"You know, Xena," Hercules began, "you don't have to fight this battle. You have too much to lose," he finished glancing over his should to the bard who was crouched over the fire.
Contemplating his words, the warrior sighed. "She is the reason why I must fight. You know how that...bastard," she spit the word, "put us through Tartarus." The warrior allowed the tension to drain from her body. "I won't let him do that again. If Artemis said that we fight together, then we fight together."
Three heads nodded in unison, silent agreements shared. They were brought out of their respective thoughts by a call for dinner.
"That was delicious, Gabrielle," Iolaus complimented, wiping the remnants of a fowl from his mouth with the back of his hand.
The bard blushed her thanks and began cleaning up the repast's remains to throw them over the cliff into the sea.
"We'll have to set up a watch," Xena advised, her commanding experience coming to the fore. "Wolf, you take first watch, I'll take second. You two can decide who wants to take the third shift," she said, pointing between the two men.
When the bard returned, she accepted Iolaus' request for a story as they settled for sleep and Wolf left to make her rounds around the plateau, her senses keening for any suspicious presence in the forests that surrounded the plains below them.
During her third course around the plateau, a couple of candlemarks into her watch, Wolf spun on her heal to face the being that materialized behind her. She smothered her gasp when she saw Lin Chi. The woman was royally elegant in her robes of red silk, her hair flowing loose behind her in the whispering breeze. When Wolf opened her mouth to speak, the apparition lifted a hand for silence.
"Wolf , love, you must listen carefully." When the small woman nodded, Lin Chi continued. "Remember your lessons. Father was proud of you, you learned so fast, so well. You must use your knowledge to defeat that which threatens your peace, their peace," she explained, nodding her head to the sleeping campers on the other side of the plateau. "I have brought you these," she said, pulling from the folds of her robes an assortment of weapons. "Your armor," she indicated, waving her hand at the small woman's feet, "has been adjusted."
Wolf kneeled and respectfully bowed to her weapons and armor, asking for a blessing to be granted them from any god who would listen. "Lin Chi...."
"Hush, my little love. I don't have much time. There are still lessons which you must learn. Listen to that which surrounds you. You have a powerful life force, Wolf. Use it," she urged. "And above all, remember that you carry this demon's blood in your veins. It has given you...special gifts. Take advantage of them."
"I don't know...I've never felt these gifts you speak of."
"They have always been there, Wolf. You simply have not sought them."
The small woman nodded her promise to do as the apparition told her. "I miss you, Lin Chi."
The Chinese woman smiled wistfully. "I know," she whispered, raising her hand trace the lines on the other woman's face. "But you must go on, Wolf. There is so much love in you. You will never be truly happy until you free yourself to experience it. And all I want is your happiness." The dark-haired woman wiped away a tear that had traced a path down Wolf's cheek. "Go, now, little one. Rest. And dream. And Wolf...."
"Your sister lives. She has grown strong under the guidance of your father. Be wary of her."
Wolf nodded and blinked as the apparition vanished, her weapons and armor the only evidence that it had not been an illusion. She hung her scabbards over her back and tucked her armor under her arm, picking her way slowly back to camp. Seeing that all was quiet, she deposited her bundle and went to wake Xena.
"Xena," Wolf called from out of the warrior's reach. She had learned her lesson about being too close when waking the woman. She only had to call a second time before the warrior woke, alert and ready for her watch.
"All quiet," she asked, pushing a stray hair out of her face.
"Yeah," Wolf answered, "if you don't count the ghosts."
Wolf shook her head and smiled. "I'll tell you in the morning."
"You do that," the warrior said. "Take over for me here," she ordered, pointing to the vacant spot on the bedroll. When she saw Wolf's incredulous look, she smirked. "I was only cuddling with her. Surely you can control yourself with that job."
The small woman grinned...wolfishly. "Guess we'll find out, huh," she retorted, lowering herself to the warm spot that was normally Xena's and scooted in behind the bard. Wrapping an arm around Gabrielle's waist she yawned. "She you in the morning."
By then, though, the warrior had trotted too far from camp to hear. She took her watch in loping strides, one after another, wishing that the battle with Dahok would be joined and over with soon. Four candlemarks later, she kicked at Hercules' foot. When she heard his sleepy mumble, she announced that it was his watch. When she saw that he was awake and on his feet, she joined Gabrielle and Wolf on the crowded bedroll, wrapping the two smaller women in her arms.
Wolf felt the warrior slip in next to her, but the dream that she was lost in distracted her from the warm body pressed against hers. The vision was unlike last night's. This time around, she was watching as Xena fought a green dragon, bolts of blue energy flowing from her outstretched arms, striking down all in her path. Then the dream shifted and she watch as a black dragon soared across the sky, its cries of fury and vengeance piercing the gray morning. When Wolf woke, she opened her eyes aware of two things. The morning scents told of a clear day to come, and the warm bodies on either side of her that were squeezing the breath out of her as they strained to get closer to one another.
She extricated herself from Xena's embrace and smiled as the warrior completed her journey to the bard's side of the bedroll, snuggling deeper into the furs. Stretching and twisting her body to loosen her muscles, she kneeled and bowed before her weapons once more, taking them up one by one and methodically sharpened the various blades. When she finished, she changed out of her silk shirt and donned a leather one, and then strapped the black armor into a familiar embrace. She had not worn her warrior attire since she had left China behind, but she fell into the comfort its memories provided. Making sure that all her weapons were secure, she scooped up the empty waterskins, mounted Beast, and found her way to a fresh-water spring.
By the time that Hercules made his rounds back to the camp, Xena had risen and had started a pot of water to boil. Both looked up in surprise when Wolf soundlessly crested the hill, the only indication of her arrival, the shadow that her figure cast upon the early morning camp, alerting her friends. Xena quirked a brow and the demi-god tilted his head in study at the woman's new attire.
The young woman was a dark vision. She still wore the snug leather pants, but her black silk shirt had been traded for a black battle-heavy leather one that left her muscular arms bare, save for the bracers she wore on each forearm. The armor she wore was also black, inlaid with brightly polished brass. It was of two pieces, connected over the shoulders with fine chain mail.
The front piece was forged into the shapes of two battling dragons, their heads molded over to protect Wolf's shoulders, their arms joining in a battle clasp over the warrior's breasts, their tails curling lower to protect her stomach. Swirls depicting fire protected her from sternum to midriff.
When Wolf removed her scabbards and turned to model the ensemble, Xena silently gasped in awe at the craftsmanship of the back piece. An intricate tiger tensed as if to strike, its sleek body curled from just below the shoulders down to cover her most of her lower back. Carved metal clasps snugly held front and back to Wolf's body, two at each side.
