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.
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!
Chapter 10 Love Conquers All
Xenas focus drifted further and further away the longer she walked. A dulling
ache spread from
the muscles behind Xenas knees and up through her thighs, worsening with each step she took.
As the warrior walked, she tried to keep her eyes centered on the mountain trail, but painfully her
eyes would drop to the still body she carried in her arms, and her grief would overwhelm her
A tedious hunger pressed up from the warriors emptied stomach, forcing Xena to
stopping to make camp. In the end though, it was the thought of sitting alone beside Gabrielles
body that pushed her to forge ahead. She refused to stop even long enough to refill the waterskin,
afraid that if she did stop, she would be unable to go on. The surrounding mountains began to
subtly change, as she crossed from Mt. Eleni to Mt. Gamila. The territory became more familiar
as she remembered a time when she had been here before.
Day again turned to night, but the warrior refused to stop, even as the path
disappeared in the
waning evening light. It was the solid weight of the bard in her arms that she focused on, letting it
purposefully guide her through the painful chill wind that blew through the pass between the
peaks. Why was she doing this, trekking through the mountains without rest, food, or water, she
questioned herself. Did she want to die here in the mountains? The thought actually brought a
moment of comfort, but a vow had been made that had to be fulfilled first.
Slowly, the time passed until the suns first rays could be seen rising over the
peak to the east.
Xena felt the air warm, if only slightly with the rising of the sun, and she quickened her steps,
knowing the hall of the Mountain Kings was close. Her steady walk had dwindled to a swaying
stumble. She felt her foot strike a rock in mid stride, throwing her brutally to her knees. She clung
to Gabrielles body, whose warmth had long ago been gone. Xena laboriously placed one foot
under her, and rose, shakily. She took a series of deep breaths, and continued to walk until she
stood before a magnificent sheer cliff, rising above her in a tower of rock.
The warrior paced to the base of the sheer wall, and found a familiar Acacias bush
opening in the rock. She slid past the leafy foliage into the cavern entrance, furiously blinking her
eyes to find her night vision. The ceiling of the cave brushed at Xenas head, forcing her to walk
slightly bowed over. Several steps later, as the light from the opening faded away, she felt the
ceiling open up, and she knew she was in the inner chamber. She bent down on one knee, and lay
Gabrielles body gently down on the rocky floor of the cavern. She reached around to the pack
she wore on her shoulder, and reached knowing hands into the pouch pulling out flint. She struck
the flint, and a sparking ember flared, illuminating the grand chamber. She deftly lit a torch leaning
against the cavern wall, and held it over her head, taking in the full enormity of the room.
A near perfect circular cavity had been formed, probably by a past tribe who had coined
themselves the Mountain Kings. Xena quickly perused the chamber, and turned around, dropping
down on one knee in front of her friends body. She caressed the bards cheek with the back of
her hand, noting the hollow cheeks, and the dark circles under her eyes. With fresh tears welling
in her eyes, Xena exhaled heavily, and rose again.
The warrior blinked back the moisture that had pooled in her eyes, and squinted,
looking for a
distinct boulder. In the corner of the room she saw it, untouched and unmoved since she had last
seen it. With sure steps she crossed the chamber and stood before an irregular shaped rock
protruding from the ground. She reached behind the rock, and moved her fingers, feeling for
something she would know once she touched it. A relieved sigh escaped her lips, as she wrapped
her fingers around the leather hilt of a heavy sword. She pulled the sword from the crevice behind
the rock, and let the flame from the torch glisten on the medal of the blade. It was perfectly
formed, without the ugly scars of battle hindering its beauty. A single crimson jewel adorned the
sword at its hilt, shining as if from within. Xena marveled at the sword she had held in her hand
so long ago, and now held again.
It is done, she thought to herself. All that is left now is to take the sword back and
place it into
the hands of King Aimon. She looked again to the still form of Gabrielles body lying on the
ground across the cavern. Even in death, the young woman had such an inner light that would
never be extinguished. Xena took the swords hilt in her hands, and pulled her arms up over head,
driving the sword down until its blade rested in the ground. She released her grip, and stepped
away, staring at the sword as it wavered slightly forward and back, standing upright as if a soldier
at attention. She tore her eyes from its shimmering edge, and walked back across the chamber.
Slowly, she dropped again to her knees, and brushed the bards bangs away from her
squeezed her eyes shut at the feel of Gabrielles pale cold skin. Im so sorry, the warrior wept
as she held her hands over her eyes. Sobs erupted and echoed into the darkness, like crying
ghosts. Xena wiped angrily at her face, and sniffled back further tears. I cant do this without
you. You know that! she pleaded to the still body.
She had never in all her life felt as weak and empty as at this very moment. It
enveloped her and
pulled her under into a foggy existence that could only barely numb the pain erupting in her chest.
A savage ache flowed through her weary legs from the days of endless travel. Involuntarily, Xena
dropped from her knees, and crumbled limply to the ground beside the bard. The warrior placed
her hand to Gabrielles cheek, and slowly stroked her skin. Memories flowed unbidden through
her mind at the touch.
Xena, look. They made me Queen, the young bard laughed sadly.
Me...the little girl you
found in Poteidaia. Gabrielle sobered suddenly, reverently touching the warriors sarcophagus.
Its time that I let you go. See, I...I have to find my own life, just as you were searching for
yours. You know, there are two kinds of tears...tears for those who leave you, and tears for those
who you never let go. And I wont say goodbye to you, Xena, Gabrielle whispered. Because
well be together again...one day. She gently brought the warriors chakram to her lips, and let
the cool feel of the metal grace her skin, as she grasped onto the hope she would always hold, to
see Xena again.
The treasured recollection brought a warm smile to the lips of the warrior, as she
bards words. Well be together again...one day, she repeated to herself, as silent tears slid
down the bridge of her nose. Another memory flashed in her mind.
Xena knelt beside Gabrielle, cleaning a wounded mans injuries with fresh
water. Beside her
Gabrielle sat in an uneasy silence. I let my hatred blind me to everything, the warrior stated
with pain in her voice.
