A Different Kind Of Rift
Memories haunt my heart,
Tearing at my soul,
Only changing your fate can save me.
As Xena entered the forest of the Banshee she remembered how those flying bitches had gotten the best of her in two of their encounters. Well if they try that this time, Ive got their number and they will be in for a little surprise, Xena thought with an evil smile.
Unfortunately for Xena the ride to the castle was uneventful, but this gave Xena time to work out her plan. As Xena approached the front entrance she saw the doors open as several warriors stepped out to greet her. Xena skillfully dismounted and taking the horses reins in her hands walked towards the warriors. With her cloak still on hiding her short sword she approached trying to convey that she posed no threat to these men. Xena recognized them but her eyes grew dark as her eyes met those of Eochaid.
Anger built in her heart as she remembered how Eochaid had betrayed her and Gabrielle by allowing the Banshees to enter the castle. Her contact was broken as the warrior she knew as Goewin approached her. Seeing Goewin she could not help but recall the last time she had seen him .. dead with the deep impression of his chain around his neck. "Goewin." Xena said softly not realizing she spoke aloud.
"Yes, Do I know you? Goewin asked curiously.
Realizing her mistake Xena quickly covered up "No, but I have heard of you and the Warriors of the Pierced Heart. I come for your help." Xena stated.
"Well if it is evil you fight you have will have our swords in battle. Come you look tired and we have food and water to spare. We can discuss your problem and see how we can help." Goewin suggested.
"Yes, but there is little time so we must hurry." Xena replied as she followed the warriors into the castle.
Walking into the castle Xena was overwhelmed with memories of the last time that she was within these walls. Looking across into the stables Xena closed her eyes as the cries of Gabrielle haunted her heart.
Scenes flashed unbidden through her mind, she winced as the memories surfaced. Gabrielle laying in the stall her belly heavy in labor writhing in pain as the skies grew dark and menacing. She remembered racing to Gabrielles side desperate to ease her pain, knowing what must be done. As the babys cries echoed in her mind all Xena could think of was all the pain and death that would follow. "No! Xena whispered.
Suddenly she felt pain deep in her soul, ashamed by her blind hatred that had brought her here the first time and had once again taken over her heart blinding her from everything including her love for Gabrielle taking her from her true mission. Xena was pulled from her thoughts by the strong but gentle hand of Goewin on her shoulder. "Something wrong? You seemed so lost." Goewin stated.
"No, Im fine." Xena stated as she found herself looking into the blue eyes of the man she called friend.. a man who gave his life to protect Gabrielle. Silently Xena swore that Goewin would not be fated to that horrible death .. this time. "Lets go." Xena stated collecting herself, yet needing to get away from there as quickly as possible. Xena turned and lead the way to the chamber where she remembered the warriors had met that first time.
Goewin had began to reach for Scylla to lead her to the court when he realized she was headed in the proper direction and seemed to know exactly where she was going. Unsettled by this he silently vowed to keep his eye on her, she was not all she appeared to be.
Entering the court Xena could see all the warriors had been seated and were waiting for them. Being a gentleman Goewin escorted her to a chair and poured her some wine, Xena nodded her thanks.
Caswalleun began "So my lady what brings you here seeking our help."
With a smile Xena replied as she remembered her first encounter with Caswallaun, picturing him laying on the floor as she had just put the pinch on him. "My name is Xena." She stated. With that a collective gasp could be heard as several warriors turned to eye one another and resettled in their seats as she captivated their attention. Xenas eyebrow raised with an amused grin "I see youve heard of me?" a statement more then a question.
Caswallaun cleared his now tight throat "A..Yes, Xena we have heard of you and your rein as a Warlord ¼ but I also recently have heard of another Xena one who battles evil and protects the innocent."
Xenas smile broadened as she knew the she had Gabrielles stories to thank for that. It amazed her how far Gabrielles stories have traveled. She felt a gentle warmth fill her heart as she thought of her wonderful friend and love. "So Xena are these tales true ..do you seek our help only to fight the evil of this world?" Caswallaun queried.