The single-edged swords, as the small warrior offered them for inspection, were eastern, thin and short. The blades had obviously been forged with love, etched with loops and swirls on one side and Chinese picture characters on the other. Their hilts were also carved of brass, though much simpler in design than the armor. Together, they were half the weight of Xena's double-edged sword.
"Nice," the tall warrior commented.
"Thanks. Got it all from a friendly ghost last night," Wolf explained as she dropped the waterskins and three rabbits at Xena's feet.
The warrior quickly set the meat over the fire to cook and rose to her full height. "Makes you look bigger, little one," she said, successfully hiding her surprise. Even with the muscle mass, the small woman had looked less than dangerous than she did now.
In the black armor, with the hilts twin swords showing over her shoulders and various other sharp-edged instruments of death both seen (and unseen, the warrior was sure), Wolf presented herself as a formidable warrior. She stood as tall as her small frame would allow, her strong shoulders thrown back in an attitude of fearless confidence.
Xena caught the reckless smile that was flashed her way before she knelt to wake the bard. "Come on, Gabrielle, time to wake up."
"But Xena, my jaw is sore...can't you take matters into your own hands just once," she mumbled, sleep clouding her mind.
The warrior had the grace to blush as she shook her lover more vigorously. "We have company, Gabrielle," she whispered into the bard's ear.
The bard shot up into a sitting position, her eyes darting around camp. "Oh...." When her vision focused and she saw the sleeping Iolaus, she grunted. "I don't see why he gets to sleep in."
Hercules chuckled at the bard's disgruntlement and shook his friend awake. "Come on, Iolaus. Don't want these women to think that you're softer than them, now do you?"
"Who gives a harpy's crooked tail," the blond man groused, pulling the fur over his head. "Where is it written that heroes have be awake so early, anyway?"
Eventually, though, the smell of the food that the bard saved from the usual charring that Xena treated it to, was enough to get the group up and alert. When Gabrielle made mention of Wolf's new attire, the woman treated them all to an early morning ghost tale, recalling for them the events of her evening.
After the men had left to scout the woods, Xena scooped up the morning's refuse and left the other two women alone. Wolf watched as the warrior left, and listened as Gabrielle finished straightening the camp. "There are a few things I left out about last night," she warned as an opening. She turned to Gabrielle and hung her head, her unbound hair falling around her in a curtain. "Lin Chi told me that my sister was still alive," she began. "I am assuming she meant Hope."
Wolf followed the bard when she fell to her knees. "Gabrielle, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you," she rushed.
The bard waved off the small warrior's apology off with a hand. She shivered with the memories of that fateful day in the Centaur village, of Solan's death and of poisoning her own daughter. It was true, then. How had Hope survived? The bard mentally berated herself. Because she's evil, you fool, she thought. Isn't that what Xena tried to tell you over and again?
The warrior, ignorant of the revelation, as she had been dumping the rabbit remains over the cliff, saw the two women when she returned, their faces animated with unreadable emotions. She fell to a knee beside Gabrielle. "Hey, honey, what's wrong," she cooed, attempting to soothe her lover.
Gabrielle looked up through tear-filled eyes. How could she tell the warrior that she had failed her once again? That she had failed to avenge their son's death? Taking solace and strength from the warriors at her side, she screwed up her courage. "Xena, Ho...Hope is alive."
The warrior's breath caught in her throat. She knew that from the story that Iolaus had told last night, but her rage flared at the affirmation. She tamped down her irrational anger when she saw the pain that Gabrielle shared with her. "Shhh...it's going to be all right. We'll find a way to defeat them and send them to their hell, Gabrielle. I promise," she swore as she crushed the bard in an embrace that comforted the both of them.
Wolf allowed them a moment or two before she spoke again. "There's more, Xena," she started, raising a hand when she saw the wary look on the other warrior. "It's not bad...at least I don't think it is...not like that," she hurriedly explained. At the warrior's nod, she continued. "I dreamt of you last night."
Wolf absently nodded, reliving in vivid detail her excursions through Morpheus' realm. "You were battling a green dragon with bolts of energy. I'm not sure what it means, though," the woman finished, confused even more when the bard and warrior exchanged glances.
"I do," Xena muttered, raking hand through her hair in a gesture of frustration. "When Gabrielle and I were in China, I used skills that Lao Ma taught me to defeat her son, Ming Tien."
Wolf's face lit bright in understanding. "The Green Dragon...the sorceress was his mother?"
Xena shook her head. "She was no sorceress, Wolf, only a woman. But she could harness her inner energy, the energy around her, and focus it at will."
"So you are to use this skill to help defeat Dahok's evil," Wolf asked.
The warrior dropped her head and absently picked at a strap on her leather skirt. "I wish I could, but I don't have that ability any more." Xena sighed and leaned back into the comforting hand that stroked her back. She raised her head and smiled gratefully to the woman she held more dear than life itself.
The bard cleared her throat, breaking the oppressive silence. "Perhaps Lin Chi meant that Wolf was to learn that skill from you, Xena. You taught me how to use my staff, maybe you can teach Wolf how to harness the power of her essence."
Xena began to argue, "It's not the same...."
"Yes it is," the bard interrupted. "You are a great teacher. Look at all I've learned from you."
"But I taught you through example," the warrior rationalized. "If I can't do it myself, how am I going to show Wolf?"
"You will find a way, love," the bard countered, confident in her lover's abilities. "You always do."
The warrior, resigned to the bard's insistence, looked at Wolf once more and nodded. "All right, I'll try. Is there anything else, Wolf?"
The warrior squinted at her mentor and shrugged. "I saw a black dragon, too, flying over the land. But that part left me more confused than the green one," she admitted.
The women sat deep in thought, pondering the other half of Wolf's dream, trying to discern its message. They remained in this state until the men returned, their calls of 'all clear' drawing them out of their thoughts. Hoping that the meaning would become clear to them eventually, the women listened to the favorable report Hercules and Iolaus brought back.
That night, after dinner satisfied the group who had become anxious for the wait of the oncoming battle, Xena and Wolf went for a private walk along the beach. With a verbosity that would have made the bard proud, the tall warrior attempted to relate the lessons she had learned from Lao Ma.
Having previous experience with eastern philosophy, Wolf had little difficulty with the logic that wound around in an intricate labyrinth of mental somersaults. Master Lin had taught her that her greatest ally, as well as her most feared adversary, resided within her own mind and body. She had almost found the balance herself between the two before Lin Chi had died. And now, under the most godsdamned circumstances, she would have to find that balance again.
From Xena she learned new meditations that would help her free her mind and energy, to exist as a vacuum among the life forces that surrounded all living things. Wolf compared it to the drop of rain that fell into the ocean, losing itself in, and yet becoming part of, an undeniable force.
