The map was old but well preserved. It was wrapped in a leather binding and the paper felt as if it had an oil in it. This might have been done to prevent it from becoming brittle. Xena opened the map and the two of them studied the drawing that covered it.
There was the Chasm of the Dead and beyond, a picture of the temple. The trail continued away from the chasm and on a southern route. They were headed in the right direction but they needed to veer northwest from the looks of it.
One more challenge ahead or so the two of them hoped. Had they known at the beginning, what would take place maybe they wouldnt have come on the quest. What was it that Eudocia said? Gabrielle thought, something about not being able to see too far ahead in ones life.
The Agia Eirini was a great gorge that had been talked about over the years as a place of the unknown. There were stories that Xena had heard seasons before that strange people lived in the cliffs. They were never seen or told about so there wasnt a description of them but they were there. They were almost invisible; in fact, it was said that their form was so elusive that it was like it was without form.
It would be sometime before they would get to the area and it appeared from the map, that there would be a tremendous climb up the wall of the gorge. The Heart was indicated on the map as being up high and tucked away in a crevice in the rock face. There were some words written on the bottom of the map that read, ONLY THE GODS LOOK DOWN ON THE EAGLE WITH HEART.
It was a pleasant day, as they made their way through the forest. The sound of water running filled their ears and the sound was getting closer as the moved down the path they were on.
"Xena!" The Bard called in a soft guarded speech. "I think I hear voices! It sounds like children but there are no villages up here. Are there?"
"None that Ive heard of."
"Shhhhh! I hear them too!" The Warrior countered.
They approached very cautiously and moved through a thick grouping of bushes. When they came out on the other side, they were standing near a hot springs and there were three pools that emptied into a stream. But that isnt what widened their eyes! It was the six Pigmy Amazons that were bathing in the waters and lying on the smooth rocks basking in the sun.
When the Pigmys looked up and saw the Bard and the Warrior, the alarm was sounded. Within twenty beats of the heart there were as many more Amazon Pigmys, armed and aiming at the two with drawn bows. Immediately, Xena and Gabrielle gave the sign of peace by putting their hands together over their heads.
"They know the sign! Lower your weapons." A tiny voice shouted out.
"Who are you and how did you find your way here?" A Pigmy with dark hair asked.
She held a staff like Gabrielles but much shorter in length and was dressed in miniature leathers and boots. She was well proportioned and very pretty, as were all of the Pigmy Amazons. The majority of the women were no shorter than eleven hands and a few were as tall as twelve maybe fourteen hands at best.
"My name is Xena and this is Gabrielle." The Warrior explained.
"How is it that you know the Amazon sign for peace." The dark hair questioned.
"I am an Amazon Queen!" Gabrielle spoke up with great authority.
Gabrielle showed the feather grouping that she carried in her bag and they all knelt on one knee as she held it high.
"A beautiful redhead with alabaster skin approached from behind a couple of other Amazons and said, "I am Queen here. I am Queen Clytia. My sisters and I welcome you both. We have heard stories about the Warrior Princess. We have also heard stories of one whom became Queen in the north, by right of cast. A great storyteller with a greater heart it was told! Come! Let us celebrate this meeting!" The tiny Queen shouted.
The Amazon women cheered and they all walked toward the village, which was a short distance on the other side of the hot springs. Food was prepared and wine flowed free. There was music, drums and dancing. Xena and Gabrielle were filled with joy at the timing of this pleasant happening. After all of the things they had been through just recently, this was a medicine they were in desperate need of.
The village was well organized and there was a population of about two hundred. They had a large vegetable garden and the forest was full of a variety of game. Theirs was a self-contained world. They had stayed in seclusion for many, many seasons and that was one of the main reasons they had not become extinct. For the most part, they were very comfortable with each other for any relationship and there were those relationships that lasted a lifetime.
The way of the Amazon was not the way most societies were accustomed to, so when they mated with a man it was for the sole purpose of rejuvenating the tribe. Babies of the male gender were given to the father. This was understood before any mating was agreed upon. This was the way of the Pigmy Amazons.
Xena and Gabrielle felt like they had found a home away from home. There was a peace that filled their hearts and the burden of what had taken place thus far, could be put to rest for awhile.
The festivities carried on far into the night. There was much lovemaking going on openly and it began to raise the temperatures of Gabrielle and Xena. The Queen came over with a special drink for the two visitors. This was something she said would bring them to a new place. The wine loosened their inhibitions and so they both indulged in the aphrodisiac.
The drums began at a slow deliberate beat. Twelve Amazon Pigmies started with one foot forward, then the other while their legs were spaced somewhat apart. Their faces were impassive without smiles but beautiful in their sullen looks as they swayed to the rhythm. They all moved in unison as they rolled their heads from side to side. Some of their eyes were closed in deep concentration, while others focused on an imaginary focal point somewhere in the distance.
Two Amazons played the mandoures with a suggestive melody that glided through the air and accented the drums. The eroticism began to increase as the women danced in a large circle around the fire. Music filled the air and the dancing aroused their bodies. Gabrielle was coaxed by two Amazons to join in and dance with them. At first she was a bit apprehensive but as the music touched her soul she became lost in the rhythm.
