Disclaimer: Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices


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Subtext: This story portrays a loving relationship between two women.  If you are under 18 or if it is illegal for you to read this text please do not continue. 


The story…


It was a placid, gentle night.  Gabrielle chose to walk towards the lakeshore.  The full moon hung over the waters.  In its perfection commanding awe from the young woman.  She sat on a series of flat smooth stones that formed a terrace over a cliff.  She looked down.  She could survive a dive into the pool if its depths were tolerant.  Her body eased, her muscles released their tension as she lost conscious awareness of the passing time.


Xena sensed no imminent harm still she took leave of their campsite to seek out the bard.  The image was stunning.  Gabrielle’s reclining figure with moon and waters in the background.  This was beauty in its greatest simplicity.  Confirming her partner’s well being she hesitated in disturbing Gabrielle’s solitude.


Gabrielle felt Xena before she heard her approach.  Sensing her beloved was within sight she extended her hand as an invitation.  She felt Xena take possession of her offering as she sat beside her.  Gabrielle leaned her head against Xena’s powerful body.  “I love you.”


“It use to be I was the only one who needed to get away.”


“And what do you think I was doing while you were gone?”


“Missing me.”


Gabrielle smiled at that simple truth.


Xena squeezed Gabrielle’s hand.  “You’re being very quiet.  I was afraid I had forgotten something.  It’s not your birthday or the anniversary of the first day we met.”


Gabrielle laughed at the latter.  “Our first day?  I don’t think so!”


Xena continued.  “It’s not my birthday.”


Gabrielle responded with unexpected sincerity, “You are timeless.”


Taken by surprise and having no immediate words to convey her emotion, Xena placed her arm around Gabrielle’s waist and pulled her closer.


Gabrielle’s voice betrayed her fatigue.  “Where’s Damia?”


Xena knew the real reason for Gabrielle’s thoughtfulness was now at the forefront.  “Asleep.  You shouldn’t worry.”


“I don’t understand why the Northern and Southern tribes would be in conflict.”


“We both know that when I killed Artemis I killed the Amazon’s patron god.  They’ve lost their common bond.”


“Artemis was only part of their bond.  Amazons are so much more.”


“I agree but the loss of Artemis has been difficult for the Southern tribe to accept.”


“So, the North worship the earth goddess and the South, after all these years goes on praying to a dead god.  How can I make sense of it?”


“Tovi and Ariel must believe you can.  They wouldn’t have requested your mediation if they didn’t.”


“It’s not as if I’m going to say one tribe is right over the other.  Xena, we’ve seen Tartarus and the Elysain Fields, Hell and Paradise.  Eve was given to you to be a messenger of Eli’s god.  Aphrodite is a friend and then there is always Aries.  We know our souls will return.  You and I have our own Ways.  I’m telling you they’ve asked the wrong person.”


“Gabrielle, it’s because you know all those truths that you are the right person to mediate.  And, you are recognized as their queen.  Tovi and Ariel, queens in their own right acknowledge your ultimate authority. 


“They are both new, young queens.”


“Exactly.  Don’t you think they could use some of your sage advice?”


“Sage?  Our twenty-five years of sleep don’t count.”


“What is it that’s troubling you?”


“I’ve traveled this road of faith before.  I’m not done with it myself.


Xena wished she could give Gabrielle the assurance she sought but time had taught Xena better than to try.  She stated the simplest truth.  “Same road, different place in the road.  Think of it as another chance to learn.”



At daybreak the three continued their travels.  Xena led with Damia and Gabrielle riding side by side behind.  Gabrielle had taken measure of Damia.  She was young and intense.  Her dark features and sharp chiseled face reminded Gabrielle of the women she met in the desert tribes.  Amazons came from many nations, many people.  The women reflected a diversity of beauty, intelligence and skills.  Damia was a fine example of what made the Amazons a strong nation.  Damia had done a commendable job in finding her out and conveying the Amazon’s summons.  Gabrielle noted that Damia had not been too conversant.  Was it the mystique of being with a queen?


“How is Ariel?”


Damia responded with no obvious emotion.  “Well.”


Gabrielle was not satisfied.  “Why am I not reassured?”


Damia looked to the legendary queen.  She was uncertain of what could, should be shared.  Her own confusion and concern was palpable.  “I don’t know.  Ari, Jamine, the Captain of the Guards and I have been friends for years.  In times like these Jamine and I can’t seem to help Ari.  She stands alone.”


Gabrielle made note of the familiar use of ‘Ari’.  “Having someone you can trust and count on is very important.  You offer her that.”


“Even though Ari does ask our console it’s still she who carries the burden.”


“That is what it means to be queen.  Tell me about Tovi.”


Damia was more animated when describing the Southern Queen.  “She’s a puzzle.  By all accounts she is an intelligent, brave warrior and leader but you wouldn’t say so when you first meet her.”


Gabriel was intrigued.  “Why not?”


“She is quiet.  She defers to her council.  She will not carry a weapon in the village.  She spends a great deal of time off by herself.  She reads whenever she can and is known to barter heavily for scrolls especially those from the Athens Academy.  She is relentless in this dispute and yet it is said that she does not worship Artemis.”


“Must make for challenging negotiations.”


“Tovi isn’t negotiating.  She has silently observed as the temple priestess has presented her arguments.”


“And Ariel?”


“The same.  Our shaman is representing our tribe.  Ariel told me that she will only negotiate with Tovi, queen to queen.”


“Then the dispute isn’t between the queens.  That’s good to know.”


“Isn’t it if they refuse to sit at a negotiation table together?”


It was obvious to Gabrielle that Damia did not understand the underlying protocol being exercised.  This wasn’t the time for her to explain.  “I need to speak to Xena.  Please give us some space.”


