General Copyright/Disclaimer:

Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated 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.

Love/Sex Disclaimer:

This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between women. Enough said!

It Takes An Amazon Village

by

In a forest covered by pine needles and ferns, a melancholy Warrior Princess poked the coals of the smoldering fire with her sword. I MISS GABRIELLE! Gabrielle had been visiting her family in Potadeia for a week and Xena thanked the gods that her soulmate would finally return to her in the morning. The rugged warrior was achingly reminded just how empty her life had been without Gabrielle’s precious love and she couldn’t bear the torment of another day without her. Hearing the rumbling of a distant volcano, Xena welcomed sleep, knowing the dark lonely night would end soon and deliver the day.

"Gabrielle, is that you?" mumbled a groggy Xena.

"Shhh…" Gabrielle slid behind her into bed.

"I wasn’t expecting you until morning. How did you sneak into bed without me hearing you?"

"Shhh..."

Xena felt Gabrielle’s body go limp. "Gabrielle?" Gabrielle had fallen asleep. Xena could hardly keep her eyes open as well and fell into a deep slumber.

When Xena awoke, she saw Gabrielle standing above her with a piercing stare, staff in hand. Xena did a double take. If Gabrielle was standing above her, then who was lying next to her?

"G…Gabrielle! How…Who?" Xena stammered.

"Exactly the questions I should be asking, don’t you think, Xena?" Then, both women stared at the stranger who awoke in Xena’s bed just at that moment.

"Who are you?" demanded Xena.

The young girl’s dark hair crept sexily across one eye as she lazily sat up and stretched slowly, as though she belonged there lying next to Xena. Gabrielle felt the sting of rage encompassing her entire being and hoped for an explanation that sounded even remotely logical. She waited for what seemed an eternity for an answer to spill from the girl’s lips.

"Morning, Xena," the dark-haired beauty said. "Did you sleep well?" Gabrielle grew even more impatient, while Xena appeared dazed and confused.

All at once, Xena gained her composure. "What in Hades is going on? I want to know who you are and what you’re doing here – and I want to know now!"

"Please don’t be upset Xena," the girl answered. "Look there…" She pointed to Gabrielle and added, "There’s someone else here with us. Shouldn’t you be concerned about who she is?"

Xena looked up and met Gabrielle’s wounded eyes. She went to get up but sheepishly observed that beneath the blanket, she was naked and so was the stranger.

Her heart beating out of her chest, Gabrielle screamed, "By the gods Xena, how could you?" Taking one last look, she ran away in disgust. She had to get away as fast as she could.

Ignoring the stranger, Xena covered herself with the blanket and ran after her devastated soulmate. "Gabrielle, this is not what it appears to be!"

"No, not this time, Xena. I suppose you’re going to tell me that is a Bacchae bite on your neck. I don’t care what you say - you betrayed me. Najara was right! She said that someday you would do something that even I couldn’t forgive, and this is it. I can’t bear the pain any longer - all I ever did was love you. I’m leaving for good and don’t try to stop me." Gabrielle kept up her hurried pace and the Warrior Princess was in hot pursuit.

"Still listening to that wacko are you? For the love of Aphrodite, what you saw is not real." Catching up with Gabrielle, she attempted to embrace her, but Gabrielle pushed her away and kept on running. "You know I could never betray you, I don’t know anymore about this than you do. You are a part of me, please don’t go."

The Amazon Queen stopped dead in her tracks, and looked the Warrior Princess point blank in the eyes, "Don’t you think you should have thought about that last night? Hiding behind a mask of deceit and lies has it consequences, Xena. You made your bed, now sleep in it without me!"

Tears streaming down her face, Xena watched her precious love disappear from sight. She returned to the campsite with bloodshed in her eyes, but the intruder was gone. Hurriedly, she broke camp and threw on her leathers. Jumping on Argo, she rode him like the wind to escape the consuming anger and immense pain. Nothing could help though. She saw Gabrielle’s wounded eyes everywhere and couldn’t run away from her tormented thoughts:

Fire can be a slave or a master,

a friend to warm by

or an enemy to be consumed by.

Damn the hellish fire! thought Xena.

 

 

From the moment they parted, Gabrielle thought of nothing but Xena and longed for her loving embrace. They had never been apart so long and Gabrielle had traveled all night to be with her companion.

