Xena: Warrior Princess, its characters, and the images for the story cover are copyright to MCA/Universal Television and Renaissance Pictures. I'm just borrowing them, and of course I'm not making any profit, just trying to entertain.

The photo cover is taken from the Mountain Design webpage. No infringement is intended, and again I'm just borrowing and not making any profit.

This story will revolve around a loving relationship between two women, what that relationship is will be up to the reader to decide.

Hurt/Comfort: This story may be best classified as a Hurt/Comfort Story. Readers who
are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of issue may wish to read
something other than this story.

Rainedrop@angelfire.com I would love to hear your feedback!

RavensaraCover.jpg (81126 bytes)



Chapter 1 There Is No Honor Among Thieves


“You want me to do what?!” Gabrielle exclaimed to the tall warrior.

“I’ll only need a quarter of a candlemark. Do your bard thing,” Xena offered as they approached a
two story shanty that doubled as an inn.

“Do you really think a thief will be interested in stories?” Gabrielle asked, incredulous.

“If you tell the right one, yes.”

Gabrielle looked off in thought. “What kind of a story would a thief like?” Gabrielle asked
curiously, with a mischievous smile on her lips.

Xena looked sideways at the bard, and shook her head vehemently. “No, Gabrielle. Don’t even
think about it.”

“What?” Gabrielle inquired, innocently.

“You know what, Gabrielle,” Xena said through arched eyebrows. “The last time you told one of
those stories, you started a skirmish in a bar. Now, when you see me come back down the stairs, I
want you to get out of the inn and meet me here.”

“How do you know you can even find the scroll?” Gabrielle asked as they approached the
doorway to the inn.

“I don’t,” Xena responded as she opened the door for the bard to enter.

Gabrielle sighed, and entered the stale, foul smelling tavern that adorned the first floor of the inn.
She looked around the dim room, lit only by two small windows and a handful of lit candles. In
the corner, surrounded by a grungy group of older plump men, Gabrielle saw Taggert, the thief,
just as Orestes had described him. He was a burly looking man, with a full red beard covering the
lower half of his face. Short red spikes of hair protruded from the top of the man’s head, giving
the illusion of a jovial man. It wasn’t until you really looked at him, that you saw the deep scowl
lines across his forehead, and the pock marked nose that jutted from his face.

Gabrielle squared her shoulders, and approached the rambunctious group. She stood in front of
their table with a sweet smile on her lips. Taggert looked up at her, and slowly a grin began to
form on his lips. As the grin widened into a smile, Gabrielle saw that he had lost most of his teeth
somewhere along the way. A shiver ran down Gabrielle’s spine as the man let his eyes wander
over her body, until finally they came to rest on her chest.

“I walked into this tavern, and as soon as I saw you,” Gabrielle said forcing the man to look into
her eyes, “I knew that you would be a challenge.”

Taggert laughed, in a deep guttural sound. “Challenge for what?”

“Why a drinking contest, of course,” Gabrielle answered with a charming smile.

The group of men broke into uncontrolled fits of laughter at the small girl challenging the ox of a
man to a drinking game. The sound brought the eyes of the other patrons in the inn to rest on the
small woman as well.

“Does that mean you will not accept?”

“Oh, I’ll accept. But what are the stakes?” Taggert asked with a swaggering grin.

“What could you possibly have that I would want?” Gabrielle asked, as she looked over to the

“I have two copper pieces that says you can’t hold down three pints of port.”

“Two copper pieces wouldn’t buy me a stale loaf of bread. Can’t you do better?”

Taggert looked around at the inquisitive faces that were waiting expectantly. “Fine then, pet. I’ll
wager me ring that you can’t hold three pints.” He took off a faded gold ring, that was encrusted
with dark grime.

“Fine then,” Gabrielle agreed, again stealing a glance toward the stairs for a sign of her partner.
Gabrielle made a motion to the barkeep, who had been listening. Quickly he brought over a tray
laden with tall wooden cups filled with a dark cloudy ale. As Gabrielle reached out to pick one up,
Taggert reached out savagely, and grabbed at her wrist.

“There must be a counter wager, wee one,” he informed her.

“A counter wager?” Gabrielle asked, feeling a spark of panic strike in her stomach.

“What do you have to wager that equals me gold ring?”

Gabrielle reached for her pouch before she realized it was still in their room at the inn across

“You have nothing?” the large man asked, angrily. Gabrielle slowly shook her head. What have I
gotten myself into, she thought to herself. “I know what you’ve got to wager. You’ve got alot
there under that skirt of yours.”

Gabrielle swallowed hard, and took in a great breath of air, exhaling slowly. “Fine,” she answered
with a false confidence.

“Well then, we’ve got ourselves a competition. Move over Andros, let the lady have a seat.” A
tall balding man rose, and gestured for Gabrielle to take the chair.

Taggert reached over and took a cup of ale. In one smooth motion, he tilted the cup back, and
emptied it’s contents into his mouth. He slammed the empty cup on the table, and laughed
hysterically, as did the men who now surrounded Gabrielle.

Gabrielle reached out slowly, and wrapped her fingers around a full cup of ale. As she brought it
to her lips, she caught a whiff of the foul liquid, and she winced at it’s potency. She held her
breath, and tipped the cup back, taking swallow after swallow of the sickening ale. Successfully
she slammed her own cup down on the table, empty. She let a small grin of triumph cross her

“Not bad,” Taggert commented as again, he tipped back a full cup of ale, only to slam it down on
the table, empty.

Gabrielle reached out tentatively, and took a second cup of the rotten liquid, and again she tilted
back the cup, and let the harsh ale burn it’s way down her throat. She slammed the cup down on
the table, and let out a small bubble of laughter.