“Yes, my Queen.”


Gabrielle rode forward, matching Xena’s pace.  Xena looked aside.  “Everything all right?”


“Just getting Damia’s perspective.  I’ve been puzzled by something.”


“What’s that?”


“Why Tovi would consent to have the women who killed Artemis on Southern tribal lands.”




“I think Tovi doesn’t see any reason to worship Artemis.  She either agrees with the Northern tribe’s beliefs or is indifferent but as queen she is trying to respect the beliefs of her people.  She is going to make them face the death of their god at our hands.”


“Gabrielle, I killed Artemis, not you.”


“We were both protecting Eve.”


Xena was heartened by Gabrielle’s constancy.  “If you’re right we should be prepared for a cool reception.”


“Tovi may try to use you.  She may ask you to testify.”


“That’s a possibility.”


“What will you do?”


“Tell the truth.  That’s all I can do.”


Gabrielle spoke with a glimmer of hope.  “There might not be much to mediate.”


Xena was more sober in assessing their prospects.  “Don’t be so sure.  The zealots won’t give up easily.  You take away their god you’ve taken away their identity.  They’re facing a spiritual death.”


“Sometimes I wonder if undisturbed illusions aren’t healthier.”


“You can’t believe that.”


“People have to have something to hold on to.”


“What’s wrong with the truth?”


Gabrielle did not hide her frustration.  “Whose truth would that be?”  She picked up her horse’s pace and rode forward.  Xena chose not to challenge the distance placed between them.  She waited for Damia and proceeded in her company.  Damia correctly sensed that this was not a time for conversation.  All traveled in silence.


The evening camp continued in relative quiet.  With the meal eaten and the horses groomed, Damia made her bed a discrete distance from her companions.  Xena had taken to her bedroll.  Gabrielle remained by the smothering fire.  The bard’s thoughts were focused on the embers.  Like the flames of the fire the concerns which consumed her day had drifted from her consciousness.  There was nothing to be done until she reached the Southern village.  She considered her options.  She practiced scenarios knowing what she would ultimately say and do would be determined in the moment.


Xena felt Gabrielle lie beside her.  Gabrielle’s voice carried an intimate plea, “Xena, are you awake?”


“Yes.”  She turned onto her back and offered Gabrielle her complete attention.


“Thank you for not being angry.”


“Who said I’m not angry.”


“If you were angry you would’ve pretended to be asleep.”


“Am I that predictable?”


“I wish.”


Xena extended her arm.  “Come here.”


Gabrielle took her place resting her head on Xena’s shoulder.  “I love you.”


Xena placed a kiss on Gabrielle’s forehead.  “Rest now.”  As was her habit the warrior listened intently until her bard had fallen a sleep.  Only then did she allow sleep to take her as well.




It was mid-morning when they arrived at the village.  Entering the main courtyard two women exited the Counsel Chambers. Both Gabrielle and Xena observed how the two walked in unison.  It was a simple task to distinguish their tribal affiliations.  The women in Northern dress stood a couple fingers taller than her companion who was dressed in the fashion of the Southern tribe.  Ariel had long brown hair swept back.  She wore black skins that both revealed and complemented her deeply tanned form.  On her hip a dagger with leather wrapped hilt.  She moved confidently with long, decisive strides.  Tovi in turn was lighter in complexion.  Her reddish hair was cut to her shoulders.  She did not have as commanding a presence as Ariel.  In deed she walked more casually.  Dressed in cloth, clay in color and weapon less the descriptive word that came to Gabrielle in terms of Tovi was unpretentious.  As protocol mandated Ariel and Tovi jointly greeted the visiting Amazon queen.  The seeming level of comfort between the young queens pleased Gabrielle. 


The three dismounted.  Damia offered to stable the horses.  Gabrielle and Xena willingly surrendered their reins and turned to their hosts.  Ariel was the first to speak.


“Queen Gabrielle, thank you for coming.  I am Ariel, Queen of the Northern Amazons.”  Gabrielle took Ariel offered hand. 


Without missing a heartbeat Tovi spoke.  “And I am Tovi.  I welcome you on behalf of all the Southern Amazons.  I hope you traveled well.” 


Gabrielle clasped Tovi’s arm in turn. Gabrielle liked the bright almond glisten in the young woman’s eyes.  She motioned to her partner.  “This is Xena.”


Xena gave a minor bow.  Ariel approached the warrior.  “Xena, knowledge of your history with our tribe has been passed down through the generations.  We value your efforts to give our tribe a renewed life.  You remain an honored friend.”


Xena was moved by the expressed acceptance.  “Thank you, Ariel.”


Xena looked up to find Tovi’s intent gaze upon her.  Xena matched it feeling her defiant nature rising to the surface.  Tovi stepped up.  “Xena, I am not one to be shy with words.  The Fates presented you with a choice, either to save your daughter, an Amazon given the right of caste by Queen Gabrielle or to bring about the twilight of the gods by your own hands.  We have felt the loss of Artemis and struggle because of it.  But let me say that no Amazon can imagine that the sacrifice of your daughter should have been necessary to appease a god.  Your legacy with Queen Melosa, your friendship with Queen Ephiny and your commitment to Queen Gabrielle is how we judge your truth.  Welcome.”


Gabrielle could not have imagined a finer reception.  By it she was left to wonder.  There was no outward animosity.  Why couldn’t the dispute be reconciled?


Tovi turned to Gabrielle.  “We have prepared a lodge for you and Xena.  I can show you the way if you wish to rest.  There is time before our mid-day meal.”




