GENERAL COPYRIGHT/DISCLAIMER: Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.
VIOLENCE WARNING/DISCLAIMER: This story depicts scenes of violence and/or their aftermath. Readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of depiction may wish to read something other than this story.
HURT/COMFORT WARNING/DISCLAIMER: This story may be best classified as a Hurt/Comfort Story involving the characters Xena: Warrior Princess and Gabrielle. Readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of issue may wish to read something other than this story.
LOVE/SEX WARNING/DISCLAIMER: This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it.
COMMENTS: Desperation would have us go too far sometimes. Comments? Greatpear@yahoo.com
I know you cannot understand what has happened to
me at this time but I am
happy and my life is full. It is my hope that this parchment finds you well
and in good spirits. Since I have joined the Holy Order of the Lifes Waters,
I have found the peace Ive been searching for. Please understand that what
we had will always be precious to me but I am beyond that now.
May the gods watch over you,
"Who delivered this to you, Mother?" Xena questioned Cyrene.
"It came two days ago dear. An old man from the next village dropped it off on his way by the inn. I believe his name is Sandros. He told me that a monk gave it to him and that he was to deliver it directly to me" Cyrene explained.
"Im worried Mom. This note is way out there and doesnt make any sense to me. I know that she left here angry with me but this is too much! She never said, Love Gabrielle, she never even used the word love in this message! I know shes been trying to discover who she is and where her spiritual quest is taking her but something is wrong, really wrong. This is against everything weve talked about. All of those moments together that weve shared are now dismissed in a single parchment? Gabrielle would never leave me ..would she Mom?"
Gabrielle looked southeast toward Amphipolis. There were tears in her eyes because of what she had been forced to do. Her love for Xena was so strong that if it meant that she might never see her again, then this is a sacrifice she would have to make. She thought of how she had been brought to this place. How she was made a prisoner and could not fathom a way out.
She had been returning from a short visit to Poteidaia when she stopped along the road and went down to a stream to have some lunch and take a rest. After eating, she closed her eyes for awhile and drifted off to sleep. When they opened, a strange face was peering into her eyes and startled her. She jumped a little and the woman placed her hands on both sides of the Bards face and said, "Its all right my friend, I will not hurt you. I bring peace and comfort to you. Here, let me get you some water." And she handed Gabrielle the waterskin.
Time passed in a dream and many candlemarks went by as they talked. Before Gabrielle knew what had happened, she had committed to come to the retreat for a week. It was high in the mountains near Samarina. A serene voice and a strange touch squelched any apprehension in the young blonde, telling her it would open her eyes to new spiritual revelations.
That was eight days ago and life had changed drastically. What started out as a spiritual awakening ended up becoming a nightmare in which Gabrielle found herself in the middle. Power and control were her enemies and came in the form of a mysterious Widow.
Gabrielle called to her lover in her mind, Xena, please know in your heart that I still love you. I miss you so much my love. I cannot imagine the hurt and heartache that you have suffered over my letter but if I had not written it, the cost could have exceeded what I was able to accept. She threatened to kill your mother. I could not live with Cyrenes blood on my hands. I could not take the chance that she was bluffing.
I hope you are well my love. I wish you were here and would take me from this place. Rescue me Xena before its too late.
"Come my child. Come away from the window and sit by my chair. I need you near me."
The blond moved as if she were under the power of this mysterious woman. Turning as if she was in a trance, she walked to Ilianas side and sat at her feet. "Here Gabrielle, drink of the water. It will clear your mind of all impurities." The Widow guided the blonde to the goblet and she drank.
The young women were not aware that the water contained an ingredient that came from the bottom of the sea. There was a small green starfish from which a substance was extracted. When added to the water it was tasteless, odorless and left one defenseless and needing a guide to help function. The starfish was said to be found only in the Well of Poseidon and that was supposedly a myth.
Iliana was overpowering and yet she never raised her voice, never seemed to exert any more energy than was needed on the outside but internally she had control. Your mind was hers once she gained access. It was as if you lost your will to fight became accepting of everything she was and gave up the ghost of your previous life. Gabrielle realized too late and when she resisted, Iliana worked her web around the young Bard by threatening something that was inconceivable to Gabrielle.
The woman was ten winters older than Xena. Iliana was small and lithe in stature, standing just over sixteen hands. She had piercing, pale blue eyes, dark skin with dark brown hair. It was worn long but tied back and always covered with a shawl. Although her facial features were fine, she had lips that were full and captured the attention of the listener when she talked. Her voice was low and captivating. For an instant in the concept of time, she lowered the veil over her heart and told Gabrielle her story. Perhaps the goodness that shone from the Bard somehow touched her and so the Widow reached out for an instant.
"My child, there was a time when I had one who loved me. That love was taken away and I was left with a barren heart. I was a young woman back then and deeply in love with one who brought happiness to my being. When I lost her, I lost that place where life resides. The waters ceased to flow and I dried up. You and the other flowers that I have brought here have given me a garden. I must draw from you, that life giving essence. Each of you has something that can restore what I have lost. This is a great sacrifice for you but a necessary one for me to maintain my existence."
The door that opened to Gabrielle was quickly shut and the Widow returned to herself. Silence filled the room and the two of them stared ahead, as the Widow continued to stroke the young blondes hair.
After awhile, Iliana said, "I want you to dance for me Gabrielle."
"But Iliana, there is no music to dance to." The young blonde pointed out.
"You will hear the music. Stand over there and begin." The velvet voice said as she pointed toward the middle of the room.
