My name is Gabrielle, and this is my last hour. It is my time. Already I feel the cold hand of Death upon my shoulder. For seventy summers have I walked this earth but it now seems no more that a blink of an eye to me.
My life has been a most eventful one. I was a bard and, in all modesty, a very good one. I spent years perfecting my craft and ultimately my tales could compel the most hard hearted of men to weep or the most timid to want to do great deeds. I was present at great events, the siege of Troy, the rescue of Prometheus, the Thessalian War. I saw Zeus with my own eyes. I met great men; Hercules, David (who later became a king), Hippocrates, Homer. I became an Amazon princess-- could have been queen--but it was not for me for my heart was elsewhere. I saw the manifestations of indescribable evil: Ares and Callisto. I saw acts of courage and kindness, cruelty and hate and all of it I recorded in my scrolls. They number in the hundreds, seldom read now, but as fresh in my mind as the day I wrote them. Yes, I have had a good life.
I see my sister Lila, eyes red, keeping vigil by my bed. I am too weak now, no longer able to speak to her. But in my mind I have to laugh. Although both of us are wrinkled and gray, still we squabbled and bickered like silly young girls. Oh, Lila, I love you so!
Beside her stands my son, sturdy and tall. A miraculous gift to me from the gods in the autumn of my life. Eighteen summers old now, see how handsome he is! Just like the father he never knew. Weep not, my son! It is only the natural order of things. But he buries his head in the bed covers and softly cries. Oh my son, many times I told you I loved you but I never told you how you helped to mend your mother's broken heart. After Xena's death I thought I would surely go mad but, like a little lamp in a cavern of darkness, you came to me. I wish you had known her.
It is almost time now, I can feel it. And so I give my last moments to the memory of the one who, for more than fifty years, dominated almost every thought I had, conscious or subconscious. All through the day little incidents or simple words bring your memory rushing back to me. And at night I still dream of you; dreams so real I wake up aching to feel your strong arm around me, to smell you, to hear your voice just once more.
Oh sweet gods has it been twenty years? Was it not only yesterday I held your hand and sobbed as I felt your life ebb away? You lay there with your once jet black hair now streaked with gray and with crows-feet around those wondrous blue eyes but, by the gods, you were as beautiful as the first day I ever saw you. Whether you felt cursed or blessed I know not for you did not die a warrior's death on some bloody battlefield but quietly in a soft bed surrounded by those who loved you.
The great healer Hippocrates, himself now aged and renowned throughout Greece had rushed to your side at the news of your illness. He worked feverishly using all his considerable skill to save you but, as you slipped away, like me he could not hold back his tears. You know, to the day he died he called you "Teacher".
And they were there. Your temporary enemies turned lifelong friends; Hercules and Iolaus. It was the only time I ever saw the mighty hero cry. And you know, Xena, I felt a little guilty. In my heart I still believe if not for me the two of you would have one day been together.
They are all gone now. Hercules-- so revered that mighty Zeus placed him in the heavens for all to admire forever more. And Iolaus, now dead these fifteen years. Til the day he died he was strong of hand, keen of eye, and merry of heart. I miss him so. And Hippocrates, too. His legacy will be one for all the ages, I think.
Xena I have failed you. Even though I sang your praises for almost twenty years after your death already they are starting to forget your name, your deeds, your greatness. While it seems Hercules will be forever remembered; you, his equal, are already barely known among the young of today. It is my only regret in life and I am so sorry. I pray you will not think badly of me when we meet again. Ahh, but I know you won't. No matter how foolish I was you were always so forgiving of me. And, you know, it only made me more determined not to disappoint you.
On those occasions when your fierce temper did get the best of you, and you would scold me, I was never scared of the "Warrior Princess"; she who conquered great armies and toppled nations. For not even then could you hide your love from me in those blue eyes! You would rise up to your full, impressive height and try to bluff me--but I knew. And what's more, you knew I knew. You would then bluster and scowl but soon your storm would pass and the sunlight in your face would peek out once more. For thirty-odd years did we play this game. I would have given a world's treasure to have played it once more in the last few years.
Ohhh, my head is swimming. Forgive me, Xena, but I am glad my end will not be as hard as yours. I have not your courage. I remember how you fought for every breath and how Hippocrates' voice cracked when he said your heart was getting weaker. Even now, at the end of my time, I can still see you lying there and wonder how this could be. You seemed so indestructible even though many times over the years I saw you hurt. But, as with all mortals, there is no escaping Death. He comes to all sooner or later.
