "No Xena. Not until the candle of purging is gone."
Sitting in what started out, as extremely hot water, was now turning rather cool. The tub was a comfortable size allowing Xena to stretch her legs and was filled with jasmine and several floating candles. One candle burned on the edge of the tub and this one cylinder of wax had to burn completely before Xena could dry off. Eponin explained that the candle represented Xenas willingness to cleanse any doubt from her mind regarding her bonding with Gabrielle or as it was bluntly stated. "Now is the time to change your mind, if you do not want to bond with our Queen." Laying her head back against the side of the tub Xena reflected back to the wedding in Amphipolis. With a huge smile crossing her face the Warrior remembered how beautiful Gabrielle looked and how she was barefoot during the ceremony. For Xena, this symbolism meant the world to the Warrior to have the young woman from Poteidaia so devoted in her love. Interrupting her thoughts the Warriors face was splashed with water.
"Times up Warrior. Out you come and on to the next step." Both Amazons seemed to be enjoying this small prenuptial tradition and Xena made a mental note to come back and torture Eponin and Teklai, when they decided to bond.
"Why do I have a feeling Gabrielle does not have to go through all of this." Drying her body off, Eponin threw Xenas bonding garments at her.
"My friend, your young bride has to go through quite a lot to join with a non-Amazon." Helping herself to some of the food left for the Warrior, Teklai plopped in a chair by the table. Eponin who was leaning against the wall drained a mug of ale and joined Teklai at the table. Both women observed the naked Warrior standing in front of them slip the dark green tunic over her body. Silently both Amazons knew Gabrielle was extremely lucky to have a woman like Xena to make love with.
"Oh, yes, Warrior Babe, you look delicious!"
Xena turned frantically to see Aphrodite winking seductively at her. Relaxing her body she went to the table and grabbed her hairbrush. "What do you want Aphrodite?"
Aphrodite moved behind Xena and helped her with several braids. "You have such gorgeous hair Xena. It feels so sexy ..makes me want to run my fingers through those raven strands." The Amazons began to chuckle over the goddess attempt at seduction. Aphrodite giggled charmingly and Xena just shook her head. "Listen Warrior Babe, Im here because of something called love. I would not miss this joining between you and that little blonde for the world. And anyway Artemis invited me."
Xena faced Aphrodite. "Look, you are not going to make me appear with sparkles and all that crap." Glancing over at her Amazon friends, both appeared amused.
Aphrodite danced casually making a circle around Xena and stopped in front of her. Placing her hands on her hips the Goddess of Love smiled. "I like you Xena. I know Ares is not happy about that, but who cares what he thinks anyway."
"Yea, yea, yea .your point." Xena found herself uneasy at the mention of Ares name.
"Warrior Babe, you look so fantastically hot in the color green. Yes very sexy. Your little blonde can not help but notice."
"Stop she has a name." Xena spoke up defensively.
"Oh protective of her too. That is very good." The Goddess ran her fingers up and down the muscles in Xenas forearm. "Do you know her passion for you almost has me jealous." Xena raised an eyebrow at the Goddess of Loves last comment. "Trust in your love for her and then ." The Goddess paused to move within inches of Xena. " dont ever let go of her." With a wink goodbye Aphrodite disappeared.
The night was warm and the torches surrounding the center of the village lit up the darkness in a magical fashion. Everyone was wearing festive clothing and had already begun celebrating even before the ceremony. Gabrielle requested the women form a circle around Xena and herself, as they exchanged their vows. Tradition stated that the Warrior would escort the Queen from her hut to the joining circle; Helena would be waiting. As the drums of the Amazon nation began to beat in a slow rhythm, Xena stood before the door of the Queens hut. Eponin and Teklai were standing guard outside and opened the door. Amarice came out first followed by the Regent. They each took a position, which would lead the Queen and her Warrior to the joining circle.
*Why am I so nervous. Ive already married her once. Heck, are my hands too sweaty.* Rubbing the palms of her hands on her tunic, Xena was feeling a bit heated. *Oh by the gods .. *
Suddenly Gabrielle emerged from the hut. Dressed, as only a Queen should be, Gabrielle was wearing the finest silk garment the Warrior had ever seen. Every shade of blue grabbed and shaped around her curvaceous and muscular frame. A split in the gown over her left side from her feet to her upper thigh teased Xena, as well as anyone else, who desired the Queen as a lover. The gown was without shoulders and clung tightly to her breast, exposing much more than Xena would have liked. Knowing full well that Gabrielle would not be out of her sight tonight, she could not help but notice the wetness building between her legs at the thought of her lips claiming the soft breasts peeking through the clothing. Bowing her head with a sensual smile across her face, the Warrior offered her strong hands to the Amazon Queen.
