Heroine - Part 5 of 5
CN Winters and Amy
Xena Fanfiction, Xena fanfic, Xena fan fiction, Xena and
Gabrielle fanfiction, Xena fiction
No, this isn't about
someone overcoming a drug habit. <G> Although I wish I
could say Xena and Gabby are ours, they are not. They belong
to MCA/Universal last we heard. This story however is ours and
ours alone. There's a lot of violence, but not too graphic. Alt
sex, you bet! If you are too young, read no further. If you
live some place where this may not be kosher, read no further.
However, if you are open-minded, old enough and live in a
progressive neighborhood... enjoy! Nothing poetic is our’s,
belongs to unknown author.
Note: Thanks to
Kamouraskan, Jlynn, Mary and the Bardic Circle for the beta.
creates a conqueror world where Gabrielle is the ruthless
dictator, Najara is her consort and Ephiny as her second in
command. It's up to Xena to find a way to break the spell and
get her Gabby 'home'.
Email the author's at
CNWinters71@yahoo.com or MurphyCG881@aol.com
Heroine - Part 5 of 5
"The cook is
There had to be some
mistake. But since Gabrielle asked the question, she didn't
believe it either.
"I came down to begin
the breakfast preparations. When Cyrene wasn't up, I knocked
on the door – no answer." The man paused to get his
Gabrielle asked shaking him a little harder than necessary.
"I-I-I thought she
might be ill, so I went inside. She was on the floor. Her
I didn't want to hear
anymore. I raced to her quarters. He had to be wrong. He had
to be mistaken. Maybe she fell and hit her head. Maybe she was
just unconscious. I was barely aware that Gabrielle was
following me. Once at the door I paused and took a breath,
trying to steady myself for what might be on the other side.
Gabrielle however didn't stop. She pushed past me and into the
room. I couldn't see much except for Gabrielle's hand that
shot to her mouth. Next came her cries.
"Oh dear Gods! Nooo!"
I felt frozen. Should I go
in or should I stand outside? Without any further thought, I
held my breath and entered. I still wasn't prepared for what I
Blood in a large puddle
encircled my mother who lay on the floor. Silently I cursed
the assistant cook for being correct. Gabrielle was now
kneeling at her side examining her body, the red of my
mother's blood soaking up into Gabrielle's white sleeping
"Why didn't you listen
to me!" Gabrielle shouted at my mother's corpse.
"You should have come with us! You stupid, pig-headed
I jumped at every word in
her rant. I knew Gabrielle was angered. Not so much by my
mother's objections to come with us, but by the fact someone
had taken her life. But she had to blame someone. She had to
have some outlet for her anger.
I was in shock. I couldn't
cry. I told myself it wasn't real and, in truth, that was the
case. None of this was real. My first instinct was Ares. Ares
made this world and perhaps this was his way to get my dark
side to come out and play for his amusement. Gabrielle was
still in a puddle of tears on the floor as I started to look
around the room. Looking for something, anything that could
tie Ares to what happened. But nothing looked out of the
ordinary... in fact . . .
call down to her. "Look around this room."
I started to examine things
closer as she came to her feet wiping her eyes. Slowly her
hysteria began to subside and she was taking it all in like I
"It's as clean as when
we left it," she said.
"Cleaner. There was no
struggle here. That means…"
"Cyrene must have known
her killer," Gabrielle finished for me.
That ruled out Ares. My
mother mentioned him, but she had never met him face to face.
With the events that transpired earlier that evening, she
would have fought any man, or woman, that appeared in her room
unannounced. But everything was in its place. No overturned
furniture, nothing thrown toward the door in defense. Her
quill and ink sat upright on the edge of her nightstand. I
looked to Gabrielle and suddenly her eyes filled with concern.
She raced out of the room
and I quickly followed. Within moments we arrived at Ephiny's
door, pounding for her to let us in. Solari opened the door
"She's here in bed."
Solari nodded behind her. "What's happening?"
Gabrielle nearly blurted it
out, but quickly caught herself when she saw Hope sitting up
in bed wiping the sleep from her eyes. She couldn't say
anything in front of the young girl. Obviously the callus
conqueror still had a heart somewhere inside her chest as to
spare the young girl's feelings by simply announcing it.
The cook, Gabrielle's keeper
and the woman that had raised Hope, was now lying dead. She
was the same woman that raised me, I remembered although she
hadn't known the experience. At that moment, it hit me. She
was dead. My mother was dead. I was going to lose my composure
and I quickly turned away and walked a few paces down the
hall. I began to cry as a sickening feeling swept over me. I
couldn't hold it together. I bent over and heaved, the
contents of the prior evening’s meal expelling from my
stomach. Solari and Gabrielle watched. Solari was now growing
"By the gods, what's
happened?" she whispered.
Hearing Gabrielle whisper
the cook was dead to Solari, came to my ears like a fog. I
tried to take a couple steps to get away. I just wanted to
run. Be anywhere, but here with them watching me. My legs
failed me, buckling, slamming my back into the wall and I slid
down, letting out a wail that surprised even me. I should have
known better, I should have made her come with us, and I
failed my mother again. I hit my head into the wall and
screamed again. I didn’t care who heard or was looking.
I guess me being out of it
and Gabrielle and Solari in shock, no one heard Hope walk up.
"Why you crying,
Xena?" My head snapped up to see a concerned face that
looked like my bard, but in a tiny form. I couldn’t form any
words, and the more I tried, the harder the tears came.
She came over and crawled
into my lap and held me.
"Najara hurt Grandma,
Perceptive child. So much
like her mother. Unfortunately, more perceptive than her
mother since Gabrielle allowed Cyrene to be alone. I feel a
twinge of anger at Gabrielle. She should have put up more of a
fight, let her stay with us, anything. But I realize quickly
it wouldn't have mattered. I knew Mother. And obviously, so
did Gabrielle. Instead of dwelling on it or saying anything to
Hope, I just nodded and pulled her closer.
