GENERAL COPYRIGHT/DISCLAIMER:

Xena, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the series Xena: Warrior Princess, are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are my property. Please do not use my characters without my consent. NOTE: All works remain the copyright of the original author.

VIOLENCE WARNING/DISCLAIMER:

This story depicts scenes of violence and/or their aftermath. Readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of depiction may wish to read something other than this story.

LOVE/SEX WARNING/DISCLAIMER:

This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story.

COMMENTS: I welcome all comments and can be reached at shempski@yahoo.com

This story takes place after the episode Forgiven.

 

Death Stalks Forever

By Falcon

May 1999

Chapter One

The campfire was low and Gabrielle was deep into the dream world. There was surf and the spray of the sea. Her lover turned and smiled at her, then the two embraced and shared a soft kiss.

The Warrior awoke in a fevered sweat and sleep was out of the question at this time. Xena picked up several small logs and fed the hungry embers. The Warrior paused and took a long, reflective look at Gabrielle, smiling lightly, then walked a short way into the clearing. There was much on her mind and in her heart she carried a heavy burden.

So much time had passed since Poteidaia. The two friends shared many adventures and better than thirty moons together. During that time span, the two became as close as two souls can become. Theirs was a time of independence and dependence. These two found a need for each other in order to survive against the elements, the harshness of the warlords and the fickle mercy of the gods. They became intimate with each other for some time but things had happened that separated their hearts, then brought them back with a healing. Never the less, there remained some scar tissue and this night there was a look of intense worry on Xena’s face as she knelt to the ground. Grabbing a handful of dirt, she gazed at the moonlit sky and began to speak to something greater than she could conceive.

"My Gods……Please settle my soul for I am in turmoil."

Five nights earlier gave way to Tara and Gabrielle receiving the blessing from the Urn of Apollo. As the high priest glanced toward Xena, she knew in her heart she could not yet ask for the forgiveness to make her whole nor could she live a life of peace. Xena took a long, hard look at the commitment her two friends had made but in her heart she realized she was not at that level of comfort with herself. She could not bring herself to forgiving her past actions and turned walking away for the time being from a new beginning. The time to heal was just not there although Xena felt that Gabrielle and she had come full circle with each other. Love, true love, an intimate love had not yet been refreshed between them.

So difficult was change and yet, since the Bard became part of her life, she was blessed with subtle changes. Some came with little irritations by the actions of her companion, other changes by watching and learning that there were alternatives to life, which Gabrielle showed Xena through her daily actions. The remarkable thing of all things that had happened in Xena’s life was what was happening to her heart and how this innocent, copper-blond haired soul had warmed Xena to new feelings that she never thought possible.

Now Xena looked to the stars and continued to search her soul for the strength to pray.

Prayer! That was a new concept in itself.

How does one pray for that which might not be possible?

Normally her time to reflect came in those moments when she would sharpen her sword and then her thoughts were usually kept to battle strategies. This was a different battle. This was a battle of vulnerability.

Xena thought, "Perhaps I might direct my words toward the Goddess Artemis," who had taken Gabrielle under her canopy of protection because she was the Amazon Queen, leader of the Amazon Nation. But her pride kept her at bay. Then there was the Muse, Calliope who had blessed the Bard with her abilities to write in a fashion of prose that gave all a message of Xena’s adventures. They were delivered in an honest and poetic portrayal that not only entertained the people as the two moved through the cities, villages and hamlets but the stories also contributed to their survival. Xena knew that they needed those precious dinars that paid for shelter, food and from time to time, medicines.

As Xena searched her soul, she knew in the back of her mind that the one Goddess she had been avoiding in her mind was perhaps the one that might contribute to the answer that she was seeking. Hera! Would Hera give her the solution? After all she was the Mother of the gods and the goddess of marriage. Xena knew that her heart held the complex question that haunted her. A question she had only half the answer for. Then, there was the past. How could she move forward when she felt anchored to her sorted and violent history?

The shift of the stars told Xena that some time had passed and that she should make her way back to the camp and Gabrielle. Quietly she returned from her solitude, adding a couple of more small logs to the fire. She climbed into her bedroll next to the Bard and looked deeply into her companion, soaking in her countenance. Xena was ready to sleep for awhile and understood that what was not settled in her mind would have to wait for another time.

Sunrise brought the normal yawns and stretches from Gabrielle and a question. "What’s for breakfast?" But as Gabrielle looked around Xena was already up, in fact she heard Gabrielle’s comment as she returned to the camp with a stringer of fish answering the question with a half smile. Breakfast consisted of a couple of yawns followed by the fish; biscuits and tea sweetened with honey that Xena borrowed from a hive. Gabrielle put the bedrolls away and extinguished the fire. By the time that was accomplished Xena had Argo saddled and the two were on the road once more.

Time passed and a light rain began to fall. The area the Warrior and the Bard were going through did not give way to any caves or known shelters, so they were left to the elements. The pair would just have to continue on to the next village before they might find an inn to hold up at. Xena dismounted and decided to walk Argo, as the road was becoming soft and muddy from the rain. Although she tried hard to be her normal silent Warrior her eyes told another story.

Every time I look at her my heart stirs and I am left in a panic. I know what I feel and what I believe we have had and what the future might promise. But does she feel as I do?

"Xena! What’s got you in such a mood? The rain isn’t that bad, in fact I think I can hear the flowers grow!" Gabrielle laughed and splashed through a couple of puddles, thumping her staff in the mud as she walked.

Xena rolled her eyes and gave a half grin, thinking…born on a full moon most likely!

The road turned to the left and made a wide but gradual curve in that direction. Xena gave the halt signal to Gabrielle as she swung up on Argo’s back and rode slowly ahead. As she rounded the curve a scent of something odd filled the air and Xena drew her sword in preparation for whatever was to come.

There in the middle of the road were the remains of a Centaur, which looked to have been torn to pieces by something, something horribly cruel and cunning. What was so incredibly strange was the abundant amount of flowers that were left all around the carcass, as if they were an afterthought of kindness by something other than the murderers.

Xena heard a scream from behind her, slid off of Argo and grabbed Gabrielle by the shoulder while she scanned the surrounding woods. The feeling of eyes watching, were upon both women and they felt uneasy. With the steady rain it was hard to hear if anything was moving about in the underbrush and adjoining woods. "What has happened hear, Xena?" Gabrielle gasped.

"I’m not quite sure my friend but let’s move on cautiously and get away from here before we come to harm."

"Xena, this isn’t the work of the Horde is it? Xena, I’m scared," a visibly shaken Gabrielle exclaimed.

