DISCLAIMERS: LIKE THE OTHER BARDS OF THE XENAVERSE, I DON'T CLAIM TO HAVE CREATED THE CHARACTERS OF XENA AND FRIENDS EITHER, BUT I DO LIKE WRITING ABOUT THEM WHICH IS WHAT I'M DOING HERE.
VIOLENCE DISCLAIMER: THIS IS XENA WE'RE TALKING ABOUT, OF COURSE, THOUGH A VERY MINIMAL AMOUNT.
SEXUAL WARNING: MILD ALT FICTION. VERY MILD. NOTHING EXPLICIT HERE, SO IF THAT'S WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING FOR, YOU'D BETTER FIND SOMETHING ELSE TO READ.
At dawn, Xena awoke and walked to the Healer's hut to check on Jenara's condition and to see if there was anything she could do to help, in anyway. She would have liked to help emotionally, but that was more Gabrielle's forte, she had never been good with the emotional stuff, though thanks to Gabrielle, she was learning. Upon walking into the hut, Xena found Sirasi apparently sound asleep on a pallet beside her sister who had been laid face down so that the wound wouldn't have pressure on it. Sirasi's sword lay by her side on the pallet, unsheathed, it's hilt in her open, relaxed hand ready to grab in an instant.
Knowing that seeing isn't always believing, Xena knew that Sirasi most likely wasn't as sound asleep as she seemed to be; especially being that her sister had been mortally wounded, and because she is an Amazon Shantar. Xena knew that Sirasi was likely to be sleeping very lightly. She wasn't wrong in her guess. When she stepped further into the hut, moving closer to Jenara, Sirasi was up on her feet and had her sword point at Xena's throat in one fluid motion. Knowing that Sirasi wouldn't have her mind in focus so quickly, Xena stood still, and held her hands up and away from her body in plain sight. When she realized who it was who had entered the hut, Sirasi instantly lowered the sword, and knelt to one knee, head bowed eyes down and both arms down at her sides in the tribal gesture of submission to another of superior rank.
" Xena, forgive me, I didn't know it was you, had I known, I would never have dared to do such a thing". Because of what she had done, Sirasi placed her sword at Xena's feet length wise as tribal ritual dictated one should do upon threatening a fellow Amazon of superior rank within the tribe; and returned to an upright kneeling position. Feeling uncomfortable, Xena took Sirasi's sword in hand and gave it to her, Sirasi took it, bent to retrieve the scabbard, and sheathed the sword as she stood erect again. Xena noticed that despite her submissive behavior, Sirasi still had an air of "pride" and a sense of "knowing who she was, and of her position in the tribe" about her. As she slung her sword and scabbard onto her back, Sirasi stepped aside to allow the Warrior Princess access to her sister. Despite the fact that she trusted Xena explicitly, based solely on her reputation, Sirasi stayed near her sister where she could see what Xena was doing at all times. Sirasi loved her sister dearly, and wasn't about to take any chances.
Xena looked Jenara over from head to foot, very carefully, lifting the dressing to look at the wound. It was a nasty one all right. It was a fairly large wound, she couldn't figure out how Jenara was still alive, but she was, barely, but she was alive. "The dressing needs to be changed. She's hanging on somehow, I don't know how, but she's hanging on" "My sister is very strong, I'll go and get the dressing and the salve." Sirasi moved quickly into another room to get what was needed while Xena put fingers under Jenara's nose to see if she could feel breath, she had to concentrate, but she did feel a bit of breath; somehow the Shantar was hanging on. By all rights, Jenara should have been dead moments after the spear hit her, if not upon impact; and yet somehow she was hanging on, fighting to live despite her mortal wound. "Could the bond between the sisters be this strong?" Xena thought to herself as Sirasi returned with the needed supplies and she began to clean and dress the wound.