"Is she dead?" The
tiny voice in my arms quivered as I nodded again.
"Are you sure?"
she asked. "Maybe she's just pretending. Maybe
"She gone Hope," I
told her. "I'm sorry, but she's dead."
She pulled back from me a
bit to study my watery eyes. Recognizion seems to take hold
"She was your mama
wasn't she Xena?"
I nodded slowly.
"I’m sorry your
mama’s gone. You just found her like I just found my mama.
That's not fair."
"Life isn't fair
sometimes," I tell her.
"You have her eyes and
smile, you know? When I see you, I see Grandma." She
started to sob. "Why does she have to be dead? I want my
"Me too, little one, me
too." I held her close again and rocked her. I became
aware that Gabrielle and Solari were still watching. Hope
turned her head and looked right at her mother.
"I don’t care if
anyone wants to hurt me, I want a mama. Please say you want to
be my mama." That broke through Gabrielle. She dropped
down on her knees and opened her arms. Hope flew out of mine
and into hers. Gabrielle scooped her up and placed kisses all
over her face.
"I’m so sorry, Hope,
so sorry," she kept saying over and over to her baby.
I knew what I had to do;
first things first. I stood, leaving Gabrielle and child,
making my way back to Mother’s room. If anyone was going to
clean her up and ready her for the pyre, it would be me.
I picked her up and carried
her into the kitchen, laying her on the table. I went outside
and told the guard nothing was to disturb me until I was
finished. I got rags and filled pots with water.
Starting with her face,
making sure I got off all of the blood.
"Oh, Mother. This is
the second time I’ve lost you, and both times I never got to
tell you how I feel." I rinsed the rag out, telling
myself this wasn’t real. Still in either world, she was gone
from my life.
"The dead can hear our
thoughts, so I guess this is good enough time as any,
huh?" I found a healer’s kit my mother kept in her room
for emergencies. I started to close her neck wound as I talked
to her. Odd doesn't begin to cover the feeling of the
sensation that went through me.
"It took a long time
for us to heal our relationship. You were so angry for the
Lyceus and I held so much
guilt." The tears were forming again in my eyes, making
my task harder. "And then later, after I realized my true
place at Gabrielle's side…I spent all that time helping
people, saving people, traveling village to village. And the
ones that mattered most – you, Joxer, even Gabrielle's
family – I couldn't save them. I wasn't there. Just like I
wasn't here last night."
"I never had much time
to tell you how much I loved you. I was hoping in this world,
I could make you feel it since I failed in the other. After
all, every kid needs their mom." I swallowed hard and
wept. I missed my mother, I missed my son and I missed my old
life. Gods, in all these moons, I never thought I would ever
In my other world, I was
fine as long as my bard was there. She is my light, the person
who taught me I was still human. In this dark world I had to
watch the very same people suffer, people I have grown to care
about here. In this world, how long would it be before LaoMa,
Ephiny and Solari were dead? Sure, Hope was in this world and
existed as a normal child and not the spawn of an evil,
tormenting god. But Eve never would exist so was it worth the
pay off? Is watching Gabrielle drowning her sorrows in rage
and alcohol worth the price? No, it's not. And I just wanted
to go home. It wasn't perfect, but it was right. Right for
Gabrielle and right for me too. Somehow I had to get us back
there. Back to Eve, back to Lila and back to Sarah and Virgil,
whom I considered my niece and nephew. Not by blood, but by
love; just as my mother had laid claim to Hope.
I finished my task and heard
the door open. I was ready to take whoever’s head off, but…
Gabrielle made her way in,
giving me a weak smile. She knelt down by Mother’s head.
"Gods, I‘m going to
miss you." Suddenly I felt like I was intruding, so I
tried to make my way out of the room.
"Xena, don't go?"
It came as a question. As if I wouldn't stand beside Gabrielle
if need be. Like I could just walk away from her of my own
free will. I couldn't leave Gabrielle, but I could respect her
wishes to share private time with my mother. I stopped by the
far table and sat giving her some space yet never leaving. She
turned back to Mother.
"You were more then a
cook to me, you were the mother I lost years ago. I can’t
remember how many times you stopped me from making mistakes
because my mind was clouded with my anger." She sniffled.
"How many times did I
take you for granted?" She gave a sad sigh. "I
didn’t tell you enough how much I love you. You took such
good care of Hope and I. I’ll make you proud, Mother."
She stood and gave Cyrene a kiss, turning towards me. "I
promise from here on out to do the right thing – for
everyone my life touches."
Gabrielle called toward the
Quickly a man darted inside
to stand by the door. "Yes, Your Highness?"
"Is Caesar still
"I'm not sure your
Highness. He's still in holding. We know you had plans for him
last night that got cut short, but-."
"You heard me. See to
his wounds the best you can. We won't endanger our people by
taking him to Rome ourselves. So be sure to hire a service to
deliver him back to the Romans. I want him out of Athens by
The guard looked confused, but
nodded anyway. "Yes, Your Highness."
The guard briskly left to
see to Gabrielle’s commands and a guilty grin hung on her
face. "Do you know what I was going to do to him last
I simply shook my head, not
sure if I wanted to hear, but knowing I had to anyway.
"I was going to put his
death on display at the victory celebration. I was going to
start by cutting off his fingers. Then his limbs and finish
with his head after I showed him his heart... When I was
finished, I was going to have his remains shipped back to
I found myself tongue-tied
for a response, but in all honesty I wasn’t surprised by the
"Somehow I think Cyrene
would disapprove," she said with a grim chuckle. She
walked to the other side of the table, folding her arms across
her chest. "Somehow I think I do now too."
I wasn’t sure what to say
so I decided being silent was best for the moment.
"You know," she
continued, "when Cyrene gave me the brief reason on how
she was your mother, it didn’t add up. I was going to
question this later, but Hope saw something that I’m just
now seeing. Those beautiful eyes of yours and that smile are
from the only person who really loved me, especially at my
worst. I’m so sorry, Xena, I should have known better, I
should have protected her, and now it’s too late." She
hung her head and I rose and walked over to her. Without
asking, I wrapped my arms around her.