Broken hearted, Gabrielle’s thoughts whirled so fast. She thought about their first kiss – hadn’t Xena conquered death for her? She thought about the first time they made love in Athens – perhaps Aphrodite had cast a spell on them that night? Xena had declared her love and promised she would never leave. Xena had promised to protect her and never let anyone hurt her. Yet, no one had ever hurt her more, no one had ever been so cruel.

Was forever just another word? She’ll never find anyone who loved her as much as I did. How could she throw our love away?

The hurt was greater than Gabrielle had ever known. Where would she find the strength to go on? Disoriented and devastated, she wearily collapsed onto the cold ground and cried, "By the gods, how could she?"

 

Worn out from the furious ride, a tired Argo stopped dead in his tracks. Xena attempted to push him on, but he had had enough and would not budge. It was time for Argo to rest and Xena to face a harsh reality.

I must focus, she thought. It was all such a blur, but she knew she had to piece together the mystery or risk loosing Gabrielle forever. Who was the stranger in her bed and how did she get there? Xena had many enemies – mortals and gods. It didn’t’ feel like Ares…Callisto…or Alti. Who in Hades was it?

She closed her swollen eyes and thought ardently about the preceding ghostly night. It had been eerily dark and desolate. She could recall Gabrielle sliding into bed, the smoldering fire, and the roar of a distant volcano. That’s all she could remember, but her instincts told her someone or something wanted to maker her suffer. Whoever did this knew that Xena’s ultimate torture was inflicting pain upon Gabrielle.

I will not accept defeat - I will learn the truth.

 

After a gut wrenching cry, Gabrielle sat up and thought about what to do next.

The Amazons! Ephiny! It’s only about a day’s walk. Gabrielle stood up and summoned the strength to go on.

Halfway into her journey, she observed a horse with rider a short distance away. Gabrielle had taken to carrying her staff again, sensing danger, she clutched it as the rider approached.

"Gabrielle, I knew our paths would cross again one day!" the rider said with an innocent and caring smile.

"Najara!" Holding her staff in attack mode, the Amazon Queen mumbled under her breath, "What kind of karma do I have going on today?"

"Please don’t fear me, Gabrielle. The Jinn told me you were in trouble and led me to you. I know you are in great pain, I can feel it as if it were my own, and I am here to tend to your wounds."

Totally robbed of all trust, Gabrielle didn’t know what to believe anymore, especially from Najara. "Najara, I can take care of myself, but you are welcome to travel with me a while." This time, it was Gabrielle who was lethargic and comatose.

As they walked in silence, Najara sensed that her genies were giving her another chance with Gabrielle, but would Gabrielle? Najara would make sure this time.

Oblivious to Najara’s presence, Gabrielle’s reluctant thoughts were of Xena - her powerful aura of attraction…her captivating beauty…her luminous and glowing skin…her hypnotic eyes…her seductive lips…

"Where are we headed, Gabrielle? Gabrielle?"

Awakened from her whimsical state, Gabrielle replied, "Tomorrow we will reach the Amazon Village."

"The Amazons?" Najara seemed puzzled.

"Yes, the Amazons. Don’t worry, Najara, you’ll fit right in."

"Why do you say that, Gabrielle? What could I possibly have in common with the Amazons? Did you know they are descendants of Ares?"

"They are noble warriors like yourself. Many nations are descendants of Ares, but the Amazons worship Artemis."

"Gabrielle, you know I snapped and strayed from the way of peace, but I’m back on the path and have put down my sword."

Gabrielle had heard that before and just wanted the dreadful night to end. "Najara, I’m tired, let’s camp here tonight."

"Good idea, I’ll start a fire and make us something to eat. You rest, you’ve had a rough day."

They ate in silence.

"I’m sorry, but I’m just not suitable company. Thanks for dinner, but I think I’m going to turn in. Goodnight, Najara."

Undressing deliberately slow, Najara glanced in Gabrielle’s direction. From the corner of her eye, she observed Gabrielle reach into her knapsack and pull out a piece of parchment. She watched as Gabrielle stared blankly at the scroll, then become increasingly agitated.

"Was it all just a game to her?" cried Gabrielle. Growing desperate, she tore up the scroll and feverishly cast it into the fire.

"Gabrielle, the Jinn has revealed to me the cause of your pain. Haven’t you learned by now that Xena acts so righteous, but she’s the biggest phony on the planet?

"Najara, I can’t begin to tell you how hurt and betrayed I feel."