Xena spoke of her experiences in China with Ming Tien and Loa Ma, of how she had finally grasped the meaning of her mentor's teachings when she had been pushed to the cruelest of humiliations and angered to the limits of her control. It was at her lowest point that she let it all go - the anger, the hurt, the pain. Their absence created the vacuum that enabled her to draw upon the latent energy and destroy Ming Tien.
Wolf listened somberly, respectfully. When Xena had finished, the two women sat quietly, lulled by the rhythm of the waves lapping against the sand. When the moon finally rose over the horizon, Xena joined Wolf as she sang. Their song spoke of love and loss, and of love found again. Before they left to return to camp, the adopted Celt taught the dark warrior a battle song of her mother's people. If Xena hadn't known that M'Lila's spirit was on the other side, she would have sworn that she had been reborn into her protege.
As the two carefully picked their way up the trail that led to the plateau, a thought nagged at the smaller one. "Xena," Wolf asked, pausing in her stride to work the thought through her mind, "why can't you do that anymore?"
The warrior stopped as well, turning to see the smaller woman. "I lost part of myself when Solan was taken from me," she began. "Then I lost another part to the rage that blinded me to the love I had...have for Gabrielle. The waters of Illusia weren't able to heal all of that. The wound was too great." She shrugged her shoulders in resignation as she plucked a blade of salt grass from its stem.
"But you and Gabrielle seem to be doing so well."
Xena sighed. "You have no idea how hard we work at it. We deal with things better when we take them on one by one, solving and resolving, and then moving on to the next. I don't know if we'll ever be the same," she said, wiping a tear from her eye. "But we've both lost so much, and Hades himself could try his damnedest, but we will not lose each other. Not again. Where she goes, I go."
Wolf considered the woman's words. "As simple as that?"
The warrior smirked. "Yeah, I guess it is when seen in simple terms."
The small warrior turned and raised her face to the moon. "I hope you know how lucky you are, Xena," she whispered softly in the wind.
"I do," the other warrior returned just as quietly.
Returning to camp, the women warriors found Gabrielle and Iolaus asleep while Hercules slowly fed the fire. The demi-god asked them how their lessons had gone. He chuckled at their noncommittal grunts and rose to squeeze them both into an embrace. "It's a good thing we have a couple of sidekicks along," he joked. "Who would do all the talking otherwise?"
"I'm sure you would manage," Xena retorted dryly.
"For you, Xena, anything," Pushing the women to their side of the fire, he smiled. "I'll take first watch. You guys get some sleep."
When he had left silently into the night, the warriors removed their armor and weapons, placing the latter within reach of their pallets.
The small woman glanced over at Xena, her brows lifted in question.
The taller woman patted the bedroll she shared with her lover. "It's going to be cold tonight."
"I don't think so, Xena. You two nearly suffocated me last night."
The dark warrior chuckled. "Tell you what, you can have the outside if you promise to take care of anyone...or anything...that sneaks up on us."
Wolf accepted the offer by tucking her small form against Xena's back and draping a casual arm over the lovers. Her sleep came quick and was dreamless and deep until Hercules softly called to her for second watch. She stood, careful to tuck the furs under Xena, and stretched. Can't wait to get a real night's sleep, she thought as she donned her armor. Taking only her swords, she slipped away from camp, inhaling deeply to get a taste of the night air.
She was anxious during her observations, expecting any number of specters to interrupt her tours of the perimeter. After four candlemarks of constant keening, she was physically exhausted. Her neck and face ached from cocking her head and squinting into the darkness of the forest. She was met not far from camp by Xena, who told her to go back to camp and keep Gabrielle company.
When the dream came, Wolf sighed in her sleep. She relaxed and watched, as if standing by the side, letting the vision reveal itself. A motion in the early morning sky caught her eye. Shielding out the glaring rays of the rising sun, she saw a pair of mated hawks dancing upon the wind, their sharp focus geared on their hunt. Time passed quickly, and soon the moon in its wane, rose overhead. Wolf watched breathlessly, when joined by the stars, it circled the heavens in a moment's sigh. When the sun rose to its height of mid-day, she heard the noise. Turning in slow motion, she saw the murky fog that rolled over the plain below the plateau, led by a black column of fire. At his right and left side, two paces behind, followed a white column of smoke and a red funnel of wind. As the dream came to an end, Wolf sighed once more. The wait was over.
She woke herself and donned her armor and full weapons. Moving within an easy hearing distance from the camp, she began drilling, letting her body rejoice in the dance it had never forgotten. When the sun began to rise over the camp, she shielded her eyes and lifted her head to find the predators of the wind. She nodded once to herself in confirmation and resumed her practice, pushing her body to the limits of its endurance. When Xena's return interrupted her, she caught the expectant warrior with her determined eyes. She spoke one word before resheathing her swords and turning to meditate privately on the beach - "Tomorrow." She didn't see the warrior tense, nor did she see the feral smile that darkened her visage.
When Wolf left, Xena woke everyone and took command. She ordered Hercules and Iolaus to hunt breakfast and refill their empty waterskins. Gabrielle began putting the camp to order without her lover's direction, and then checked the horses to make sure that they were no worse for their extended inactivity. When the warrior was left alone, she walked the edge of the plateau, studying the tree line of the forest, various plans of defense and the impending battle, coming to shape in her agile mind.
When the men returned with some meat, and to the bard's delight, a sack of wild vegetables, breakfast was prepared and eaten in contemplative silence. Gabrielle, needing to speak her thoughts, as was her nature, caught their attention. "Is she sure...about tomorrow...I mean?"
Xena glanced up to the cloudless sky and shrugged. "She's the one who's been busy these past few nights. I don't see how she could be wrong on this one."
The bard lowered her head and picked at a loose thread on her skirt. "So what now?"
The warrior got to her knees and began gathering the refuse. "We'll spar until mid-day," she answered. "Then Hercules and I will scout along the tree line, see if we can slow them down somehow."
"What about us," Iolaus asked, nervously wringing his hands in anticipation.
"You stay here and keep an eye on Gabrielle. And under no condition are you to leave camp. And don't go looking for Wolf. She needs to be alone right now. She'll come back when she's ready. Got that?"
The two blondes nodded their understanding.
"All right, let's get moving."
Once the breakfast's remains were disposed of, Xena and Hercules faced each other in hand-to-hand combat, while Iolaus found a heavy branch that suited him to help the bard with her staff exercises. After a couple of candle marks, a break was called so that they could replenish their bodies' fluids and switch partners. All felt the strain in their muscles as mid-day arrived. Xena called a halt and two sidekicks fell to the ground in wordless exhaustion. After a brief rest, the warrior and the demi-god left to set a few traps that would hopefully put a few snags in their adversary's plan.