"It’s not your fault.
She was a stubborn woman and you were respecting her feelings.
Neither one of us thought there would be another attack, not
this soon." I didn’t think the nut would have the guts
to do it herself. After a few moments of just holding
Gabrielle, I cleared my throat and spoke. "I have her
ready for the pyre."
I looked at her strangely
for the sudden outburst.
"Can you carry her body
and come with me?"
I nodded and lifted her
weight. It was difficult to carry her as I followed Gabrielle
along the hall to several flights of stairs going down towards
the dungeon area. I had no idea where we were going or why. We
got to the end of the stairway, and Gabrielle reached up,
taking the torch on the wall, then pulling the torch mount.
The wall slid open and there was another room there.
We walked for a bit until we
came to another room, a huge one. Inside, there were six stone
coffins; the very last one, open. The tomb was well kept from
what I could see, but I was still unsure. I think Gabrielle
"This is my family’s
burial chamber. When I finished conquering what I could, one
of the things I had made in the castle was this. I went with
some of my soldiers back home and unburied my parents and
sister and brought them here. Didn’t want some petty thug
digging at their bones, trying to make a profit."
She motioned me over and I
placed my mother, our mother, inside. I wasn't sure what to
say as I watched Gabrielle playing with the stone lid. She
cleared her throat and spoke in a soft voice.
"When I met Cyrene, she
was in a bad way. Those soldiers who betrayed me, killing her
sons…" Her eyes had more sorrow. "Your
bothers." She took a deep breath.
"I loved Cyrene from
the start and one of her wishes was for me to bury them here.
So I did," She added as she pointed to three coffins,
noting each. "Lyceus. Toris. And the last coffin here for
her when it was time. I was praying it would be a long time
before I had to place her here. I have to admit – there were
times I hoped I never lived to see this day, wishing she'd
bury me first." I walked to the last coffin, and gently
placed my mother in it.
I looked over to the two
beside her. One had Lyceus’ name and the other was Toris’.
Emotion struck me again and I couldn’t hold it back. A
simple "Thank you," was all I could muster.
I looked past Gabrielle to a
woman standing in the doorway. An Amazon priestess came into
the room to purify it and make sure my mother was blessed.
Gabrielle walked up to mother and placed a dinar in her hand.
"Safe passage, Cyrene,
I love you." She kissed her head.
Word must have gotten out,
as a few of mother’s close friends came in said their
good-byes. As the last member left, Gabrielle and I spoke
before we had the lid closed.
"Bye Mother. Take care
of Joxer for us." I gave her a kiss. As the soldiers
placed the lid on, Ephiny came in.
"Any sign of my
bond-mate?" Gabrielle asked coldly. Right then my sorrow
turned into anger. I wanted Najara’s blood.
"No signs yet,
Conqueror. It’s going to be tough since she knows the ins
and outs of the whole castle."
Gabrielle sighed. "Make
sure every soldier is on alert. The ones who favor my Consort,
both turned to look at me. "When we find her, I want her.
She’s mine in the arena. I'm issuing a challenge for her
seat as Consort if you'll have me." There would be no
debate on this and my voice made that clear. Gabrielle said
nothing as we left. I turned, giving my mother’s resting
place one last glance.
"First things first,
Xena. We need to take today to mourn, then the issue of Najara
will be dealt with." Gabrielle broke the silence.
"Ephiny, you have your orders. If I’m needed for
anything, I’ll be in my chamber." Ephiny nodded and
left. Gabrielle turned to me. "I would like for you to
spend time with Hope and myself, but I would understand if you
need to be alone."
"Umm, I need to be by
myself for a couple candle marks, I’ll stop by later.
Besides, I think you need to be alone with Hope for a
She nodded. "I know.
I’m just not sure what I can say to her, Xena."
"Just listen to her,
comfort her and let her know you’re there. That’s probably
the best you can do for her right now."
Then she did something I
wasn’t ready for. She pulled me into her arms and held me. I
buried my face in her hair and for a small moment in time, I
felt like I was home.
"We’ll be waiting for
you." She gave me a peck on the cheek and left. As I
watched her leave, I had that feeling again.
He materialized in front me,
shaking his head. "Damn, Xena... I didn't expect
Was that actually remorse I
saw on his face? "Oh really?" I asked in a ho-hum
"Yeah, I didn't think
she'd do it. I didn't think she'd kill your mother. That was
"So Najara did do
Ares chewed on his lip and
then nodded. "Yeah... When I chose her for Gabrielle I
figured it would really get your goat, you know?"
"Yeah I know."
"Well,, I forgot she's...
a bit nuts."
"Hey! I've got a stake
in this too, you know?"
"Well,, why don't you
explain?" I told him with a push to his chest.
"The wacko is making a
mess! I liked Gabrielle the Conqueror and truth be told, Xena,
I wouldn't care if you stay here and live out your life at
Gabrielle's side. I have the world right now. But with that
nutcase around, she's put things in motion that... well,
things I don't like."
I grinned. "Like the
fact that Gabrielle is tearing down her walls with the loss
and the threat that Najara now poses. Like the fact that I'm
getting closer and closer to Gabrielle's heart and buying a
ticket out of this world for us? Give it up, Ares. I know love
is the key. That's something you don't understand and could
Ares took a step closer to
me. "Are you really going to challenge her in the
He paused. "I wish you
I laughed out loud.
"Now there's a shock."
"Seriously, Xena. You
haven't seen this woman fight."
"I've battled Najara
before," I told him as I started to walk away.
"Not this Najara, you
I stopped and turned around.
"Why are you telling me this?"
He gave me a grin.
"Even though Gabrielle's now my Warrior Queen, keep in
mind you'll always be my Warrior Princess. It's a fact – I
gotta thing for ya... Just watch yourself out there."
