Voices shouted back at one another from the other side of the doors. Xena could hear the Inn was less then half full, more drunks at the bar then people who were staying at the Inn. Noone really notice Xena enter, or they were just too drunk to notice. Either way it was just fine to her, right now she only cared about was getting this evening over. Being with out Gabrielle was one thing, but staying in an Inn was another, the only reason the warrior stays at the Inns along the way was to give her friend a break from the outside weather.
Xena made her way down a couple of stair, move past some tables with people in light conversation. The bar was off to her right side, covering the length of the wall in a stretched horseshoe shape. Several tables lined the left wall, more round tables and benches were scattered around the rest of the bar, and a stone fireplace filled the back section. Xena took her chair at the end of the bar next to the wall to be able to see anyone the come through the doors. But then again she really didnt care.
"So watcha be drinkin?" The old hag asked. Xena slowly raised her head to the woman in front of her slightly lost in thought. "Hey .you alright?"
"Ye..Yes. Just a little tired, is all." Xena placed a bag of dinars on the bar. "Port will be fine. And what do I owe your for the stable and the room." She watched as the old hag filled her mug of port and returned.
"Thats 10 dinars for your horse, 5 dinars for you and the port is on me." Collecting the money from Xena she walks away. Xena didnt argue with her, the port was very good, almost as good as her mothers. The cool liquid went down very smooth. Too smooth. Xena caught the old hags eye and raised her mug.
"Ill just keep em coming if you want? You dumped that one down as if it were your last."
"Ive had a bad couple of weeks." Xena slowly began to revert into her own little world at the end of the bar. Gabrielle Once again her eyes grew dark with anger.
The stable was only half full. Stable hands attended to the horses and gathering supplies to be brought to the kitchen for dinner this evening. Men and women milling around were continuing with their normal routines for the day. One of the stable hands was nice enough to give her a good brushing before he left for his other duties. Argo was in a back stall quietly munching on fresh hay and oats. The horse in the stall next to her became agitated. Most of the other horse became alerted to the horses distress. Argo looked around her stall, nothing. Slowly she stepped forward and looked over the doors to see a silver wolf sitting in front of her door.
"Roo." Argo didnt even move. The other horse stated stamping their feet or bucking at the walls.
"What on Mount Olympus is going on in there?" Argo and Jasmine turned toward the voice, foots steps could be heard heading for the doors. Argo stepped back and let the wolf leap over the door. She landed, sneezed and walked over the Argo to let her know she was in no danger. Argo bent down and sniffed the wolf and snorted in approval. Slowly the wolf wondered into a far corner of the stall, curled up into a ball and was fast asleep in moments.
"What was all the racked about." Two men entered the stable only to find all the horses and animals were quiet. " I dont get it. They were all goin crazy a few moments ago. Honest!"
"Look. If you want to keep working here, you need to come to work sober old man. Now stop jerking around, I have too much to do without you hearing things."
"But .bu I swear I heard it." The man was beside himself. He slowly scratched his head and left the stables. Argo watches him leave, she slowly turned to look at her room mated then back to the door that he disappeared through.
On the other end of the town was know as the Pen, due to the fact that it was as filthy as a pig pen, hence the name. Many warlord, killers, thieves and bandits come here to unload stolen goods, look for assassins or for a good release. And if that is the case then you need to head over to Lady Laras. The brothel was the biggest building at the end of the street, and the most beautiful, if you can believe that. Most of the other buildings surrounds Laras place were run down, over grown, or empty. A small pack of dogs were milling around looking for scraps of food from the taverns that lined most of the back section of town.
Horses lined up out front, people entering and leaving. Sounds of music and laughter filter outside. Two large me sat just outside the doors asking people what was their business was, then they directed to their pleasure. Be it drink or lust, it was all there. Many woman to chose from, red heads, blondes, short, tall, skinny, fat, shy and of course kinky. Yes, Lara had them all for you to pick from, and then some. She always aimed to please. ;)
Several men sat at the bar drinking they mugs of Ale and watching the ladies dance on the stage. Drums played a seductive rhythm, the lights were low and conversations were light, this part of the building was all eye candy for all that entered.
" Hey Noah, here for a good roll?" One man called out as Noah dismounted from his horse and made his was to the doors.
" No. I need to see Verso. Is he here?"
"Yeah, is in the lounge getting his hands dirty." The other man slurred through his drunken state, while he itched himself. Noah nodded and entered. Walking down a narrow hallway, passing through a beaded curtain his eyes scanned the room for Verso. Many were engaged in sexual acts, a small group of men and woman were in the center of the room being watch by others as they engaged in an orgy. Another man was having one girl feed him, while another was giving him pleasure. Off in the corner Noah notices two Amazons enjoying each others company quite nicely. Hmm maybe Ill go and watch that later He thought to himself as he began to feel the heat in the room. Finally he spotted Verso with his regular whore as she sat on top of him bouncing away. He waited until he saw Verso expression change, knowing he was finished with the ride that he just took.
"Verso. I have some interesting news for you." Verso looked up as he finished the last of his wine.
" What could you possible tell me that could top my mood today." He answered almost daring him to do so, with a smile. Verso was a very handsome man and the entire woman knew him, very well. He loved to pillage, drink, kill and women. He really loved women, just a dog in heat some will say.
Verso jumped up from his sitting position and grabbed Noah by his shoulders.
"Xena?! Where! Where is she?" He asked in a low growling tone as his eyes light up and his blood danced with anticipation.
"The bitch is at Brodys." He said. " Want me to get the rest of the boys?" Grinning from ear to ear as he watched Verso almost drool with excitement. He nodded and Noah was gone. His skin was on fire, blood was racing in his veins and he was determined to get her, hoping to split her head like a melon. Verso sat back into his chair, reached over grabbing the back of the whores hair and directing her to his lap. "Xena, Im gonna hurt you."
Boots echoed off the walls as Luna came walking into the main room of her home. She walked around Gabrielles sleeping area, which at one time was her living area, to the main cooking fire. The table was kept in neat order, pots and pans in their spot, spices all labeled, and dishes in a small standing cabinet next to the table. Luna pulled several vegetables out of her basket, along with a very large rabbit.
"Is rabbit okay with you?" Luna calls into the air as she continues her tack of preparing a rather late lunch.
"Rabbit will be fine, thank you." Gabrielle was sitting on the steps of the spring rinsing out her hair. Chance sat at the edge just watching the whole situation unfold. Luna turns to look over to see how Gabrielle was doing; she walks over to the living area and removes her winter gear. First the heavy wool cloak is removes, and then her gloves and cotton pull over. Now dressed only in a light cotton short sleeve shirt, pants and boots makes her way over to Gabrielle. Her soft boots lightly echoed off the wall as she made her way to the spring. Gabrielle was having a little trouble brushing out her hair. Luna regarded the woman as she approached from behind feeling a bit uncomfortable with the fact she was naked and decided to gather up a light robe.
Without warning she lightly draped the robe over her shoulders giving Gabrielle a scare.
"Im sorry ..I didnt mean to spook ya." Luna quickly responded. She took a couple of steps into the water to get a good look at Gabrielle. Her eyes quickly scanned over the wounded area and noting no signs of bleeding, her heart began to slow down. "Im really sorry. Are you okay?"
Gabrielle slowly shook her head side to side. " My chest its cramping." The pain in her chest was agonizing; she was beginning to panic. Luna slowly saw the facial expression change to fear. Without stopping to think, Luna walking further into the water and carefully picked Gabrielle up and walked her over to her bed. Putting a few pillows behind her, the pain began to subside and she was able to relax.
"Wha What just happened? I thought my heart was attacking me?" Luna sat facing her on the edge of the bed making sure she wasnt going to pass out. Gabrielle still had her hand over her heart.
"I think when I spooked you, you tightened so quickly, you .cramped. Im really sorry about that." Green eyes looked at her, watching her, as if trying to look into her soul. Luna began to sweat; noone has looked into her eyes since before she was burned. Looking away she pulls up a brush to Gabrielle and gestures toward her.
"Why are you being so nice to me if you hate Xena so?" Gabrielle had to know. The sound of her voice when she says Xenas name has so much hate behind it, yet she knows that Gabrielle is her friend. Luna really has surprised her this far. Lunas eyes looked away, then studied the floor then finally back to her.
" You didnt do this." Luna holds up a dry shift then moves behind her to help. "She did. So what good would it have done me to kill you? That wouldnt have gotten me anywhere." She moved back to the front to begin to apply new bandages. After that task was done she disappeared back into one of the rooms off the spring for a moment and returned in some dry pants and boots, only to continue her work preparing lunch.
"But if it would have gotten you some where, would you?" Gabrielle watched Luna stop in the middle of her work and looked her dead in the eyes.
"What would Xena do?" Gabrielles blood ran cold. She knew with out a doubt that Xena would do what she had to, that scared her. She broke the stare first looking down at her injured knee, there would be no way possible to get out if she was in trouble. A noise cause her to stray from her thought, to see Luna was beginning to clean the rabbit for dinner. The silence was defening.No time like the present.
"Luna? Why did she burn you?" Gabrielle positioned herself further up the hill of pillows to have a comfortable spot to listen. The table was directly in her view, she could watch Luna prepare and cook lunch, but still have a clear view of Luna who looked over in her direction.
"Im sure you have heard your share of stories from her about her past, have you not?"
"Yes I have, but she still has trouble talking about them, even to me." Her voice drifted off in too silence.
"How long have you known her?" Sizzling noise snap the silence as she places the rabbit over the fire to cook.
"Ive been traveling with her for almost 4 years." Her heart skipped a beat just thinking about Xena, wishing she were here.
" Well then Okay you wanna know why I look like a burning at the stake gone bad. Are you familiar with Borias or China? Has she told you anything about them?" Luna began to move about her kitchen area, taking a look or two at Gabrielle for an answer to her question, which she received. "Then you heard her talk about Lao Ma then?"
" Yes, she told me she regretted what happened between then She.. We were recently there."
" Really. What for, that whole country has nothing but bad karma for her."
" Loa Ma sent for her."
