GENERAL COPYRIGHT/DISCLAIMER:

Xena: Warrior Princess, and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction.

NOTE: All works remain the copyright of the original author. These may not be republished without the author's consent.

VIOLENCE WARNING/DISCLAIMER:

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

LOVE/SEX WARNING/DISCLAIMER:

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

COMMENTS: I leave you for awhile, to ponder on… Please feel free to comment on the story. Greatpear@yahoo.com

 

 

She Stole My Heart

Falcon

August 1999

 

 

Chapter One

 

The moon reflected over the water as The King of Thieves rowed the boat in closer to shore. The skiff that he was in pulled a second boat full of fish. It was his plan, to get the bait boat on shore. This would draw those guarding the perimeter to the fish and give Autolycus the needed time to make it to the palace. Now, it was only a rumor that six Indian tigers guarded the island perimeter but at the risk of becoming a large mouse that would get batted around by a half dozen cats, he wasn’t taking any chances.

He pushed the boat toward shore and watched it as it stuck in the sandy beach. Autolycus waited patiently away from shore in the other boat. It didn’t take too long before one, then two tigers climbed into the boat and began feasting on the fish. A quarter of a candlemark later, there were five of the six cats around the boat. "Here, kitty, kitty!" The thief called to the missing feline. He moved the boat along the watery shoreline and as he did, he spotted the sixth tiger heading for his friends. Now was his chance! The King of Thieves moored his boat and headed inland as quick as he could. When he made the palace wall he used his grappling hook, tossing it up and over the obstacle. The hook caught on the backside of the stone structure and he hoisted himself over the wall, disappearing into the black of the night.

The guard felt a slight breeze but when he turned there was no one there. He got to his feet, looked down the hall in both directions but it was empty. Returning to his seat, he went back to dreaming of dancing girls in colored silks.

Autolycus waited until the last candle was extinguished before he pulled himself up onto the balcony on the second level. Moving through the heavy drapes that kept the night air out of the palace, the thief tiptoed through the hallway. He was interested in only one treasure in the entire palace and that was kept in the private chambers of the Queen of Kos Island. The Island rested in the sea south of the mainland and northeast of the Island of Crete. Although he had never seen the Eye of the Roezidian Cyclops, it was told in the legend to be as large as a grapefruit and was a perfectly round emerald. Legend also professed that this eye came from a female Cyclops, which was extremely rare in this part of the known world. The jewel had been in the Queens possession for three generations. Now, where there was a challenge of any proportion and a reward for his trouble, one could expect The King of Thieves.

He crossed what appeared to be a great hall or banquet room. Then traveling up a long staircase, Autolycus turned right and followed the hall to the end, climbed out the window, shimmied to the next open window and came back inside. This was the Queen’s chamber.

Moving across the floor, Autolycus reached a chest, which measured two hands square, was covered with smaller jewels and had the corners trimmed with gold caps. This sat on top of a back marble pedestal. He stopped in front of it, smiled and moved to the other wall where a plain oak box of equivalent size rested on the dresser. The King of Thieves bowed and gently picked the lid up and was immediately hit over the head with a vase. He crumbled to the floor in a pile as the Queen looked him over first then screamed, "Guards! Guards! There is an intruder in my room."

The guards entered and took Autolycus away still out cold from the impact of the shattered flower container. When the Queen was alone, she returned to the oak box and opened the lid in order to ease her worry that the Eye remained in its resting place. Afterward, she moved to her bed and peeled back the sheets to reveal the true resting place of the Eye. The one on the dresser was a fake, while the one embedded in a recessed hole in the mattress was the real thing!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Xena was humming a melody in her mother’s kitchen as she tried to be domestic by cutting up some carrots and celery for a large pot of chicken soup. Gabrielle had taken a walk to the vegetable garden out back to bring in some onions and was enjoying the feel of a light breeze blowing. Cyrene had gone to the other side of the village to visit her sister promising to be back by supper time, so Xena thought that it would be nice to have a pot of chicken soup all ready simmering on the stove when she got home.

The Warrior reflected, So many times Mom has cooked for the two of us and for so many others that have stayed at the Inn. There’s a good feeling to be able to give back to her. It is also nice to have Mom be as accepting of my relationship with Gabrielle as she is. Besides the cave, that only we know about this place has the feel of home. That feeling wasn’t there for a long time when I was part of the evil and bitter way that had me. But I better concentrate on these celery stalks before I slice a finger.

A young man came to the front door and knocked hard trying to get someone’s attention. Xena heard the knock and headed for the front of the Inn, opening the door as she wiped her hands on an apron.

"Is this the home of Xena, the Warrior Princess of Amphipolis?" The serious faced individual asked.

"Yes it is." Xena said.

He was young and arrogant, dressed in unfamiliar clothing that was not common to the area. He wore black pantaloons with a dark red shirt that had puffed long sleeves and a black sash across his chest. On his feet he wore low cut black boots. He had the look of a debonair rouge rather than a guard from the Queens own. Then he opened his mouth, continuing his dialogue and the milk was soured.

"Tell the Warrior that I have a personal message for her." He said.

"I am her. What’s the message?" Xena asked with a little edge this time.

"You? The Warrior Princess? Not hardly!"

And that finally put her over the edge as she put the pinch on him. "Wack!" The fool dropped to his knees and began to choke as Xena said to him, "Now what’s the message? You don’t have all day!"

"M..y……Queen has…. Some…thing of…..yours. A….crea..ture….named……..Au…tolyc…us!" He forced out with some trouble.

"Wack!" And Xena released him.

Rubbing his throat, he said, "You really are Xena!"

Gabrielle walked up to the door at the end of all this and heard him say in closing. "He stays alive because he says he knows you. Is that true?"

The Warrior nodded.

"If he is to remain alive you must come to the Island of Kos."

Xena asked him. "What did he do?"

"He tried to steal the Eye of the Roezidian Cyclops. It is our Queens most valued possession."

"Well, what exactly is it?" The Warrior asked.

"It is a emerald the size of a large grapefruit, I am told. No one I know of has ever laid eyes on it." The young man said as he rose to his feet.

"It is also said that whoever holds the jewel, holds the key to wealth and power. The gem is somehow possessed."

"We will return with you. Autolycus is our friend and no harm should come to him." Xena shared with a stern look in her eyes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When Autolycus regained consciousness he grabbed the back of his head as he looked around the cell he had been thrown into. Wincing in pain he said, "I wonder who was trying to get my attention?"

He checked his pockets but everything was gone, including a note that he had in his pocket from Xena. Something he carried with him ever since she wrote it. All it said was, ‘Autolycus, beneath all that bravado is a good heart. Your Friend, Xena’

The dungeon that he was in left him with his mouth half-open. It was old, with rusty bars, a damp floor, cobwebs and looked like no one had been down there prior to him for a long time. The King of Thieves felt he had overstayed his welcome and looked around for something to pick the lock with but there was nothing around but the remains of the previous occupant. He walked over, looked at the assortment of bones and found a bone from the hand that he used to relieve himself of the cell by picking the lock.

"Even after death he was able to give his fellow man a hand." Autolycus smirked as relieved himself of the cage.

When he opened the cell door it creaked from lack of use. Autolycus began his assent through the palace corridors and hallways in an effort to get back to where he had been taken by surprise. As he traveled down the length of the last hallway, his eye caught a door that was ajar and he moved through it quietly. There was a short passage, which led to a closed door. When Autolycus unlocked the door and entered, it appeared that the King of Thieves had found his way into the Queens powder room and clothes closet which was adjacent to her bedroom.

Home once again, he thought to himself.

He figured the Queen to be quite old by the information that he received from his sources and that was partially why he felt that this would be an easy score. As he reached up to touch the top his head again, the thief winced at the painful contact. Moving to the door on the opposite side of the room he was in, he placed his ear against it to hear if there was any movement on the other side. Autolycus heard nothing so he opened the door very slowly.

It opened into the Queens bedroom but the room was empty as far as he could see. Entering the room, he looked around and everything was pretty much the same as he had found it the night before. Hearing a noise from across the room, the King of Thieves moved toward the sound. The candlelight flickered from the bath area behind the half opened door and as Autolycus peered in, he was surprised to see a lovely dark skinned beauty just stepping out of the bath to dry herself. The supple breasts, the sculptured body and the beautiful face took him to new places. He was having quite a difficult time focusing; however, he gave it his best try.

Tearing himself away from the miraculous vision he had been watching, he turned his attention back to the oak box. Moving back to the dresser, he took great pains to open it quietly, turning his head from time to time so as not to be caught off guard again. Ah! He said in his mind, then he looked closer and sniffed the jewel, lifted one eyebrow and let out a low, "Hmmm!" He realized that what he was looking at was a fake, a reproduction! He hoped there still was the chance of a real gem hid somewhere around here.

The Queen was coming out of the bath area into the bedroom so Autolycus hid on the floor on the far side of her bed. This beautiful creature was dressed in a blue satin type nightshirt that clung to every curve as she glided across the room. It was The King of Thieves’ plan, to just stay low until she fell asleep and then case the rest of the room, hopefully finding the jewel. Next on the agenda, remove his presence from the palace; get down to the shoreline and the boat that he had hidden, then sail away, one island at a time.

There was a knock on the door and the Queen responded with, "Just a moment." As she put on a robe to cover her body. "You may enter."

"My Queen, the Baby!" The Captain of the guards announced.

Autolycus thought, Baby? She looks too good to have had a child! By the gods, that might mean that there’s a Mister Queen! Not good!"