Seeing the look of worry and concern in Sirasi's eyes, Xena tried to calm her fears; "She's fighting for her life, and that's a good sign, she wants to live and she's fighting as hard as she can to hold on. As long as she doesn't give up, there's a good chance she'll live despite the wound." In a half whisper, more to herself than to Xena, Sirasi said, "She has to live. She has to." Then, looking Xena steadily in the eyes as she knelt there on the opposite side of the pallet that Jenara lay on, "I can't live without my sister, I don't know how". Without another word, Sirasi turned, and walked out of the hut, Xena watching her go; now she was the one worried. She knew the sisters were close, but these two were unusually close; it was as if they were two halves of a whole. Two separate beings who functioned as one; thinking each other's thoughts, watching each other's backs, perfectly in sync with one another all the time.
She had witnessed an instance in which Sirasi had been speaking to another Amazon Shantar, when her sister was coming towards her to hand her something; without even turning, Sirasi had reached out an open hand to receive it, sensing that it was her sister bringing it. If it had been anyone else, she most likely would have turned to look at the person, but because she had sensed it was her sister, she merely held out her hand. Jenara had needed to tell her sister something however; so she held onto her sister's hand once she had put the object into it; it had looked like a dagger from where Xena had been standing; and Sirasi turned to look at her sister. Jenara made a few quick, short hand signs to her sister, and Sirasi had nodded and said, " All right, be careful. If you are gone too long, I will come for you. You are going up the South trail?"
This time Jenara nodded, and made a hand sign. Waited for Sirasi to repeat it, and then turned and left, after which Sirasi had returned to her conversation. Xena prayed that Jenara lived somehow, for Sirasi's sake. Outside the hut, as Sirasi was walking away in her usual, long legged, quick stride, Thalissia, looking for Gabrielle, saw her, and was about to run after her, when she was stopped by the Queen calling her. "Yes Your Highness?" she responded, as she turned to face the Amazon Sovereign, and knelt to one knee and bowed as she had seen Sirasi do. The tall, regal, Queen walked up to her daughter and stopped before her. "Rise daughter, you need not bow to me, you are my daughter, Princess, and heir to my title and position in the tribe."
Thalissia rose to her feet to stand before her birth mother. "Yes my Queen as you command"; not knowing any other way to behave, Thalissia modeled herself after Sirasi, whom she admired greatly, and tried to imitate precisely. "Come daughter, walk with me a bit" Thalinna requested, and began to walk at a slow, leisurely pace, Thalissia following. "Are you happy here daughter?" "I am content Queen Thalinna, but I have to tell you something that I know you will think is a made up fantasy of my mind." "What is that Thalissia?" "I had a dream one night that Artemis came to me and told me that I would meet three Amazons, and that their loyalty to each other would be greatly tested. That two of the Amazons would be sisters, and the third would be the bond mate of one of the sisters. At the time, I had no idea what the dream meant, but now that I see what has happened to Sirasi, her sister, and Shantar, it all makes sense. By Jenara being mortally wounded, Sirasi's loyalty and devotion, and love for her sister is being tested; but also her love for her bond mate, Shantar ".
"I see what you mean. She has, for the moment, chosen her sister over her Bond Mate; she has turned her back on Shantar completely in favor of Jenara. As they are sisters, this is only right, her first loyalty should be to Jenara." "But it's as if she doesn't even recognize Shantar, as if she were a total stranger. I have seen her walk right past Shantar and ignore her, apparently not seeing her at all ". "When she is forced to look at Shantar, she seemingly looks through her." As they were very close to the Healer's Hut, Xena's could be heard telling Gabrielle to try to find Sirasi, and bring her back as soon as she could. Jenara's hand was moving in the same repetitive motion even though she was unconscious, and Xena needed to know if she needed something. Jenara may be trying to tell her how to help her. "Xena, I'll go and look for her too" Thalissia volunteered; both women took off to find Sirasi as quickly as they could. The mortally ill Amazon's desire to communicate driving them.
On her way out of the village, Gabrielle blindly stumbled into Shantar who was walking into her path."Oh, Shantar, I'm sorry I didn't see you" "It's all right, what's wrong? Why the rush?" "Jenara's fingers are moving, in the same motion over and over, and Xena has sent me to find Sirasi. She's the only one who can understand the hand signals." "She has been teaching me the signing language that they do, I might be able to understand what she's saying, take me to her." Gabrielle and Shantar returned to the healer's hut while Thalissia continued on her way to find Sirasi, unaware of Shantar and Gabrielle's plans. Moments later, when Thalissia had returned with Sirasi to the Healer's Hut, they found Shantar attempting to communicate with Jenara, her right palm open to Jenara's slowly moving left hand.