"You know, I almost
believe you care, Ares…Almost."
"Yeah, I know you've
got good cause to doubt me." He nodded. "I don't
blame you. But consider this, Xena. Whenever you needed me to
do the right thing…when it came right down to the
wire…didn't I try my best to do right by you? Like I said,
He vanished before my eyes
and before I could issue a retort.
I spent the rest of the day
combing the castle with no luck. I realized that, other than
the fact nothing was disturbed, we had no true means to tie
the events back to Najara. I knew she did it. Gabrielle knew
she did it. Even Hope knew she did it. But in a land with laws
like Gabrielle had, we had to prove that she did it and that
was something we just weren't able to do.
I could however, challenge
her hand as Consort. That was within the law and it was one
way to eliminate her, even if Ares didn't want me to challenge
her in the arena.
Eventually, I had to get
back to Gabrielle's chambers. There was a ceremony of some
sort and I had to declare before Greece that I wanted and
deserved the Conqueror's hand. When I arrived at her room I
was surprised to find her alone.
"Where's Hope?" I
asked upon entering, expecting to find the young girl there.
Gabrielle turned and instead
of her daughter, I saw a wine flask gripped in her position.
She'd chosen the drink over her daughter. I knew that
Gabrielle found solace with a wine glass many nights, but it
wasn't until looking at her, this very moment that I realized
just how much.
"I let Ephiny take
her," she said as she poured herself a glass, another of
many I assumed by the sway of her body.
"Do you really think
it's wise to be drinking at a time like this?" I asked
"Do you really think I
My anger boiled over. I
darted over and knocked the glass from Gabrielle's hand,
spilling the contents all over both of us and shattering the
glass in the process.
"You should care,"
I hissed. "Moth-Cyrene took care of that child night and
day and now you just push her off to Ephiny when you should be
the one here for her?"
"Yeah, I do," I
replied, lowering my voice. "You're hooked. On the drink.
And you'd rather spend your life in a blurry haze than see
things for what they are. I've seen great men ruined by it.
Obviously great women are susceptible too."
"Stay out of my
affairs, Xena. It is not your place to tell me how to
"You call this
living?" I said, starting to get angry again. "It's
not living. It's running. Running from your past, running from
your present. Did you plan on getting so drunk that you're
seeing two of me right now, or was it just going to be one
glass to 'calm your nerves' that ended up being ten?"
"I could have your
I grabbed her by the hair
and tackled her to the floor. I grabbed my breast dagger and
raised it to strike her. With my other hand I covered her
mouth. "I could have your head too," I told her.
"So could Najara if she walked into this room right now.
Anyone could. Don't you see? If you want to keep living you
have to stay sharp right now."
Gabrielle glared, turning
her head, forcing my hand to move away.
"Maybe I don't want to
keep living," she whispered. "Maybe I wish it would
all be over. No more betrayals. No more battles. No more
losses. No more anything…Go ahead, Xena. Do it….Slash my
throat. Stab my heart…You pick…Just end it."
I dropped the dagger and
bent over, placing a searing kiss on her lips. "No,"
I told her after I pulled away, "I'm going to conquer you
I saw the fear in her eyes.
It wasn't fear of me. It was the fear that so many others had
been telling me about – that fear within Gabrielle herself.
I moved away slightly and tugged her into a sitting position,
my lips reconnecting with her. She pushed me away, but I
refused to give up. This time my whole body returned and
covered hers. We hit the ground with a loud thud. I continued
to kiss her lips and her neck under her weak protests. She
pulled me by the hair, trying to get me off of her and that's
when I heard her start to cry.
"What are you afraid
of?" I whispered in her ear, nearly crying myself.
sobbed. She tried to move, but I refused and she cried even
"Why are you afraid of
me?" I asked. I shook her body when she didn't answer. I
knew either I would break down another wall or be on the
chopping block by sundown. But I decided being passive wasn't
getting me anywhere. "Tell me!" I ordered her with
"You promise too
much," she answered.
Promise too much? I didn't
know what it meant and a paused just a moment, but enough for
Gabrielle to flip me over on my back. She snagged the dagger
and swiped toward my neck, but I quickly lifted my hand
letting the wrist bracer take the blow. I grabbed her own
wrist and twisted it nearly to the breaking point. She winced
in pain, but it was myself that truly ached. I didn't want to
hurt her, but I had to make her see.
"What's too much?"
I asked. When she didn't answer I moved her wrist just a bit
more. "Tell me what's too much!"
forever," she answered. I felt the fight drain from her
body and the dagger fell from her fingers. "No one will
ever love me and if I'm lucky enough that they do, it
certainly won't be forever…Ask Najara, if you can find
I let go of her wrist and
instantly I received an uppercut across my jaw that snapped my
head back. She stood up with a wobble as I rubbed my cheek and
tried to shake it off.
"I'm not Najara,"
I told her, moving to a sitting position. I watched her
chuckle as she stumbled toward the bed.
"No, Najara has more
sense than to disrespect me the way you have tonight."
"No," I argue as I
rise to my feet. "It's not about disrespect. Najara
doesn't love you enough to point it out. Najara doesn't care
about anything more at this point than getting your
"Oh and you do?"
"I do." I nodded.
How do I prove I'm not after
her power? Instantly it comes to me and I give a small grin.
"Leave with me. Tonight. We'll get a wagon and we'll take
Hope. We'll go and not look back."
Gabrielle replied, shaking her head. "And do what? Travel
the countryside? Oh, here's an idea! We'll go from town to
town helping the yokels with any little problems that might
come up. We can survive on their charity. Or even better, I
could get a few 'gigs' at a couple of taverns telling stories.
I am a bard you know." She started to laugh again.
"It would be a better
life for you. I'm sure of it," I answered sincerely.