"Here Baby!" The dark skinned beauty called and a large black puma walked into the room. She sauntered across the floor, heading toward the Queen. When the puma almost reached her target, she turned and a deep-throated growl came from the animal. The puma jumped on the bed as Autolycus stood up with his hands in front of him to protect his face, and he screamed, "Ahhhh!"

The puma sat on its rear haunches and swiped at Autolycus with its front paw.

"Baby! Stop!" The Queen commanded.

"Nice kitty!" Autolycus said as he tried to put some humor into a sticky situation.

"How did you get out of the dungeon?" This mysterious woman asked.

"It’s what I do dear woman." He said as he took a bow. The puma growled again as it sat on the bed keeping Autolycus at bay.

"You tried to steal my emerald but I changed your mind!" She said as she sized him up and toyed with him.

"Changed my mind? You turned it off!" The thief said as he rubbed his head.

"Listen! You let me go and I’ll promise to never return hear again." Autolycus pleaded.

"I cannot do that just yet. I have sent one of my guards to get Xena of Amphipolis. I need her help with a personal matter. My sister has been abducted and I believe it’s for leverage to get to the emerald. When the guards searched you, they found a note from her on your person. Xena believes you have a good heart. If she really wrote that, maybe you could be of help too!"

"Oh! I’ve been known to give to the local charities and I’ll pet a stray dog now and then." He said as he looked at the puma.

"Baby, go lay down on your rug now." And the large cat moved like some sort of black liquid across the room and settled near the door.

"Come over here thief! I want to get a better look at you." The Queen commanded.

Autolycus obliged the woman, keeping one eye on the cat as he came around the bed. When he stood a length away from her, she began to walk around the thief, as she looked him over. She even leaned into his neck and sniffed him. "Clean and nice smelling. I like that in a man. You have nice hands too! That’s a plus!"

"Um, am I being seduced here?"

"Uh uh, you’re going to be seduced over there," she said as she pointed to the bed.

Her robe slid off of her shoulders and dropped to the floor, revealing the satin nightshirt. She took the King of Thieves by the hand and walked him to the bed. Then she looked into his eyes and said, "Are you afraid?"

"Afraid I’m not going to make it home on time tonight."

She helped him with his vest and shirt then he sat on the bed, pulled his boots off and watched her peal the satin nightshirt off of her body like a layer of skin. Autolycus unbuckled his pants and removed them as the Queen moved onto the bed. She moved like the puma, with a poetic grace that hypnotized the thief. She leaned over him and as she kissed him she made sure that her breasts brushed across his chest. His hands that had unlocked so many locks, relieved so many of their valuables and lifted some of the greatest treasures known in this hemisphere now shook as he touched this exotic woman. He was in her control as she moved her hands across his chest. The Queen moved one hand below his navel and held him for a moment, then she straddled his stomach moving her hips back and forth in a teasing fashion.

The thief was in awe at this vision of beauty that hung over his head, then she leaned forward allowing him to reach one of her breasts with his mouth. He was powerless after that and the puma could have tore him apart. Autolycus would not have known it until he was reincarnated. She raised herself much to his dismay and he asked, "Who are you? Surely you’re not Queen Itriel?" The King of Thieves uttered.

"You’re correct! I’m not Queen Itriel. I’m her daughter, the new Queen Ekrassi, of the Island of Kos." She explained and went on to say, "My mother passed away three moons past. It was sudden but she had a good life. Let’s not talk of such sadness at such a time of happiness."

Then she moved her body up his torso until she was close enough to pin his shoulders to the bed with her knees. As she did, there were several soft moans by both of them. When she was satisfied that he held nothing from her, she relieved him for the evening.

"Well…now that I’ve had my way with you, my thief, what shall I do with you? I can’t keep you in here, Baby will get jealous and eat you! We can’t have that now, can we?" The Queen purred.

"My Queen, I might suggest better accommodations than that drafty old cell in the dungeon. Being a man of refinement and working on maintaining an active relationship with you, would have me also suggest a room nearby?"

"I could get to like you, you sassy man! Come over here and give me a kiss."

"Dear Queen, you have captivated my attention. I feel that it is my solemn duty to stay and wait with you for the arrival of Gabrielle and Xena. The possibility of me helping you in this troubled time with the loss of your sister is very good! If I may be so bold as to offer my services, I might be able to help find her." Autolycus eloquently said.

"Tell me a little more about your sister and the what happened with her." Autolycus asked to get a better understanding of the situation.

"I think it’s just a ploy to get the jewel away from me. It’s not the value as much as it is a family heirloom. The messenger said that I would be contacted in the near future but it’s been three days and I haven’t heard a thing."

"Let’s go back to the beginning." Autolycus suggested.

The Queen began to explain what she believed was the reasoning behind the mystery of her sister’s abduction. "My sister had been away from the island on a holiday. She was to be gone for the length of a moon and then return to Kos. Three days after her scheduled return a messenger came to the island with a verbal message. He said, ‘Your sister is safe but is being detained. You will receive instructions on what must be done to get her back. Take warning, she will be eliminated if you fail to meet my masters demands.’ I called for the guards to show him back to his boat. They returned a short time later with troubled looks upon their faces, stating that he climbed into the boat and began to row out to sea. Continuing, they told me that the boat disappeared before their eyes and all that remained was a large patch of seaweed."

Autolycus rubbed his chin with his hand and said, "There has to be more to this."

"My belief is, someone is after the jewel and wants what is supposedly behind its history. The story goes like this, which is based on a very old scroll." And the Queen began to tell the tale.

"Ares god of war had a secret holding place for a cache’ of wealth that could not be measured. The Roezidian Cyclops was given the task of protecting Ares’ wealth, which was in safe keeping behind two great doors, immovable to all but her. As an added security to the tombs of Roezidia, Ares had a life size statue of the Cyclops placed at the entrance to ward off anyone who dared set foot upon this subterranean burial chamber. Many of the god’s odd creatures were laid to rest in this place. In the statue was a unique emerald that represented the eye of the Cyclops. The jewel had the special power to allow the Cyclops the ability to see what was approaching the entrance without being stationed there. This was accomplished with her minds internal vision. As long as the emerald remained in place, she would have extended sight, however, if ever removed, the Cyclops would be totally blinded.

The story that was told to me by my grandmother was this; A wizard placed a spell on the Roezidian Cyclops after professing a deep love for the lonely creature. She was skeptical at first but was flattered by the attention, for life, as a Cyclops was a solitary existence. Romancing her for some time and winning the Cyclops’ confidence, he gave her something in her wine one day, putting her into a deep sleep. The eye was removed from the statue and taken by the wizard then hid, with the belief that all the wealth that the Cyclops guarded would be his once he got her out of the way. He also thought that he could learn the secret of the eye and use it for his own purposes. He would let her believe that he would trade the eye for the wealth but his intentions were to never give it back.

When the eye was removed, the Cyclops awoke but was blinded. She would not betray the god of war by giving in to the wizard’s demands. So in her rage she laid hands on the wizard even though he tried to escape. The wizard freed himself from her grasp and cast an incantation on the Cyclops, turning her to crystal but in the last flicks of the candle’s flame, she grabbed him and they both were crystallized. The Cyclops still stands there holding him in her clutches, frozen in time according to legend. It was also said that if the eye would be restored to her likeness, she would regain her life. Behind her silenced body are the treasures of one hundred sultans and kings. She guards the door to unfathomable wealth, a door that only she could open. I believe my sister is nothing more than bait, to lure me out from my domain so the emerald can be taken to get the treasure." The Queen finished.

"Hmmm! Treasure, a female Cyclops, a wizard and abduction. Good thing you have Xena coming this way. She has a lot of hidden talent when it comes to all of these things." Autolycus mused aloud.

"Well, my first and only concern is to my sister. She needs to be returned home.

"One question, Queeny! How did this emerald work its way into being a family heirloom of yours?" The thief asked with great interest.

"My grandfathers father was brother to the wizard. He searched for him for several winters after hearing that he had gone over to the side of evil and greed. Believing this could not be true; he searched in order to disprove the stories he had heard. Rumor had him follow the journey that his brother took. One day he came upon the entrance of the Tombs of Roezidia and the statue of the eyeless Cyclops. He entered and found the crystallized Cyclops still holding his evil brother in its clutches. His search was over and he indeed had found out that his brother had been taken over by evil forces. His journey complete, he was leaving the tombs when a green glow caught his eye and he found the emerald, near the entrance on a rock shelf that was up rather high. He climbed up and got it, then fought the temptation of restoring it, figuring that things were better left as the gods had saw fit to have them."

"Very eye opening! If I must say so myself!" Autolycus attempted some humor.

 

Chapter Two

 

Xena and Gabrielle loved an adventure but they were concerned for their good friend’s well being. Autolycus had helped them with several problems in the past and one was helping to restore Xena’s life. For this, the two women were grateful beyond words and keeping that in mind gave them both a feeling of helplessness. They needed to move quick and travel to the island in order to save their friend from the clutches of this Queen. Xena let the messenger know that his life was in the balance and if anything happened to Autolycus then he could consider his end planned out for him.

They really didn’t need him along for the journey but by keeping him close at hand, Gabrielle felt that she could pick his brain for a little back round on the island and its inhabitants. The messenger was pretty close mouthed and did not fall prey to Gabrielle’s inquisitiveness. He gave them directions to the island and came along as the only collateral that the Warrior and the Bard had, regarding Autolycus.

