Disclaimer: Xena Warrior Princess isn’t mine. I don’t own it, not claiming to, never would make such a claim. I’m just a fan with a never-ending devotion to the show.
Summary: Eve summons Gabrielle, who has been fighting in Egypt since Xena’s death, to Amphipolis. Greece is falling apart under strange storms caused by a threat that no one may be able to stop, not even the new carrier of the Chakram.
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Girl With A Chakram
Chapter 1 – The Calling
by Caina Fuller
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Egypt burned under the sun, which baked all moisture from the earth, leaving it dry and cracked. People moved slowly, heads down and shoulders slumped as the glare weighed down on them, seeming to drain them of life. Those who moved through the streets did so out of sheer stubborn determination, waiting for the sun to finally set and give them a respite from the anger of its glare.
The shade of the temple entrance did nothing to alleviate the oppressive heat, but it did offer a break from the glare that made it impossible to keep one’s eyes completely open. Gabrielle made her way through the entrance and into the reception chamber.
A swath of light from the open door cut through the darkness of the windowless room, momentarily affording Gabrielle a clear glimpse of the golden statues of pharaohs past and exotic gods with human bodies topped with the heads of animals.
The door shut behind her, amazingly quiet considering the weight of the heavy oak they were constructed of. After bowing her head respectfully to the temple priest, a handsome man in his early thirties, whose body was completely hairless, Gabrielle entered the dark, cool altar room, which was occupied by three people, two men, and a woman. They bowed before the altar which was occupied by a newly wrapped mummy.
"Anippe," Gabrielle said, her voice but a whisper.
The kneeling woman did not look up. Instead she acknowledged Gabrielle with a tiny nod of her head. Gabrielle knelt beside her and waited until Sarai was ready to speak.
A few moments later, her silently offered prayers complete, Anippe held out a hand to Gabrielle, who helped her to her feet. Tears were fresh on Anippe’s lined face, though she did not openly weep.
"Gabrielle. Would you care to escort my sons and I home?"
Gabrielle looked at the two young men who were watching her, Badru and Ganal. Both were young, in their late teens, but tall and growing nicely into their large frames. In a few years they would be strong young men, carpenters as their father before them had been, and their older brother, Horus had been.
Once they’d exited the temple, trading cool darkness for the glaring oppression of the summer sun, Gabrielle spoke.
"I have news," she said. "I found the men responsible for Horus’ death."
Anippe’s grip tightened on Gabrielle’s arm. They were nearing the shop Anippe had called home for over twenty five years before thieves had cut down her eldest son only three days before.
"Masud’s men?" Anippe asked. They had entered the main living area. Ganal ran to fetch some cool water for them to drink and to recover from the walk from the temple.
"Yes," Gabrielle said.
"Where are they now?" Anippe asked.
Gabrielle became aware that Badru and Ganal were watching her intently, as was Anippe. She wasn’t certain how much detail to give the family of the fight that had broken out as she’d attempted to bring them before the authorities for their crimes, and what had become of them.
Anippe’s eyes rested on the gleaming circular blade that hung from a belt on Gabrielle’s waist. She followed Anippe’s gaze and found a single, fat drop of blood glistening in a shaft of light from the window that looked out onto the street. From the look on Sarai’s face, she didn’t need anymore answer than that.
"They will never return to hurt you or anyone in your family again," Gabrielle said, accepting a large wooden cup of cool water from Ganal. "I promise."
"Thank you, Gabrielle," Sarai said. "Badru, fetch the gold."
Gabrielle hated this part of her job. Sometimes it was harder to make the victims she attempted to help find justice keep their gold than it was to fight those who hurt them to begin with.
A knock sounded at the door. Badru went to answer as Gabrielle looked into Anippe’s brown eyes. "I don’t want any money."
"You have to live, Gabrielle," Anippe said.
"You’ve given me food and shelter for two weeks," Gabrielle replied. "I can’t take your money."
Badru returned with a scroll sealed with wax. The crest pressed into the wax was a design she had never thought she’d see again. A single X inside a ridged circle. She felt her stomach tighten and her jaw clench.
"What is the matter?" Anippe asked, looking concerned and taking the money pouch from Badru.
"I don’t know," Gabrielle said.
"Would you like some privacy? You may use my bedroom to read in private."
"Thank you," Gabrielle said. She took the scroll and hurried to Anippe’s bedroom. Once alone she broke the seal, knowing the message had been sent long ago, from Greece. She unrolled the parchment and began to read.