The Amazon Pigmies removed their halters and began to shake their breasts to the beat of the drums. Gabrielle was completely engulfed in the moment and joined them. Her hands reached up and squeezed both breasts as she danced in front of Xena. The Warrior was wet and deeply aroused by this display of sexuality that her lover presented to her.
As Gabrielle danced her temperature started to rise. She became hot and her body spoke of love as it too ran wet with desire. Drums pounding in her head and the magic of the elixir heightening that which was already on the rise, made her wanting and ready. She danced in front of Xena rubbing her hands up and down her body with sultry moves that brought out the animal in her. Xena could not take her eyes from the spectacle of these half naked women dancing around her lover as she led them in the seduction. The dance continued and the women turned back to back, moving to the beat then they faced each other. Soon they moved closer and when they were within touching distance suggestively rubbed their breasts against their partner while moving their necks around each other from side to side.
Xena realized her hand was on her mound, as she worked her fingers over the sensitive nerve endings.
She stood up and took Gabrielle by the hand, leading her to the hot springs. Several of the Queens warriors guarded the perimeter to insure their privacy. Xena took her clothes off then turned to her lover and removed the skirt and boots. They crushed their lips against each other as they both burned from within. Their centers were wet and swollen. Gabrielle dropped to her knees next to the pool and used her hands to open Xenas stance wider. She ran her face through the wet valley, extending her tongue in an attempt to collect all of Xenas honey as it poured from her. The Warrior held the Bards head as she sucked the orb between her legs causing her knees to tremble.
Xena brought herself down to Gabrielles level by kneeling and slipped her tongue into her lovers mouth tasting her own passion intermingled with her lovers juices. Gabrielle laid her body on the cool smooth stones next to the hot spring pool pulling Xenas legs over her head while she lifted her knees up and spread herself. There, they tenderly brought each other to climax.
They paused for a moment, catching their breath but holding their positions when, Gabrielle slid two fingers into Xena causing the Warrior to jump at first. Slowly a rhythm began as Xena moved back and forth on her knees. The Bard kept it up while she darted her tongue over Xenas nerve center.
"Mmm mmy ..Im cumming again! Gabri elle!"
Xena rolled off and slipped into the hot spring pool. When she surfaced, she called her lover to join her. The two played in the pool for a candlemark and then several of the Amazons joined them. Another candlemark passed and Xena and Gabrielle were ready for bed. A hut was prepared for them and other than having to bend way down at the entrance, it was very comfortable. The generosity of the Queen Amazon, Clytia was beyond good manners and the graciousness of these people overwhelmed the couple.
This was a blessing from the gods and was received as such. Both the Warrior Princess and her Bard needed a night of bonding, a night of healing. They had been through Tartarus together and had lost a good soul along the way. Sleep came as a friend that night.
Although Xena never shared a view of the map with any of the Amazon Pigmies, she did tell them the direction of the quest and asked for information regarding the best route. All were in agreement that the only way in was entering at about half the length of the gorge, then working your way to the deep end.
Xena thought, and then straight up to whom knows where.
Based on what Xena remembered when she last looked at the map, what they said made sense.
Gabrielle and the Warrior said their good-byes thanking the tribe for all they had done to make things pleasant for the two of them. They promised to return some time when circumstances were better.
Argo left the Amazon village a very happy horse after being spoiled on apples and oats for a day. It was as if they had both been refreshed. Xena was ready for the challenge. Her body was in great shape and she felt that her mind was focused. The Bard was still mourning the loss of Eudocia and thought to her hearts ear, I will write a separate scroll for her, which will tell her story, and how she saved my love.
The Queen of the Amazon Pigmies called the area they were leaving Elefthera and what lay ahead was lush vegetation until they reached the gorge. The two adventurers had a three-day trek ahead of them. Their journey continued through an area that had many large trees showing the age of the forest they were in. It was an enchanted place that brought forth ideas from Gabrielle that they were traveling through a possible land of the fairies.
"Xena! This could be a magical place you know!" The Bard carried on.
"Fairies and little gnomes could be in a place like this," she continued.
"The fairies are all in your head," Xena laughed back.
The Bard continued, saying, "I could write a great story about ."
Xena gave the Bard the stop signal with her hand. There was something in the forest in front of them. Weapon drawn, she moved cautiously forward but didnt see anything. No more than shadows bouncing off of the trees.
Wait a minute, she thought and swung her sword at the black mass in front of her.
"Ahhh!" It screamed, as it fell to the ground. Another attacked and she fought it off as a knife just missed her head, sticking in the tree beside her. Gabrielle dropped one with her staff, then another and finally called, "Xena! Help me!"
There were three of them pulling her into the forest. Xena attacked with the rage of ten warriors and fought them off. When she held the Bard in her arms, all evidence of the shadows disappeared and they found themselves alone again.
"Thank the gods, Xena. They gave up."
"Do you remember when we were on the ship? Wasnt this very similar to when that attack happened?" Xena asked the Bard.
Xena went on to say, "It was as if the attacker was just a shadow of itself but when I stepped in to protect you from it, the attacker was real enough and so was the knife. We had better keep our eyes open to anything that looks suspicious."