Accepting the powerful hands of her Warrior, Gabrielle almost fell to her knees at the sight of the sexy tall dark woman standing before her. *By the gods, I cant believe you want me. Of all the people in the world you could have, you want me. Oh how I love you Xena.* To Gabrielle the woman standing before her, the Warrior, her friend, her lover was the most gorgeous person to ever exist. Squeezing Xenas hands several tears pooled in Gabrielles eyes. For only a moment the world stood still for Gabrielle to enjoy the beauty of her Warrior.
A whispering voice of the Regent encouraged the couple to walk. "Its time my friends."
Offering Gabrielle her left arm the Warrior smiled noticing the delicate bare feet of her lover. "By the gods Gabrielle you oh baby, I love you." Pausing for a moment Xena kissed one of the Queens hands and whispered. "Artemis must have had a fit over this."
"Mmmm yes. Artemis was not happy but I convinced her otherwise." Gabrielles response was playful and this playfulness in her voice captured Xenas spirit totally.
As the pair walked toward the circle, the drumbeat maintained a steady and sensual rhythm. Once they were standing before Helena the drums stopped. "Xena of Amphipolis, Warrior Princess, you have asked to join with the Amazon Queen, as her mate for life. What words and symbol do you have to offer our Queen?"
Having already exchanged rings and vows in Amphipolis the lovers both knew the vows they said today would still be from their hearts but also filled with Amazon tradition, which was required, when one wished to marry a Queen. For the physical symbol both still wore the rings and believed it would be difficult to find another token to express their love so deeply. After spending a great deal of time talking, while they were at the waterfalls, both eventually agreed that they would offer a part of their path.
Turning to face Gabrielle, the Warrior took her hands. Knowing she was required to make certain statements, Xena had no difficulty with any of them. "My Queen. I swear to protect you with my life. I will also care for you, clothe you, provide food and shelter for you. When you are sick I will never leave your side. I devote my life for all eternity to only you." Noticing both Artemis and Aphrodite standing several paces behind Gabrielle, Xena decided to break the boundaries of tradition. Bringing Gabrielles hands to her lips, the Warrior kissed them tenderly and was pleased, when Artemis shook her head in frustration. "Gabrielle I love you deeply and with all my heart and soul. Please continue to be my friend, my lover and my mate." Just then Eponin came up behind the Warrior and handed Xena her symbol. Raising it in the air for all to see, Xena smiled at Gabrielle. "I give you my chakram, as a symbol of my devotion to our love, as a symbol of protection that I bring to our bond. This is the path I have chosen and will use it to defend your honor always."
Aphrodite nudged Artemis in the ribs and whispered. "Oooo, you go Warrior Babe. Gotta be impressed with that one, right Art?" The Goddess of the Hunt and the Amazon Nation just smirked and nodded her approval.
Helena turned to Gabrielle who was completely lost in the blue eyes of her Warrior. "My Queen have you any words and symbols to offer the Warrior?" There was no immediate response from the Queen, as her eyes were locked and held prisoner by the Warriors penetrating gaze of love. Gently Helena touched Gabrielles arm and whispered so only the couple could hear. "My Queen its your turn."
The Warriors smile broke the hypnotic trance Gabrielle was lost in, which caused the Bard to giggle slightly. Returning the kisses to her Warriors hand Gabrielle looked directly into the tempting eyes of her lover. "My Warrior, my life without you is incomplete. I will never love another and will always remain loyal to you. Death will not separate us. I will fight for you, protect you and care for you through the good and the bad. My love, my heart, my spirit are faithfully bonded to no one but you." Reaching up to wipe the tears from Xenas eyes, Gabrielle moved closer to her soulmate. "Xena, I love you more than anyone. I am yours to command. Can you find a place for me in your heart." The Regent in turn approached her Queen, handing her the symbol she would use. As the Warrior, Gabrielle raised it for all to see. "Xena I give you this scroll, as a symbol of my abiding belief in the power of our love. The contents within this scroll describe the path of peace that I pray may enter our life."
Placing one hand on each soulmate, the priestess looked to Artemis who gave a nod of approval. Extremely proud of her Queen and the Warrior the priestess raised her arms and recited several prayers in an ancient language unrecognized to all but the gods and a chosen few. As Helena said the words, they caught Gabrielles attention and she jerked her head suddenly to look at the priestess. Gabrielle recognized several words that she knew no one had ever taught her. Xena noticed Gabrielles surprised and squeezed her hands slightly hoping her Bard was okay. Completing her prayers Helena glanced at Gabrielle and smiled. She then turned her attention to Xena. "You are both of one heart and one soul. Blessings on you both."