Without a word, or a smile, Taggert reached down and lifted the third cup to his lips, draining the
cup in one swallow. It was again Gabrielle’s turn. She reached out, and her hand dodged to the
right of the cup in a blurry pass, and spilled it’s contents.

“Ah, bloody crock,” one of the men cursed, as the ale spilled off the table and onto his trousers.

“Get her another, barkeep,” Taggert yelled.

The small scrawny man behind the bar brought another tray laden with cups, and placed it on the
table in front of Gabrielle.

“Wait, barkeep. I only need one more,” Gabrielle informed the man as he walked away.

“If you finish this one, then we keep going until the other passes out. Who do you think that will
be? Oh, don’t worry though. I’ll wait until you regain consciousness before I claim my winnings,”
Taggert announced.

The words refused to register in Gabrielle’s cloudy mind. “Fine,” she answered, irritably. Again,
Gabrielle reached out and took another cup in her hand. She tried to knock the drink back, but it
was trapped by her tongue, which refused to let any more of the foul liquid down her throat. She
took two small sips, and looked around the room at the gleeful grins just waiting for her to tip
over. She refused to let them have their fun, and she tipped back the cup, and drank the ale, gulp
by arduous gulp, until she had finished her third cup of port.

With a satisfied smirk, she reached out to take the ring sitting in the center of the table. A
lightening fast hand shot out, and grabbed at her wrist, holding it in a painful grip. A sword was
unsheathed, and rested at the nape of her neck. “You haven’t won yet,” Taggert spat through his
thick red beard.

Gabrielle was eye to eye with the burly man, and she could smell a month’s reek on his clothes.
“Oh haven’t I? The wager was whether or not I could hold three pints of port, if I do remember
correctly. I have just swallowed three cups of the wrenching stuff, and here I sit. I win,” she said
slowly through gritted teeth.

Taggert threw Gabrielle back into her chair with a vicious snarl. “That ring belonged to my

“You shouldn’t wager things that you might mind losing,” Gabrielle answered smartly as she
scooped the ring up in her hand.

With a contented grin, and a swaying stagger, Gabrielle stood and walked toward the door of the
inn. She looked back at the open eyed crowd of men, and let herself remember the moment. She
threw her hair over her shoulder, and pulled the door of the inn open, wincing at the bright
sunlight that assaulted her eyes.

She saw the tall dark figure of the warrior, standing against the wooden wall that formed the inn.
“How was that?” she mumbled, incoherently.

Xena took one look at the glazed green eyes, and the wavering gait, and knew the bard had been
drinking. If she had any doubt though, the stench of ale which proceeded Gabrielle by a foot
would have given her away. “You’ve been drinking!” Xena exclaimed.

“Would you believe that I just won this from our thief in a drinking contest?” Gabrielle boasted as
she held the ring up for show.

“When I said distract him, that’s not what I meant,” Xena said, as she held Gabrielle’s chin up,
and looked into her eyes, trying to gauge how much the bard had drank. “You know there’ll be
consequences in the morning, don’t you?”

“You’re not hearing me, Xena. I beat him at his own game!” Gabrielle exclaimed proudly.

“I’m proud of you, Gabrielle,” Xena answered with an amused grin.

“So tell me, Warrior Princess, did you get the scroll?”

In answer, Xena pulled a piece of rolled up parchment out from her saddlebag. “I had it nearly
half a candlemark ago,” Xena whispered playfully. “Were you enjoying yourself? What did you
win anyway?”

Gabrielle held up the faded gold ring, turning it back and forth to let the last rays of waning
sunlight catch the gold, but there was no polish to sparkle. “You won that?” Xena asked
doubtfully. “What did you wager?”

“Well, I left my money at the inn, so I didn’t really have anything to wager.”

“Taggert is not the sort of fellow who is going to wager something for nothing, Gabrielle.”

“No, he sort of insisted that I wager myself,” the bard answered with a shy grin.

“What?” Xena said with wide eyes.

Gabrielle laughed at the site of Xena off guard. A hiccup escaped her lips, and she held her hand
bashfully over her mouth.

“Come on,” Xena said as she put her arm around the bard. “You won’t be laughing in the

“Do you want to hear a story, Xena?” Gabrielle asked as they walked. “It’s very pertinent to the
situation at hand.”

“Sure, why not,” Xena answered as she steadied Gabrielle and walked her across the town square.

“There was a man named Ancaeus who was planting a vineyard when a seer predicted he would
not live long enough to drink even one glass of the wine.” Hiccup. “Much later, as Ancaeus was
about to taste the first wine from the prosperous vineyard, he mocked the prophecy and raised the
cup of wine to his lips. But before he could drink, word came that a wild boar was loose in the
vineyard. Ancaeus immediately set out to kill the animal, but in the fray he was set upon and killed
by the boar, thus fulfilling the prophecy.” Hiccup.

“You know how much I love prophecies,” Xena said sarcastically.

“That story is why today, many people say ‘There’s many a slip between the cup and lip,”
Gabrielle concluded with a flourish.

Xena cocked her head to look at the bard, as she clung to the warrior. Xena let a small smile play
on her lips, and wrapped her arm a little tighter around the woman she so loved.


Chapter 2 Still Waters Run Deep


Xena rose early the following morning, contemplating whether she should wake Gabrielle yet or
not. The bard had tossed restlessly all the night, and now she slept deeply and quietly. Xena
couldn’t have brought herself to wake the bard even if she had need to. The warrior quietly
slipped out of the inn room, and headed downstairs where the innkeeper was waiting for her.