"Gabrielle, unlike Xena, you have a heart and it’s been broken. She used you; she lied to you, and assaulted your spirit. She enjoys hurting you and I’m certain she shows no remorse. Your pain, however, shows your tremendous depth as a person, something that Xena couldn’t possibly know or understand."

Gabrielle was shocked by Najara’s candid disclosure. Yet, it’s what she wanted to hear. Gabrielle could no longer attempt to hide her feelings, Najara’s words unleashed a well of tears and she sought the solace of her embrace.

"My angel of the light, Xena pushed you off a dark cliff, but you will take wings and fly. Xena, however, will never see the light! I won’t let her or anyone hurt you ever again!"

Najara cradled Gabrielle in her arms through the dismal night until the morning light.

"My Queen…" echoed through the camp. One by one the Amazons bowed as Gabrielle and Najara entered the Amazon Village.

"Gabrielle, I know you said I would fit right in, but what’s going on here?"

"Obviously, the Jinn are not with you. Najara, I am the Queen of the…"

There was a tap on Gabrielle’s shoulder. Turning around she met Ephiny’s bright eyes. Ephiny knew something was wrong the instant she peered into Gabrielle’s wounded eyes. Attempting to take the attention off her Queen, Ephiny glanced curiously in the direction of her companion and Gabrielle followed suit.

"Ephiny, this is Najara. She has been travelling with me since yesterday." With the entire Amazon camp staring intently at her, Gabrielle knew she couldn’t keep up the fašade much longer. "Ephiny, it’s been a long journey, I’m tired and need to rest."

"We will ready the Queen’s Hut and one for Najara as well." Ephiny waved to the others and Najara was escorted away. Gabrielle dare not look at her.

As soon as they entered the hut, Ephiny didn’t even have a chance to ask Gabrielle what was wrong; she began to weep. Ephiny remembered a time when she would have thought Gabrielle weak for crying - Amazons just didn’t cry especially their Queen. Ephiny’s tough mask had been like a suit of armor - softened only by Gabrielle’s caring nature. She was sad to see her in such pain. She knew that Gabrielle and Xena shared a great love, even though they never spoke of it and knew Gabrielle’s pain was related to Xena. Knowing there was nothing she could say that would ease her suffering; she simply allowed her to cry and held her in her compassionate embrace.

Gabrielle felt safe in Ephiny’s arms, but how could she tell her what had happened? I have to tell someone! Gabrielle unleashed her heart and told Ephiny the dreadful truth.

"Ephiny, is forever just another word? How can I ever feel again?"

"Gabrielle, I suspect there is more to this than meets the eye. Xena would never betray you. She loves you more than life itself and is devoted to you. You were destined to be together forever. There is only one force that can interfere with destiny - the gods are at work here."

Had Gabrielle’s painful heart overshadowed her logic? Thoughts of the gods had never entered her awareness. She was bewildered but nonetheless, still confused, suspicious and distrusting.

"Gabrielle, you look exhausted. I’ll order you some food and a nice hot bath. Then, I order you to get some rest." It didn’t take an Amazon Village to figure out that Xena was on her way, and Ephiny wanted Gabrielle to be somewhat rested when she arrived.

"Thank you for taking such good care of me, Ephiny."

"You are my Queen." Ephiny gave her one last embrace and exited the hut.

Gabrielle ate sparingly, but the hot bath was just what the healer ordered. Ephiny had brewed a special tea to help her sleep and it was having a calming effect. She closed her eyes, laid back and allowed the warm water to soothe her aching body.

Helpless to them, her thoughts were once again of Xena and happier times – their first kiss under the stars, the first time they made love at Aphrodite’s Inn in Athens, their water dance at the Castle of the Crystal Fairies, and the passionate sun on the Island of Mythica. Xena had assured her there was a dream for every star. What had become of their dream?

Unbeknownst to Gabrielle, Najara entered the dark room and saw Gabrielle concealed in the tub. Gabrielle’s splendor took her breath away. She gazed upon her angel of the light and was enamored by her beauty. She wanted to learn the secret of her nature and possess her entirely. Lurking long enough, she strolled over to the tub, the Jinn guiding her this night.

Sensing a presence, Gabrielle opened her heavy eyes and met Najara’s inviting smile.

"This is how you deserve to be treated, Amazon Queen." Najara laid her hands on Gabrielle’s bare shoulders. "You tended to my wounds, now allow me to tend to yours." Najara began to massage Gabrielle’s shoulders. Too tired to resist, Gabrielle closed her eyes and surrendered to Najara’s healing touch. Restless with hunger, Najara’s hands gracefully glided over Gabrielle’s entire body.