"No! I think this was done by some animal or several did this…"

The bushes moved beyond where the Centaurs remains lay dormant. Xena readied her sword, raising it above her head when two maidens moved toward the Warrior and Bard. " We are the Mercies. We come to explain. The death of this Centaur who lies in the rain. His troubles are over. He feels no more pain. But danger is present and will strike again."

Without turning they backed into the bushes and disappeared into thin air as quickly as they had materialized.

"Perhaps they were sent from the Muse, Melpomene," exclaimed Xena. She was the Muse of all tragedies and this was surely a tragedy. It was time to move on, as Xena had noticed tracks around the immediate area other than that of the Centaurs. Many had faded from the rain, but there was enough evidence on the ground to wrinkle Xena’s brow. The two continued down the road after the heeded warning, but not without feeling impending disaster crossing their path.

The road split into three directions and Xena, watching Argo’s eyes, decided on the path that ran to the left and gradually moved to higher ground.

We will be safer on higher ground, Xena thought.

Xena dismounted her horse in Warrior fashion by slipping her leg over the saddle and landed on the ground facing in the same direction that the two of them were headed.

"Gabrielle," Xena said in a low but forceful voice, "I want you to mount Argo and ride while I walk a few lengths ahead. The copper-blond never said a word but immediately did as she was told. Once she was on Argo’s back, the two women continued cautiously ahead.

The woods and underbrush exploded with blazing eyes and sharp white teeth as Xena wielded her sword, dropping a silver wolf with one hit to the back of the neck. Quickly turning she slapped the horse on the rump and screamed, "Go Argo! Yahhh!"

Argo responded by breaking into a gallop and knocking two wolves over while Gabrielle hung on for dear life. Xena smashed her fist into the second wolf that tried to reach her by leaping. When it dropped at her feet she ended its quest with her sword. Spinning around she managed to keep the rest of the pack at bay for a moment. Only seconds passed. Grabbing the Chakram Xena threw it in the direction of Gabrielle and Argo to stop the pursuer who was fast on the mounts heels. The Chakram opened the side of the animal and it retreated to the woods yelping into the distance.

The pain was excruciating, as a large black female sunk her teeth into Xena’s thigh. Several punches to the back of the wolf’s head proved futile, however, the breast dagger found its mark in the animal’s neck and the creature dropped to the ground. At this point, Gabrielle dismounted and returned to help her Warrior by placing her staff across the nose of one wolf, then another with a fast jab to the side of the beast knocking the wind from it.

Xena dropped her sword when she was bit, but retrieved it and finished off the windless beast. All of this took less time than it takes to saddle a horse and as quickly as it had began, it was over. Four wolves lay dead and one badly injured somewhere in the forest. The rest vanished for the time being. Xena walked over and picked up her Chakram cleaning it off in a puddle not tainted with the attacker's blood.

"Gabrielle, I told you to stay on Argo," Xena said sternly.

"I was scared for you Xena. I just reacted as I felt you would for me," the young Bard pleaded.

"Thanks friend, you were in my thoughts too," smiled Xena, as she placed her hands on the Bards shoulders and look into her eyes.

"Let’s get the Tartarus out of here before they regroup and decide that we’re worn down some…… and remind me to give praise and thanks to Melpomene when we get settled."

"Xena! You’re bleeding pretty hard! We need to get that wound dressed," the Bard cried.

"As soon as we get away from this area, my friend. I’ll be alright for now." Xena mounted Argo and the Bard followed close behind, as the light rain continued into the late afternoon. They moved a short way down the road where Gabrielle took some cloth and rawhide from the saddlebag. First she took the waterskin and rinsed the wounds out to prevent any infection setting in. Then she applied the dressing and tied it in place with the rawhide. No further sign of the pack was evident as the two moved closer to a village and possibly an inn with food and a bed. At this point, anything dry would suit the two companions.

Xena had for a brief time completely forgotten about the heaviness in her heart. She had also forgotten her soul searching of the previous night, but the reality of getting hurt while she protected the only person on earth that seemed to make a difference to her brought the puzzle back to her mind once again. A puzzle that seemed to need several pieces turned over in order to identify the complete picture.

Chapter Two

Civilization introduced itself in the form of a hay wagon with an elderly man riding and being drawn by a lone, brown, tired looking horse that probably could have been put out to pasture awhile ago. The man was very short and balding but for the lack of hair on his head, he made up for it with the hair that sprung from his ears and nose. What hair he had remaining was gray, which he wore as half of a halo. Bushy eyebrows framed his eyes and he gave the impression of being partially deaf or just hard of hearing. His clothes were that of a hard working peasant that didn’t own much more that a second set of tattered clothes. His boots had seen better days, as did he.

"Good day to you sir! No response… "GOOD DAY TO YOU SIR!!!" Gabrielle shouted, when she realized she wasn’t making contact. "Say what," the old peasant inquired?

"GOOD DAY!" Gabrielle tried again, smiling.

"Yes it is a good day," he said with a smile back at her. "Where are you headed young ladies," he asked.

"We are looking for some shelter for a couple of days and some food," Gabrielle stated in a loud voice, while Xena watched this with a perturbed look.

"My friend was wounded by a wolf and needs some doctoring and rest. Do you know of any place we can stay for a couple of days?"

"I have just the place," he said and continued on by saying, " My name is Louvus. I grew up in these parts and my village is only a candlemark or two ahead. Just continue down the road and when you pass the stream, a little further on the right is the only inn in the village. My sister owns it. She’ll take good care of you. Her name is Moria. Just mention my name young ladies. Louvus! That’s me!"

He waved as we passed ahead of him.

Xena was starting to look as if she was weakening and Gabrielle quickened her pace, as she led Argo by the reigns down the road. The rain finally stopped although it remained overcast for the remainder of the day. Night was soon approaching and the Bard knew she would feel much better when the Warrior and her were fed and settled down for the evening.

As Louvus had said, the stream snaked out of the woods and down along side the road, eventually breaking away again, but by that time Gabrielle saw the entrance to the inn. The place was set back from the road and had a small stable that was about ten horse lengths from the stream and had room to hold about five horses. Xena got off Argo and kissed her head. The two made their way to the door after tying the horse off by a post, but not before taking a short look around.

Xena began to bleed from the wounds the wolf inflicted on her thigh. Three steps up and in the door they went. The room was small with four tables and chairs in close proximity and none of the furniture matched each other. Along the left side of the room was a small bar with three stools, which opened to another room where some aromatic smells emitted. Somewhere in the back there had to be a kitchen.

An old and kind looking women came out from the kitchen area and said, "Can I be of some service to you?" "Yes!" Xena said "We need food, lodging and I have to sew up this leg wound.

"We met a man, claimed to be your brother, Louvus, and told us to mention him; that you would help us out."