Xena knew what came next and she could not wait any longer. Pulling Gabrielle tightly to her body the Warrior found her soulmate eagerly waiting to be kissed. With nothing but pure love Xena tenderly claimed Gabrielles lips and the Amazons began to yell and scream with excitement. Just as Xena demanded entry into Gabrielles warm and welcoming mouth the overly anxious Amazons pulled them apart raising them off the ground. Riding on the shoulders of many friends, the couple never touched the ground between the circle and the dining hut for the formal part of the celebration. The Warrior was placed first on the ground in front of the hut and politely pushed her way to Gabrielle. Taking the Queen in her arms off the shoulders of two Amazon warriors Xena carried Gabrielle to their table to the delight of the villagers.
"I dont plan on sharing you with anyone my beautiful Queen." Sitting next to Gabrielle the Warrior kept her arm wrapped around the waist of her soulmate.
The Regent and Teklai joined the couple, sitting to Gabrielles right, while Eponin and Amarice sat to the left of Xena. Immediately, in the same manner as she did in Amphipolis, Amarice handed Gabrielle footwear. Gabrielle smiled at her friend and slipped the sandals on her feet. "Artemis?"
Amarice giggled. "No me. Dont want anyone stepping on my Queens little toes."
While the two women giggled and hugged, food and drinks were served to all. The Amazons began to pass by the table to congratulate the Queen and her Warrior. No one was sure how much time went by until the Regent demanded quiet and order within the hut. Standing she offered a toast wishing the couple happiness and love, which was loudly accepted and applauded by the women of the Amazon Nations. A rowdy and happy group continued to laugh, talk and enjoy the celebration. Too much sadness had covered the nation recently starting with the death of Ephiny and many other women. Thus this marriage of the Queen was welcomed, as a rebuilding of their nation. Hope once again filled the lives of the Amazons.
For several candlemarks Gabrielle and Xena respectfully held small conversations with the women stopping at the table. Finally the Warrior had her fill; she was not much of a talker to start with and began to feel a bit closed in by the surrounding Amazons. Unsure what triggered the sensation the Warrior decided some fresh air might help. Leaning over to whisper in Gabrielles ear she could not help but kiss the soft cheek and nibble slightly on the tempting earlobe of her lover. "Hey, I have to get some fresh air. All this talking is starting to bother me." Moving away from the bench Gabrielle grabbed Xenas hand. Looking into the emerald eyes smiling back at her. *I think you are feeling a bit playful.* Knowing how Gabrielles eyes always gave away her moods, Xena mused that her lover was having a wonderful time talking with so many women. *You need to feel happy. Too much sorrow has claimed you unfairly over these past several moons.* Bending to kiss Gabrielle lightly on the lips the Warrior wondered what was really going through the mind of her soulmate. "Will you be okay, if I get some fresh air or would you rather have me stay?"
"You go ahead Xena. I know all this attention is difficult." Returning the kiss Gabrielle did not want Xena to feel smothered by the Amazons, tradition or her. "Come back when you are ready."
Not quite sure she wanted to leave Gabrielle behind, Xena was pleased that her Bard knew her well enough to give her some leeway in order to find a comfort level in which she could deal with all the attention. "Are you sure?" All of the Warriors heart wanted Gabrielle to be comfortable. Xena understood that as Queen, Gabrielle was expected to perform certain functions.
Looking over at the crowd and noticing that Eponin and Teklai stood behind Xena planning on accompanying her, the Bard smiled tenderly. "I would much rather be with you .but Ill be okay. Shulaba and Amarice are here." Tugging on Xenas hands the Warrior bent down knowing Gabrielle wanted to whisper in her ear. "Dont be long. I love you." With a quick kiss on the lips Xena and her two companions walked out the back doorway of the hut in search of some fresh air and hopefully no clinging Amazons.
In Cyrenes opinion the stars in the sky appeared to fill the sky more than normal this evening. "Where are you my wonderful daughter. I imagine you are probably with the Amazons. Im worried about Gabrielle. What will I say to either of you when. "
A familiar voice pulled the innkeeper from her conversation with the stars and she glanced to her right and found Ephiny sitting by her. "Ephiny ..oh child. What brings you here? Is Xena okay?"
"Yes, yes they are both doing well. In fact they were just married in Amazon tradition. Although your daughter is not too wild about all those crazy women demanding the attentions of Gabrielle." Ephiny reached out slowly and was happy, when she was able to touch Cyrenes hand physically and could sense the strength behind this amazing woman. She knew her training, as a spirit, was almost complete. Touching was the part she had the most difficulty with. At first, Ephiny was only able to remain in physical contact for brief periods. Now she was getting the hang of this whole spirit world and was actually proud of herself. Artemis had been challenging her, as she learned the dos and donts of this spiritual world and once she completed them, Ephiny would only need to develop them to a higher level. "Im worried about you Cyrene. I know Herodotus was here and I know about the disruption he caused."