They traveled by road to Kavala from Amphipolis where they had a boat waiting for them. This was the ship that the messenger came on to deliver his front door speech to Xena. Returning on the ship meant that the Bard and the Warrior were at the mercy of their host. This was to be a fairly long journey with the first leg of it taking them to the island of Limnos. Stopping here would be no more than three candlemarks in time and was strictly for the purpose of picking up some supplies for the palace and fresh water for the voyage.

Gabrielle and Xena stepped off of the ship to stretch their legs and grab a quick bite to eat. Argo was left at home for this trip. She had picked up a stone in her right front hoof. The stone was removed but the hoof was bruised and very tender. The rest would to her good and Cyrene would spoil her with apples and carrots. They were told that the islands were not that large to get around on, so Gabrielle let the Warrior know it would do her some good to walk.

Gee, I wonder if I’m putting on a little weight, that Gabrielle would say something like that? Well, it won’t hurt to strengthen my legs a bit. She’s looking pretty good with all the walking that she does. Yea……she looks real good! Got to try to get some private time with her on this trip.

"Xena! Do you want me to pick up some cheese and bread?" The Bard asked on their way back to the ship.

"Sure but make it fresh bread and spend the extra dinar this time!"

A candlemark later, they were gliding across the blue sea. The wind was steady, the sun was out and if their friend were not in danger, you would have thought that this was a trip for pleasure. The sails were full and the ship was sharp. Everything was in its place. You could see that this was a crew that could perform well for the Captain. He was a quiet man that kept to himself, did his duty and stayed away from trouble, which is why he was no where near the two women.

Althros, the young nameless warrior who came to get Xena and Gabrielle, finally loosened up enough to share the title that his mother gave him. He stayed his distance after his encounter with Xena but close enough to keep a hawk’s eye on her and her blonde partner. Xena kept looking over at him, working his mind a little, and keeping him on edge.

"Look Xena! See the dolphins! They’re poetic in the way that they weave themselves through the water much like a sailor working the needle through the canvas of a sail. It’s so beautiful!" Gabrielle shared her feelings to her lover.

Xena moved toward the rail of the ship and put her hand on the Bards. She moved her fingers over the hand of Gabrielle, feeling every bit of it, from the texture of her skin to the structure of her hand. She slid her fingers between the Bards and caressed the hand. It was as if she was making love to it with her own but their eyes never left the dolphins. This was a subconscious happening that goes on between to people who are in love.

Hios was the next island port that they would stop at and they would moor for the night, leaving for their final destination and Autolycus in the morning.

"He better be in one piece or there’s gonna be a whole lot of trouble, Gabrielle." Xena said with her eyes at a half squint and her teeth clenched. The Bard knew the Warrior face when she saw it and as protected as she felt with Xena, she still preferred the softer side of the raven hair beauty. With those thoughts on the Warriors mind, she pulled her sword and began the ritual of putting an edge to it. A small barrel worked out as a seat and she stayed right along side the Bard as Gabrielle watched the horizon and anything that the sea brought her way. Xena could see her mind moving beneath the blonde hair that flowed so naturally in the wind.

No doubt another story formulating in that head. Soon the scroll will come out and she’ll be on a roll. Artemis! I love that woman. Help make this hunt an easy one. The Warrior thought as she sharpened away.

As the sun began to settle down into the sea and evening came to call, the ship pulled into the port of Hios which was also the name of the island. The port was on the eastern side of the landmass and was the largest port on the island. This meant that there would be choices of places to stay and they would not be cooped up with too many eyes upon them. Xena didn’t care to be watched too easily and in the back of her mind she also had intentions of intimacy if the opportunity came knocking.

The sound of the anchor being released told the two travelers that the boarding plank would soon be down and they would need to make haste and find a room. Xena led the way toward the populated center of the town. Gabrielle pointed out a couple of places but Xena shook her head no. When the Bard tried a third time, she got the thumbs up sign for the Warrior and they tried to get a room at the Blue Waters Inn. Walking up to the innkeeper, Xena told her story about needing a room for one night. There was no problem and the innkeeper showed them the way down the hall and up the stairs to where the room was.

"Do you have access to a bath here?" Gabrielle asked.

" Sure do. Would you like it brought up to the room for an extra dinar or you can use the bath area downstairs." The innkeeper suggested.

"Bring it up. We’ll pay the dinar." Xena told the man.

They dropped their things and went down to the bar for a quick mug of ale. As it was, they ended up having two before they were told that the bath and bath water had been delivered. Drinking up, they headed back upstairs. It would feel good to get the salt and the grit off of their bodies, not to mention a chance to be alone.

The clothes went every which way and just when they were both with one foot in the tub, there came a knock at the door. The Bard and the Warrior just looked at each other, pausing for a moment to see who was going to answer it. Xena finally said, "All right! I’ll get it!

She threw a tunic on real quick and opened the door. Standing there was Althros, the messenger. He looked a bit embarrassed but found his tongue and said to the Warrior, "Sorry for the interruption but I wanted to tell you that the ship would be leaving about two candlemarks after sun up. Uh..uh"

"Yes? What else Althros?" Xena asked impatiently.

"Y..Your breast is hanging out!" And he feebly pointed at her chest.

Xena slammed the door in his face and pealed off the tunic. Returning to the tub and Gabrielle, the Warrior stopped again just before she got in. Dancing backwards to her leather pouch, she picked out a small package and with a silly grin, brought it back to the tub. Opening the small cloth, Xena dumped in the lavender flower petals into the water. It only took a few flicks of the candles flame until the aroma filled the two women’s nostrils. Xena stirred the water with her leg as she entered that special place that only the two of them shared.

"Xena, this feels so good!" The Bard shared.

"I haven’t done anything yet!" The Warrior playfully chided her love.

Gabrielle splashed Xena with a face full of water, getting one back in return. As the droplets ran down each one of their faces, slight smiles blossomed from the watering and there would be a meeting of the spirits through the window of the flesh in the very near future.

"Come here." Xena told the Bard.

She moved from across the tub to a position behind the Warrior, wrapping her legs around Xena’s waist.

"You feel slippery with the soap in the water." Gabrielle said to her blue eyed lover as she began to wash the Warrior’s ears, neck and shoulders. She lathered up her hands real good and slipped them over Xena’s breasts. Giving them a short massage, she let out a captivating groan of pleasure then stopped what she was doing. She moved to Xena’s hair, which took on the look of a night without stars. Washing and rinsing it was such a pleasurable experience for both of them. Xena reciprocated when the Bard had finished. The hot water did them both a world of good, relaxing them both after a long day of traveling the sea.

After they were dried and the combing of the hair was complete, Xena blew out the candles and the moonlight illuminated the room and the two naked figures. Both sitting on the bed facing each other, Gabrielle spoke first, "Are you all right Xena?"

"Yes my love. Why do you ask?"

"I guess…..I worry that you will tire of me someday." Gabrielle opened her hearts door and what was inside.

Xena looked into her eyes as she placed a hand on her shoulder and said, "I could no more tire of you than tire of breathing, my love. You worry needlessly."

Xena slid her hand from the Bard’s shoulder down Gabrielle’s arm to her own hand. Turning toward the surface of the bed, they reclined on the sheets, two souls at the end of their search. When their arms wrapped around each other, there was no beginning, no end. It was as if one mixed water with water. How could that, which stood alone, ever be separated again? Who would know where one would end and the other began? The moments between them this night were as fresh as first love, the first time. Xena could only think that if she had never tasted of this fruit before, then this truly would be the joy of discovery. And so it was, as she caressed those soft folds of flesh with her mouth and tongue. In her mind, she visualized that she was sucking the juice of a succulent peach that dripped at the pleasure of being eaten.

Soft sounds of joy escaped the lips of the Bard as she felt her soulmate making love to her. Xena’s tongue danced like the cobra to a music that came from deep within. As it danced, it brought its prey to the heights of ecstasy and not the depths of death. Their bodies were on fire and the easy breeze that would make itself known from time to time by flowing across their perspired flesh, was a welcomed friend.

The Warrior straddled her lover, giving her the opportunity to taste her passion as she continued to bring Gabrielle to the place of fulfillment. It all eased into a quiet time of holding each other with no words, for there were no words, just the beating of their hearts.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They left the port about midmorning and it was a peculiar morning at that. There was a fog that was thin as they got underway but gradually thickened as the voyage continued. It became rather eerie as time moved through the day and when it was apparent that they were closing in on the Island of Kos, the fog became terrible. Silence filled the air and the vessel slowed to a crawl. It was almost difficult to breathe; the air was so thick. Xena told Gabrielle to stand directly behind her and hold onto the Warriors belt with a firm grip. The Captain had eight sailors take a lantern to various places on the deck to help guide the ship through this vision hindering curse.

No one was aware that a spell had been cast and that reality would be bent in the next half of candlemark. As the fog broke open for a brief time and one could see a short distance, Gabrielle cried out in fear, "They’re all gone Xena!"

The lanterns remained on the deck but every sailor that had held one had now mysteriously disappeared. Xena told Gabrielle not to move and remain holding on to the back of her belt. A quarter of a candlemark later, the ship slid to a stop.

Xena pulled her sword and waited but nothing happened and no one attacked. The fog remained heavy over the ship and finally the Warrior made her move. "Get your staff ready Gabrielle." And Xena started to move forward on the deck. When she reached the rail at the bow, she looked down and to her surprise, they were moored on black sand. Xena started to check all sides of the vessel and found that the same was true all the way around.

"Gabrielle! We need to get off of this vessel and look around."

"Are you sure Xena? I don’t like the look of this." The Bard expressed her concern.