Gabrielle led the way while Xena watched their rear for any activity but all remained quiet. The going was slow as the path would be open for awhile with easy walking and then there were places Xena had to use her sword to cut their way through the growth. Argo suffered a few scrapes from the thick underbrush but was determined, as were the two adventurers to get through.
Xena found a place she felt comfortable with, so they decided to camp for the night. Gabrielle started a fire and cleared the area of any additional dead wood so they had fuel that lasted through the night. Both were coming to the point of fatigue and their nerves had been on edge since the last attack. There was little conversation this night until Xena told the Bard she was heading out a short ways to hunt for supper. A half candlemark later, she returned with a couple of quail. This brought a large smile to the Bards face. After they ate and both satisfied their hunger, they felt more confident and planned tomorrow as they sat around the fire.
"Xena?" The Bard asked, "Do you think that there is more than all this?"
"All what, Gabrielle?"
"You know, this land, those stars, the people we have met. Does it stop here or does it go further than we could ever imagine?
"Im not sure my love but I would think that the gods might even have gods to answer to. Who knows? Why do you ask these things anyway? Youre always ..out there Gabrielle!"
"Oh, I dont know. Just wondering aloud, I guess."
The next day was much similar to the first day of this leg of the journey with the exception of that there were no attacks. The vegetation was their only enemy as Xena hacked her way through the dense growth. Some of this explained why the Amazon Pigmies stayed so well hid for all this time. It was virtually impossible to approach them from the south or east because of the greenery.
Queen Clytia had them take a variety of herbs and medicines with them as a safety measure. For even she knew there might be things unknown ahead on their trail. Gabrielle had thought to herself how comfortable she had felt when they stayed with the Pigmy Amazons. Truly, Xena and she would return to bond with them further. The two of them did swear an oath of secrecy that they never share their location with anyone.
It was hot and buggy as they made their way through the wall of vegetation. What normally would have been a day and a half trip was lengthened into three days because of the terrain. The most pleasant part of the day happened when the found a fast, moving stream as they popped out of the trees and underbrush. It appeared to be going toward the gorge
"Xena, I need to cool off," and the Bard peeled her clothing from her body and sat down in the cool mountain water. Xena looked around as a safety measure and was out of her armor, leathers and boots in a flash.
"Ahhh, this feels good!" Xena moaned with satisfaction as the water cascaded over her body. The Bard was hanging on a rock and letting the water run through her hair and over her torso as she held on.
The women washed out their clothing the best they could and let them dry in the sun. The leathers could only be wiped down but it helped a lot.
"How much further Xena?" The Bard asked, trying not to be annoying.
"I figure we will get there by midmorning tomorrow. Then we need to work our way up the gorge according to this map. After that, I go straight up the side of the gorge if Im reading this right." The Warrior explained to her partner.
They moved on and made good distance the rest of the day as they followed the water. The natural shower that they took in the stream helped revitalize them both. Late afternoon came and they prepared again for the evening. Camp was set up and Argo was given the last few apples they had from the Amazons. Xena worked the stream for a half dozen trout, which Gabrielle cooked up with some of the herbs they were given. Life was good.
After the two had eaten, Xena walked into the woods to relieve herself. While she was vulnerable, she was bitten by what appeared to be a large wasp or something similar. She ended its existence as she smashed it against her rear. She picked the dead bug up and examined it, thinking she had never seen one like it. The wasp was gold/green in color and larger than any Xena had ever encountered before. The sting was extremely painful and there was intense burning. The Warrior became sick to her stomach and lost everything she had just eaten. She headed back to the camp when she had composed herself.
Gabrielle knew there was something wrong when Xena had a hard time sitting down, but within a candlemark later the Warrior was running a fever and began sweating profusely. By the time the moon was straight up in the cosmos, Xena was delirious.
"Gabrielle, Im so sick. Im burning .get ..me water Gabbrie "
"Xena, talk to me! You have to come out of this" The Bard pleaded. She returned to the stream and soaked a cloth for Xenas forehead. Gabrielle knew that if she couldnt get the fever down, she would have to drag Xena into the stream and let the water help cool her down.
"My Warrior, you have to drink these herbs that I prepared for you"
Gabrielle lifted Xenas head and got some of the liquid down her throat. After that was accomplished, she needed to turn the Warrior over and put a poultice on the bite.
Thank the gods for Queen Clytias intuitive powers, the Bard thought. Without these medicines there would be real trouble here. Come on Xena, pull through Im scared!
The Bard held Xena all through the night. The early morning just after dawn, found Gabrielle asleep next to the Warrior. Xenas eyes opened and she called softly to the Bard, "Hey! How long have I been out?"
"All night, my love. Are you OK?" The Bard questioned.
"Im a little shaky but Ill live. We need to get moving." And Xena tried to rise but dropped back down to her bedroll.
"Just relax Xena, its not even light out yet! Get your strength back, then well move on." Gabrielle mothered her a bit, as Xena looked up at the Bard then closed her eyes.
Three candlemarks past sunrise the Warrior woke again. This time she got to her feet and reached for her rear end, gently touching the area of contact and grimaced.