"Yes, my Widow." The Bard responded. Gabrielle walked a short distance and turned toward Iliana and began to sway back and forth. As Iliana said, the music started within the Bards mind. It came quietly, then slowly grew and the sensuous music overtook her as she moved to the beat. The flavor was a mix of drums, tabla, bells and sitar common to India that she heard at the beginning but altered to a heavier tempo of Amazon drums, tampura and flutes as she moved her body to the Dance of the Full Moon, an Amazon dance of celebration. By this time, Gabrielle was soaked with sweat and began to tear at her clothing until she was half-naked. Her mind was totally absorbed in the non-reality that possessed her. After close to a half of candlemark, Iliana raised a finger and the Bard collapsed on the floor.
Xena moved out of Amphipolis by midday and worked her way northwest toward Samarina. According to several barroom discussions that took place in a couple of different taverns, there was some kind of retreat or convent up in the mountains, near the town of Samarina. It was a secret place which was supposed to be guarded they thought. There was a certain mystique about this isolated convent of sorts.
When Xena reached what she felt was the halfway point to her final destination she sought out a small temple where an old priestess resided. It had been many seasons since the Warrior had reason to come up this high into the mountains. Helosea paid homage to the gods of the winds and kept the temple of the winds in order. She was visited by at least one wind on any given day. This place was never calm and today was no exception.
Xena tied Argo down below the temple in the rocks where there was some shelter from the wind; she also tied a blanket around the horses neck and flipped it over Argos head to protect her eyes from the debris the wind kicked up. Then Xena proceeded to follow the path to the top of the plateau and the temple. The wind was deafening and she had to hang on to the large stones that were strategically placed as handholds on the path or be blown off of the mountain to her inevitable death. Once Xena made it to the temple doors and entered, the wind calmed down some.
"Who enters this place?" The priestess inquired.
"It is I Helosea, Xena of Amphipolis."
"Xee na! Its been a season or two, hasnt it!" And the old priestess walked from the shadows and greeted the Warrior with a hug.
"Yes it has, my friend. How have you been?" Xena asked affectionately.
"Well, I cant seem to do nothing with my hair!" As she laughed in a cackle of sorts. "Lets look at you! Ah! Not bad honey, not bad. You still look good in leather!"
Then the guardian of the Temple of the Winds asked where the chatterbox was, referring to Gabrielle. Xena shared the strange story with Helosea and explained that she felt the King of the Winds, Aeolus, could be called upon to possibly shed some light on the location of this place that Gabrielle was at. Helosea agreed and lit the Candle of Direction. She began to chant and after a half of candlemark went by, a flash of lightening filled the temple, followed by a tremendous clash of thunder. Aeolus manifested himself and had the appearance of a small tornado.
"Who has called for the King of Winds?"
"It was I Aeolus. Xena of Amphipolis." The Warrior stated.
"Yes Warrior, you are known. What is your purpose?" The King of Winds asked.
"I wish to ask your help in locating a place in the mountains where my friend is. I believe she may be in some trouble and I need to find her. The place is near Samarina and is a retreat or convent of some type called The Order of Lifes Waters. Can you help me?" Xena pleaded.
Aeolus surrounded Xena and she was within the eye of the god. When he released her, she had the knowledge given to her that she had asked for.
"Thank you, Aeolus!" She shouted as the funnel left the temple.
"My thanks to you my friend." Xena said with a hug to Helosea. She returned to Argo and headed onward toward the retreat.
"Farewell Xena. May the gods bless you." The priestess said and faded into the shadows.
The trail up the mountain was wide enough to ride a horse on and Argo was a seasoned steed that was sure footed. The horse was smart enough to pace herself with a challenge like this. Xena was going up to the retreat on the mountain and confronting Gabrielle face to face. The Warrior had to hear it from the Bards own lips that life and love was over between them.
It was hot and the sun was high. The bear worked its way along the ridge, continuing its hunt for food, until it came out into a clearing. It found several blueberry bushes that were growing on the side of the trail and was enjoying the treat when it heard something. It turned and headed in the direction of the oncoming horse and rider
Xenas mind was totally focused on her heart and the pain it was experiencing. Her attention was not on the trail so, when the bear stood up on its hind legs ready to attack, she was not prepared and Argo reared. The Warrior was thrown off of the horse and missed the trail completely, landing below on a ledge covered with boulders. The distance that Xena fell was equivalent to the height of four men standing on each others shoulders. The fall would have killed anybody else.
The Warrior was in pretty bad shape. Several ribs were broken, along with a gash in her left calf, which gave Xena the notion that her leg was broken. Two fingers on the left hand were broken and another was dislocated. The shoulder was torn open on the left side also and felt broken or badly bruised. What brought on the most concern for Xena was the blood running down her face. She had hit her head pretty hard. With all of this to contend with, Xena was also concerned for Argos safety but the horse was fine. After kicking the bear with one of her front hooves, she turned and ran down the trail. The bear went in the opposite direction, then deep into the surrounding woods.
Everything went blank as the Warrior passed out.
Two candlemarks burned by and Xena came back to the world briefly. Trying to move into a better position, she failed because she was still too weak. Shock had set in by this time and she was shaking. Xenas mind drift .ed. Then she spoke out loud. "Ga bri elle! I need you! Im hurt my heart is broken my bodies broken ..help me, Gabri ."
The broken ribs made it difficult to breathe. Many candlemarks burned away and the Warriors eyes opened again. She tried anther attempt and rolled over onto her back, from her stomach. The sun was low in the sky, painting the clouds blaze orange, mauve and all those colors in-between. Xena thought, How beautiful! I must be dying.
