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Der Rheingold

A Djwp Spoiler

A full moon peeks out from behind dark clouds to shine a cold light upon a younger, not-so-gentle Xena. She is sitting by a campfire, clad in silver armor and a winged helmet, waiting – waiting for something. And something is indeed coming. Something dark. Something big. Something … rooty.

Xena smiles slightly in anticipation and looks down at a ring in her hand. It is a ring forged from gold and she examines it in appreciation before placing it upon her finger. She’s not afraid of what is coming for her, out of the woods, and can feel its evil presence almost upon her. She stands and admires her ring as a flash of lightning reveals the creature in brief illumination just behind her.

“It looks good on me, don’tcha think?” Xena asks the monster. “I’ve been waiting for you.”

The thorny thing roars and runs forward to attack the warrior. Xena laughs and pulls her sword out of its prone position in the dirt.

“You don’t get it do you?” she says as she strikes, “As long as I wear this ring, you can’t win!”

The creature growls in protest and lands a blow that sends Xena flying into the trees. In an instant, she is up on her feet and luring the monster to a dark cave. The creature chases after her, anxious for another chance to smite her and Xena takes advantage of its anger. She swings a chain and throws it, shackling the monster’s wrist. It twists its arm trying to break free, but cannot. The warrior swings another chain and captures another wrist. Then she kicks the monster and its stumbles into the cave. Quickly, Xena closes two iron gates and the thing is trapped.

As Xena struggles to lock the gate, the creature reaches through and grabs her arms. They tug and pull, but Xena is able to lock the gate using a gold lock decorated with ravens. The creature, however, has won a battle of its own. Somehow, it has managed to take the golden ring from Xena’s long finger.

“Don’t think you’ve won anything,” Xena screams. “These chains will hold you for eternity and you will never use the power of the ring, never!”

A dark horse comes for Xena from out of the sky. She leaps upon the flying steed, leaving the creature locked in the cave and with barely a glance back, flies away.

35 years later – (10 years plus a little naptime)

A peaceful village and a simple tavern. Inside, Xena and Gabrielle are enjoying a warm meal.

A man enters the tavern, looking for someone and he finds that someone sitting at a table eating a meal.

“You gonna finish that?” Xena asks her partner while gnawing on a bone. (So ends Gabrielle’s fanfic reputation for having a bottomless pit.)

“All of it,” Gabrielle replies. (ok, maybe not)

“I thought the portions here are kinda small.”

The bard gives her friend a look. “You’re not getting mine.”

“Gabrielle, you’re just playing with your food.”

Gabrielle guards the plate from her partner’s wolfish eyes, “No, I’m relishing it.” (Guess they’ll be no nibbles for Xena tonight.)

Xena is well of the man stand just behind her and gets annoyed as he continues to stare.

“You gotta problem,” Xena barks at the intruder, “I don’t appreciate people staring at me while I eat.”

“Are you Xena?” he asks abruptly.

“Who wants to know?”

“My name is Beowulf?”

“You got business with me, Beowulf?”

Beowulf steps forward and throws a rusty, broken lock down onto the table.

Gabrielle stares at it and then up at Xena. It might be a rusty, old lock, but Xena seems to recognize it.

“I’ve to talk to this man, Gabrielle,” Xena states briskly and leaves the table.

Gabrielle examines the lock while Xena talks to the Beowulf, her plate of relished food completely forgotten.

When Xena comes back to the table, Gabrielle asks her what this was all about. But Xena answers nothing and seems completely distracted.

Nothing, huh? The bard is not buying it, but decides to give Xena some space and perhaps offer a bribe.

“Do you want my food?”

“No, I’ve lost my appetite,” Xena replies with a sour look on her face.

They’ve taken a room at the inn and are getting ready to get into their separate beds. (By separate, I mean these beds are so far apart, I feel like I’m watching Lucy and Ricky Ricardo get into bed.)

(That lock really did make Xena lose her appetite. Looks like its no nibbles for the bard tonight.)

As Gabrielle settles in for sleep, she looks over at her partner. “Still keeping secrets from me after all these years?”