Squeezing the hand of a woman she missed terribly the innkeeper smiled at the curly head Regent. "How did you know? Wait, dont tell me a spirit thing, right?"
This brought a chuckle to Ephiny and the innkeeper soon joined her in laughter. "Yes and no. Believe it or not, Artemis has me watching over you. I try not to interfere but I could hear your conversation with that old man and also with Lila, so in a manner of speaking I was present."
"Why on earth would Artemis have you watching over me?" This actually puzzled Cyrene. The gods were a crazy bunch and this made absolutely no sense at all to the innkeeper.
"Because she likes you Cyrene. I have learned not to ask a lot of questions." Standing the spirit offered Cyrene her hand. "Walk a bit with me."
"Ephiny, do you know the missing pieces about Gabrielles past. Do you know who her real father is or even if Herodotus is telling the truth. And what is this power he spoke of?" Realizing she had many more questions than would probably be answered the innkeeper still needed to voice them. Lila still insisted on going to Poteidaia and Cyrene tired of arguing with her. Uncle Tensandi would accompany her to the village and Lila would stay with her best friend, Marlana, until she was ready to return to Amphipolis.
"No, I do not know who Gabrielles real father is. Nor do I know about the power he referred too. Im afraid Im not very much help." Ephiny stopped in the village square and looked up into the heavens at the stars that filled the sky. "I did ask Artemis. She said a higher God told her not to interfere. Ever since Gabrielles rebirth Artemis has been acting somewhat different. In fact all of the gods have. No one has seen Ares."
"Really .well a missing Ares has to be a plus." Cyrene and Ephiny giggled over the thought of someone finally getting the better of Ares.
Walking Cyrene back to her inn the Regent put her arm around the woman and gave her a hug. "You need to tell Xena and Gabrielle what you know. I will keep searching for answers. I will be away for awhile."
"Is something wrong Ephiny?" The innkeeper was concerned for Ephiny even though she was a spirit and now evidently her guardian.
"Yeah I have to meet Iason and prepare for Xena and Gabrielles arrival to the temple in another moon."
"Ephiny, what is that all about?"
Smiling at the feisty little innkeeper Ephiny anticipated Cyrenes question. "I cant tell you. But it will make you happy. I have to go. See you soon." Kissing the Warrior Mom on the cheek the spirit Regent vanished, as quickly as she came.
Catching a ship to the Island of Lesbos the rebel without a soul mused about the fate of her partner for so many years. *I told you that stupid plan would not work. Walking into the village was ignorant. We should have waited until Gabrielle came out. She would have to leave eventually.* Deciding to hide for a while Leandra would come back for the Amazon Queen. Now it was a matter of finishing a job. The young Queen managed to have all the luck in the world but Leandra knew one day Gabrielle would slip up and she would be waiting to rape and kill her. The Island of Lesbos was the perfect place to hide out for awhile. There were many smaller islands and plenty of caves she could run too, if necessary. For now she would mingle in with the common villagers. The word of Maris execution was inevitable. Hearing the rumors through the bordering village, a small part of Leandra was actually glad to be rid of Maris. Watching the people on the dock get smaller, as the ship she was on moved out to sea, the rebel began to form a plan to kidnap the Amazon Queen.
By the time Xena and her friends returned to the dining hut they discovered the music had started, many of the tables removed and the center of the hut was packed with dancing Amazons. In the center of the crowd were Amarice and Shulaba, as well as her lover, who also had a line of overly anxious Amazons waiting to dance with their Queen. Jealousy began to consume the Warriors heart but she just stood still and tried to control it. The beat of the music was fast and no one appeared to be touching Gabrielle. Eponin who was still too new to this whole relationship thing raced across the floor and shoved through the crowd to pull an overly affectionate Amazon away from Amarice. Claiming the young redhead, Xena and Shulaba chuckled, as Eponin led a willing Amarice to a corner and proceeded to pin her to the wall with obvious sexual intentions. Soon the rhythm of the music changed to a slower pace and both Xena and Shulaba made their way quickly through the bodies of sweating Amazons to their partners. There was no way the Warrior would allow any woman to rub up against her soulmate. Just moments away from reaching Gabrielle, an Amazon Xena recognized as a sentry, grabbed on her soulmates hips jerking her close. Gabrielle attempted to push away from the embrace but the woman was too strong. From behind, Xena yanked the sentry from her soulmate and threw her into a crowd of Amazons.