In the privacy of their quarters Gabrielle and Xena exchanged assessments.  Neither of their expectations were met.  Gabrielle decided she would interview each queen separately.  Ariel was the first.


“Tell me about the goddess.”


Ariel stood before Gabrielle who sat comfortably in a tall back chair.  An air of formality pressed upon the empty space between the two. 


“As you know Artemis had never been a dominating presence to us.  Our shamans have slowly relearned their once lost arts.  We less worship the goddess than recognize her connection to us.  The moon, the stars, the waters, the earth – through the gifts of grains and meat we live.”  Noting Gabrielle’s attentiveness Ariel began to relax.  “What is important is the link between each Amazon and between the Amazons and the world we live in.  We recognize the cycle of life and death.  It is a cycle of renewal.  We hold up fire, ether, water and essence.”  With her last words, Ariel had bent to one knee and taken a handful of dirt.  She released it slowly and then held Gabrielle’s gentle eyes with her own.  “We are body, mind, heart and spirit.”  The Amazon took to her feet again.  “We are in the midst of change and still all remains the same.”


Gabrielle was intrigued.  “Why do you have a dispute with the Southern tribe?”


Ariel was dismissive.  “We don’t.  They can worship as they please.  This is all Tovi’s doing.  She is frustrated with the priestess’ insistence that Artemis continue to be worshipped.  She has heard of our ways and would like the Southern tribe to embrace the goddess.  I do not understand all her motives or her tactics.”


“She has told you this?”


“No, Tovi is aloof and careful with her words.  But it is obvious that she cannot negotiate what she doesn’t believe.  I admire her integrity though I do not appreciate being used.”


Ariel’s assessment was fascinating.  Gabrielle needed to understand all the dynamics.  “How does you shaman feel about the discussions?”


The Amazon smiled.  “Isra is enjoying every exchange.  She finds it a great opportunity to share the goddess with her sister Amazons.  At least those who are willing to listen.”


Gabrielle concluded, “So, no harm is being done.”


Ariel acquiesced, “None, if inconveniencing our queen is not weighed in the balance.”


“There is no reason to be concerned.”  Gabrielle raised her hands and held them together thoughtfully.  There was a remaining question she wanted answered.  “Ariel, why have you accepted my authority?”


This took Ariel by surprised.  Her first response was quick, “Why would I not?”  Within herself she questioned what manner of queen sat before her that she did not expect her queenship to be acknowledged.  The thought was quickly replaced by the original question.  Why did she accept Gabrielle?  Ariel spoke her answer as it came to her.  “Your wisdom is revered.  It is true that Xena has touched our tribe more directly than you have but the story is still told of your efforts to stop Alti after Otari released her soul.


Gabrielle was earnest.  “But I failed.”


“You and Xena persevered. It was you who had faith in Xena.  It was you who knew when to pour the amber over Alti’s pitiful bones.”


“The stories do live on.”


“Are they not what reminds us from where we have come from?  Do they not tell us who we are and give us hope in who we are to become?


Gabrielle smiled.  “You are a philosopher.”


Ariel countered.  “No, but I strive to be a worthy queen and that means living with and without the sword.  Tovi is your philosopher.”


“Is she?”


The Amazon affirmed.  “I believe you will be impressed.”


Gabrielle sensed a new truth.  “Is Tovi aware of your high esteem?”


Ariel blushed.  “No!”  She began to pace.  “A certain distance is prudent.”


Gabrielle could not help a kind-hearted challenge.  “And will you maintain that same distance with me?”


Ariel stopped and turned to her inquisitive leader.  “My Queen, there will be no secrets of consequence between us.”


Gabrielle’s smile returned.  “But there will be secrets.”


Ariel grinned.  “My life is my own.”


Gabrielle nodded in approval.  “As it should be.  Ariel, you are right to protect the most intimate parts of your life.  Even as queen you never stop being a woman.”


Ariel’s pleasure was apparent.  “We understand each other well.”  She especially enjoyed making her next question.  “If you have no further need of me I have someone waiting.”


The queen suppressed a laugh.  “Yes, of course.” 


Gabrielle watched Ariel leave.  Alone in the serenity of her lodge she felt an overwhelming desire for Xena.  How love can be with one, always a companion, a foundation to steady the self.  Seeing the whimsy in Ariel’s eyes was a joy, ever the more so because Gabrielle knew her beloved was nearby.



Ariel’s portrayal of Tovi gave Gabrielle reason to anticipate an enjoyable interview.  The young Amazon stood at the threshold.


“My Queen.”


Gabrielle invited her warmly, “Tovi, come in.”


Tovi entered.  She surveyed the room.  To Gabrielle’s eyes Tovi’s intensity was corporeal.  It was a part of her as taunt as the muscles that defined the beautiful youth.  Gabrielle doubted that she would equal the success she enjoyed in breaking down the formality between herself and Ariel.  The Northern queen had been down right casual by the time she took her leave. 


Tovi’s first words only reaffirmed Gabrielle’s expectations.  “What would you have known of me?”


Gabrielle took Tovi’s directness in stride.  “What would you have me know?”  Her inquiry was met with silence.  Gabrielle would need to take a more active approach.  “Am I right to say that you have no differences with Ariel?”


The Southern queen spoke tightly.  “We are different.”


This now promised to be an uneasy meeting.  “What I meant is that you seem to have a respectful relationship.”


“She holds her office as queen with dignity.”


Gabrielle could no longer justify not going directly to the heart of the reason for her summons.  “What can you tell me about the negotiations?”


“I leave it to Seda, our priestess.”


Gabrielle leaned forward.  “But you are the queen.”