“Oi’ve got a message for ya,” he drawled.

Xena took a small slip of parchment from the man, and turned to walk out.

“It’s considered customary to tip the messenger.”

“I thought it was don’t shoot the messenger,” Xena called back as she walked out the door.

Xena unrolled the strip of parchment, it read:


If you have the scroll, please meet us at the brook behind
the stables on the west end of town this morning. With all
our gratitude,


Xena rolled the small strip, and placed it into the pouch she wore at her waist. She walked quickly
and quietly across the town. It was a large town, called Pili on the plains at the base of the Pindos
mountain range. The sleepy little town was well known for it’s fair trade, and it was the last major
township before travelers reached the mountains.

As Xena neared the stables at the west end of Pili, she spotted a young boy seated on a barrel at
the stable door. He was wearing a dark cloak, and he had the hood pulled up over his head. As
Xena approached, the young boy pulled the hood down to cover his eyes. Xena walked behind the
stable, and doubled back quietly, watching the young boy as he pulled the hood down from over
his head. A full head of dark brown hair dropped over the boy’s eyes, as he jumped off the barrel.
He turned to follow the warrior, only instead of finding himself behind her he found himself
looking directly at the shiny circular weapon the warrior kept at her side. He looked up with
furrowed eyebrows, and clenched his jaw shut.

“Are you the lookout?” Xena asked casually.

“N..No,” the boy stammered.

“Are you the stable boy?”

“No, ma’am,” he answered, with a rough shake of his head.

“Then why were you waiting for me?”

“I have heard tales of you. I wanted to see...if you were real.”

“Are you convinced that I am?” Xena asked with a smile.

“Oh, yes.”

“Good, let’s find your father. Orestes is your father, am I right?”

The boy nodded his head zealously. As Xena rounded the corner of the stable, she saw a tall man
with crisp white hair, and a clean long white beard. The man turned to her, and let a generous
smile greet her. He outstretched his arms, and took the warrior in a close embrace. Xena shyly
returned the affection, and pulled back stiffly.

“Xena, thank you tremendously for coming. My business is urgent, so I must be forthright. Were
you able to retrieve the scroll?” the man asked with a stubborn seriousness.

The warrior reached into the pouch at her waist, and pulled forth a parchment wrapped into a roll,
and secured with a single strand of bright red ribbon. She smiled as she reached out to place the
scroll into the open hand of Orestes. “I think this belongs to you, my friend.”

A great joy lit up the dark eyes of the old man, as he untied the ribbon, and unrolled the
parchment. His eyes scanned the treasured article, and then he looked to Xena. “This is a
cherished item to my village, Xena. I am in your debt, if ever there were anything I could provide
you with,” Orestes stated with a bow of honor to the warrior.

“No, no,” Xena insisted, bringing the man to stand right. “I am only glad we could help. Gabrielle
would be here, but she’s recovering from a long night.”

“She wasn’t harmed in trying to get the scroll back, was she?”

Xena laughed softly, and shook her head. “She’ll be fine, trust me. If I could, may I ask one
question of you?”

“Anything,” Orestes declared.

“Gabrielle is a curious little thing, and I know she would never forgive me if I didn’t ask. What is
the scroll? Is it part of a religion?”

A benevolent grin crossed the man’s face. “No. This scroll was written by a bard long ago who
came from our village. She wrote many tales, but this one she gave to the village we come from,
which is not far from here called, Lia. The bard who wrote it was called Siessa, and it is a story of
the warrior named Niarra. It probably doesn’t sound like much, but to us it is exceptional in it’s
worth. Again, I thank you.”

The sound of another bard and warrior forever entwined in their journeys together brought
Xena’s mind to Gabrielle. She longed to return to the inn, and wake the bard. Xena watched as
the small group of people gathered their belongings, and began their journey back to Lia. Xena
waved at the small boy, as he turned back to take another long look at the warrior. When the
small group had disappeared over the hill along the brook, Xena turned to walk back toward the
town center. A small number of coins rattled together in the pouch at Xena’s waist, producing a
rhythmic jingle in tune to Xena’s steps. She headed toward the market, in search of traveling
supplies, and a new cooking blade. She perused the stalls that lined the market street, and haggled
here and there for a better price, as Gabrielle had taught her so long ago.

A half candlemark later, Xena headed back toward the inn with a handful of provisions. She
stopped instantly when she saw the group of soldiers riding through town atop the royal cavalry
of King Wryan. There were only five in number, but they carried spears along with full shields.
They crossed the town square at an urgent speed. Xena walked steadily until she had reached the
inn. Once inside, she hunted down the innkeeper. She found him at the corner of the room, filling
glasses of ale.

“Innkeeper, do you still want to earn that tip?” Xena asked curtly.

“Sure,” the man bellowed.

“A small group of soldiers just entered town, can you send one of your boys over to the
magistrate’s and find out why they are here?”

“And that would earn me what?” the man asked skeptically.

“A dinar, and I’m being generous.”

The man turned forthwith, and yelled out a name. Shortly a blonde headed boy came from the
kitchen, wearing a flour dusted tunic. The innkeeper gave him Xena’s instructions, and he turned
heel and ran out the inn door.

“When the boy returns, send him with the information to my room. I’ll give the dinar to the boy
then.” She turned with the last word, and mounted the stair well to the second story. When she
reached the room, she was not surprised to find Gabrielle still asleep on the bed. Xena lay her
purchases on the bedside table, and walked over to sit beside the bard.

Xena reached her hand out to stroke the bard’s fair cheek, bringing the first signs of stirring from
the woman. Xena took Gabrielle’s shoulder and shook her gently until she heard a soft whimper
from the girl. “Gabrielle?”