"Listen, everyone that was on this ship has disappeared with the exception of you and me. I think something or someone is trying to detain us through some sort of hex or curse. I think there is something keeping us from Autolycus. Maybe he is in more trouble than we or he can imagine! Anyway we cut it, there is a force that has us at bay."

The Warrior threw a rope over the side and repelled her way down the side of the ship. The sand was firm and black. It was difficult to see with the fog still thick in some areas but Xena felt that they had a better chance on the sand than sitting still on a ship that was out of water.

"Come on down Gabrielle. There doesn’t seem to be any danger. Let’s check things out. If there is nothing around we can always come back to the ship."

Gabrielle made it down the rope and the two of them stood in a desolate world that looked as if it had nothing to offer. Somehow the ship found itself in the middle of a desert by way of the sea. It was impossible but here they were. There looked to be a small mountain range off of the starboard bow, so they headed in that direction. It would be a good hike but at this time there was no other choice. They did have a couple of waterskin’s so there was a good chance getting there but where were they?

Traveling at as steady of a pace as the two of them could muster, they kept themselves on a straight course towards the second highest peak of the small mountain range. As best as they could tell, they were making good progress. The weather was peculiar, for when the fog had lifted and they found themselves in a world where the sky shown itself in a purple hue. Walking through the sand was very fatiguing but the two women knew that to stop and rest was to give way to their end. In the distance there was something that appeared as a small tornado which seemed to be moving directly toward them. There was nowhere to run, no shelter to protect them. All they could do was to lay down on the ground and hope that it would miss them. Sand flew everywhere and the sound was deafening. Just before it hit them, everything went calm and before them stood a fair haired young man dressed in green and purple satin robes with gold braiding and a rolled scarf that wrapped around his head as some form of a headdress. His eyes were the palest of blues and he appeared to be a gentle soul although his entrance was quite the opposite.

"Who are you?" Xena inquired.

He bowed elegantly and said, "My name is Quay and I am here to help you."

"Help us with what?" Xena said with an edge.

"I shall help you restore your reality from where it was altered back to where it was, now! You see, your perception of what is, is not exactly real. It will take us some time to sort out the fallacy but then you will be able to continue on your journey."

"You know of our journey?" Gabrielle asked inquisitively.

"Yes! There are those who watch the two of you more closely than you would imagine. What has happened to you both is this; a suggestion was placed in your path. You have walked into an illusion and I will try to help you by walking you out of it.

"Xena! The sand moves, do you see?" Gabrielle pointed off a little ways. The Warrior looked but saw nothing then gave the Bard a look as if she was suffering from heat stroke. Xena thought about feeling Gabrielle’s head but decided not to, figuring that it might agitate her and they didn’t need more problems.

"We must proceed if we are going to get you back on your journey." Quay told the two.

He began to lead them toward the last place that they had seen the ship. It was as if they had walked so far that the vessel disappeared into the horizon. All that remained in front of them was what appeared to be a small oasis. They followed Quay’s lead and dropped in behind him. The sand was giving Gabrielle a very hard time. Her feet were sinking deeper and deeper into the surface, which was beginning to scare her. Xena was stumped and her face showed her bewilderment. Being larger and therefore heavier, she should have been the one sinking but the Warrior was not having any problem with the sand.

Quay talked to Gabrielle, saying, "Keep your focus on the sand Gabrielle. We have quite a distance to travel yet, to get you back to where you have come from."

The Bard struggled on for another half of candlemark and Xena helped her but they virtually walked on the same surface with two different results. It was beyond all comprehension.

"What are those things sticking out of the surface? They’re beginning to move!" Gabrielle said in disbelief.

Dark triangular shapes were moving through the sand in large circular patterns. Xena did not see them at first until the oasis began to look more like the ship they had left many candlemarks ago. The Warrior pulled her sword, as they seemed to move closer. From the once empty deck of the ship, they heard Althros calling to them. It was a faint call that gradually became louder and more desperate. Xena began to sink as Gabrielle had been doing for quite some time but they both were struggling almost up to their knees and the sand was wet! Quay still remained on top and ahead as he urged them onward.

They were almost to the ship when Gabrielle shouted, "They’re sharks! I can see their black eyes and white teeth through the sand."

Quay turned toward them both and began to sink rapidly through the sand saying, "Perhaps, we will meet again near Astakida."

Althros shouted, "Hurry! They’re right behind you!"

There were six horse lengths between them and the rope that hung over the side of the ship. Reality had returned in full as they found themselves up to their necks in the sea. Xena grabbed on to the Bard with one arm and nose punched a shark with her other fist. She got to the rope and helped Gabrielle get started up to the deck of the ship. One more close encounter with another large shark had Xena dive below the surface. She punched another shark in the stomach and returned to the rope. Grabbing on, she pulled herself up and out of the razor teeth of the gray flesh eaters below.

"What happened here? We were moving through the water and a fog settled in. After that, I remember nothing until I awoke on the deck, stood up and saw the two of you working your way back to the ship. In front of you was a dolphin that seemed to be guiding you or at least waiting for you to get to the vessel." Althros said with puzzlement and surprise.

Xena looked over the side of the ship into the water and saw nothing but the endless waves. She turned to Gabrielle and shared a look of disbelief of what had just occurred.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Autolycus had been enjoying a very romantic stay with Queen Ekrassi but he was starting to get a little nervous about whether Gabrielle and Xena were really coming or not. The other thing that was making him uncomfortable was the feelings he was experiencing. The King of Thieves would not admit this out loud but his heart was beginning to be touched by a certain Queen. This was not permissible for someone with his stature. It could only mean defeat but it felt so good to be wanted so much. Autolycus thought to himself.

I need to…….

"Autolycus! Come rub some oil on the back of my legs, love." Ekrassi asked with honey dripping from every word.

"My dear, it would be my honor to oil you."

And so time passed, with the King of Thieves wrapped up in the arms of a hypnotic love. From the shadows stood a dark cloaked figure with peering eyes that glistened in the dark. Slowly the lips parted and pulled back into a large smile, pleased at what was happening in front of him.

Soon, it will be all mine and nothing will stop me from getting what is mine. After all, it is my heritage!

Neither Xena, nor anyone will keep me from the treasure, not even Ares. The Zobathenae thought to himself.

 

 

Chapter Three

 

Looking to the horizon, they could see the island coming into view. It would be a good candlemark before they made it around to the other side of the island and dropped anchor. Still confused as to what had happened to the Warrior and the Bard, they shared their thoughts.

Xena said, "Do you remember anything that Quay said to us Gabrielle?"

"Other than to keep the focus on the illusion, I was at odds at what seemed to taking place. I think what happened was, we were seeing in our minds something that wasn’t there but we needed to believe in it until we were safely back to the reality of what was. Do I make any sense?" The Bard asked, not quite believing totally what she had said.

"All I know is when you started realizing that we were not where we were supposed to be, the illusion began to break down for you and you began sinking. You also saw the sharks before I did." Xena observed.

"Superior mind, you know!" Gabrielle gloated.

That got her an evil look from her Warrior as she continued, "We need to remember this in case we’re attacked again by this force and I have a strong feeling that we will. Someone wants us out of the way and I’m beginning to think that Autolycus is not the main focus here. We need to get on that island and find out what this is all about."

"Xena, what do you think that Quay meant when he said, "There are those who keep an eye on you two or something like that."

"I don’t think it’s Ares or Artemis. I think there might be a much larger picture that we as mortals might not be allowed to see just yet. I don’t know but it is somewhat comforting to know that there is something on our side."

Althros walked up to the Warrior with a sheepish look on his face, then said, "I know we got off to a rough start back in Amphipolis but I wanted to apologize for my arrogance and stupidity. I just wanted you to know….."

"It’s OK. You reminded me of me, along time ago. Keep the edge on your sword and not on your heart." The Warrior advised him.

The ship anchored and the young messenger shot an arrow as a signal to open the trail to the palace. This was an area that was fenced off from the tigers, keeping it a safe access. The double gate was opened and gave the landing party a safe path. Xena, Gabrielle and Althros took a small boat to shore, following the trail up to the palace. They were accompanied by four of the Queens guards.

"Where is Autolycus?" Xena asked Althros.

"I will find the Queen and tell her you are here. I’m sure she will let you see him shortly." Althros told the two women as he went to search for his leader.

Xena and Gabrielle were left in a large room that was filled with flowers, food and several musicians playing softly for aesthetic value. This was some kind of receiving room and both Xena nor Gabrielle could remember anything as elegant. Althros returned within a short time and looked a bit flustered.

"They…The Queen will be here momentarily. She will explain." Althros told them both.

"What’s going on, Althros? You look like you got caught doing something wrong!" Gabrielle suggested.

"I …don’t really know what to say….I…think your friend…he should tell you."

"Autolycus!" Gabrielle greeted the thief. "Are you all right?"

Autolycus looked great! He was eating a pear and was dressed in fine clothing. Last thing that it looked like was that he needed rescuing of any kind. The Queen followed him through the doorway and wrapped an arm around him as she kissed his cheek. Xena was furious when she put it together and realized that the Queen and the thief were an item.

"What in Hades is going on here? You drag us all the way from Amphipolis to look in on two love birds?"

Xena shouted at Althros.

The Queen stepped in by saying, "It’s really my fault. I never expected Autolycus to be so charming. One thing led to another and well, you know? Anyway, he was not the reason that I had you sent for. I thought you might be able to help with a more serious problem. The kidnapping of my younger sister.