After Wolf left camp that morning, she wandered up and down the shore, breathing deep and slow, allowing her mind to drift with the waves. Falling to her knees, she raised her arms to shoulder height, palms up, and began to chant a mantra meant to induce serenity.
She knew not how much time had passed, nor did she have the will to care. She was floating, a drop in the ocean, a leaf on a summer's breeze. In this state of nothingness, she heard the rocks, the sand, the water, the air, humming and buzzing, powerful in their vague existence. She extended her senses and let herself be overwhelmed by the living things that scorched her with their vitality. She felt the earth, mother Gaia, envelope and succor her.
Her body tingled with the changing that claimed her shape and substance. She felt herself rising on the air currents, drifting aimlessly at their whim. On instinct, she opened her wings and with powerful strokes, flew out across the ocean, her clawed feet skimming the surface. She howled with glee at the freedom, the exhilaration of flight. When Wolf opened her eyes, she saw the reflection of the sun off the rolling water beneath her. Willing herself not to lose her composure, she brought her hands in front of her face. Long fangs were revealed when she chuckled under her breath. Comprehension, understanding...SHE was the black dragon.
Changing her course, she skimmed over the water's surface, snagging several fish on her long claws. With a growl, she pulled up and ascended the cliff side of the plateau. The couple on the ground didn't hear her, for they were watching the plain, deep in conversation. But they did feel Wolf's bounty as she released the half dozen of fish over their heads. Before they could comprehend the circumstances, the dragon had reversed course and returned to her previous spot on the beach.
Sitting on her haunches, she voided her mind of all though, effectively releasing the form of the dragon. When she opened her eyes again, she saw the tanned flesh of her normal human state. Well, figured that much out, she thought, an easy grin splitting her face. She closed her eyes again and lost herself more easily in the energy around her. She embraced it and flowed into it. She felt herself break apart and then rejoin, thousands of times, learning the secrets of the linked life forces as they imparted their wisdom, their deadly power.
When her mind was exhausted with the exercises, she practiced shifting between forms, occasionally staying in the in-between of pure energy, testing her limits of pain and stamina. When she felt the sun begin its descent, she lay back in the sand, staring at the sky and letting the breeze dry the tendrils of sweat-soaked hair that framed her face. She extended her senses, and for once, welcomed the roar that awareness brought. When she heard Xena's shout for dinner, she grinned evilly.
Xena began to pace around the camp. She knew that if Wolf was within two leagues of their location, she would have heard her call. A myriad of scenes of the small warrior's abduction or death played havoc with her patience. She paid no mind to the sudden gust of wind that blew her dark hair across her face, but the sight that was revealed when she cleared her vision of the hindrance, caused her heart to fail. In the blink of an eye, she pulled her sword from its scabbard and stepped in front of the bard who was occupied with starting a fire for dinner. When the blond woman was alerted to the present danger, she stood, staff in hand, and peeked around her lover's shoulder. Her gasp echoed the other's thoughts.
The dragon hovered over their campsite, its teeth bared in what the bard swore was an anticipatory leer. She gripped her staff loosely in a defensive pose and waited. The dragon turned its head, taking in the two men who had also taken up weapons of stone and tree limb. The rumble of laughter that shook the earth unnerved Gabrielle. The bard then surprised everyone by dropping her staff and forcing her way around Xena.
"Thank for the lunch, but you could have been a little nicer in its delivery," the bard dead-panned as the dragon drifted down to stand on solid ground.
Xena cocked her head, believing that the past year's torments had finally driven the bard mad. The small woman resisted her efforts when the warrior tried to pull her behind, shrugging off clutching hands. When the bard approached closer to the winged creature, she unclipped her chakram, prepared to take the beast's head. But the moment to defend never came. As the bard moved closer, the dragon merely waited and withstood her scrutiny.
Wolf watched as comprehension glowed on Gabrielle's face. She had figured that Xena would see through the transformation first, but she chalked up the warrior's loss to the bard's greater imagination. The dragon settled into a relaxed posture when the bard came to stand before her. Even though she was dwarfed, Wolf was impressed by her audacity, even though the bard knew her identity. Wolf chuckled, blowing a gust of warm air that ruffled her friend's hair. "Do I please you," she asked, a voice of bass thunder vibrating the air upon which it was carried.
"Not on your life, Wolfdragon. That's Xena's position."
The dragon raised a scaly brow at the address the bard had used. "Little one, with you, there isn't a position Xena doesn't use." The dragon raised its head and laughed to the sky when she saw the flushes that ran rampant in the camp.
The mood was broken, though, when Iolaus coughed politely. "Um...I'm getting hungry here...so if I'm not going to be dinner, I'd like to eat my own."
With a wave of a clawed hand, the dragon waved aside the warrior and draped an arm over the bard. Ducking her head, Wolf whispered, "I learned, Gabrielle. Xena is a great teacher," she explained, lifting her hand. With an imperceptible flick of her wrist, she sent a small bolt of energy across the camp. In the blink of an eye, the pheasants that had been staked over the cold fire were filling the air with their juicy aromas. "Watch," Wolf said as she ducked her head once again for the bard's hearing.
Gabrielle stood back, but not out from under the dragon's arm. Her eyes widened as Wolf closed her eyes. The arm around her shoulders for a moment felt like hot liquid, but not so as to burn her bare skin, as it morphed into the muscular arm of her familiar companion. She answered the armored warrior's grin. "Cool."
Wolf chuckled under her breath. "We'll see what you think when I take you flying some time." When the bard voiced her opposition to the idea, the warrior squeezed her tighter, glancing up to see the other three staring opened-mouth. "You can put down the sword, Xena. And Iolaus...if you're going to eat, you might as well partake of the birds, and not the flies you seem to be trapping."
The warrior sheathed her sword and stared in stunned disbelief, while the blond man fell to his seat, crossed his legs, and began to pile his plate. "Herc," the small warrior greeted.
The demi-god snapped out of his daze and shook his head. "All I got was superhuman strength and immortality," he mumbled loud enough for the warriors to hear.
The man's comment pulled Xena's gaze away from the shape-shifting woman that was holding her lover. "I could always teach you how to throw lightning bolts," the dark one replied dryly.
The earlier moment's apprehension, and the impending day's anxiety, was forgotten in the friendly insults and jibes that were traded across the evening's fare.
When the two sidekicks fell to an exhausted sleep, and the demi-god left for his tour of the plateau, the warriors sat next to each other and began laying their weapons on the crushed grass in order to prepare them for the battle with Dahok.
"She must have been tired," Wolf said as she undid the buckles that held her scabbards tight to her back.