“Ooooh,” Gabrielle moaned. “Shhh. You’re talking too loudly,” came the bard’s mumbled

“I’m practically whispering, Gabrielle,” Xena smirked.

“Well, it’s too loud.”

“Are you all right?” Xena asked tenderly.

“Nooo,” Gabrielle whimpered again. “I feel like I’ve been run over by a raging centaur. And
please don’t say, I told you so. I did it all for the greater good.”

Xena rose with a hidden smile, and made her way to the pitcher of water sitting on the table
facing the window. She poured a small glass of the still cold water, and walked back over to the
saddlebags still lying next to the bed. She rummaged around until she found the herb pouch. A
pinch of hyssop should do, she told herself, as she mixed the herb into the water. Xena took a seat
again by the bard on the bed, and pulled Gabrielle to a reluctant sitting position.

“What is this?” Gabrielle asked, suspiciously as she swirled the contents of the glass around.

“It will ease the pain.”

Gabrielle took a tentative sniff of the concoction, and with a final decision she tilted the glass
back, and drank the water in two swallows. Once the glass was emptied, Gabrielle sank back
down into the inviting warmth of the covers.

“Oh no, you don’t,” Xena remarked as she lifted the bard back up. “It’s time for you to get up.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Gabrielle responded with a pained smile.

“That is the second time today someone has called me ma’am,” Xena remarked as she stood to
pack the provisions into the saddle bags. “I have a bit of a tidbit for you.”

“What kind of a tidbit?”

“That scroll we helped steal back was a very interesting scroll indeed,” Xena taunted.

“Why so interesting?”

“It was a scroll written by a bard a number of years ago.”

“And?” Gabrielle persisted.

“Have you ever heard of a bard named Siessa?”

The answer was clearly yes by the shocked open mouth on the bard’s face. “You held a scroll in
your hand written by Siessa?”

“Apparently,” Xena answered easily.

“Did you read it?” Gabrielle asked hopefully.

“Nope. It seems the bard Siessa has her origins from a nearby village, called Lia. It also seems
that the people of Lia would like to return our good deed with a favor of their own.”

Gabrielle threw her legs over the edge of the bed and sat up right like a soldier at attention. “Are
you saying that we could go to Lia, and I could read that scroll?” the bard asked incredulously.

In answer a knock came at the door. Xena crossed the small room, and opened the door to find
the blonde boy standing there, patiently. “What news do you bring?” Xena asked.

“The soldiers have come to warn the surrounding villages that it is expected that King Aimon of
the Mountain Kings is ailing, and soon may die. War is imminent upon his death, say the guards,
and they ask for the town’s support for King Wryan. The town magistrate pledged Pili’s loyal
support,” the boy reported.

“Why must there be war? Won’t King Aimon’s son succeed his father and take over as the
Mountain King?”

“I do not know ma’am. That was all I was able to find out. If you would like for me to go back

“No,” Xena interrupted. She pulled a coin from her pouch and flipped it into the boy’s hand.
“Your information was very valuable. Thank you.”

Xena shut the door behind the boy, and walked back across the room, deep in thought.

“I do believe that means we aren’t headed to Lia,” Gabrielle said, disappointed.

“I’m sorry Gabrielle. King Aimon was once a friend of mine, and I would like to offer my help if I

“War. From our experience, that’s a word we should maybe stay away from,” Gabrielle chided as
she splashed water from the basin onto her face.

“I realize that, but you know me. I just can’t seem to turn and walk away,” Xena answered with a
grimace at the truth in her own words.

“I smell a story behind this King Aimon,” Gabrielle said with a hint of a question. “It’s a long
journey to the land of the Mountain King.”

“It’s three days journey,” Xena corrected.

“Perfect. Plenty of time for a story,” Gabrielle announced with a smile.


Chapter 3 Confession Is Good For The Soul


“Nearly seven winters ago, I led an army across the Pindos Mountains. We were headed for the
coastal port city of Preveza. From there we planned to sweep south, and into Parnassus. My plans
were thwarted though when a warrior-like primitive hill tribe of Macedonians swarmed down
from the north and invaded the Pindos Mountains. I was trapped, as were the people of Morgana,
otherwise known as the Land of the Mountain King. The Mountain Kings, as you know, are a
legacy of Kings who reign the land in the southern Pindos. In their height of power, they made the
Pindos Mountains virtually impassable. The trek across the mountain range is vital to the lives of
merchants and traders, and the Mountain Kings controlled the trade routes, making profit off the
travelers who passed through the Pindos. The Macedonians changed that, and so King Aimon
came to me under a promise of peace, and offered to ally with my army against the Macedonians,
who he considered to be barbarians,” Xena explained from atop Argo to the bard who clung
firmly to the warrior’s back.

“I, of course, agreed. We fought the Macedonians for many days. War in the mountains was
unlike anything I had ever encountered before. In the middle of battle, the enemy would disappear
into the bushes, or the crags of rock. Ambushes were common, and movement in such large
numbers was extremely difficult in the mountainous terrain. Many of my men were killed, and our
provisions were low. King Aimon allowed me and my men to take shelter in his soldier barracks.
We joined forces with his army to drive the foreign tribe from the mountains. It took us nearly a
moon, but we succeeded, and King Aimon offered me safe passage through the mountains if ever
I crossed the Pindos again.”

“And that’s the end of the story?” Gabrielle asked, sounding somewhat disappointed.