“Greece has tolerated different cultic traditions throughout the ages.  Seda’s insistence to worship in the past is not shared by all tribal members.  She projects our loss of Artemis as a betrayal and is desperate for accountability outside of our temple.”


“If you disagree with her why do you sponsor her accusations?”


Tovi was adamant.  “I sponsor nothing other than Seda’s freedom to give voice to her beliefs.”


Gabrielle challenged.  “And give false witness?”


“I gave the only witness necessary in my greeting of Xena.”


The queen confessed.  “I suspected you would want Xena and I to testify to Artemis’ death.  But with your declaration it’s no longer necessary is it?”


“No, it isn’t.  By not challenging my words you concurred to the truth.  Artemis is dead by Xena’s own hands, a consequence of the god’s attempts to kill an innocent.  Seda stood in silence. I do not know whether her silence will continue.”


Ariel was not the only one being used by Tovi.  “You may have angered your sisters.”


The Southern queen was unyielding in her mission.  “I was aware of the risk.  I am prepared to suffer the consequences.”


Gabrielle leaned back into her chair.  “Hopefully they will be mild.”


“I will measure whether forgiveness is the companion of passing time.”


Gabrielle could only admire Tovi for the effort taken.  She did seem to have the best interest of her tribe at heart.  “Would you like me to speak to Seda?”


“The mother of the child would be a more profound witness.  Seda won’t turn away from Xena’s eyes with ease.”


Gabrielle now knew that Ariel and Damia were each right in their estimation of Tovi’s talents.  She was brilliant.  Tovi, this young, unassuming and yet confident Amazon understood the human condition as well as the machinations of governing her tribe.  “I will ask Xena.”


“Thank you my Queen.”


There were still other concerns to discuss.  “Have you thought of how you will temper the blow?”


“Seda and others have had the opportunity to hear Isra speak of the Mother Goddess.  They are not left completely without a faith.”


“Yes, but right now it is only Isra’s words.”


“Isra argues that the goddess abounds everywhere.  She is with us each moment of our lives if only we choose to see, hear, taste, smell and touch her bounty.  Seda’s sensibilities are of a religious.  It will take only an open heart for the goddess to reach into her soul and write a new truth upon it.”


Tovi’s words resounded in the space.  It filled the emptiness with hope.  Gabrielle suspected Tovi’s soul was not only of a philosopher but also of a poet.  “What place does the goddess have in your life?”


“She is a belief that instills gratitude and respect for our earth.  She is a symbol of love and nurturing.  For those who must have a god she will be as strong as a stone held in a tight fist.  The weight will be heavy and sustaining.  But I am one who also needs to reason the illnesses, the accidents that harm, the torrents that wash away and the quakes that injure and destroy.  Are they not also the Mother Goddess?  If I held the stone in my fist it would fatigue my hand and take the space of a gentler essence.  I have not the faith to hold to it.”


Gabrielle was confused.  “Then why welcome the goddess into your tribe?”


“Because it is not my tribe.  I am as transient as the wind.  As transient as I believe we all are.  My people must have a sustaining belief to replace the loss of Artemis.  If I could offer a pure truth I would but I have never discovered it.”


Gabrielle interjected.  “Not in all the scrolls you’ve read?”


Tovi shared her first smile of the interview.  “The Academy is a bastion of ideas.  All their philosophies are flawed but they are still worth investigating.  None propose an honored place for women.  Amazons can accept nothing less.  At least the Mother Goddess gives us that.”


“What next?  You must have a plan.”


Tovi had been so intent on obtaining from Gabrielle what she needed that she had not taken the time to consider the woman.  Gabrielle was giving.  There did not seem to be a reasonable request she would not honor.  Even now she invited Tovi to make her proposal for surely Gabrielle had intuited that a proposal was forthcoming. 


“Would you consider traveling to the North.  To not only honor our sister tribe with your visit but to learn more of the ways of the goddess?”


Gabrielle smiled.  “And who would accompany me?


“Ariel, Isra, Damia, Cici…”


The last was a new name.  “Cici?”


“Ariel’s…”  Tovi stumbled.  Gabrielle witnessed the first hint of vulnerability.  The Southern queen recovered quickly.  “A member of her guard.  And Seda and myself, if I can be so honored.”


“I’m sure Ariel wouldn’t object to hosting us.”


“Thank you.”


Gabrielle wondered if there was a sigh in Tovi’s last words?  Was there indeed a sense of relief?  “Tovi, do you have any other plans I should know about?”


Tovi realized that to Gabrielle she had been quite transparent.  “No, my Queen.  Is there anything else you need from me?”


“No.  I’ll let you know what Xena and Ariel decide.”


Tovi bowed satisfied with the outcome of the meeting.




“Damn it!”


Gabrielle was baffled.  “Xena, if you don’t want to speak to Seda.”


“That’s not it.  Damia, Cici and I spent the day working with Tovi’s engineers to repair the cross bridge over the south ravine.  I didn’t expect to be leaving so soon.  The work will take at least a half-moon cycle, maybe longer.  I hoped to see it through.”


Gabrielle appreciated that the bridge building presented her partner with a challenge, one that promised a sense of satisfaction outside of the realm of war.  “Why don’t I go on to the North.  You can join me when your work is done?”


To Xena this wasn’t a completely satisfactory solution.  It meant a separation.  “I knew it.  You are trying to get rid of me.  Is it Ariel or Tovi that has caught your eye?”


“Warrior.”  The word rolled out upon Gabrielle’s tongue promising retaliation.


“Are you going to save Ariel from Cici or are you going to save Tovi from her solitude?”


Xena had inadvertently redirected the game.  “What about Ariel and Cici?”


“From what I can tell the Northern queen has her hands full.  Cici is a spitfire.”