"I killed the bastard, you know? Nobody bites me but you," and Xena smiled, showing the Bard she was feeling better. A late breakfast helped get her strength back and they were nearing the gorge by the time the sun was just beyond straight up. The sound of the stream changed up ahead and for good reason as it dropped down to the bottom of the gorge and joined the main stream. They reached the edge and checked out the way they would attempt the decent to the bottom. Xena found what appeared to be an ancient trail that led downward but the two would have to be careful where the trail had been destroyed by a washout and navigate carefully around that spot. After that, there were no more obstacles to the bottom of the gorge. Argo was left to graze the area and wait for their return.
Carefully, they made their way down to the lower part of the gorge. That completed, Xena pulled out the map and the two of them studied it, comparing different landmarks to the drawing.
"It looks like we need to keeping heading north till we run out of gorge," Xena said with a bit of sarcasm.
"Remind me to get a new staff when were finished with all of this. I think Ive worn off the length of two hands so far." The Bard responded back.
They moved north, along the belly of the gorge and followed along the banks of the stream that occupied the center. There were many boulders scattered over the interior of the gorge. Within the Agia Eirini, were a few trees strategically positioned along with bushes cropping up here and there. The place had a beautiful but eerie look to it.
Once again after about three-quarters of a candlemark had passed, Xena wanted to examine the map. She pulled it out and opened it saying, "Ah yes! Thats what it meant!"
"What? What Xena? What are you talking about?" The Bard picked inquisitively.
Xena just pointed up at the top of the cliff and said, "Only the gods look down at the Eagle with Heart!"
"The passage in the map, Gabrielle! See the eagles nest! The heart has to be up there."
As they got near to the cliff face and Xena was just about ready to begin her climb, the sky became cloudy and cast a shadow over the gorge. The shadow began to break up into many shadows and Xena pulled her sword, while the Bard held her staff, ready for action. From the crevices in the cliffs and rocks came the attack. There were hundreds of them, no; thousands came at the two.
Just before they engaged in battle, Xena slipped her sword back into its sheath and told Gabrielle to put down her staff.
"Now hold my hand, Gabrielle. Hold it tight!"
The Bard did what was she was told and the attack stopped. The shadows vaporized and the cloud disappeared. They had the key! In fact, they were the key, thought Xena. What was it Eudocia said?
That which was two but one.
"Thats us Gabrielle! She was talking all along about our relationship. Like you told Iolaus so long ago about the story of the four-legged people who were divided by the gods lightening bolt and the two halves were separated from each other. They spend the rest of their lives searching for their other half of their soul. We have ours! You and me!" Xena explained.
"We are a match!"
"Theres just one little problem," Xena said with a note of apprehension.
"We have to climb up the cliff face together."
"What? You want me to what? To climb?" The Bard sputtered as she looked up and figured the distance at the height of eight horses.
"Dont make me do this Xena."
There was no getting away from the solution to the situation they were in. If Xena tried to acquire the Heart of Stone without the Bard they would both undoubtedly be destroyed.
They started the climb realizing that they had to make physical contact with each other every few body lengths up the cliff face. Any other time this would have been something they would have enjoyed doing. In fact, it was their intent to do just that forever.
Xena had Gabrielle lead in order to keep a closer eye on her and have a better chance at preventing a fall. Every time they broke physical contact, a cloud began to form overhead and the shadow people started to take form. The contact of the two women stopped the process.
Gabrielle was about two thirds of the way, up the side of the cliff face. Her fingers were sore and bleeding in a few places, along with her forearms and knees. She was determined and refused to give up, especially being so close to the prize. Xena kept encouraging her, telling her to think through each move before she made it.
Some stone and gravel dislodged, causing her to slip. Xena caught her foot in the palm of her hand and supported her weight with one arm until she stabilized herself and got a new grip. The Bard banged up her cheek and lost a little blood from one nostril but her and Xena were both very much alive.
As Gabrielle moved on, she could see the sticks from the Eagles nest overhanging the stone shelf it was on. It had to be about twelve hands above her.
The Bard told Xena, "We have to be getting real close," and as she climbed seven hands higher, she saw the opening in the face of the cliff. Within the cleft stood the Heart. It was blue/gray in color and was three hands high while one hand wide. It sat in the center of the opening and about two hands back from the edge.
"Can you retrieve it Gabrielle?" Xena asked.
"Ill try but it looks heavy."
"Try to get it into your leather bag and Ill take it down to the ground." Xena suggested.
"OK, here goes nothing!"
Gabrielle reached into the opening with one hand and grabbed the top of the stone, lifting it off of its resting-place. This must have released the large, black spiders that began to crawl out of the opening scaring the Bard. She screamed but held on tight through the encounter, brushing the spiders away and they fell on top of Xena who was directly below. Others scurried away in other directions. Gabrielle could hear Xena cursing under her.
"Hey! What do you want from me? I got the Heart!" Gabrielle boasted to her partner.
She slid it into the bag and almost fell again, handing it to Xena.
The trip down the cliff face was slow and tedious but with the Heart in hand, Xena needed to be extra careful. When they reached the ground, the Eagle flew over them as if to say goodbye. They hugged each other for a moment and made their exit down the gorge.