" The dragon is dead huh?" The look in Gabrielles eyes told her, " Well I cant say he didnt deserve it, well anyway how do you like your rabbit, medium or done?" She waited for some type of answer from her less than happy roomy. " Medium then. Well lets see, if you know about Loa Ma then you know of her powers that helped Xena walk again. I joined up with Borias in a campaign to take out a warlord named Sung Lee, real nasty bastard, Xena joined us later." Gabrielle sat, sipped on some tea Luna provided and listened to a dark chapter in her friends life, a chapter she knew Xena would never talk about, she never did like talking about the past. Gabrielle closed her eyes to try to envision everything that Luna was talking about.
The rain pelted the camp as men hurried about their business making sure horses; weapons and supplies made it into their proper tents. Thunder echoed through the valley as Zeus lit up the skies with lighting. Within the center of the camp was the largest of the tents, possible the command tent and it was well guarded. Torches were placed throughout the camp lighting up small roadways throughout out the camp as well as the main tent. Voices could be heard inside in light seemingly friendly conversation.
Im not too sure if that is really the best idea to come up from down the river." The womans voice was gentle yet pulling a point that needed to be address seriously.
"What would be wrong that?" He snarled " It would give us good cover from being followed, and besides Sung Lee wouldnt except it."
" Borias come over here please." She bit off the end of her sentence as Borias pushed up from his chair and moved over to a large desk where she was seated. " Look here. The river would be a good idea yes, but its been raining to much to pull any type of war wagon along those roads. Borias looked at her then back to the map and shook his head in agreement.
"Ah those wagons would sink half way up the road. Damn it!" He turned toward another map that hung on the tent wall. "Luna, do you have an updated map of the area, showing any other small trails, road or anything that we might been able to use? You know this area best." The question hung in the air. Luna sat back in her chair and regarded Borias with a blank face.
"Your darling Xena was suppose to be bringing it and shes three days late. Her voice rising at the end to put her point across. Luna walks out from behind her desk and up to Borias. "Look. I refuse to work with a loose catapult. If you want my help to take that valley then you better make sure Xena does what she is suppose to do." She moves away before he could even reply. "Im still telling you Borias she is up to something."
"Of course she is. Shes trying to find a way to get under Sung Lees skin. Since he got under hers when he stopped us from taking the city of Milpitas." He slowly rubs his chin then turns back to Luna. "Dont worry about it, I can handle Xena."
Lunas eye brows shot up at the statement of fact. "Well then since you seem to be soo sure of yourself, I just assume that you keep the bitch inline."
Keep what bitch in line?" Luna and Borias turn toward the voice. A tall figure stood just inside the entrance out of reach from the light. Luna rolled her eyes and move back to her desk as Borias crossed over to the entrance.
"Well considering that bitch was I the sentence I guess we were talking about you Xena." Luna finished with a smile. Borias stepped in front of her as she headed toward Lunas desk.
"Thats enough! I will not have you two at each other. At least not until this valley is taken, then you two can beat each others brains in." Borias looked at Xena, then to Luna. Xena moved around him and made her self right at home in one of Lunas comfy chairs. Luna settled back into her chair, leans on her elbow and rests her chin in her hand watching Xenas every move. Borias could feel the sense of death in the air as both women began to think of ways to kill each other. Borias moved over and sat in a chair next to Xena.
"So did you have enough time to check out the area or were you too busy playing grab ass with you little Amazon Queenie?" Xenas eyes grew in anger at her comments. Xena rose from her sitting position, gave Borias a wet kiss and pulled out a piece of parchment tossing it at Luna. Quick reflexes allowed Luna to catch it before it smacked her in the face. She shot her a glare as Xena crossed the room with a devilish grin on her face.
Borias moved over to Luna to get a good look at the new information they need for their attack.
"Look here, we can get most of the wagons through this pass and then still be able to send troops up the river road as well. We can surprise him not from one side but both." Borias stated as he continues to point out other possibilities on the map. Nice job Xena. Since you have the heavy weapons, Ill take the rive road with Xena.
"Hold on here." Xena broke into the conversation. " What do you mean Im going with you? I just assume take my men up the main road in and kill them all."
"Xena were not here to destroy Sung Lees entire army. Once he is defeated those men know that they will be offered the chance to join us and live or if they refuse die." Luna was starting to lose her patience with Xenas lack of teamwork here. " If you cant help then go back and play with your Amazons."
" Who the hell do you think you are telling ME what to do. I was the
one that got us out of Con Valley no thanks to you.
"If you remember correctly your stupidity over Ming Tzu and Lao Ma almost got us all killed, I would just have killed her in the camp." Luna growled as Xena continued to moves toward her, the anger that Xena was be consumed with was about to explode. "But then again she did kick your ass didnt she?" Borias stood by and watched for a moment until he noticed Xena pulling a dagger from its home.
Borias pounded his fists against the table jolting both women out of their heated exchange of words. "Alright. Enough of this." Borias looked over at Xena just as a guard entered. "What is it, I told you no interruptions."
" Yes Borias, but Josh is back and said its important that you two meet." Borias looked to Luna.
"Go on and see what he wants." Never taking her eyes off Xena. "Well finish the plans by the time you get back, or you can just go with your puppet master." Xena took a swing at her but was blocked. Remember Im just as good as you." Xena snarled and backed off.
"Fine. Xena when youre finished I want to see you in my tent Luna."
"Borias." He exited the tent and it was just then two very pissed of women under one roof. Xena slowly walked away as she noticed a tall bottle of some very good liqueur and decided helped herself.
"So how are you going to approach this valley. Her words were dripping with venom as if she was a cobra ready to strike. Xena kept eye contact with hers she continues the circle the room. Luna could tell that Xena was up to no good.
"As I said before, Im going to take the west road you found while you two continue up the river, is there a problem with that, or cant you take orders." Xena hissed as she tossed the mug of liquor into her face. Luna let out a yelp as the liquid began to burn her eyes.
"You fucking bitch!" She screamed and with only half of her vision working she lunged at Xena taking them both to the ground. Xena was able to push her off and get to her feet. Luna stumbled to her feet only to be pounded to the ground by Xena fist. Xena grabbed a torch, gave it a good hard look and a toothy smiled.
"Well Im sorry my dear but there is going to be a change the plans." Luna scrambled to her feet, still dripping with that liquid, trying to wipe off her eyes as heat fell upon her face. Luna let out a blood-curdling scream as Xena set her on fire. The liquid immediate helped spread the fire over Lunas body. The smell of burning flesh filled the air as Xena just stood and watch. "Well, I guess Ill have my way after all." She dropped the torch and walked out the back of the tent as soldiers could be heard running toward Lunas aid.
"I really cant tell you happened after that. All I know is I ended up in this hospice and I heard months later that the valley was never taken." Luna moved from around the table to hand Gabrielle a plated of pleasantly smelling food.
"Did you ever found out what happened?" Gabrielle picked at her food; she was finding it hard to look her in the eyes knowing what Xena did to her. "I mean did you ever find out why that valley wasnt taken? Gabrielle watched as Luna began to gather up a few items and placed them into a sack, then finally looked her way.
"Yes I did. She decided to use her ignorant plan and failed." Luna announced with a pleasure. " Then I didnt really care after that. I ended up over hearing that in a local tavern one night." She continued to move around the kitchen area. By the looks of it Gabrielle could tell she was taking inventory of all her supplies, Xena had the same scowl on her face when she did the same, her heart sank just a little.
" What are you looking for? Arent you going to eat? Anything?"
" No. Ive go to get to the market in the village before the snow gets any worse."
" Its snowing?" Gabrielle let off in an upbeat sound as a little kid getting a new toy for solstice.
"Yup, started just after I trapped lunch. Lunas moves back to the room just off the spring and returns with something in her hand, possible a staff from this angle, Gabrielle still could not get a good look. " Here, this is for you. You do know how to use a crutch dont you?"
Gabrielle gave her an annoyed look. " Do I look that helpless?"
"Well you travel with her so I guess not. Just dont get up anymore that you have too, got me?" Lunas eyes burned into her soul as she pointed a finger in her face.
"Sure no problem."
" Chance, noone comes in here. Got it." Chance looks at his mistress and snorts in agreement. "Be good and help Gabrielle is she need it." Luna walks over to a large chair and gathers up her gear, dresses, picks up her pack and heads to the door.
" What are you going to do if Jasmine finds Xena and brings her here?" The words came out before she knew what she was saying; her heartbeat began to quicken. Luna stopped in her tracks and adjusted her cloak, turned to answer.
"Ill cross that bridge when I get to it. Stay inside .No one Chance." Luna padded out with out speaking another word.
Gabrielle slowly she let her eyes scan the room, finally getting a really good look at it. This place was huge and actually beautiful now that she really thinks about it. Here eyes landed on a small desk off the side of the living area and forced herself up. Slowly did she make it to the desk, hobbling on her crutch that Luna so kindly provided, her ribs ached with each step which she agreed with herself was the worst pain of all. Her shoulder was tender and her knee was starting to throb, but finally she made it to the desk. She found some blank parchment, she needed to write about her experience so far. Her thoughts were of Luna, her fear for her friends life and the love she was feeling deep inside. Chance lay down at her feet as she began to unravel her memories and feelings.
Snow was falling at an incredible pace; roads, fields and homes were covered before the sun fell over the horizon. Horse hooves pounded at the ground, " Well Blue I think for once the village market was pleasant. Noone gave us any heart ache for the first time in .what 4 years? Now thats a new one." The mighty horse shook his head in agreement as they continued up the road.
" Blue what the hell am I going to do when she does get here?" Her voice trailed off as if expecting an answer.
" When who gets here." Luna froze at the remark trying to figure out how she was caught off guard so easily. Quickly she looked around and notices a total of 6 men, all armed with a club, swords and a mace or two.
" Emery what the hell do you want."
" You never answered my question, about that girl you have in your home. WHO IS SHE!" his voice echoed, eyes full of fire, Luna knew she was in real trouble. Blue was packed down with supplies so riding out of there was out of the question, the snow was too high to run and she didnt have any weapons. Great now Im gonna get my ass kick. That girl going to be the death of me. Shit.