“King Aimon, I’m sure, wishes that were the end of the story. I left the Pindos Mountains and as I
had planned, I traveled with my army to Preveza and Parnassus. Two winters later I returned, and
had need to travel back over the Pindos to reach Neapolis, and then northward up into Chalced.
And again I came to the Land of the Mountain King. It turns out that shortly after I left the
Pindos the Macedonian tribe returned, and successfully claimed land to the west of the Morgana.
One leader called, Wryan, named himself ruler and King of the West Pindos. A war had waged for
those two long years, but still, being a man of his word, King Aimon offered me safe passage
through the mountains and gave me an armed escort to see the way.”

“Did they ever find peace,” Gabrielle asked, putting the story away for future use.

“Yes, I heard that they reached an agreement, and I believe there has been peace in the Pindos for
four winters now. It would be a shame to see that peace destroyed with the death of King

“And what do you plan to do, Warrior Princess,” Gabrielle asked playfully.

“I owe King Aimon a debt of gratitude. I plan to see if I can pay up,” Xena answered with a sly
arch of her eyebrow.


The first day of the bard and warrior’s journey up into the Pindos Mountains led them through
numerous small villages, and pasture lands where shepherds kept their flocks. The terrain was
uneven and full of hills, but the trail was wide, and the ascent was gradual. The two travelers
made good time, and by the end of their first day they were within sight of a village called Desi.

They made camp, and Xena brought out a rough wool blanket from the saddle bag and pulled it
up over her and Gabrielle that night as they lay down to sleep. The warmth of their bodies under
the double layer of blankets brought a cozy sense of comfort to the two women. They lay under
the limbs of a cypress tree, and gazed at the cloudless sky. Orion was visible in all his mighty
glory. Hand stretched back to release the bow that would shoot the arrow.

Gabrielle turned to stare at Xena’s profile in the glow of the dancing fire. “This is what I love
most of all,” she whispered to the warrior.

Xena turned at the words, and studied the moist green eyes so close to her. “What do you love
most of all?” she asked quietly.

“Being here with you, in a strange place, a journey before us.”

“But tomorrow we go into the unknown.”

“We go together though. That’s all that matters.”

Xena let a contented smile cross her lips as she looked from the bard to the starlit sky. “Do you
know what I love most of all?”

Gabrielle looked to Xena inquisitively. “What?”


Gabrielle blushed slightly, the red glow from the camp fire highlighting her flushed cheeks.

“Is the bard of Poteidaia blushing?” Xena asked mischievously.

“That’s not such a hard thing to achieve,” Gabrielle replied.

“Not for me anyway,” Xena responded with a soft sweet laugh that carried into the cool night air.


The second day’s traveling was not as gentle as the first. The path turned narrow and forked off
into an extensive number of other trails that were steep with rugged ledges that had to be carefully
scaled. Xena had been forced to leave Argo stabled in Desi, and she dreaded the slow walk up in
the mountains. The air turned cold and thin, causing the bard’s breathing to become quick and
labored. They covered very little distance in the course of the day, and by the time night settled
again, Gabrielle was more willing to sleep than eat.

“You won’t be able to keep up with me tomorrow if you don’t eat,” Xena admonished the bard.

“I won’t be able to move tomorrow if I don’t sleep now,” Gabrielle mumbled from under the
warmth of the heavy wool blanket.

“I’m not asking you, Gabrielle, I’m telling you. You have to eat.”

“I have to eat what you cook? That’s a new rule, isn’t it?” Gabrielle responded through closed

Xena walked around the fire in the center of their camp, and placed her hands under the bard’s
arms, and pulled her upright. She turned Gabrielle’s chin up, to look into her distant green eyes. “I
know you’re tired, but we have to eat.” She placed a small bowl of stew into the bard’s hands,
and refused to release her hold on Gabrielle until the bard nodded in agreement.

“Do you feel lightheaded, or dizzy?” Xena asked Gabrielle while they ate. Gabrielle nodded. “Do
you have a headache, any throbbing in your head?” Again, Gabrielle nodded affirmatively. Xena
lowered her head, and winced internally at the actualization of what she feared. “You have
altitude sickness, Gabrielle.”

“No, Xena. I’m just tired,” Gabrielle assured the warrior.

“Promise me something, Gabrielle. Promise me that you will go back to Pili if this gets worse.”

“I can’t promise you that, Xena. Even if I do have altitude sickness, it’s just a little
lightheadedness. It’s nothing to warrant me leaving you.”

“The fortress of King Aimon is located within the side of Mount Gamila. If you’re feeling this way
now, it will only get worse. The cold won’t help.”

“Xena, once we get to the fortress, I’ll feel fine. I know it. Altitude sickness subsides when the
person has been at the same altitude for a couple of days,” Gabrielle pleaded with the warrior.

“That’s if you don’t collapse before we get there,” Xena said wryly.

“That’s my plan, Warrior Princess. I want you to carry me the rest of the way. Prove your love,”
Gabrielle said with an awkward laugh, trying to get a smile out of the tense warrior. Xena looked
to the ground, deliberating what she would do should Gabrielle get worse.

Gabrielle crawled over to kneel in front of Xena, and offered the warrior her most serious face. “I
will not abandon you, Xena. Just as I know you would never abandon me. We go through it
together, remember? Together,” Gabrielle added as she put her hand out on Xena’s knee.

Xena took the proffered hand in her own, and she gently squeezed the soft skin. “Together,” she
repeated with a tender wink of the eye.


It was Gabrielle’s stubbornness that would push her to continue putting one foot in front of the
other the following day. It was Xena’s constant watchfulness that would bring her to take her
next breath, as painful as it was. On and on it went like this through the rising rock of the
surrounding scenery and the winding mountainous path. Xena was itching in her bones to turn
back, when looming in front of them, they saw the first Morgana village. It was small, named for
the first Mountain King called Nikos, which was renowned for it’s cultural preservation. Walking
through the tiny village could take a person back two hundred years, to the beginning of the
Mountain King, if only in their imaginations.