Again, she thought of Gabrielle and flashes of how they met so long ago, danced through her mind. There were glimpses of tender moments when Gabrielle saved her life with the Ambrosia. She thought of Autolycus and mentally thanked him again for his sacrifice. When the Bards heart stopped and Xena refused to let her go, pounding on Gabrielles chest, then bringing her back to life. All those intimate moments when they were locked in each others arms drifted by. She wasnt sure if she was dreaming or memories were etched in the clouds overhead.
I dont want to die! I must fight this. Xena thought to her self. The raven-haired Warrior once again, slipped into a deep sleep.
Shaking from the cold night on the mountain, Xenas eyes opened to daylight. As she took inventory, she realized that she was a physical mess. The Warrior further understood that she was not climbing out of this on her own power. She was going to need help or she would die.
There seemed to be no end in sight for the young blonde as she lost control of the tears that escaped from her eyes. Preparing to retire for the night, she wiped her eyes and pulled back the blanket on the bed when a mist spilled into the room from the window. Out of the mist came the Three Fates. They spoke to the Bard out of concern.
Clotho Lachesis Atropos
We have come to give warning about one who is
close to you. Xenas life thread is frayed
thin. She needs your help. Look
for her below your path.
She waits for you.
They faded back into the mist and it dissipated as it moved out of the window.
There was panic on the Bards face for the first time in awhile. It was the message she needed to snap her mind out of the hypnotic state she had been put in. The adrenaline that ran through her now lifted the fog that she had been drifting through. She knew that it would not be easy to get out of the retreat, as it was more a prison than it appeared to be. On the surface, it was a beautiful place for those who wanted a life of peace and tranquillity but beneath the cosmetic covering, was a world of possessiveness and control. One would lose their identity and become a plaything of Iliana, the ruler of Lifes Waters. The monks were trained in martial arts that originated in the country of Nepal. They needed no weapons to eliminate a foe or one who had a sudden change of heart and felt that their calling was elsewhere. But this was the end. She could not go on and stay alive under these circumstances. Lifes Waters were a slow way of dying.
Nothing would stop Gabrielle short of death itself if Xena were in trouble. She needed to think this through and figure a plan to get out of the retreat quickly. Iliana was receptive to everyones thoughts and seemed to be one step ahead of your mind. She took on the attributes of a spider. If you were in her web, she was aware of your every move. It was as if, somehow, a fine thread connected you to her.
A large hawk circled overhead. Xena watched it for a half of candlemark before it flew away. The freedom that the bird enjoyed entertained the Warrior for awhile. She thought about sitting up but she was still too weak. A change of position would be significant in order to help the healing process. This was something that she would have to do in another several candlemarks or suffer the consequences. She had to get the blood pumping through her body. Then her mind drifted to her Bard.
I was coming to see you Gabrielle. To look into your eyes and see if there was truth to your parchment. I cannot and will not believe that what we had, what we have is over. I am yours today and always but I need you to hear me! I need you to come here my Bard.
Xena remembered how this all began just eight nights earlier.
"I know what Im doing Xena! Youre always treating me like Im a blind fool and Ill walk into any hole in the road because my heads in the clouds." Gabrielle said in an irritated fashion.
"Yea! Thats right!" Xena replied sarcastically.
"Well Im going to this retreat and thats the end of the discussion." The Bard shouted.
"Maybe youll learn to control your temper!" Xena took another shot at her.
"Oh, its a waste of time talking to you right now." Gabrielle said and left, slamming the door behind her.
Xena stayed sitting at the table in the tavern and stared off into space thinking, what in Tartarus is going on with her and this Lifes Waters retreat?
Xena wasnt even really sure where it was, other than somewhere north. Perhaps she never listened to what the Bard had said or was not told where the retreat was. She was very irritated with Gabrielle, that she could leave for a week to do this thing. The Bard didnt even invite her along. That really hurt and made Xena feel like she was put on the back shelf for this intriguing endeavor. Xena knew that she didnt take an interest in every one of Gabrielles searches for total peace but after all, she was a warrior!
The vision of Najara always came back to haunt her. There was something unnerving about her and that way of thinking. This made Xena very skeptical, believing that all of these types of people had a scam going or were dangerously sick in the head. Now there was this Iliana and her interpretation of peace and how to get there from here.
Well, Gabrielle needs to be responsible for her self and I need to give her the space she needs. Shell be back in a couple of days, with teary eyes, telling me how much she missed me. Xena reflected.
It did not happen that way and now Xena pondered, Will I end up dying down here or will someone find me? What will happen to my Bard?
There was a dead silence throughout the retreat. All of the girls were in their assigned rooms, as it was late evening. Iliana would only work one of the young women at a time through her mind control. It was more effective although she did have the power to control several subjects at a time. But now it was time to let everyone rest including Iliana. This was very tiring at times for her because some subjects fought harder to resist. Gabrielle was her most difficult challenge and took much mind control, which in turn exhausted the Widow, as she wished to be called.
The Bard knew that if she was to get out of the retreat alive she would have to make her way to Ilianas room. Although she was tired from the manipulation and the dance of earlier, she had enough adrenaline moving through her veins to get her through this. She slipped out of her room, which was not locked as a matter of principle because all of the subjects were too afraid to leave their rooms anyway. The penalty was too great. Heading up the stairs at the end of the hallway, she stayed close to the wall, turned to the left and quietly moved down the corridor to the Widows room. She moved quickly through the door and to the bed. Before Iliana could awaken, Gabrielle knocked her out by hitting her in the head with a candleholder she picked up from the nightstand. She whispered, "Stay out of my head and Ill stay out of yours!"
