Characters Xena, Gabrielle and some others are legal property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No infringement of these rights is meant with this story.
This story includes some violence, possibly some subtext and love/sexual relationship
between to adult consenting women. If this offends you or you are under 18, you have been
This story is a sequel to 'Of Love and Hate' and
begins right after that. If you haven't read that, I highly recommend that you do so
because this story refers to it especially in the beginning.
Thanks to Garnet for beta reading.
Gabrielle watched the sleeping figure next to her. Xena rested peacefully, thanks to the herbs that the bard had used to spice up the warriors drink and make sure she would not wake up that night. Gabrielle felt awful about drugging her lover like that but if Xena woke up, she would prevent her doing what she was going to do.
She had done most of the packing during daytime, when the warrior had been out of the way. She pulled a sack under the bed and placed it on the table. She took off her tunic and put on her new leathers and the light armor that came with it. Next to her staff was the sword that she had gotten from Dahak. Her blood boiled when she thought about the evil god. You got off too easy, when Xena killed you, you bastard!
She took a quill, ink and a peace of parchment and sat down by the table. A single tear ran down her cheek when she wrote the first words.
When she was finished, she folded the parchment neatly and left it on the table. She walked slowly to the bed and leaned over the sleeping warrior. Her lips touched gently the dark haired womans forehead. "Good bye, Xena," she whispered. "I love you."
She took her things and left the queens cabin. She walked through the sleeping Amazon village. The moon was shining from the cloudless sky and the village was bathing in its pale light. She entered the stables. Argo snorted in recognition when she saw the bard come in.
"Hi, girl," Gabrielle said to the golden mare. At that moment, uncertainty hit her. She did not really want to do this but she knew she didnt have a choice. She shook her head and took a saddle from the wall. She put the saddle on a brown stallions back. Riding a horse was something that she normally tried to avoid as much as possible but now it was essential that she would get a good head start.
Moment later, she mounted the stallion and rode into the night.
The first rays of light greeted the raven haired warrior. Her head was pounding and her mouth tasted like a cat had pooped right into it. Ouch! I guess I had a couple of mugs too many, last night.
She realized that Gabrielle wasn't cuddled on her lap like she usually was. She looked around the cabin and saw no sign of the honey haired bard. Her tunic that she had worn last night was folded on a chair.
Now she started to feel a little worried. Gabrielle usually slept long if there was no reason to wake up early. She stood up slowly and rubbed her temples. She looked out of the window. The whole village was still asleep. She turned around and saw the folded peace of parchment. She unfolded it and recognized the bard's handwriting.
My dear Xena,
It has never been so hard to me to put words on a piece of parchment than it is now. I hoped that I never would have to write these words but I see now that I have no alternative.
By the time you read this letter, I am gone. I had to drug you so that you would not wake up in the night to stop me from leaving.
During the time we have spent here in the village, I have realized that the Gabrielle, we both knew has died. She died on that hill, on the night we fought against each other and I nearly killed you. With her died the innocence that I still had left.
The darkness is now and always will be a part of me. I have to come in terms with that and that is the reason why I'm leaving. You have forgiven me but I'm not worthy of your forgiveness before I have forgiven myself. I am off to search my own redemption, hoping that I will find it someday.
I love you. Words aren't enough to describe the love I feel for you. My heart hurts knowing how much reading these words must hurt you. Believe me, if there were any other way, I would have used it.
Ephiny doesn't know any more than you do. I have left her instructions for the time of my absence. I can't prevent you from coming after me. I would do the same thing if I was in your position but finding me won't be easy. Dahak's spell might have woken my dark side but it also gave me some new skills. I know how to cover my tracks, now.
I can't ask you to understand why I did this. I want you to know that I love you and nothing can change that. I hope that someday I will be able to be part of your life, if you'll still have me.
Yours with love,
Xena read the letter twice before she raised her eyes from the text. She dropped onto her knees. You stupid, stupid girl! What have you done? Tears ran on her face and her heart felt like it had been stabbed.
After a while, her cold logic took over and she started thinking. Gabrielle couldn't have more than five or six hour's head start. It was a long shot but she had to try.
Ephiny ran towards the queen's hut, holding the piece of parchment that she had found from her cabin door. She entered the cabin without knocking, only to find out that both their queen and the warrior were gone.