Without looking up, the bard answered, Sometimes the past can do that. Xena,
if I had been
through what youve been through...
No, Xena interrupted suddenly. No, you understand hatred, but you have never given into it.
You dont know how much I love...that. She had come so close to saying the words, I love you.
Xena moved her hands from Gabrielles cheek to her soft lips. I can say it
now. Its my first
thought every morning. They are words that beg to be said over and over again. I love you. The
words came so easily to her tongue now, and she breathed heavily at the brutal emotions raging
through her mind.
Xena and Gabrielle stood on a hill over looking a temple, knowing that in moments
one of them
would die. Xena knew she had to kill Hope, but hated that any guilt of that would be on the
bards shoulders. More than that though, she hated the thought of leaving Gabrielle, even
knowing that she had no choice.
Listen to me, Xena said, pulling Gabrielle to face her. A
lots happened to us over the past
year, and there were times when we were both very confused. But I want you to know that I still
think you are the best thing that ever happened to me. You gave my life meaning and joy, and
you will be a part of me forever.
Forever, Xena whispered. Another memory floated in front of her eyes as if
she were watching
herself from afar. Bitter sweet words filled her mind.
The bard looked so sick, and weak as she called on her last reserves to convince the
fierce determination came into her eyes. I know that I'm going to die. I accept that. Why cant
you? A melancholy came over Gabrielles face as she remembered the first moment she had
met the Warrior Princess and the truth of what she now faced. A long time ago, I accepted the
consequences of our life together, that it might one day come to this. It has. Im not afraid, she
The bards words broke Xenas heart, and she made a vow to herself then
and there. You
always said that I was the brave one. Look at you now. If this is to be our destiny, lets see it out
together. Even in death, Gabrielle, I will never leave you.
Xenas own words came back to her as she lay on the ground, her gaze fixed on the
Death will never separate us, Gabrielle. I promise you. We will be together again. She let her
eyes close, and she could feel herself becoming lost in the first moments of sleep when a bright
light pierced her closed eye lids. She struggled to open her eyes, and when she did she saw the
source of the illumination. The sword of the Mountain Kings shone as the sun, so bright was its
The warrior put her hand up over her eyes to block the glare of the white light
emanating from the
blade of the sword. She rolled up on her elbow, and was mesmerized by its glow. Slowly, she
rose up to her knees, and then forced herself to stand. A black silhouette could be seen
somewhere behind the sword, but Xena could not make out the form, even as the silhouette came
closer. Light flashed onto a familiar face, as the warrior saw the man from her dream. The one
who called himself, Love.
He was dressed as she remembered, but a smile lit up his face. He continued to come
until he stood before her, his hands clasped behind his back. You surprise me, Warrior.
Who are you? she managed to mumble in shock.
You know who I am. What you dont know is why Im here. A very long
time ago, two women
took me into their lives and changed me forever. They made one mistake though, they gave into
the belief that death separated them from the other. It wasnt death that separated one from the
other, it was only their belief in their separation that divided them. Faith is a powerful force, Xena,
as you know. It is your faith in your love that will save your friend.
Xena gasped with the words, and took a trembling step forward. Im dreaming
In dreams, there is truth.
You can save my friend? Xena asked, desperately.
No, Xena. I can not save your friend, but you can. Your love has already saved
her, Love said,
as he motioned behind her.
Xena turned her head, looking to Gabrielles body. It was still and lifeless, and
void of breath. A
small hint of movement though, stirred the bards fingers. Xena moved toward the bard, all her
attention focused on that one hand, willing it to move again. Startlingly it did, and Xena let a
relieved laugh bubble up. She dropped down beside the bard, and stroked her hair, whispering
words of comfort and love into her ear.
As if in answer, Gabrielles chest rose in a valiant struggle for life. The bard
inhaled a deep breath
of air, filling her chest. She held it for a moment as if relishing the feel of oxygen for the first time,
and then released it in choking spasms. Gabrielles eyes flew open in panic, as she coughed and
sputtered to pull air into her lungs.
Xena gently swept the bard into her arms, and lifted her up to rest in her lap.
Its ok, she
whispered. Just breathe.
Gabrielles sputtering attempts to breathe soon calmed to quiet gasps.
Xena? she asked in a
Im here, the warrior reassured.
Xena thought about the best answer to that question. Im not sure,
Gabrielle. How are you
Im so tired, Xena. I dont think I can move, the bard whispered
as she pulled herself into a ball,
and buried her body into the warriors in an attempt to melt into her skin.
Xena let tears of pure joy run freely down her face as she held Gabrielle closely. The
looked up through her tears at the man still standing over them, and could only voice one
Only the purest love can stand before the sword, and be healed. It was a weapon
given to the
Mountain Kings long ago, and its one true gift is the discernment of absolute love. It is this gift
that is passed from King to King. It is the source of their power, not an unearthly power, but a
wisdom that is passed from ruler to ruler. Do not be fooled though, the sword alone did not heal
your friend. It was your belief in your eternity together with Gabrielle that pulled her through. I
can not say more, except to tell you that you have fulfilled more than your own promise to your
friend. You have fulfilled a promise of long ago, and in honoring that promise you have set me
free. And youre right you know, the two of you will be together even in death.
With a final bow of his head, the man disappeared and the light of the sword diminished
the light of the torch lit the cavern chamber. Xena looked back down to the fair hair of the bard,
and placed numerous kisses on her head. She lifted Gabrielle up, until she could look in her eyes,
and then she released a happy breath.
Dont you ever do that to me again, she demanded through a relieved smile.
Gabrielle scrunched her face up as soft sobs shook her body. I tried so hard,
Xena. I tried to wait
for you, but I was so tired.
Shhh, the warrior hushed the bard, as she put her finger to Gabrielles lips. Im here now.
Gabrielle placed her cheek to the warriors chest, and breathed in the familiar
scent of leather. She
had been painfully unaware of the last day and a half, but she felt that from somewhere she had
heard Xenas words.
Well always be together, Xena.
The warrior let a delighted grin form on her lips. I know, she whispered in answer. I know.