"Gabrielle's been worried about this for so long now. I think we both knew that we hadn't seen the end of Dahok in Britannia," Xena replied as she checked her sword against the fire's light and then set it in front of her.
"How are the other two doing," the smaller woman asked as she unstrapped a heavy dagger from her thigh.
"Well," Xena answered, pausing so that she could remove her breast dagger, cautiously avoiding any unfortunate accidents, "after what Herc and Iolaus went through, with the void and the time travel, I guess they just want to get this over with."
"I can understand that," Wolf empathized. "I've known who I am for only a few days, and I have to fight the impatience to resolve the whole situation. What about you? How are you holding up," she asked sparing a sidelong glance as she extracted two small daggers from her boots and placed them on the growing pile in front of her.
Xena shrugged as she spun her chakram on her index finger. "I want to kill them all...Dahok, Hope, Callisto. But part of me argues that urges like that go against everything that Gabrielle has taught me."
"This isn't a win-win situation, Xena." Wolf paused as she pulled her armor over her head, accepting a helping hand from the warrior at her side. "Thanks. Still not used to its weight after all these years," the smaller woman offered, breathing a sigh of relief. "Someone is going to die tomorrow. And I would prefer it not be me...or any of you," she continued, waving a finger in a vague motion around the campsite. "You've come to mean too much to me."
"Yeah," the dark warrior agreed, moving to pull Wolf into an embrace.
The small woman halted her movement with a motion of her hand. "Wait," she said as she sucked in a deep breath. With agile fingers, she removed two thin, curved blades that molded to the undersides of her breasts. "These can be tricky if I'm not careful," she explained as she handed them to a curious Xena.
"Where did you get these?"
Wolf closed her eyes and smiled wistfully. "They were Lin Chi's idea. She believed that a woman should take every advantage that nature gave her in the form of places to hide weapons." Wolf chuckled at a sudden memory. "But I drew the line at the retracting dagger she stashed...."
Xena waved her off with a hand. "I don't even want to go there, Wolf. The thought of makes me cringe." Xena handed the blades back to her friend and watched as she gently laid them on the ground. The dark warrior glanced at her weapons and then at the small mountain forming to her left. "Oh, wait...."
Wolf watched as Xena pulled two daggers, one from each boot, and laid them beside her sword, chakram, and breast dagger. She saw the dismal look that crossed the other woman's face as her blue eyes went from one pile to the other. "Are we having some kind of contest, Xena? 'Cause if we are, I have to warn you, the other night, Lin Chi gave me every weapon I probably ever owned."
"Well, that doesn't mean you have to wear them all," Xena groused when Wolf pulled small blow guns from each of her bracers, and then plucked several darts from under various pieces of her armor. The warrior stroked her whetstone with her thumb.
Wolf shrugged in answer as she pulled a thin spike from its concealment in her thick braid.
"You know, for someone who doesn't like to take human life, you sure do have enough means."
"Well," Wolf replied as she released a catch on her belt, "just because I have them doesn't mean that I like to use them...on live targets, anyway."
Xena watched as the smaller woman unwound her belt four times from around her slim waist. When she was finished, it was revealed to be a long leather strap, two finger-widths wide, with a wicked looking blade attached at the end. The warrior's shoulder slumped dejectedly. "Are you done yet?"
Wolf seriously pondered the question a moment, counting off on her fingers. "Yep," she replied, staring at her toys of death.
The small warrior was grateful the shadows that the fire threw, for it concealed the blush that heated her face. "Uh...yeah."
Xena looked at her expectantly, waving her hand in a rolling motion for the other woman to continue.
"Uh...I don't have a sharpening stone," Wolf admitted. "I borrowed yours last night."
The warrior laid back and won the battle to not wake her sleeping friends with her guffaws of humor. "That's too rich, Wolf. Only you, woman...I swear, only you would forget something like that. You just can't think past the playing part."
"Certainly explains that angry father with the pitchfork," Wolf replied dryly, trying unsuccessfully to swipe Xena's stone from her hand.
"Uh, uh, little Wolfdragon...we'll take turns," she admonished.
Wolf nodded as she waited for Xena to finish sharpening a dagger. "I like that name...Wolfdragon," she admitted, plucking at the grass between her legs.
"Yeah, well, Gabrielle is a bard."
Wolf glanced over at the sleeping woman, a frown worrying her brow. While she waited for her turn with the whetstone, she related to Xena the details of the battle vision, in particular the columns of smoke and wind.
When Hercules returned, Wolf was still sharpening her weapons, so Xena took second shift. Even knowing that the battle would not be joined until mid-day tomorrow, she was vigilant in her scouting, her senses sharp, concentrating on her surroundings, while her mind ran through every fact that she possessed about her adversaries. She was sure that Callisto and Hope would be present at the battle; they represented the smoke and the wind - smoke for that which was left of that Callisto destroyed and wind for the gifts that had been bestowed upon Hope by her father.
Seeing Hope would surely kill Gabrielle. It had hurt her so much to poison her (even though she had been too strong to succumb to that death). Xena resolved that her lover would not be forced to have to attempt that again. Besides, she reasoned, she herself had a personal score to settle with the little red-haired bitch. And Hercules, well, he had some issues concerning Callisto.
But then there was the Hind's blood. Iolaus had said that the goddess had possessed a pendant full of it when Hercules had thrown her into the vortex. If Dahok had brought her back, had the pendant returned with her? It was a contingency that she would have to work into the strategy she was planning. Only Herc was in danger from it...and probably Wolf, she reasoned. If the blood could kill one demi-god, why not a foreign one, also? Accurate archers with blood-tipped arrows would be a sticky situation, indeed, she worried. The warrior ran a weary hand through her hair. There would be no running from this. It had to be settled one way or another.
Persuading herself not to fall into an unproductive mood, the warrior continued to plot and plan. She and Hercules had set a few traps in the woods surrounding the plain. She accepted Wolf's belief that Dahok was going to be at the head of an army, as the fog of the vision implied. The warrior rolled her neck as she contemplated the plain faintly visible under the partial moon's light. "Artemis...anyone...if you care anything about your existence, you will do something...anything," she whispered into the dark.
"Losing it, warrior?"
Xena startled at the familiar voice. "I hate it when you do that."
"Now you know how people feel when you do it," Wolf pointed out as she stepped closer, sure that she would not have to defend against the loss of limb or life. "Find any answers down there?"
The tall warrior glanced down at the small woman at her side. "Just going through some things."
"Well, for one thing, the Hind's blood. If Callisto brought it back with her, it could cause a serious problem."
Wolf held her friends gaze, probing blue eyes turned gray by the dim light. "You think it can kill me." It was a statement, not a question. She could see it in the worry that etched Xena's face.
The warrior raised her hand and caressed her friend's cheek affectionately. "Yeah."