As they made their retreat, they never encountered the shadow people again. At the end of the day they had made it back to the area where they had to leave Argo behind. She was grazing at the top of the bluff above the gorge when they rejoined her. By the end of the second day, they made it to the coastline of Crete and headed toward Paleohora
They spent the night at the inn that they first met Eudocia and both shared tears together as they talked about her death over a cup of port. It was such a short time ago and so much had happened since that first meeting. It really tore at both their hearts.
"No stories to tell this time, my friend." The Bard told the barkeep. You could see in his eyes, he was genuinely disappointed.
Xena made arrangements for them to board in the morning on a ship called the Pelican. This ship would take them back to Zakynthos Island. Xena wanted to pass through the ports quickly because someone might suspect that they were carrying treasure of a more common kind, like gold or silver. Stone Hearts were not in big demand this time of year, the Warrior thought.
Gabrielle was looking for the soap everywhere.
"Xena! I wish you would put things back!" She shouted to an empty room. Xena took her bath earlier so she could make the arrangements with the Captain of the Pelican. Then she was going to check on Argo, making sure the horses accommodations were adequate.
The hot water felt extremely good on the Bards sore and tired body. A hard scrub from top to bottom made her feel new again. When she finished with her bath, Gabrielle lit a couple of candles and sat on the bed imitating the meditation stance that Eudocia had demonstrated when she was alive. She began to see that there was a door that could be opened, that gave way to new discovery in the scope of everything that brought one full circle in their lifes quest. The spiritual journey was for each star in the sky and each one twinkled in its own special way.
Xena returned and the Bard was just finishing her journey.
"Gabrielle, is the Heart still safe?" Xena asked.
"My hearts safe with you, Xena!"
"Yes! Its still in the bottom of the tub."
"I love you Gabrielle. Do you know that?" The Warrior said tenderly.
"I need you to hold me my love."
"I am not comfortable with myself tonight and I feel my confidence is shaken," Xena told her Bard.
Gabrielle motioned her over to the bed where they wrapped their arms around the other enjoying the comfort found in their common love. Xena placed her head on Gabrielles chest and could hear her heartbeat as she fell asleep.
The ship was out of port before the sun was high. Wind in the sails put the women on the move again. Gabrielle spent much of the voyage working on her scrolls. She had much to account for and it was imperative for her to write all the details down while they were still fresh in her mind. So many things had transpired. Many vivid pictures were floating in her thoughts and before the colors faded she wanted to capture them by writing them down.
As Gabrielle sat on the deck of the ship and wrote, Xena watched the horizon. Fascinated by the ship mascots swimming in the sea, the Warrior enjoyed watching several dolphins matching the speed of the ship. It always amazed her that a grumpy god like Poseidon could create such beautiful creatures of the sea. An occasional school of sharks would mill around but only when the cook discarded some scraps or leftovers.
The trip to Zakynthos Island was an easy voyage and the two women were left to themselves. This was a time of tender bonding and Xena even brought up the topic of getting closer with herself on a spiritual level. Gabrielle always liked to speak of the inner side of a person. She would love to talk about the soul and the development of the spirit.
"Xena! Do you think we come back to this life after we die?"
"By the gods, I dont know Gabrielle but if we do, I better not come back as a man! Theyre too crude and I never knew one that was soft like you!"
"Im spoiled Xena! Ive got the best there is and she treats me like the Queen that I am!" The Bard strutted and giggled as she ran down the deck with Xena in hot pursuit. The temperature between them was beginning to rise and it looked to Xena like a night in the city of Zakynthos might be one to remember.
Xena thought, Im feeling better after she held me last night and she drives me beyond wild, so Ill let her take advantage of me, maybe three, maybe four times tonight.
They docked in the early evening and left the ship. As they left the docks and headed into Zakynthos, Xena caught sight of the extremely large sailor that tried to show her just how big of a man he was once before. When their eyes locked, he reached up and rubbed his ear to let the Warrior know that he had not forgotten. Xena glared back at him, as if to say, make your move or get on with your life.
The intentions of the two women were to head back to the Owl Inn. It was a very nice place, they were known there and they wanted to watch the weasel drip all over them, under the direction of his wife. They were lucky and got the same room they had before. The Bard talked Xena into having their meal downstairs with the owners and a merchant who was passing through, as well as the Captain of one of the other ships in port. Onion soup was the opener followed by the main course of chicken, vegetables and biscuits. The weasels wife was a very good cook.
Gabrielle mused to herself, Everyone needs to be good at something, as she looked across the table at Xena and I think Im getting pretty good at satisfying!
Dinner finished, they both gave their excuses for an early rise the next morning and headed off to bed.
"Come here my Bard." Xena commanded in an easy tone.
Gabrielle walked over to her and sucked on the Warriors lower lip as their eyes locked together.
"Oh! Ish gonna be like dat tonigh, uh?" Xena tried to say with the lip lock on her.
The Bard was mischievous tonight but also sensuous as she released Xenas lip, giggling and backing up slightly. She started to remove her clothing but not too quickly. It was Gabrielles intentions to move through this love making like she was telling one of her stories.
One never rushes through a story but puts in all the little details that enhance the vision of the listener, the Bard reflected to herself.