Soon, Xena could feel the quiet rhythmic breathing of Gabrielle on the skin at her
throat. It was a
beautiful feeling, just the beat of the bards heart, and the warmth from her breath. She tenderly
pulled herself from under the bard, and lay her on the ground. She spared a moment to take in the
beauty of Gabrielle, her warm skin, once again touched with the flush of life. Her delicate
features, innocent and wise all at once.
Xena picked herself off the ground, and walked back across the cavern to stand beside
She gazed, bewilderedly at the simple blade. With gratitude she ran her fingers along the hilt, and
said a silent thank you.
The warrior was devastatingly tired, with a hunger that had grown bone deep. She
needs in order of importance, and without argument she knew that her need to hold Gabrielle was
the most pressing. She built a small fire from the sticks and twigs lying about the cavern, and
pulled the blankets from her saddle bag. The warrior lay the bedroll on the ground, and lifted the
bard onto it beside her. She covered them both with the blanket, and wrapped her arms
protectively around Gabrielle. She breathed deeply of the bards golden hair that tickled her face.
The familiar scent that was Gabrielle assaulted her senses, and she fell asleep content in the
knowledge that they were again together.
Chapter 11 Time Heals All Wounds
Xena awoke to the silent presence of an all consuming darkness. The small fire had died
probably candlemarks before, as even its warmth had faded away. Feeling her way in the dark,
the warrior pulled herself out from under the limp form of Gabrielles body. She stood with hands
outstretched, feeling for the familiar surface of the cavern wall until her fingers brushed a
protruding rock. Xena bent down nimbly and traced the rocky floor until her hand struck the small
torch that she had discarded earlier. She continued searching in the dark until she found the small
piece of flint. With an expert hand, the warrior struck the flint and a warm, welcoming flare of fire
blazed from the head of the torch.
Xena carried it across to the small circle of ashes from last nights fire, and
drove the end of the
torch into the solid cave floor, letting its flame light the area as she worked to rebuild the fire.
The warrior looked to the bard as she worked, watching her breathe with such ease. The
inconceivable events of the last two days had left Xena feeling powerfully overwhelmed, and
unable to understand its effects. When she reminded herself that Gabrielle had died, had ceased
to breathe, the thought never completed itself, as if its mere notion would drown her in grief
again. She shook the unwelcome thoughts from her mind, and watched as her neat layering of
sticks caught fire and blazed cheerily.
Now dinner, Xena thought to herself as she walked to the saddle bags that were still
the occupied bed roll. With renewed energy, the warrior pulled her hunting knife from the bag,
intent on providing a generous meal for Gabrielle. With an affectionate glance, Xena pulled the
wool blanket further up over the bards shoulders, and proceeded down the long hallway that lead
to the cavern opening.
Little more than a candlemark had passed before Xena trudged back into the cave,
holding up two freshly killed white haired rabbits. As she walked into the open chamber, a smile
lit up her face as she saw Gabrielle sitting up, hugging the blanket around her shoulders.
Hey you, Xena said, cheerfully, unable to hold back the joy she felt at
seeing the bard alive and
Hey, where did you go?
I got us breakfast, the warrior answered with a sparkle in her blue eyes as
she held the game up
Im starving, the bard said, appreciatively.
As Xena knelt before the fire, she stole glances at her friend, trying to gauge her
do you feel?
Honestly? Gabrielle questioned.
I feel so weak. I can barely keep my head up.
I know what you need. Food, and rest, Xena offered with an understanding
smile. A silence
answered her as she cleaned and skinned the rabbits, followed by a shocked gasp. Without
though, Xena quickly stood, and rushed to Gabrielles side. What is it? she asked, in a panic.
Is that the sword? Gabrielle questioned, her eyes fixed on the sword which
still rose up from the
ground, as if proudly showing itself for inspection.
Xena exhaled heavily, and slumped to sit down. Dont do that! she insisted.
Its gorgeous, the bard stated in wonder.
Xenas eyes followed Gabrielles, until they both looked at the sword with
awe on their faces,
each for different reasons.
You found it?
The warrior gave the bard a sideways glance with a question in her mind. What do
remember about last night?
Only waking up here.
I must have blacked out, and then I remember hearing voices, and I woke up,
Xena debated what she should say to the bard, but decided this was not the time to tell
everything. Too much was happening too fast to grasp fully even for the warrior. The important
thing right now is for you to get better.
I feel better already, Gabrielle answered with a tired smile.
You scared me, the warrior said through a weary sigh, as she stared amazed
at the miracle in
front of her.
Xena, I dont mean to interrupt this moment were having, but I think I
may pass out if I dont
get something in my stomach soon.
Xena broke her gaze, as her stomach readily agreed that food was the priority of the
warrior cleaned and prepared the rabbits to cook, and placed them over the fire, spitted on a large
stick. As the smell of roasting meat filled the small cavern, Xena scooted across the floor and
crouched before Gabrielle, who still held the wool blanket around her slim shoulders, making her
appear vulnerable and frail.
The warrior stretched her hand out, and brushed the bards bangs back off her
her warm skin as she did so. It was a delight to Xenas soul to feel the warmth of life on
Gabrielles skin rather than the cold pallor of death. The warrior blinked away the threatening
tears, and moved her fingers down to the bards neck, feeling the strong regular rhythm beating
under her touch. There was still a darkness beneath Gabrielles eyes, and a weary fatigue evident
on her face, but her skin shone as if glowing, and her eyes were alive with a vivacity that lit up the
Gabrielle looked into Xenas eyes as they searched over the bards body, a
concern etched in her
brow. The bard saw the desperation and the grief in her pale blue eyes, and she wondered what
could have transpired the last two days to haunt the warrior so much. Xena, her soft voice
brought the warriors attention to the bards eyes, tell me what happened.
Xena sank back to sit on the ground before Gabrielle, and she looked away, refusing to
up. She shook her head, and the whispered sound of her breathing was all that could be heard.
Please, the bard gently implored.