Cyrene looked out of the window and watched the drops hit the glass. It had rained all day and there seemed to be no end to that. It was an early evening but it was already dark. She returned to the tavern that was quite crowded, mostly merchants and a couple of soldiers. Business had been good during the last weeks. Any other time she would have been glad but this time it was calm before the storm.
Word had reached them that Parseus; a ruthless warlord had mobilized his army and was wreaking havoc in the neighboring provinces. He was now heading towards Amphipolis and his troops were less than two weeks away from here. Most of the merchants were coming from the cities that had already been attacked by the warlord and they were not planning to stay here much longer. Parseus' scouts had already been spotted in the surrounding villages that were only a couple of days away.
Cyrene looked at the dark haired woman, who was standing behind the bar desk and serving drinks. The cool indifferent look on her daughter's face still made her heart hurt although that had been her regular expression for some time now.
Xena felt her mother's eyes on her but she ignored that. She did not care about a lot of things nowadays. She had stopped caring a long time ago. Before that, there had been only one thing that she had cared about.
It was almost a year now. She remembered how she had left the Amazon village. Her only thought had been finding the bard who meant everything to her. The outer sentries had been able to give her the general direction but after that she had lost the track. She had visited the neighboring villages but no one had seen the bard.
The next couple of months had been a wild goose chase. She had heard rumors about a blond warrior helping some village or town that was in despair. She had gone to those places, only to find that the warrior in question was already gone. Xena knew that the warrior could not have been anyone else than Gabrielle.
Xena had realized that catching the bard when she was on the move had proven to be impossible so she had headed for Amphipolis. She would wait there and help her mother. Gabrielle would find her when she felt she could face her.
Few months had gone by and there was still no word from the bard. Only rumors and stories about the blond warrior. Little by little, Xena had given up hope. Once again her heart had started building up defenses and this time she had sworn, she would never let those defenses down again.
She had stayed with her mother, helping out with the inn. She had lost interest in the outside world. She just didn't care. When the first rumors about Parseus' conquests had come, Cyrene had asked her if she was going to help those people.
"My warrior days are over, mother. I've given that up," she had said.
"But those people out there need help," the older woman had tried to turn her head.
"It's none of my concern. Besides, I'm only one person, what could I do?"
"You have an effect on people. You could give hope to them." Cyrene had looked into her daughter's eyes, but she had seen no emotion in them.
"Like I said, it's none of my concern." Xena had turned away from her mother, ending the conversation.
Even she could not ignore the latest news. If Parseus' army were heading this way, she knew she would have to participate on defending the town, even if she didn't want to. She knew that her mother would bring the subject up sooner or later.
She was distracted from her thoughts when the door opened. A man wearing a wet cloak was standing in the doorway. He closed the door behind him and took a seat from an empty table. He put his cloak on a chair next to him. His clothing was quite different from the general style. Xena remembered having seen the same kind of clothing in Chin. The dark blue silk of his coat was shining in the light of the lamps. He made a mild gesture at the dark woman.
Xena walked to him. "What will you have? Port, Ale?" She asked.
"Tea, please," the man replied with a polite tone.
The warrior was a bit surprised about the unusual request but she merely nodded and walked towards the kitchen. She stopped when she heard the mocking words from another table.
"Tea? What are you, some kind of sissy boy with all your fancy clothing and all?" One of the soldiers said in a drunken tone.
"I have no quarrel with you. I seek no trouble," the man said silently.
"Oh yeah? Well, maybe trouble is seeking you." The soldier stood up and approached the man who remained seated.
"Please, I do not wish to fight you."
"Well, in that case I'm going to make you lick my boots clean, sissy boy," the soldier said with an evil grin.
Xena was going to interfere when she saw the man grab the reached arm, pull him closer. Then a stroke of fist, faster than the eye could see, made the soldier fold down in pain. Another hit in the jaw send the soldier unconscious on the floor.
The other soldiers stood up and reached for their weapons. The stranger pulled his own sword under the cloak and unsheathed it.
"You're dead meat, sissy boy!" One of the soldiers yelled.
The stranger prepared for the attack when he felt someone's presence next to him.
"Need any help?" Xena asked him.
"Thank you," he replied as they blocked the first hits.
Xena was unarmed but she easily avoided the swing of a sword. A kick in the groins disabled the bully. Next to her, the stranger cut his opponent's blade with his own. A knock from his hilt finished the job.