Sighing, the small warrior tried to lighten the mood. "Well, I guess I'll just have to avoid any and all sharp objects."
Xena ended her caress with an abrupt slap. "This is no time to joke, Wolf. Be serious for once, huh?"
Wolf rubbed away the imprint that Xena's hand left in its violent wake. "I'm sorry. It's just that I can't go into this tomorrow with your doom and gloom attitude. It'll block the energy flow."
"You're right...you're right," Xena mumbled as she pulled Wolf into a tight embrace and kissed the top of her head. "Sorry I hit you."
The other woman grinned. "What? That love tap?"
Xena grinned reluctantly and pulled away. "Come on, Wolfdragon, we've got plans to make."
The duo continued scouting the perimeter of the camp until dawn, sounding ideas off one another until a solid plan, as well as several contingent defenses, had formed. Dawn found five warriors restless to do battle.
Before the sun finished cresting , they broke their fast with leftover pheasant. Through mouthfuls of food, Xena outlined the plan to the others. Using a blank scroll (provided by the bard, of course) and small pebbles that Wolf had gathered, the commander showed each the positions they were to take. She cautioned the two with god's blood to be careful, and to avoid any blade if at all possible. She shared her fears about archers. With Callisto at his side, there was no telling what measures the evil god would employ.
When all understood their roles, Wolf stood and waved good-bye. Starting in a loping run, she leapt over the side of the cliff. All held their breath until they saw the black dragon fly southward to the nearest town. The remaining four fell into a silent contemplation, watching as the sun slowly made it's way overhead.
The candle marks passed slowly, the tedium broken only by Wolf's return. When she shifted to her human form, she was carrying two additional swords and a long shield for Hercules.
Xena pulled the young woman aside. "Did anyone see you?"
"Nah...everyone was in the fields and I went in on the opposite side. Won't be any dragon sightings in these parts."
"How do you feel?"
"I'm not tired, or anything. At the very least, I feel great," Wolf replied, stretching her arms over her head, the glow of her face bringing out the golden highlights in her eyes.
The dark warrior felt the grin tugging at the corners of her mouth. "Same old Wolf. I send you out for supplies, and you go and get laid."
"Hey," Wolf whispered, nudging her commander with an elbow, "I can't help it if I got some. You got what we needed," she said indicating the men's weapons, "and I got what I needed," she finished, subtly gyrating her hips.
"Uh, huh. Any fathers I need to know about?"
"No, but she had a sister...maybe afterwards...," Wolf walked away to gather her thoughts and consider the possibility.
Xena watched as her friend left to prepare herself for battle, to paint her face in vivid blue and yellow pigments. Leave it to Wolf to remember life's little pleasantries on the eve of a battle. Maybe she had an idea, the warrior mused. Xena crossed the camp with even, measured strides and held out her hand, inviting Gabrielle to join her. When the two of them found some modicum of privacy behind a tree, she pulled the bard into her arms and kissed her passionately. Without words, they shared their fears and warnings for each other's care. The kissed until their breath was ragged, their bodies molded tight to one another.
"Come back to me in one piece, Xena. You promised...."
"Same goes for you, little one," the warrior rasped as she claimed her lover's swollen lips once more.
The first sounds of screams in the forest alerted the warrior to the evil one's arrival. She cocked her head to judge their distance and held Gabrielle's face in her hands. "Ready?"
The bard took a deep breath and nodded. "It has to end here, Xena."
"I promise," she swore. "One way or another." Xena stole a quick kiss. "Be careful. And don' t leave Iolaus' side. Understand?"
"Yeah," the bard lightly joked. "Us sidekicks have got to stick together."
Xena ruffled her hair and took her hand, guiding her back to join the others, who were watching the forest line expectantly.
"Sounds like a few of them found the boar pits we dug," Hercules observed.
Wolf nodded in unison with her commander. "His army is mortal," she announced, the smell of human sweat heavy in her nostrils.
"Callisto...Hope," the bard asked apprehensively.
Extending her senses, the warrior shrugged. "I can't tell. But Dahok's here. My hackles are already starting to rise."
With natural ease, Xena took command. "Ok, remember you two," she reminded the demi-gods, "avoid their blades, blood or no blood. Gabrielle, you and Iolaus stay here. If you see one of us get into trouble we can't deal with, call out on this shell, and one of us will go to the other's aid. Under no circumstances are you to go down there," she ordered, pointing to the plain.
The bard nodded gravely and took the pink shell that Wolf had found on the beach that morning. Under normal circumstances, her bardic tendencies would have resulted in a poem, but considering, she would settle for a nice, hopefully short, battle epic.
There were several more screams of agony before the army came into sight. Dahok's followers were not reckless, careful of any additional traps. At Xena's signal, she and Wolf mounted their warhorses and charged down to meet them while Hercules took up a defensive position at the base of the plateau.
Now that the waiting was over, Xena let the darkness within take over, her battlecry echoed across the high grasses. Her sharp eye caught sight of men perched in the trees, as their movements confirmed her fears. Spurring Argo faster, she dodged in front of Beast and caught the arrow before it reached its intended target. "Archers," she yelled over her shoulder.
"I got them," Wolf called. Standing on her trusted horse's back, the warrior called the signal to the animal to stop. She let her momentum carry her airborne, shifting to her dragon form in mid-flight. Rising above the sounds of clashing metal, her keen eyesight found the archers' positions. Absorbing energy like Xena had taught her, she threw out bolts of energy with deadly precision, felling the snipers one by one. When Dahok and his immortal lieutenants stepped from the concealing brush, she stopped to hover in the air.
"Daughter," the evil demon called to her, "this is your last chance. Join with me, or die."
Wolf shook off the apprehension that began to crawl up her spine. "You may be my sire, but I am not your daughter."
The entity laughed menacingly. "And just who do you think you are? From whom do you think you received your gift," he asked, referring to her current form.
Wolf steeled her gaze. In a clear, deep voice that caressed the trees, she responded, "I am Wolfdragon, daughter of Arleil and Credor, student of Lin Sung, protege of Xena of Amphipolis, friend to those you seek to destroy. For all these reasons, I stand against you, Dahok, against you and yours."
When the demon saw that Wolf was firm in her stand against him, he roared his anger. He ordered Callisto and Hope to take up flanking positions. "Let's see whose magic will win this day out, shall we?"
Folding her wings against her back, the dragon landed with grace surprising for such a large body. Concerned about reserving her strength, she had decided to take her father on at ground level. To her surprise, though, he didn't engage her directly, but rather, he called an order for a dozen men to attack.
Wolf sensed the danger as it closed all around her. She lashed out with her spiked tail, impaling two of the approaching men. Flinging them over her shoulder with a flick of her tail, she changed into her human form, her hands quickly finding the familiar hilts crossed at her shoulders.