So keeping that in mind, she kept her eyes locked to Xenas and peeled the clothing off of her own body like removing the skin from a ripe grape. Her boots remained on for time being while she taunted and teased her lover. Gabrielle walked over to the chair that was against the wall and brought it to the middle of the room. Then she called to Xena to come and sit down. Xena walked over and sat, looking inquisitively at her partner.
The vixen then moved around to the front of the chair and stood in front of Xena with her hands on her hips, sort of with an "Im in charge" attitude.
"Ill help you out of your leathers Xena," the young lover directed.
Gabrielle took great care in leaning over Xena, as she relieved her of her covering. Her breasts brushed the Warriors face and cheeks as she worked the outfit off of her. Xena tried her best to get her mouth around a nipple but her lover stayed elusive, which only helped in raising both of their temperatures. The blond purposely squatted in front of her partner to help remove Xenas boots.
This drove Xena out of her mind as she gazed at the Bards passion in its swollen state. They were both feeling the intense level of wanting that had been reached by just taking time to enjoy each other visually.
Xena could take no more and stood, wrapping her arms around her lover while she slid her tongue past Gabrielles lips and their juices mingled. The Bards nipples ached from all of the waiting but it took her to new places and made the evening extra special. Xena coaxed her partner to the bed and had her lay on her back with intentions of removing the Bards boots but instead, she grabbed the boots by the soles, pushing her legs back to her chest. This opened her lovers prize and Xena began to kiss the inside of Gabrielles knees, working her way up between those beautiful thighs.
Xena knew her destination but took her time even though it was torture for her. She wanted to taste her lover and now she was just inches away. Her tongue danced over the opened lips of her lovers vagina and breathed in the sweet smell of Gabrielles arousal. She slipped her tongue deeper between the folds, memorizing every path there was to take. Feeling the varied textures of her partners flesh and tasting the nectar that their love created, she continued to explore.
Gabrielle was wild with desire and she abandoned all sense of reality as she felt her lover reach her nerve center. The Bards legs shook as she climaxed. Xena shifted her position and climbed next to her lover. She rolled her tongue over the nub in a circular motion while she inserted one then two fingers into Gabrielles center. Xena worked her fingers in and out causing her love to arc her back in ecstasy. Gabrielle came one more time and collapsed from exhaustion.
They napped for awhile and when the Bard awoke, she rolled over and latched on to one of Xenas breasts, bringing the nipple to life. It didnt take long to revive the passion and Gabrielle sucked the nipple of the other breast, knowing that Xena was alert again. The little one reached between the Warriors legs and massaged her mound, which was covered with thick black hair. She did this until the entire area was wet. Then she inserted two fingers into Xenas depths. She used her thumb to work the surface of her clitoris. This caused the raven-haired beauty to grab her lover by the hair and guide her home.
Xena gasped when she felt her lovers lips engulf her passion. Gabrielle worked her mouth like there was a hunger that could not be satisfied. Xena cried out as she peaked once and then again.
"My love! Thats so good!"
When Xena opened her eyes the next morning Gabrielle was working on her scrolls. The weasel had told them that a ship would be docking this morning and he would, if they did not mind, make the arrangements for Argos and their passage to Preveza. Xena agreed but told him that there better be no problems or they would come back to haunt him.
The Heart was kept in the room with the two women. They had agreed that one of them would remain with it at all times. They hid it in Argos stall when they ate the night before because they knew that the horse would take out any intruder. She was known to have a mean left hoof.
The Bard and the Warrior thanked the owners of the Owl Inn for their hospitality, picked up Argo at the stable around back and headed off to catch their ship. The weasel made good with his promise and felt real proud of his self for the day. It turned out that the adventurous women had caught a ride on the same ship they started off with. The Red Shark! At this point in their journey, the familiarity was a welcomed friend.
They left port and followed the coast as they had done before. It looked to be a quick and quiet trip to Preveza, until the huge sailor came up on deck. When he saw Xena, his rage got the better of him as he walked over to Gabrielle and the Warrior.
"You got the best of me last time Xena but Im gonna beat you silly and throw you to the sharks, you bitch! Then while youre busy being their dinner and they get done pickin their teeth with yer bones, Im gonna make love to this little wench of yours. When I get done teaching her what a man is all about, shell end up in the water as dessert for the hungry gray fins. Anyway bitch, you ripped my ear open the last time we met!" And he reached for his ear as he did when he saw her on shore.
Xena looked at Gabrielle and said, "Please excuse me for a moment."
As she walked toward the big-mouthed sailor, she sprung into the air to plant her feet in his chest but he was ready for the move and punched Xena in the ribcage. She thought she heard something crack as she hit the deck. She flipped out of the way of the assailant, landing back on her feet and smashed her head into his, not quite sure who got the worst of it. Xena followed up with several punches to the head and he got a shot in as well. That shot knocked her back a bit.
Xena was hurting from the punch in the ribs but didnt let on. Instead she faked a right cross and planted a foot in his chest. While he was trying to suck air, she kicked him in the side of his right knee. He screamed in pain and that brought a smile to the Warriors face. The gargantuan then picked up a timber and tried to squash Xena with it. She dodged several shots and kicked the same knee in again. That slowed him as he dropped the beam. Xena flipped over him and when she was behind, lifted the beam on end and tipped it in his direction, banging him in the head with it when he turned toward her. As he staggered toward the railing, the Warrior spun him around and flatted his nose. He stumbled backward and fell over the side.