" I want to know who she is Luna. To many are telling me its the bard that murdering whore travels with. So either you tell me what I want to know or well just beat it outta ya. Either way that girl is mine! "
Smoke from candles and torches floated across the room. Conversations were light, but quiet as the music was played in the background. A light breeze blew though the tavern as two travelers entered the room. They proceeded to the far end of the bar only to change their minds as they saw a lone warrior in the corner, a very angry looking warrior at that.
Xena felt eyes looking upon her. She slowly looked up to see it was nothing to worry about and turned back to her port. Her eyes were very distant in thought as her fingers unconsciously stroked the outside of her mug. The dull ache in her head was beginning to disappear, but the ache in her heart was almost too much to handle at times.
Slowly she ran her hand over her face then though her hair, took in a deep breathe letting it go slowly as she rested her head in her hand. A distant memory popped into her mind. Tears began to creep to the surface, just as a small smile formed at the end of her lips. She fondly remembers the first time Gabrielle wanted to try her port. She tilted the mug to her and looked deep into its contents as the memory played back.
Small groups began working on putting the center of the village back together. Velasca did a rather nasty number on the village, but the village wasnt a total lost cause. Many buildings were burned to the ground. Others need a new roof here or a wall or two theyre those were repaired first.
"Ephiny. Where do you want this group?"
Ephiny turned to see Eponin coming her way with a small group of Amazons.
"Well, we have most of the houses put back together. The only thing I need is a group to move all the burnt out remains of those buildings outta here. Did you put someone on the Queens hut?" Ephiny asked as she still looked out over the burnt out remains of the hospital.
Epinon moved into her path of vision to get a better look into her friends eyes. Slowly she placed a hand on her shoulder, "Theyll be fine. Xena just took the bridge out. They should be here by tonight." Their eyes locked on one another. Ephiny smiled and nodded her head in agreement.
" Sorry. Im just worried. I thought for sure Velasca was going to win," Ephiny turned toward the Queens hut, "Call everyone into the mess hall, I need to have a meeting with everybody. The change of guards can pass on the message when the shift changes."
Ephiny gave her friend a small pat on the arm and was off toward her Queens hut. Eponin watched her walk across the courtyard and disappear. Slowly she looks around as Amazons continue their work putting all the pieces back together again. The last several days have been a nightmare. She places her hand on he hip as the other scratches her head.
" Whats the matter? Got bugs or something?" The voice was playful.
Epinon spun on her heels to see the best thing since this nightmare started.
Gabrielle and Xena. Thank Artimis.
"HEY!! Gods its good to see you two!" Epinon rushed over to the wide eyed Queen and gave her a hug. "Ephiny was just thinking about the two of you. Its good to see you Xena." The Amazon clasped arms with the warrior.
Xena place a protective arm around Gabrielle. "Where is Ephiny?"
"She headed to your hut. I think she wanted to make sure it wasnt as trashed as the rest of the village."
They turned look over the village. Gabrielle brushed a few strands of hair out of her face. " It looks a lot better then when we were running out of here."
"Yeah, it really does doesnt it. Hey. Why dont you two go and let Ephiny know youre here, so shell quite worrying and relax for a few hours. Shes holding a meeting on the reconstruction of the village. The two of you do not need to be there."
They exchanged good-byes and Xena directed Gabrielle to their hut. Both women were silent as the last several days replayed in their minds.
Xena step forward, opened the door and let Gabrielle enter first. The hut was in order; Velasca didnt seem to do any redecorating. Gabrielle moved over to her bags, and began to check her things; she most worried about her scrolls.
Xena paused a few steps away from where Gabrielle was milling about, her brow creased, "Wheres Ephiny?"
Gabrielle looked up briefly; "Maybe shes in the bathing room." She continued to look through the rest of the saddlebags to be sure all their belongings were there.
Xena headed in the direction, when water could be heard splashing round. As she came upon the doorway Ephiny was just getting ready to turn a leave, and definitely not expecting the warrior to be there.
"GREAT ARTIMIS!" Ephiny yelped as the warrior suddenly appeared into her line of vision. Xena jumped back slightly to the shock of Ephinys voice. Ephiny hand one hand over her heart and one holding onto the doorframe.
Xena was softly laughing to herself, something she rarely did until Gabrielle entered her life. Gabrielle quickly joined them.
"What happened What are you laughing at?" Gabrielle looked from a giggling warrior to an Amazon who had her tail feathers yanked.
Ephiny straighten up, walked up to Xena, and poked her finger in her chest, "Dont you ever so that again."
"Do what?" Blues eyes flashed innocence.
"You two could have made some noise coming in here." Ephiny answered as she walked over to Gabrielle and gave her an over due hug.
" Thought you heard us come in." Xena smiled at the Amazons expression. "Hey wheres my hug?" Gabrielle looked from her friend to Xena and smiled.
"Bite me Xena." She turned and headed to the door. "Oh were going to have a small get together at sundown. Need to get everyone mind off the bad track."
"Good Idea. Do you need help with anything, its the least Xena could do since she scared the Hades outta ya" Gabrielle poked the warrior in the side.
"No. I have things covered; you two relax for a while. Ill send somebody over when dinner is ready. See you two later." The door shut behind her and the room was silent. Gabrielle slowly turned around and looked at Xena.
Xena placed her hands on her hips, "What?"
"You didnt need to scare her?" Gabrielles eye brows shut up as Xena started laughing gout loud.
" Gab, I didnt. I was going into the bathing room and she was coming out, we just sorta surprised one-another. In didnt do it on purpose." Gabrielles eyes were still locked onto hers, but slowly they relaxed. "Hey. Why dont you go and take a long hot bath, since that what she was doing in there anyway. The water should be warm by now."
"What about you?"
"I need to clean up these leathers before I can clean up myself, okay?" Green eye regarded her friend. Gabrielle padded over to Xena, folded her arms around her waist giving her a loving hug. Xena enjoying the contact returned to gesture. For a long moment time seemed to stand still. Not one word was spoken between them as they moved away from each other and went about their business.
It was only a couple of hours before there was a knock at the door. The guard informed Xena that it was time for dinner. Xena padded across the foyer and called for Gabrielle.
"Gab, they want us for dinner." Xena stopped and listened for a reply. She slowly looked about the room to see if things were in order before they left. Footsteps caught her attention, she turned and what she saw made her heart skip a beat. It was definitely that outfit.
" You look beautiful." Her tone was soft, and her stomach tightened as she realized she said that out-loud. Gabrielle flashed a smile.
"Thank you. And you did a nice job on your leathers too." Her hand caress Xenas side where the leathers were torn from the climb up the cliff.
Their eyes met and stayed that why for a few, gratifying moments before Xenas words broke the silence.
"Thanks ready?" Xena asked softly. With a nod from her friend, Xena side stepped for the Amazon Queen then followed behind just close enough to let Gabrielle know she was there.
Dinner finally coming to an end, Ephiny had instructed some Amazons to get a drum circle started so everyone could continue their evenings. Conversations were picking up as the kitchen servers were cleaning up tables and putting at the left over food away until morning. Another couple of Amazons was bringing barrels of port, jugs of wine and what else was saved before the tavern collapsed.
Xena and Gabrielle were talking to Tyldus and Solari when drinks were served. Xena handed a mug of port to Tyldus and then took one for herself. The port was very cold and smooth.
"MMmm this is good, I havent had good tasting port since I was home last. Mom can make some great stuff." Taking a hearty swallow and smiled.
"I agree this stuff is really good. The next time you come back this way, bring me a skin or two of your mothers."
"Sure thing." Xena raised her cup as Tyldus turned and walked over to another group of people and began talking. " Solari hows the arm doing?"
"Oh much better, but its going to be sore longer than normal. I really havent had the time to rest, been to busy putting the pieces back together."
Gabrielle moved closer to Xena," Im still speechless at the progress of the reconstruction. You and everyone have been doing a great job, thank you." Gabrielles eyes were warm and sincere.
"Thanks. We have been really working hard. And this party was something we really needed." Solari smiled as she watched Xena down her third port in a matter of moments.
Gabrielle watched with interest, "Xena could I try some of that?"
Both Solaria and Xena raised an eyebrow.
"Gabrielle I dont think your really going to like this stuff. Took me awhile too." Waiting to see if her friend was going to change her mind and from the look on her face,"No huh?"
Gabrielle put one hand on her hip and the other held out in front of her waiting with the words annoyed on her forehead.
Xena quickly surrendering with one then handing her her mug with the other. "Alright."
Xena watched as Gabrielle place the mug to her lips and swallowed, almost immediately her face contorts as if she was in pain. Xena exploded in laughter as Gabrielle began to spit the vile tasting liquid from her mouth. Spitting, coughing, choking and making the strangest faces as Solari lightly pats her on the back. Xena was hoping that Gabrielles face wouldnt stay that way.
"See. You should listen to what Xena says." Solari couldnt stop giggling every time Gabrielle made that face.
"Shu *cough * shut up Solari." Gabrielle snapped, spitting one more time and finally washes the taste away with some cider. "Gods that stuff is nasty. How do you drink that crap?"
"Hey, it took me a while to get use to it, but hanging around the guys I had to. Thats all they drank. And I like it." She shrugged her shoulders, tips her glass to her friend and took a healthy drink. "AAAhhh!"
Gabrielle rolled her eyes at the warrior,"Yeah, but the cider is to sweet and that wine . that is what you call it, isnt it?"
"HEY! I didnt make it! " Solari states with force as she frowns. "Do you see me drinking that shit? NO."
"Alright, enough. Gabrielle I have just the thing for you. Be right back."
Solari and Gabrielle exchanged looks as they watched the warrior make her way across the room. Xena zig-zaged her way around amazons, laughing, drinking, and dancing to the drum circle, which was in full session as she made her way out to the kitchen.
"Hey, Annie. Do you have anymore of that wine I brought back for you from Athens?"
"Sure do. Want a mug? Its really cold." The older amazon playful slaps Xena.