Gabrielle regrouped.  “If that’s the case then I’ll focus on Tovi.”


Xena responded with an honest observation.  “She has many fine qualities.”


The queen’s eyes glimmered.  “I’m only attracted to the best.” 


Xena stood mute.  The humor ceased.  Gabrielle was aware of whom she had before her.  Her voice dropped to a whisper.  “I’ll miss you my love.”


Xena felt the tug.  It was familiar.  It had become a part of her, the tug that drew her vulnerability up from the depths of her soul onto the surface.  And with it, even after the passing years, came a shyness.  “I’ll need Cici’s help on the bridge work.  I’m sure there’s plenty of heat in her flame to keep me satisfied.”


Now it was Gabrielle who remained silent.  There were moments such as this when the pleasure of their word play was lost.  In her heart she consented to share Xena with others during the daylight.  There was no choice.  Her heart was not so generous during the night.


Xena felt the intensity of Gabrielle’s gaze.  There was no escaping it.  It was the tug of her love.  It defined her.  Xena’s voice betrayed her emotion.  “I have no life without you.  You know that?”


Gabrielle nodded.




“Xena!”  Gabrielle awoke abruptly from her nightmare.  She breathed hard, quick, shallow breaths.


“I’m here.”  Xena took the bard into her arms.  “I’m here.”


Gabrielle repeated Xena’s name.  Her voice still radiating her fear.


“It’s all right.”


The bard begged.  “Stay with me.”


“Always.  I’ll always be with you.”


The dream, the nightmare had vanished from Gabrielle’s memory but not the corresponding fear it carved into her.  “I don’t mean to take you for granted.”


Xena reassured.  “I’ve never felt you have.”


Gabrielle placed her palm upon Xena’s cheek.  Her breathing began to return to a calmer rhythm but her voice betrayed her desperation.  “I’m so sure of your love.  It’s as if my heart is always held in your caress.  I may be sad.  I may be happy.  It doesn’t matter.  Your love is always with me.”


“When you return I’ll be here waiting.  I promise.”


“I sometimes can’t believe you love me.”


Xena understood.  “When I first met you, when you begged me to take you away from Poteidaia, it was impossible for me to believe that anyone would simply want to share their life with me, without condition, without ulterior motive.”


Gabrielle mused.  “It seems so long ago.”


“I remember as we walked away from Amphipolis you called me friend.  Friend!”  Xena shook her head recalling her disbelief that she, the Warrior Princess would have a friend in the youth.  She continued her verbal recollection.  “With the passing moons I saw your truth and compassion.  What I once believed to be your innocence I soon learned was your wisdom.  Gabrielle, the beauty of your soul eclipse all that I had ever seen and I had seen so much.”  Xena took her partner’s hand into her own and examined its capacity for both tenderness and defense.  “I couldn’t understand why you came into my life let alone why you chose, why you fought to stay.  Not until you slipped into the crevices of my heart with your love.”  The warrior kissed Gabrielle’s palm.  “I couldn’t deny you.  I couldn’t discount myself because every time I felt myself getting lost in my darkness I knew you were by my side, in spirit, with your love and I couldn’t betray that love.  I could betray and deny the rest of the world but not you.  Gabrielle, you are my soul mate.”


“Xena.”  Gabrielle was overwhelmed by the confession.


Xena wouldn’t be denied.  There was more to be said.  “I remember in Indus, you said you would not have learned about selfless love if it weren’t for our friendship.  I don’t know when you believe you learned that lesson.  I swear it was always a part of you.  I know it’s the gift of you that gives my life meaning.  How can you doubt my love?”


Gabrielle felt terribly insignificant in the presence of her partner.  “I don’t doubt your love.  I doubt I’m worthy of it.”


“No one is more worthy of my love.  And no one is less deserving of you than I am.”


Gabrielle rose and took Xena’s lips into her own.  Xena responded with equal passion.  The warrior’s embrace became a vise, a hold promising safety.  Gabrielle pulled her head back then buried herself within the crook of Xena’s neck.  She trembled as she had done their first night.  Her trembling was always a sign.  Her body commanded her over and above thoughts and words.  There was no place for logic only emotion.  Xena had learned Gabrielle’s unspoken language.  She knew Gabrielle was at her most vulnerable and most needy.  Xena’s emotions were always torn.  When Gabrielle trembled Xena relished knowing that Gabrielle needed her so viscerally but at the same time her heart felt a press of its own.  Gabrielle’s trembling reverberated throughout Xena’s body.  She felt she held a wounded dove and needed all her strength and tenderness to restrain its pinions in order to prevent further harm and allow healing.  And then the words came.  Spoken in a low whisper.  “Xena, make me yours tonight.”  Xena lowered Gabrielle back to the flat of their pallet.  She released the woman.  She leaned over her, gazing into her emerald eyes.  Time stopped.  Xena would have sworn that both their hearts stopped beating in that moment.  In that shared gaze they saw into each other’s souls and accepted the light and the darkness that composed them.  In the shared gaze their souls joined.  They were spiritually one.  Xena moved forward and gently took and released Gabrielle’s lips.  And then she spoke her command, the only one that would appease her beloved.  “You are mine.”  In the embrace of the night the world’s distractions were stripped away.  They were two women alone in their skin and yet through touch and involuntary moans, they transcended their corporal separation.  As they breathed in unison and moved in rhythm they became physically one.  The mystery of soul and body united realized.  They were complete.




Xena was furious.  “You speak to her.”


“Who, Seda?”


“Yes!  Seda!  Gabrielle, I have only so much patience.  Not even an angel in heaven would convert her.”