The dark warrior looked at the rest of the attackers with an icy glare. "You boys pick up your friends and get the Hades out of here. I won't ask twice." Her voice was low, almost growling.
The soldiers seemed to have lost their interest in the fight. They picked up their friends and stumbled out of the door.
The stranger turned to Xena and bowed slightly. "Thank you for your assistance. I'm sorry about the trouble I've caused."
"You're welcome," Xena answered briefly. "I'll bring you that tea, now." She walked to the kitchen.
Gabrielle looked at the darkening sky. It would rain soon. She had just arrived to the village in hope to get a room from the local inn. She left her stallion at the stables. It was funny how natural being on a horse had become to her. Maybe it was just practice, practice, practice. She smiled condescendingly.
She wiped the dust off her new armor. It had been a pricey one but it was much lighter than the old one. Besides, the old armor reminded her too much about Dahak. She had also changed her sword to a shorter and lighter one. The staff was still her primary weapon, so she didn't have much of a use for a heavy sword.
The weather reflected well her mood in general. She had spent the last year travelling from one place to another, helping people in need and trying to find redemption that way. That had not helped a lot. Besides, almost every day had been a fight against her darker emotions. It would have been so easy to give in to the darkness.
Was it like this for you, Xena? Gabrielle thought about the dark haired warrior. Probably. A tear ran down her cheek. Oh, Xena. I miss you so much. I would give anything to feel your strong arms around me, to hear your dark smooth voice, to be with you. Gabrielle knew that was hardly possible, now. She had been away too long. She couldn't go back.
Gabrielle came to the market place. She saw half a dozen soldiers browsing around the booths. They appeared to be Parseus' men by the colors they wore. Gabrielle had run into them a couple of times in the villages she had visited. Those times had not been very pleasant, at least for Parseus' men. Gabrielle didn't want any trouble this time so she decided to circle the market place. The noises from one booth made her change her mind. The soldiers had started to break down the booths. Gabrielle sighed deeply and walked towards the mob.
"That's no way to treat someone's property." The soldiers turned to look at the source of the deep voice. "Why don't you run along now, boys, because I'm in no mood to play with you."
"But what if we want to play with you, little lady?" One of the soldiers said and approached the blond woman. The other followed him.
Gabrielle readied her staff when the men surrounded her in a half circle. "So you want it the hard way. Takes more time, but that's okay with me," she said with an evil grin.
Their leader made the first attempt but was stopped by a hit into his jaw from Gabrielle's staff. Two of them tired to approach her from both sides but she leveled her staff and made two swift strokes on both directions, stopping them both for a while.
Gabrielle felt the sensation that had become so familiar to her during the last year beginning to rise. It was her blood lust. Her instincts became more primal. She was one with her staff. She could sense everything that was going on around her. The woman was gone. There was only a cold-blooded warrior. A low growl came up her throat.
The soldiers did not know what hit them. Every blow from the wooden staff hit its target. Every punch, every kick resulted in soldiers lying on the ground or staggering half-consciously nearby. They soon realized that this wasn't their day. They all retreated from the opening, except for one that the bard had against the wall.
Gabrielle could see the terror in the man's eyes when she slowly lifted her staff and pressed it firmly against his throat. Kill! Kill! She stared him with cold green eyes when he started to gasp and his eyes turned upside down. Kill!
"Gabrielle?" A familiar voice distracted her and she realized that she was trying to strangle the defenseless man. Great Artemis! What am I doing? She loosened her grip and sent the horrified man away. I was going to kill him. She shivered from the thought and her feet felt loose. It was not that she hadn't done it before. She had been in situations where she had had to take someone's life in order to save another or herself. Never had she been so close to kill someone just for bloodlust. She breathed deep and tried to calm her pounding heart.
"Gabrielle!" This time she turned to look at the person who was talking to her. "Gabrielle, is that really you?"
"Yes, Salmoneus. It's me," she said to the bearded merchant. "It's good to see you." She gave him a warm hug.
"I'm glad to see you too. You sure took care of those goons," the merchant said with a wide smile on his face.
"Yeah, I guess I did." Gabrielle wondered if Salmoneus had realized what she was trying to do. "So what takes you up here?" She changed the topic.