Xena replies as she stares at the ceiling, “Look, its something I did a long time before I met you. Just don’t feel like talking about it.”

“All right.”

“I’m not trying to shut you out. You know our friendship is the most important thing in my life, but in this case …”

“Xena, you don’t have to tell. Part of being a friend is letting people keep secrets. I respect that,” Gabrielle tells her friend and then settles down to sleep.

In her own bed, Xena mumbles okay but turns to stare quietly at Gabrielle, watching her as she sleeps.

In the morning, Gabrielle wakes up to find no Xena in the bed across from her -- only a note. She pops out of bed and rushes over to read the note:

Gabrielle, I’ve gone to take care of some unfinished business. This mission is so dangerous, I’m afraid I won’t survive and I can’t ask you to die with me once again. Whatever happens, know that my love for you is endless. (signed with an “X” with a big kiss right next to it.)

Now, if Xena thought that note was enough to satisfy her bard, she doesn’t know her partner very well.

Gabrielle follows Xena’s trail. She knows in her heart that Xena would not have left her unless she felt it was something she had to do alone. At first, Gabrielle thought of respecting her wishes, but Xena’s path is her path, so she has no choice but follow after her.

Her quest to find Xena goes on for weeks, following a path takes her due north – farther north than she’s ever been before.

The trail leads to cold, snowy country and a small village. Gabrielle rides into town on a beautiful white horse and looks around, looking for signs that the warrior princess has been here. She sees a man with a tapestry and asks him the meaning of the images sewn upon it.

He tells her the story of the Valkyries. The tapestry depicts them as women riding flying horses in the sky. The man goes on to explain that the Valkyries are Odin’s elite guard. Odin is King of the Norse guards and the Valkyries are mortal women taught by Odin special magical runes which are chants that give great power to the ones who know them.

Gabrielle notices one Valkyrie looks a little different than the others, so she asks about her.

The man tries to remember that particular dark little Valkyries name, but can’t.

“Xena,” says a voice behind them and a cute blond warrior steps up.

Of course, Gabrielle is immediately interested (not in the blond, but in the dark little Valkyrie name Xena) and presses for more information. The blond warrior tells Gabrielle that studying Xena has been the passion of her life.

Gabrielle immediately asks if she has seen her, but the blond warrior informs her that Xena’s reign of terror ended almost thirty-five years ago.

“She came to us from a distance land in the east, she called it Chin,” Brunnhilda explains, “We called it the land who sent us the demon.”

And we flashback to Evil Xena time. As young warlord Xena is riding through the northern forest she comes upon a man who is crucified on a tree. When she asks him what happened, he tells her that no one could do this to him unless he allowed it.

“What kind of idiot has himself crucified?” Xena asks.

The hanging man identifies himself as Odin, King of the Norse gods and tells her that as a god he is suppose to bring peace to his people, but there is nothing but strife and hardship. He cries out in agony asking if there is no end to the constant conflict.

“Damn straight,” the warlord replies, “That’s what make life so worth living.

Xena tells Odin that constant challenge is what she thrives on.

Odin’s resolve to end it all wavers a bit, “But someday, someone may conquer you,” he states, questioning the wisdom of embracing the struggle.

Xena’s reply is that is why she has no time to waste on gods that don’t know what to do with their own immortality. “You can’t escape the struggle, Odin, you gotta embrace it.” Words of wisdom from a warlord who loves conflict.

Her pep talk gives new life to Odin and in gratitude, he makes Xena one of his Valkyrie.

Of course, It isn’t long before warlord Xena comes into conflict with Odin’s lover and the current leader of the Valkries, Grinhilda.

As the Valkyries soar through the air riding their flying horses with the greatest of ease, a small group of soldiers are running through a battle field. The soldiers are trying to escape their attackers and the one who is running the fastest thinks that perhaps the best plan of action is to surrender now, while they have the chance.

Valkyrie Xena rides up appalled at the mention of the word ‘surrender’. Xena scolds the retreating men, telling them that it is far better to die valiant in battle with Odin’s name on their lips than to live in cowardly surrender.