"YEA! XENA! XENA!" The rest of the sailors cheered.
Gabrielle knew that the sailor had hurt Xena but she was careful not to show it above deck. She tended the Warrior when they went below.
"Ah, he got a lucky shot in on me and cracked a rib. Ill survive, with your help." She told the Bard.
"Xena! What was that about? He acted like you got in a fight with him before!" Gabrielle asked with her usual inquisitiveness.
"Oh, we met on the way to Crete when you were in a shop picking up some body oil, I think. He didnt like my face, so I tried to improve his vision."
"Xena, what am I going to do with you?" Gabrielle moaned as she said, "I cant leave you alone for the flick of a flame on a candle."
The voyage concluded and the ship pulled into port. It was good to be back to the mainland. There was only a short trek left and they would once again be on the top of Mount Paramythia. Xena was thinking, this Heart is getting heavy. It will be good to return it to its home.
Gabrielle wanted to stay in Preveza and Xena wanted to move on to the little village of Louros, where they had spent their first night after losing the Chakram. They ended up staying in Preveza but they opted for a different inn in order to stay as obscure as they could. The pair was getting too close to their destination to make any mistakes now. What they did not know was, that they had been spotted by one of Tzannass men and he was sharing that information with the assassin, as they continued to look for lodging.
"They are here in the city?" Tzannas shouted, as he threw the jug of wine he had tasted up against the wall.
"Yes boss! I saw them when they were walking through. I think they were lookin for a place to spend the night."
"OK, this is what well do. Get everybody together and meet me here in two candlemarks. We need to get out of here tonight. Well fix her somewhere on the road and maybe they have somethin of value to make killin her all the more worthwhile. Im gonna slice that other little bitches throat too, while Xena watches. Now, go get the men."
"Lets stay at this place Xena!" The Bard begged.
"The One-Eyed Toad? Youve got to be kidding!"
"Well, it sounded mysterious to me. I dont know!" Gabrielle exclaimed.
"Your right about that, my friend. YOU, dont know."
"Now theres an intriguing name for an inn." Xena boasted.
"The Last Inn? Give me a break Xena! The Last Inn?"
And the Warrior walked in and ordered a room much to the dismay of her partner. All the way up the stairs only one thing could be heard.
"The Last Inn? Youve got to be kidding!"
The pleasures of a good room and great company go without deep explanations. The evening was full of romance followed by a deep sleep at least for Gabrielle. Xena started to get that itch she gets when things look all right but something is amiss. She wasnt sure just what was bothering her but she knew from past experiences to trust her feelings.
The Warrior slipped out of bed earlier than normal and went to check up on Argo as a safety precaution. Xena found the horse in good spirits and everything looked just as it did the night before with the exception of fewer apples and oats.
"Youre a good girl to put up with me and Gabrielle hauling you all over the place. I love you Argo. Do you know that? Of coarse you do!" The Warrior told her horse.
Xena returned to the room to pack up Gabrielle and The Heart of Stone. It was time to finish this trek. Xena wanted her Chakram back and felt obligated to finish what she had begun. It was personal now. With the loss of Eudocia, it had to come to an end or her death would have been for nothing.
They left the city of Preveza two candlemarks after sunrise following the same trail they had entered into the city, close to a half of moon ago. When they reached the part of the trail that looked over the port, they took their time to take it all in. Xena got off of Argo and walked over to the Bard, placing her arm around Gabrielle's waist. They scanned the horizon together, and then they turned toward each other and kissed.
"Its the best my life has ever been Gabrielle. You were sent to me at a time when I promised myself I needed to and could change who I was. Look at what we have with each other today." Xena said as best she could.
"I know, my love, I know." The Bard replied.
They started to move down the trail when Xena turn to her Bard.
"Theres trouble coming our way Gabrielle," Xena said with concern.
Gabrielle took a new grip on her staff and looked over the terrain ahead. The road was up hill, through rock formations; some small over hanging cliffs and trees scattered about. The forest began toward the mainland and thickened as the road came out of the rougher area they were going through. After that, the road continued on to Louros.
Xena felt an attack coming their way and believed that it would happen while they were going through this area. She was right! The thunder of boulders and rocks heading down upon the duo caused quick action, as Xena who was on Argo, grabbed Gabrielle by the arm. She lifted the Bard up to the saddle and galloped ahead on her faithful horse. Xena released her hold on Gabrielle and set her back down on the ground. The planned avalanche missed its mark.
The Warrior pulled her sword, then hearing the sound of the arrow being released from the bow, reached out with her free hand and snatched it out of the air before it struck her. Gabrielle headed up the draw, trying to stay out of harms way.
Xena moved along the road toward Gabrielle and saw the assassin with the spear but a little late, as he had already released it in the direction of the Bard. Xena wasnt even able to shout out a warning. She gritted her teeth in anticipation of the fatal blow to the woman she loved.
Somewhere deep within Gabrielle, she heard the voice of Eudocia say, "Drop to the ground! NOW!"
The Bard dove without hesitation and the spear sliced through the air just over her back, missing its mark.