"Yes and the bottle."
"Sure thin .Bottle?!"
"Ha.. Its for Gabrielle. She doesnt really care for port." Xena makes a face and chuckles with her friend. With a smile Annie hand Xena the bottle, shakes her head and smiles.
"I just dont get what she see in you." Annie places her hand on her shoulder gives a friendly squeeze and walks away.
"Here." Gabrielle about jumped out of her skin at the sudden sound of Xenas voice in her ear. Looking down to see Xena was holding out a mug for her to take. Raising it to her nose, inhaling slowly, as the sweet smell of berries filled her senses.
"Oooo what is this?" Gabrielle takes a light sip. The delightfully cool liquid washed over her lips and tongue as the flavor just starts her taste buds dancing with joy. "Oh, gods is that good!"
"Its Mulberry Wine." Xena stated, as she watched the smile grew bigger with every sip. "Now dont drink it all in one gulp. I know it taste good, but it will give you a nasty headache the next morning." Slowly shaking her head and rolling her eyes.
Solari snorted at her friend; "I take it youve been there before. Ouch." She looked over to Gabrielle who was pouring herself another. "Me, too." Playfully elbowed the Xena in the side.
"And Gabrielle is gonna make three."
"I heard that. Port breath." Gabrielle replied with out facing the warrior.
"Oh, hurt me Gabby. And so what if I have port breath." Xena flashed a smile waiting for a counter attack as Solari decided to bow out of this conversation.
"Im gonna get some more. Be back." Solari winked at the warrior and made her way out of the soon to be battle zone.
Xena moved up just off to Gabrielles left, noticed she was totally involved in the dancing on the floor. Her hair was back off her shoulders and that she looked wonderful tonight. "And whats wrong with my breath?"
"Well how are you ever going get any one to kiss you, knowing you drink that stuff." Gabrielle answered with out any real thought to Xenas question. She keep her eyes on the floor as two Amazon enjoyed each others company.
Xena leaned forward next to her ear, "You did."
There was no answer. Xena couldnt see Gabrielles eyes, all Xena saw was the little hairs stand up on the back of her neck, she straighten back up as a big smile began to show on her face.
"Well now thats a rather big smile, dontcha think boys?"
The low voice stopped her thoughts present path. As she replayed the voice in her head, which was rather hard at the moment, she felt heavy, tired and actually off balance, Boys?
She blinked her eyes a few times; she tried to focus on the mug in front of her. Her eyes were the only things she moved, her vision was still slightly blurred, but there were a few people whom she knew werent there for the stew. Xena sniffed the air and turn toward the direction of the voice, only to see someone directly in her face. Great. She thought with such disgust at herself for not seeing them come in.
"Vesco. What do you want?" Incredible disgusted with herself.
"Ah, to know why you had that silly smile on your face?" He raises his eyebrows. " And you."
"HA! Go away." Xena turned back to her mug.
"So. ..Where is your little friend?" Vesco looked around the room as several chuckles drifted through the air. "Huh? What was that? I didnt hear you." He watched her eyes grow dark with rage.
"Alright Vesco I dont want any trouble outta you. Got me." The old bar hag spat to Vesco and his bunch of low lives.
" Now, now Maggie, Im just here to have a drink with an old friend."
"Fuck off Vesco. Leave before you really start to piss me off."
"Come now Xena. No need for fowl language. Im just trying to make nice." Vesco leaned onto the bar facing Xena rubbing his goatee. "Like I said before. Wheres your little friend?" Xena slowly turned her head and looked straight into his eyes. Death was in them.
"Look! This is not a good idea Emery. Why cant you leave that girl along? Get over it." Luna started to walk forward, but was abruptly stop by a heavy hand on her shoulder.
"Im not going to argue with you. I want that information! Is she the woman that travels with Xena. Yes or No." Emery bit the end of the sentence off as he dismounted for his horse, stepped up into Lunas face.
Luna could smell his bad breath as he stood there waiting for her answer. She could do this, before it would have been so easy to give her up, but over the years she has changed herself. But when push comes to shove, she still likes to bite back.
"No." Luna, without warning kicks her leg back, catching the man behind her in the groin, then following through with a right cross to Emerys jaw. Emery falls backwards into the snow. Luna lets out a low grunt as another man tackles her down on top of Emery. "Oh this is nice." Luna sneers then slams the back of her head into the mans face. She starts to push herself off, but is caught in the face by Emerys boot. The pain shot right to the back of her head as she lands her on her back
She quickly flips herself upright, turns to meet her next opponent, catching the wild swing with her left forearm, hitting his right side. He bends over, she quickly holds his wrist, giving it a slight twist, then sends a powerful punch to his elbow shattering it . Another man runs at her. Luna flips over him, landing in front of another, placing her hand on either side of his face and give him a quick snap to the right, breaking it. Something slammed against her back, sending her forward into the snow. Trying to regain direction on which way is up, someone grabs the back of her cloak and pulls her upright, then tossing her once again to the ground.
"Bitch teach you to kick me." A large man yells at her. Luna hits the ground hard knocking the wind out of her. Coughing and weezing Luna is trying to catch her breath. Emery kneels behind her grabbing her roughly then placing a the cold steel of his dagger against her throat.
"Now. Who is she or Ill let Ellis here run you through."
Luna eyes were now locked on the man in front of her ready to kill her. "Bite Me."
"Kill her!" Ellis takes two step up only to be knocked onto the ground as a crossbow bolt slams into his chest. The sudden change in the situation took Emery off guard, Luna rolls out of his hold only to capture him into a head lock and squeezed. Footsteps came charging up to her.
"If you want to live youll stop right there." The voice calls out.
Luna turns her head slightly to be heard in the back. "Hi Don nice to see ya again."
"Nice to see you too Cricket."
Luna flipped Emery in front of her. "Now get lost and leave me and that girl alone." She turns toward the young man who helped her out. He extends a hand down to her and pulls her up into the saddle.
"Why didnt you just kill me. You had the chance?" Blood dripped from his nose.
"Because Beth would be without a father. Shes a good kid, too bad she doesnt realize that her father is an asshole."
" And you wouldnt want me telling Angie, now would you? Its going to be hard enough to explain what happened to your men." The young mans voice was very serious yet devious.
Emery knew he was beaten. He tucked his tail between his legs and began to wonder how he was going to get these men back to town. Luna and her mysterious friend were now gone down the road somewhere.
Soft sounds of water gently falling floated through out the cave. Shadows danced across the back of the living area. Gabrielle was totally into what she was writing. Thoughts just kept pouring out onto the parchment under her fingers. She scribed away until her fingers began to ache, she just had so much she wanted to put down, but she was beginning to tire.
Slowly she settled back into her chair closing her eyes listening to the cave. A small whistle caught her ear, her tea was ready. "Well Chance ya wanna go get that?" Gabrielle looked down at her friend curled up at her feet. " No, huh?" A smile crossed her face as she limped over the fire. Her knee was starting to feel better the pain was lessening, but she still needed to be careful. Feeling a slight pull in her shoulder but no pain, she just needs to work all the stiffness out of her joints. The hot spring is great but getting a rub from Xena would be much better.
Pouring water into her mug, steam rising to her nose, the sweet smell washed over her, " Mmm, this is going to taste good."
"Woof!" Chance answered to his new friend, his tail wagging in a happy panic. Gabrielle reached down to pat his head when she realized it was getting late. Her brow creased.
"Wheres you friend Chance? Huh? Its getting late." Her heart skip. " I hope shes okay, Im worried enough about Xena, I dont want to have to worry about her too." Slowly she limped back to her chair, careful not to spill any, sat back with a satisfying sigh. "Now that wasnt to hard." Toasting herself and her victory as she sipped the warm soothing liquid. She let the heat from the mug warm her hands as her eyes drifted up and rested on what use to be Xenas. With her head tilted back on a soft pillow, covered in warm blankets, her eyes began to falter. With sleep around the corner, she settled her eyes on Xenas banner. The was a deep purple small X like symbols sat at all 4 corners, embroidered in gold thread as was the symbol that stood in the center, the same symbol she had engraved on her sarcophagus. Her eyebrows raised as she was amazed at the fact that she had the pattern almost perfect to the real thing. Slowly her eyes began to fall thinking of that night that Xena had told her what it looked light, she was so sick with fever that day. She can still remember the stinging rain that pelted her legs as she cover as much of her body in her cloak as well as behind Xena. The eyes were fixed on the banner hanging on the wall, her eyes began to close, memories flooded her mind and her heart ached for her friend.
The last three days have been a living hell. Rain, wind and now the temperature was beginning to drop at a steady pace. The wind was at times deafening, even under her heavy cloak the noise driving her nuts. Gabrielle tried to hide behind Xena the best she could, but the freezing wind found its way in. Her head was pounding, her muscles ached from the constant shivering and she was hungry. Not sure how far they traveled, but she was sure Argo would love to get out of the rain and mud, not to mention that her quiet partner. Shes been too quiet, she thought. Gabrielle began to emerge out of her cocoon, as she pulled back her hood to see the nasty landscape all around them. Nothing but mud, wind, falling leaves, and the river alongside the road was beginning to creep over the banks. This is lovely. She places an are around Xenas' waist only to feel warmth emitting from beneath her cloak. Her stomach tightened for a brief moment as she placed a hand under her cloak only to answer her question. Xena was burning up with fever.
"Xena?" She called to her friend.
No answer. Gabrielle moved slightly in the saddle to try and get a look at her, but her hood was in her field of vision.
"Xena? .Hey, are you still in there? She said jokingly. Still not a word. She could feel her throat tighten from anticipation waiting for, hoping for an answer. Nothing. Xena sat motionless in the saddle. Argo whined just a bit. Gabrielle wasnt worried, she was scared. With out giving it a second thought, "Argo stop." Not even a second went by when Argo came to a halt, when Xena body went limp, fallen back slightly againt Gabrielle.