"And it sure beats the hell outta sitting here and
watching you drink yourself to death. What are you afraid of,
Conqueror? Finding a better way, maybe? Finding out that
somewhere in your shallow heart there really is a free
spirit and lover of humanity tucked inside? You say everything
scares you, but the truth is there's only one thing that
scares you…and that's yourself. I know. I've been
"So what turned it all
around, Xena?" she asked me flippantly. "Love?"
"As a matter of fact,
yes. And a smart, young woman, brilliant beyond her years,
"And where is she
"She's dead," I
answered, honestly. My Gabrielle was dead. "But
she lead me to you," I added. "I can't explain it.
And you wouldn't believe me if I told you because I remember
your words. Trust isn't a luxury you can afford. But know
this, Gabrielle: We are two halves of one whole and I know
that together our courage could change the world."
"Now that was a
mouthful," I told her, surprised by my own wordiness.
She gave me another
‘she’s lost her mind’, look. All I could do was sigh and
drop my head in frustration. She walked to her desk grabbing
another flask of wine.
"No!" I smacked
the wine out of her hand. She released a back-hand, sending me
flying backwards watching in slow motion as she jumped and
landed on top of me. In my mind I thought for sure that this
would be my end, but she leaned over, crushing her lips
"What are you
doing?" She pulled back, raising an eyebrow.
"If you don’t know, I
must be doing it wrong." She tried to kiss me again, but
I jerked my head away.
She slammed her fists on the floor by the sides of my head.
"Not like this. Not
again. I can’t, Gabrielle."
"Oh, come on, Xena, you
know you want this. Want me." She tried again to kiss me
and I pulled away once more.
"Yes, I want you, but
not like this. I want your love, to make love with you. Not
another fuck session."
"Can you love me?"
I asked. "No bondage. No…walls. Just you? The real
I watched as she hung her
head then rolled off of me. I had my answer.
"I didn’t think
so," I muttered. All I felt was utter defeat.
"I can’t give you
something I don't understand." We both fell silent; my
heart was being ripped into pieces. "Xena?"
"Would you hold
There, on the Conqueror’s
bedchamber floor, in the middle of the broken glass and wine I
turned and held her close. The abundance of alcohol clamed
her, she was out not long after I pulled her near.
"I love you." I
whispered into her ear letting the night claim me too.
The nightmare of this life
must be over soon.
Morning came too quickly,
and a loud knock woke us both up. I felt stiff and by
Gabrielle’s groan, she was as well and quite hung over. We
both slowly stood, and Gabrielle stumbled towards the bed.
Ephiny popped her head in to
peek at us.
"It looks like you can
use this." She came in holding a skin of water and I bet
it had herbs to help with her headache.
"Oh Gods, thank
you." She took a long drink, making a face at the taste.
"This tastes like
"You play, you
pay." Ephiny pointed out, getting a growl in reply.
"Did you want
something, my smart-assed friend?"
"Hope is calling for
you. She didn’t sleep well at all last night." Ephiny
looked at me. "You look like something ran over
you." She smirked.
"Gee, thanks." I
walked to the full-length mirror to see the bruise on the
right side of my chin from a well-placed backhand.
"Tell her we’ll be
right in after we get cleaned up," the body on the bed
"I’ll do that."
Ephiny chuckled and left.
I started for the door when
the body spoke again.
"Where do you think
"To my room for a bath
and fresh clothes."
"Why don’t you stay
here and bathe?" It sounded like a plea more then an
"I don’t think that
is very wise. I’ll see you soon." I didn’t give her a
chance to reply. I closed the door behind me. I just needed
time to think.
By the time I was cleaned
and changed, I made my way back to Gabrielle’s chamber. I
heard Ephiny talking with the Conqueror, and it made me stop
"Are you really going
to let Xena challenge Najara?"
"No, I can’t chance
Xena getting hurt. So, my friend, I want you to carry out my
wishes." I heard a scroll being unrolled.
"Gabrielle, I can’t
do this. Don’t ask me to do this." Ephiny sounded very
"You have to, it’s
the only way. Xena’s a good warrior, but Najara’s
better." I clenched my jaw tight.
"She deserves better
then this life, she’s so full of love." There was a
pause. "I’m asking you as a sister, please fulfill my
Gabrielle sounded very desperate.
"Alright. So when does
"Dawn tomorrow." I
couldn’t take it any longer, so I knocked.
"Come in." I
looked in to find Ephiny staring at the floor and Gabrielle
fighting back tears.
"It looks like someone
lost their best friend. What's wrong?"
Very low Ephiny said,
"She just might." I caught the words along with the
fact Gabrielle was quickly covering her words up.
"We were just talking
about past memories, that’s all." She strained to
Regent." She bowed to her Conqueror then walked past me,
never looking me in the eyes. My gut was telling me something
was very wrong here. Before I could question, a scream shook
my soul to the bone. We both ran into her bedchamber. Hope was
crying, rocking herself in comfort.
"I want Grandma!"
Gabrielle scooped her up and held her tight.
"So do I little one. So
I sat on the bed near them,
taking in the sight of mother and child. It took some time, but
her tears stopped.
"Can you tell me a
story, Mama?" Gabrielle and I both swallowed the lumps in
"Sure." She moved
Hope to where she was cradling her.
"I have a tale to tell
you about a lone Warrior tired of her ways. This Warrior was
ready to give up on life when she ran into a young woman who
would change her forever. I call it ‘Sins Of The Past.’
If I hadn’t been so
enthralled in the story I would have passed out. She was
telling the tale of our life. Word for word on how we met. I'm
sure Ares had some role in seeing that our stories were
nothing more than Gabrielle's imagination in her eyes. He was
quite the bastard.
"Are you alright,
Xena?" I was pulled out of my haze to see concerned green
eyes and a sleeping child.
"You’re a very good
story teller, Gabrielle." She just looked down, kissing
Hope on her head. "How did you think of a story like
that?" She smiled.