"Thank you, my friend!" The Amazon Queen said aloud.
Xena was just amazed the Gabrielle had avoided certain death. She continued up the road and dismounted when confronted by Tzannas and one of his men. She blocked a feeble thrust by the attacker and punched him in the face. Xena clashed blades with Tzannas as he threw many insults her way.
"If you were as good a fighter as you are a talker, you might have a chance to beat me!" The Warrior taunted the lowlife. A quick turn and the thrust of her blade stopped the other assassin dead in his tracks. Xena cut the cheek of Tzannas and blew him a kiss. This enraged the thug and he charged her as she ran him through. The rest of his men, witnessing this, scurried away like rats from a sinking ship.
Xena moved over to Gabrielle to see if she was all right, then she whistled for Argo who came back down the road and stopped by the two women. The Stone was still intact on the horses saddle so they moved up the road and headed toward Louros. The village was about a candlemark ahead. They would stop and regroup before attempting the to go up the mountain to the ancient ruins and finally finish there business.
They entered the village about dusk and found the little inn they came across the first time through. When they entered the establishment, it was as if nothing had changed. The same old faces lined the bar and gave a standard glance toward the door not even seeing what they were looking at but rather out of habit. A flicker of the candles flame and they all returned to their conversations or their beverage.
Gabrielle refreshed the proprietors memory about the time they stayed at his place not that he forgot and ordered a room for the night. Xena carried the Heart into the inn and took it up to the room. There was nothing on their minds this night but the Heart of Stone and the end of all this. Sleep came hard and it was difficult for both of them to silence their minds.
"Yes my love."
"She called to me Xena! She called to me from within." The Bard said in wonder.
"Who called to you?" Xena questioned.
"Eudocia warned me of the spear. She talked to me internally. I listened and it saved my life."
Xena paused for a bit and replied, "I believe she did! Im indebted to her twice."
They both drifted off awhile later but were out of bed at first light. The two friends did not eat but packed up, got Argo and began the final steps of what could be one of the Bards greatest stories to share with her listeners. They reached the ruins in three candlemarks. Xena rode around the area to make sure there was no one else around. She did not want to be disturbed with another confrontation. When everything appeared to be in order, she got off of Argo and studied the problem at hand. How to get up on top of the monolith.
The Stone was heavy but she had secured it to her midriff with the use of Gabrielles leather bag and some lengths of cloth tied around her. The monolith was too high to reach the top from ground level, so Xena scaled the cliff that towered behind it. The Warrior knew she would have to get higher than the nearest pillar that remained standing from the ancient ruins. When she reached the height she wanted, she back-flipped and landed on the pillar. She came close to falling because the added weight changed her center of gravity. It was now possible to jump to the Quondam Stone, which she did.
Several moments passed while Xena unwrapped the package she had spent so much energy acquiring. She scanned the surface of the monolith with her eyes but did not see the cavity in which to place the Heart. Xena panicked for a candle flick of the flame then reached down, around the top of the monolith, running her hand over the edges and located the orifice. She held the Heart in her hand as she looked down at Gabrielle, then slid it into place.
The Quondam Stone began to tremble and Xena was almost thrown to the ground below but managed to jump back to the pillar then hanging down she dropped to the ground. Xena quickly joined Gabrielle and they both watched as an apparition appeared in front of the stone. The apparition was of a much younger and beautified personification of the old crone Xena and Gabrielle had encountered the first time they were on the mountain.
"For what you have gone through and have accomplished, I am eternally grateful." The spirit explained.
" When I came to you, I had the belief that you two were the one that I had envisioned to deliver me from the wrong that had been done to me. I am not of this place or of this time but was on a journey that went amiss and left me stranded for a period. I needed the time to heal but one of your world bonded his heart to mine and I to him. The healing in me was finished and I had to leave but he could not bare this. He became bitter, keeping me by separating the life source from the mass, the Heart from the monolith and hiding it far from me. He bargained with evil powers that agreed to protect the whereabouts of the Heart. You encountered many of them along the way. This caused me to be a prisoner to the mountain and to time."
"I had a child. I showed him the result of our bonding and love, then hid her away from him forever. I wanted to hurt him for making me a prisoner of this place. You knew her as Eudocia."
"His time came and he moved to greater planes when his host died out. This left me with no hope of my own and bound forever, until that vision was given me, of the two of you."
"Although it cost the life of my seed, she understood what she was doing and knew that she could never return from where I came. She was not of here, she was not of there. Eudocias sacrifice saved me and in that was the love we shared for one thousand years."
"It is now my time to return. My heart is no longer stone but of the essence that brought me here. My love to you both for what you endured."
There was an intense flash of light and she was gone.
The monolith began to glow from blue to a dazzling white, the vaporized into thin air. There was nothing to hold Xenas weapon anymore.
The Chakram continued on its flight as if it had never been stopped. It careened off of the cliff wall, hit a pillar and returned to the hand of its owner. Xena looked at it with amazement and then she returned it to her hip.
"There is so much in the scope of things that we do not know, Xena." The Bard expressed.
"Maybe were not supposed to know, my love. Lets go home."
And Xena wrapped her arm around her partner as they headed down the mountain with Argo following behind.
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