My sister was a short voyage to a neighboring island. She was abducted and there was a message delivered to me that stated I would receive instructions about how I might get her back. I believe that there is something odd about all of this and I further believe that whoever is responsible for this, is trying to get the emerald. There is a belief that it has special powers or so the story goes. Queen Ekrassi shared all that she had told Autolycus about the treasure, the Cyclops and the jewel. She also told Xena and Gabrielle of her belief that there was someone that was after it all.

"Now I understand why you’re still here Autolycus!" Xena told him with a look of disgust.

"Now Xena, let’s not get bitter. After all, I only stole a few kisses!" The thief said in his defense.

Xena had that uneasy feeling that someone was watching them. As she moved toward the doorway to take a look into the next room, she was momentarily startled as the puma walked into the room. She drew her sword but Autolycus cautioned Xena, "It’s OK, Baby is uh…domestic, Xena!"

The Warrior put her weapon away but kept track of where the large cat was at all times.

"I’ll have one of my servants show you to your rooms and we can continue this discussion in the morning." The Queen said as she moved closer to Autolycus.

"One room will be sufficient, if you please." Gabrielle said with a smile.

That received a raised eyebrow from the Queen as she guided Autolycus off to another night of exploration. Xena was still looking at that puma with mixed feelings and she wasn’t quite sure why the cat was bothering her that much. She had experience with large felines before so it wasn’t that it was the peculiarity of the animal. There was something wrong here but she just wasn’t on to it yet.

Gabrielle and Xena followed the servant to where they would sleep for the evening. The two women thanked the young girl and entered the room. It was a beautiful room all color coordinated in greens and blues. But decorating was not what was exactly on Xena’s mind at the moment. The feeling of being watched had not left her. It was like a heat on the back of her neck. So as Gabrielle got ready to bath in the adjacent room, the Warrior told her that she’d join her in a little while and walked out to the bedroom to look around.

Xena moved to the door and listened carefully. Waiting for the right moment, she flung the door open and there in the hall was the puma. The cat hissed at the Warrior, showing his teeth and the its eyes changed to a yellow glow then back to normal, as it retreated down the hall into the next corridor.

The Warrior followed it to the end of the hall, then changing her mind, decided to go back to Gabrielle and make sure she was OK.

"Xena? Are you going to share this tub or not." The Bard said, as she heard movement behind her. The puma had entered in through the window and was moving slowly toward Gabrielle, who had her back to the animal. Just as the cat was about to pounce on the unsuspecting blonde, the chakram came careening off of the wall and headed right for the puma. The cats lightening reflexes saved it, as it exited the way it entered.

"Are you all right Gabrielle?" Xena shouted as she ran to the window in pursuit but the puma was long gone into the night.

"Kind of feeling like the fish that got away…….Xena!

The Bard stood in the tub with a bewildered look upon her face; still soaking in everything that had just happened. Xena closed the shutters on the window and made sure that the door was secure.

"You better get dressed Gabrielle and come with me. We’re going to pay a call on the Queen."

A little while later, they moved down the hall and entered the corridor that the puma had run down. When they reached the end, they turned to the left and found what appeared to be the door to the Queens chambers. Xena banged loudly on the doors and waited.

"Who knocks at this time of night?" The Queen said, somewhat irritated.

Xena kicked the door open and found the Queen in bed with Autolycus but her mind was occupied with more important matters at this time. The Warrior walked right up to the side of the bed and said, "What in Hades is your puma doing in our room, attacking my friend? I just missed putting that bastard out of his misery."

"Bastard? Baby is a girl!" The Queen stated as a matter of fact.

"What?"

"Yes and she’s in her cage, as she is put in there every evening." The Queen replied.

"That’s right Xena! At least every night that I have been here." Autolycus added as he held the blanket up to his chest.

"The puma I saw in our room and before that, in the hall was a male and there was something very strange about the eyes. It almost appeared to be possessed." The Warrior explained.

"And hungry too!" The Bard added.

The Queen dressed and took Xena down to where Baby’s cage was. She was all curled up in the corner. This was a walk-in sized cage that was equipped with several dead trees for climbing and all the conveniences of home for the large feline. When they entered the cage, Baby sauntered over and the Queen gave her a rub behind the ears. Xena could see that this was not the same cat and rubbed her ears also. Gabrielle, although apprehensive, petted the animal too for her own peace of mind.

"So what was it that attacked Gabrielle?" Xena asked.

"I don’t know. Baby is the only puma that we have on the island." Queen Ekrassi assured the Warrior, the Thief and the Bard.

"I’m beginning to think we are not alone. Who ever took your sister from the ship she was on, is here." Xena told the group.

"My emerald! It’s in the room!" The Queen said in a startled voice.

Xena bolted out the door and ran directly to the Queens bedroom with Autolycus, Gabrielle and the Queen following fast behind. They were too late, as the Queen went directly for the bed which had the mattress overturned. The hole that kept the jewel safe for such a long time now was empty.

Xena went to the window and looking down into the courtyard, saw a shadowy hooded figure moving down the path. The Warrior forward flipped and shouted her war cry at the same time. "YiYiYiYiYi!" Landing on the ground she moved forward and the figure turned toward her. Blasting her with a lightening bolt that set her on her backside, the figure continued down the path! It took Xena an instant to get herself back together but she regained her warrior savvy and was on her feet moving forward. Catching up to the figure in the hooded cloak was not hard to do but once Xena got there, she lost her perspective. The Warrior dove at the figure and ran right into a tree, almost knocking herself out cold. He had created an illusion and she fell for it!

When she found her wits again, she ran toward the island’s shoreline. Upon reaching it, she scouted around but found absolutely nothing but some footprints that led to the water’s edge. Looking out to sea there was only a very small island. The Warrior was miffed as she tried to make sense of it all.

There was no way the thief could have escaped without me seeing something. He would have had to virtually disappear. Xena thought as she walked along the beach. Then she noticed the small island was now further away and as she concentrated on it, it took on the shape of a small boat with one figure in it.

I believe a wizard has duped me and I don’t think this is the first time he has had his hand on Gabrielle and me or for that matter, Queen Ekrassi. She might not be as devious as I gave her credit for.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Autolycus and Gabrielle made it down to the beach, reminding Xena that there were Indian tigers wandering the open area of the island. Xena took the direction and the three of them returned to the palace. Xena needed some answers and she figured that the Queen had more information than she was willing to part with. Now that the jewel had been lifted, perhaps she would be willing to share her hearts secrets with the rest of them.

They returned to the palace. A fire was started in a large sitting room and the Queen stared off into space for awhile. It took her some time but Xena was patient and gave her a moment to gather her thoughts.

"There was a nanny I had as a small child. I remember her telling me about a half brother that was chastised by the gods in order that I could reign over the kingdom of Kos someday. She said that he was not of my father’s seed and that his heart would be tainted by those things that came by way of the unnatural. The nanny told me that he was taken by a mysterious woman six winters before I was born, with the understanding that she could do with him as she wished but never to have him return to Kos. Recently, something inside of me gave me a feeling that there was a disturbing presence near and about but I could not quite pinpoint what it was. I believe he has returned. He would be about thirty-five winters now."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

He knew that he had been the topic of conversation and that the pieces of the past were coming together to form the present. His name being Zobathenae, who was taken at birth and given by his mother to a shaman name Ostalli in order to keep an illegitimate son from someday inheriting the crown of Kos and had now, returned from obscurity. His claim was not only for the right of heir, which was no more than an afterthought to him but the wealth that was behind those doors that had been closed to all mortals eyes for so many winters. Then there was the power of the emerald. The ability to see things that were taking place in another area but with the proper incantations, it could be a tool to see into the future.

A small island near to the Island of Kos was his stronghold and now that Ostalli was dead, Zobathenae had put into motion what he had been waiting to do since he was a small boy. His hate for the abandonment by his mother was so great that when she died of natural causes, it only heightened his anger because he was robbed of the opportunity to kill her himself. Deep in a cavern near the cliffs on one side of his island, he sat plotting his next move.

He thought of the Warrior; She is a dangerous hurdle to overcome but I shall outwit her if not defeat her. The rest are fodder, including my two half sisters.

He looked across the cave toward a large transparent bubble. The sphere was spinning at an incredible speed and was nothing more than a round blur of pale green light. He waved his hand, saying something in an incomprehensible dialect and the sphere slowed to a stationary position still floating in the air. Inside of it was his younger half sister, Ithisyn. He walked toward the sphere and stood in front of it with an indifferent look, staring directly into her eyes as she screamed to be released. Her screams were silent to his ears, for they did not penetrate the membrane of her cell. Zobathenae kept her alive merely as collateral in case of unforeseen trouble. Another wave of the hand, a few more phrases spoken and the sphere began its rotation back to a blur.

Zobathenae moved to another part of the cavern where the wall was filled with many containers that held a variety of things for potions hexes and spells. There were hairs from a Hydra and the paws of an African Fire monkey. Dried spiders, poison mushrooms, snake eyes, powders made from the bones of Tibetan priests and the tongues of a thousand hummingbirds. The shelves were endless and the further one would look, the more bizarre the contents seemed to be.

I will have it all in a matter of days, he mused.