"I can still dream,
Xena." She reached out, taking my hand, giving it a
We spent the day just
talking. It felt like old times with my best friend, still I
knew something wasn’t right. By the time Hope woke up, we
had a brunch in Gabrielle’s garden. We played, laughed, just
like a family. Nightfall came and we tucked Hope into her
"Night, Xena." I
was beginning to love this child as though she was my own.
With Gabrielle watching us, I gave Hope a quick kiss and
turned to the best smile I’ve seen the Conqueror give yet.
gave me a peck on the cheek then kneeled beside the bed.
"Can you, Xena and I be
a family?" She turned to look at me. I had a huge grin on
"I’ll see what I can
do. Now you get some sleep, I’ll be here soon." She
gave her a kiss and hug.
"Will you really?"
The child wasn’t dumb.
"Yes, little one and
I’ll even hold you if you want."
Hope seemed to like that.
She raised herself slightly to give her mother a kiss.
"Night, baby." We
waited until she was fully asleep, then we went into the other
paused. "I wanted to thank you for giving the best day
ever in my life." She then gave me the sweetest kiss. The
gnawing in my stomach came back in full force, but right then
I didn’t care. I’m not sure what was so odd, her words or
the look in her eyes.
"These past few months
have been up and down for us both, but you are probably the
only other person on the earth that I trust."
"Why are you saying all
this? Are you coming away with me?" A girl could wish.
"No, Xena. Just
remember this day when you think of me."
"Don’t talk like
that." I pulled her close.
me." I was ready to ask why when Ephiny and a few guards
"Xena, we’re here to
escort you to the brig." Ephiny had a hard time meeting
I looked from her to
"What’s the meaning
of this?" I was upset more then angry.
"It’s for your own
good," Gabrielle reasoned.
"What is? Locking me up
like a criminal? This is the trust you spoke of?" Now I
"Please come with us,
Xena." Ephiny touched my shoulder.
"Get your hand off me
before I break it." I turned to glare at the Regent. Then
I felt a sharp blow to my head. Before my world went black I
heard Gabrielle ask for forgiveness once more.
I woke up with a blaring
headache in a dark cell.
"Right back to where I
started." I growled.
"She’s doing this
because she falling in love with you." I jumped slightly,
only then noticing Aphrodite standing outside my cell.
Magically she walks through the bars to stand in front of me.
"Doing what? Locking me
"Saving you from a
fight with Najara," she answered. "She believes
Ephiny can win, but…"
Aphrodite didn't want to say
the words. I could tell. "I know she won't," she
finally answered softly.
I watched as Aphrodite
started to pace the cell. "Ares really messed things up,
Xena. We can't let Ephiny battle Najara. Any way we look at
it's… it's bad."
I've seen many expressions
on Aphrodite's face over the years – joy to anger, coy to
insightful. But this expression…it's one I've never saw. One
I never thought I could see on her. It's hopelessness.
"Find a way to get me
out of here," I told her. "I'll battle Najara."
"And do what? Lose
Gabby forever when Najara kills you. Okay you'd be dead and
that would be bad too, but…Damn it, Ares!" She's angry
now and I watch as she slumps down on my excuse for a bed.
"You know something, Xena?…I've been around for what
seems like forever. Many mortals and immortals have passed in
and out of my life, always wanting something from the goddess
of love, always asking for something I could give
them…Gabrielle never asked for a single thing. Ever. But she
gave me her friendship anyway. It's ironic in a way. I don't
have many friends even though I'm the goddess of love. But I
had Gabby. Our Gabby. Not this booze hound, short tempered,
"I get the point,"
I said cutting her off in her rant.
"Sorry. I'm just so
totally pissed right now! Ares has done some pretty low down
deeds in our time, but this… Not only did he take away your
bard, but he took away the only true friend I ever had
"Yes he did," I
told her. "Question is, are you gonna stand for it? Or
are you gonna find a way to get me out of here so I can help
bring her home?"
I watched as that coy grin
came to her face. Next, the door of the cell opened.
"Don't forget to
write." She grinned as she nodded toward the exit.
Aphrodite," I replied honestly.
She walked over and pulled
me down, giving me a soft kiss on the cheek. "Bring her
home, Xena. Find a way and bring her home."
"I will. I
I left the cell determined. Today
it ends. One way or another.
My eyes have to adjust to
the change in light. The brig was so dark and dank so I took a
few moments to let my eyes settle into the brightness of the
morning. I made my way to the arena, following the crowd
that's walking down the streets to assemble there. I heard the
chattering from spectators on who will win – the regent or
I entered the stands with
the other spectators to see Gabrielle at her throne, looking
quite regal dressed in her battle armor. Instead of Najara
seated next to her, it's Ares. It reminded me of the day I
battled to join her royal guard. But this time it's Ephiny
who's in the practice ring warming up and not me.
Her swing is quick – much
quicker than I remembered. For a moment I think she may come
out of this triumphant, but I remembered what Aphrodite said.
She knows different. I also know that losing Ephiny might just
be the end of Gabrielle and I'll never win her back. She'll
draw into herself even more and I might be trapped here
forever. I looked at Gabrielle when suddenly I heard the crowd
give a loud boo. I leaned over the rail to see that Najara has
made her way inside. Seems word of her deeds traveled quickly
in this town.
She seemed unaffected by the
crowd's reaction, focusing on Ephiny, as she started to warm
up and get her arms and legs limber for the upcoming battle.
"You need to take a
seat," I heard someone say behind me.
I turned to see a bruiser of
a guard pointing me to the benches. Being sent back to the
brig is the last thing I needed so quietly I complied, walking
three rows back to sit down. I still had a good view and I was
close enough to make my move when it's called for.
It seemed like forever as I
sat and waited for the arena to fill up. Once the majority of
the seats were occupied I watcedh as Gabrielle stoos up,
taking a place on the speakers platform. A loud ring of
applause went up and she held her hand in the air to quiet
"Friends and Greek
countrymen. Thank you for joining us on this historical day.
As many of you know my consort Najara is accused of crimes of
treason against the State of Greece."