So potent was her charm that Gabrielle quivered with pleasure from her touch. "Umm…", moaned the bard. A hopeful grin lit up Najara’s face, but how could she make Gabrielle desire her?

"Gabrielle, your skin is so soft to the touch." A vulnerable Gabrielle opened her eyes and took a long look at Najara whose white strapless tunic exposed her lavish cleavage. Najara smiled gently and invitingly and Gabrielle smiled back, feeling a strange and unexplainable attraction.

Why haven’t I ever noticed how lovely she is? wondered Gabrielle.

Ephiny was putting Xenon to bed and heard a knock on the door.

"Xena, I’ve been expecting you." Ephiny took one look at the Warrior Princess and knew the Amazons had their work cut out for them. Xena looked tired and worn, worse than Gabrielle - disheveled hair and dark circles under her murky eyes. Remarkably, Ephiny saw something in Xena’s anxious eyes she had never seen before – fear.

"How is Gabrielle?"

"Well, Xena, this time it appears her spirit was dragged through the coals – she’s devastated." Ephiny couldn’t believe it, but Xena began to cry.

"Ephiny, I know Gabrielle told you what happened, but let me tell you that I would never betray Gabrielle – I love her more than I’ve ever loved anyone or anything. Can you help me get to the bottom of this?"

"Xena, I believe you. I sent out a search party days ago, even before Gabrielle arrived. Some really strange matters of the heart have been occurring in the Amazon Camp as well. I sense the gods are at work."

"I agree, but who? Ephiny, where is Gabrielle? Can I see her?"

"She’s in the Queen’s Hut, but I think it wise you get a good night’s sleep and by morning the Amazons should return with some news. I have prepared a dwelling for you, it’s next door and you will find everything you need. Go now and rest. Before you retire though, there is something I think you should know - Gabrielle is travelling with one called Najara."

"Najara?" The monster in Xena surfaced once more; she grabbed her chakram and headed out the door.

Ephiny abruptly stopped her. "Xena, I don’t think you’ll score any points with Gabrielle if you kill Najara. Just calm down. There must be a reason why Najara is here. Let’s all get some rest and come up with a plan in the morning. "

Xena knew Ephiny was right. She bid her goodnight and headed for the hut. But, her feet would not take her there - her desire to see Gabrielle overpowered her. She had to see for herself that she was all right and crept over to the hut with the prowess of a panther. Spotting a hole in the bamboo latticework, she glanced in and saw Gabrielle and Najara in the tub smiling at one another. Her eyes burned with contempt and her shattered heart stung. Rage erupted and she fiendishly drew her sword.

"I’m gonna kill that Son of a Bacchae!"

"Xena, what do you think you’re doing?" It was Ephiny. "Just take a look at this!" Xena pointed to the opening in the latticework. Ephiny glanced in, but was not surprised. "Xena, I told you, strange things have been happening all week. Gabrielle would never betray you and she would never hop in bed with Najara just to escape her pain. Appearances are deceiving, do not be deceived by the veil of illusion - you of all people should know that. Stay here and calm down, I’ll deal with this."

Ephiny knocked on the door of the hut. "Gabrielle, may I come in? Ephiny entered before anyone had a chance to respond. Najara and Gabrielle looked up at Ephiny in surprise, but Ephiny pretended everything was run-of-the-mill.

"I think it’s time we all get some sleep now. Come." Najara was powerless as Ephiny guided her out of the tub, wrapped her in a towel and pushed her out the door.

"Goodnight, Najara, our Queen needs her sleep." "Err, goodnight Ephiny and Gabrielle." Najara left, her hungry yearning for Gabrielle unsatisfied once again.

It took every ounce of self-control that Xena possessed, not to kill Najara. Once she vanished though, Xena retired to her hut. Beyond exhaustion, she took a sip of Ephiny's tea and fell quickly asleep.

Ephiny tucked Gabrielle into bed. "Ephiny, what just happened, that tea you gave me has me in a fog? Where is Xe…, I mean Najara?" "Gabrielle, close your eyes, quiet your mind, and go to sleep."

"Will you stay with me tonight, Ephiny? I don’t want to be alone. Just hold me, please?" Gabrielle’s request took Ephiny uncommonly off guard. She hesitated a moment, regained her Amazon composure and replied, "Of course, Gabrielle."