"Well business, as usual. I've done pretty well since there's not much competition. Most of the merchants have already left this place. I guess I'd better get moving too," the merchant said. "Say, where's the tall, dark and dangerous?" Salmoneus asked, referring to Xena.
"We- we don't travel together anymore," Gabrielle said with a silent tone.
"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that." Salmoneus could see that the bard was miserable. "You want to talk about it?" He offered.
"No, not really," Gabrielle said.
Salmoneus started to pick up his merchandise from the ground. "I'll better start packing so that I can leave the first thing in the morning."
"Where are you heading?" The bard asked.
"To Amphipolis. Have to bring them the latest news. Say, you care to join me? I could use some company."
"I- I don't know." Gabrielle hesitated when she heard the destination.
"Come on! I've heard that they're gathering troops in there to stop Parseus. They could use someone like you."
Gabrielle thought about that. It was most likely that Xena would be there. Could she face her after all this time? She also knew that she should help those people there. She cared much about some of those people. Maybe it was time to face her fears.
"Very well, then. I'll meet you at the stables by sunrise." She waved him and headed towards the inn.
Most of the customers had already left so Xena thought it was time to call it a day. "I'll close up, mother so you go ahead," she said to Cyrene.
"Good night, Xena," the older woman replied.
Xena looked at the bar. Only the stranger was still sitting at the table. He looked a bit uncertain about what to do next.
"We're closing," the warrior said to him.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know it was so late." The stranger's politeness started to annoy Xena. "May I inquire if there are any rooms available at your inn?"
"Yes, you may and yes, there are. If you'll wait a moment, I'll go and prepare the room for you." Xena took the dishes from the table. "Nice sword you got there," she complimented.
"Thank you, it was a gift." The stranger smiled.
"The name's Xena, by the way." The warrior offered her hand.
"Shiro." He bowed.
"Okay I'll go and fix that room, now." Xena withdrew her hand back a bit embarrassed.
She observed him with a sidelong glance. His clothing and manners were like the people she had met in Chin. But his figures were not Oriental. The dusty brown hair, strong jaw and the gray eyes revealed him to be from the north.
Gabrielle stood alone in the opening. Smoke rose slowly from the ruins. She could still feel the heat from the burnt houses. She smelled the smoke and burnt flesh. There were bodies everywhere. This place looked awkwardly familiar. She just couldn't tell why. She walked to one of the half-burnt bodies and turned it other way round. Ephiny's eyes stared at her lifelessly. Gabrielle stepped back in shock.
"Gods! Ephiny! Nooo!" She looked at her friend's bruised body. She walked around recognized more dead Amazons. "What has happened here?" She asked in agony.
"You did, Gabrielle," dark, husky voice behind her said.
Gabrielle turned around and saw the familiar figure of the dark haired warrior appear from the smoke. "Xena?" The bard asked.
"This is what happens when you can't control your dark side." Xena continued ignoring the bard's question. "Those who love and trust you, pay the consequences."
"But, how " Gabrielle mumbled.
"Look at your sword!" Xena said with a harsh tone.
The bard glanced at her sword. The blade was stained from the fresh blood that was still dripping from the edge. "No, no, no, this can't be happening!" Gabrielle shouted.
"But it is and it's time for you to pay for your crimes." Xena unsheathed her sword.
The bard tried to move her body but her muscles refused to work. She could only watch as the warrior prepared for the hit
"NOOOO!" Gabrielle opened her eyes and became aware of her surroundings. She was in a small room, in a narrow bed. Her hair was wet from the cold sweat. She let out a long sigh. This wasn't the first time she had had the same nightmare but it still was as horrifying.
She stood up and looked out from the window. The sky was gray and the ground was still moist from the nightly rain. Gods! It's dawn already!
Half a candlemark later she was at the stables, where Salmoneus was already waiting.
"Good morning! I was beginning to give up on you," the merchant greeted with a smile.
"Sorry, I overslept," Gabrielle answered. "I'll just saddle up and we'll be on our way."
Shiro stepped inside the tavern. No other customers were present but the older woman was already behind the desk.
"Good morning!" She greeted. "Did you sleep well?"
"Quite well, thank you. I assume that you are the proprietor of this fine establishment?" Shiro asked.
"That's right. Cyrene's the name. I'm Xena's mother. Shiro, wasn't it?" Cyrene had overheard the man's name last night.