"Actually I seek your help to fight an evil that is not of this world but wishes to enter ours to destroy all goodness. I believe you know of Dahak!" Once again Xena has captured the warriors attention as the tension in the room escalated.
"DAHAK,..How do you know of this evil?" Eochaid cried.
"I can not say only that without your help the world as we know it will be plunged into a nightmare that in you darkest dreams you could not imagine." Xena pronounced.
The warriors began arguing amongst themselves whether to believe this woman thinking that she was either part of Dahaks plan or praying that she was just mad. "ENOUGH!!" Caswallaun cried. The warrior frozen as the room came to an abrupt silence.
"If what Xena says is true we cant afford to be fighting amongst ourselves. This is the hour of which we have prayed would not come to pass but that we have made ready to battle. We cant take the chance that she is wrong but I for one believe her." Caswallaun rose from his chair and looked directly at Xena drawing his sword he raised it high. "I trust you Xena and my sword is yours to command!" Seeing this each warrior in turn stood and echoed Caswallauns actions and words.
Feeling pride in knowing the good hearts of these men and the vows that they followed, Xena also rose drawing her short sword. " Your swords honor me as we fight to protect the world from the evil of Dahak forever!!"
Having filled them in on her plans the warriors scrambled to ready their horses. Xena had a growing sense of unease wanting desperately to reach Boadiceas camp. The sun was high and they had only a few candlemarks left before sunset.
As Eochaid finished saddling his horse he passed Xena as he made his way out of the castle. Xenas eyes narrowed as he passed. Seeing Goewin in the stables she put into place another piece of her plan.
"Goewin, I need to talk with you." Xena stated in quiet tones as she eyed the other warriors.
"Sure Xena what is it?" Goewin replied.
"In private." Xena said in a determined tone as she escorted Goewin into the hall.
"Goewin, I know you are a good and honorable man and what I have to say maybe hard for you to believe .. But I swear it is the truth." Xena pleaded.
"Alright Xena what is it?" Goewin replied confused.
"Eochaid is a traitor to your cause." Seeing an angered look in Goewins eyes she pushed on "Dont ask me how I know but it is the truth. Eochaid has made an alliance with the Banshee who are in league with Dahak."
Trying to deny all that Xena said "Xena I know Eochaid .. he was one of the first of our warriors.. he has taken his vows. Why would he throw away all that he has held sacred all these years?" Goewin pleaded waiting for an answer.
Seeing the torn look in Goewins eyes she knew the pain of betrayal. "Why does any one betray another .. to save his own hide, for wealth, maybe both. Where would be a better place to seek such information to aid Dahak then working within the wall of this castle? Ive known my share of traitors and believe me even spying for years is not uncommon if the payoff is big enough." Xena could see Goewin begin to waiver in his defense of Eochaid.
"What proof do you have Xena, are you a seer as well as a great warrior?"
Xena sighed softly " I am sorry but I cant revel how I know only that I do know .. He will betray you. As for proof I ask that you see for yourself. I will tell the others that I have sent you to town to look for more volunteers. I ask that you wait and follow us keeping to the dense forest. I am willing to bet that Eochaid will find an opportunity to reach the Banshees to warn them." Still seeing reluctance in his eyes "If Im wrong then you will just be delayed in reaching Boadiceas camp."
"Alright I will do as you ask but I hope you are wrong. It would not bring me pleasure to draw my sword on my brethren."
Seeing his hesitation "Do you have the stomach for this Goewin?" Xena asked.
Drawing strength from his vows Goewin replied "Xena, I took a vow to protect the innocent and to destroy evil wherever I may find it .. even by some twist of fate it includes one of our own I will do what I must."
Understanding Xena looked into his eyes knowing he would keep his word. With that Goewin and Xena returned to their mounts and went to meet with the others.
As Xena swiftly mounted her horse and turned to address the others. "Goewin will join us at Boadiceas camp, Ive asked him to see if he can rally a some volunteers from town to help. I have given him directions to the camp."
"Good." Caswallaun pronounced "We can use a few more swords in fighting Caesar and Dahak."
Xena nodded in response and kicked her horse into a healthy pace leading to Boadiceas camp. As she expected Eochaid trailed behind.