“How are you feeling?” Xena asked for the third time in the last quarter candlemark.

“We’re almost there, right?” Gabrielle asked through her gasping attempts at breath. “I can make
it. Let’s keep going.”

Xena reluctantly agreed, and the two continued to climb into higher elevations. Twilight soon fell,
and the night sounds of the forest surrounded them. It was the towering figure of the citadel-like
fortress that brought Gabrielle to inhale a breath of shock. It was a massive rock tower that was
circular in shape, and rose into the air in a cylindrical show of power. “That’s the fortress of King
Aimon?” she asked weakly.

“It’s called the White Tower. The Mountain Kings will never be accused of being frugal,” came
Xena’s response as she turned back to gauge the bard’s condition. Her face was the pale tint of
white, and her lips were a ghostly blue. “We’ve got to get you inside where it’s warm,” Xena
insisted as she took Gabrielle by the elbow.

“Warm is good,” Gabrielle said, summoning up her last reserves of strength.

The two travelers hiked up the steep passage, until they reached the guarded entrance. One word
brought them unquestioned entrance into the fortress. Xena.


Chapter 4 He Who Lives By The Sword Shall Die By The Sword

King Aimon was a strong leader, unmatched in his swordsmanship and intensely courageous in
battle. He was a tall lean man, with long blonde hair that cascaded down his back with the
forelock pulled into a tight braid signifying his lineage of nobility. His square chiseled face held a
smile as well as it held a grimace, at least that was the way Xena had remembered the King. The
man she looked at now was a feeble weak man sitting in a brightly decorated chair with his
shoulders slumped in exhaustion.

His eyes were ringed by dark swollen circles, and his hair had turned a pale white. His skin sagged
on the cheeks, and the long white beard drooped with it. The image of the once mighty king took
Xena by surprise. She knew now, that Aimon truly was dying.

“King Aimon,” Xena said in greeting, as she bowed her head in a sign of honor. “This is my
friend, Gabrielle.” Gabrielle, too, bowed her head, and stepped up beside Xena.

“How are you, my dear friend, Xena?” the King asked in a gravelly tone.

“Well, and how are you, King Aimon?”

“As you can see,” the King answered rising his arms to show his emaciated body, “I am not well. I
fear for the kingdom,” he added in a whisper. He motioned for Xena and Gabrielle to come
closer, as if in conspiracy. “My worst fears may be realized. I do not think my reign will succeed
to my heir.”

“Because of King Wryan?” Gabrielle asked, with furrowed brows.

“Yes, it is King Wryan who invades my land, and threatens my people. That is, however, only the
beginning,” King Aimon said as he rose to stand. He tottered on the verge of falling, and so Xena
steadied the man, and took his elbow. The King led the two travelers to a private library where
guard’s ears did not follow. Xena helped the man as he settled into a cushioned chair at the head
of a long table. The warrior and her bard took seats next to the King, and waited for his tale.

“It is written that the title of King can be taken from the Mountain Kings if the sword of Nikos is
not claimed by the current ruler and passed over to his heir by the twentieth full harvest moon of
his reign. As you can imagine, the nineteenth moon of my reign is coming to an end. It is required
of me to travel with my son to the Hall of the Mountain King where the sword is held and pass on
the title of King, but I can not make such a journey as I am.”

“Why not send your son alone to claim the sword?” Xena asked.

“If the heir takes hold of the sword before the current King, it is said that the kingdom will fall.”

“Who exactly says,” Xena asked skeptically.

“The Legend of the Mountain King. We were promised a mighty empire if we were patient and
wise. One person could bring down that promise, and I will not let that person be this so called
King Wryan.”

“Send one of your trusted men, then.”

“I am afraid that my men are under the influence of King Wryan. They see me dying, losing my
hold on the kingdom and they waver toward the enemy.”

“Are you asking me to retrieve this sword?” Xena asked in astonishment.

“I am asking you to restore my kingdom to me,” King Aimon answered.

“Why should I bring you the sword, if your son will be king in name only?”

Aimon nodded, fully understanding the doubt behind the question. “My son, as king, can salvage
my kingdom, and make them believe in the Mountain King again. I put faith in this above all
things,” came the answer with a bold confidence.

Xena looked questioningly to the bard, whose face was beaming as only a bard’s face could when
in the midst of a story waiting to happen. With a questioning arch of her eyebrow, Xena waited
for the bard to nod, and with that Xena responded with, “King Aimon, we would be more than
delighted to assist you.”

“Wonderful,” the man cheered as his cheeks glowed in response. “There will be a feast tonight in
my private dining hall in honor of you,” Aimon announced.

On cue, Gabrielle’s stomach growled at the mention of food. She blushed slightly, and rose from
the table dragging Xena along with her. “May we have a bath and some rest before the feast?”
Gabrielle asked with a smile.

“Oh, of course. I will have someone escort you upstairs to a magnificent room. Again, I am
grateful to you.”

“It is only the repayment of my debt to you,” Xena responded with a kind smile.


As was promised, the warrior and bard were shown to a beautiful room with velvet curtains and
silk bed linens. Gabrielle headed straight for the double paned window which she threw open to
examine the view from their third story room. The Pindos Mountains in all their glory rose up to
meet her, as the sun descended from view.

“Oh, Xena. Have you ever seen anything more beautiful?” Gabrielle asked in wonder.