"That brother of mine. Such a sweetheart but deaf as a stone!" she laughed saying," I’m Moria and this is my humble inn." She grabbed a bottle of port from behind the counter and grabbed two glasses, placing them on the table. A quick pour and the two were warming their insides. "Well Warrior, sit down and let me have a look at the wound. Oh…it’s nasty! By the gods what did you get into? Let me get this blood soaked mess off of you."

"Wolves" the Bard explained. "We were attacked by a pack of wolves and they didn’t seem interested in a meal but rather bent on destruction." Xena eyed the old women but felt she could be trusted and her face softened, as Moria tended to her wounds. The Bard continued telling the story of how they happened upon the lone Centaur and of his terrible end. Xena figured he had separated from a hunting party, got turned around and eventually lost his way. Somehow, the pack caught scent of his trail and started to run him down. Apparently, he made a stand in the middle of the road and lost.

//////////////////////////////

The wine felt good and after the wound was stitched and dressed Moria returned to the kitchen for fresh bread and cheese.

"This will hold you until I get some water heated for you both to bathe. When you’re done, so will the venison stew I started before you both walked in. I’ll be back before you know it."

When the water was heated, and several trips had been made to the room to fill the tub, Moria called to Xena and Gabrielle that all was ready. The room was on the same floor, but through the kitchen and down a hallway. It was plain but clean and had one bed. At this point, the Warrior and the Bard were just grateful for anything and this exceeded their expectations.

Gabrielle helped Xena out of her armor and leathers. "I’ll wash you up, if you want Xena." The Bard offered. And oh, how Xena wanted just that. Immediately her thoughts went back to the night before and those missing puzzle pieces.

"All right. It wouldn’t be smart to get this leg infected," Xena responded and yet her mind had different thoughts of reason. Gabrielle wasted no time getting the job done but found her captivated by the Warriors beautiful body. The strength of those arms and thighs brought chills to the Bard and she found herself sweating, as well as a deep stirring within as she washed each limb gently. The Bard continued washing the Warrior’s neck, back and boldly came around and began washing Xena’s breasts. "I’ll take over from here my friend," taking the wash cloth from the copper-blond. Totally aroused, Xena moved to the other side of the tub to wash her inner thighs and passion, which burned like fire at this moment.

She was overly affected by the close contact of her friend. Friend! What an understatement that was. Xena knew what she wanted more this minute than ever before but that measure of denial kept her from wrapping her arms around her love and committing. The bard took no hidden meaning by the Warriors actions other than figuring she wanted to tend to those areas of her body herself. Gabrielle took advantage and finished undressing quickly entered the tub to hide the moist betrayal of her feelings. A half of candlemark later they proceeded back to the tables in the front of the inn.

The place was empty except for two villagers that stopped for a couple of ales. Moria returned, served the two at the bar another set of ales and brought two bowls of heavenly stew, loaded with vegetables and potatoes.

"Mmmm! This is great! Thank you Moria," the Bard shared as she stuffed herself. Xena agreed but her mind was elsewhere. Still on the attack and the fallen Centaur, Xena mentally sorted through the events of the day as she ate. Moria returned to the bar and made small talk with the patrons as the two finished their meal in peace.

 

Chapter Three

 

Louvus hummed a tune as the wagon proceeded down the road. "What seems to be bothering you, old friend," he said to his horse. The animal began to act agitated and excited. The horse’s nose flared and his eyes were wild. Louvus was having a hard time keeping the horse headed straight and it appeared to be trying to break away from the wagon. Before the old man could utter another word, a shadow leaped from the brush and had him by the throat. He fell to the ground and the remainder of the wolf pack was upon him and the horse.

As fast as they had appeared, they disappeared into the underbrush and woods, leaving a bloody mess behind.

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The Warrior and her companion finished the meal, thanked Moria for her generous hospitality and excused themselves for the night. Although they both had intentions of pursuing their feelings, each within their own minds eye, exhaustion guided them both into a deep sleep. Gabrielle dreamt of warm embraces and tender kisses. Xena tossed and turned, for her dreams were of losing the love she had found. A love she felt she could not bring herself to admit openly because she wasn’t sure if she would be rejected or accepted on the level she had in mind. Mixed with a nightmare that had glimpses of the Mercies message that danger was eminent and visions of the attack the Bard and Xena experienced with the wolf pack, the Warrior had a disturbing night.

//////////////////////////////

 

The sound of birds and the sun shining through the window woke Gabrielle. She stretched her arms over her head and rolled over to say good morning to Xena but the Warrior was up and gone like so many other mornings. The Bard dressed and took care of herself, then headed down the hall, through the kitchen area and into the front of the inn where she found Moria sobbing pitifully. Xena turned to her friend and said, "Listen I’ll be back in awhile. I’m going with this man, while the other remains here with Moria and you. We are going back down the road to check out the area where Moria’s brother was found. These two men came upon the body this morning and it looks as if the same thing we encountered yesterday has happened again."

"The wolves?" Gabrielle muttered as her eyes met with the eyes of the two farmers. "Why, that happened better than two candlemarks back from where we met Louvus on the road!"

"You stay here with Moria and see what you can do for her. I’ll be right back," the Warrior said with stern eyes.

The younger of the two men took Xena to the place along the side of the road where they found the dead horse still connected to the wagon. Ten paces from the horse, were the remains of one, kind, and old man barely recognizable anymore. "Get some help and clean this up, if you would." Xena pointed at the horse and the wagon. " I’ll take his body back to the inn."

With that said, Xena grabbed a blanket of off her bedroll and wrapped the body of the old man in it. Then she lifted the old man up onto Argo, with the help of the farmer and headed back. The Warrior knew that wolves were territorial and somehow felt that her and the Bard might have more trouble than they could even imagine. The feeling that she and the farmer was being watch was strong. "Don’t take care of this mess by yourself. Go back and get help and make sure you are armed well. Now go," Xena told the farmer.

The Warrior took the body to the stable where several of the village residents were waiting. They took Louvus’s body and prepared it for burial.

//////////////////////////////

Gabrielle and Xena remained in the village for two more nights out of respect for the inn keepers brother and to allow Xena’s wounds to heal. There was a small service for the fallen man and he was laid to rest behind the inn. The remainder of the day was spent drinking wine and reminiscing about the old days in the village, when Moria and her brother were younger. Moria explained how the inn was left to the two of them, by their parents, although Louvus preferred farming and told his sister she could run the place and he would help out.

Evening crept up quietly and the Bard was feeling the wine, to the point of being a bit silly. Xena guided her friend around the tables and bidding the old woman and a couple of her village friends goodnight, as they made their way to their room.

"Better get you to bed, I think," Xena laughed, as they headed through the kitchen.