Gabrielle used the shadows to her advantage as she moved through the hallways to the guards entrance. Hoping the gods would protect her, she moved forward very carefully. Little did she know that Artemis had her hand upon the Bard and wrapped her with an invisible cloak. She turned into an adjacent corridor and when she reached the end, found the door unlocked. Gabrielle was taken by surprise when she walked through the doorway and there were two monks standing outside. She froze in her tracks, then realized that they had not seen her. One of them walked back inside while the other moved down the outside of the retreat, heading around the building. Gabrielle kept low and ran across the gardens in the direction of the perimeter wall.
Reaching the wall, she moved along its length and found a place where a climbing trumpet vine gave way to an exit from this prison of the mind and body. She could feel the mental grip on her loosen as she made her way up the vine and over the wall. Startled when she reached the top, she stared at a straight fall down the side of a sheer cliff. Her quick reflexes kept her from plummeting to her death. Gabrielle ran along the length of the wall until reached an area not too far from the front gate and lowered her self to the ground. Moving quickly but quietly, she headed back to the trail. She wasnt sure where exactly she was going but something was guiding her in the right direction.
The sun was breaking over the horizon, signaling a new dawn. Gabrielle kept looking over her shoulder for anyone that might be following and when she rounded the next bend in the trail she was pleasantly surprised. In the center of the trail stood Argo. When she saw the Bard, she scratched at the ground with her front left hoof and shook her head and mane in a friendly greeting. Gabrielle walked up and hugged her neck then kissed her. "Its good to see you girl!" She exclaimed.
"Wheres Xena girl?" The Bard questioned. The horse just stood her ground. Gabrielle looked over the side of the trail and there on the shelf down below was her Warrior. "Dear gods! Xena! .Xena! Can you hear me?"
Xenas right arm moved in a short wave and her soulmate knew she was alive. "Please be all right my love." Gabrielle said to herself. Moving back to Argo, she took the rope off of the saddle and tied it to the horn. Then she called back to Xena and told her she was throwing the rope down to her. "Can you tie it around your waist?"
The Warrior waved again as a way of letting her know that she could. Xena was feeling a little better from getting some rest but she still was in considerable pain. She struggled with the rope and tied it firmly around her upper body. Knowing that it would be painful, she waved again that she was ready and Gabrielle had Argo move ahead slowly. Xena guided herself up the cliff by using her good arm and undamaged leg to minimize her contact with the surface.
When she reached the top, Gabrielle grabbed her good arm and helped her over the edge. Sitting on the ground, with Xenas head on her lap, she hugged and kissed her love repeatedly. Xena had lost a lot of blood from her leg wound.
"Im so sorry for all of this. I didnt know what to do! Iliana had me and when I tried to resist, she threatened me by using your mothers life as leverage to keep me here. Thats how she controls all of the young women that are trapped in this web of manipulation. She knew that I would never sacrifice Cyrene at any expense." The Bard explained with tears running from her eyes and down her face.
"I knew you still loved me. I knew there was more to this. Help me up on Argo and lets get away from here before they discover youre gone. I love you, my Bard, do you know that?" Xena shared with a weak smile.
With some struggle, Gabrielle managed to get Xena up onto Argo. They began the decent down the trail and headed for their private home where the Warrior could recuperate. It was a half of day trip to the northeast. Although Gabrielle thought it might be too far for Xena, the Warrior said that she would be all right and that home was the best place to heal. They made it to the Aliakmonus River and followed it north until they got to the waterfalls and made sure that they were not followed. Once Gabrielle was satisfied that everything was as it should be, she walked Argo along the ledge between the first and second falls, then disappeared with the horse and Xena right through the falling water and into their sanctuary. A falcon observed what was happening from a tree, high above the falls.
She got Xena off of the horse and made her comfortable on two mountain lion skins that Hercules had given them. The Bard heated water and prepared a poultice for the leg wound. She removed the armor and clothing from the Warrior, and then she began to wash her wounds. The leg took twenty stitches and then the poultice was applied. Thank the gods that the leg was not broken, the young blonde thought to herself. Another poultice was placed on the shoulder, which was badly scraped and bruised. The ribs were wrapped up tight to minimize any movement and finally Gabrielle had to put seven stitches in her lovers head.
"At least the gash is back in your hairline." The young healer remarked.
"As long as you still love me." Xena said with much disorientation.
Xena ate some cheese and bread then downed a large mug of wine. After a quarter candlemark, she fell asleep and Gabrielle fed the fire while she cried to herself. The Bard was heartbroken that she had caused all this pain and anguish to her lover and friend. What hit her hardest was the realization that Xena could have been killed. After getting her emotions under control, she tended the horse and made sure Argo was well fed. A couple of apples also came to Argo out of gratitude for helping rescue Xena.
Several days went by before Xena was feeling up to moving around on her own. Gabrielle mothered her and met her every need. They talked very little about what had happened to the Bard and how she came to be caught in the web of this Widow. When the time was right and Xena felt they both could speak intelligently about what had happened, she finally raised the topic. So, over a bowl of soup one evening they shared their thoughts.
"Xena, I never intended to go with Iliana to the Lifes Waters retreat. There was something overpowering about her and the effect that she had on me. Seven other young women were up there besides me and they are still under her control. Id like to help them get free if I could." The Bard confided.
Gabrielle, I want to help them also but we have to wait until Im up to full strength. If we go up there now, theres a good chance that we will get some of the women or ourselves killed. Tell me what you saw while you were in her control."
"She never seemed to be with more than one or two of us at a time. I think there was something in the water we drank that made us not resist. When she had me to herself, she would have me dance to the point of exhaustion or have me sit by her feet, listening to her talk as she ran her hand over my face and body. Each one of us gave her some sort of gift of ourselves and she sucked the very life out of us much like a spider drains the life out of its victim who is caught in the web. This is what seemed to give her renewed life." Gabrielle concluded with a great sigh.