I am sorry to trouble you now. I know you
are trying to find yourself, to carry on the
good work you and mother started so many
years ago, but I find myself facing a threat
greater than I am capable of handling on
my own. I need you, Greece needs you. Please,
return to the home of my mother. I await
you now, in the hopes that this message
finds you before it is too late for us all.
Gabrielle read the message twice more, wondering why she had not sent more detail, and wondering what kind of threat had arisen in Greece that Eve couldn’t handle, and if she would be too late to make a difference by the time she reached Amphipolis.
Gabrielle tucked the scroll into her boot and went back into the main room, where Anippe, Badru, and Ganal waited quietly.
"The message was from my best friend’s daughter," Gabrielle explained.
"She is calling you home?" Anippe said knowingly. She held up a small bag of gold. "You will need this, yes?"
"Yes," Gabrielle said, still feeling guilty for taking so much, but she would need every coin in that bag to make it all the way back to Amphipolis. "Some day I’ll return it to you in full."
"If you do, I shall be highly insulted," Anippe said seriously. "You brought our family justice where we would have been denied otherwise. You earned it. Now tell me, when do you set out?"
"Now," she said.
"Then I wish you a safe journey," Anippe said, rising and warmly kissing each of Gabrielle’s cheeks. "Our doors are always open to you, should you ever return. I hope you do."
"So do I," Gabrielle said.
Four hours later the sun had begun to disappear behind the distant horizon, turning the blue sky into a sea of liquid gold. Gabrielle dismounted the transport wagon she’d taken to the wharf and approached the wharf master, who was a frighteningly thin man with razor sharp features and an Adams apple so large that made him look as if he’d literally gotten an apple stuck in his throat.
"I’m looking for transport to Greece," she said, wanting nothing more than to lie down in a soft bed to rest after a grueling four hour ride from Anippe’s house to the wharf in Cairo. The wharf master chuckled, making his Adams apple bobble violently with each word he spoke. Gabrielle unconsciously raised a hand to her own throat, grimacing as her throat twinged uncomfortably.
"Greece?" he said, shaking his head. "Have you been living under a boulder?"
"What?" Gabrielle asked, her stomach suddenly felt as if she’d eaten a great amount of snow. Had something terrible happened since she’d received word from Eve? Perhaps a natural disaster, mudslides, earthquakes….Perhaps a tsunami had hit. Thoughts of her own village, Potidaea, came floating to mind. Lila and Sara were there. She wondered if they were alright.
"Greece has been plagued by strange storms, earthquakes, animal stampedes. It isn’t safe to dock there."
"How close can you get me?"
The wharf master shrugged. "They say the Greek gods are taking their revenge from the grave, destroying the land that betrayed them. Why would you want to go into that?"
"Heroes run toward the trouble. Everybody knows that," a voice said from behind the wharf master. Gabrielle looked around the man before her, who’d closed his eyes in annoyance, and saw a strikingly handsome young man sitting on the dock. He was eyeing the Chakram on Gabrielle’s hip.
"So do fools," the wharf master said in annoyance.
"I’m no fool," Gabrielle said. "I’ve been summoned to try and stop what’s happening."
The wharf master snorted skeptically. "One woman is going to save an entire country from destruction from vengeful gods?"
"The gods of Greece are dead," said Gabrielle, "and the dead have no power over the living. Now tell me, how close can you get me?"
"I’ll go as far as Ceos. No closer than that."
"Ceos it is, then," Gabrielle said. "When do we sail?"
"Tonight, but first, we talk gold."
Once Gabrielle had negotiated a price, which was nearly twice the regular fare from Cairo to the docks of Athens, she got on board and laid down in her room after a meal of cheese, bread, and water.
She slept heavily, her dreams having deserted her since Xena’s death. She had written nothing of her adventures in Egypt, which had been considerable, for her dreams, which had always served as her muse, had long since abandoned her. Besides, she’d lost the will to tell the story.
Though she’d begun to earn a reputation as a fearless warrior for justice in Egypt, making almost as many enemies as she did friends, Gabrielle chose to remain alone, and it was beginning to have an effect on her soul. Xena’s spirit had long since vanished, leaving her to continue the journey of this life alone.
Days of travel on the high seas passed in depressing boredom. Gabrielle noted that the young man who’d hailed her as a hero at the dock in Cairo insisted on shadowing her. He watched her whenever she wasn’t in the small, hot, cramped compartment that acted as her stateroom. He never approached, never spoke to her, he only watched her.