At the petition, Xena raised her gaze to meet the womans she so loved. Never had
she been able
to deny the bard. A flood of memories tortured her, as she saw again in her mind, the lifeless body
of her partner lying alone in a small cold den. I didnt get to you in time, Gabrielle, Xena
admitted, with a guilty shock running down her spine. A chill chased the shock across her skin,
and the warrior shivered involuntarily. A look of confusion crossed the bards face at the words,
and she furrowed her brows in puzzlement. When I got back to you with the Ravensara, it was
too late. The warrior couldnt bring herself to say the word...dead.
Gabrielle shuddered as she unconsciously pulled the blanket tighter around herself.
she whispered the words to herself, letting the realization sink into her awareness. But how...?
she began, looking down at herself
Xena slowly turned her head toward the sword, which still rested in the dirt floor of
Lets just say I firmly believe in miracles, she answered, with a curious sense of wonder.
Gabrielles eyes misted over in a daze, as she continued to stare at the sword in disbelief.
Hey, Xena called, seeing the absent look in the bards eyes.
Youre here now. Thats whats
important. Right? she asked in an attempt to regain Gabrielles attention.
How did we get here, from Mt. Eleni to Mt. Gamila? Gabrielle asked, unable
to register what
she was being told.
I carried you here.
That Gabrielle comprehended. Why doesnt that surprise me? she asked,
with a strange look in
her green eyes.
You came back to me, Xena whispered in awe, sniffling back unshed tears.
Im sorry that I ever left you, Gabrielle said, as she reached a hand
out of her blanket and
intertwined her fingers with the warriors.
Just dont do it again, Xena said, more desperately than she had intended.
The smell of the woodsmoke from the fire brought the two women out of their intense
contemplation of each other, and Xen turned to pull the well done meat off the spit. She carefully
cut the meat into thin strips, and placed them on a wooden plate. By the time she was done, the
plate was piled with the meat, and Xena collected the cooking herbs from her pouch. She
sprinkled the meat with rosemary and garlic, her mouth already salivating at the promise of food.
The warrior carried the plate and a full waterskin across the short distance to sit
They ate voraciously, leaving the plate empty and their stomachs finally full. A heavy sleepiness
fell over the bard, and she leaned over, laying her head in the warriors lap, where she fell instantly
asleep. Contented and tired herself, Xena ran her fingers tenderly through the soft tendrils of
golden hair that fell across her lap.
I am dreaming, she whispered to herself. Oh, please dont let me be dreaming.
She continued to stroke Gabrielles hair, until her fingers moved to caress the
soft skin on the
bards face. A tingle quivered up her fingers at the light touch, and she let her head fall back
against the cave wall, savoring this moment as a memory she would never forget. Soon she too
Gabrielle awoke with a start, finding herself in darkness save for the small light that
could be seen
from the glowing embers of the dying fire. She shivered involuntarily, and lifted herself from
Xenas lap, stretching her neck to loosen the cramp pulling at her sore muscles. She let the
blanket fall off her shoulders, and rose to stand. A wave of dizziness passed through the bard, and
she put her hands out, to catch her should she fall.
With careful movements, Gabrielle walked over to the fire, and threw fresh sticks onto
the pile of
ash. The sparked with life, and a warm luminescence rose to light the cavern. Out of the corner of
one eye, she saw the hilt of the Mountain Kings sword rising from the earth. The thought of
being in the presence of such a power sent a shiver of trepidation over her skin, bringing chill
bumps to the surface. The bard turned abruptly, and found her way down the narrow hallway that
led to the outer world.
The light of a new morning stung Gabrielles weary eyes, and she squinted, placing
her hand over
I didnt get to you in time, Gabrielle.
Xenas words floated into the bards consciousness. I died, she
whispered to herself in a fearful
sense of awe.
She felt rather than saw the presence of the warrior come up behind her. Strong warm
settled around the bards shoulders pulling her back into the safety of Xenas body. The two
women looked out at the beauty of a fresh day, with new eyes.
Im so sorry, Gabrielle, she heard the warrior whisper softly into her ear.
Gabrielle wiggled around until she was facing Xena, where she saw a pair of moist blue
what? she managed to ask.
The warrior swallowed hard, refusing to cry here and now. I let you go, her voice cracked.
No, Xena, the bard asserted. You saved me, or else why am I here right now?
Xena couldnt produce words to answer. Her emotions overwhelmed her as she bowed her head.
Every moment from here on is a gift to me. Dont apologize for that,
Xena. She cast her eyes to
the clear blue skies, and motioned with her chin. Everything seems so new to me, Gabrielle
turned back to look at the warrior, adding, ...so beautiful. She reached out gently and ran her
forefinger down the warriors cheek, until it rested beneath her chin. The bard forced her partner
to look her in the eyes, refusing to release her until she was heard. I am alive! she declared with
a brilliant smile. Maybe I shouldnt be, but I am. Thats cause for celebration, not mourning.
Xena could hold her tears no longer, as she saw the familiar fire flash in her
bards eyes. They
were not tears of sadness however, but tears of an all consuming joy. Youre alive, she
whispered through a smile.
Gabrielle grinned warmly at the warriors response. She reached up, placing a hand
on either side
of Xenas face, and placed her lips softly on the warriors. Gabrielle threw her arms around Xena,
and burrowed into the warmth of the warriors embrace. Xena took a deep breath of the cool
mountain air, and let her eyes close, feeling only the strong arms that enfolded her in their love.
Chapter 12 Its A Poor Heart That Never Rejoices
After having Xenas constant coddling attention for the last two days Gabrielle
felt ready to travel
back to King Aimons Palace. As they packed up camp early, Xena pulled the Mountain Kings
sword from the soil of the cave, and slid it into place at her belt. Gabrielle packed up their
supplies, including the herb packets, and the blankets.
The sooner we leave this place, the better, Gabrielle commented as they
worked. It feels a little
too eerie in here after everything you told me.
I dont know, Gabrielle, Xena remarked as she looked around the room.
happened here, she said meaningfully, her eyes falling on the bard.
The two women shared a moment that neither wanted to end, but finally Xena gathered the
and bedrolls. King Aimon may not have much time...well have to hurry.