Xena looked to the bard, knowing she had definitely seen something more beautiful but only
nodded her head silently. She stepped up beside Gabrielle, and joined her in the enjoyment of the
breathtaking scene. “That’s certainly not the view one gets from the soldier barracks,” she said

“Heh, not that you’ve ever been one to stop and smell the lilacs,” Gabrielle chided playfully while
delivering a gentle elbow into the taller women’s rib.

Xena’s eyes fell on a snow capped peak in the distance, and it brought a nagging question to her
mind. “So you want to trek into the mountains in search of a sword.”

“Retrieve a sword to save a kingdom, it would make a wonderful story,” Gabrielle answered with
a sparkle in her eye.

“The sword is located in a cavern somewhere along that peak,” Xena said, pointing off to the
mountain out their window. “At a much higher altitude,” she added with concern in her voice.

“Look at me, Xena. I feel great! I can already tell I’m growing accustomed to the altitude. I will
be fine, Xena the Worry Princess,” Gabrielle said with a laugh.

Xena pursed her lips, and let a small grin answer the laughing bard. “Just as long as you know I’m
not carrying you up that mountain,” Xena said with her most serious face.

“Fine, it’s settled then. You won’t carry me, and I won’t carry you,” Gabrielle responded with
equal seriousness.

The warrior cocked her head, and pursed her lips again. “You’re taking all the fun out of this, you
do know that, right?”

Gabrielle tried to stifle her bubbling laughter at the sight of a pouting warrior. After all, it wasn’t
every day that you saw the Destroyer of Nations pout. “Ahhh, Xena. Ok, I’ll let you coddle me
tonight, and get it out of your system.”

Xena chuckled at the winsome bard, and grabbed her by the hand and pulled her into the adjacent
room, where bath water had already been prepared.


There was food such as Gabrielle had never seen at the feast held in the honor of the warrior and

A radiant youth came to the pair, and bowed deeply to them. “I am Markos, son of King Aimon. I
wanted to personally thank you for your support.”

“Your father has put much faith in you. That must be quite a weight on your back,” Gabrielle said

“It is the responsibility I was born to bear, and that burden is wonderful to me,” the youth

“You look awfully young to have so much power at your will,” Xena stated solemnly. Gabrielle
put her elbow to Xena’s rib for the second time that evening. The warrior ignored the bard’s
ribbing, and looked on expectantly to the prince.

“I am quite young, with this I do agree. But my father believes in me, and that is reason enough
for me to believe in myself.”

“Wise words,” Xena remarked.

“Coming from you, that means much to me. It has been nice to meet the both of you,” the Prince
said before he sauntered over to greet another couple.

“It was nice to meet you,” Gabrielle said as she lead her partner over to two empty spaces at the
long exquisitely set table. “You are so subtle,” she whispered in Xena’s ear once they were

“I’m glad you approve,” Xena answered with the ghost of a grin.

“You love doing that.”

Xena answered with a full smile.

They feasted long into the night until the moon had risen well into the sky. With full bellies and
satisfied pallets Xena and Gabrielle made their way back to their room. The linens had been drawn
back for the guests, and the warrior and bard sank gratefully into the warmth of a soft bed for the
first time since Pili.

“Xena, can I ask you something?” Gabrielle asked in a soft voice in the moonlit room.

“Of course, always.”

“How do you know where the sword of the Mountain King is located?”

A silence filled the air around them, and then Xena’s melodic voice broke the quiet. “Long ago,
my partner and I thought to steal the sword. It was said that whoever controlled the sword could
control the Mountain Kings. We searched for many days, until finally we found it in a cavern on
Mount Tapigo. The sword was there, just as the legend said. It was a glorious sword, with a
jeweled pommel that glittered even in the darkness of the cave.”

“What did you do with it?” Gabrielle asked in alarm, as she lifted herself up on her elbow to better
see her partner’s expression.

“I took it,” Xena answered, as if that were the only answer possible. “It was then that the
Macedonians attacked us, and shortly thereafter King Aimon gave my men shelter. Once we had
pushed the Macedonians out of the Pindos, I climbed back to the cavern on Mount Tapigo, and
replaced the sword.”

Gabrielle lay back, and stared at the wooden ceiling. “What stops others from taking the sword?”

“Some believe that if a person touches the sword, and his intentions are not honorable that that
person is doomed to be a slave to the Mountain Kings,” Xena answered softly.

“But you took the sword, it must not be true.”

“Look at me now, Gabrielle. In service to my debt to King Aimon I’m going to climb that
mountain tomorrow, except this time someone I love is being dragged along with me. Some might
interpret that as slavery.”

“I’m not being dragged, and service is not slavery when free will is involved. If you wanted, you
could walk away right now and leave the Pindos and King Aimon behind.”

“I’m not so sure I could Gabrielle,” Xena answered as if from far away. “I’ve never walked away
from my debts.”

Gabrielle reached out and took the warrior’s hand in her own. “That’s loyalty and integrity,
strength of character and honor. That’s who you are, Xena.”

Xena turned to face the bard, and a smile was alive in the warrior’s eyes. “You never fail to lift me
up,” she said with a single tear sliding down her cheek.

Gabrielle reached over with her finger to wipe away the tear. “I love you, Xena.”


Chapter 5 While There Is Life, There Is Hope


King Aimon was waiting for the pair as they came down the stone steps that led to the courtyard.
“I wanted to see you off on your journey,” Aimon explained.

“Thank you for your graciousness to us, King Aimon. We will retrieve the sword, so that peace
can continue,” Xena said, looking to search the man’s heart.

“This conflict has torn me apart these past years. I wish for peace to be brought to the mountains
once again.”