"Gods! Xena!?! Hey, Xena?!..Can You hear me?" Gabrielle cupped the side of her face giving it a slight shake to see if she could get a rise out of her , but it was no good. Xena was unconscious from the fever. Time was of the essence to get her out of the weather into a dry warm bed, but were? They were in the middle of no-where. Her eyes franticly looked over the land to see if there was anything that she could possible use for shelter. Looking at Xenas' pale face she couldnt tell of the wetness was from the rain or the fever. She leaned forward a bit and lightly kissed her on the forehead then wiped the tears from her cheeks. Then she grabbed for Argos reigns turning to the left path.
"Come on Argo lets see whats over that hill, okay girl." Gabrielle pulled Xena closer to her as Argo started the trek up the hill. She took the reigns an looped then around the saddle horn and put both arms around her, even with Xena unconscious just been next to her took some of the panic out of the situation. "Dont worry Xena, I get of to someplace warm and dry I promise." She whispered into her ear giving the warrior a slight squeeze.
"Okay Luna, what the hell was all that about? Cause ya know every time I come back here it sure seems you or my dad are always getting into trouble so what gives?" He asks the question as his friend dismounts. "Hey! I do get some type of answer, dont I?"
Luna continues to walk toward Blue who was enjoying a small patch of uncover grass to munch on. "Oh I see, I almost get my ass kicked and your enjoying a nice meal." She bitched softly at him, she then grabbed at his reigns only to turn around to have a slightly pissed off young man standing in front of her. "Okay, okay come on, Ill fill you in a we head back to my place. Geeze just because you helped me out You think I owe you something ."
"Ya! Like whos this girl Emery was yipin about?"
" Well Okay almost 2 moons ago I found a body in the river.."
"Dead?" He quipped.
"Dont interrupt and no, she was alive, barely. It almost looked like she was beaten and dumped. She had a deep gash on her forehead, her shoulder was torn open it looked like she got caught up in the current and was hooked on something. That was a hard one to clean up. But it looks 100 time better now then it did, but that should is going to be stiff for a while the same goes for her knee, I think."
"Why is that?"
"Well she had it twisted up pretty good, it was she about this in size when I first found her." Luna dropped Blues reigns to show Don about the size of the swelling. His eyes popped oout of his head a bit. "But I tried something new, I been having her sit in that hot spring for a while and work on using it, with out all her weight standing on it," She watched the expression change from confusion to understanding.
"I see the heat from the water helps relax the injury and the water will light the load her knee to carry. Hey, that pretty good Cricket. But that doesnt explain why Emery wants her so and was she dumped in the river?" He looked over to his friend and then forward to see the road that lead to the cave.
"No she wasnt." She paused to gather her thoughts." Do you remember that story of how some traveler talked about a great hole that opens in the forest every so many years?"
" Yeah, my dad told that story when I was little. Why?"
"Well, its true."
"Nope, she was caught in it, and lived." Luna walked Blue into the barn. Don needed to blink, he was to intent on listening to Luna he didnt realize that they were this close to her home. He really enjoys hanging around Cricket. All his life her grew up around her and there are days he just doesnt understand how people could be so cruel to her just because she was burned at some point in her life. He knew all the war stories from his dad, they served together for years before things changed, but in the end he still cared for his friend because he knew what was underneath. Someone looking for another chance in life. A smile curled at the corners as he then went in after his friend.
He spotted Luna at the back of the barn putting the load Blue was carrying. "Cricket. Hey. You still havent told me why Emery wants her." He picked up a sack of grain and tossed it up into a wagon, turned and looked her in the eyes. "Well?"
Luna sighed as she rubbed the back of her head only to notice her hand was covered in blood. She stared at her hand for a moment then finally wiping it off on her pants. "Xena."
"Xena?" He voice cracked. Luna nodded. "The Xena And your still helping her out."
"Yup." She answered while putting away other little items into shelves and drawers. "And no, you father doesnt know. And I would appreciate it if you kept your mouth shut." Pointing a finger at his nose. "Got it?"
"Under one condition." He couldnt stop the smile from surfacing.
"Oh, what." She whined.
"I want to meet her. And if you dont Ill just have to introduce myself." He didnt even wait for her to finish as he turned and heading into the cave. " Coming Cricket? HHmmm." He just giggles out the barn doors.
Luna just stood there thinking of what this kid is going to do to try and embarrass her, and he will. " I know Im gonna have to beat his ass later. Little jerk." Chuckled to herself she hurried to catch up with him.
Rain lightly tap danced against what sounded like wood. Wood? Now thats odd. A little voice echoed, other foggy sounds began to grow louder. Am I dead. Xena thought to herself. She tried to open her eyes, but she was so tired. Where Am I? Trying to remember something, anything to give her an idea what it was that put her this way. She tried to move her head, then arms, but it was no use, but she felt so heavy.
Poison? She felt her heart rate increase, her ears began to ring as sweat began to bead on her brow. Panic. Oh gods wheres Gabrielle. Her stomach began to turn, she could now feel the heat coming off her body. Gabrielle? She called, but nothing. The heat was almost to much to take anymore. Franticly she called for her friend once more, Gabrielle. Her head was beginning to spin, she had a lump in her throat that burned. Still Nothing. Panic set in, the heat increased "Gabrielle please." She begged an answer. The sudden shock of cold forced her eyes to open. She suddenly tears began to fall. "Gabrielle?" She forced her hand to reach out for her, she just had to make sure she was real.
"Shhhh Im here Im here." Tears fell onto her cheeks as she apply a cool rag to Xenas forehead. She sat there watching the panic drain from her face as she gently continued to wipe down her face and neck to help cool her body down some.
"Where are we." Her voice was slightly hoarse from the lack for use.
Gabrielle pulled the fur covering totally off her friend and placed a light blanket in its place. " I found a small cave on the East road." She answered softly and smiled as she gentle brushed Xena damp bangs out of the way. " And...weve been here a few days. Xena eyes opened wide.
"Few? How long is a few." Her eyes full of confusion looking into Gabrielles for answers. Answers she knew she would be the truth, she let her eyes look around and noticed the Gabrielle did a great job putting this place in order. Why is she so good to me? she thought.
"About 3 days. You passed out from a fever and were fighting it last few nights." She moved slightly to pick up a mug and poured steaming liquid into it. "Here." She called to Xena as she helped her up into a comfortable sitting position. "Here, its some tea. Help get ya back on your feet." She gave Xena a warm smile as she could feel the worry drain from her body, knowing now that Xena was going to be okay.
Xena let the warm liquid fall down her very sore throat. Her body ached, her head ached she was still very tired, but she was hungry and that was a good sign. "Mmm. Taste good, thanks." She caught Gabrielles eyes in the fire light, still worried but now they looked clam. A lot calmer she thought. "Three days huh?" She watch her nod. "Im sorry. I cant even remember at what point I passed out."
Gabrielle looked up from what she was doing. "Did you fall alseep? Maybe you developed a fever while ya slept." Xena just shook her head. "You didnt feel good when we left Geils did you." The tone in her voice wasnt a question. The two women stared at one another for what seemed an eternity.
Xena stomach was in knots, she felt so stupid about what happened. She not only risked her health, but Gabrielles safety as well. Gods what if she ran.. Her thought was broken by the sound of boots padding toward her, she looked up from her empty mug.
"Wanna share?" Gabrielle gestured with the bowl.
"Your not mad at me?"
"I never said that." She couldnt help but chuckle at the look Xena had given her. She lowered herself next to Xena, placed the bowl off the her right, looked her in the eyes.
"Only if you do two things for me?"
Xena coughed a little. "As long as it doesnt require me to be up or talk to loud."
"One night during your fever you talked about something in your loopy state." She said with a grin
"Loopy?" An eye brow raised.
"Ya, your werent making sense, well at least not right away. I guess some people call it babbling." Gabrielle explained as she checked the stew for temprature. She turned to see Xena sipping at her mug. "Still to hot."
"So what was I talking about or who?" She asked with a sneeze. "Ooo that hurts." Xena moaned as she grabbed for her throat; Holding out the mug to Gabrielle and mouthed the word please. Gabrielle took it and headed toward the fire.
"Well you didnt talk about anyone, you kept talking about something not being a correct color." She handed Xena her mug. "I must have sat here hours trying to make sense of what you were saying."
"Now you know how I feel." She jump in.
"Whats that suppose to mean?" She eyed her pale partner to see an eye brow move up. "Oh! Very funny." She lightly poked Xenas thigh.
"Couldnt resist. Go on Gab." Xena smiled back at her friend as she placed a hand on top of her friends.
"Well finally I put it together and realized it was your banner you were talking about, but I never heard the end." Her eyes looked into Xenas soft blue pools for a moment, just enough to develop a lump in her throat. " I was wondering if you could tell me what it looked like, ya know finish the story."
"You bet." Xena patted Gabrielles hand. "Hey, I thought you said there were two." Gabrielle nodded.
"Can I have a hug?" Her heart was gonna bust. Xena slowly opened her arms as Gabrielle slowly descended into them. Xena wrapped both arms around her friend, rested her chin on Gabrielles soft hair, inhaling the sweet scent. "Sorry."
Gabrielle pushed up a little to look at Xena. "Dont do that again. You scared me Xena. Tell me when your not feeling well," She leaned forward so their foreheads touched. "Okay?"
"Okay." Xena whispered as she pulled Gabrielle back down into her arms and just held her. She didnt care about how bad she was feeling, and she was feeling bad, but it didnt matter.
" I just want you right here for the moment." Nothing else was said. Gabrielles body finally relaxed again hers. She could feel her breathing even out, feeling Gabrielle start drifting off into sleep, which at the moment was alright by her. The stew can wait.
"Look Im warning you Vesco. I dont want ya starting anything." Maggie snapped.
Vesco looked up from Xena to see the dark look in the old womans eyes, then turned back to Xena. He slightly turned himself to face Xena , "Now like I was saying. Wheres your little friend." Several men snickered in the background some making rude comments.
Xena could feel her heart pounded against her chest. Gods it was hard to think. So many emotions running through her at the same time, the only thing she could concentrate on was one little promise was keeping her from falling apart.
Xena promise me one thing? The voice asked.