Other passengers also speculated on Gabrielle’s true identity. Her name was becoming legend. She was loosely associated with Xena amongst the Greeks she’d met onboard, but she was in a class of her own amongst the Egyptians that sailed with her. No one approached her, but they no longer tried as hard to hide their conversations by dropping to whispers when she passed by.
Gabrielle also found she was becoming increasingly associated with the Chakram. It was becoming a symbol of her identity as much as it had Xena’s in the five years that she had been dead. Sometimes she felt honored by this, at other times it made her feel like a fraud.
Eve’s imploring message, the faith Eve obviously had that Gabrielle could make a difference where she could not, reinforced these feelings of doubt Gabrielle had battled since she’d left Xena’s urn in Amphipolis to travel to Egypt.
Greece had always been Xena’s territory. To Gabrielle the idea of traversing the familiar landscapes that she’d once traveled with Xena, continuing the work they’d started decades ago, was daunting.
She didn’t want to revisit the places she and Xena had known as a pair, fighting the same kind of evil that Xena had once fought with such indefatigable determination. Could her heart, her soul, continue the battle for good alone, and under the weight of the nostalgia that was bound to settle on her like a heavy cloak as she encountered familiar people and visited familiar places?
"Care for a drink?"
Gabrielle looked up from the Chakram she’d been holding in her lap. The blade was unnaturally smooth considering the demand both she and Xena had put on it. It stayed razor sharp though she never put a sharpening stone to it, and now that it was on her mind, she’d never seen Xena sharpen the Chakram either. Polish it, yes, but never sharpen.
There were times when Gabrielle would hold the weapon and it felt alive in her hand, as if it possessed an old soul that chose to be with her. It was as if the thing were an extension of her body and mind. At the moment it brought her a great measure of comfort, almost as if she were holding Xena.
The young man from the wharf stood in front of her, his head blocked the glare of the sun from her eyes, and glowed behind him in a bright nimbus. He was holding out a silver goblet.
"I don’t accept drinks from strangers," she said, not unkindly, before looking back down at the Chakram.
She heard a pouring sound saw he’d poured her portion into his own cup. He took a seat on a crate across from her and rested his elbows against his knees.
"Theon," he said, offering his arm. Gabrielle reluctantly grasped it. She had an idea of what he was about to offer. She hated rejecting offers of friendship, and with men a subsequent offer of romance, because men very rarely took no without offense. They almost always got pushy, as if she owed them something and this led to her having to put them down, hard, shaming them before their friends before they would agree to leave her be. She hoped that wouldn’t be the case with this young man. He seemed nice enough.
"I know. I’ve kept up with you since you came to Egypt," he said, nodding at the Chakram in her lap.
"I have a request, though you’ll turn it down, I’m sure," he said.
Here it comes, Gabrielle thought.
She could hear it now. Will you come back to my cabin? I’ve always wanted to be with a warrior woman, or something equally lame. She was prepared to tell him to get lost when she noticed he wasn’t eyeing her, but the Chakram, with longing.
"May I hold it?" he asked.
"You’re right," Gabrielle said, placing the heavy weapon back on the hook on her belt. "I am going to turn you down."
He snorted in laughter. "I don’t blame you. I would too, if I were you."
Gabrielle’s attention was taken from Theon’s handsome, bearded face and striking gray eyes by a chilly breeze. The glare of the sun was quickly fading. Gabrielle and Theon stood, examining the sky. It was gray and storm clouds rolled across the sky, churning, and occasionally the gray depths were illuminated by flashes of lightning.
The captain, a powerfully built man in his early forties came down to the forward deck where Gabrielle stood with Theon. The ocean was becoming increasingly choppy, causing the boat to rise and fall a little higher, and upsetting Gabrielle’s already queasy stomach.
"The last time I was here," the captain said, his voice reflecting concern, but not the fear in the voices of the other passengers who were instinctively gathering together in small groups, "this phenomenon was as far in as Aegina."
"When were you last here?"
"A month or so ago," he said absently, rubbing his stubbly chin. "I’m docking at Naxos to re-supply, and that’s as far as I go."
"I paid to get to Ceos," Theon said, frowning. He was every bit as big as the captain, but ten years younger. The captain sized him up and shrugged.
"I’ll knock off a few dinars for you. Maybe you’ll find another captain who’ll take you further in, but Naxos is where I stop."
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