"How did you manage to break away and rescue me?" Xena finally asked.
"The Fates came to me and told me that your lifeline was frayed, that you needed my help. Something deep within me was released and I broke free from the spell that I was under."
It was time to rest their eyes and mind until the morning came to call. Gabrielle joined Xena on the mountain lion skins and they fell asleep wrapped in each others arms. Four more dawns came to visit and Xenas healing had reached a point that she was beginning to wear her own patience down. She went swimming in the river at the bottom of the falls and the Bard joined her for two reasons; one because she needed to be close to her and secondly, because Gabrielle had to make sure that Xena had healed.
Returning to the cave, they dressed and Xena started combing Gabrielles hair. A flash of brilliant light brought the goddess Artemis into view.
"Warrior, how are you healing? The goddess inquired.
"Im feeling much better. Thank you for asking."
"My chosen Queen was placed in a unique situation." Artemis said.
"Unique?" The Warrior shouted with anger.
"Here me out, Xena. There is more here than meets your eyes or Gabrielles. When you feel you have fully recovered, I want you to return to the retreat. I want the rest of those young women freed. Take them to the Amazon village, where they can be brought back fully to their lives. They have the power of choice and if any wishes to stay with the Amazons, then so be it."
"Do not harm Iliana! I shall be the one to deal with her." The goddess said firmly.
"Gabrielle, my chosen. You were a victim in something that started a long time ago. For the harm that it has caused you, I am in deep regret." Artemis said with almost a touch of sadness in her voice. "So be it."
There was a second flash of brilliance and she was gone.
Xena turned to Gabrielle and spoke. "Theres something going on here Gabrielle and I think it involves Artemis and that Widow up on the mountain. You ended up finding me by way of the Fates. They do not often intervene. I believe that they were asked to visit you Gabrielle; first, to get you out of that Widows clutches and secondly, to let you know of my dilemma."
"You might be right Xena but what could be the connection between the goddess and Iliana?" The Bard wondered.
"That, we might never know."
Swimming helped Xenas shoulder get back to normal and although the calf was healing quickly, it still caused some pain. The bone was badly bruised in the fall but not broken. Her head was still sore; the ribs were tender and would remain so for at least a half of moon. Rehabilitating with her best friend helped the healing process. It also tightened the bond between to two women.
While resting one day on the bearskins that Iolaus was pressured into getting for the Bard, Xena thought about the valiant rescue that her confidant had pulled off. Whether fear was the adrenaline or her love for the Warrior moved her to do what she did, Xena was forever grateful. Over time, the raven-hair beauty saved her friend many times and it felt good deep down to know that someone cared that much for her to do the same.
While she was day dreaming, Gabrielle lay down next to her and cuddled up real close, resting her head on Xenas chest. The Warrior moved her arm around her lover and kissed her forehead. Gabrielle looked up into those beautiful blue eyes and puckered her lips slightly. Xena responded with a slow kiss that lit the fire within each of them.
"I was so worried about you, my love. I wasnt sure if you were going to make it. Those cracks on the head are sometimes all it takes and you were hurt much worse than that."
Xena said, "I like it when you worry about me, Gabrielle."
Gabrielle could not hold back the tears as they poured from her eyes. "I love you so much. If anything happened to you, I ."
"I know my sweet, I feel the same way." Xena assured her.
They shared each others kisses, as they took their clothing off. They moved slowly with each other partly because of the external wounds and there were some light bruises on each others hearts. Each of them in their own mind thought about the silly fighting that almost cost them their lives.
Gabrielle caressed her lovers stomach with easy strokes of her hand and gave a couple of light licks on her nipple before trapping it between her lips. She released her hold and looked up at her lover. There was wanting in her eyes so the Bard proceeded. The nipple was reclaimed and her hand traveled slowly below Xenas navel and she ran her fingers through the dark hair. The Warrior gasped slightly as Gabrielle touched the outside of her mound, searching for the opening. Every bit of contact made her lover wet with anticipation as she used her fingers to slip between each fold and crevice. When she felt that Xena was ready, Gabrielle moved down the length of the long muscular body. She planted hot kisses along the way and as the Bard progressed on her journey, she could hear her heart pounding in her chest. The Warriors desire was at its limits and she needed her lover to act. The destination was just a short ways away and Gabrielle knew when she had arrived for she heard her lover whisper, "Yes!"
"Oh, yes! There, oh YES!"
They made love to each other and it was slow, intimate and tender. As if they were playing music, which opened easily and built up to a level then returned to that delicate beginning, eventually into full orchestration and closing with a single note that carried into silence.
Xenas sword took a couple of dings on the blade edge when she fell. She took the time now, to bring it back to the cutting edge it was known to have. It was always relaxing to sit by the fire and work on the weapon. After she was finished, the Warrior went outside for some additional exercise and fresh air.
The cave that they had taken to be their own which had inadvertently been bequeathed by Borias was better than Xena ever imagined. Gabrielle had come up with several great ideas to make more of a "home" as she called it than just a hideout. Some old metal cauldrons that she bartered for from an innkeeper were great for setting in the stream of water that ran through the cave. Gabrielle placed fruit and vegetables in them, which kept them cool and they lasted longer before eventually spoiling.
Another idea that the Bard had was to stock a supply of herbs that could be stored in the cool of the cave. This was not only for cooking but also sometimes the herbs were much needed healing supplies for any emergency. The more she watched Xena patching people up on the battlefield or after any confrontations, the better she became as a healer. She was also collecting various body oils to use for a more personal type of healing. There was nothing as wonderful as a good massage. Outside and a short walk from the cave in a small field, Gabrielle had three beehives set up which gave them access to their own honey as well as using the wax to make their own candles. If they could keep the place private, this would make a wonderful summer home as they got older together but as usual, Gabrielle was day dreaming too far down the road.