Grinhilda rides up and strongly disagrees. If they surrender then they will live another day and be able to go back to their families, and their attackers will have the chance to show mercy

But Xena argues that this is a battlefield, the only thing to do here is fight. “Surrender and crawl back to the everlasting scorn of your kin folk, or go out in a blaze of glory!”

Xena appears to be on a roll with pep talks – she convinces them to turn and fight.

And Xena relishes in watching the conflict. The soldiers fight bravely for a short while, but in the end, Grinhilda was right – eventually every last one of them are killed.

Up in Valhalla, at the everlasting feast of Odin, Grinhilda stomps in to face Odin and Xena. She is very angry, having just escorted several very good men to their permanent quarters in the Norse heaven.

Xena tells Odin they were good soldiers who were willing to die with Odin’s name on their lips.

Grinhilda argues that there is no joy getting killed over a senseless battle for greed.

Xena, however, responds with the argument that greed is one of the fundamentals of life, like sex --- it is survival, perhaps not those particular soldiers’ survival, but dying with a sword in their hand earns them a place at Odin’s eternal banquet.

Debate is also one of Xena’s many skills today, and Xena wins this one, bringing Odin over to her side with her flattering argument.

Grunhilda says that this is madness, but Odin seems to think Xena makes some sense.

Having lost the battle, Grinhilda leaves telling her lover that if Odin intends to embrace Xena’s world view then there is no room here for her.

After she departs, Odin tells Xena that he loved Grinhilda. Xena leans over and assures her liege that it is possible to live without love.

Gabrielle, listening to Brunnhilda’s story, shakes her head and says poor Xena. Brunnhilda is amazed by Gabrielle ‘s sympathy for the warlord in the story.

Gabrielle goes on to explain that the warlord Xena thought that she could live without love, but Gabrielle knows that Xena can’t because she is her friend. Gabrielle asks if there is anything else that Brunnhilda can tell her that might help her to find her partner.

Brunnhilda instructs Gab to camp at the place where they are tonight and she’ll come back later to tell her everything she knows.

Later that night, as Gabrielle sits by her campfire alone, she writes in a scroll:

“I don’t know the details of Xena’s mission, but I’m beginning to understand her goal. She wants to correct some great wrong she did in the past. My dear friend’s curse is to spend the rest of life seeking a redemption she’ll never allow herself.”

Putting the final touches on the sentence, she pauses, hearing a sound. There is someone lurking about in the forest. Gabrielle puts down the scroll and quill and listens closely. Someone is trying to sneak up on her. She stands and draws her sais, taking quiet steps forward toward the trees. The branches move and then Gabrielle is attacked.

Brunnhilda attacks Gabrielle, and they fight, neither having the upper hand. Brunnhilda makes a swinging strike at Gabrielle, and she blocks it pushing Brunnhilda’s own sword into her leg. The move gives the blond a good slice across the thigh. In the brief pause, Brunnhilda manages to elbow Gabrielle in the face. The bard stumbles backward, giving Brunnhilda a momentary advantage. Brunnhilda capitalizes on the opening and sweeps Gabrielle’s feet right out from under her, sending her falling on her back to the dirt.

At this moment, Brunnhilda could have killed Gabrielle, but she doesn’t. The blond warrior compliments Gabrielle on her fighting skills and says that the only way to prove who was the better would be for one of them to die, and that is not her intention.

She reaches down to assist Gabrielle to her feet, but Gabrielle swats her hand away.

“Why did you attack me?” Gabrielle asks angrily.

Brunnhilda’s answer is that she wanted to prove she was good enough to fight at Xena’s side.

Gabrielle allows Brunnhilda to help her to her feet, and then she continues the tale of the Valkyries.

Winning Odin from Grinhilda wasn’t enough for the warlord Xena. Xena gets Odin to teach her a powerful rune of fire, but Xena is not impressed. Her appetite is for a greater power. She urges Odin to tell her about the fabled Rheingold. When Odin hesitates to reveal the Rheingold’s secret, Xena lays it on real thick about how she’s in love with him, and she can’t give her love to someone who doesn’t trust her. (For a god, this Odin seems to be easily swayed by a well-filled breastplate).