Her heart skipped.
"So did ya leave her some where?" He asked with a humorous in his voice.
The entire bare was still except for Vesco and his men, everyone else in the tavern, includeing Maggie, held their breathe as they waited to see what the warrior might do.
Promise me that if anything happens to me " Xena heard the voice again. She felt like she was on fire. He was pulling all the right levers to piss her off. Xena drained her port and motioned for another. Maggie walked over to her, replaced her mug for a fresh one and looked into her eyes but all she saw was pain in her eyes. The type of pain when loosing some one you love with your entire heart and soul.
"Betcha da she left that girl tied up." He blurted out as he rubbed his manhood and laughed. Several other men began to make low comments to one another.
"Ya, needed to get a little sauced, to finish perhaps?" Another boasted from the back.
Xena stopped in mid drink at that comment. She counted to ten, swallowed then slowly set the mug down and closed her eyes. Promise me you wont become a monster."
Vesco was now tired of this game. Xena was trying her best to ignore him and he knew it. Her reached in front of her, took the mug from her, swallowed its contents then put the mug back when he took it from. "MMmmm..Now thats tasty Xena." He leaned inward a bit, "Bet that tastes as good as little golden fleece that follows you around." He bit the end of the sentence off.
Maggies eyes about popped put of her head. Her stomach was in a permanent knot as her eyes locked onto Xenas and saw something she didnt before. "Do ya love her?"
What sounded like wood breaking was Xena bouncing Vescos head off the bar. He landed on the floor like a sack of grain. No sounds, no movement nothing. Blood began oozing out from underneath his head forming a large puddle on the floor. The bar was silent, not one person made a sound, they just stood there as if trying to see if what they just saw was real. Xena didnt move. She just sat there.
One man move forward just a bit, shaking his head a little trying to figure when she grabbed his head. He never saw it, just his head slamming onto the bar, "Bitch killed him!" He yelled as he picked up speed toward Xena. The rest of Vescos men were waking up to just what happened. The tavern was then full of chaos. Villagers scrambling to get out of the way of angry raiders or they took this opportunity to get in a few of their own.
Before she could turn she felt the massive a body slam into her against the bar knocking all the wind out of her. Ruff angry hands grabbed her pulling her off her seat. Xena was airborne. Her balance was all screwed up from the port she had been drinking she couldnt right herself. The angry raider body slammed Xena onto the table then proceeded to pin her against the table. For a few moments Xena was totally disorientated, the room was spinning, her skull felt as if it was on fire, few of her ribs were now broken, she wanted to throw up and the pain in her shoulder told her she was in trouble.
" Looks like the tables Are turned Xena." The man spat at her as he continued to put pressure against Xena, making sure she wasnt able to get up. He placed all his weight against her, her right arm was pinned under her and her left shoulder was dislocated.
A loud crash was heard as a villager and raider crashed into a nearby table shattering it into a pile of firewood. The village scrambled to his feet for defense but her noticed the raider was impaled by one of the table legs.
The bile within her stomach was lurching its way out. The order coming from the beast above her was almost to much to take anymore. Suddenly she felt a hand trying to find a way under her skirt.
"Ya killed my friend." He stated as his hand moved around her thigh. "Now Im gonna ruin you." His fingers found home between her legs, warm, soft. "Im gonna ruin you the way I would ruin your little whore." He pressed his man hood against he as he leaned over to her ear. "An ya know Im gonna enjoy tearing her apart from the inside out." He made a thrusting gesture and laughed.
Xena couldnt take it anymore. Right at this moment she didnt care weather she lived or died. No one was going to even entertain the idea of raping Gabrielle. Just thinking about what he could do to her was making her insane. Her blood was pumping, her temper was rising to the point of insanity. Then she heard a voice.
"Get off her!!" The tone was male, and distracted the raider enough for her to almost pull her arm free. The raider felt her try to move but continued pressure. He leaned into her ear.
"No, no pretty your going no where."
Xena felt his breathe behind her. "Away from you," she growled and slammed the back of her head into his face breaking his nose with a loud crack. The pressure was lifted from her back she quickly rolled herself off the table and landed in her knees. She slowly staggered to her feet looked around to and saw this pile of filth leaning against the bar holding his bloody nose. She quickly rushed him sending her crashing her body into him. Not only did she knock the wind out of him but popped her shoulder back into place.
Without skipping a beat she grabbed the back of his leathers and slammed his face into an armored knee. Not once, not twice, but five time. Boots rushed up behind her. Holding onto the bar for balance she kicked back behind her as hard as she could sending a second raider into another. Both men crashed onto the floor as another come up on her right. He swung with his right, Xena blocked with her left finishing him off with a right cross that almost took her off her own feet. She staggered a bit holding her head in pain as the room began to spin.
"Xena behind you!!!" A voice screamed out. But her reaction time was to slow. Just as she saw what was coming at her her face exploded in pain. Everything slowed down, she tired to regain balance, but it was no use she landed on her back hard, her head hit the floor almost causing her to black out. Xena pushed up onto her elbows trying to get a look at who hit her shaking her slightly to try and clear it.
"See you in Tartarus, Xena." The raider bellowed as he raised his mace ready to make it a permanent part of her skull. Xena didnt move, because she didnt care. There was nothing left in her reserves, without Gabrielle she didnt have the drive anymore. She closed her eyes and waited for the final blow that would send her to be with Gabrielle. Just as she thought her head was going to be split in half, a loud thump was heard. The bar went silent.
Xena opened her eyes to see a crossbow bolt sticking out of his chest. Another raider was ready to approach, pulling his sword from its home.
"Move and Ill pop you in the chest." The voice warned.
Xena looked around her, a man was standing behind her reloading his crossbow, but she couldnt see who barked out the warning, her vision was slightly blurred. Then she saw movement out of the corner of her eye. It was Maggie. Crossbow in hand and pissed off to the teeth.
"Booner help her to her feet." She jerked her head toward the dazed, confused and bleeding warrior on her bar floor. ":Ill deal with this mess, get her upstairs. Her rooms down the hall." Maggie never took her sites of the raider that was in striking range of Xena and Booner.
Booner knelt down and looked Xena in the eyes, offering his arm to help her up. "Come on." He said gently pulling Xena to her unsteady feet.
"I know you dont I?" Xena asked softly. She swayed slightly, but the young man helped keep her upright.
"Yup, last year your little friend kick my ass in Thebes at the market." He watched her try to get her brain in gear, but she looked lost. Bonner tilted his head to the side," You tossed Noah in the an angery pig pen. Does that ring a bell." He watched as the light came on and a small smile made a brief appearance.
"Booner I always thought you were a Mamas boy."
Booner turned slightly to see Noah standing by the begging of the bar. "Fuck you Noah. Why dont you just leave." His eyes moved to Maggies. "Havent your goons done enough damnage?"
Noah took a step toward them. "Nope. I dont think so." He looked over Xenas battered form as she still held onto Booner for support. "My, My Xena I have never seen you look more beautiful before." He quipped sarcastically, laughing at the look that Xena gave him in response to his comment.
"Still sleep with pigs Noah." Xena counter attacked.
"Look woman ."
"NO! YOU LOOK!" Maggie snapped at Noah. She quickly turned and fired her crossbow at an unexpected guest entering through a side door, catching him in the leg. " I want you and your bunch out of my bar. Booner upstairs, now."
Booner nodded and directed Xena to a doorway behind them. Noahs eyes grew dark at the situation. Not only did Vesco and his men fail to catch a drunk Warrior Princess, but he was being told what so do by an old hag.
. "Maggie this is the first and last time Im gonna say this, give me what I want and Ill go away." Noah waited for an answer when he heard the door shut behind him. " MAMAS BOY!" He screamed after them.
"What wrong with being a Mama Boy?" The low voice asked behind him.
Noahs eyes widened at the voice. Then he began to sweat when Maggie leaned onto the bar and smiled at him. He swallowed what spit he had in his mouth and slowly turned around to see what Maggie was grinning about. But when he turned around all that he saw was this enormousness chest in his face. He paused for a moment before he looked up to see an angry and large man standing before him.
Laughter was the last this he heard.
The stable was quiet, except for the local noise of a few animal milling around in their pens. All the animals have been feed for the evening. Argo was brushed, watered and she was happily munching on some fresh oats when a noise disturbed her meal. Her ears perked up to listen to her surroundings. The stable became suddenly silent. Rustling caught her attention as a man opened the gate to her stall fashioning a hand held crossbow.
Argos instincts told her she was in danger, she could feel the negativity from the human.
"Nice horsey." The man quipped. He edged his way into the stale slowly not to upset the horse." Thats a good horsey. Now just stand still long enough for me to shot ya."
Argo disagreed with the whole situation, she reared up onto her hind legs banging her front hooves together. The man backed up surprised at the defensive reaction by the horse. She was making all kinds of noise, if he didnt kill her now she would alert the stable hands.
"Stupid horse, you gonna get me caught." He spat in anger moving a little further into the stall.
Argo was pushed into the corner, he raised his crossbow, aimed and was about to fire when he was knocked off his feet by an unseen enemy. He rolled with the momentum onto all fours, he looked around to see his attacker, but he only came eye to eye with the biggest wolf he has ever seen.
The yellow eyes peered into his. He began to sweat, his mind was screaming for help as his bladder relieved itself. He couldnt move. "Nice wolfy." He whispered. Sounds of horse shoes took his attention off the wolf for a moment only to see the horse he was to killed almost standing over him. She bent her down and snorted at his face.
The wolf let loose a loud howl as Argo reared up onto her legs once more, this time landing on the mans head splitting it like a melon.
Jasmine and Argo regarded one another for a moment quietly thanking one another , then Jasmine was gone. Argo looked over into the stall next to her, seeing that it was empty, she moved leaving the mess for the stable hands to find in the morning.
Candles danced in the light wind seeping through the window. A fire burned bright in its cave. The room was roomy for a small inn, there was a table with two chairs to eat, bed for two with fluffy pillows, another high back chair with a foot rest, and a small table for washing up with a drawer for clean clothes.