Pulling her soulmate into her arms Xena could feel Gabrielles body shaking. "Baby, hey, its okay. No one will hurt you."
Screaming voices disrupted the embrace and the Warrior quickly spun around placing Gabrielle behind her in protection. The sentry started to charge at Xena and just prior to reaching her Stella jumped in between and her fist made contact with the sentry. Not only did she knock her several paces away; she broke the Amazons nose. Lillioka swiftly attended to the fallen Amazon to discover the woman was extremely drunk.
"Shes pretty drunk Xena. I dont think she meant any harm." The healer did not have much empathy for women who drank too much, however, she also knew the Amazon and the woman had a good reputation.
"Fine. Someone take her back to her hut.
Make sure she sleeps this off." The Warrior snap orders not giving Gabrielle an
opportunity. Several friends of the fallen woman offered apologies and obeyed Xenas
directions. Once the woman was carried away, the music began and Xena wrapped her arms
around Gabrielle. "Im sorry for interfering
I just will not
Rubbing her fingers over Xenas full and tender lips Gabrielle was proud of her soulmate. "Sweetheart, I love you for protecting me and you have every right, to bark orders."
Swaying slowly to the music Xena raised her eyebrows puzzled. "Bark! I dont bark do I?"
Resting her head on Xenas shoulders and sliding her arms around the Warriors waist Gabrielle gave Xenas butt a seductive squeeze and began caressing her hips. "Mmmm, yes you bark my love."
*Ohhh youre not playing fair Gabrielle.* The sensation running through the Warrior, as her soulmate caressed her body, heightened her desires for the young woman. Figuring two could play this game Xena maneuvered her thigh so it would rub against Gabrielles mound with each beat of the music. Sliding her hands down and over her lovers hips a surprised awaited the dark hair Warrior, as she fondled the rotating hips. Her young wife was without undergarments.
Smiling up at her Warriors discovery, Gabrielle was affected by this sly little play of bodies and decided quickly that she would make things a little bit tougher for her soulmate. One of the advantages of being a head shorter than Xena was she had better access to the Warriors breasts. Without warning Gabrielle nibbled at the top of Xenas exposed breasts and expertly darted her tongue in the fevered valley between the voluptuous mounds.
"Aaaah Gabri no fair." Eliciting the reaction she had hoped for the Bard continued spreading kisses and pressing her tongue against the Warrior. A strong hand grabbed her by the chin and lifted the teasing blonde giving Gabrielle no time to pull back. Sucking on her top lip, Xena quickly slid her tongue into Gabrielles open mouth and danced with her lovers pink tongue. Wrapping both arms around Gabrielle, she continued to move slowly with the music not releasing her soulmates lips or tongue.
Just to make things a bit more of a challenge Gabrielle, who was loosing control of her own body, slid one hand up Xenas inner thigh quickly capturing the wet mound. The thick wetness surprised Gabrielle and a groan escaped her throat. The Warrior matched Gabrielles groan with her own and released Gabrielles lips "Ohhh no. Thats it. We are out of here." Grabbing her lovers wandering hand Xena looked into the glazed over eyes of her bride. *Yes .there they are, my favorite color; your surrender.*
Doing whatever she pleased with no one to stop her, Xena lifted Gabrielle in her arms and pushed her way through the crowd who eventually saw the couple and graciously formed a path for their departure. With animal whistles and wolf calls the Amazons went crazy, as the Warrior asserted her control over the Amazon Queen.
It did not take long for Xena to have her soulmate in their hut and on the bed. Gliding her hands up through the side split of Gabrielles dress the Warrior quickly verified what she found earlier, that her lover was without undergarments of any kind. Growls of passion escaped through Xenas lungs and she pulled Gabrielle into a sitting position. "You, my love, are sexually dangerous. Do you know that?"
The soft tanned shoulders invited Xenas lips for a taste. As she nibbled and licked the neck and shoulders of her moaning lover, Xena slipped the garment off of Gabrielle. Shoving her gently to her back Xena crawled on top and feasted with great appetite on the alluring breasts and harden nipples begging for the Warriors attention. "Ohhh yes Xena. Love me please love me madly." Pleading with hunger to be taken Xena released her grasp to see the disappointment in Gabrielles eyes. Removing her tunic and throwing it to the side, Xena quickly pulled her boots off. Crawling next to her lover, Xena rubbed her hand over Gabrielles breasts and down her body stopping once she covered the wet and fevered mound of her bride. After seasons of making love to Gabrielle, the Warrior knew what pleased her. With her fingers she expertly rubbed the throbbing folds in a circular fashion and watched, as Gabrielle could no longer keep her eyes open. Her breath became rapid, as Xena increased the stroking. "Pleaseeee Xe take me pleasee."