Yes Xena….. Take me to bed…. Thought the Bard.

The stage was set and Xena was aroused by the playfulness of Gabrielle. The Bard rolled on the bed laughing and Xena could not pull her eyes away from the rising and lowering of the copper-blondes breasts, as she tried to catch her breath.

This is much too tempting for me to say no. By the gods, I cannot keep myself away from my love, my friend, and my all. I have been waiting for the moment to be right to rekindle what we had before.

"Xena," Gabrielle called "Put me to bed!"

"I will, my Bard. I will. Xena moaned suggestively, as she walked over and knelt down next to the bed. She slowly began to help Gabrielle out of her halter, unlacing the ties at the front. Her breasts help push the material open and they lay exposed for the taking.

Xena’s breathing became rapid as she ran her eyes back and forth across the beautiful mounds. Gabrielle became quiet and her eyes were closed. Her lips were slightly parted as Xena moved over her face and gently brushed her lips against Gabrielle’s lips. The response was favorable, as the Bard pursed her lips in a wanting way and the Warrior obliged her with a soft, long, passionate kiss that lit the fires deep within each of the two women.

When they parted the Bard said, "I love you Xena. With my whole heart and soul, I love you. I’m sorry that things took so long to get back where they once were."

"Gabrielle, do you know what you’re saying?" Xena questioned.

"Yes I do and I’ve wanted to tell you. To let you know that I love you more than a friend loves a friend. I love you as…." the Bard stammered.

"I know, my love," Xena continued, "I’ve wrestled with telling you how I’ve felt for months. I thought you would run away, I feared you would not feel the same. I thought what we had was perhaps, one sided and we were never really on the same scroll. I prayed for guidance but none came. But I cannot hide my feelings anymore."

Xena’s hand reached down and tenderly caressed her lovers’ breast with one hand while the other worked on the rest of Gabrielle’s outfit. The Warrior stood and removed her own tunic and they each discarded their boots. The younger woman was taken by the Warriors’ physical being. Her muscles rippled as she returned to the bed.

Gabrielle took Xena by the shoulders and guided her down on her back. Their lips met again slightly opened and their warm breath mingled as they kissed. Their tongues danced the lover’s dance with each other and the heat of their passion heightened. Slowly the Bard slipped down to her lovers’ neck, running her tongue from behind an ear down to the salty cleavage. Too painful was the wait, when Xena cried out as Gabrielle engulfed one of her nipples and pulled on it with a steady suction. She alternated breasts, circling the nipples with her tongue, over and over again.

Xena, mad with passion gasped at the hand that moved between her thighs and she opened like a flower in bloom at her lovers’ touch. Gabrielle worked her way down Xena’s torso, kissing many tender spots, being careful to avoid putting any pressure on the wounded thigh. She hesitated for a moment when she reached the patch of coal black hair that guarded the most precious of gifts. Then her tongue proceeded on a journey of its own, probing the folds of Xena’s center. Ever so slowly the Bard moved, memorizing every inch of the gift she be given to possess for these ticks in time. She sucked up the nectar that was hers for the taking and clamped her mouth finally on the spot where all nerve endings meet.

Xena arced her back and moaned a deep-throated moan, repeating "Yes my love, yes, yes"….. "Oh …..Yes! My love!………. That’s it, yes"

After an eternity, Xena switched positions with her lover and slid off of the bed. She knelt down and pulled the Bards legs over her shoulders. As tender as she wanted to be, she was over come by a wanting that had been denied too long. The heat of her breath upon Gabrielle’s sweet center caused the Bard to moan. Xena could no longer contain herself and slipped her tongue deep into the wet, soft flesh that longed for her mouth. She brought the young lover to new and wonderful places she had never known.

The women shared each other into the night, suspended in a state of euphoric passion. When morning came, they found themselves entwined in a peaceful embrace.

 

//////////////////////////////

 

Soft smiles greeted the two lovers as daybreak brought thoughts of the night before and the future ahead. Xena jumped out of bed with a renewed spirit and playfully slapped her lovers behind. "I’m heading out to the stable to check on Argo, Gabrielle. Why don’t you see how Moria is doing. I’ll be back in as soon as I feed and water the girl."

Gabrielle rolled out of bed as Xena headed out the door. Life was just great, and then she remembered Moria and her grief. After getting dressed she headed to the kitchen where she found the old woman humming a tune and baking fresh bread. She joined her for a cup of tea and the Bard tried to keep the topics light and away from the death of her brother, still Moria would break into tears every so often.

About a candlemark passed and Xena returned from the stable for some hot sliced bread and to change the dressing on her thigh. Although last nights activities were done carefully, there still was a little bleeding that might have been caused by too much stimulation.

The rest of the day was spent resting out back of the inn. It was a nice sunny, early autumn day and the world was a pleasant place. The Bard and the Warrior talked of their feelings and how they felt about a woman to woman relationship.

"Xena……were you ever with another woman before?" the Bard asked inquisitively.

"You know that Lo Mao and I were close. She saved my soul and yes we were lovers but not like you think Gabrielle. I was in much spiritual pain and found my way back to sanity during the time we were together. Through the doors of tenderness and compassion Lo Mao showed me a new road to travel. This blossomed into a physical joining as well as a spiritual awakening. I found you on that road Gabrielle," Xena explained.

"Would it make a difference with us?" Xena asked.

"Oh no! I was just curious," Gabrielle replied nervously.

"There were others before Lo Mao," Xena expressed sadly to the point of a single tear.

Xena turned to Gabrielle and began…… "I’ve had a sorted past and many things I am ashamed of and sad that I did. I took the lives of many innocent people, had sex with many as a tool to manipulate and deceive but some moments in my past were special and worth remembering. Lo Mao was the light that brought me out of myself, then came you, Gabrielle."

"Do you remember that time we sat by a pond and I told you that my life was like the water? The pond was quiet and calm without a ripple," Xena explained? "Then I tossed the rock into the water and all of the ripples were created, the waters churned and I told you that that’s how disruptive my life had become….."Do you remember? Well," Xena continued, "the stone, many stones are still down there below the water, even though the ripples have been replaced with your love. The water is calm but it rests on a foundation of yesterdays which are my past." "But Xena," the Bard remarked, "Today, we have each other and many of those yesterdays are now our past. Please, let’s move forward."

"Forward it is then and to answer your question…..Yes! I did have sex with many women and many men but not like we did last night. Last night, we made love." Then Xena looked deep into her soul mates eyes and said, "I love you, my Bard."

"Xena! What if I was to tell you that I have been with another woman too?"

Xena looked surprised but continued to listen.

"The few times you and I made love Xena back before we had our troubles, I felt awkward at best, so I asked for help," the Bard explained.