A loud ‘boo’ washed over
the area, which made Gabrielle grin slightly. Even from this
distance I could tell her lips curled.
"She challenges the
throne here today…Over seeing this challenge is my champion
and regent Ephiny of Amazonia."
With that a cheer went
around with a few whistles and thundering applause. At least
Ephiny had the crowd to her advantage. Now if only her skill
could hold out long enough for me to make my move.
"As the flags fall the
competition will begin. Are both contestants ready?"
conqueror," Ephiny yells with a bow to Gabrielle. She
seemed fearless and determined, unlike the woman a spotted
just recently filled with self-doubt when Gabrielle made her
Gabrielle then turned to
Najara. "And you consort?"
she answered, but without the bow. The crowd began to boo yet
again for her obvious display of defiance of Gabrielle's
Gabrielle raised her arm
before suddenly dropping it. The flags around the arena
unfurled and I watched as Ephiny and Najara head toward each
other to square off. I watched the guards spread out around
the guardrail. I've got the space and time I needed to make it
into the arena so I made my move.
With a powerful war cry, I
started to run and somersault into the arena before the guards
can stop me. When my feet land, I know I have to move and move
quickly. Just as I expected the crossbow bolts come flying in
my direction. I weaved left and right, stopping occasionally
to let the arrows pass by me before traveling onward. I
glanced to Gabrielle to see her shocked expression as I made
my way over to Ephiny. Both combatants saw me moving toward
them and they lower their stance against each other, waiting
for my arrival. From the ring Ephiny called off the guards
"How did you-?"
Ephiny remarked, as I get close enough.
"Doesn't matter. Get
outta here Ephiny. This is my fight, not yours."
"I have my conquerors
order Xena," she argued.
"Let her fight
too," Najara announced. "I'm willing to take on two
of the conquerors own to see justice is dealt."
"Justice? You don't
know the concept Najara. You live by the voices in your head
and nothing more."
"Shut up and
fight," Najara saed taking a swing at me.
I jumped back just seconds
before she could connect with my head and Ephiny swung. Najara
moved too and backhandsed Ephiny.
Blood flies from the
regent's mouth as she falls to the ground. Najara goes in for
the kill, but I deflect her sword. She's strong. Stronger than
the Najara I battled in my world and I felt my sword being
pushed closer to the regents neck.
It's slow going, but Ephiny
regroups quick enough to roll out from under our crossed
blades. Once she was to her feet I relaxed and it's enough for
Najara to drive my blade into the ground. She kicked me
soundly in the chest, knocking me on my backside, the sword
falling from my hand.
With me on the ground she
engaged Ephiny. I'm amazed, but Ephiny trades her blow for
blow although it's obvious she's on the defensive. I regroup
and rise to my feet again taking my blade with me as I darted
over to engage Najara again.
Najara heard me approach and
pulled another sword off her back. As I took my swing to slice
her head off she blocked my blow while continuing to fight
Ephiny head on. Damn it. Ares wasn't lying. She is good.
Maybe too good. I realized that Ephiny was becoming a
distraction to me and I had to get her out of the ring. I
couldn't fight Najara and worry about Ephiny at the same time.
"Get out," I
yelled to Ephiny again.
She ignored my warning. I
realized I had to buy some time to talk to Ephiny. I reach
down and grab a handful of sand. It was a dirty play I know, but
I didn't have time. I ran toward Najara and when she turned to
face me, I threw the dirt in her eyes. She lowered her sword
just for an instant, but it's enough to kick her in the chest,
knocking her flat on her back. I grabbed Ephiny's arm and
raced away to the entrance.
"Please let me handle
this," I begged again.
"Look, if I don't
survive Gabrielle will need someone she trust. Someone that
will help her go on. You can give her that - I know it. Please
let me do this. Gabrielle will be angry you've left, but she
would never kill you."
"How can you be so
sure?" Ephiny asked as she watched Najara move to her
feet, wiping her eyes.
"Just trust me. I
haven't lied to you before, have I?"
Ephiny considered it for a
moment and I know I'm getting through. "Please. For
Gabrielle. Leave this ring and let me handle Najara."
With a deep sigh I heard Ephiny call toward the gatekeeper.
"Open the gate,"
she yelled. Quickly, they complied. "Ares be with you
Xena," she told me, resting a hand on my shoulder.
I grin at the expression.
"Are you kidding? The less Ares, the better. He's the
reason for this mess."
She looked unsure of what I
was talking about, but I couldn't explain. I didn't have time.
Najara made her way toward us.
"Go on." I nodded
to her. I paused to see if she was truly leaving and felt when
I watched her walk out of the arena, closing the gate behind
"Now I've got what I
want," I growled at Najara as I charged ahead.
"You don’t want
me," Najara said as our blades cross again. "You
want my wife. But you'll never have her."
I realized I had an opening
here - someway to psych her out. "Oh no," I egged,
"your wife wants me." I smirked. "Pretty
Najara growled in anger and
started to advance, but I didn't retreat I traded her blow for
blow, pushing her away. We started to circle each other. And I
continued to taunt her, trying to throw her off.
"She's sexy isn't she
Najara? Worth dying for? Especially those sounds she makes.
Those little sighs just before climax. The way her body hums
with electricity when she wraps her thighs around your
shoulders. Of course it's been awhile since you've been that
close to her. You've probably forgotten. Just so you know. It
hasn't changed. As a matter of fact, last night I've never
seen her wilder."
Najara screamed and charged, but
her swordplay was sloppy and I took full advantage of it,
knocking the weapon from her hands. Her sudden surprise turned
into anger and she tackled me before I could strike the
deathblow. My sword dropped too and soon we're both rolling on
the ground. She delivered a strong blow to my jaw and I tasted
the acidy flavor of my blood in my mouth.
Nah ha. Not again. I'm
keeping all my teeth this time.
