KIND OF RIFT
As Gabrielle stared into the burial pyre her mind was numb as her thoughts turned to the days events. In one swift moment all that she knew and believed had been shaken to it's very core. She remembered passing the prisoner who was kneeling, weary and broken when he spoke of Cesar. Then in an instant Xena was standing before him and faster then she could believe possible Xena thrust her sword in the prisoners chest and with such brutal force and drove the sword all the way through his body. Never before had she seen Xena kill with such hatred and malice. Then as if Xena had been doing some casual chore she pulled the sword from the dead man and wiped her blade. So shocked by her friend's actions she could not utter a word.
Then Xena proceeded to approach the stunned guard and stated that the rebel had asked for it by defiling Cesar, the frightened guard quickly agreed with her. Gabrielle seem to loose track of their conversation and had just began to gather her wits when Xena approached her and explained that she was going to accompany the guards to insure the prisoners were delivered without further incident to Cesar. Gabrielle remembered pulling Xena aside and begging her to explain what was happening but Xena only stated that this was something that she had to do. Xena was so cold, wearing her warrior mask as she told Gabrielle not to ask any questions and demanded that she not follow. Xena insisted that she take Argo since the guards were on foot and then suggested that Gabrielle go to the Amazon Nation.
In shock Gabrielle watched as her best friend followed the guards without as much as a goodbye. There she was standing in the glade with the bloody corpse as a reminder that this was not a nightmare. Gabrielle looked upon the deadman in utter despair. What had this poor soul done to deserve such a horrible end and at the hands of her dearest friend. Vaguely she remembered gathering the wood for the pyre then awkwardly placing the body on top and starting the fire.
As Gabrielle drifted from her musings she became aware of someone approaching. Grasping her staff a little tighter she turned toward the sound. Out of the darkness a familiar figure made it way into the light of the fire. "Solari!!" Gabrielle cried.
"Queen Gabrielle!" Solari replied with a smile. "What are you doing out here?" Her eyes searching the area she asked, "Where's Xena?" Then suddenly realizing the burial pyre she grew concerned and exclaimed "Not Xena!" directing her eyes to the fire.
"NO! no!" Gabrielle replied with tension in her voice.
"Oh thank the gods you had me worried there for a minute." Solari stated with a loud sigh.
"So where is Xena and who was this poor soul." Solari inquired with sympathy in her voice.
Gabrielle couldn't find the words. Solari seeing her distress quickly approached her. As she came within arms length Gabrielle embraced her friend holding on as if she were her only anchor in her stormy sea of emotion. "Shh shh, whatever it is I'm sure it will be all right." Solari said quietly.
"Oh Solari I don't think anything will ever be all right again." Gabrielle whispered.
"Calm down." Slowly Solari guided the bard to sit on a log that was close by. Carefully Solari eased Gabrielle away from her taking in the bard trying to determine her physical condition.
Calming, with a sigh Gabrielle asked Solari what she was doing out in this area. "Well the Amazons just completed a trade agreement with a local village and I was sent to deliver the signed agreement to the village. I was just heading back when I spotted the flames and decided to check it out. Now tell what has happened to upset you so."
As the pyre continued to blaze and lighted the glade Gabrielle spoke of the recent events. She was once again overwhelmed with the fact that Xena had left her. "I don't understand why Xena did this. Why she left me? None of this makes any sense. Why would she go to join Cesar?" Gabrielle stated with frustration and distress. "I would not have believed it if I had not seen it myself. Solari, she killed that man in cold blood, I..I have never seen her like that." "Xena must be doing this for a reason." Gabrielle said as she desperately tried to justify Xena's actions to Solari as well as herself. "I have never known her to do anything like this since her Warlord days. I can't believe that she has returned to those ways. Not after all we have been through." Gabrielle stated as she looked at the pyre as if to confirm this was really happening.
Taking in all that Gabrielle described Solari spoke "Well Gabrielle if what you say is true and if for some reason she has gone back to her Warlord ways and intends to join Cesar, there will be no stopping her once she reaches his army."