"Ephiny knew of the depth my love for you, Xena. She questioned me and I could not hold the truth from her. I asked her to help me understand the ways of such things and she gave me two scrolls, which I read several times. During one of our visits to the Amazon Village, I was curious enough to ask her for some further instruction. She was very helpful. She tutored me on two occasions and it was done as a learning experience."

"I’ll say," Xena laughed.

"Then you’re not angry with me?!" the young lover asked.

"No!" I’m not angry. How could I be? You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me, Gabrielle," then Xena kissed her full on the mouth and the love making continued far into the night.

 

//////////////////////////////

The next morning was filled with farewells and thanks. Xena was moving once again with the enthusiasm of a Warrior and prepared Argo for travel. Gabrielle got some bread, cheese and dried meat from Moria, repacked the bedrolls and grabbed her staff.

The morning was misty and had a touch of mystery about it. Xena was kind of quiet ever since she went out to the stable. As the two were leaving, she said, "Watch yourself Moria. I still feel uneasy about what happened. Keep your shutters bolted at night and your door locked. Take care."

The Warrior and the Bard headed down the road in the direction of the sea. Xena road Argo and the Bard talked endlessly as she walked along with staff in hand. The Warrior kept searching both sides of the road but for what she did not know.

The teeth were exposed, its eyes were red with hate and it moved forward as a messenger of death. Its head hung low as it walked through the woods to the edge of the opening. The stable was on the other side of the clearing. The beast picked up its pace as it crossed the open space and sniffed the ground around the structure trying to pick up the scent of the horse, rider and companion. It moved around the corner of the stable and growled a deep command in the direction of the woods, which brought the rest of the pack to the dark gray leader's side. There was something sinister about these animals, as if they were on a destructive mission guided by unseen powers. The wolf leading the pack crossed the road and the others followed suit, disappearing back into the underbrush.

 

Chapter Four

 

 

The Bard longed for the sound of the waves washing upon the shore. The sound always gave way to her writing and penning a great story, which resulted in a feeling of accomplishment for her. Not since China had she seen the endless waters, the sound of the sea birds, the ocean spray, and the opportunity to be with Xena and not distracted by trouble for a change. The Bard daydreamed away as she followed the Warrior down the road. More than anything they needed a rest and she was sure that she needed to push Xena into taking one. They deserved a holiday and Xena had to take the time to physically heal. For all the emotional ups and downs they had experienced and now to know that they were once again on the same scroll, there had to be time together to absorb the new level of love, friendship and understanding that they had come to.

Each had lost a child, each had been lied to, each had asked forgiveness and it had been granted. More so, each had died and was brought back to the world of the living. The gods had much more in store for these two souls than they could ever imagine. Still, there was a cloud that followed behind this miracle of the hearts. There was something driving a dark shadow on in their direction.

The terrain was starting to rise and fall with a picturesque landscape of hills and small valleys. The possibility of cave shelter was good, if the two didn’t make it to another village by nightfall.

Xena turned around on Argo and called to Gabrielle, "Listen, I’m gonna go find us some lunch. How about that clearing over there?" and pointed to an open spot between the evergreens. "OK, the Bard replied, "I’ll get a fire started."

Xena dropped off the saddlebags with the cooking utensils and headed through the clearing and into the forest. In a short time, maybe a half of a candlemark, she returned with two squirrels, cleaned and ready for lunch. "No fish?" Gabrielle protested.

"Hey! If you want fish we’ll go to the sea." Xena darted back. "Yea! The sea! That’s what I been trying to tell you Xena! We need a holiday!" cried the Bard as she danced around the fire.

"Quiet!" Xena commanded as she held up her hand and grabbed her Chakram with the other. "There’s something out there," she whispered.

Moving slowly toward the edge of the forest she scanned the area with her piercing eyes.

"Something’s watching us. I don’t like this at all Gabrielle."

The Bard picked up her staff and prepared for the worst as both of them looked around. Xena walked a short way into the woods but found nothing out of order. Returning to the fire and the slightly overdone squirrels, she sat and the two companions ate their lunch with both eyes open.

The meal finished and the fire covered with dirt brought the two women back to the road. Xena knelt down and examined the ground. There were tracks and they were wolf tracks. Just one set but she felt the skin crawl on the back of her neck.

"I want you to get up on Argo with me Gabrielle. Let’s get some distance between us and this place."

The road was narrow and down hill for the time being. So, doubled-up on Argo, they made their way toward the sea.

The afternoon gave way to partly cloudy skies and a warm southerly wind on their face. They talked of what they would do when they hit the coast in a couple days time. They talked of love and Gabrielle hugged Xena around the waist as they shared their feelings with each other. All the while this gentle banter was going on, Xena kept her Warriors eyes pealed for anything amiss.

A sweet smell filled the air and immediately, Xena and Gabrielle remembered an earlier encounter. The women who was present after the Centaurs falling appeared on the road in front of the two, saying……

We are the Mercies. Much danger ahead. Beware of the rocks or you’ll both soon be dead. Narrow, the passage. Still go where you’re led. There’s peace by the waters, if all signs are read.

……and they faded away, as the first time.

The road turned upward and Argo worked her way between two rocky outcroppings on either side of the road. About halfway through, a large, gray wolf jumped from the rocks and knocked the Bard to the ground. Xena back-flipped off of Argo and hit the ground with her sword in hand. The beast turned and leaped for Gabrielle’s throat as she sat stunned on the dirt road, but Xena was too quick and severed the animal’s head as it moved through the air. The Warrior turned in anticipation but the attack was over.

"Xena, what in Tartarus is going on here? This is the third wolf attack in the past four days! By the gods, what is happening?"

The leader and his three assassins watched from a high bluff as the copper-blond regained her footing and looked for answers from her protector. One of the animals got too close to the leader and he bit at its face, tearing the flesh below its left eye. The other two crouched low and snarled back at the beast, keeping a safe distance. The creature moved away from the edge of the bluff and worked his way back into the underbrush and down the hillside.

"This animal acted like it was possessed, Gabrielle," the Warrior shared and went on to say, "We need to get to the bottom of this. There has to be a god involved in all of this somewhere."

Night was getting to be an unwelcome visitor but there was no stopping time. Shelter had to be found fast or the two would be left with few defenses and too much area to protect from an attack. Xena thought she knew of a cave but it had been a long time and it was about a candlemark ahead yet. It was off of the road and near a small creek around a quarter candlemark into the forest. There was no time to waste as the two mounted the horse and picked up the pace.

After a short struggle, Xena located the cave. Although small, it offered the protection they needed for the night and there was nothing Xena could not ward off from a one-direction attack. They stocked up on fresh water and still had some cheese and bread remaining for supper. Plenty of wood was gathered, not only for a fire at the mouth of the cave but also for several torches in case the night gave way to unwelcome visitors. Xena built an additional fire outside the cave, which added protection for Argo.