Xena didn't take her eyes off the men that she was quickly charging upon, but she heard the cries of the archers that fell, she smelled the acrid odor left in the wake of Wolf's energy bolts. When Dahok, Callisto, and Hope stepped from the treeline, all fighting seemed to stop, all eyes concentrated on the confrontation between father and daughter. When the warrior heard Wolf's declaration, her heart swelled with pride, and a second before their enemies realized, she began cutting down their numbers in a fury that bespoke of the agonies she had suffered the past year.
Leaping from Argo, she saw the goddess and the demon's bitch swing around her one-woman fighting force, their flanking maneuver an obvious attempt to reach the plateau. She pushed another man off her blade and swore when she saw Wolf shape-shift. The small warrior was too vulnerable on the ground in her human form. With deadly intent and control, the warrior made her way to her soldier, stopping short when she saw the skill in which the warrior wielded her swords.
Wolf was a study of fluid grace and motion. Her movements were seamless, her blades deflected the weapons tainted with the intent to kill her. Bunching the thick muscles in her thighs, she somersaulted over her opponents heads, taking out the remaining three with one blurred sweep her blades. In slow motion, they fell to their faces, clutching at the tendons that the warrior had severed above and behind their knees.
Spinning and falling to one knee, she caught a dagger between the short blades of her swords, and in a twisting motion of her wrists, returned it without error to its owner, where it was embedded with force into his skull. Glancing about, she called a warning to her commander. "Behind you!"
When she saw that Xena had her attention on the battle once again, Wolf shifted and took to the air, the immortal women her goal. She threw bolts of energy at Dahok's daughter, but the girl turned and deflected them away to impact harmlessly into the ground. Before she could attempt a second volley, Xena's cry alerted her to the threat behind her.
Twisting her body in mid-motion, she avoided the fire Dahok threw at her. In her efforts to avoid the fiery ball, she found herself in the path of a spear. Unable to move out of the way, she tried to deflect it with a hand, but her momentum had thrown off her balance.
She held her breath, waiting for the sweet agony of death, but only felt the dull thud of the projectile bouncing off her armored scales. She chuckled and lifted her head. Staring at her adversary, she shook her finger. A feral grin announced her malicious purpose as she swept down, roaring a cry to shrivel the man's testicles. Before he had time to curse his choice of gods, the dragon caught him in a vice-like grip, tearing his head cleanly from his body with her razor-sharp teeth. With a sarcastic salute, she deposited the lifeless form at the feet of the demon.
"It ends here, demon," she roared.
The entity laughed at her audacity. "As you and your friends go, daughter, so goes the world," he prophesized.
"We shall see," Wolf rumbled as she swooped about in movements intricate to confuse and avoid the demons strikes. She countered, throwing her arms wide and gathering the surrounding life forces into a titanic burst of energy, intent on destroying the evil. The demon dissolved violently into a gray mist. His last expression was one of disbelief and defeat. Wolf fell to the ground to catch her breath. The effort she had called forth had severely drained her. Calling on her reserves and her desire to finish the fight, she spread her wings. Leaping into the air, she called to Xena. "I'll finish this, they need help," she said, pointing across the plain.
The tall warrior saluted with her sword and called Argo to her side. In a running leap, she mounted the warhorse and rode like Tartarus towards the plateau. Unhooking her chakram, (which she had, in foresight, scraped along the tainted sword of an adversary) she aimed for her target who was unaware in her deadly quest to reach the top of the hill. The weapon found its mark to the warrior's feral satisfaction.
Hope never knew what hit her when her head separated from the body that had taken a few more jerky steps before collapsing in death. "Bitch," the avenged woman muttered as the evil spawn's body dissolved and was blown to the four corners by an Olympian-inspired wind.
The warrior glanced to the top of the plateau. Framed by the sun's golden glory stood her bard, a tremulous smile forming on her lips. Xena raced Argo up the hill and fell into her lover's embrace. Kissing the tears from Gabrielle's face, she whispered words of assurance and love.
When Iolaus saw that the commander had returned, he ran down the hill to help Hercules, who was growing weary, deflecting the endless barrage of sword strikes the fiery goddess was throwing at him. Without thought to his own safety, he attacked at her left side.
As the goddess was momentarily distracted, the demi-god dropped his sword and ripped the deadly pendant from around the blond woman's neck. He smiled in smug satisfaction as he turned and ran from the battle, dodging the fire the insane goddess was hurling at him.
Iolaus fell when Callisto abandoned him to pursue Hercules. She had scored a hit, the wound was deep in his thigh, but he would survive, the thought wearily before he passed out from the pain.
At the top of the plateau, the commander had a perfect view of the battle. If she didn't know better, she would have sworn that Wolf was having fun with the mortal soldiers she was fighting, throwing small bursts of energy at their feet and occasionally catching one in the ass. When the men were demoralized with the deaths of their god and his progeny, as well as the agonizing pain the energy bolts had dealt them, Wolf shifted to her human form and rejoined the battle with steel.
Xena worried at her lip. Wolf was definitely a master of her weapons, but she was tiring fast, the shifting and summoning had sapped her strength and slowed her reflexes. The warrior was preparing to go to the exhausted woman's side, but Gabrielle's cry turned her around.
The warrior followed the bard's finger, watching as Iolaus collapsed in the high grasses. In one of those moments where definitive decisions are made, she turned and grasped the bard by the shoulders. "Stay here."
The bard nodded and watched as her lover bounded down the hillside to their fallen comrade. She never saw the blow coming. Falling to her knees, she raised her staff defensively to ward off a second one that did not come. She fought the agony that sent streaks of blinding pain through her skull and into her eyes. When she realized the identity of her attacker, the breath rushed from her body. "Meridian."
The woman smirked at the bard's surprise. "You didn't honestly think that you killed me, did you, little girl? My god would not let his favorite priestess die in his service, for his ultimate victory," she snarled.
"Your god is dead," the bard shouted, forcing her legs to push her upright. Shaking her head to clear her vision, she assumed her defensive position.
A look of doubt crossed the priestess' face. "You lie, bitch," she growled. "My god is all-powerful, invincible!"
"Look again, Meridian. Do you see him on the battle field?"
The priestess allowed herself a moment to scan the plain. It was littered with bodies, none were standing. "He lives," she shrieked, her disbelief clouding her judgement. With an oath to Dahok, she attacked the bard, who in an eye's blink, became the amazon Xena had trained her to be.
With quick snaps of her wrists and twisting sweeps, the amazon disarmed her opponent. Letting her body flow with the rhythm of her staff, she had the woman on her back a moment later. "Yield, Meridian," she ordered in an easy, steady breath.