Outside the cavern the sun was rising and another day was coming into being. The waves crashed against the stone cliffs, just below the mouth of the cavern. It was a deafening sound that obliterated all other sounds, with the exception of one. It was the scream of anger that cut like a razor sharp sword through water. It was the raw nerved pain that was vocalized at being made a fool of. It was the discovery that within the velvet bag the wizard held was nothing more than green glass. The emerald had been switched!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Xena felt that there was nothing more that could be said and done. The day was just around the corner and everyone needed some rest. Gabrielle was sleeping in an overstuffed chair and everyone else had droopy eyes. The Warrior suggested that they all get some sleep, even if for only a couple of candlemarks. No one fought the idea, so they returned to their rooms and rested.

The trouble with thieves is their constantly trying to steal the show and Autolycus being the King of Thieves was the worse offender of all. After he caught something in the vicinity of a catnap, he slipped out of the bed leaving the Queen to her early morning daydreams. Moving to the oak box on Ekrassi’s dresser, Autolycus opened the lid and picked up the real Eye of the Roezidian Cyclops, bowed silently and exited through the open window. Autolycus had placed the jewel in a leather bag the he was carrying over one shoulder. Being familiar with the Queen was no secret around the palace after twelve moons, so his movement was not monitored. Making it down to the shoreline was not at all difficult and although getting to the boat he had hid was a little tougher, the King of Thieves would enjoy sharing the story with his fellow borrowers, as he boasted of the challenges he overcame.

As he reached the boat, something from the depths of Tartarus rose up from the shallows of the sea. It was as large as a full-grown tree, having one head, multiple tentacles and its flesh was red and green. The creature was slimy and its eyes were focused on a meal of Autolycus. The thief had nothing to protect himself but the bag with the jewel in it. As the creature lunged for him, he tossed it down its throat in an effort to save his own skin.

"No! Autolycus, it’s an illusion!" Xena screamed but it was too late. The creature turned into a watery mist and rained down on the unsuspecting thief. By that time Xena was along side of him but there was nothing to be done but watch the wizard vanish out upon the waters of the sea.

The two of them walked back to the palace and Xena started in on the Thief, "How could you Autolycus? Somebody’s life could be in danger here!"

"Could be, Xena!" As he tried to weasel out of his poor judgement.

"You were smooth enough to work the Queen right out of her heirloom with a simple switch and in the process, without knowing it, you duped the wizard too! Then you got greedy! By the gods and all of their powers, why?"

"I’m the King of Thieves, Xena! I have a reputation to uphold!"

"I gotta give you that, you’re a dedicated professional." The Warrior told him.

"Uh, Xena! We don’t have to let the Queen know that I pulled the old switcheroo on her, do we?" Autolycus groveled.

"We need to follow Zobathenae and find the Queens sister, then I’m gonna kick this wizard right in his amulet." Xena gave the thief a visual.

Gabrielle met them on the palace steps with the Queen. Xena told a twisted tale of Autolycus’ confrontation with the sea monster and how the thief scared it off. However, it was time to pursue the wizard and locate his whereabouts. With as many islands to choose from, it could be a difficult task, then Xena lit up like a torch and said, "Gabrielle! Where did Quay say we might see him again?"

"Let me see….now, don’t tell me…I’ll get it…..uh, Astakida! That was it, Astakida!"

"Astakida!" The Warrior repeated after her. "I love you, Gabrielle."

"Superior mind, you know!" The Bard told the Queen and Autolycus to the look of raised eyebrows and smirks.

 

 

Chapter Four

 

The Queen gave them one of her fastest ships, their newfound friend Althros, Captain, crew and her blessing. Although she was not too happy with the loss of Autolycus, she did agree with Xena that his talents might come in handy in this trip. Within two candlemarks, the tiny island was visible. The Warrior was hoping she would be able to catch up to Zobathenae before he set sail to a place that only he knew the whereabouts at this time.

Astakida was nothing more than a volcanic leftover from eons ago. There appeared to be nothing of value here, not even to a sailor who needed to stand upon solid ground for awhile. He would have picked another place. So, it was understandable why no one would look for anyone or anything here.

As they maneuvered the ship around the island, Xena noticed what could be an opening above the cliffs. They anchored here and she took a boat in to shore with Althros, leaving Gabrielle on board with Autolycus. Her reasoning was to keep her lover away from any mystical harm that could come her way.

The boat landed and the two occupants got out and began to work their way up to where Xena thought she spotted an opening. As they go higher, they spotted a large cavern entrance. The Warrior took the lead as they entered into an eerie world that could produce the unexpected. There were patches of colored fog among the odd rock formations. A smooth stone path guided them to the main chamber and as they entered a strange dog like creature void of fur attacked Althros. Xena ran to his aid, drawing her sword and fighting the creature back. They both sort of waited for the apparition to disappear but this one was for real.

The Warrior flipped and bounced off of the wall of the cavern and landed behind the long toothed nemesis. She slapped it on the backside with the flat side of her sword and when it turned she thrust forward and ended the beasts life.

Throughout the cavern were spheres of blurred light that floated in the air. They made no sound other than a slight hissing. Varied in size and color, Xena could only imagine what each one was or what it might hold. There was no wizard to be found but that did not mean he was not there, so the two continued to explore. Althros moved into an adjacent chamber and found the large sphere of light. While Xena was busy looking around another area of the cavern, Althros was tempted to reach out and touch the sphere.

When his fingers made contact, he felt something rush through his being and in his mind he heard the words, "Help Me!"

"Xena! I think I may have found the Queens sister!" Althros exclaimed.

"I told you not to touch anything! You could get into something that you wished you didn’t."

"I know but I heard her when I touched the sphere!" He said adamantly.

Xena walked up to the sphere and did the same as Althros had done, touching it lightly. She too heard the plea. "Stand back," she commanded.

Pulling her chakram, she threw it high at the cavern wall and it ricocheted, striking the sphere near the top, it continued on hitting the wall again and returning to Xena’s hand. The sphere began to slow down and Ithisyn became visible within the bubble.

"How can we get her out Xena?" Althros asked.

"I’ll try the chakram again and see if it can break or split the membrane somehow."

Throwing once again but this time directly at the upper portion of the sphere, the chakram glanced off of the surface which gave it additional speed, then rebounding off of the ceiling, it came down dead center and hit the surface. It took an instant but all of the sudden the sphere shattered into a million pieces, releasing the young woman. Althros took her by the hand and following Xena toward the exit, began their exodus from this mysterious place.

Unfortunately as they passed the last of the spheres, Ithisyn brushed it with her shoulder. Within a flick of the candle’s flame a flying lizard type of creature sprung from the dissolving orb and attacked the young couple. Althros fought valiantly against the demon but it sunk its teeth into the guard’s shoulder. By the time Xena pulled her chakram and threw, eliminating the creature from this world, it was too late.

Xena and Ithisyn came to Althros’ aid but the Warrior knew by the look upon the young guard’s face that it was a lethal bite.

"My friend, I cannot help you with this." Xena told him as she held his head in her lap.

"I……am…hon..ored..to…have….been…able..t.to…know…you." And he passed beyond the realm of being mortal.

"Let’s go before we can’t." Xena told the young woman. They left the cavern and worked their way down the path that they had taken to the cavern. In a short time they returned to the place where Xena had left the boat. Even though the Warrior was anxious to question the young woman about anything she might have heard Zobathenae say, she needed to wait until they were back to the safety of the ship. The rocks were wet and slippery where they shoved the boat back into the water but it went without incident and Xena rowed back to the ship. The wind was picking up and that only meant that rougher seas were coming their way.

Once the two of them returned to the deck of the vessel, Xena shared the unfortunate news of the loss of Althros.

Gabrielle said it best when she remarked, "He was just beginning to be tempered into a good man in the furnace of everyday life. I liked him and I’ll miss him.

"He saved my life, twice!" Ithisyn said with a vacant stare, still not settled with the reality of being rescued.

"I too will miss him." The Warrior said, as she looked back toward the island.

Autolycus conveyed the same feelings, as well as mentioned that the Queen would be saddened by Althros’ loss.

Xena prodded the young woman. "Tell me anything that you can think of Ithisyn, that might help us figure out where Zobathenae went. We haven’t a clue as to where the Roezidian Tombs are. Was there anything said that would give us a direction to head in?

"I was abducted and then I was placed under a spell. Later I awoke inside the sphere and when Zobathenae placed it into motion, I was returned to a sleep state. What you heard when I asked for help, was my dreams, I think? I never heard him talk of anything other than that I would never leave the cavern alive."

"Nothing about the treasure, hey?" Autolycus picked.

Xena gave him an absolutely disgusted look.

"C’mon Xena! There might be a clue there, if anything was mentioned." The King of Thieves groaned a bit.

Xena was totally frustrated and had run out of ideas. She looked to the Bard who often, out of some insight or premonition came up with an answer.

"Gabrielle, what are we to do? I can only think to return to the Island of Kos and return Ithisyn to her sister, the Queen." Xena shared in wonder. She walked to the railing of the ship, looking out to sea and waited for the Bard to come up with another plan or agree to take the sister back home.

Gabrielle was just about to agree with Xena’s decision to return to Kos, when Xena shouted, "Gabrielle, look at this!"

Running to the railing, the green-eyed blonde looked in the direction that Xena was pointing. In the water was a single dolphin and it was swimming backwards on its tail, in an attempt to draw attention to itself. The Bard and the Warrior both looked at each other and at the same time shouted, "Quay!"

As hard as it was to believe the dolphin had kept its promise.

Xena thought about what he had said, "Perhaps, we will meet again near Astakida."

"Xena! He want’s us to follow! He’s going to show us where the Roezidian Tombs are!" Gabrielle cheered.

"We’re gonna follow Poseidon’s pet?" Autolycus questioned.