Gabrielle laid her head on Ephiny’s shoulder, let out a sigh of relief and fell asleep.

Hearing the roar of a distant volcano, Ephiny closed her eyes and hoped the gods and Xena would be kind to her tonight. Nonetheless, she planned on being up before the light of day and out of there before Xena awoke.

 

"Xena, wake up! I have some news." Xena bolted out of bed.

"What is it, Ephiny?"

"Well, the search party has informed me that they saw sparks and flames flying out of Mt. Atlas. That could mean only one thing - Hephaestus, god of fire, is at work. Only last night, I heard the rumbling of a volcano.

As soon as Ephiny said that, a bell went off in Xena’s head. She remembered going to bed that gloomy night hearing the thunder of a volcano. "What else, Ephiny?"

"Guess where they were when they made the discovery?"

"Where?"

"By that lava pit in the Arcadian Mountains."

"Lava pit? Hope freed Callisto from the lava pit, but I sent her to oblivion. I don’t understand."

Suddenly, their eyes locked and in unison they said, "Velasca!"

"The search party also discovered numerous cracks in the lava pit caused by the volcanic eruptions - Velasca must have escaped through one of those cracks, Xena."

"Velasca definitely has a part in this, but she is not clever enough to have masterminded this alone, she must be working with someone else," stated Xena.

"The Amazons also observed a woman travelling on a silver chariot drawn by two horses with seven doves flying overhead. Do you think there is a connection?"

Xena thought long and hard, then it dawned on her. "Ephiny, we are the pawns in some dangerous games being played by sick gods. The moon goddess, Selene, travels by silver chariot. They say her moon rays fall upon sleeping mortals. I’m certain she was the strange woman in my bed. The Pleides number seven and sometimes travel as doves. They are the virgin companions of Artemis. Obviously, Velasca has teamed up with Selene and the Pleides to exact her revenge on us through a series of enchantments designed to play with our hearts."

"What are we going to do about it, Xena?"

"Disenchant, Ephiny! Send your search party to Mt. Atlas. There they will find a secret garden. In the garden grows a tree with golden apples. A bite from one of the apples is the only thing that will end this vexing charm. The nymphs of Hesperides live in the garden. Find the beautiful nymph, Yasmin. She will show you the secret of the garden. Send Eponin and only your most skilled and trusted warriors, as a dragon with one hundred heads guards the tree. With Velasca and the other gods on the loose, I think it best I stay here and protect the others."

"I will go in your place, Xena. We will be victorious, we must be, we have many broken hearts at stake." As Ephiny set off on her journey, Xena set off to find Gabrielle.

When Xena entered the Queen’s Hut, she saw her precious bard under the blankets, sleeping like a baby – her baby. She could have stood there forever and stared at the angelic sight, but it was time for Gabrielle to wake up and time to bandage her heart.

Ever so gently, Xena brushed her lips against Gabrielle’s. Lazily, Gabrielle opened her emerald eyes. As she lay silent, Xena’s sapphire eyes and sparkling smile paralyzed her. Unconsciously, Gabrielle’s mouth began to form a glimmer of a smile, then thoughts of the past few days flooded in and she jumped out of bed, covering herself with the blanket.

"Xena, what are you doing here! I told you I never wanted to see you ever again and I meant it!"

"Gabrielle, hurt hurts and pain is painful. However, I am not the cause. You deserve to hear the truth. Please, sit down." By the tone in Xena’s voice and the look in her eyes, Gabrielle realized it was time to listen. She swallowed hard and sat on the edge of the bed.

"Gabrielle, thanks to the efforts of the Amazons, we have learned that Velasca has escaped from the lava pit and has been plotting with Selene, the moon goddess and the Pleides to tear apart our hearts. They did a damn good job don’t you think? Spurred on by Velasca’s devilish advice, it was the moon goddess, Selene, who fell into our bed. I don’t remember much, but this much I do remember – nothing happened, absolutely nothing. Gabrielle, don’t you know that you will never find anyone who loves you as much as I do? My heart belongs to you only."

Gabrielle burst into tears. "Xena, how could I have doubted you, how can I ask your forgiveness?"

"Gabrielle, there is nothing to forgive. We fell into a sinister trap."

Leaving the blanket behind, Gabrielle leapt off the bed and ran into Xena’s embrace. You could hear their hearts singing, their spirits smiling. As Xena held her lover’s naked waist in her hands, they kissed and ecstasy tore through their bodies.