Odin is fooled and tells Xena that the first thing she should know about the Rheingold is that it is very dangerous to someone who hasn’t forsaken love. Well, since Xena has convinced Odin of her love, he tells her everything

she needs to know …

Back at the Valhalla banquet, Grinhilda confronts Odin. The news is that Xena is on her way to the Rhein in search of the maidens. Grinhilda wants to know how Xena found out where to look for the Rheingold, cause obviously SHE didn’t tell her.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Xena fooled Odin into believing she was in love with him so that it was safe for Odin to tell her the Rheingold secret. Grinhilda presses Odin to give her back command of the Valkyries. She wants to take his elite guard and go after the rouge warlord.

Odin agrees.

Xena rides through a sunset red sky hell-bent on reaching the Rhein. Hot on her trail, the other Valkyries fly in pursuit.

The Valkries catch up to her and attack! Their mission is to stop Xena from reaching the Rheinmaidens at all costs. A vicious fight in the air ensures. Xena vanquishes all of the Valkyries but one – Grinhilda. The Valkyrie leader and Xena do battle in the air, and just as it looks as though Xena is about to be victorios, Grinhilda leaps at her from her flying horse and sends them both tumbling to the earth below.

They fall to the ground – hard (that had to hurt). Grinhilda is injured in the fall. Xena reaches for her sword in the snow and rises up virtually unscathed. She advances on Grinhilda ready to kill. Xena towers over the fallen Valkyrie ready to strike the fatal blow but chooses instead to allow her to live. Warlord Xena’s idea of mercy is to knock Grinhilda into unconciousness with a powerful kick right to her head.

With her enemy lying unconscious in the white snow, Xena mounts her horse and continues on her quest to take possession of the Rheingold.

In the beautiful waters of the Rhein, the maidens bathe playfully with one another. Xena dives in and swims to them. When she emerges in their swimming hole, one of them playfully splashes her and Xena promptly splashes her back. After a brief moment of surprise, the maiden is delighted.

“Sister come join us!” she calls to Xena, then turns to her fellow maidens, “Our new friend is delightful! I think I love her.”

“You fall in love too easily sister,” her sister replies.

“I love her, too!” another declares.

“Be quiet! She’s my friend!” The first Rheinmaiden swims to Xena and starts to play with her. Xena follows and plays, whispering seductively to the Rheinmaiden, asking for a peek at the Rheingold. But the youthful maiden of the Rhein refuses.

“How can I be a Rheinmaiden if I don’t see it?” Xena implores.

“You want to be a Rheinmaiden?” the youth asks, wide-eyed.

“Sure, then I can play with you all day,” Xena answers with a sinister grin.

The Rheinmaiden likes the idea of playing with Xena all day (I like the idea, too), so the nymph leads her underwater to a hidden cave where the Rheingold awaits in a gilded box.

Eyes sparkling with greed, Xena opens the box and quickly takes possession of the Rheingold.

The Rheinmaiden urgently warns Xena that the Rheingold will only bring about her discussion.

But Xena knows better. “Only if I haven’t forsaken love,” she says with a sneer.

“Have you?” the innocent Rheinmaiden asks.

Xena proves it by giving the Rheinmaiden a taste of warlord love – an sharp elbow blow right to the kisser. The maiden falls to the ground with a bloody face and Xena swims away with the Rheingold between her teeth. Delicious!

It is Xena who forges the Rheingold into a ring – a ring that she can proudly wear and harness its great power for her own use. For Xena knows that once she puts it on, she will be … invincible.

Back at the campfire, where the story is being told, Gabrielle firmly states that Xena wouldn’t need a ring to be invincible -- Xena already is the greatest fighter there is.

Brunnhilda considers that and comments that Gabrielle must love Xena very much. Gabrielle answers that Xena is her best friend and she knows her like she knows her own heart.

For Brunnhilda, such a friendship is something to be envied. And Gabrielle’s reply is that such a friendship comes with a price, just like everything else.