After the bard finished doing a little cavekeeping, she walked out through the waterfall to see what Xena was up to. She found her Warrior basking in the sun after her late afternoon swim. Overhead, the falcon danced on the air streams with its wings spread and sharp eyes searching for its next meal. The bird became somewhat of an adopted mascot for the two women and would land on the rocks along the shore of the river while they were swimming. It watched them intently and Xena paid the compliment back. By observing the bird, she could utilize it as an early warning for anyone who was approaching the area. The falcon would behave differently when things were disrupted in the natural scheme of things and call out with its message. On occasion, Xena would throw a fish on the rocks as a treat for the raptor.
Working hard at building up her strength, the Warrior pushed herself through some rigorous training. She started off with some stretches, then worked her way up to running from a half candlemark to two candlemarks a day. The final strengthening technique Xena worked on was climbing the face of the cliff to the right of the falls. After six days of this kind of workout, she felt she was almost up to where she was before the fall.
It was time to start planning the return to the retreat. The Warrior knew that this could not be easy and although Xena asked the Bard to stay at the cave and let her do this alone, she new she would not listen. Gabrielle had made contact with the Amazon village five days earlier. She left Xena alone for a day and worked her way down the mountain to a mutual friend, Roetalla the fisherman, who lived on the banks of Lake Himadjtis. He was a friend to the Amazons on many occasions over the seasons past. He could be trusted to get a message to Ephiny that the Queen needed some additional help. Roetalla memorized the message. Please send two warriors that could assist Xena and herself on a dangerous undertaking. They were to meet on the road near the temple of Hephaestus, the god of fire, near the base of Mount Vourinos.
Gabrielle had figured on a time frame that would not have the Amazons waiting too long. Xena did not argue with this line of thinking nor did she let pride get in her way. Actually, she welcomed the assistance after Gabrielle talked of the monks that were more of a guard to dissuade anyone from attempting an escape, than someone to assist with prayers. The Bard had seen them in action and they were not to be taken lightly.
Ephiny received the message from Roetalla the next day after he had taken possession of it. She gave the old fisherman a hug and thanked him for his speedy delivery. He was given a kings treatment with lunch, a place to rest and plenty of supplies for the return trip. Although he would have loved to stay, he said that it was difficult for his heart, seeing so many beautiful women. He laughed and headed on his way but not without a few more hugs and kisses.
Ephiny told Eponin to pick her best to join her and ride out immediately. The Amazon warrior wasted no time and headed to the stable. Stopping at a hut just before the main lodge she knocked on the door and Thia answered. "The Queen needs our help, we will be gone probably a week." Eponin said. Thia nodded and joined Eponin at the stable a short time later. They saddled the horses, loaded their supplies and weapons. Within less than a candlemark they were riding out of the village due west.
There was very little dialogue between the two warriors. Eponin was known to be fairly quiet and a loner of sorts, while Thia was born mute. She was an attractive sandy blonde that stood a half a head taller than Gabrielle did. She was second to none with a bow and extremely fluid with a knife. Here hand to hand skills were outstanding. Eponin had trained Thia then had her help train some of the younger Amazons in that area.
She was a gentle spirit when she was not called upon to be a warrior. Her appreciation for the flora and fauna were widely known throughout the village. It was not uncommon to see her taking interest in a wounded creature and nursing it back to health. She did that for a crow, who had broke its wing and now visits her from time to time. There were times she would be staring off at nothing and she would show those sad doe-eyes. It was as if she was reflecting on her inability to talk. This was very hard for her to accept at times in her life. Rather than try to mouth words and sound less than perfect, she became totally silent. She was almost stealth in her movements and is why Eponin chose her to come along.
Thia and Eponin were on the road for several candlemarks. They traveled with determination but not to the risk of straining the horses. At one point when they slowed their pace for awhile, Eponin noticed that Thia was looking over at her but when Eponin turned to make eye contact, the younger Amazon would look away.
"Is there something wrong Thia? You keep looking at me like I have something on my face."
Thia shook her head no and then made a sign that everything was fine. Less than a quarter candlemark later, Eponin caught her again as she stared at the warrior.
Eponin stopped her horse and made serious eye contact saying, "Talk to me warrior. Whats going on in that head of yours?"
Thia motioned with her hands that she was shy about what it was. Then she held up her index finger and pointed at Eponin and back at her own face, then slipped off of her horse and picked a flower. She pointed at the flower then back at Eponins face and smiled very warmly.
"Am I hearing you right? You think Im beautiful? Come on lets get going. By the gods, she thinks Im beautiful!" As she looked towards the sky.
Thia smiled hesitantly at her friend as they continued down the road wondering if she should have stayed silent
Argo was outside grazing along the river while Gabrielle picked up some last minute things from inside the cave. As was agreed upon when they found this place, it was to remain their secret, at least for the time being. Somewhere in the future perhaps they would have another place that they might share with the company of friends but this was to be for the two of them. This was why Gabrielle had picked a place that was away from their home to meet up with the Amazons. Her trust in them went far beyond what they would have expected but if they or anyone were ever harmed for knowing about this place, it would hurt both, Xena and the Queen too much. She wanted to keep things special and the only other two that were welcome at this time anywhere near the cave were Argo and the falcon.