Im ready, Gabrielle said with a nod as she followed Xena down the
long corridor that led out
of the cavern. As a last minute thought, Xena looked back one last time at the now empty cave
where they had spent the last few days. Here somehow a miracle had been granted, and in some
weird twist of fate, she was able to walk out of this cavern with Gabrielle at her side. The pain of
that realization hit her fiercely, as a wave of grief washed over her. She had almost lost the one
person in her life that she loved most.
I am alive! Gabrielle declared with a brilliant smile. Maybe I
shouldnt be, but I am. Thats
cause for celebration, not mourning.
Gabrielles words floated to Xena in a tender memory. Thank you, she
whispered, unsure of
who it was she was thanking.
As Xena closed the distance between the brilliant light of the sun and the darkness she
behind in the cavern, she found herself filled with a new sense of appreciation for the love she had
found in Gabrielle. She had come so close to losing her, only to find her again. Destiny is a
strange partner indeed, she told herself as she joined the bard on the ridge overlooking the Pindos
The warrior lifted her hand and let it settle gently on Gabrielles shoulder. They
stood, if only for
a brief moment, letting a new days sun shine fully on them. Are you ready? Gabrielle finally
Im ready, Xena answered as she took one last moment to hold the bard
close. Slowly they
began the descent from Mt. Tapigo towards King Aimons palace. The journey back, while taking
less time, was much more gentle on the bard than the trek up the mountain. As the altitude
decreased, so Gabrielles breathing came easier. The trails widened, and the elevation decreased,
and within a couple of days the bard and warrior found themselves a day away from the palace.
How are you feeling? Xena asked that night as they lay under the shelter of
a thick stand of
Good, Gabrielle answered honestly, as she turned on her side to face the warrior. And you?
Xena turned questioning eyes on the bard. Im fine.
Youve been quiet these last few days, Gabrielle mentioned softly.
The warrior lay on her back, her arms resting under her head, as she gazed at the dark
starless night. Im sorry, Gabrielle.
Nothing, she answered, her voice wavering on the word.
Xena, I know better. Please tell me, the bard pleaded.
Thats just it though, nothings wrong. I keep asking myself where
would I be right now if you
were gone? And yet youre here, right beside me. Words escape me when I look at you now.
Gabrielle smiled gently, and reached out a hand to brush the warriors dark bangs
forehead. Ill find the words for both of us then.
You always do, Xena whispered intently.
Gabrielle lay her head down on the warriors shoulder, and pulled the heavy
blanket up close
around her chin forbidding the cold to invade their warmth.
Chapter 13 From Life Unto Death Unto Life Again
Time had seemed to pass strangely since Xena and Gabrielle had left King Aimons
now fifteen days later, they stood again before the great palace walls. Only fifteen days, and yet
time had ceased and commenced again. So much had transpired in that period causing them to
feel as if they had been traversing the mountains for two years instead of two weeks. The bard had
died and now lived again, and the warrior was now a faithful believer in miracles, such a powerful
transformation for such a short period of time.
As Xena and Gabrielle approached the guarded gate, they were immediately escorted to
walls, through the aromatic garden, newly blooming with the late warmth of autumn, and through
the antechamber that lead to the inner hallways that tangled throughout the palace in a web of
pathways. Not a word was exchanged as the bard and warrior obediently followed their guide
through the narrow passageways.
Finally they came to a great heavy mahogany door, with elaborate designs carved into
hardwood. The guard placed one hand on the brass handle, but before he opened the door, he
looked to them with the bright eyes of youth. Our King grows weary, but I wanted to take this
moment to personally thank you for retrieving the sword. A civil war is at hand I fear, but with
the promise of a new King, I believe the war may be avoided. His face lit up at the words, and
Xena furrowed her brows. Her cynical nature rarely allowed her the luxury of truly believing in
the purity of the hearts of men, but she believed that here she had found a truly unique people. A
people that believed in their king, and a man who believed in his people, a rare find indeed.
Xenas face cleared suddenly. I have only repaid a debt that was long ago
owed to the King, the
warrior said with a small gentle smile on her lips.
The young guard returned the smile, and opened the wooden door fully, revealing a stark
room that smelled of herbs and sickness. Xena took a step forward, brushing past the guard, while
Gabrielle followed quietly behind. Her face had fallen at the image before her, several morbid
faces circled the large bed located in the center of the immense bedroom, including the visage of
Markos, pale and faint, as if he himself were sick. Lying immobile under a curtain of blankets lay
the deathly still form of the King, his eyes shut to the world. His face was ashen and clammy,
absent of color save for the darkened purple patches under his swollen eyes. The only sign that
King Aimon still lived was the constant twitching animating his long bony hands.
As Xena entered the room, the faces of the onlookers turned toward her, and a hint of
seemed to spread over their skin. Markos eyes lit up, and he took a tentative step forward,
disbelief evident in his dark brown eyes. Xena?
The question was plain in his voice. In answer, Xena pulled the sword of the Mountain
her belt, letting the light from the open window and the glowing candles reflect brilliantly off the
blade. It seemed to shine as if from within, illuminating the room with a new light that spoke of a
revived hope. The warrior crossed the room, her eyes focused on the pallor of the ill King. Xena
turned the sword, letting the point rest on the polished hardwood floor, while she bent slowly, and
came to rest before the bed on one knee.
King Aimon? she whispered softly. When no response came, she put forward
her hand, and
took one fragile hand in her own. King Aimon, you must awaken, she said more urgently.
His eyes slowly opened until they were mere slits with a twinkling green shining from
have waited for you, his coarse voice hissed only loud enough for the warrior to hear.
Did you doubt me? Xena whispered with a sad smile upon her face.
I have learned through the wisdom of a long life to never doubt the infamous
he answered mischievously.
I have brought you the sword.
As I knew you would, King Aimon responded with a resolute confidence.
If there were a way,
my friend, I would thank you, but words will never be enough for what youve returned to this
Xena looked over her shoulder at the bard who stood quietly in the corner of the room
with compassionate yearning eyes. Their glances locked in a knowing gaze, and a gentle smile
extended from the warriors lips to her azure eyes. Finally Xena broke the intense stare, and
turned back to the King. You dont have to say anything at all, it is the sword who has spoken
for us. I am the one who is grateful beyond explanation to you...and to the sword, she said at
last, trying to express her meaning through their connected gaze.