After a candle mark Xenas acute hearing noted that there was one less horse following. I hope your ready for him Goewin.
Eochaid knew that the information that he possessed would be just what he needed to finalize his alliance with the Banshee and the followers of Dahak.
Taking his time Eochaid slowly fell back as they traveled, then seeing thicker foliage ahead he made his move turning and slowly heading back. After he felt safe he kicked his horse and rode him for all he was worth towards the Banshee forest. If he timed it right he could return before anyone missed him. Seeing the Banshee Forest in sight he dismounted and walked his horse not wanting to alarm the Banshee into attacking. As he began to call the Banshee Eochaid heard the quite snap of a twig behind him. His hand reached for the hilt of his sword as he prepared to draw he spun to meet the presence behind him. "Goewin!!" Eochaid stated quite startled. "Goewin my friend what are you doing here." Trying to make light "What get lost heading to the village?"
With a look of total disgust and anger in his eyes Goewin yelled "I am not the one who is has lost his way!!!
Eochaid catching the double meaning tried to fair innocence. "What are you talking about Xena ordered me to draw back and escort you and the other to Boadiceas camp."
Goewins eyes grew even darker as Eochaids betrayal became apparent. "How long have you pretended to be one of us! Were you ever one of us seeking to destroy evil!?"
Eochaid seeing that Goewin would no longer be fooled dropped his act as a wicked grin crossed his face. "You are all fools!! I once thought as you that evil could be fought .. that goodness and peace were possible. But I have seen too many things ..too many killed to ever believe that goodness stands a chance against the great evil of this world. So you might say that I struck a bargain to save myself a place of power in this New World that Dahak will bring!"
Goewin was now beyond anger and pity, he knew what he had to do.. he had made a vow and by the Gods he intended to keep his!! Drawing his sword he approached Eochaid. Seeing this Eochaid too drew his sword and making the first move lunged toward Goewin. The forest was filled with only the sound of steel crashing together again and again. Eochaid and Goewin were evenly matched so the fight drew on as they each fought for the advantage. As Eochaid began to tire he search for an opportunity to end this battle. Seeing Goewin backing toward a small rock he urged him even further back. Not seeing the rock Goewin tripped falling to the ground his sword awkwardly posed to defend him self. Seeing Eochaids smile widened he felt desperate to stop him, thinking of all the Eochaid had betrayed .. him, his brethren, even Xena his anger surged fire through his blood and as Eochaid began to make his final lunge for his chest Goewin drew his free hand to his knife and as Eochaid drew close he buried his blade deep into Eochaids midsection.
Eochaid drew back feeling only pain and unable to believe that he had been beaten. With a look of confusion he dropped to his knees and fell forward on the blade though he was already dead before he hit the ground.
Taking a moment to catch his breath Goewin walked to Eochaids body and dropping down on bended knee he bowed his head. Then taking his hand across the face of a man he once called friend closing Eochaids empty eyes.
Continued. . .
As the sun sets,
I ready to battle fate,
With only your love to shield me.
As Xena and the warriors finally approached the camp she silently signaled the warriors to stop. It was only a little more then a candlemark before Apollo would begin his decent. Addressing Caswallaun "Alright now give me a quarter candlemark then enter the camp like we planned." Nodding his understanding Xena made her way towards the camp on foot.
Circling the camp it was not difficult for her go unnoticed. As she past the tents she heard the familiar sound of wood colliding. "Staffs." Xena whispered. As her heart started to pound she turned towards the sounds and made her way to a clearing.
As she gazed unto the clearing Xena felt as if her heart had stopped as she tried to catch her breath. "Gabrielle!"
She could not .. did not want to believe what she was seeing. There in the clearing was Gabrielle surrounded by several men as she worked her staff in a routine that Xena knew by heart. "Gods!" Xena cried as the beauty mesmerized her. The small muscular form .. the golden red hair and that smile, yes that smile that could warm her heart and fill her soul. Even now she did not realize how empty she was till the sight of Gabrielle filled her. Closing her eyes she fought the strong desperate urge to run to Gabrielle to wrap her long arms around her and carry her away.. away from Britannia ¼ away for Dahak.