The two friends talked through supper way into the night about the Amazons and how they both would return to the Amazon village after a week or maybe even two spent rekindling their love in a private and undisturbed setting. Being the Amazon Queen had certain responsibilities and one of those was to be available at certain times to strengthen the bond of all Amazons and what they stood for. Gabrielle took the title as seriously as her relationship with Xena. The Warrior told her Bard that she would have to talk with Ephiny about a few things and then she burst out laughing hysterically.

The Bard unfurled her bedroll and kissed Xena goodnight, then Xena beefed up the fire and began to sharpen her sword like so many times before. Some time later, the Warrior dozed off, leaning against a rock. The moon moved across the sky and halfway through the night, the Bard and the Warrior were awakened by the howling of the wolves. They were too close for comfort. The last hours of the night were long and agonizing, as the women waited for the attack. It did not come to call.

//////////////////////////////

Gabrielle opened her eyes to Xena standing with sword drawn, waiting with the patience of a sentry. The morning was still and there wasn’t a single sound, not of a bird or squirrel.

"Xena, have you been up these last few hours? You should have wakened me and I could have taken a turn guarding the entrance," the Bard scolded.

They knew what to do and so they packed up their belongings, saddled the horse and made way back to the road by another path. When they broke from the woods and returned to the road, they felt much safer.

"Xena, you don’t think these wolves are following us, do you? This has to be some freak coincidence, right?"

Xena was quiet, while she fought with an idea of who or why this was happening and just what it had to do with them. There was one who put high price on both the Bard and the Warrior for foiling his plans. Xena thought, "Why hadn’t I put it together before. It was there all the time. Dahok!’ I’m beginning to believe that the Centaur was sent to warn us and he never made it.

A short way down the road, there were signs of a struggle with blood everywhere. It appeared that something had been attacked. A deer perhaps had been killed but there were no remains found by the two travelers. The day was long and tiring but Gabrielle and Xena moved on. Mount Ossa needed to be crossed part way and then the village of Karista and the sea would be at their feet. This would all end soon.

The attack came swiftly and from three directions. Xena turned around and a wolf was upon her. She pulled her Chakram and cut the animal before it sunk its teeth into her arm. Two wolves sprang from the right side of the road as Gabrielle tried her best to climb up on Argo, but the horse bolted and left her on her own. Argo headed down the road. Xena flipped and turned in the air, screaming her war cry, "YiYiYiYiYiYi! and threw the Chakram into the closest beast before it got to her lover. The second wolf made it to the Bard and sunk its teeth into her right boot. She swung her staff and glanced the end of off the animal’s snout, missing a solid blow to the head. By the time Gabrielle regrouped and took another shot at the animal, Xena ran it through with her sword, then turned and stabbed the wounded killer she had slowed already down with the Chakram; finishing it off. The last wolf, the leader, stood in the middle of the road growling viciously at the two women. Xena backed up a few steps and stuck her sword deep into the first attacker, to the sound of a single yelp. She looked to the lone survivor and said, "Come and get it you bastard!"

The wolf stood defiant for a moment then disappeared down the side of the hill and into the forest.

"Are you all right, my love?" Xena asked with great concern.

"The wolf tasted leather Xena, not me! Bit down on the heel and that saved the ankle."

"Gabrielle, I think Dahok is involved with this. Somewhere I remember a story about a killer force that ……….as Xena spoke the remains of the dead animals vaporized into black smoke and vanished into thin air. Both, the Warrior and the Bard looked amazed and shocked that there was mystical edge to this whole confrontation and what had appeared as a pack of wolves gone mad, turned out to look more and more like a premeditated attempt on their lives.

The journey continued over the lower edge of Mount Ossa. This portion of the trek was rather pleasant, as the trees were filled with the beginnings of the sea breeze and the village of Karista was not far ahead. The beauty of the land had taken the nightmare away for the moment.

The Warrior and her lover entered the village in the late afternoon. Tired and thirsty, they set out to find lodging and food, naturally! The Bard always had food on her mind.

"Xena! Couldn’t you go for some fish soup, some lamb stew and followed up by a tray of nut filled kadaifi rolls. Doesn’t that just sound heavenly?" the Bard rambled. "Right!" Xena spat. "Listen, friend I have a thirst and I’m dirty and then I’m hungry. Let’s take care of things instead of talking about them. Right!"

"Right, Xena"…. Gabrielle smiled.

They found an inn, with a bar and a dozen tables. Xena ordered a couple of cups of port, then ordered a room with a bath for the two of them. Gabrielle began to spread the word that she was a storyteller and could help the innkeepers business for a night, if he was willing to let her keep what dinars were given for her related adventures.

"I’m quite entertaining you know! I’ve entertained warlords and Kings!" She explained.

"Yes, yes, anything to get you out of my face child!" The innkeeper was happy to have a new distraction. It might get the patrons to spend more dinars.

Tired as the Warrior was, she knew not to leave her friend alone and faded to a dark corner to listen to the Bard spin her tales about Xena, Princess Warrior and her companion, the ever present Moon Child. Xena laughed to herself of her thoughts about her friend. She loved her so much.

The warrior watched the crowd for anybody that smelled of trouble. This group that was at hand for the evening, seemed to be all right and were there for a good time.

Xena listened to Gabrielle captivate about fifteen people for two candlemarks and finally got up from the table and gave the teller of tales the eye to pick up her dinars and call it a night.

Gabrielle caught the look and a quarter of a candlemark later; they were in the room with a hot bath waiting.

"Let’s do this together," the Bard chuckled.

"Yes," Xena said with a look of seduction. "I want you clean and fresh so I can do what I want with you."

"And what exactly would that be my love?" As the copper-blond stripped the clothes off her body and stood in front of Xena, teasing her lover by running her hands over that small patch of down between her legs.

"I’ve been saving some body oils that I picked up awhile back," Xena cooed. " Tonight will be just the right time I think to give you a massage, don’t you think?"

The Bard turned her back on her lover, bent over touched her toes, giggled and jumped into the tub filled of hot water. There were soap and scented herbs next to the tub and in a flick of the candle’s flame; Xena was in the water with her.

They scrubbed each other pink and washed each other’s hair. Xena’s wound was tender but holding up well and when the bath was over, Gabrielle put on a small dressing to protect the area. The Warrior was a remarkable healer.