That’s the right answer, Xena thought to herself. Two servants came up to the warrior carrying
two traveling bags filled with food and supplies. The warrior and bard each took one, and secured
them to their backs.

“We shall return soon,” Xena assured the man.

“I don’t know how many days I have left in me,” the old man answered with a solemn frown.

The warrior and the King clasped hands, and the warrior and bard turned to take the first steps of
their trek further into the Pindos mountains. They traveled across the Kalamas River, and up
along the cliffs overlooking Mount Gamila. Gabrielle took deep slow breaths, and resisted any
symptoms of the altitude sickness. When the fortress was far behind them, they crossed a lush
valley with herds of mountain goat and deer.

Xena and Gabrielle stopped to eat a light lunch before they picked up their pace and began their
climb up the eastern wall of Mount Tapigo. A movement in the copse of trees to their right
brought Xena to an immediate stop. Her fingers itched, and she rested them on the chakram at her
side. A young man stepped from behind the bramble of the mountain woods, and began to walk
toward the warrior.

“Xena, the warrior princess?” the man asked as he got closer.

“Yeah?” Xena asked suspiciously.

“I’ve been sent to give you a message.”

“Ok, I know the Greek delivery system is good, but you’ve got to be kidding me.”

“I’ve been sent by King Wryan.”

At the name, Xena pulled her sword, and put herself between Gabrielle and the man.

“I have not been accompanied, and King Wryan wishes you no harm. The message I carry is vital
to your friend’s life though,” he said as he nodded his head toward Gabrielle.

Xena marched across the ground that still separated her from the messenger, and she wrapped her
left hand around his throat as she placed the blade of her sword to the cleft in his esophagus.
“Talk fast,” the warrior growled.

“King Wryan wishes me to inform you that last night while you ate your meal, your friend was
given a plate poisoned with a large dose of the herb, Lobelia.” A silent cry issued forth from
Xena’s throat, and she squeezed her hand tighter around the messenger’s throat.

“Poisoned?” she uttered through clenched teeth.

“Please, let me speak. The herb, Lobelia will cause your friend to experience a rapid heartbeat,
lung failure, coma, and finally death.”

In panic, Xena let out a feral scream and shook the man, pushing him backwards until his head
solidly struck a tree. “What did you do to her?” she yelled savagely. Gabrielle stood behind Xena,
trying to absorb what she had just heard.

“King Wryan does not wish for your friend to die. There is an antidote, an herb called Ravensara,”
the man wheezed through his choking gasps for breath. Xena released her hold on the man’s neck,
and held the point of her sword at the cleft in his throat. She put pressure on the blade until it’s
point brought a trickle of blood down the man’s shirt front.

“The herb is very rare and it is found in one place only, on a mountain top to the south, called
Mount Eleni. If you can take the girl to the herb before the Lobelia takes effect, you may save her

“I may save her life? What did you do to her?’ Xena asked again as she struggled to grasp the
enormity of the situation. Xena pushed on the sword again, driving the point deeper into the
man’s throat. A hand reached out and touched her cheek, turning Xena’s eyes to meet the bard’s
hypnotic verdant pools.

“Let him go, Xena. He’s just the messenger,” Gabrielle pleaded with the warrior. Silent tears fell
from Xena’s eyes at the sight of her beloved. Immediately Xena pulled the blade away from the
man’s throat and took a step back.

“Tell King Wryan, I’ll be paying him a visit,” Xena swore through her blinding anger. The man
took the hint, and ran off into the words, leaving the two women alone with their hearts
swimming somewhere in their throats.

Gabrielle sat heavily on a rock, and put her head in her hands. “And I thought altitude sickness
was my worst problem,” she said with a sad sigh.

Xena slowly knelt in front of Gabrielle, and took the bard’s hands, and stared into her eyes with
an alarming intensity. “Listen to me, we’ll head back now. King Aimon may have the Ravensara
herb at the fortress.”

“I don’t even feel sick. I feel better than I have in days. King Wryan is trying to keep us from the
sword. Maybe he’s bluffing Xena.”

“I am not taking that chance with your life, Gabrielle. Don’t you dare ask me to.”

“He said rapid heartbeat, right? Feel,” Gabrielle said taking Xena’s right hand and placing it to the
pulse point in her neck.

Xena felt the strong pulse racing through Gabrielle’s vein, and noted the normal steady rhythm.
“Gabrielle, I don’t know much about this herb. It may take a couple of days before the symptoms
become visible.”

“Let’s assume for a moment that I have been poisoned, the messenger said that Ravensara is very
rare. What are the chances that King Aimon would have need of such an herb? Hear me out, ok?
We continue to head toward the Hall of the Mountain King, and if, and that’s a big if, Xena...if I
begin to feel sick we turn and head toward Mount Eleni.”

“The only problem with that is that Mount Eleni is in the exact opposite direction of Mount
Gamila. That’s probably why they chose to poison you with this herb, Lobelia. If we don’t head
back toward the fortress, then we go south to the Ravensara,” Xena concluded.

“No, Xena. You said it yourself, you’ve never walked away from your debts.”

“Don’t you see? None of that matters now. We go south,” she said in such a way leaving no room
for discussion.

Xena, still kneeling in front of Gabrielle, pulled the bard into a close embrace. They held each
other for a long moment before Xena released Gabrielle and wiped away both their tears. They
both stood, and Xena looked to the south at a peak in the distance with snow still covering it’s

“We go together,” the warrior reminded the bard as they turned left and took a trail heading down into the Pappagos Valley and stretching up onto Mount Eleni.


To Be Continued...Part 2


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