“I didn’t think it was for us to convert her.  Just convince her that the gods gave us no choice but to fight for Eve’s life.”


“Seda is indignant.  There is no reasoning with her.  She has conveniently separated my killing Artemis from my saving my child’s life.”


“But you can’t separate one from the other.”


“Tell her that!”


Gabrielle responded calmly.  “I will.”  She took a deep breath trying to cleanse the tension from her chest.  Seda had touched a painful cord in Xena.  There had been no joy only fear and doubt during their flight from the gods.  Xena never asked for her second child though she felt how right the baby was from the moment she became aware of her conception.  She also had not asked for the power to kill gods although it was her lone defense, the only means to shift the odds towards her and Eve’s favor.




Seda spoke harshly, “I am not so easily manipulated!”


Gabrielle assessed the elder.  She was the spiritual leader of the tribe and her anger could not be taken lightly.  She spoke Seda’s name in acknowledgment with the hope to calm. 


The priestess would not be mollified.  “Why should I listen to you.  You consort with Artemis’ assassin.”


Gabrielle’s patience was great but even for her there were certain lines drawn that no one should cross.  Seda had struck personally.  She was dangerously close to the intimate.  The queen spoke sternly, “This has nothing to do with Xena.  If you are going to accuse, accuse me because I did everything in my power to protect Eve.  Either as a child or as a young woman I consider Eve no less than my daughter.”  Gabrielle paused.  She knew she had to be above defending herself.  “Seda, you admit that Artemis is dead.”


“As you claim to once have been.  If you can come back among the living there is nothing to say Artemis won’t return.  And if she sees we have not been constant to her we will bear her wrath and justly so.  There are many followers of Artemis among my tribe.”


‘Claim to have died.’  The thought echoed within Gabrielle’s mind.  ‘To have claimed to have been nailed on a cross by order of Caesar.’  She involuntarily looked downed into her hands as one thumb rubbed into the palm of the other.  No remnant scar, nothing but the memory that could still be far too vivid to bear.  Seda noted the queen’s silence, how she had turned within herself.  There was something haunting in Gabrielle’s demeanor.  It had changed as if a raven’s wing had flow across her face and left the imprint of its shadow.  Gabrielle looked up from her hands.  She became self-conscious in the presence of Seda’s relentless scrutiny.


The queen found her voice.  “Your tribe looks to you for leadership.  Seda, travel to the North with me and Tovi.  We will learn from our sisters.  And they can learn from us.”


Though Seda’s passions had visibly lessened her challenge remained.  “And what would you teach them?”


Gabrielle knew her answer would be taken as a statement that addressed both tribes.  What would she teach them?  The only lesson she knew.  Her voice carried the confidence of a woman who had struggled and continued to struggle with the meaning of her life.  “I would teach the North as I would teach the South.  To follow your own way in living for the greater good.”




Ariel could find little about the last moon cycle to celebrate.  She had one interest and no opportunity to pursue it.  Tovi was an enigma.  Ariel wanted to study her counterpart.  The formalities of tribal tradition had dictated their interactions.  Traveling together promised the possibility of learning more about the woman who maneuvered people with acumen. 


Except for Isra, the Amazons rode side-by-side in twos.  Damia and Jamine led followed by a singular Isra, then Gabrielle and Seda and finally Ariel and Tovi. 


Ariel decided it was time to pursue her interest.  “Tovi, I noticed you packed a number of scrolls.


Tovi turned her gaze toward the Northern queen and waited for a completed thought.


Ariel obliged.  “You do like to read.”


Tovi was cautious.  “Yes, I do.”


“What have you learn from them?”


“I’ve learned that even though the great thinkers harbor the same questions I do they haven’t had any better luck in finding the answers.”


Ariel wondered about these men of Greece.  She allowed her wit to surface.  “What makes them great thinkers?  The fact that they are literate and take the time to write.”


Tovi’s tone reflected a serious scholarship.  “If they weren’t literate their thinking would not have survived through the years.  I can read their original thoughts instead of hearing what someone else said they said…although there is some of that in the scrolls, as well.”


“And that’s important?”


“You wouldn’t want someone to misquote you?”


Ariel quipped.  “Only if they made me sound wiser than I am.”  She took a breath and then spoke more seriously.  “Tovi, I mean no offense…”


The Southern queen offered an invitation.  “Go on.”


The Northern queen was heartened.  “It seems a waste to spend so much time with dead words.”


Tovi explained.  “That’s the difference between you and me.  The words are not dead to me.”


Ariel protested.  “They are of lives and times far from our own.”


“You’re right,” Tovi conceded.  “I haven’t read mention of the Amazons, at least not any that speak knowingly.  But they do speak of the human condition.”


“Human condition?  What do you believe Tovi?  Do you believe our lives are a condition?  Where is the sacredness in it?”


Tovi considered Ariel.  The questions were sincere.  The tinge of sarcasm had subsided and been replaced with curiosity.  “I don’t know what I believe.  I’ve read Gabrielle’s scrolls.  Those I could find.  Gabrielle and Xena have lived for the greater good.  I wondered what that meant.  I wondered what kind of women they would be given all that they have done.  I was humbled to see that they are just women making choices each and every day, finding strength within themselves and in each other.  Can it be so simple?  Live a good life.  Accept what life may bring.”


Ariel observed.  “They are not without their own struggles.”


Tovi clarified.  “I said simple, not easy.”