"Gabrielle, I want you more than anything, but there are some demented gods on the loose and we must deal with them here and now. For all we know, they could be eavesdropping as we speak." Growing concerned, Xena covered Gabrielle with the blanket, "Get dressed, let’s do some investigating and await the return of the Amazons."

 

As the band of Amazons was leaving the village, they encountered Najara.

"Where are you headed, Ephiny?"

"Najara, the gods have bewitched us, we are embarking on a dangerous mission to find a golden apple in the Arcadian Mountains to set us free."

Najara knew last night was too good to be true. She thought it was the Jinn guiding her, but it must have been those Greek gods. Not knowing that Xena had returned, she wanted to be Gabrielle’s champion. "I will join you on your mission, Ephiny." Najara brandished her sword once again.

Without delay they set off on horseback. Gabrielle was right, Najara fit right in with the Amazons. She was an experienced tracker, skilled rider and aristocratic warrior. Unaware if the gods were on to them, they rode cautiously yet, reached Mt. Atlas at lightning speed and spotted the nymphs bathing in a pond of glistening water.

"We are looking for Yasmin," proclaimed Ephiny.

Graceful in her movements, one walked out of the water and replied, "I am Yasmin."

"Yasmin, Xena sent us, her and Gabrielle are in trouble and we all need your help."

Najara was stunned to learn that Xena had returned, but remained calm.

Gifted with the vision of the future, Yasmin knew why they were there and what they had to do. Not long ago, she had met the Warrior Princess and the Amazon Queen at the Castle of the Crystal Fairies. Fate had set them on her path again. Once more, she was destined to guide their way. This time, it was a secret journey of the heart.

"The tree with the golden apples lies there – follow me," she pointed to an incessantly high mountain peak.

Still morning, they began their trek up the mountain and soon reached its higher elevations. The sun was filtering through the trees and bathed the mountaintop in a lovely green color. When they reached the plateau, before their eyes was the majestic tree with the gleaming apples. Enthralled by the beautiful scenario, they didn’t see what was approaching from behind until it was almost too late – puff, the magic dragon (as in fire breathing)!

"Amazons attack!" shouted Ephiny.

"You will never kill the dragon with swords," said Yasmin.

"What are you talking about?" screamed Eponin as the dragon unleashed the fury of its fiery breath.

Najara and the Amazons watched in amazement as Yasmin took flight with wings fashioned of her own design. With little effort, she floated to the magical tree and picked one of the golden apples. Even the dragon seemed bewildered, but he got over it and went after them with a heated vengeance.

Knowing Yasmin was right, Ephiny shouted, "Amazons run!"

Like Bacchae out of Hades, they ran down the mountain and miraculously escaped the monstrous dragon.

Sharing their harrowing experience with the other nymphs at the pond, everyone was dumbfounded when suddenly Yasmin handed the golden apple to Najara. "Truth can see but cannot speak. Break free and claim your freedom. You know what to do, Najara."

The Amazons did not understand Yasmin’s enigmatic language, but Najara did. She accepted the apple with an understanding nod of her head. Yasmin bid them farewell and returned to her carefree swim.

Victorious, the search party headed for home. Nevertheless, Eponin and the other Amazons were disappointed they missed out on a battle and had no impressive tale to tell when they returned to camp.

 

Meanwhile, back at the Amazon Camp, Gabrielle was just about dressed when they heard a commotion outside. Gabrielle grabbed her staff, Xena pulled out her sword, and they headed out the door. In the center of the camp was the Ice Queen herself, Velasca, in a golden chariot with Selene and the Pleides flying overhead.

"I have returned to reclaim my throne as the rightful Queen of the Amazons. You cannot defeat me this time. I am a god and I have many gods of my side," boasted Velasca, pointing to her entourage.

Thinking of Selene in bed with Xena, Gabrielle waved her staff defiantly. "Velasca, you tried to break my heart, but you can’t break my spirit!"

Xena whispered under her breath, "Gabrielle, let me handle these gods."

"Well, if it isn’t our precious Gabrielle. What’s the matter, you didn’t like my little game? Guess what? I have my own friend now and there is nothing you can do to stop us." Velasca drew Selene into her and made a show of kissing her in front of everyone, especially Gabrielle.

Xena’s blood was boiling; she brandished her sword and was ready to battle the witch and her entourage. "Velasca, I don’t know what kind of game you’re playing, but how about playing a game with me?"