"This was the guide that took us from a certain death while we were in the middle of an illusion. We both have a level of faith that this dolphin will take us to where the wizard is headed." The Warrior explained to the thief.

Quay led the way through the waves, jumping completely out of the water so the ship would not lose sight of him. Within two candlemarks, they were within sight of what appeared to be a ship on the horizon. Quay back swam on his tail to let them all know that his part was finished and he returned to the sea. They saw a ship up ahead of them and it was at full sail, making the best of what wind was available. Xena told the Captain of the Queens vessel to lay out some sail and catch them if he could. The chase was on.

It appeared to be about eight nautical miles to an island in the distance and although Xena and Gabrielle with their friend Autolycus were gaining some ground, they would not catch the ship in time. The waves were crashing into the bow of the ship and the water was spilling over the deck as the vessel rose and fell. Everyone hung on tight, for the ride was dangerously wild. Waiting to arrive took forever but as they neared the landmass, it was important to come in carefully in order not to ground the ship on the rocks. The ship they were following was anchored in the cove. The Captain and the crew stayed on the ship, having delivered the Bard, the Thief and the Warrior. They would keep safe the Queens younger sister. Xena thought it might be futile to check the ship so they decided to move up between the towering rock formations, which paralleled the trail they were hoping, would lead to the Roezidian Tombs.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The wizard knew that the ship was behind him but he had several tricks up his sleeve. He figured he was probably half way up the trail. Digging into the robe he was wearing, he pulled out a small leather bag and dumped the contents on a large rock. There were three small claws on the rock. The wizard ran his thumbnail over his other wrist and blood pour from the wound onto the claws. Smoke began to curl up into the air and the claws started growing into three hideous creatures that had the leathery skin of a lizard with the beak and claws of a bird but void of wings and were a dull dark green in color. Thin and sinewy, standing eighteen hands tall and with eyes that were dark red, they stood there waiting for instructions.

The wizard said, "Them that would stop me are down that path. You must keep them from interfering. Go down there and kill them! Tear them to pieces!" The creatures turned and began to run down the trail in the direction of the Warrior and her two friends. Carrying no weapons other than their clawed hands and feet and their sharp edged beaks they came looking to annihilate the trio.

Autolycus talked as they moved along through the bottom of a long gorge, "This better be worth all the time I’ve put into this project."

"Oh! I think you’ve been rewarded amply!" Xena said with a sly smile and was joined by another from Gabrielle.

"Xena? What are we going to do when we catch up to this wizard? His powers are strong and he looks like he won’t sto…. Xena! What’s that coming down the gorge?"

"I don’t know but they look mean and right out of Tartarus," as she grabbed her chakram and threw a direct shot to the chest of the first creature. "AHHHGG!" It screamed as it went down face first into the gravel. Sword pulled, Xena attacked the second creature with the capabilities that made her the Warrior she was. Autolycus ducked a swing of third creatures right arm, the claw just missing by inches, while Gabrielle struck the creature on the back of the neck, driving it forward and down hill.

Xena swung her sword in the air and came down, removing one clawed hand. When the creature looked, screaming at the results and totally surprised, the Warrior ran it through. By this time the third creature regained it’s feet and ran up the gorge toward the three comrades. Gabrielle pole-vaulted with her staff over the creature, landing behind it. It caused the red-eyed assassin to turn toward her and Xena ran it through from behind. It’s arms reared toward the sky and as the Warrior removed her blade, the creature fell to the stones and gravel at their feet.

"Xena, I’m always guaranteed a good time with you and Gabrielle!" Autolycus half smirked as he kept one eye focused on the trail up ahead.

Gabrielle took one last look at the three assassins lying on the floor of the gorge and put her hand on Xena’s forearm, "Listen, do you think we should stay in pursuit of this Zobathenae? He seems to come up with more tricks and illusions than even Alti used."

"Oh no, make no mistake about Alti’s powers but this Zobathenae is strong for a wizard. Still, it takes a great amount of energy out of him every time he devises another challenge for us." Xena said as she too looked up the length of the gorge. The three of them continued on, with no sign for the time being of anything waiting in the rocks. A short time later they stopped to take a drink from the waterskin. The journey was up hill and the weather was hot. It appeared that the area was beginning to turn further inland and as the Warrior moved ahead of her two friends, she gave them the hand up sign for halt.

Directly in front of them was a solid wall of boulders that had blocked the entire trail. Gabrielle just stood there with a confused look on her face and Autolycus spouted, "Where’s Hercules when you need the big guy?"

Strange as it appeared, Xena pulled her chakram out and threw it on a angle, so that it hit the side of the cliff, careened off and with a total look of astonishment, went right through the wall of boulders. Within the time it takes a bird to flap its wings ten times, the chakram returned to Xena’s hand.

Autolycus shouted, "Way to go, Xena! What does it mean?"

"Silly, you only think the boulders are there! It’s some more of that wizards tricks! Right, Xena?" Gabrielle explained and questioned at the same time.

"That’s right Gabrielle. Let’s go."

"You first, Xena!" Autolycus bowed with the greatest of manners.

Xena looked at them both and took off running, did a forward flip and war cried, "YiYiYiYiYiYi!" As she disappeared right into the stone. Gabrielle and Autolycus followed quickly behind Xena as they looked over their shoulder to see if anything was following them.

"Swoosh!" Was the sound that they heard as they moved through the illusion. When they got to the other side, Xena was already standing there waiting for them.

 

 

Chapter Five

 

Zobathenae was very close to the entrance of the tomb and slowed his pace as he felt confidant that he would succeed now. As he rounded the last variation in the trail, he came upon the opening in the front of the black stone cliffs. It was overgrown with brush and small trees but still visible if one was looking for the signs. Even with the growth, the area surrounding the entrance appeared to be sunken in toward the base of the mountain. It gave one the feeling that you were being drawn into a void. Looking beyond, the wizard moved through the scrub brush and entered the cavern’s opening. Gradually sloping downward, the rough rock and gravel surface, which was scattered with a few large boulders here and there, ended at the first of many huge steps. These were extremely wide steps that had carved into the black rock that spiraled down to a large open landing. There were torch holders mounted on the walls on either side but Zobathenae did not need them, he simply flipped his hand over and produced a ball of white light in his palm to guide him. As he passed the old torches, they burst into flames revealing the enormity of this place. Moving further down the stairs the wizard could begin to see the feet of the stone Cyclops and as he approached the bottom stair and stood on the floor, even he was impressed with the magnitude of what stood before him. From where the statue towered over Zobathenae at the front of the entrance hall, nothing could be seen except a long corridor that was filled with a deadly silence. Looking up at the statue, the wizard saw the hole in the middle of its head. This was the home of the emerald Eye of the Roezidian Cyclops.

I must see if the rest of the family curse is true. Zobathenae pondered, as he looked down the corridor that presented itself as the long throat of destiny. Holding his white light, he moved slowly down the length of underground passage that was supposedly to lead him to the crystallized remains of his Great, Great Grandfathers’ Brothers remains and the only evidence of a female Cyclops in the known world.

Just a little farther and I believe I’ll be there. He thought.

"By the gods, my Great, Great Granduncle, still in the clutches of the one woman who could never let you go! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!"

There, before him, were the still crystallized remains of the creature and his long lost relative, suspended in time. Six horse lengths behind were the two largest doors that he or anyone else had ever seen. They appeared to be too large for the Cyclops to open but the legend had said that this was the way. Next to the wall was an enormous hammer. The handle was twenty-one hand’s long and its circumference was that of the chakram, while the head was the size of a barrel of ale. Zobathenae mused about the mighty weapon and how it would make a stain out of a man.

I must replace the eye, which, if the story holds true, will release the Cyclops from the curse. Then and only then, will I take the emerald back, leaving the creature blind until it does my bidding.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Xena and her companions worked their way along the last leg of the trail and when they reached the entrance, they too felt the draw from deep within the guts of the mountain as it called them to the Roezidian Tombs. No one knew what fate lay waiting for them below the surface of the earth but the trio moved through the brush, boulders and scrub trees entering the opening that beckoned their presence. Gabrielle had her staff at a defensive angle as she walked to one side and Xena covered the other. Autolycus, who was not only a fair swordsman but also excellent at hand to hand, walked the center of the cavern as they slowly headed deeper into the earth. Up until this time, the passage was natural rock, untouched by anyone but as they lost the outside light, they came upon torches that were already burning from their positions on the wall, which was the first evidence of mortals being here.

After a half candlemark, they reached the first carved step that had to be five horse lengths wide and each step down was to the middle of the thigh. If this didn’t dissuade an individual of normal size, then nothing would. Xena thought she heard movement below and she hushed the other two so all could listen. Sure enough, there were strange sounds coming from the depths.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Zobathenae returned to the place where the stone replica of the Roezidian Cyclops stood at the base of the great stairs. Reaching into his robes, he pulled out a small leather sack that contained a green powder, of which he poured some in the palm of his hand. He looked at it and laughed aloud saying, "Dragon Tail!" Then he tossed it in his mouth and returned to the inner pockets of his robe once more, bringing out a vial of liquid that was labeled Debohra blood. He drank the liquid and immediately collapsed on the floor screaming, "Dear gods, it’s killing me!" Quickly, the transformation took place, altering his physical appearance as he screamed again and again in agony. Reaching once more before his clothing fell to the ground he retrieved the grapefruit sized emerald and held it tight. The wizard developed into large and hideous distortion of himself. With the emerald in hand he waited for the Dragon Tail to finish taking effect. Xena, in the mean time, began her decent down the enormous stone stairs in pursuit of Zobathenae.