Gabrielle stood in front of Xena, as the woman she loved poured a small amount of oil on her hands and began rubbing it into the Bards shoulders. They stood face to face and although Gabrielle wanted to embrace Xena, the Warrior commanded her to wait. Xena continued down the Bards torso, working the oil into her ribcage, then moving up front to her young, firm breasts. The Bards nipples went erect at the first touch and Xena worked them both with her thumbs and index fingers. More oil to the hands and Gabrielle’s eyes were closed in anticipation as she rocked back and forth to a melody in her head.

More oil on each thigh and slow hands down the back of each leg got a chilled reaction. Xena knelt and rubbed the oil into her lover’s stomach and across the top of her mound.

"Oh Xena!"

Xena stood again and slipped two fingers over the folds of the Bards passion, working ever so slowly into that private place. Gabrielle spread her legs for easier access and the Warrior slipped both fingers into the hot, wet channel, causing a great gasp from her lover. The copper-blond moved slowly up and down on her loves fingers while Xena began to rub her thumb over the clitoris in small circles.

"Xena, I can’t stand anymore!" the Bard cried.

"I’ll stop then," Xena responded.

"No! I mean I can’t physically stand anymore! Let’s continue on the bed, my sweet."

Their intentions were to go slow but the height of their passion brought them to ravage each other. Climax came as a dream state of euphoric rushes to Gabrielle. A short rest brought the young lover up on her hands and knees. She let out a deep sound of hunger as her eyes feasted upon her prey. Her tongue was the weapon that she used in her attack and she ran it up the back of Xena’s leg. Slowly she kissed her lover where her leg ended and her buttocks began. Squeezing the Warriors cheeks, she returned some of the oil, sliding her hand between the soft flesh and inserting a finger into her soulmate’s passion. It begged to be licked and teased by the Bard’s tongue and she obliged her partner without hesitation. The attack was successful and the conquered was satisfied for the moment.

Sleep was deep and morning arrived late. So peaceful were the two that they decided to stay in the village at the request of the innkeeper. When they came down for breakfast he fell all over the Bard, dropping compliments after compliment on her storytelling.

"So what is it you want Mr. Innkeeper?" Gabrielle asked with a bit of arrogance, even though she knew the answer.

"Well, to be honest with you, business was so good last night and everyone was really taken by your stories of the Warrior Princess that they spread the word or I guess I did, that you would return tonight!"

"What do you think Xena? Should we stay a couple days and help this man’s income?"

The innkeeper stammered, "But of course you would stay at my establishment for nothing and the food and drink on me, as well! My name is Mitros and the people will tell you that I am an honorable man."

Xena nodded at the Bard and the Bard turned to the innkeeper, smiled and all were in agreement.

"Gabrielle….you will have to wait for the sea you know," Xena said with slight concern.

"As long as were together my love, I am happy and complete. This will give us something to look forward to and the extra dinars might come in handy."

The next few days were pleasant for the two lovers. They walked the village streets by day, working their way through the many shops. They even picked out a few things to make life on the road a bit more pleasant. Shopkeepers would say hello and remark on the stories Gabrielle had shared the night before, telling her how much they enjoyed listening to them.

The Warrior was happy and her countenance changed, for the pressures of the road and the dangers it held were not with her right now. She was able to relax and enjoy life at a new level with someone she trusted with her life.

Ah! It’s a beautiful day! She thought. I could go for a lifetime of these with my Bard.

The early evenings were spent with the Warrior stretching Argo’s legs on short runs along one of the village roads. Treating the horse to a brushing at the stable, she would feed and water the animal and bed her horse down for the night. She would return in time to listen to the Bard share their adventures with the evening crowd, telling tales of the Amazons or of those evil confrontations with Caesar and the Roman army. Sometimes the tales were light and funny, regarding their friend Joxer the Mighty or Autolycus, The King of Thieves and other times were about warlords that needed to be put in their place.

The time passed quickly as does time well spent and the Warrior and her companion were preparing for their trip to the sea. The events that proceeded their pleasant time seemed to involve two entirely different people.

Gabrielle walked into the inn with flowers in her hair and a smile across her face. It was time to go and although the innkeeper begged, the Bard declined as the Warrior lifted the corner of her lip in the direction of the groveling businessman.

The companions headed out of the village and down to the coast where Xena had made arrangements with the village blacksmith to rent a small cabin for ten days. He gave her the directions and commented that if she went too far she’d be swimming!

They arrived at the cabin by mid afternoon and the Bard broke into a dance on the steps shouting, "Yes!"

The hypnotic sound of the waves caressing the shore brought a feeling of peace to both women. They knew that they had time to themselves and Gabrielle asked for the gods to grant them fair weather for their entire stay. They stood on the steps and scanned the shoreline from left to right. Mammoth rocks jutted out of the water and were strewn about the endless beach as if Poseidon had cast them around with the wave of his arm.

Wagon ruts that ran up to the front of the cabin showed the couple that the blacksmith was an honorable man and a man of his word. Supplies had been delivered the previous day, as he and Xena had agreed on. Gabrielle put together a pretty extensive list of foods, wine, tea and a variety of goodies. There were soaps, oils, herbs and candles. There were things the Bard forgot she asked for but that was just fine because this was their renewal, their time.

Xena opened the door and a pleasant look appeared on both of their faces as they peered inside. This was to be a home for them and they would share it for a third of a moon.

Xena thought, this is magical. It is perfect, well, almost perfect.

"It’s nice Xena! Don’t you think? …. Maybe a little manly but the blacksmith is a bachelor, right?" chortled the Bard. "Could use something on the windows, some paintings, some sweet smelling herbs to air it out a little. A touch here, a touch there….hey?"

Xena rolled her eyes toward the gods and shook her head, then grabbed the Bard and gave her a big kiss and a hug. "I think its nice, love." Xena sighed.

They looked around and found a ladder that led to a very neat loft which was going to be their bedroom. They both climbed up to examine the "nest" as Gabrielle so named it. They both found it to be very cozy. "A perfect place to make love and even sleep now and then, " the Bard exclaimed.

"Xeeenaaa," the young lover called seductively.

"Not now girl! I have to take care of Argo. First things first you know! …Looked like there was a single stall attached to the side of the cabin. I’ll go out and get her set up for the night and maybe you can find us a meal and then……." A wide smile and a wink were on Xena’s face as she walked out the door.

Dinner was smoked fish and cheese, muffins and some fresh picked cherries for dessert. Gabrielle topped it off with some lemon peal tea and sweetened it with honey. After the meal the Warrior and her lover walked to the shore. The two of them waded in the water and decided they might as well toss their tunics on the shore and take a short swim. Feeling much cooler and fresher after the days journey they sat on the beach and watched the sun kiss the sea, as the day made way for the night. They stayed awhile and counted stars, finally following the light of the fire that Xena had built before they walked to the water and returned to the cabin.