Xena took calming breaths as she tried to maintain control of her emotions. She knew what she must do knowing that unless she destroyed Dahak that Gabrielle would never be truly safe. Taking a long gaze at the women who held her heart Xena whispered "I have always loved you Gabrielle!" Closing her eyes she tried to capture this memory so that she could carry this moment in her heart as she prepared to battle for the fate of the only person she ever truly loved. Composing herself Xena turned and proceeded to Boadiceas tent.
As Caswalleun and the others rode towards the camp several stunned guards raced to meet them. Surprised that not one but several warriors had made it so far into their camp without an alarm being sounded. Quickly they were surrounded as one of the guards was sent for Boadicea. Trying to calm the guards Caswalleun and the others surrendered their swords and patiently waited for Boadicea.
With decisive steps Boadicea made her way through the nervous guards to the warriors, anger gleamed from her eyes as she quickly eyed her guards. The guards knew that there would be a price to pay for their apparent failure of allowing these men into camp. "Who are you and what are you doing in my camp!" Boadicea barked.
Caswalleun understanding her anger did his best to calm her suspicions. Truly he knew that they never would have gotten this close to her camp if not for the Warrior Princess. "I assure you that we mean you and yours no harm. Boadicea, we are the Warriors of the Pierced Heart. We come to aid you in your battle against Caesar. I have information that you will find quite valuable."
Boadicea knew of these men and if they were who they claimed she could you their swords in battle. " Well then we have much to discuss." Turning to a guard "See that these men are given food and drink. Then find them quarters." Turning to Caswalleun " Follow me Id like to hear how you made it into my camp so easily." Boadicea stated as she watched her Captains face grew pale.
As Boadicea entered her tent Caswalleun followed. "Boadicea, actually I come here as an advocate of another .. one who felt that you would not trust their word with out .. shall we say a champion of sorts."
Confused by this turn Boadicea shifted wanting to know more. "And does this person deserve my suspicion?" Boadicea asked eyeing Caswalleun.
The voice replied from the shadows of the room .. a voice haunting familiar Boadicea turned. "Once your suspicions were well founded .. but I pray that now you will put aside our past for a greater good."
Walking out from the shadows Xena approached Boadicea slowly trying to show that she was not a threat. "What is the meaning of this!!" Boadicea cried waiting for a reply as she determined whether to call her guards.
"I have information that will help you against Caesar but I could not take the chance that you would not believe me. Too much is at stake and I need your help!" Xena explained.
"Funny, but I heard that you had joined Caesars army. Your friend came here to warn me of your alliance with Caesar." Boadicea stated as she intensely watched Xena for a reaction.
As Xenas heart beat faster at the mention of her bard she firmly contained her outward appearance. "You know of my past and my hatred of Caesar I infiltrated his ranks only to try and destroy him. I came here to warn you Caesar has ordered all his legions here by dawn. Caesar knows of my presence and seeks a great battle to raise him through the ranks in Rome. Destroying your forces and me would do that for him and nothing would stand in his way to conquering Greece. He must be stopped!"
"Why should I believe you Xena. I was betrayed by you once and I will not be fooled again!" Boadicea stated as anger vibrated in her voice.
"Excuse me!" Caswalleun said wondering at how wise it was to interrupt them. "Boadicea, my warriors and I believe in Xena. On my word she is here to help and it is vital to us all that we assist her."
As Boadicea eyed Caswalleun she thought over all that had been disclosed to her and listening to her instincts she decided. "Alright Xena the Gods know I have reason to doubt you .. but I believe what you say to be true. Now what are we to do."
Releasing a breath the Xena did not realize she was holding "Caesars forces are many but we have the advantage of knowing his plans and the ability to divide his forces. I have detailed a plan to Caswalleun and his warriors; they will assist you in leading your men. I know this plan can work but you must hurry in placing your men so that you gain the most advantage." Xena stated with confidence.
Seeing that Xena need a few moments alone with Boadicea, Caswallaun decided now was the time to gather his warriors so that they could all proceed discussing their plans. "I will summon my warriors and return so that we can go over the plans."