"You are so wet Gabrielle is this all for me?" Knowing full well that the deepness of her voice had an affect on Gabrielle, she was not disappointed. Gabrielles words no longer made any sense, as they were mixed with sounds dripping of pure ecstasy. Slowly Xena commanded the lips of her lover and slid her fingers into the deep heated shaft of paradise. Once again her soulmate surprised her and swiftly held Xenas head with her hands demanding a more forceful kiss. Gabrielles hips started to rotate with Xenas hand and she was soon unable to continue kissing her Warrior. Feeling somewhat playful Xena removed her fingers suddenly causing Gabrielle to cry out. Running her tongue across the Bards lips and into her ear the Warrior whispered her demand. "You did not answer me." Bringing her fingers covered with Gabrielles wet juices to her lips Xena sucked each finger exotically driving Gabrielle into madness. "Is this all for me? No one else ..just me?"
"Ohhhhhh ye ye..pleaaass.." Well aware the Warrior had complete command of her heart and body Gabrielle began to shake and grind her mound on Xenas thigh. "Pleasse .Xen "
Trusting that she tortured her soulmate enough, the Warrior scaled down Gabrielles body and quickly took possession of the treasure belonging only to Xena. The sweetness and bitterness of Gabrielles wet essence almost drove Xena to a climax. Within moments she had Gabrielle climbing and reaching an orgasm that made her body buckle and shake uncontrollably. In all their moments of love making Xena realized that at this very moment Gabrielle gave her body to Xena one hundred percent. The young womans orgasm was extremely powerful and overwhelming and she cried Xenas name repeatedly. Eventually the Bard collapsed to the bed and the Warrior quickly was by her side wiping the tears that took over her soulmates body. "Hey, baby you okay?"
Unable to speak Gabrielle curled on her side and Xena held her tightly allowing her lover to cry. "Sssshh go ahead sweetie, you cry as long as you need too. Im here for you." Understanding that too many emotions flooded her young wife, Xena held and soothed her soulmate for some time before the crying stopped. Jumping from bed she poured Gabrielle a cup of water and brought it to her. "Baby, drink this okay."
Accepting the water Gabrielle drank it completely and gave the cup back to Xena. "Im sorry I dont know what happened."
Xena hopped on the bed next to her soulmate and pulled her tightly to her body. "Mmmm, I do. Too many things fill our life right now. You know what I want to do?"
Wiping the remainder of the tears from her eyes Gabrielle leaned on her elbow to look into the blue eyes of her soulmate. "What do you want, Xena?"
"After we visit Iason, our next commitment isnt until the winter solitise, when Tara asked us to be at her wedding. So between visits, why dont you and I visit the Island of Lesbos and spend the warm months there?" The Warrior knew Gabrielle had never been to the island and had wanted to visit it many times. It was just an island that loved to party constantly. While celebrations were okay, she tired of them quickly and Xena anticipated that the women of this island, particularly Sappho would demand a lot of attention from her. A part of Xena was also afraid they would demand time from Gabrielle and she did not really want to share the Bard. Thinking back to several seasons ago, when Aphrodite put a spell on Gabrielle, Joxer and herself, Xena remembered how Gabrielle accused her of staying at the lake so she would not have any competition. At the time, Xena denied it but now thinking back, she had to admit Gabrielle was right. Running her fingers over Gabrielles shoulder the Warrior was willing to spend time on Lesbos, if it would make her soulmate happy.
"Xena you dont have to do that for me. I know ." Before she could finish her words Xena pulled her in for a kiss. Pressing her lips firmly against her lover the Warrior would do this for her soulmate.
"Dont argue with me baby. All I want is for you to be happy."
Slipping her fingers through the long dark hair, Gabrielle kissed Xena on the nose and each eye finally settling on the soft full red lips of her soulmate. Licking and sucking first on the top and then on the bottom, the Bard teased Xena until the Warrior began growling with passion. Slipping her tongue into the Warriors opening mouth amazed the young Bard. So many men and women had kissed these succulent lips and yet Xena wanted no one but Gabrielle to ever touch them again. This overwhelmed the young Amazon Queen and thus kissing her Warrior melted her soul each and every time. It wasnt long before Gabrielle moved her body to the Warriors ever tempting breasts. Circling her tongue around the harden nipples Xenas moaning became slightly louder causing Gabrielle to suck faster. Sliding her hand down Xenas side the young Queen fondled the dark curly hair of the Warriors pleasure. This was familiar territory to Gabrielle and she knew by heart every fold and tender spot that would make her Warrior scream her name. Dragging her tongue firmly over Xenas body, Gabrielle spent a moment circling her tongue in and out of Xenas navel and then to their shared tattoo before spreading Xena thighs. Brushing her nose, eyes and face through the dark curly hairs of passion, Gabrielle took several large licks over and through the folds of Xenas silky mound. Causing the Warrior to moan her name and gyrate her hips the Bard would enjoy this moment as long as possible. Sensually Gabrielle tugged on the throbbing wetness and growled when the flavor of her Warrior slid through her lips. "Xena .spread your legs wider. Im going to crawl right inside of you."