"Xena, you can’t honestly believe you can defeat me. Please." Velasca waved her godly hand and sent Xena flying through the air. The Amazons broke her fall but they lay tangled bodies in a heap. Hugging her companion, Velasca laughed wickedly. Sadly, Xena knew they were at the mercy of the Ice Queen and her nymphomaniac girlfriend.

Hope intervened when the search party returned. Ephiny nodded her head triumphantly and Xena knew they had been victorious in their mission. Now it was time to teach these gods a lesson! The scars of the past healed, Xena, Gabrielle, Ephiny, Najara and the Amazons stood united and faced the gods with strength and confidence.

Velasca brought down a blow of her sword that would surely have killed everyone, but Xena caught it with her shield. Najara bit into the golden apple and Velasca and her entourage disintegrated in a furious spectacle of wind, colors and lights. The entire Amazon Camp cheered and waved their weapons in conquest.

Shortly thereafter, as Xena and Ephiny were in the midst of a discussion, Gabrielle and Najara walked in silence once again. Gabrielle sensed something different about Najara – her sweet mask was gone. Her admiration for Najara returned and she knew she could finally trust her.

"Najara, thank you."

Knowing that Gabrielle belonged with Xena and would never be hers, Najara glanced up at Gabrielle and said, "Where there was pain there is now healing, Gabrielle."

Like a gentle wave, Najara’s angelic smile and radiant spirit washed over Gabrielle. Smitten by her beautiful spirit, the Amazon Queen lovingly brushed her hand against the Crusader’s cheek and kissed her tenderly on the lips.

"Are the gods still at work?" It was Xena and Ephiny.

"No, Xena. We were just saying good-bye. Besides, Gabrielle was right, I do fit right in with the Amazons. Don’t you think so, Ephiny?" Najara strolled over to Ephiny’s side.

To Xena and Gabrielle’s surprise, Ephiny took Najara’s hand and responded, "Yes, I think you will fit nicely." They bid one another farewell.

Back inside the Queen’s Hut, Xena said with a dry smile, "Now isn’t that a match made in Olympus?"

"Xena, you know if it weren’t for Najara, we might not have this second chance?"

Xena thought stubbornly about that for a moment. "You know Gabrielle, you’re right! I guess we all deserve a second chance, or a third one in Najara’s case. Remind me to thank her, and her light."

Gabrielle was relieved, then turned solemn and began to tremble. "Xena, I thought I lost you forever."

Without saying another word, Xena picked up the bard and carried her to bed. Her silent lips touching Gabrielle’s cheek, she whispered, "Let me reassure you, Gabrielle. I will never leave you and I will never betray you. No spell is strong enough; no god on Olympus can change that. We will be together forever. I love you, Gabrielle."

"Gods, how I’ve missed you, Xena…I love you too!"

Feverish from the separation, Gabrielle half-sat up and they looked at each other with so much desire. They felt each other’s bodies. Hungry for the taste of each other, their lips followed their hands and they dissolved in consuming passion.

 

Resting in one another’s arms now, Gabrielle glanced at Xena and found her deep in thought. "Dinar for your thoughts?"

"Gabrielle, when I was talking to Ephiny, she said Yasmin told Najara they couldn’t kill the dragon with mere swords, what do you think she meant? You know how I feel about that cryptic mumbo jumbo."

"I think she was trying to tell Najara that it was easy to escape the dragon on Mt. Atlas, but was she brave enough to battle the dragon within? Ultimately, she discovered the power within and broke free. She truly saw the light."

"I learned something too."

"What’s that, Xena?"

"I learned the true secret of the garden."

"The true secret of the garden?"

"To look for the blessing in the pain."

"Now look who’s getting cryptic, Xena? The blessing in the pain, what do you mean?"

"Dearest Gabrielle, you are more beautiful to me than the first time we met. Your everlasting love is divine and the greatest gift of all. You are the blessing in the pain, the secret of my heart."

Xena’s melodious words flowed like a symphonic violin, tenderly touching the invisible strings of Gabrielle’s heart. Tenderly, Xena’s fingers covered Gabrielle’s lips in a gesture of silence and kissed a tear at the corner of her eye. Then, like a mother receiving a child, Xena drew her lover into her. Together…forever!

(Look for the blessing,

Zeta, Warrior of the Spirit)

zeta@sierranv.net


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