Upon hearing, them enter the hut; Shantar turned and spoke to her Bond Mate. "She won't tell me what she needs, she wants you. All she keeps spelling over and over is "Sister" "Sister." With an apparent disregard for Shantar, Sirasi stepped up and knelt down to the pallet on which her sister lay, forcing Shantar to get out of the way quickly; Sirasi apparently not seeing her at all. Putting her sister's still moving hand in her own, she softly asked, "I'm here sister, what do you need?" Xena and Gabrielle stood by the door of the hut, effectively, but unintentionally blocking it, watching the silent communication between the sisters. Leaning over to speak to Xena quietly so as not to disturb Sirasi's concentration, Gabrielle commented on the obvious: "She's talking to her sister even though she's unconscious and nearly dead, and she isn't even speaking a word." "It's fascinating" the normally stoic Shantar said, not taking her eyes off of the Amazons.
As she interpreted what her sister was signing to her, Sirasi put her free hand to her mouth, and began to cry. Shantar, undaunted by her Bond Mate's rejection of her, put her hand gently on Sirasi's shoulder. "What is it Love?" In a barely audible voice, Sirasi responded. "She's giving up, she says it's too hard to keep holding on. She can't fight any more, and she hurts too much." With this interpretation of what her sister had signed to her, Sirasi began to cry even more earnestly than she had before. "I have to let her go, I have to tell her it's all right, but I don't know how to let her go. She's my sister, I can't loose her, we've never been apart, never." Moments after Sirasi had said this; her sister began to sign again, extremely slowly.
After long moments, Sirasi interpreted for the others in the room; "She wants to go to our secret place where we used to go as children when we wanted to play alone together". As she contemplated how to accomplish her sister's last desire, Sirasi's face took on a solemn, resolved look. "I must do this, it is her, last request. I will make a liter and take her to our secret place which will be our final resting place." The word "our" had been so subtly spoken; that Shantar doubted that anyone had heard it but her. "Our resting place? What do you mean "Our" resting-place? ". "When my sister draws her last breath, I will follow her to the Elysian Fields where all great Shantars go. As I have said, I cannot live without her, I will not." Before Shantar could argue, Sirasi rose to her feet and left the hut, Xena and Gabrielle stepping aside to allow her to pass. The three women exchanged glances; surprised that Sirasi's loyalty to her sister would drive her to suicide.
By the time Sirasi had gotten the travois built it was nightfall, so she determined to take her sister to their private childhood place at day brake. As she helped Sirasi build the travois, Shantar attempted to talk her out of following her sister to the Elysian Fields. "No" Sirasi stated simply, and unemotionally, I can't live without my sister by my side. I love you with all my heart, I would give my life for you, you know this, but she is my sister. The bond between sisters, and the bond between Bond Mates is different." After having said this, Sirasi visibly softened the depth of her grief for the impending loss of her sister pouring out from her soul like a raging river after a torrential downpour. Xena and Gabrielle, who had helped gather the things that Sirasi said she needed to place with her sister for her final journey, listened discreetly to the conversation.
Gabrielle was so touched by the Amazon's depth of grief that she cried herself, and Xena wasn't far from it either; she had seldom if ever, seen such undying devotion for a sister, and It touched her in a way little else could. " Jenara and I are two parts of a whole, without her, I am only half the woman that I am with her by my side. She's half of my heart; she's half of my soul, and half of my entire being. Without her by my side, I'm nothing. To lose her is to suffer the greatest agony imaginable". After saying this, Sirasi looked up at Shantar with eyes that could have softened the most cold-blooded warlord in existence, and said, "Do you understand?" So softly that Xena and Gabrielle could barely hear her. Shantar responded, "Yes, I do, it's just like my love for you". Shantar reached out to gently touch Sirasi on the arm, but she moved away from the touch; turned away from Shantar, and worked on tying down another part of the skin to the pole of the travois.