Xena whistled for Argo when she was ready to go and the horse trotted over to her. She saddled the steed and mounted her. Gabrielle came out of the cave with staff in hand and they headed down the trail. As they drew closer to where they would part from the river and move east, the Bard looked across the water at a clearing that held two does awhile ago. It was the first time Xena and she had ever come up this way, for they were in search of the cave at that time. She reflected on that moment and how loving a scene it was. Remembering how she took Xenas hand touched her heart again today.
The cinch on the saddle needed tightening and Xena got off of Argo to take care of it. Clouds were rolling in over the mountains and the afternoon was overcast as they made their way to Hephaestuss temple. Knowing the Amazons, Xena figured that they would be waiting for their arrival at the temple by now. She talked the Bard into riding part of the distance and they saved a candlemark by doing it.
By the time the sun dropped to the mountain peaks, the two women were closing ground toward the temple. Xena figured that they would be there in a half to one candlemark. A light rain started to fall but it was sporadic and actually felt good to both travelers. The road wound it way through the terrain and as they came around a wide curve, they found their two Amazons mounted on horseback, waiting patiently in the middle of the road.
"My Queen." Eponin said out of respect as she dismounted and dropped to one knee along with her companion.
"Please rise Eponin. Is that Thia?" Gabrielle asked.
The young warrior took the hood down from her cape and lifting her face so the Queen could see, smiled and held her hand up in the form of a greeting. Xena acknowledge the hand with her own and they all clasped forearms with each other. They decided to camp next to the temple for the evening and discuss what sort of plan was needed to free the seven women that Gabrielle had seen while she was being held.
A warm fire burned brightly and the four women sat around it. The other three listened very carefully to Gabrielle describe what she could remember seeing, while she was inside the retreat. Her recollections brought back some visuals of some subtle enforcers. They appeared to be men of peace but were as deadly as a viper. As Gabrielle had all ready explained to Xena, their training was extensive in some form of martial arts that was taken from a sect in Nepal. The Amazon Queen went on to tell them all, that at any given time she saw at least two and sometimes three monks roaming the halls.
Another problem that was more of a concern to Xena was how to get in without being detected. The Amazon Queen explained the route she took when she escaped and how there was a heavy growth of trumpet vines on the inside wall of the retreat. There were two areas, one on each side of the main gate that had plenty of ground cover to get them to the wall. They needed to approach from the right but move to the left side of the gate when they got close enough. This also meant that the horses would have to stay below and that they would be forced to move up to the entrance on foot.
Gabrielle cautioned everyone, "When we get to the wall be extremely careful, for as you make your way along it, the ground drops away and if you fall it will be your last mistake."
When Gabrielle was finished sharing what she could remember of the retreat and every angle had been discussed, Xena turned to Thia. "How have you been my friend? It has been some time since we have talked." The Amazon nodded with a smile and pointed at the moon, then held up six fingers. Thia had created her own language of hand signals and facial expressions, as her form of communication and after spending time with her, a person could carry on quite the conversation.
"Has it been that long? Xena asked, somewhat surprised.
Thia nodded her head in the affirmative.
The Warrior continued. "Well, what have you been up to?
She started to smile from ear to ear and then her hands began to move. They went to her heart in a fluttering motion and then she hugged herself.
"Youre in love? With who?"
Thias eyes darted to the left while her head remained pointed at Xena, and then she did it again. To her left sat Eponin, taking a drink from a waterskin. Across from Eponin was Gabrielle and she was poking a stick at the fire.
Xena winked and did the same thing with her eyes in the direction of Eponin.
A wide smile replaced a wrinkled brow and Thia nodded again.
"Well, Ill be. .does she know?" Xena whispered and tried not to be conspicuous.
The Amazon turned her left hand palm up in front of her chest and shrugged her shoulders, as if to say she was not sure.
"Tell her!" Xena mouthed quietly.
Thias eyes got big and wide and she backed up as if she were experiencing fear.
"Hey! She wont bite .unless you want her to!" And Xena smiled wickedly. "You think about it, Thia. Now, we better get some sleep."
Xena spoke up. "Goodnight, everyone." And they all began slipping into their bedrolls. All that was left was to get some rest. They planned to rise several candlemarks before the dawn.
Iliana told the young woman to stand. "Now come to me my child and sit by my feet. I want to touch your hair and stroke your head. Sing for me my flower. Fill my heart with a joy I have not experienced in some time."
The small brunette began to sing a chant. She sang for a candlemark when she stood, turned to the Widow and stopped singing.
"You must let me out of here. I cannot stay here anymore. Please release me." The desperate young woman pleaded.
"Remove her from my sight!" The Widow called to a monk who was just outside the door. "How dare you disobey me!"
He entered and the young woman ran to no avail. He caught her and carried her to the window, as he looked back at the Widow she moved her hand ever so slightly and the brunette was gone.
An owl gave the awakening call and Thia was the first to open her eyes. She could see the raptor silhouetted against the yellow moon. She went to Eponin first and reached to wake her but the Amazon grabbed her wrist before she made contact. She fully realized it was Thia but wanted to let her know that she was still sharp as ever. What Eponin did not expect was the quick kiss that Thia stole, leaving the warrior speechless. Thia rolled quickly toward Gabrielle and shook her gently. She woke up with one eye open, a yawn and a stretch. Xena was already on her feet and tending her horse.
The two Amazons walked over to their horses and began saddling them, all the while Eponin had one eye on Thia. When the Queen and Xena had their backs to the other warriors, Eponin reached for Thias arm and bent it behind the woman bringing her face to face so they were close enough to feel each others breath. Those penetrating eyes made contact with the sandy-blonde and Eponin returned the kiss with much more passion than the first kiss. Then she broke away and continued eye contact while she said to her captivated audience, "Later." And flashed a smile.