At last Hippocrates said your time was at hand. You surely must have heard him for I remember how, with your last bit of strength, you beckoned to me. Your struggling voice was barely a whisper so I laid my ear to your lips and heard the words I have carried in my heart from that day to this, "My love, I will wait for thee."
And you were no more.
Afterwards, on summer nights, I often heard the soft breeze dance on the leaves of the tree outside my window and to my mind they whispered, "Gabrielle" and I would pretend you were calling to me. Maybe you were. For many was the time in these last twenty years that I sensed your presence.
So many little things that puzzled me. Like the time that runaway horse would surely have run me down had not some unseen thing turned it at the last second. Was that you? Or those times I lay shivering in my bed on chilly nights and a comforting warmth would suddenly envelop me. One which, upon my waking in the morning, could still be felt on your side of the bed. Was that you? Or most puzzling of all; the night my son was born. Xena, I had a very hard time with him. In my delirium from the pain I thought I heard a soothing voice singing to me and saying all would be well. I pretended it was you. Was it you? I think it was.
And then he was born, all pink and bald and squalling like a griffin. Oh Xena, do you like him? Of course you do. Is he not a son to be proud of? He has been great comfort to me in these my waning years.
When once again I see you I pray you think me not unfaithful to you. You had been dead for more than a year then and still I grieved for you. Then came that night at the feast of Demeter. I felt these eyes watching me. All evening I sensed their presence. It got late and, as I was about to go home, he introduced himself to me.
He was tall and his face had the look of one who had borne many burdens. Xena, you know how I always was older than I looked, well this fellow thought me his age or even a little less. The man was barely two score years old! He was really nothing out of the ordinary but he was kind and he seemed sincere. By the gods I was lonely!
In my self pity I gave myself to him. I never saw him again. Imagine my surprise when, some time later, the morning sickness began to beset me. It cannot be!, I thought. Am I not too old? My prime has long since passed. Soon, however, there was no doubting I was with child. This was when Lila came to live with me, her husband long dead. She lives with me still. She thought it the greatest thing since shop bought bread. As for me, Xena, I was so frightened. But nature has a way of taking care of those such as me and, with Lila's help, the result is the fine young man that weeps now on my bed.
Xena, let the chronicles record I kept my promise to you. Today, still, your body lies in Amphipolis, resting beside your beloved brother, Lyceus. And let them note that each year on the date of your death did I return to you to once again be near you and honor your memory.
For over thirty years my companion, my friend, my teacher...my lover.
I feel a tear on my cheek and Lila gently wipes it away. They see my tears and think I grieve but I do not. For I rejoice. Had I voice I would shout to the top of Mount Olympus, "Thank you, Death, for the work you do this day!" For this is not the end, oh no! This is merely the beginning.
People thought us so different. Me, the cheerful fair haired one from Poteidaia, and you, the dark and brooding one from Amphipolis. But we were not so different; not in the things that really mattered. We both despised injustice, we both hated tyranny, we were both driven to help others.
We each had our strengths, of course, but we complemented each other perfectly. And it was sealed by our love for each other. Of course, if the truth be told, you could have done it alone even though you always said you could not do it without me. You had no weaknesses. There wasn't anything you couldn't do. You were so intelligent, so brave, so everything!
Yet no matter what my role, great or small, you always made me feel as though I was vital to your plans. And what plans they were! Even now my heart laughs at some of them. But they always succeeded.
Xena has earned her place in the Elysian Fields. I know it in my heart. The lives she touched over our thirty-odd years together more than made up for her early years of shame. I know she waits there for me. Once again we will walk the gentle fields together. I can't wait to see her. She will be young and strong and her step will be one of grace and pride. And, as always, slow to allow me to keep up.
He is here. Death has come for me. Good bye, Lila. Good bye my dear boy. Grieve not, instead rejoice and think of the day we will once again be together. But until then--oh gods!
"Xena, my warrior, I come to thee. I come to theeee. I co-"
A voice not heard in twenty years beckons to the beloved little bard from beyond the light.
"Welcome home, Gabrielle."
For this is a love that time will not abate. So long as two atoms from their being exist in the universe, their love shall be whole.
The Bard's Corner