Afraid that her sister would die alone in the Healer's Hut, Sirasi hurried in her task, not wanting to be away from Jenara any longer than she had to be; if her sister died without her by her side, she would never forgive herself. Seeing that the travois was nearly finished, Xena rose and said to Sirasi, "You're nearly done, I'll go and get your sister." After waiting for a moment for any protest from the Amazon, but getting none, Xena turned, and walked to the Healer's hut to get Jenara, and carry her to the travois. Gabrielle stayed behind to finish packing the herbs that Sirasi would take to the secret place. Moments later, Xena returned to the clearing a short distance from the Healer's Hut carrying Jenara in her arms as if she were no heavier than a feather. She took extra care with her steps to be sure not to jostle the mortally wounded Amazon any more than necessary: Jenara's head and limbs dangled limply as Xena walked.
Upon walking up to Sirasi who was just finishing up with the travois, Xena expected to have Jenara taken from her, but was surprised when Sirasi made no move to take her sister. She merely remained in a squatting position and watched as Xena lowered Jenara to the travois as gently as she could. "We should flip her face down" Sirasi stated absently, Xena touched her hand gently, and said as softly as she could, "It doesn't matter any more". Sirasi looked Xena in the eyes, slowly comprehending, and stayed her hand from turning her sister over. She and Xena gently wrapped Jenara in the skins laying on the travois for just this purpose, and gently, loosely secured her to it with thin ropes. This done, Sirasi stood, moved to the front of the travois, knelt to pick up the ropes that she slung over her upper body and prepared to pull it.
"Here are the herbs you asked for," Gabrielle said as she handed them to Sirasi. "Thank you your highness" unable to bow as custom dictated, Sirasi bowed her head respectfully, and took the two small pouches and tucked them into the "belt" around her waist. Just as Sirasi was beginning to walk off, Thalissia came into the clearing coming up from behind her; her mother, the queen in tow. Seeing the Queen, Xena and Gabrielle turned, and acknowledged her presence. Hearing that her Queen was present, Sirasi turned in the ropes, not putting them down, or allowing them to slacken, and bowed to Thalinna from the waist, with right fist to her chest in salute. "My Queen" she said respectfully, keeping her eyes lowered in deference. "My Shantar" the Queen said, formally acknowledging her Shantar. "Because you are my second, if you will allow, I would like to have a special tribal ceremony for you sister when she has passed to the other side".
"I would like this my Queen, I am touched that you should honor my sister in such away" "Your sister is a great and fierce Shantar as are you. I am proud to claim you as Amazons in my tribe". Sirasi could feel herself blushing, and ducked her eyes even more. "Thank you my Queen, we are honored" Gabrielle noted that Sirasi had said "We" are honored, not "I" am honored. She realized that Sirasi nearly always did this when there was praise to be taken, including her sister in it, even if the praise was directed exclusively towards herself. "If you will excuse me My Queen, I must go, it takes nearly two candle marks to get where my sister wishes to be taken, and I must travel with the light as much as possible". "Yes, of course" "Sirasi, may I go with you? I won't go to this place if you don't want me to, but I will travel as far with you as you will allow. It would be easier to protect Jenara if you are accompanied than if you are alone incase you are attacked or run into some other danger".
Sirasi thought over Shantar's request, and then consented. "Gabrielle and I have to be moving on as well. Would you mind if we traveled with you for awhile?" Xena asked. "No, of course not, we would be honored. Sirasi nodded one last time to her Queen, turned in the ropes, and began to pull the travois; it was a harder pull than she had estimated, but Sirasi put her weight into it, and pulled it with minimum effort. Xena, with Argo in tow, Gabrielle following behind, and Shantar walking behind and to the right a bit of Sirasi, walking in the place that a bodyguard would stand if Sirasi had one with her. The Queen watched them for a bit, and then turned and walked off the way she had come. Seeing her daughter remaining behind, she asked, "Thalissia, are you coming?" "In a moment mother, I wish to speak to Xena"; as the Queen walked off, Thalissia called to Xena, asking her to wait. "Xena, please, wait" the Warrior Princess stopped and turned, Gabrielle doing the same.