This took Thia completely by surprise and her heart soared through the clouds. She had hoped but never truly believed that there might be a chance for the two of them. Xena took the lead and had the Queen ride with her, in order to make better time. It would take them the better part of the day to get back to the trail that led to the retreat. Then it was a lengthy walk up the remainder of the mountain, a waiting period until the cover of dark and finally getting the young women freed, then back to the Amazon village.
Everyone was told not to do anything to the Widow, as was directed to Xena and Gabrielle by Artemis.
It was late afternoon when they arrived at the base of the mountain and began their trek up the trail. When they reached, what they felt was a safe area to leave the horses, they dismounted. The horses were left untied just in case of trouble. They all felt that the bear could still be in the vicinity. The four companions started up the remainder of the trail on foot, knowing fully well that all four might not be coming back. It took just over a half of candlemark to reach the area where it opened up on either side of the main gate.
Gabrielle pointed in the direction that she had come from when she escaped. The brush and sporadic trees were enough to give adequate cover for the rescue party. They followed in single file, moving quickly and gaining ground with each step. When they reached the wall, Xena took the lead followed by Thia, then Gabrielle and finally Eponin. Xena moved along the top of the wall until she reached the area where the trumpet vine was growing. She signaled the rest of them and dropped over the wall followed by the next, until all four were in the garden.
So far, they were undetected but as they approached the door on the side of the retreat, three monks jumped out of the shadows. This was the entrance where the kitchen was located and where they felt they could enter, as soon as they eliminated their resistance. Thia took out the first monk and Eponin destroyed the other two, while Gabrielle and Xena headed for the hallway that held the bedrooms where the young women were kept. One at a time, they released the captives and moved down the hall. Two more monks blocked the way out and Thia worked a knife over one until he succumbed. Eponin eliminated the other by adjusting his neck.
Xena said, "Ill be right back. Start heading toward the courtyard. Ill follow in a bit."
Iliana stood at the window of the great room that she had entertained many young women in. Her intentions were always to relive a feeling that had once brushed her spirit briefly. Looking down out of the window, she saw where one innocent souls life was ended and for a moment there was remorse. It was during this, that a brilliant flash of light filled the room.
"I knew you would come." Iliana said without turning around.
"You have gone too far mortal." The goddess Artemis ranted.
"I have tried to live with my heart torn out, goddess." Iliana replied as she turned around. "It was you, that deserted me Artemis. You left me totally empty after you gave me the love only you could share. There was never a substitute."
"Are you quite finished Iliana?" Artemis asked.
The Widow continued. "I have gone to the ends of hope in my bitterness. I have caused the death of one I tried to receive life from. I have no one to blame but myself. It was I who fell in love with you. I was given a choice by you goddess but when you tired of me, which you said would happen, I could not accept it."
"I shall tell you this Iliana. Nothing stays the same, nothing lasts forever. Even the gods as they are known today shall be laid to rest in the minds of those that follow you to the grave and the rest of the world into the future. One cannot extract love and life from another and have it be something precious. I shall open my heart this one time to you. I have been with many mortals but what we had was special to me. I too was happy with our romance and that is not good for a goddess. Never call on me again nor shall I ever visit. This is the way it must end." The goddess then embraced Iliana and the illumination was as bright as the sun and she was gone.
The Widow returned to the window and with tears in her eyes she followed after her victim and leaped to her death.
Xena entered the room only missing her by a moments time. The brilliance returned to the room and Artemis stood center and said quietly, "Go from here Warrior and join your lover. What was once, is no more."
Then the goddess paused as if she were going to share something with Xena and changing her mind vaporized into a blue mist. Artemis had visited the Warrior on many occasions and every time whether entering or leaving there was always a brilliant light. This blue mist had a feeling of sadness about it or so Xena thought.
The Warrior exited the room and joined the others in the courtyard. The monks were gone and the gate was open. The six young women were frightened but happy to be leaving this prison of sorts. Within three days they were at the Amazon border. A candlemark later had them under the protection of an Amazon hunting party.
When everything had settled down and the six young women were tended to, life came into balance once again. Gabrielle thought it wise to stay in the Amazon village for awhile. She used several reasons with Xena but her main concern was to let her Warrior heal within from all the emotional stress that happened between them. The Bard needed this time as well to deal with the trauma they both went through this past moon. Xena also needed time to get back to full strength, although Gabrielle knew that she would say she was all ready at her peak.
One afternoon while the Queen was relaxing in the sun after a swim in the river, she reflected back on all that happened. Even though she had her suspicions about Iliana and the goddess, Gabrielle had not heard from Xena and what her thoughts were. When the Warrior joined her a short time later Gabrielle asked, "Xena, when you separated from the group at the retreat, did you look for the Widow?"
"Yes I did Gabrielle but I was too late. I had my ideas that there was something between the Iliana and the goddess when Artemis told us to stay clear. I entered the Widows chambers but they were empty. The goddess returned and told me that "What was once, is no more." I took that to mean that the Widow was gone forever. Artemis looked to the window and was about to say something or so I thought, but she faded into a blue mist. It was as if she felt remorse and sadness for Iliana and what had possibly been between them." Xena surmised.
"Xena? I wonder if you left me, if I would try to recapture what we have by what I might find in another."
"I think that if something happened to either one of us, what we have could never be recreated but one might find another place in the heart for someone else. I think what happened with Iliana is, her love with Artemis was too overwhelming and too complex. She tried to find it in one heart and that was never enough, so she tried many hearts and that still fell short. She could never satisfy her hunger with substitutions."
"Could you? The Bard asked.
"Youre one of a kind my love and Im here to keep you from making me a widow."
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