Reaching up to the opening in the face of the statue, the wizard seated the emerald in its rightful spot. Strange things began to happen, as the statue took on a green glow and just under the entire surface of the Cyclops, it appeared that lightening was shoot all over the body of this replica. The wizard did not expect this reaction but rather expected something to occur down the long corridor he had just came from. His eyes widened as it looked as if the stone was beginning to turn to flesh.

Perhaps the story was wrong. Something is amiss and I need to find safe haven for the Dragon Tail will be wearing off soon.

He moved as fast as he could down the corridor, but spotted something hanging from the ceiling as he moved toward the doors to the entrance of the treasure. Above his head was a large stone bell that was covered with cobwebs and bat droppings. A light began to flash in his mind as he moved for the huge hammer that was left on the floor near the Cyclops holding his ancestor. Unfortunately, as he reached the spot where he had laid eyes on the giant tool, he began to shrink down to his mortal size. "Ahhhhhhh! By the gods, a curse on me, so close!"

Zobathenae had come to figure it out. It wasn’t that the Cyclops had the strength to open the doors, the strength had to do with being able to swing the hammer overhead and ring the bell. This undoubtedly would create a tone that affected the doors and they would then open, revealing the wealth of ages.

The Warrior had made it to the second last stair when, before her very eyes, the Cyclops’ eye blinked and the creature began to move. She spotted Xena and the chase was on. Reaching much quicker than the Warrior had expected, the Cyclops almost crushed her in the huge hand. The creature was not in the mood for introductions, so Autolycus and Gabrielle remained hid along the wall about halfway down the great stairs, hoping she would not come up for a breath of fresh air.

Xena double flipped into the air and the Cyclops just missed again with her quick hand. From down at the end of the large corridor, Zobathenae could hear the commotion and knew that what he had suspected turned out to be true. He looked up at the crystallized statue with the replica of what he thought was his ancestor and thought, I’ve been duped and now I’ve got those others to contend with, as well as that Cyclops.

The wizard needed a place to stay low and observe what was going to transpire. Deciding to stay down on this end so he was positioned close to the stone bell, he hid behind the hammer and waited.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Xena dodged back and forth between the walls as she ran down the tremendously large hallway, with the Cyclops hot on her trail. Xena slipped between her legs and doubled back. This gave Zobathenae the opportunity that he had been waiting for and he pulled the sack out from the tattered remains of his robes.

Dumping the powdered Dragon Tail into his palm, he tossed it into his mouth, then washed it down with the rest of the Debohra blood. Within the time it takes a leaf to fall to the earth, the process of alteration had begun to take place and the wizard grew to the same height as the Cyclops. Moving to the giant hammer, Zobathenae picked it up with two hands and struggled to the stone bell. Swinging it over his head he missed the first time but the crash of the hammer onto the floor of the chamber caught the Cyclops attention and she turned away from Xena to look.

The second swing of the ancient hammer was good and made solid contact as the sound echoed throughout the Tombs. "Bonnngg!"

As the sound dissipated, the immense doors began to slowly open. The wizard’s magic potion was all ready beginning to wear off and he started returning once again to mortal size. He looked behind him and saw that the Cyclops was very close, so he darted between the legs of the crystallized representation of the Cyclops and his Great, Great Granduncle. Zobathenae continued through the huge doors as the Cyclops smashed the crystal into oblivion. Xena shouted her war cry, "Yi!Yi!Yi!Yi!Yi!Yi!" Regaining the attention of the Cyclops. She reached for the Warrior but missed again and in her frustration, picked up the hammer and tried to squash the blue-eyed beauty. Xena’s moves were a work of art and in her mind was a plan, if she could just get enough spring when she jumped onto a large boulder that was right in front of her. Once again the war cry, as she flipped onto the boulder and shot up toward the stone bell, grabbing the lip. Her timing had to be perfect as she heard the creature swing the hammer in an attempt to drive her into Tartarus. Just before contact, she released falling to the boulder, a flip and onto the ground as the Cyclops struck the ancient bell. "Bonnngg!" And the doors began to close.

The wizard was so engrossed with the wealth that stretched from his feet to as far as he could see; he never realized what was happening. He had wandered too far in and was totally consumed by what he held and touched that he virtually gave up his life. When his senses returned to him, he was too late as he ran to the closing doors. He tried his magic but nothing worked then he began to laugh hysterically as he noticed the skeleton that had been behind one of the great doors. "Uncle! How good to see you! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ahhhhhh!"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Xena still had her hands full but she was in the lead and planned on staying there. One more part of her plan needed to be accomplished and she had the Cyclops in exactly the state of mind she had hoped for. Total rage! The creature wanted nothing more than to crush this dark haired intruder, after all, she was the protector of Ares’ stores of wealth. The Cyclops came running after Xena and she guided the creature to an area where the ceiling hung low. Xena taunted her, then scooted through her legs changing direction, then changing direction for the last time, finally the Cyclops ran her head into the overhang of rock, knocking herself out cold. The Warrior took the opportunity to remove the eye, as the creature lay on the floor of the tomb, still unconscious. Xena backed up a step or two and moved to the other end of the corridor. By the time she got to her new position, the Cyclops stirred, then sat up reaching at the middle of her face.

"My eye! I cannot see!" The Cyclops spoke for the first time.

Xena shouted back at the Cyclops saying, "Why are you trying to destroy me? I am not your enemy. It was Zobathenae who wanted Ares’ riches and the power that your eye held. He is now trapped behind the colossal doors that guard the treasure."

"Like him before. He, who said he loved me but only had intentions of using me for his own selfish purpose." The female Cyclops shared.

Xena stood in front of the great creature and in her heart she believed that the Cyclops meant no harm but was protecting that which she had been created to do. Gabrielle and Autolycus both worked their way down the huge stairs toward the spot where Xena stood, moving cautiously.

"I will give you the eye and I will ask nothing but our lives, that we may leave here in peace." Xena explained. She moved across the length of the stair that she was on and placed the eye in the hand of the Cyclops.

"Thank you, Warrior. You must hold a fond place in the heart of the gods. For this gesture, I know you do with me." The Cyclops said and then through the mystical powers that the eye was given, replaced it and was returned the gift of vision.

"Tell all who come to steal the wealth of the god of war that, Roezidia the Cyclops guards and protects that which is unattainable.

With that, the trio ascended the stairs and worked their way to daylight. Autolycus had a puzzled look upon his face as he walked back to the awaiting ship. Gabrielle took notice and asked, "What are you thinking about Autolycus?"

"Well, Gabrielle, I’m a bit troubled with the thought that a moon or so ago, I came to the Island of Kos with intentions of some very sophisticated thievery. First, I end up with a headache and get to recuperate in a dungeon cell, escape, try my hand at stealing this elusive emerald a second time and almost end up as cat food! Then, I’m accosted and made a plaything. Later, not losing sight of my calling, I do the old switcheroo and still get duped by a wizard. Finally, I join forces with my friends and travel around the sea in hopes, mind you, of getting my hands on something valuable to make all of this worthwhile to an artist that earns his living thus. Then after chasing a wizard all the way to a burial ground for the gods’ oddities and almost being annihilated by the largest woman who ever had an eye, no pun intended, on me, there is still nothing to show for my labors!"

Xena worked up one of her most disgusting looks of ‘I feel for you’ and dropped it his way.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They returned to the ship and set sail for the Island of Kos with the Queens sister, Ithisyn as the only true treasure that had been appropriated. Within a days travel they found themselves at the bay with the protected section of gate that allowed access to the palace without interference from the great cats of India.

The Warrior Princess, Gabrielle and Autolycus brought the young woman to the palace and were politely told to wait for the Queens arrival. After a half of candlemark wait and much impatience on Autolycus’ part, the Queen entered with an enormous dark skinned man on her arm. He had much gold to adorn his body and wore an eastern looking outfit of Arabian flavor. What tore at Autolycus was, the Queen had forgotten all about him and looked to be romantically involved with this small mountain.

"Princess Ithisyn, little sister! By the gods’ grace, you have been brought back to me! Oh Xena, Gabrielle, uh, Autolycus, what you have done is more important than the emerald or the treasure or anything!"

"Good! We’re glad that you feel that way because the emerald is back with its rightful owner." Xena remarked.

"What? What rightful owner?" The Queen said with a tone.

"With the Roezidian Cyclops on the Island of the same name, where she can continue to guard the wealth of the god of war, should he ever need to call upon the forces that only he could muster with gold and jewels." Xena said sarcastically.

"Whoosh!" And for the first time during all of this did Ares appear. "Sting, Xena! You really sting, when you’re bitter!"

"You could have prevented most of this from happening, Ares!" The Warrior shouted.

"But then how, I ask you, would I entertain myself? Not to mention, you have two green eyes and I only had one." As he pointed to the Bard and made reference to the Cyclops, then vaporized into thin air.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The ship was returning the three friends back to the mainland, with several hours of sea travel still remaining. Autolycus was sitting on a small barrel near the railing of the deck, head hanging somewhat down and deep in thought. Gabrielle came walking up to him and said, "Are you still down because you didn’t get to steal anything Autolycus?"

"No Gabrielle, it’s not that." He replied rather down in the mouth.

At which time Xena strolled over and talked to the two of them by saying, "I know what it is Gabrielle. Autolycus was robbed for the first time in his life."

"What do you mean Xena?"

Autolycus looked up finally, then stood and walked to the railing, looking back toward where they had come from and said, "She stole my heart!"

The End

 

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