Assuming that Thalissia wanted to speak to Xena alone, Gabrielle whispered to Xena, I'll stay with them, I think she wants to talk to you alone". "All right" Xena responded, and waited for Thalissia to come to her. "Xena, thank you for not leaving me behind in Calistar and for helping me find my birth mother. How can I repay you?" Thalissia held out her hand for the Shantar's handshake, and Xena clasped her arm. "Well now, I couldn't very well leave my own niece behind in that place could I?" she said with a smile. "No, I guess not. Um, when will you and Gabrielle be coming back this way do you think?" Knowing what Thalissia was really asking, Xena responded, "Oh you'll see us again, don't worry. Now that I know I have a niece, you can be sure we'll be back to see you".
Thalissia seemed relieved to hear this, and released her hold on Xena's wrist. "Good, I'm Glad. Um, if I decide this isn't for me, can I travel with you and Gabrielle again?" "If that's what you want, sure, but you have to promise me you'll give this a chance". "It's hard enough knowing that I'm a danger to Gabrielle, now she wants to stay with us too?" Xena thought to herself, "That's all I need, to be a danger to two lives". Thalissia and Xena said their good byes and parted ways; Thalissia returning to the village and Xena catching up to her bard and the Amazons. A candlemark later, Xena and Gabrielle had turned off at the crossroads they had come to in their journey, to continue on their own way, leaving the Amazons to finish their journey alone. Seeing how exhausted her Bond Mate was from continuing to pull the travois alone, Shantar offered to help. "Let me pull for awhile, you're exhausted". Before she could reply, Sirasi stumbled, and fell to her knees. Remaining on all fours as she replied, Sirasi responded, "No, it's for me to do, I'm her sister".
Sirasi pushed herself back up to her feet with a great effort, obviously exhausted; she gathered her strength, and staggered on a few unsteady steps more before collapsing to the ground again, too tired to go on. Shantar stopped her this time as Sirasi was attempting to get to her feet yet again; "Stop this, she wouldn't want you to do this to yourself and you know that. Now let me pull her for awhile," Shantar said as she took the ropes from her Bond Mate. Too exhausted to fight, she allowed Shantar to remove the pull rope that was slung across her upper body; "are you all right?" Shantar asked as she slung the rope across her own upper body as Sirasi had, and reached a hand down to help her to her feet. "Yes, I'm fine" Sirasi said clearly out of breath as she took the offered hand, and was helped to her feet. As Shantar was about to begin pulling on the ropes, Sirasi stopped her; "Wait, let me check on her" and moved back a pace or two check on her sister.
Knowing that Sirasi did not like her "loss of emotional control" to be seen by anyone, not even her, Shantar kept her gaze forward, giving her what privacy she could. For a moment or two, Sirasi's heart stopped, she couldn't find a pulse, and then she found it, faint, but it was there. The pulse beat was so faint it frightened her. Forcing and emotional calm into her voice that she was far from feeling, Sirasi said to Shantar, "We have to hurry, she can't hold on much longer". "All right, how much further is this place?" "Just down that path there about sixty paces or so". Sirasi pointed to naturally formed pathway through a thicket of trees off to their right; "All right then, let's go Shantar said, and began pulling with a strength Sirasi had lost long ago. Sirasi followed her tiredly, but keeping up, carrying the spear that Shantar could no longer carry because she pulled the travois. "Please sis, you have to hold on just a little longer, please keep trying, don't give up yet. I'll get you there, I promise I will, if it takes the last breath in my body, I'll get you there" Sirasi thought to her sister.
As she walked behind Shantar, and was looking at her sister, Sirasi noticed that her sister was looking at her; just a moment ago, she had been unconscious, as she had been for the last two days since she'd been injured. Far too weak to communicate her thoughts to her sister, Jenara merely stared at her, with a nearly unblinking stare. The painfully slow way that her sister blinked told Sirasi that it was a great effort just to do this otherwise unconscious action. She could sense her sisterís life slipping away from her and it frightened her more than fighting Callisto, or Darius, or anything else she had ever faced in her life yet. Without really realizing she was signing rather than speaking, Sirasi signed to her sister, "We are nearly there, hang on, please, keep fighting"; Jenaraís fingers moved so painfully slow it was even more obvious to Sirasi just how close to death her sister was. "So, tired, much, pain" Jenara signed to her sister who signed back, "I know my sister, I know, soon your pain will be gone, and you will be free to cross to the other side".