Karis was the chief engineer on the bridge project.  Xena liked her.  Though young, Karis knew her profession.  She took care in choosing materials and she managed the work site efficiently.  Her concern for the safety and the welfare of her crew was obvious.  She also had the prerequisite maturity and confidence to listen to others.  Xena offered suggestions to improve both the bridge’s stability and to simplify their work.  Karis was attentive.  After taking time to consider she shared her own thoughts to improve upon Xena’s suggestions.  Discussions between them and the balance of the crew were thoughtful and void of ego.  That was when Cici remained outside of their circle.  The Northern Amazon was intent on proving her superior expertise to the exclusion of others.  Given that this effort was not a military operation Xena felt no need to take command.  It was for Karis to rein in Cici.  Observing Karis Xena felt the engineer was exercising a high degree of, maybe even too much diplomacy, tolerating behavior in the visiting Cici that members of her crew would have never thought of acting out. 


They took a break to have their mid-day meal.  Karis approached Xena who sat alone off to the side of the work site.  “May I join you?”


To somewhat of her own surprise, Xena welcomed the company.  “Sure.” 


Karis took a place opposite her very capable work partner.  “Xena, I want to thank you for your help.  I’m certain we would have gotten the job done.  But it would not be going as smoothly nor would our bridge have been as strong.”


Xena smiled.  “Well, lets wait until we are done before we congratulate each other.”


“As you wish.  Is there anything I can do for you to make your stay more comfortable?  I am Tovi’s regent.  She would never forgive me if I did not offer you the best in Amazon hospitality.”


“Thank you for the offer.  I’m fine.  Gabrielle’s quarters are far better than what she and I are use to on the road.”


“I also want to thank you for your patience.”  Karis looked up and over to where the work crew sat and ate.  “Cici was been trying at times.”


“I’ll say.  Why don’t you slap her upside the head and knock some sense into her?”


Karis laughed.  “I wish it was my place.  Relations between the tribes is very important right now.  I would not want to create an incident.  My duty is to make life easier, not harder, for Tovi.”


“Well, I have no allegiance to any specific tribe.  If Cici gets on my nerves again, do you have any objections if I express my frustrations?”


“I would welcome it as long as you demonstrate appropriate restraint.”


“Oh, don’t worry.  I may not answer to the tribes but I still have to face Gabrielle.”


Karis smiled approvingly.  “You do not veil your affection.”


Xena wondered why the observation would even be made, “Should I?”


Karis’ voice betrayed her amusement.   “Doesn’t the Warrior Princess have a reputation to uphold?”


Xena picked a stick and hurled for emphasis.  “Let people think that love has made me weak.  It has only made be wiser and stronger.”


Impressed, Karis affirmed.  “I don’t doubt it.”


Curious, Xena turned to the young Amazon.  “What about you?  Have you someone special in your life?”


Karis’ humor lessen.  “I value my friendships.”




“There is nothing more to say.”


Xena judged the handsome young woman.  She estimated Karis to be equal in height to Tovi, about four fingers taller than Gabrielle.  Xena noted that the blackness of Karis’ hair matched her own but its length was closer to Gabrielle’s.  It suited her well.  Her eyes were deep dark pools one could lose oneself in.  She wore a black tanned leather bodice and skirt.  Visually, she seemed more warrior than engineer.  The dagger on her belt was fine and Xena had no doubt Karis knew how to use it for more deadly purposes than cutting a cord.  And finally, Xena observed Karis’ strength.  She had the strength of someone who was not afraid to work.  Her taut muscles were formed from labor more than from sport.  A woman like Karis was not meant to be alone.  Xena felt compelled to reassure her.  “Someday you’ll find her.”


Karis mused.  “The question is will she find me.” 




They arrived at the Northern village.  Ariel received an enthusiastic reception.  The pitch for Gabrielle was equally as high.  The same could not be said for Tovi and Seda.  All was polite, too polite.  The wariness was somewhat mitigated by Isra’s fine humor.  The young shaman enjoyed her time in the south.  Now on her own lands surrounded by her own people she knew the older priestess would feel ever the more at a disadvantage.  Teaching the spiritual sage their ancient ways promised to be an enjoyable diversion.


It is never easy to be an outsider.  Tovi felt the distinction.  She judged that it could have not been any easier for Ariel, Damia, Cici and Isra to be in the south.  She only wished she had brought a companion to commiserate with.  Seda had never been a confidant.  Tovi was happy to have Gabrielle.  After their first interview she knew a friendship would be in the making.  But only after tensions eased.  Tovi was certain Gabrielle’s generosity was boundless.  For now, with the interest of two tribes at stake, Gabrielle did not need to be placed between two queens hungry for her favor.


Seda’s sense of displacement only increased.  She knew Tovi’s beliefs lay away from Artemis.  Though Tovi followed ceremonial and civic traditions she never worshipped at the temple.  The tribe’s young kinswomen followed Tovi’s example without need to justify.  Why should they, they were no different then their queen.  It was ironic that Tovi who was a subtle, invariable threat now stood by her as queen and defender of the south.  By simply standing among strangers Seda’s uncomfortable isolation mutated into venom.  Her assessment leaped to a new conclusion.  Tovi’s placement was not ironic.  It was hypocritical. 


Isra continued her role as host.  She accompanied the three visitors to the lodges that would soon be made ready for them.  She then invited them to join her for evening meal.  There would be a ceremony that evening to give tribute to the Mother Goddess for their safe passage and the blessings surely to have been enjoyed by their people during Ariel’s absence.




The altar was simple in construction, a flat white cut of granite supported at each end by finely hued stones.  A vase held wildflowers.  Upon the altar lay tubers, grains, berries and fish, a jar of water, another of wine.  There were four tall, unlit candles, one at each corner. 