The heavy oak door was pushed open, two figures moved slowly toward the fire. A tall lean man walk into the fire light holding onto a half conscious warrior. He set her carefully into the chair, then dropping to his knee.
"Hey, you still with us?" He called to the warrior whos eyes roll back to the front of her head.
Xena squeezed her eyes shut to the fire light, blinking them a few times to adjust to the light. "Im still here I think." Slowly raising a hand to her head as it began to pound. She let her arm fall to her side, now she was starting to feel sick to her stomach. She opened her eyes to see dark brown staring back at her with concern. "Thank you."
"You do not have to thank me, I was happy to do it." He smiled and patted the warriors knee. "Ill be right back with something to help take that headache away, besides I think your going to need a few stitches in your head." He rose to his full height when the door creeked open.
"Well is she still in the land of the coherent." Maggie questioned as she entered to room closing the door behind her. Booner gave her a nod and headed toward her. "I take it from here, Brody could use your help cleaning up the place." Booner opened his mouth to protest, but decided against it.
Xena watched the exchange in conversation between the two people who saved her life tonight. She caught Maggies eyes a few times in the conversation. She looked over the room the fire light danced over the walls, she slowly watched the shadows dance to her corner. She rolled her head to her right to see Maggies setting a chair facing her.
"Come here, let me see how many stitched I need to give you."
Xena didnt move at first, but could feel the warmth slowly running down the side of her face. She needed help and she knew it. "Screwed up didnt I." She whispered. Her eyes were on the brink of spilling over with grief.
Maggies rinsed out her towel and gently wiped off the warriors face, her eyes were full of pain, Maggie felt her heart hurt for her. Xena just sat there, her head tilted to the older woman, her eyes heart broken. The old woman place the towel back into the basin placed one hand on the warriors knee and the other cupped Xenas face. "Sometimes tough warriors need a shoulder to lean on." Xena couldnt hold it back any longer, the flood of emotions poured out, she leaned into the older womans shoulder and began to sob .
Emotions were release that she kept pent up over the last couple of moons. In her dreams she kept reliving the nightmare over and over again, the feeling of something standing on her chest as she hears Gabrielles scream echoing in her head. She thought about going home to her mother, a place she knew would be safe, her mother always made her feel that way, even now after all that has happened. Her heart began to settle and her breathing slowed down to almost normal. Xena rubbed her hands across her face in an a temp to dry it off.
"Here." The gentle voice called. "Better?" Maggie lightly rubbed Xenas arm as she nodded. "Good. Now wash off your face and Ill see to that cut, but first let me start your tea. Itll help get rid of that nasty headache."
"Dont mention it." She settled the tea pot over the fire, then returned to the warriors side. "Besides Vesco had it coming to him. Im just glad you got to do it, seems you owed him something first." She paused. "Xena did Vesco do "
"No." Xena said with out hesitation. "That damn story of the hole in the forest, just happens to be true." She handed to towel back to Maggie. " We almost made it out of its path, but the ground gave way."
"Tilt your head to me, honey." Xena complied as Maggied began to stitch the gash on her forehead.
"I couldnt get any good footing." Her mind flashed back to the ground under her feet kept crumbling away.
"What were you holding onto?"
"I managed to grade a tree root with, Ouch!"
"Sorry, hands arent that steady anymore."
"Salright" She paused gathering her thoughts. "I was holding onto the tree root, holding onto Gabrielles cloak which she was hanging onto." She felt Maggie pause in mid stitch, then finish and lower herself down into her view. Xena looked into old grey eyes, tears were close to spilling over once again. " I lost her."
"Im so sorry."
"Me too." She looked down at her boots watching the fire light dance.
"Here drink this, it will help with the aches and pains." She handed a steaming mug of tea to the warrior. "If you need anything else just ask, okay?" Maggie gathered her things to leave.
The heat felt good on her throbbing hands. "What do I owe you for the damage?"
"Nothing. Now get some rest, your gonna need it come morning. Good night."
The tone of Maggies voice was unmistakable, not arguments. Maggie closed the door behind her and left Xena in her room. Eveything was so quiet. Occasionally voices were heard from the floor below or the crackling of the fire. She looked over herself a bit, noticing bruising already starting on her thigh and she knew her face would be pretty bruised come morning. Her ribs throbbed mildly, her jaw ached but the pounding in her head was beginning to subside. She looked thoughtfully into the mug wondering what the contents were.
"Hmph, not bad stuff." She told her self outloud. Xena finished off the last of the tea, set the mug aside and relaxed back into the chair closing her eyes. Her ears rang at the sound of the silence of the room, Gabrielle always made sure that never happened. She always had something to talk about, be it their day or just a thought she wanted an opinion on. Gabrielle must think at times she never listens to her but in reality she loved to listen to her. Her voice. Gabrielle had a calming effect on her soul. Even in the worst rage that voice could snap her back to reality fast than Zeus could toss a thunder bolt. Most of all she loved their before bed chats.
Gabrielle would be in bed writing in her diary, jotting down her daily events and thoughts, while she would be sitting at the table cleaning her armor or weapons. Gabrielle would idly ask a question or get her view on something she was confused or sometime, just sometime it was a way of getting her to tell a story. But every evening if she was still up taking care of her things Gabrielle would always ask. Coming to bed soon?
Xena slowly opened her eyes. She looked toward the empty bed envisioning Gabrielle sitting there with the covers up to her waist , her knees bent, quill in hand scratching in her diary. She was wearing her light blue shift, one of Xenas favorites since she bought it for her birthday last year, it exposed the bards shoulders very nicely. Xena smiled to herself . Gabrielles golden locks fell over her left should and she had the rest tucked behind her right ear. Losing herself in her daydream, green eyes looked to her, Xena are you coming to bed?
Here eye welled with tears, "Be there in a bit." She answered to the empty room as her vision faded away. "Gods I miss you so much Gabrielle it hurts." Xena leaned forward placing her elbows on her knees and her head in her hands. She stayed that way for a few moments concentrating on the dull ache in her head. Finally she took in a deep breathe and released it slowly. Rubbing her hands over her face, trying to rub the rest of the fuzziness from her brain, then she sat up only to be staring at a set of yellow eyes.
A big wolf at that, but where did it come from. She scanned the room with her eyes, only to noticed the candles next to the window had gone out, the wolfs entrance point. Slowly Xena put her arms to her side and waited to see what the wolf was going to do. But it was just sitting there, looking at her. Waiting. Waiting for what she wondered.
"What?" She asked. "What do you want from me?" She waited.
The wolf titled its head to the side took a couple steps toward Xena , stepping into the fire light, revealing its true colors and something else. Somehthing very familiar.
Xenas brow creased as she looked at the leather harness that the wolf wore. Xena didnt have to think of where she saw those markings before. They were hers.
"Jasmine?" Xena called out to the wolf. She sneezed an approval then stepped up onto Xena lap, who was hit in the chest with a small leather bag tied to Jasmine harness. "Whats this?" Xena questioned softly as her finger began to untie the knot when she notice the design on the fabric, it was a piece of Gabrielles green top.
Her heart skipped a whole lot. She began to sweat her stomach was turning end over end. She pulled the pouch form its ties. Jasmine sat at her feet as she opened the pouch and pulled out a lock of Gabrielles hair, braided and tied with a peace of leather from her staff or boots lace, she couldnt tell which. She held the braid between her fingers feeling the texture beneath them. Xena looked into the pouch again to find a small piece of parchment with a sliver of the moon painted upon it.
"Luna." She whispered. The wolfs eyes perked up, Xena looked over to her. "Jasmine take me to Luna." The wolf let out a grunt turned to the window and was gone.
Xena stood from her chair moved over to the table where her weapon sat, put them all in their places tossed her cloak over her shoulder and fastened the clasp. She picked up her saddle bag placed the braid next to her heart and headed to the stable and to Gabrielle.
"Im coming Gabrielle."
"Hey Don wait up." Luna called to her friend who acted like his pants were on fire. Don stopped just before the entrance, folded his arms and gave her a look. "What?"
Don tilted his head to the side. "You look nervous."
Luna, eyes widened, "What? No Im not." She paused. "Look. I just dont want you busting in there and giving her a scare. Shes never seen you and shes been through enough already. Okay?" She turned to head into her home when throaty laughter stopped her. "Oh what the hell is so funny."
Don slapped a hand over his mouth to muffle the laughter. "You, You funny. Cricket Youre getting soft in your old age." He chuckled some more , And a friend of Xenas at that."
"Ha, ha. Sooo funny Don." She turned to continue her journey up the hallway.
Luna called back to her friend, "Yup, all mushy on the inside, but crispy on the outside."
"Thats sick Cricket." Don answered, only to receive laughter back. He shook his head thinking about her comment and to be honest, she wasnt all wrong about what she had said. Parts of her were crispy, but beneath all that burnt skin was the most beautiful person he knew. He still cant get over the fact that she was helping take care of someone who was friends with Xena, Destroyer of Nations. He couldnt begin to understand what she went through, but what he did know was that it takes a strong person to face an evil in their lives. Luna was facing that evil just in a round about way, for now at least.
The two walked down the rest of the hallway in silence, both lost in their own thoughts. The main fire pit was burning nicely and water echoed quietly in the air. Their footsteps echoed off the stone walls. Luna moved to the pit to added more firewood to the hungry flames, Don stopped short of where she was to take a scan of the room. He noticed new growth in the small grove in the back, new tapestries, an unfinished table, and his eyes rested on a very beautiful blonde, who seemed to be sleeping at the time. His eyebrows rose into his hair line.
"Thats Xenas little friend. Hmph, now I know why you saved her."
Luna stopped, turned and tossed Don a look, "What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Placing her hands on her hips, waiting for an answer, as a stupid grin crossed his face.
"Hey, I just figured ." Don was cut short.
"You figured wrong." She snapped at him. Spinning on her heels Luna headed toward the sleeping form. "Now just stay there." She let out an aggravated sigh as she headed up the steps. Chance was asleep next to Gabrielle and awoke to see his master approach. He laid with his head on his paws as his tail began to wag with fury. She reached over, patted his head and made a hand gesture to get off the pallet. The faithful friend obeyed his master and hopped down and moved under the pallet , once again he placed his head on his paws and closed his eyes.