"I don't know what to do." Gabrielle stated with deep emotion. Gabrielle was so confused and shattered she just wanted to go to sleep so that she could wake to find this was only a terrible nightmare and that Xena was really in a peaceful sleep by her.
Interrupting her thoughts Solari placed her hand upon Gabrielle's taking in Gabrielle's weary face "Well Gabrielle all I know is that only you could help Xena and turn her away from her dark heart. She cares for you and I think that you would be the only one to reach her." Solari stated quietly realizing the battle of emotions the bard was going through.
"You're right. I can't let Xena down now. I need to find out why this is happening and help her to come back." The determination in the bard voice was unmistakable.
"Gabrielle you said that the guards said that these men were rebels against Cesar's army right?" Solari inquired.
"Yes, they were on their way back to Britannia for trial charged with conspiring with Bodacia." Gabrielle said remembering the guard's conversation.
"Well I would suggest that we first warn Bodacia that Xena has joined Cesar. I have heard of a merchant ship leaving for Britannia in the next couple of days. We could pay passage on the ship and hopefully arrive before Xena. The guards ship will probably not leave till the next shipment for supplies arrives giving us a few days headstart." Solari stated hopefully.
"That does sound like a plan Solari and riding Argo I can make it to the ship if I start out at dawn. I appreciate your offer to join me Solari but this is something that I have to do alone." Gabrielle stated firmly.
"Are you sure that is wise my Queen? I can have a dozen Amazons at the ship before it sails." Solari asked.
"No, I don't know what is happening or how Xena would react. I don't want Xena to have the blood of the Amazon on her hands. I can't take that chance." Gabrielle said with anguish in her voice.
"I understand Gabrielle at least let me stay with you till dawn so that you can get some sleep. Your journey will be long and you will need your rest."
"Thank you Solari." Gabrielle whispered. Solari embraced her friend and gave a sweet smile. "Anything for you my friend".
As they settled down to sleep a distance away from the pyre Solari looked to the fire and turned to Gabrielle and asked. "Do you know the man's name?"
"Yes, I stopped one of the guards and asked as they were leaving. He said the man's name was Khrafstar." Gabrielle said as she stared at the flames and she silently prayed for peace for this poor soul.
Gabrielle sleep was restless and dawn did not come quickly. As she rose she could smell the burning embers and looked to see that nothing much remained of the pyre. Taking a moment to gather her courage for the day she silently prayed that she could find Xena and that everything would be all right. Everything was happening so fast but thinking right now would do her no good and would only serve to tap into her churning emotions. Now was not the time for emotions she had to help Xena and only if she was in control could she do that. As she packed her bedroll Solari appeared from the trees with a couple of fish.
"Hungry? I thought you could use a good breakfast before you left." Solari stated her concern apparent in her voice.
"Thank you, fish sounds good." Gabrielle stated though she really did not have an appetite.
After they finished breakfast Gabrielle finished packing her things on Argo. Solari approached and embraced Gabrielle. "I wish you success on your journey my Queen."
"Thank you Solari, for everything." As Gabrielle handed Solari a scroll "I wrote this for Ephany please see that she gets it, and tell her not to worry." Gabrielle said with a slight smile.
"I will see that she gets it." Solari stated as Gabrielle mounted Argo. As Argo took a moment to adjust to her new rider Gabrielle could feel Argo's unease. She reached down and whispered to Argo "I know we don't always get along but this is for Xena." With that Argo nodded her head and eased her stance ready for her riders bidding. Nodding to Solari Gabrielle prodded Argo and started on their way.
Solari stood there watching the horse and her rider until she was through the trees. Then Solari looked down at the scroll that Gabrielle given her and suddenly the scroll burst into flames. Then a wicked smile eased onto her face and with a subtle wave Solari transformed into her true form, Discord. Smiling at a job well done she vanished from the glade.
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