And to Love, he added in a conspiratorial whisper.
The warriors eyes grew round at the word. What?
Who do you think gave the sword to the Mountain Kings?
I dont understand, Xenas unsettled mind tried to comprehend.
Long ago, in answer to the pleas of a dying nation, a man came forward and
offered a token of
peace to the leaders of that nation. It was a simple gift, a modest sword. The leaders sent the man
away, ridiculing the stranger for believing that a common sword could unite a declining people,
but the sword was anything but common.
A young man was told to take the sword to the barracks, to be stored in a weapons
rack with the
other arms. The boy did as he was told, but along the way the sword began to glow with a life of
its own. He dropped the sword, and attempted to flee, but standing in his path was the strange
man who had offered the gift.
Who are you? the youth asked frightfully.
That is the wrong question. The correct question would be who are you?
Im just a simple messenger, a courier really. Im no one of import, the boy insisted.
From here on you will no longer be just a simple messenger but the force that
will reunite your
people. Not only will you bring your fallen nation together, but you will be their leader as the
The words held such significance, and yet their meaning would not cohere in his
mind. Im not
a King, my father is the tanner, my mother a simple seamstress. Im not of royal blood, the
young man insisted.
It is not royal blood that makes a King, but rather the wisdom of your heart.
chosen, your destiny lies before you, now the choice is yours.
The stranger disappeared as quickly as he had appeared, and the ethereal light that
inhabited the sword only moments before returned the blade to its natural sheen. The youth
retrieved the sword from the ground, and ran back to tell the leaders of all that had happened,
and all that he had been told. The men laughed at the boy, saying that foolishness not wisdom
seemed to follow the sword.
The young man walked away, dragging the sword behind, letting his hopes blow away
cold mountain wind. Word of the young man and his sword spread through the nation like fire
through a parched prairie. Desperate for hope, and the prospect of a leader that would unite the
divided nation, the people of the mountain came forth with a new urgency, that the leaders
appoint a King.
The rightful bloodline of the King had been lost in the civil war with the royalty
into the far corners of Greece. Now a King had to be appointed. The council of leaders fought
each other mercilessly for the power of King, and the people grew impatient and restless with the
internal conflict, until the boy came forward. In such a short time he seemed a different soul, as
he stood with a stalwart confidence, and a patient wisdom that spoke of maturity and truth.
I will be your leader, the young man announced to the people, if
you will have me, he added
And the people did indeed want the young man as their new King, as they came
together in a
surge of unanimity in support of the youth. The council soon disbanded and the nation of the
Mountain King came together forming a single kingdom.
A grand ceremony was held celebrating the coronation of their new leader, King
Nikos, the first
of the Mountain Kings.
The stranger who came to Nikos so long ago was Love. He has been with us ever
since, if not in
body then in his faithful presence. Love seems to touch all who touch the sword, and I know
without a doubt that he has touched you, King Aimon finished with a knowing wink.
It was real then...what I saw? Xena asked incredulously, accepting for the
first time what had
Love is as real as we allow him to be, King Aimon answered cryptically.
Now we must hurry,
for my time is nearly over here. Give me the sword.
Xena complied and handed the sword gently over to the weakened hands of the King. He
sword carefully, and steadied it by holding its hilt with both hands. Come forward, my son, the
King demanded. Markos stepped forward as he squared his shoulders and set his jaw against the
emotion he felt welling up from within him. He knelt before his father at the side of the bed, and
placed his hands over his fathers.
Soon, Markos, you will be King, and in doing so I place on you my hopes and
our people. It is a heavy burden, but one that I know you will grow under. Take the wisdom from
this sword, and I hope that I have been a guide to you on leadership and the power of your
command here. Rule wisely and fairly, but most of all compassionately, and always remember that
I lived to serve these people, they did not live to serve me. I love you, my son, and above all else I
believe in you.
Thank you father, for your faith and trust in me. I will not disappoint you, that
I promise, the
young Prince assured his King.
I know, King Aimon answered, as his eyes grew heavy and his breath turned
expelled a last great breath before his chest fell, and did not rise again. He stared sightlessly at the
ceiling, as his son reached out and closed his open eyes.
Markos let his fathers hands drop from the hilt of the sword, as he stood and
held the sword high
above his head. A single tear fell unchecked down his cheek, and he lowered the sword, letting its
tip touch the floor as the warrior had only moments before. He turned to Xena who stood at
Gabrielles side, her arm draped protectively over the bards shoulder. Thank you, he voiced
sadly. Tell me, is there anything I can do to repay you. I know that my father would have liked
nothing more in his last moments than to grant you his favor.
The warrior shook her head as she looked to the body of the former King and said,
Our debts are
paid to each other.
Please then, stay here with us for a few more days.
I wish we could, Xena said, as she looked to Gabrielle, but I have something that I must do.
I understand, King Markos replied kindly. I too have much to do in
these coming days. You
have returned the sword to my people, and in doing so you have allowed the Mountain Kings line
to survive, which will unite the people together again, though I fear a war with King Wryan may
still be unavoidable.
Maybe we can help each other, the warrior answered with the sly arch of an eyebrow.
Chapter 14 Sweet Revenge
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, the messenger had said coolly, as
if informing the warrior of something much simpler than the poisoning of her bard.
Tell King Wryan, Ill be paying him a visit, Xena had sworn through her blinding anger.
A promise is a promise, Xena told herself as she crouched behind a broad
bramble of hedges
that extended around King Wryans manor on Mt. Tapigo. Convincing Gabrielle that this was
necessary had been the most difficult part. The bard had fought the idea relentlessly, but in the end
it was the pain in Xenas eyes that had persuaded her to allow the warrior to go.
Just tell me that youre not doing this out of revenge, Xena. Look me in the
eyes and tell me,
the bard had said as they parted.
I cant do that Gabrielle, the warrior had answered honestly.
Why? Gabrielles voice sounded so hurt as she asked the question.