“A price you love paying,” states Brunnhilda, “Does Xena feel the same way?”

Gabrielle smiles. “I hope so.”

“She must. She must be on a very dangerous mission otherwise she wouldn’t have left you behind.”

As Xena and Beowulf travel to meet their fate, they talk about Gabrielle. Beowulf comments that Gabrielle is very beautiful and Xena heartily agrees. Beowulf also adds that she seems very special, even though he has only met her once. His thoughts lead him to what is to come and he tells Xena that it is more than likely neither of them are going to live long enough to ever see her again. He goes on to say that the people in these parts think of Xena as a demon.

“So they should,” Xena replies.

Not far behind her partner now, Gabrielle and Brunnhilda follow Xena and Beowulf’s trail. They continue to discuss the possible reasons why Xena would leave Gabrielle behind, when Gabrielle mentions Beowulf’s name and the rusty lock that he had with him.

The mention of the lock stops Brunnhilda dead in her tracks. Now she knows why Xena came back to the north and left Gabrielle behind.

Xena is on a suicide mission.

Xena and Beowulf arrive at a deserted house surrounded by a score of dead bodies. Beowulf says that this is it, this is the end of the line. Beowulf goes inside as Xena pauses a moment to draw her sword.

“Stay strong, Gabrielle,” Xena says to wind.

Inside the house, Beowulf tells Xena of the soldiers that have already lost their lives and the two brothers he lost in the battle against the creature. He would do anything to avenge them. Xena commits herself to defeat the

monster, and then asks what they call the beast.

Beowulf answers that they call him Grendl.

Right on que, there is a ripping crash - sound of the creature approaching.

Xena tells Beowulf that they may indeed have a chance – that the creature is big, but slow.

Beowulf regards Xena closely. “You know this monster pretty well.”

“I should, I created it,” Xena responds.

Brunnhilda and Gabrielle are close now, but not close enough. Darkness has fallen, and Brunnhilda suggests they camp. Gabrielle, however, feels the need to rush, so urges them on. As they walk, Brunnhilda tells Gabrielle about Grendl, a monster trapped in an abandoned mine by a gate held closed by a golden lock adorned with ravens. Odin created the lock and it should have been able to hold the creature forever.

“What happened?” Gab asks.

“Xena happened,” Brunnhilda replies, “Xena and the ring she made out of the Rheingold.”

Inside the dark structure, Xena and Beowulf await the arrival of the monster. It isn’t long before it crashes through the wall to attack them. It is big and strong, and tosses both Beowulf and Xena around like they are rag dolls

Despite the myriad of sword strikes to the body and head, nothing seems to be able to stop the beast.

Xena’s goal is to get the ring from the creature and back to the Rheinmaidens, but it doesn’t look like it is going to be an easy thing to do at all. The creatures lifts her up by the neck and starts slamming her against walls and pillars.

As long as the beast wears the ring, it is undefeatable.

It tosses Xena away and knocks Beowulf into a pillar. He crashes to the floor as wooden beams and half a wall falls down on top of him.

The creature grunts its approval and then turns to finish off Xena.

In the bright sunshine of the morning, after having walked all night, Brunnhilda and Gabrielle arrive at the house. It is quiet and empty. Before they enter, Brunnhilda reminds Gabrielle that this could mean her death.

“Xena’s path is my path,” Gabrielle says and steps forward.

“I wish I had a friend like you,” Brunnhilda comments wistfully.

Gabrielle pauses and turns to lay a hand on Brunnhilda’s shoulder. “You do,” she says softly.

They step over all of the bodies and enter the house. There is major destruction inside, the obvious signs of a furious battle. Hearing moans, they rush over to the source and toss away timbers and fragments of wood beams to reveal Beowulf wounded beneath.

He tells Gabrielle that the creature dragged Xena away, and he doesn’t know if she is dead or alive.

Frantic, Gabrielle calls out to Xena and then spies something shiny in a corner.

It is her partner’s armor, in a bloody heap on the floor.

She picks it up, shaking her head in disbelief.

Could this be it? Could their path together be over?

To be continued …

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