Xena took her treasure by the hand and walked her to the middle of the room. "Take off your tunic so I can get a good look at you, my Bard," she whispered softly.

Gabrielle responded without a sound, never taking her eyes from Xena’s eyes was soon naked and ready for whatever the night held in store for her.

Xena then said, "Watch me…." And began to pull her tunic up slowly and purposely. Once she was all flesh, she began to arc her back as she touched her heated center causing the precious fluid to run, not only from her but from her lover who waited in a state of sexual torment only several feet away. "Come to me my Gabrielle and quench my thirst for your touch," she said as she enticed her young lover to the well.

Gabrielle moved down on Xena and nestled her tongue into the Warrior as Xena leaned back on the table in the room. The Warrior raised her leg up on the chair so that the Bard could enter easily and she did with wanton hunger. First, she inserted one finger into the Warrior as Gabrielle stood to suck on an erect nipple. She rolled it between her teeth and then tried to suck the whole breast into her mouth. Xena gasped for air as the second finger probed the burning folds and drove deep causing tremors to begin.

"GABRIELLE! AHH! Yes my love…. YES! Mmmmmm! Sooo good……."

Xena met the gods for a moment, then returned to them and finally collapsed on the floor of the cabin in a fevered sweat.

"Give me a moment."

Gabrielle just smiled wickedly and said, "OK. but just a moment."

The two lovers brought each other to new heights throughout the night, expressing to each other how much they were in love.

//////////////////////////////

The sound of the waves crashing against the rocks caused Xena to open her eyes and yawn. She looked over at her lover and studied the contours of her face. The blanket was half off of her body and Xena ran a finger around one nipple and watched it rise to the touch. She leaned over and kissed the bard on the cheek and decided to get up and do the breakfast thing.

Maybe just some jerky and water, she thought. That would only piss her off and she laughed to herself.

Xena heated some water and made a soothing herbal tea that was mixed by the proprietor of the store where most of the supplies had been purchased. She also did some breakfast rolls, figuring that the aroma would get Gabrielle to separate bed from Bard. The idea worked it’s magic and she heard her partner stretch and moan softly saying, "Xena? Where are you?"

"I’m here love." Xena replied and the Bard hung her head over the edge of the loft and smiled. "Good mornin"

"Good morning, back at cha!" laughed Xena.

"Listen girl, come down and join me for tea and a roll. Then I want to check…."

"I know, Xena. Check on Argo." Countered Gabrielle.

"Yes! Then I want to do some stretches and try running on the beach to loosen myself up. We sat around for almost five days in Karista and now that we are here I need regain my edge. Don’t want to get caught being soft," Xena said in her Warrior tone.

"But Xena, I like you soft," the Bard cooed and she came down the ladder.

"Yea! I like you too and ALL of your soft places, which I’ll visit later today," the Warrior countered.

"Be back in a candlemark or so," and the Warrior bounded out the door.

The sun was low on the horizon and it was going to be a beautiful day. Xena walked around the side of the cabin that held the slant roof stable and open the door to be greeted by her old friend, Argo.

"Good morning girl! How was your night?" Let me get you some fresh water and she grabbed a bucket and walked a short way behind the cabin to a fast running stream that probably originated from Mount Ossa. The air was filled with the sound of songbirds and Xena sighed to herself and felt a feeling of contentment for the first time in many moons.

The Warrior finished feeding Argo with a half of bucket of oats and some fresh hay. Xena brushed the animal for a few minutes as a gesture of friendship more than of grooming and said, "I’ll be back later girl and give you a run before the sun is straight up."

She left the stable and placed her armor on the steps of the cabin with her sword and Chakram. Looked both ways up and down the beach and broke into a run and a forward flip, continuing to run down the coastline. Xena knew she had to stay in top shape. It was imperative in her line of work.

The view was beautiful as she made her way around boulders and outcroppings of giant rock formations. The sand was fairly firm between the water and where it remained dry so her pace was steady. It felt good to feel the slight burning in her lungs and she also realized that her thigh was showing no discomfort at all.

//////////////////////////////

Gabrielle cleaned up the cups and tidied the cabin, humming as she did her chores. She kneaded some dough and let it sit for later when she would bake some bread. She wanted to write but first a trip to the water edge and a quick dip in the sea was on her silent agenda as she hummed another tune. She looked in the corner and there in a leather bag were eight new scrolls, ink and quill. The Bard had her weapons and was ready for battle as soon as she returned from her dip in the water.

She closed the cabin door and headed down to the waters edge thinking, what to write, what to write….

Hope Xena’s not too long….

As Gabrielle reached the waters edge she never felt the eyes that were watching her. The saliva dripped off of its teeth in anticipation of sinking them into her flesh. The beast sat patiently just behind the cabin, on a sandy knoll with its eyes glazed in a permanent stare. The mission was death and it would not be denied.

//////////////////////////////

Xena made the turn and started heading back toward the cabin. As she did she moved away from the water edge and ran along higher ground where the sand was soft and created more resistance. This was tuff running but gave her the edge she needed in battle. After a quarter candlemark or so, she moved toward the water again and zig zagged through the rock formations on the shore.

That’s when she saw the tracks.

Death stalks forever…Xena mouthed silently.

"Oh my gods! Gabrielle!" Xena cried out.

The warrior knew her love was in danger and her tools of destruction were at the cabin. She ran as quick as she could and headed away from the beach to the underbrush that separated the land from sea. She came out along the backside of the cabin and heard Argo’s commotion, then saw the tracks of the wolf again. Fear covered her face as she screamed, "GABRIELLE! Stay in the cabin!"

She thought she her the Bard cry out as she rounded the structure and stopped fast in her tracks. The beast was walking toward the Bard and she was standing frozen in her tracks. She had finished her swim and after donning on her tunic the animal came down from its watch to kill her.

Xena only had time to grab the Chakram and ran full speed toward her love. The wolf was twenty feet, ten feet, six feet from its mark and sprung into the air, mouth open and anticipating the soft flesh of Gabrielle’s throat. Xena flew into the air and threw her weapon thinking…. Fly true

The Chakram sunk into the side of the beast’s head and it fell at Gabrielle’s feet. The Bard was shaking but was unharmed. It was the last wolf that had taunted the two of them in the road. This terrible weapon of evil had failed. It seemed so long ago when they encountered the beast and its companions. Had they both been made to forget the threat? By the gods! This was a possibility but they could have been distracted too by the level of love that they had been experiencing with each other. No matter, both were safe once again and whatever looked over the Warrior and the Bard had prevailed.

Somewhere in the darkest of darks, Dahak sat defeated momentarily.

The lovers wrapped an arm around each other and headed back to the cabin, returning to the pleasures of each other. The future was theirs.

 

 

The End


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