I tell myself that I go because its the greater good. This man threatens
the peace of a nation, but
inside I know that its personal, Xena answered almost apologetically. And I also know that
indulging in my need for revenge will only make me the savage one. Ive heard it said that when a
person takes revenge he becomes even with his enemy but in letting go of the desire for revenge
he will become superior. So why cant I do that...just let go?
Dont think that you have to go for me. Weve done all we can for these
people. I long to see the
grasses of the western plains...out of these mountains. Cant we just go? There was a pleading to
her voice that left Xena shaken and unsure.
In that moment Xena thought back to her conversation with the bard over 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.
Maybe it was true after all. The one she loved most in all the world was asking one
thing of her,
to just once walk away, and as much as her heart tore at her next words, she couldnt seem to
stop them from coming.
I have to do this Gabrielle. This chapter of my life will never close until I can
Wryan. Please understand, she implored of the small bard. Her only answer was the down cast
pools of green that refused to meet her eyes.
Now she waited at dusk for the time when the guards would be relieved, a moments
vulnerability. Once she could slip inside, she would head straight for the manors dining room
where King Wryan was said to be hosting a dinner party in celebration of the death of his long
time rival, King Aimon. There she would challenge the king in front of his faithful partisans. She
hadnt planned beyond that...she hadnt needed to.
Now as the sun settled behind the crest of the mountain, the guard at the southern gate
back into the shadows. He spoke with another guard, an animated discussion from the looks of it,
and it was at that moment that Xena took advantage and moved from the shelter of the brambles
to the shadow of the manor wall. The gate entrance was twelve feet wide at the least, and the
guards stood at the far end of the passage in heated argument. As a cat slinks in at night unseen,
so Xena slipped past the guard shrouded in a cloak of grace. She moved quietly through the
darkened hallways. The torches that lined the way had as of yet not been illuminated. Xena smiled
at her own fortune, and continued through the passageways that King Markos had outlined for
her. The festive sounds of the celebration came swiftly to her ears now, and she pulled her sword
from its sheath on her back in ready.
Two guards stood at an open doorway that led to the dining room. They stood with their
shoulders slightly slumped as if jaded that they were forced to stand watch as others participated
in festivities they had not been invited to join. In a lithe quick movement Xena had both guards
unconscious at her feet. She stepped over them agilely and found herself at the back of the large
dining room just as Markos has said she would. Her eyes scanned the room, and narrowed when
they came to rest on the center of the attention of the room, a tall broad man with reddish brown
hair and a full beard that had begun to gray. His eyes were mere slits appearing black and cold
from Xenas vantage point across the room. She resheathed her sword and stepped slowly and
purposefully across the floor. Eyes began to fall on her, shocked and frightened. Some thought to
laugh at the absurd thought that a warrior would dare walk in before the King unannounced. They
were soon silenced though as word began to spread in a hushed whisper through the grandiose
room that this warrior was the woman known as Xena.
Finally she stood before King Wryan surrounded by strangers, anyone of which who could
the guards that were rampant throughout the manor. She stood confidently, with a feral grin upon
her lips. Finally the King turned at the sudden quiet of the crowd, and found his eyes locked on
those of the warrior. Who are you? he demanded of the stranger in his court.
Your messenger didnt have a problem knowing who I was, Xena said calmly.
Messenger? he asked, puzzled, but his eyes lit when he realized who stood
before him. Ah,
Xena the Warrior Princess has graced me with the honor of her presence. I am humbled by your
import of me.
I come to challenge you, Xena said simply, noticing the flinch of the man nearest the King.
Challenge me...for what? This isnt over that silly incident with the
poisoned meal is it? As Im
sure my messenger told you, I meant no harm to the girl. Im sure even now as we speak that she
Xena chose her next words carefully, and winced internally as she said them. She died.
His face turned suddenly pale at the words, but he quickly recovered himself, and let a
bellow forth. You were told the antidote was the herb Ravensara, a short trek up Mount Eleni.
Tell me that you were not stupid enough to ignore my warning.
Like a prisoner to your will I climbed Mount Eleni, stopping only to sleep, but
still I didnt get to
the Ravensara in time. She died on that mountain. The memory threatened to bring fresh tears to
her eyes, but she willed them under control again. I come to challenge you, she said again.
For what, my kingdom? he said with a laugh.
Something like that, Xena smiled in turn.
Im sure you know that Im considered a master swordsman. I did not
become King by ancestry
as the Mountain Kings do, but by will and power. I created this kingdom, and I rule them by my
I welcome the competition. It should make for an interesting display for your
reminded him as she beckoned around the room.
Bring me my sword, King Wryan ordered of a nearby guard.
Xena found herself surrounded by guards now, and knew that the King could call them on
any time. The only reason he didnt was because of his foolish pride for he fully intended to
slaughter the warrior before all the onlookers.
Shortly, the warrior and King refusing to break their stare, a guard returned with a
fashioned with a gold hilt and leather bindings. King Wryan took it nimbly in his hand, apparently
familiarly knowledgeable of a sword. The rules will be simple, we fight to the death. The quicker
the better, I always say, the King quipped.
Im as eager to be done with this as you, Xena said drolly in
response. She pulled her sword
from her back for the second time that evening, and she spun it festively appearing almost bored
with the confrontation.
Oh, theres just one more stipulation, the King announced as he made a
quick hand gesture to
the guards. They seized her at once, two on each side, holding her arms steadfastly in iron tight
grips. Her sword fell as if in slow motion, taking what seemed like minutes before it hit the floor
with a loud clang that reverberated off the warriors ears. Are you a left handed fighter, Xena, or
right handed? King Wryan asked casually.
Xena struggled to be loose of her captors, her mind intent on returning back to her
bard at the end
of the evening. She refused to answer, and let her arms fall slack.
No matter, either way I have a fifty percent chance of being right, which
isnt bad odds. Break
her right arm, the King demanded as he turned to relinquish his robe to a servant standing behind
Xena bit down hard, clenching her teeth against the pain to come. In a brisk motion the
that held to her right arm took her elbows in a tense grip and pushed forcefully down on her
forearm until the room heard the clear shattering sound of the bone breaking solidly in two. The
warrior refused to cry out, as a trickle of blood rolled on her tongue where she had bitten her own
lip. The metallic copper taste washed away, but the bitter rage that pressed on her from all sides
would not be swallowed so easily.