"Ohhhhhhh .Gab " The fact that Xena knew she had absolutely no control or strength to stop her lover drove the Warrior beyond the brink of sanity. Gabrielle would devour her and Xena believed she was capable of crawling right inside of her center of passion. "Yess harder, faster .pleasssee." Begging her lover to fulfill her cries of need, the Amazon Queen with moons of experience behind her, knew exactly which direction to lick, which nub to suck on, how much pressure to apply. As Gabrielle darted her tongue in and out of the Warrior heated cavern, alternating with her fingers and spreading them wide, Xenas body began to shake and sweat uncontrollably. Lifting her hips off the bed, Gabrielle followed her and sucked madly on her swollen and throbbing center. The spasms and climax racing through Xenas veins exploded and she reached several peaks before collapsing in her lovers arms.
Gabrielle was immediately by her side holding Xena tightly. "I love you my Warrior. I love you so much."
Attempting to catch her breath and open her eyes, the Warrior gave up and could only nod her head and smile. Allowing her Bard to embrace her tightly it took a while before the tremors stopped and Xena could speak. "Oh, baby you are amazing."
Giggling over Xenas words, Gabrielle burrowed her head under her wifes chin and crawled partly on top of Xena. "Mmmm caught your breath yet?"
Rubbing her hands over the muscular back of her soulmate, Xena kissed Gabrielles blonde head. "No, you really wore me out that time."
Slipping her hands back between Xenas legs, the Warrior jumped slightly at the touch that still caused tingling to run through her body. "Good .because Im not done tasting you yet." Propping herself up so she could look into the sexiest blue eyes in the world, Gabrielle began once again to stroke the softness of her lover. Purring with pure animal seduction the Amazon Queen planned to possess the Warrior all night long. "Mmmm .here I come Warrior, I want more of you I want ALL of you."
Rolling her eyes at the sensations Gabrielle was creating with just her fingers, Xena smiled and soon lost all ability to speak. She intuitively knew her young bride would exhaust her tonight and the Warrior planned on enjoying every single bit of it.
Four days after the Amazon wedding the Warrior found her soulmate with Shulaba in the council chambers. Both women had been in there since sunrise and it was already close to the evening meal. Spending the day with Eponin and Amarice training new Amazon recruits, the Warrior missed her lover. Earlier in the day the scouts that were sent to Poteidaia had returned to inform Xena that the message regarding the fire was true. The upsetting part for Xena was when, the scouts reported that Lila arrived and was staying with some young girl named Marlana. Walking into the council hut to lay claim to her partner she found Gabrielle in the mist of a scroll regarding treaties.
She did not see her Warrior come up behind her until strong hands rubbed her shoulders. "Hi, I missed you."
Bending over to kiss her lover, the Warrior glanced over at the Regent. "Shulaba, Ive come to claim my wife."
"Good, she needs to get away from all of this. In fact all of this can wait for quite some time." Pushing back from the table Shulaba stretched and yawned before bidding the couple a goodnight.
Pulling Gabrielle by the hand the Warrior led her soulmate out of the hut. "Ive ordered us a nice hot tub of water and some food to be brought to our hut. I need to hold you and talk to you for a while."
"Mmm you really want to talk?" Gabrielle was pleased that Xena had missed her all day and wanting nothing more than to rest in her strong protective arms but Xena wanted to talk that was unusual.
Once inside the hut the couple found the food ready and waiting along with a full tub of water that was still a bit too hot to climb into. Deciding they would eat first and bathe later the Bard wasted no time stuffing small pieces of rabbit meat into her mouth.
"Gabrielle, I sent scouts to Poteidaia to check on the fire?"
"You did what?" Instantly loosing her appetite the Bard could not understand why Xena would do that.
"Dont be mad; I had to know if it was true or just a lie. Evidently the house and the barn are gone and your father is no where to be found. The villagers all seem to think he is alive. Several of Herodotus drinking buddies claim he was threatening to burn the buildings and give the land to Lila."
Moving from the table Gabrielle started to take her clothes off, not caring if the water was too hot.