"Yes, have my guard also summon my commanders as well." Boadicea directed.
Quickly Caswalleun left the tent leaving the two women in an uncomfortable silence. "I know I have no right to ask but I need your help." Xena stated.
Seeing the look of humility on Xenas face Boadicea was slightly taken back by the vulnerable look in her eyes. She knew this woman as a vicious warrior and had never seen the light that now shined in Xenas eyes. This was not the same women she had fought years ago, no this women was not her enemy, though Boadicea did not know if she could ever forgive her for what she had once done. "Ask and I will see what I can do."
"I need you to hold Gabrielle here in camp, arrest her .. confine her to her quarters order several guards to watch her to insure that she does not leave this camp!" Xena pleaded. "I cant explain why only that it is vital that she remain here."
"Your friend, she means a great deal to you?" Boadicea asked carefully observing Xenas reactions.
"She means everything to me and where I must go now she cannot follow! Caswalleun will help you but there is something that I must do and I cant take the chance that Gabrielle will get involved. Just make sure she says here till morning. And no matter what you may see do not allow any of your men to come to the Temple."
"I do not understand Xena but I will do as you ask. I will make sure that she will remain here till tomorrow. Is there anything you wish me to tell her?"
Xena wanted to say so much but knowing what she was about to do, she could not bring herself to say anything. "No, just keep her safe and see that she returns to Greece." Turning to leave Boadicea clasp her arm in a warriors embrace. Xena returned the gesture as she looked deep into Boadiceas eyes "Thank you .. for trusting me. Xena stated just above a whisper. Boadicea nodded as these two once enemies shared the common ground of respect and trust. Turning Xena made her way from the tent to the woods where her horse waited.
Knowing that the time was growing near Xena changed once again into her leathers and armor. I felt good to finally have the leathers on. It felt as if she were putting on a second layer of skin. Swiftly she mounted and headed towards the Temple. As she crested a small rise she could see the Temple. With the skies painted with deep blues and fiery oranges as Apollo had just began his decent. Xena whispered prayer to any God that would listen as she kicked her horse forward heading toward her date with destiny.
Gabrielle was just finishing up her staff training as Agnor approached. "Are you ready to head to the Temple. My Queen." Agnor stated enthusiastically.
Rolling her eyes at his last comment Gabrielle nudged him in the ribs "Oh please cut that out, and yes I am just about ready, just let me wash up and change and we can head out."
They made their way to Gabrielles tent where she quickly changed, just as she was about to leave she heard Agnor being addressed by one of the guards. "Have you seen the Amazon Gabrielle." The guard demanded.
"Yes, shes in her tent changing. Is there something wrong?" Agnor asked worriedly.
The guard did not get a chance to answer as Gabrielle stepped out of the tent. " Are you looking for me?" Gabrielle inquired.
Before she knew it four guards were surrounding her. Realizing she had left her staff in her tent Gabrielle tried to relax. "Whats going on!?" She and Agnor stated at once.
Ordering one of the guards to retrieve the Amazons staff from her tent he turned to face Agnor and Gabrielle "Boadicea has ordered you under house arrest! You are to remain here under guard until she returns tomorrow." Turning to Agnor "As for you Samos waits for you in Boadiceas tent."
Turning to Gabrielle "Dont worry Gabrielle Ill see what this is all about. Im sure this is some kind of mistake." Seeing the look of trust in her eyes Agnor raced to Boadiceas tent.
With that the guards escorted Gabrielle into her tent. " Make yourself comfortable if you need anything we will provide it. Please dont try to escape, I have five guards posted and none of them wish to do you harm .. but they will not allow you to leave this tent understand." Gabrielle answered with a slight nod of her head, and the guard made his way out.
Gabrielle could not understand what this could be all about but she sensed that these men meant her no harm her only to detain her for some unknown reason. After pacing for a bit she decided to settle down and make the best of the situation. She regretted that she would not be able to make it to the Temple but Gabrielle was sure that Meridian would understand. She would find a way to make it up to her somehow.
To Be Continued
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