As visiting royalty Tovi could not forego the ceremony.  She stood front with Gabrielle at one side and Seda at the other, a placement to convey the Northern tribe’s respect for their visitors.  Tovi found the altar quite beautiful.  Upon it lay those things that give life to her and her sisters each and every day.  She could appreciate the importance to pause and acknowledge their abundance.  It is only when one thirst and hungers that one does not hesitate to express one’s gratitude for the satiation of an appetite.


Isra stepped forward holding a small candle.  The amusing naiad she seemed to be was all but gone.  She embodied the reverence of the ceremony.  She walked purposefully drawing all eyes to her.  Her long blond hair fell over a simple green robe.  Her eyelids were drawn down humbly.  The small candle’s flame flickered with the evening breeze.  Isra stepped up to the altar lighting each of the tall candles.  Returning to center she held her hands up to the heavens.


“Mother Goddess.  We, your daughters stand her to give thanks for the life you have given us.  For the food abundant in our lands.  For the health we enjoy…”


Seda looked around.  The whole tribe was present.  Every one.  Every age, young and old.  Every occupation, from baker to seamstress; from warrior to healer.  What she would give to have this kind of witness at the temple.  How old and discarded her own kinswomen made her feel.  And here she stood among them.  It was heresy.  She herself must be giving offense to Artemis by seeming to participate in veneration to another deity.  She no longer heard the words of the shaman.  She heard her blood pounding against her eardrums.  She heard different words within her mind.  ‘This is blasphemy.’  ‘This is wrong’.  The priestess willed her aged body up the steps to the altar, raising her skirt with her arthritic hands.  Isra stepped back stunned.  Not knowing Seda’s intent.  With both arms Seda swept the altar.  The tribute crashed to the dirt.


Isra was mortified.  Her words were a private prayer.  “By the goddess.”


Tovi ran up and secured Seda’s arms from the rear.  “Old woman what do you think you’re doing?”


Seda defended herself.  “This is heresy!”


Tovi countered.  “You have no right to do this.”


Gabrielle came and stood before the priestess.  “Seda, stop this now!”


Seda who in the struggle was lashing her body back and forth seeking her freedom stopped resisting and raised her eyes to the queen.  Gabrielle entreated her.  “Stop.”


The old woman quit.  Gabrielle directed Tovi to give Seda her release.


Tovi questioned.  “My Queen?”


Gabrielle insisted.  “Do it!”


Tovi complied.  She looked over to Isra.  “You have my deepest apologies.  I had no idea this would happen.”


Isra nodded.  There was no amusement.  Only the pain of a woman fighting to her dying breath what was an inevitable defeat.  Until this moment Isra had no idea of the depth of Seda’s pain.  As a spiritual woman she knew it was her position to help not ridicule the priestess.  Isra whispered to Ariel who had come to her side.  Ariel turned to her tribe and called them to their homes.  The ceremony would not continue.




Gabrielle sought a private interlude to the rising emotions.  She had underestimated Seda.  Never did she expect the priestess to be capable of such contemptible behavior.  Her desecration of the altar was a sacrilege.  The injury to her hosts was compounded by her accusations of heresy.  What Seda did not fathom was that the humiliation was her own and no others.  She lost both Tovi’s and Gabrielle’s esteem.  Gabrielle’s only relief was that protocol dictated that Tovi be the one to censure the priestess. 


A small sweat lodge was situated beyond a grove of ash.  It was hers to privately enjoy.  The steam heat penetrated her flesh and seeped into her muscles.  She drifted in thought.  She missed Xena.  In the passing days she found herself looking out among the women searching for the tall warrior.  She yearned for her partner’s counsel.  Just to have someone listen to her in total confidence as she tried to weigh the possible outcomes to her decided action.  The loneliness of being queen never leaves her but it is lessened in Xena’s company.  She desired the companionship of her friend who would take her hand and guide her to a new plateau of observation.  She saw more in the independent dimension of Xena’s eyes.  She ached for her lover’s touch, for the magnificently strong yet gentle embrace Xena offered. 


It was time to return to her duties.  Gabrielle stepped out of the lodge.  The cool air refreshed her.  She stood relaxed and hopeful.  The sunlight that cut through the canopy of arbors was muted.  No longer the sharp rays of the mid-day sun.  She appreciated the difference.  The sun’s journey from horizon to horizon was announced by the colors of varying degree of richness at dawn and at dusk. 


A chill traveled up her spine.  There was something wrong.  She scanned her surroundings but saw nothing to merit caution.  Still, she knew better.  Gabrielle heard the sound with dread.  It was the sound of an arrow cutting across the ether.  She moved to her left towards the lodge entrance.  The impact of arrowhead cutting into her flesh jerked her back.  Her left hand released her cloak.  An involuntary groan escaped her throat.  She could not hesitate.  The assassin would certainly shoot again.  The second arrow hit the lodge threshold just as Gabrielle found shelter within.


She fell to the ground.  With her right hand Gabrielle pulled her knife from her belt and planted it before her on the dirt floor.  With a quick stroke she could kill an intruder.  She leaned against the lodge wall for support.  For a moment she closed her eyes focusing, calming her breath, taking inventory of her body and her self.  She explored the wound.  The blood loss was not too great.  She had time before she would have to worry about loss of consciousness.  She knew she could not leave the lodge until nightfall. Even then the risk was great.  For now she harbored the fear that her assassin would cross the arbors and continue the quest to kill her.  How would she know whether an approaching Amazon was a friend or death dealer?  Gabrielle’s spirit fell.  It was an Amazon, a sister who had attempted to take her life.  There was only one person who she trusted.  Xena was five days travel to the south.  Ariel and Tovi.  What of them?  When would they miss her and seek her out?  She took measure of her breaths striving for clarity.  With each breath she spoke a silent prayer that she would be missed.


continue to part 2