Luna stood over her patient she has been caring for, for the last 2 moons. She could feel Dons eyes on her back watching with such intent it made her skin heat up, no pun intended. She slowly placed a hand on the girls shoulder and softly gave her a little shake. "Gabrielle," her tone was soft and gentle. Nothing. "Hey, Gabrielle." again a little louder this time. Slowly Gabrielles facial expression began to change.
Gabrielle let out a small sigh. "Xena?" She whispered.
Luna immediately frowned. She straightened to her full height, "Gabrielle." She said at regular volume, and waited.
Don watched pensively as his friend tried to wake the sleeping beauty. He could see the tension in her shoulders as she quietly called the womans name. He folded his arms across his chest and wondered what type of person would follow a murdering warlord like Xena, then again why did Luna decide to help her, even after she found out who this girl really was? Luna never ceased to amaze him, whether it was on knowledge of things in general, blacksmith skills, or just her dealing with everyday life. He watched as she called her name again. He tilted his head to try and hear her a little better when he heard Xenas named called. "This should be interesting." He thought to himself as he watched Luna stand to her full height.
Gabrielles eyes slowly began to focus on the image in front of her, she blinked trying to adjust her eyes to the light. "Xena?"
A heavy sigh was heard. "Ah, no."
Gabrielle held her breath once she realized where she was and who she was talking to. "Sorry Luna." She answered as she exhaled, running her hands through her hair. Gabrielle could see the annoyance that was painted on her face. Lunas face was scowled as she turned to look back to her pain in the ass.
"Well come on." She called to the front.
Gabrielle craned her neck to try and see who she was talking to. At first her heart skipped a beat thinking, no hoping it was going to be Xena, but a young man appeared in her view. She shot a look to Luna.
Luna turned to see concern on Gabrielles face. "Its alright. Hes a friend, nothing to worry about." Foot steps were coming closer. Luna turned away from Gabrielle to remove her cloak.
"What happened to your head?" Gabrielle spat out when she saw an angry wound on the back of her head. Looked as though the bleeding stopped, but it was going to require stitches.
"Dont worry about it." Her tone was flat.
"Yeah, shes got nothing up there to hurt anyway." Don cut in hearing the tone of his friends voice. Luna shot the young man a look. He stepped closer to the pallet. "Hi, the names Don." He spoke gently as he extended his hand.
"Hello Don." Gabrielle took the hand. "What happened?" She looked over to Luna who was setting up a tea kettle over the cooking fire. Watching her eyes look over to Don.
"Nothing, got into an argument and lost it for a second. And Don werent you just leaving?" She shot him a cold stare.
Gabrielle watched the two exchange looks, she could tell that they were both hiding something. She looked over to the young man standing beside her. "What kind of argument? It had to do with Xena didnt it?" Gabrielle looked to Luna, then to Don, then back to Luna.
Luna poured hot water into a mug, stirred its contents and brought it over to the waiting Gabrielle. Handing her the mug, her eyes caught the young womans. Luna dropped her arm to her side, clenched her jaw and inhaled. "Yes." She answered.
"Yup, Emery really doesnt li.."
"Thats enough Don." She snapped at him, handed him a small pouch. "Give this to your father. Ya met her, now go. Out!" She waved her arm in the direction of the door and walked over to her table of herbs and medicine.
Gabrielle sipped at her drink as she watched the exchange of words between these two. Emery must have lived in this valley when Xena came through here in her warlord days. She looked into her mug wondering. Was Luna looking out for me, or for herself? She watched Luna walk over to the man with something in her hand. If Luna was looking out for herself, she would have given her to them by now. That much she knew. Her thought was broken by the tone in Lunas voice. As she looked up, she noticed Luna walking away.
"You wanted to meet me, why?" She asked Don.
Luna looked up from her work to watch.
He looked at her. Gods is she pretty. "I just wanted to see who would travel with an ex-warlord like Xena. Youre not at all what I expected."
He was honest she would give him that. "What did you expect?" She sipped her tea once more.
Luna continued to listen and watch them both, she was really hoping he wouldnt ask her something stupid, or embarrass her.
"I guess I expected someone like herself." Don jerking his thumb in Lunas direction. " Cricket always told me she liked the strong warrior types."
Shit, too late.
Gabrielles eyebrows shot up. "Cricket?" She looked over to Luna who was obviously annoyed. "Did you just call her Cricket?" She watched as Luna tried to answer, but was cut off by Don.
"Ya see, when I was a kid, I asked her," He nodded over to Luna, " What she looked like under that hooded cloak she wore all the time, then she asked me if Ive ever seen a burnt Cricket before. So ."
"Let me guess, you lit one on fire." She watched as a smile busted across his face as he nodded his head in agreement. She looked back to Luna who was not amused at the moment.
"Don, go home, will ya?" Lunas tone was tired and she was beginning to look it, that hit to her head was beginning to catch up to her, Gabrielle has seen that look on Xena one to many times.
"Don." She leaned forward on the table and just looked at him. A look that would make most people want to leave the room. He wanted to stay and she knew it, its been a while since she had seen him. Gods he was all grown up and handsome just like his father. She exhaled, rubbed her face and pushed off the table to stand. "Look, why dont you check in with your father and come back in the morning. Im gonna need help with the snares anyway."
Don stopped and saw the look in Lunas eyes, she ment business. He exhaled in disgust, "Alright." Don turned, adjusted his cloak over is shoulders. " Anything you want to me to tell father?" He looked back to her.
"No. Just be here in the morning and dress warm, its going to get cold the next few days."
"Alright." He stopped just short of the entranceway. "Hey Gabrielle?"
Gabrielle looked up from her tea. "Yes?"
"Xenas not playing with fire anymore is she?" He asked sarcastically.
"DON!! That is enough!" Lunas voice boomed in the cave. Gabrielle jumped at the sound of Lunas voice. "You will NOT disrespect anyone in my home, no matter who that person is do you understand." Luna bit off the end of the sentence.
"Luna that woman set .."
"Yes. Xena did. Not Gabrielle." Luna looked over her shoulder to Gabrielle then back to Don. "Do you have anything to say for yourself."
Silence filled the cave. Don could hear his heart beat and feel the anger coming from his friend. Boy did I screw up. "Im sorry Gabrielle."
Don didnt even wait for a response from her. His shoulders slumped as he turned and left.
Gabrielle watched to expression on Lunas face turn from anger to a mask of non-emotion.
"Luna are you alright?"
"Im sorry about what Don said, he knows better than that." She shook her head in disbelief. "Im the one who should be pissed off at Xena, I mean she set me a blaze not him."
"Hes just angry." Gabrielle caught Lunas eyes. "I can see her cares a lot for you.".
"Yeah, I guess he does, but it didnt give him the right to say what he did." Luna raised an eyebrow in question. She was seated across from Gabrielle leaning back into the chair looking at her. "Why?"
Gabrielle drank to last of her tea, set the mug down, and up a little, "Why what?"
"Do you trust her?" Her tone was flat.
"I just do." Gabrielle could see that wasnt the answer Luna was looking for, guess she would have to explain. "I met Xena when Draco was trying to take my village. Xena's reputation of being a murdering warlord was still fresh ever where you went. I took off from home to follow her."
"You did what? You followed her? And she didnt send you home when you caught up to her?"
"No, she didnt. There were many time I thought she would but for some reason she let me stay. So many people wanted to kill her and at first I couldnt understand why people were the way they were to her."
"Your kidding right?" Luna was becoming very interested in Gabrielles story.
"No, I was so young and really didnt have a clue on who she really was, but the longer I stayed the more I learned about her and her past and realized that Xena was really a good person at heart, she was just confused and angry." Gabrielle paused and looked up at her friends banner that hung on the wall. "Once I realized what she wanted to do I wanted to help her and be there for her ."
"What did she want to do?" Lunas spoke softly.
"She wanted to atone for her past in anyway that she could." Gabrielle let a smile turn up at the corners of her lips. "Now why dont you come over here and let me look at the cut on your head."
Luna couldnt believe what Gabrielle was telling her, Xena wanting to atone for her past. Interesting. Could all those stories be true? Could Xena really have changed her ways. And letting this kid follow her was still a mystery to her, Xena never let anyone get that close or let them help her. Hmm now I have got to see this change for myself. Sure hope Jasmine found her.
"Luna? Hey You in there?" A voice called
Luna blinked her eyes a few time, "Huh, What did you say?"
" I said let me look at your head."
"Na, dont worry about it, it will heal on its own. Cant feel it anyway."
"Okay, but your still bleeding, you need stitches." Gabrielle pulled herself up to her feet, winced a little from pain, but she did it.
"Hey, you shouldnt be getting up, now sit down before you fall down." Luna got up and moved over to Gabrielle who was making a move to Lunas healer table.
Gabrielle made it to the table before Luna could reach her and sat on a tall chair. "Look, you saved my life at least let me clean up that wound and put a few stitches in there, okay"
Luna couldnt say no the those green pools looking back at her, "Alright. Then I want you to get off that knee, deal?"
"Deal. Now sit down here." Gabrielle pointed to the chair in front of hers. The chair was the right height for her to work on Lunas wound. She didnt have to do any unnecessary bending, her ribs were still very sore from her ride down the abyss. The wound wasnt long but it was pretty deep. Gabrielle realized for a person who was burnt over most of her body, she was still surprised at the head of hair she had. Gabrielle finished up her last stitch and patted down the wound, cleaned up that last of the blood and applied some herbs so the wound wouldnt become infected. Gabrielle gave Lunas shoulder a gentle pat to let her know she was finished.
"Done already?" Luna stood up, turned to face Gabrielle and felt the back of her head. "Hey nice job." Luna let out a smile.
"I had a good teacher." Gabrielle smiled back.
Luna looked down to the floor still smiling like an idiot. "Yup, bet you did."
to be continued .
Return to The Bard's Corner