Before she can deliver
another blow, I backhanded her, sending her flying off of me,
as I reached back for the sword next to me. When she rolled to
a stop I straddled, her standing above her. I glanced up to
see Gabrielle literally sitting on the edge of her seat, a
look of regret in her eyes. I realize in that instant I can't
do it. I can't kill Najara. If I did a part of Gabrielle would
never trust me. Never love me.
Yes Najara was a psycho. Yes
she killed my mother. Yes she wanted Gabrielle's throne.
But a part of Gabrielle
still went out to her. Najara's life wasn't mine to take.
Najara closed her eyes waiting for me to send her to Hades, but
instead I dropped the sword on the ground and walked toward
where Gabrielle was seated. I listened to the crowd boo
because I didn't go for the kill they wanted to see.
Gabrielle would need to make
the choice. It was either Najara or I. She would have to
decide who lived and who died. I took a deep breath and
remembered my resolve – one way or another it ends today.
Either Gabrielle would
choose me or she would let Najara kill me in the ring. Either
way, as I said, it ends today.
"I love you
I looked up into the stands
and I smile. No worry. No fear. If I died then I died knowing
that she would finally believe me. I am truly hers and not for
her power or her crown, but for her. I heard Najara stalking
me from behind. I'm sure she has the sword now and at any
moment it will be finished.
Gabrielle's eyes went wider
and before I realized it she hurdled the rail, jumping into
the arena. A cheer goes through the crowd this time as the
conqueror herself pulls her sword from her back, pushing me
out of the way. I fell to the dirt and watched as Ares
I turned back to see
Gabrielle bury her sword in Najara's chest. Shock washeed over
Najara's face as her body slid off the blade and tumbled to
the ground. Gabriele looked shaken, but only for a moment as
she rushes over, coming to knell beside me.
"I love you Xena,"
she whispered before her lips descended up on mine.
The kiss is magical,
intoxicating. I closed my eyes and I felt as if I was flying,
moving at breakneck speed, but I don't stop the kiss. I
couldn't. It felt too wonderful. When I finally opened my eyes
I look at Gabrielle who seems slightly confused. As I glanced
around I notice there's no arena. No Najara.
We're in a clearing, on our
bedrolls alone as the whinny of a horse caught my attention. I
looked to my right and saw Argo starting to drink from a
asked. She looks down at her body. The armor is gone, replaced
by the red velvet and leather garments I'd come to love.
"Are we home?"
I felt myself start to grin
and I couldn't help, but pull her closer to me. "We're
home," I told her.
Suddenly she began to cry.
"I'm so sorry Xena. Everything I did to you-."
"Was an illusion,"
I told her. "Ares illusion. Nothing more. And in the end
you made the right choice. The only choice."
She seemed to calm a bit and
I looked up, the feeling of being watched overpowering me.
Aphrodite was smiling at the two of us holding each other.
"Thank you," she
mouthed silently. A look of sincere gratefulness was plastered
to her face.
"No," I mouthed
back. "Thank you."
She smiled with a crinkle of
her nose and disappeared allowing us some privacy.
A flash of light and a
chuckle I know all to well fills the small clearing next. And
I felt Gabrielle pull back. I know the look on her face means
trouble as she darted to her feet coming face to face with
He grins and shakes his
head. "Damn. You two are something else," he
chuckled. "I never know what to expect. I gotta admit –
I like it."
Gabrielle marched over to
Ares and started to poke him in the chest. "You
self-centered, devious, manipulating bastard."
He wore a look of mock
confusion. "Your point?" he asked sarcastically.
Gabrielle reared back and
punched Ares square in the jaw, making him stumble back about
two feet. At first I'm scared of what he'll do to her, but
when Ares started to chuckle I have to admit I'm a bit
"Cut it out," he
told her. "That tickles."
"You son of a
bitch," Gabrielle hissed.
"Well, you got me
there," Ares answered. "I am. I really am. Hera was
real pain sometimes."
Gabrielle started her march
again, poking him all over again. "If you EVER pull
something like that again I will find me another hind's blood
danger. I will bloody your body so bad even Athena in all her
wisdom won't be able to figure out or distinguish which god I
killed. Do you understand me?"
"Yeah. Yeah," he
answered in a bored voice before looking back at me.
"I'll say it again. She's gotta lot a spirit Xena."
He looked down at Gabrielle, checking out her cleavage.
"You've certainly got your hands full," he replied
to me before clearing his throat and starting to vanish.
Gabrielle took another swing, but
it's too late. All she hit was the air as he disappeared
before our eyes.
"Arghhh! I hate that
technically," I told her, "He's a God."
"True. Men have more
sense than God's and my apology to all men in the world for
I grinned and moved to my
feet. I walked over and pulled her into a tight embrace. Her
heart was beating fast. Her skin was flushed. "I know it
was a pretty frightening experience at times," I told
her. "But it wasn't all bad, was it?" I wiggled my
eyebrows and she starts to blush.
"No," she admitted.
"Not all of it."
"And it was nice to see
She had a somber look.
"I know. But it wasn’t nice to see that loon
again." She smiled.
"But forget about her.
I know of some much better things we could remember." She
looked up and saw the lecherous look in my eyes. She blushed
again and looked away; knowing what I was thinking.
I felt her relax as my
fingers started to smooth over her hair. "You know that
shackle thing out in the woods-."
"What?" I asked. I
couldn't hide my grin.
"I was a heartless
warlord at the time. I didn't care about love or commitment or
trust. I was driven by sex and lust and…and shackles,
The God's can't give us anything we aren't already capable
of," I teased her.
"Then that means you
can be the submissive once in awhile?"
Okay, she got me.
"Well, I can…I just need a little dominance now and
She grinned and started to
follow a lazy pattern on my breastplate with her fingertips.
"Hmm. Now and then. How about right now?"
answered in surprise. "You little vixen."
Gabrielle gave me that come
hither grin that always set me on fire. "You find a tree.
What will we do for shackles?"
Who am I to say no to an
eager bard? "We’ll think of something."