Jenara made a great effort to nod ever so slightly and then drifted off into unconsciousness again, and to herself, Sirasi said, "And then I will follow you there". Finally, when they reached the place where Sirasi had promised to take her sister, the hidden Paradise astounded Shantar. A "Tropical Paradise" in the middle of the jungle. A small waterfall cascaded down the small "valley's furthest wall, and the valley it's self was filled with plants, and birds of all kinds. "How beautiful" Shantar commented as she continued to pull the travois into the valley, receiving no protest from Sirasi "We called it "Sirasi's Paradise". When they had come to a certain spot in the center of the valley, Sirasi stopped Shantar with a gentle touch to the arm; and knelt down to begin to undo the bindings that held her sister to the travois. When she had undone the skins completely, and touched her sister to get her arm under her to lift her out, Jenara was cold to the touch; it was too late, Jenara was dead.
Not hesitating in her actions in the least, Sirasi began to move her sister as gently as she could from the Travois, trying to cause her the least amount of pain possible. "We're here sister, we're at Sirasi's Paradise". Shantar could tell by the way Jenara lay so limply in her sister's arms that she was gone, and could see in her Bond Mate's behavior, that she was denying the fact. Sirasi moved her sister clear of the travois, and situated her own body so that her sister's lay on top of her folded legs, or mostly so, and held her in her arms. Sirasi sat there talking to her sister, about their childhood, and the times they had spent here; stroking her sister's hair comfortingly, cradling her like a baby, and rocking her gently. "Sirasi, love, it's too late, she's gone, she can't hear you any more" Shantar said gently to her Bond Mate, but Sirasi didn't hear her, her mind had gone off somewhere far away, where only she and her sister existed.
"Sirasi, hear me; she's crossed to the other side, you have to let her go so that she can go in peace". Suddenly "snapping back" to reality, Sirasi gave Shantar a piercing gaze that could have burned a hole through her skull. "NO! SHE'S NOT DEAD! SHE'S NOT DEAD!" she screamed at Shantar with hysteria in her voice. Shantar just stared back at her in disbelief. Sirasi then seemed to come to her senses and regain control, once again becoming the calm, controlled unemotional Sirasi she normally was. In a frighteningly calm, cold, monotone, Sirasi commanded, "Leave us, leave this place, return to the tribe, you are no longer required". As Shantar stared into Sirasi's eyes, she saw no hint that the Sirasi she knew still existed; there was only a cold, unfeeling, unemotional Sirasi in her place, and it frightened the Tartarus out of her. "No, I can't just leave you here, not like this, not now".
"I am First Warrior to the Queen, descended from an honorable line of First Warriors you will obey my commands. Now go". Shantar was stunned; her Bond Mate had given her a command. For her to do so when they were in the presence of others where Sirasi had to display her rank, and her control over her subordinates that was one thing; but they were alone. Returning the coldness, and suppressing her hurt, Shantar spoke just as unemotionally. "Yes First Warrior, your command will be obeyed" and she knelt down to one knee, and bowed her head to Sirasi in the submissive manner of the tribe, "First Warrior, may I suggest that you build a funeral pyre for Honored Warrior while I return to the village to bring the others back to have a ceremony for her". Sirasi appeared to think about it for a moment, and when she spoke it was so softly that Shantar barely heard her.
"I will do as you suggest" Sirasi laid her sister down on the skins on the ground gently, and then rose, and took two or three steps towards Shantar, holding her hand out for the Warrior's handshake. "Go with Artemis at your back". "Thank you First Warrior. May Artemis protect you and your sister, and my friend, in my absence" they released one another's arms, and Shantar trotted off at a fast paced "jog" in the direction of the village. After watching her Bond Mate move off at in her "Traveler's Jog", a jog meant for long distance running, Sirasi took one more look at her sister's body to make sure she was safe where she was, and then went into the by trees to gather wood for the pyre.
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