Release her, she heard the King bellow from what seemed a far off distance.
Her right arm hung
uselessly at her side in an unnatural angle She bent over deftly, and retrieved her sword from the
floor. All pretense of calm had now left her only to be replaced by a white hot fire in her head that
Shall we? Wryan said playfully with a gleaming grin upon his thin lips.
Without a word, Xena gripped the sword in her left hand, and bent low ready for the
attack. He was smarter than he looked, as he waited patiently for her to make the first move.
Xena complied, and pulled the sword in a slash aimed at his belly. He jumped back, laughing at
her as she had laughed at so many enemies before. Still he stayed back, making no attempt to be
Xena lifted the sword high, feeling the unfamiliar weight of the sword in her left
hand, and gave
all her strength to letting the blade fall heavily on the Kings own sword. He took the hit
gracefully and finally engaged in the confrontation pulling his sword in wide archs aimed low. The
clang of blade upon blade was the only sound to break the thick silence that had settled on the
room. No guard moved, nor tried to interrupt their Kings battle.
The warrior began to feel the rhythm of her opponent, and she matched his speed with
letting her strength overpower his aged muscles. They danced to a song only they could hear,
letting their swords create the tempo. Strike upon strike Xena let loose her sword, only to feel it
resonate in a chime as her blade struck King Wryans.
His laughter had given way to sheer concentration as each tarry might be his last. Xena
her arm begin to weary, and she knew she had to end this quickly. The King seemed to take the
advantage and he pressed on her relentlessly, putting an unknown doubt in her mind. A vision
formed before her eyes then, as clear as if her mind had completely left her body. It was Gabrielle
climbing the mountain behind her, faithfully following Xena no matter where the warriors debts
would take her. When Gabrielle said she would climb a mountain, or swim the ocean to follow
Xena, she had not only said it, but she had done it. Xena doubted many things in this life, people,
life, reality, but never Gabrielle.
Here she stood now, at odds with a stranger who shed never seen before this
moment. Was she
truly willing to leave Gabrielle to settle her vengeance? Was it worth it? In a loud cry of anguish
Xena shouted, Noooo!
The Kings brows knit in response to his opponents sudden outburst. Suddenly
she seemed to
gain momentum as she not only swung her sword harder, but smarter as well. She tarried as if she
had handled the sword with her left hand her whole life. Wryan felt himself pushed backwards, as
he took step after step back feeling the crowd open up to create a ring, where he had no one but
himself. What he didnt know...what he couldnt know was that Xena was never truly alone, she
did have someone who fought beside her, within her.
With a renewed energy Xena flipped the sword in a circle, and savagely brought it down
Kings hand. Blood spewed forth, as his sword flew to the ground. He dropped heavily to his
knees, clutching his wounded hand to his chest. He refused to look up even as the tip of Xenas
blade rested on the back of his exposed neck.
Do you yield? she demanded quietly.
I yield, he answered bitterly as he looked up, a scowl having replaced the once harsh smile.
Do you yield your kingdom, your rule?
Yes, he bit off angrily.
Xena let her sword come to rest at her side, and turned to the intent crowd. You
are now under
the rule of the Mountain Kings, as it should be. If you do not approve, then I suggest that you
leave these mountains. Her eyes roamed the faces, searching for anyone who would challenge
her. She turned fiercely back to the now dethroned King. As for you, Im sure King Markos has
plans for you in punishment for your violations of the treaty you agreed to with the Mountain
His face fell in utter despair. She searched for words that would give herself peace,
wished him to know. You cant possibly know the pain youve caused me and my friend. What
befalls you now does so by your own hand.
She turned finally and walked determinedly away, ignoring the rough stares thrown at
her by the
crowd. A small voice reached her ears from across the room. She longed to keep walking, not to
turn back, but in the end she did turn around. The King still rested on his knees, his shoulders
slumped in agonizing defeat.
Im sorry, he said so quietly that Xena had to strain to hear.
For what? Xena demanded to know.
For the death of your friend. I never intended for her to die.
My friend lives, Xena said with the ghost of a smile in her eyes. She loved
to be able to say
those words, my friend lives.
In your heart? the King asked, confused.
Always, the warrior answered before she turned to go.
Chapter 15 All Is Well That Ends Well
Ok, so what do you want for dinner, rabbit stew, venison, those little beef
pastries I know you
love? Gabrielle asked as they settled for camp on the field just east of Lia, where they planned to
visit the following day. Xenas arm still hung in a sling that she had fashioned for herself from
strips of linen. As Xena had done for Gabrielle when she had broken her own arm what seemed a
long time ago, now Gabrielle cooked for Xena.
Im thinking a light meal of bread and cheese, the warrior
uncharacteristically answered. All she
desired this evening was to have the bard at her side.
Are you sick? Is it the pain? Gabrielle asked playfully as she felt of the warriors forehead.
I dont want you to cook tonight, I want you to tell me a story.
Gabrielles eyes went round in surprise. Youre asking me to tell a
story? she asked,
Is that so strange? Xena asked, hurt.
Its just that I cant remember the last time you did that.
I asked you up on the mountain, do you remember?
Gabrielle thought back, and a smile lit up her face. Oh yeah, the Rose and the
bard said thoughtfully.
But your flowers never fade, even if they are cut; for they are
everlasting," Xena said aloud as
she recalled the story.
Gabrielle blushed, and couldnt hide the smile that touched her lips. You remembered.
Ill always remember. The warrior felt her throat close and her chest
expand as she was
reminded again of every reason she loved this woman. I love you, she said unable to keep her
voice from shaking with emotion.
Gabrielle saw the feeling in Xenas eyes, and her own filled with unspilled tears.
Oh, Xena. I love
you, she responded. They shared an intense moment in which their hearts said all that words
could not. Finally Gabrielle broke the silence they shared. Do you still want that story?
Theres nothing Id like more, the warrior answered with a gentle wink.
Long ago in a foreign land, on an island called Lontano Via two lovers danced,
oblivious to the
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