"I'll die before I give you the satisfaction," she cried as she raised herself to her knees and withdrew a ceremonial knife from the folds of her shirt.
Instinctively, the bard stepped back. When she saw the dagger appear in the other woman's chest, as if by magic, she turned to find her savior.
Xena was kneeling on one knee, gently lowering Iolaus from her shoulder to one of the bedrolls. In a heartbeat she was at the bard's side. "Are you all right?"
Gabrielle nodded and broke down, sobbing into the warrior's cleavage, unmindful of the blood and gore that covered her chest. A shout from Hercules caught their attention.
The watched as the demi-god ran pell-mell across the plain, zigzagging left and right, barely avoiding the small explosions of fire. They watched as a shape rose from the battle carnage to its knees when the man ran past. The demi-god threw his hand up into the air, releasing the prize he had been clutching. The weak bolt of blue light impacted on the pendant, showering the field with miniscule bits of metal, glass, and blood.
When the lethal necklace had been destroyed, Hercules stopped and turned to face Callisto, a smug grin on his face. "It's over," he informed her. "Go back to where you came from."
The goddess shrieked in fury and disappeared in a flash of fire.
"Is it over," Wolf asked the man, her quivering muscles barely sustaining her upright position.
"Yeah, it's over," he whispered, in awe of the woman who had stood against her father, saving the fate of the Olympians and the mortal realm.
Wolf nodded and gave in to her body's cries for blessed quiet.
The two women watching from the higher vantage point, cried out when the small figure on the field collapsed. Xena called for Argo and mounted in one fluid motion and pulled Gabrielle up behind her. An unspoken order to the horse and bard, they took off as one across the plain. The few moments it took them dragged by as they saw the demi-god reach Wolf's side and cradle her in his arms.
When Argo skidded to a halt, Xena gave the bard a hand down then dismounted to legs made rubbery by fear. The women fell to their knees and let out a gasp when they saw the dagger protruding from the small warrior's shoulder.
"Oh, gods, Xena...," the bard's exclamation trailed off into a hitch.
The warrior felt along the demi-god's neck. "There's a pulse, Gabrielle, she's still alive."
The warrior in Hercules' arms stirred. "Of course I'm alive," she shuddered. "That wily bastard took a dagger from my boot and used it against me," she explained before she passed out again, more from exhaustion than anything.
"She's just tired," Hercules announced. "She'll heal from the knife wound."
Gabrielle grabbed Xena's arm and looked towards the plateau, her face etched with stricken lines.
At the bard's words, the demi-god's head whipped up to meet her eyes. "What," he asked, looking around as if unsure of what to do.
Taking her friend from the man's arms, Xena urged, "Go ahead, he's at the campsite. He has a bad wound in his thigh. I tied it off, but it needs stitching. Go get everything I'll need to see to it," she ordered.
The demi-god nodded and took off at a fast sprint, his long legs eating up the distance to his wounded friend.
Slowly, so as to not jar the dagger that protruded from her friend's shoulder, Xena carried Wolf from the battlefield, Gabrielle at her side. When they had cleared the carnage, Xena felt a familiar presence. She turned with hooded eyes and a mask over her emotions. "I was wondering if you would show at all," she said in a bored tone.
The dark god shrugged and then raised his hand. All the miserable groans of the dying ceased and the bodies disappeared. He laughed at the stricken look on the bard's face.
"You killed them all," she stuttered.
He stroked his beard suggestively. "Get over it, Blondie. I am the God of War. It's what I do." He winked in the direction of his favorite ex-disciple and nodded at the still figure in her arms. "She's good. Think she's want to ride at the head of my army," he asked rhetorically, his evil laugh echoing across the plain.
"Touch her, you bastard, and you'll be next," the warrior threatened.
The god rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet, folding his hands behind his back. "You know, Xena, it's nice to have things back to normal, again. I'll be seeing you around, princess."
The Warrior Princess spit where the god's form was dissolving into a shower of smoke. "Not if I see you first," she warned. "Come on, Gabrielle, let's get Wolfdragon back to camp."
Gabrielle laid back, catching her breath. She glanced over at the nude form of her lover and was awed by the way that the light of the full moon danced over her hollows and planes. In the weeks that had passed since Dahok's defeat, things had improved drastically between the two of them. They had cried enough tears to keep a Phoenician merchant ship afloat, and they had spent even more energy exploring the depths of their passion for each other. Xena had admitted that killing Hope had made some of the pain go away, and the bard conceded to the warrior her vengeance. It hadn't brought Solan back, but at least the Furies wouldn't be after them for that one.
Hercules had taken Iolaus to stay with his mother and Jason, where the man could recuperate on a steady diet of good cooking, and Hercules could finally finish the wall he never seemed to complete.
She and Xena had taken Wolf to stay with the Amazons. The battle had left her weak and exhausted. They had stayed on in the village for three days until the woman had awaken and risen from her bed to join the others in the communal food hut. Gabrielle grinned, remembering the looks the small warrior had received when she had walked into the hut, attired in the typical Amazon clothing that naturally highlighted every muscle and curve. She prayed to Artemis that her Amazon sisters would give Wolf time to fully recuperate before they began to prey on her carnal sensibilities.
Upon her assurances that she would survive on her own (well, actually, a few Amazons were more than eager to help), Xena and Gabrielle had bid everyone a farewell, and found themselves on the road to Amphipolis. They had decided that a long rest was in order and that Xena's mom had the best cooking and rooms. However, that didn't mean that they had to be there right away, the bard thought as she rolled over and began tracing suggestive patterns on her lover's moist skin.
A growl and a tumble later, she found herself trapped in the most desirable of predicaments. "Wolf," she accused.
The warrior chuckled as she claimed the bards lips in prelude to another round of lovemaking. "You must have me confused with someone else," she purred.
"I'm not that experienced!"
"Couldn't be further from the truth," the warrior mumbled as dipped her head to pay homage to a straining breast.
"Oh, Xena," the bard gasped.
"You're hot now."
"You're telling me," the bard mumbled, her thoughts made incoherent as Xena moved lower.
The Way of the Wolf
The way of the wolf
is a path of vigilant truth,
loyal and fierce.
The way of the wolf
is a shadow in the dark,
silent and strong.
The way of the wolf
is a cry in the moonlight,
plaintive and soft.
The way of the wolf
is an eternal battle,
immortal and pure.
Return to The Bard's Corner
of vigilant truth,
loyal and fierce.
The way of the wolf
is a shadow in the dark,
silent and strong.
The way of the wolf
is a cry in the moonlight,
plaintive and soft.
The way of the wolf
is an eternal battle,
immortal and pure.
Return to The Bard's Corner