Following her soulmate, Xena stripped and tested the waters before letting her lover get in. The water was hot but comfortable enough to bathe in. Sitting in the tub Xena held her hand out which Gabrielle accepted. Within moments the Bard was sitting in front of her soulmate allowing Xena to wash her hair and back. "Gabrielle, there is one more thing. Lila is staying with some young girl named Marlana. Do you know her?"
"Yes. She and Lila are good friends. They grew up together. Lila will be safe with her." Rinsing the soap from her hair the Bard took the sponge and washed the remainder of her body. Spinning around to face Xena she could see the concern across the tanned sculptured face of her Warrior. "Okay, lets go. I can visit my mothers grave and see what Lila is up too."
Indicating Xena should turn around so Gabrielle could wash her back and hair the Warrior complied. "Honey, are you sure? I really believe you need to face this, but I have mixed emotions about pushing you too fast. You know I love you." Turning around to search for the green eyes that would give Xena her answer, she discovered them serious yet accepting.
"Xena, you are not pushing me. Youre absolutely right - I have to put closure to this. Lets leave tomorrow." Quickly Gabrielle found she once again being held by the most protective arms in the universe. "I love you Xena."
"Im so sorry Hecuba .Im so sorry about all of this. It could have been so different had I known you were carrying our child." An older man dressed in the leather clothing of a warlord laid a bouquet of wildflowers over the grave of Gabrielles mother. Bending down on one knee the white haired man bowed his head in respect. "I loved you so much Hecuba. By the gods I still love you so dearly." Memories flooded back to the warlord, as he thought of the young blonde he fell so deeply in love with so many winters ago. The first night he declared his love for Hecuba was still fresh in his heart. They made love only once and it resulted in pregnancy. Having no idea Hecuba was pregnant the man, who at that time was only a young warrior, ran off to fight invading barbarians from the north. When he returned to the village of Korca, his love was gone. According to his mother, Hecuba married Herodotus, was pregnant and moved east to Poteidaia. Following her, the warlord discovered he had a young daughter whom Hecuba named Gabrielle, after his mother. Herodotus was furious and the two fought until Hecuba stepped between them. The warlord had no intentions of harming his love and left in anger and in pain over his loss. From that time on he watched from a distance, while his beautiful blonde hair daughter grew. Had he known of the abuse, which Herodotus had hidden so well, the warlord would have claimed his child immediately. Never approaching Gabrielle and telling her who he was, the warlord regretted his lack of actions. "I should have taken Gabrielle and raised her. Hecuba why .why didnt you tell me she was being beaten. I could have protected her." The warlord was unable to stop the tears that flowed from his forest green eyes. "I would willingly give up my land, my riches and my home to do this all over again."
"Excuse me do I know you?"
The Warlord was startled by a soft voice and jumped to his feet spinning around to see two young girls standing before him. He immediately recognized the young brunette as Gabrielles half sister, Lila. "Uh no, I dont think so."
Lila and Marlana observed the old man standing in front of them. He appeared to be harmless even though he carried a sword on his side and wore the typical leather and armor of a warrior. A peculiar design was tattooed on the back of his left hand and for some reason the pattern looked familiar to Lila. "Did you know my mother?"
"What?" Just then Lila pointed to the grave. "Oh, yes, Hecuba. Was she your mother?"
"Yes .but how do you know her? Do you know my father?" Not too sure what to make of this strange man, Lila glanced over at Marlana who just shook her head and had no idea who the man was.
"Well its a long story and best if left unsaid. We knew each other a long time ago. I was just in the area and heard of the tragedy." The warlord moved away from the grave. "I meant no disrespect young lady." Bowing politely the warlord walked away rather abruptly and vaulted onto a beautiful black stallion. Looking back at Lila, the man smiled. "You look a great deal like your father?"
This Lila took as a compliment and giggled easily. "Thank you. My sister actually looks like my mother."
Without saying a word the old man smiled. *Yes she does young one. And she has the same beauty.* Kicking the stallion in the flanks the warlord rode away from the village of Poteidaia.
"That was strange. Do you recognize him Lila?" The strange man intrigued the young peasant girl who was a life long playmate of Lilas. "Did you see how fine his clothing was. He had to be more than just a warrior."
Lila glanced down at the flowers left by the stranger and then looked up in time to see him slip into the cover of the surrounding forest. "No, I did not recognize him. But, that tattoo on his hand looks familiar like Ive seen it someplace before."
"Maybe Gabrielle knows him?"
Kneeling in front of her mothers grave Lila shook her head. "Hmm .maybe. Ill have to ask her next time I see her."
To be continued in Building Our World - Part Two
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