"Yes. I could not help noticing last night that your daughter is quite an expert at martial arts." Shiro sat by the bar desk. "She would make an excellent warrior."
Cyrene sighed. "Xena used to be a warrior. She has given up that." There was no point in telling the whole story to this stranger. "A pity, though. Amphipolis is under a threat of an attack. We could use every possible hand that we can get."
Shiro looked at the old woman. He sensed that there was more than she would tell him. Then he thought about the fore coming threat. On his way, he had heard rumors about this warlord and his army. He had also heard that volunteers were gathering to Amphipolis to make resistance. The way he looked at it, the forces here did not have a chance against that army. Karma, he thought.
"I would like to offer my meager skills as a warrior to this town," he said without hesitation.
Cyrene looked peculiarly at the man on the other side of the desk. Meager? Cyrene had watched him to handle those soldiers last night. Now there is a modest man if I've ever seen one.
"Thank you, we truly appreciate it," she said instead.
Xena was at her quarters. She was standing in front of an open chest. She looked at her brass armor and her dark brown leathers that were neatly folded inside. Her sword and her chakram were hanging from the wall over the chest. She turned to look at the items that were next to her armor and leathers. There were several scrolls of parchment and a couple quills with a forest green top and a brown wrap-around skirt. She took the top in her hands. The material felt soft in her hands and a familiar scent reached her nose. Gabrielle, why did you leave? Why didn't you let me help you like you always helped me? Why didn't you let me be there for you? Why didn't you let me love you?
Somebody knocked on her door. She quickly folded the top inside and closed the chest. "Yes?" She asked.
Cyrene stepped inside. "The town council is downstairs. They want to talk to you," she said to her daughter.
"If it's about taking the lead of the forces that are going to defend Amphipolis, you can tell them that I'm not interested," Xena answered.
"But you know, we all know that you're the best for that job." Cyrene tried to object.
"And we both know that bunch doesn't stand a chance against Parseus' army. It'll be a slaughter and I'm not going to take the blame for that!"
"But they need someone like you to give them hope!"
"I don't want to give any false hopes."
"I really think you should consider this. Even Shiro has offered to help." Cyrene began to lose her patience.
"It's his choice! I make my own choices in life!" Xena's blue eyes flashed.
One of the townsmen interrupted their quarrel. "What is it?" Cyrene asked with a rude tone.
"You'd better come downstairs," he said.
They followed him down and outside where some of the town people had gathered around a group of athletic women dressed in leathers and feathered masks. Xena recognized some of the Amazons. She walked to one of them. "Hello, Eponin," she said to the Amazon weapons master.
"It's good to see you, Xena," the Amazon answered. "I have a letter for you from Ephiny." She handed a parchment to the warrior who opened it.
With this letter I send you my best regards and this group of Amazons that have volunteered to help to protect Amphipolis from the threat that Parseus is causing. I know that Gabrielle would have wanted it this way and so do I.
I wish that I could have joined to fight side by side with you, or that I could have spared more warriors. Unfortunately, I have my duties as the acting queen and one of them is to prepare my people for the possibility that Parseus decides to attack the Amazons.
I wish you best of luck.
Xena folded the piece of parchment and handed it to her mother. She walked inside without saying a word. Eponin gave a questioning look to Cyrene.
"Forgive my daughter. She has been like that for a while, now," Cyrene said to Eponin.
"So she still hasn't heard from Gabrielle." Eponin said. She was aware about the circumstances where their queen and the warrior had separated. They hadn't got any word from the bard, either. She could see that Xena hadn't got over it yet. I wonder where Gabrielle is now?
Cyrene read the letter and smiled. "We are glad that you could come to us in this moment of despair. I hope I get the chance to thank Ephiny personally."
"It was the least we could do. Our nation is in great debt to your daughter," Eponin said.
"Yes, my daughter, who is so deep in her self-pity that she doesn't give a damn what is going on around her. I wonder " Her sentence was interrupted when everyone's glance turned at the door. She turned and saw her daughter standing there in her leathers and battle armor; the chakram tied on her belt and the sword in its scabbard.
"Okay, for now on, everyone does exactly as I tell. No arguing," Xena said with a firm voice. "This is not going to be easy so everybody must cooperate. Any questions, no? Okay, let's get to work."
Continued in part 2
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