~ Oh Avalon, My Amazon ~
by Bronwyn of Llewlynn

Welcome to Branwyn of Llewelynn's version of the Xenaverse, alter ego of B-Bard, who had the nerve to actually ask for her own pseudonym.

The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, Ephiny, Velasca, Boadecia, Argo, Hercules, Ioulas and the rest you recognize from XWP and HLG all belong to MCA/Universal. The Priestesses of Avalon and their backdrop I've borrowed from Marion Bradley. The rest has sprouted from my collective body, mind and soul link to the Xenaverse and Branwyn's hostel take over of my mind, whenever I get within two meters of my computer. No commercial profits intended or gained. I invite you to let me know what you think/feel about my story. Feed me: bindi@planet.nl

Author's note: I would like to mention the all inspiring author Marion Zimmer Bradley, for feeding the Celtic warrior and Moon Priestess in me, through her wonderful novels! I thank all Bards of the Xenaverse for their wonderful, inspiring work and sharing it on the net! Bards Villagers, I love you guys! This story is for you.

More thanks: Go to Raine, Enoon and Sam for their beta plus job on this tale! Silver and LJ, thanks for saying the right things at the right time.

Sex, drugs and drum rolls: The story is of a subtext friendly nature and contains expressions of love between consenting adult women, oh yeah! Things get a little more out of hand in later additions. I wouldn't even call it subtext. Actually, any form of true love goes. If you can't handle this, grow up. At your own pace of course, but I advize you to get on with it in this lifetime because you're missing heaps. If you are unable to read this because of one law or another in your neck of the woods, do the smart thing: find something else to do; unite with like minded souls and try to do something about the damned law; immigrate to a more open minded place. There's always a choiceJ

Violence: Well, some. Mostly defense. It's a Xena related story so no more than the show would contain.

Spoilers: Nope, don't think it's possible. Where I live we're waiting for season four to continue (Aaaaaaarrrrgggghhhh Compulsive Xenatics Anonymous I need you).

Setting: I let Velasca out of the lava pit for a bit and I'd say this story is set after Dahok's first move and baby Hope is out of the picture, floating off in a basket some where. <Phew, bard does happy dance and back flips> season three I think that is.

Amazon alert:
Ephiny worshippers keep reading, she's in for a ride... twice.



Rhiannon speaks

In the twilight of my life, gazing over the familiar, soft green hills that surround Avalon, my thoughts travel back to a group of women I encountered oh, it seems life times ago.

This is a story of two nations that were close to disappearing;
...A time when Avalon still had some of it's purpose and power and Amazonia was a magical domain where many stories came from, told by well travelled Celts who recognized the similar matriarchal blueprint of ancient life;
...When the paths of gods and humans were entwined with each other and gave a certain balance to life's events.

This balance came to falter when the hearts of people turned heavy with discontentment, greed, anger and fear. Their respect for life was poisoned by a growing evil, feeding on the darkest part of human nature.

The events I will write down here, in the hope they will never be forgotten, are tales otherwise passed down the Avalon bloodline by word of mouth. For as long as I can remember it's been done that way. I thought it was time to break our non- writing tradition and record all I know and remember. Maybe, just maybe, the generations to come will learn that the heart can conquer evil.

As the once champion-rebel of Avalon,
“Oh my heart, my soul, where will you linger when Avalon withdraws into the mist for the last time?” I laid down my duties without regret and chose to be the creator of my own destiny, or so I thought.

Enough. Now I will tell the tales of brave women and love...

Part One

Leaving home

It all started with the sound of goodbye.

Beside the stables of a grand house in Northeast Britannia, a mother kissed the temple of her daughter and lingered there longer than the woman had intended. The painful sting in her heart forced her to express the love she felt towards the red haired figure standing before her. She inhaled the sweet scent of the girl's thick red hair. The woman would normally restrain from showing her feelings in a physical manner but it would be a long time before she saw her daughter again. Boadecia, also known as the Queen of Celts smiled; hoping in vain it would mask the pain and fear that was etched on her face. Her 'little girl' was leaving.

The girl wrapped strong, toned arms around her mother and held her in a surprisingly gentle hug and whispered, “I'm scared too, mother.”

Rhiannon sensed her mother knew more than she did about what was to come. Her mother knew more about Rhiannon than she did of herself, she suspected. From this moment on her life would belong to Avalon. All she had learned and was about to learn was for the greater good. Of what she had no concrete knowledge, but figured it had to do with her father's desire to rid himself of her. The arguing between her parents had to stop. The young woman felt a big relief at the thought that her mother would finally have some peace. Leaving still hurt though.

Trying to keep the disappointment from her face, she begged to the gods silently. Please let mother stand up to aunt Eilan. You know as well as I do that this destiny thing is up to something or someone beyond your sister, mother. And what about me, huh? No one has bothered to ask what I want, what I feel or need. I tell you over and over again but you never answer or seem to listen to me.

Rhiannon let the older woman go reluctantly and mounted the dark brown mare standing patiently behind her. She knew her mother taught her all she could. The fact that Boadicea had given her daughter her favourite horse must mean she loved her. Letting each other go almost 'killed' the both of them.

Boadecia watched her daughter ride off on the mare, which would lead her straight to The Lake of Avalon and be of some use protecting her along the way. The mare was spawned of her own battle mount, a grand beast you could count on. Please Eilan, you have both of my children now. Don't break Rhiannon's spirit by forcing YOUR will on her. I swear I'll hunt your soul till the end of time if you do sister of mine. She prayed in silence.

From the shadow of an old oak, Prasutagus watched the departing of Rhiannon. He waited until she was out of sight and walked towards Boadecia. He comforted her as best he knew how, by wrapping his arms around his wife. Deep inside he could feel a sense of relief. Thank the gods that trouble attracting, pointy-eared freak has gone. He thought to himself and walked his love back to the big house, looking back once to make sure the girl had gone for sure. Boadecia would call her back as soon as she found an excuse. For now, they would be a happy royal family of two and he planned to make the most of it.

To mark the High Priestess to be

The trees cycled through their wardrobe over the next seven summers. Britannia was constantly under threat by one enemy or another. Boadecia called on her daughter as often as she could. Usually it was because the Queen of Icenian Celts could do with all the decent warriors she could muster. A never ending repetition of attacks by Saxons, Vikings, Scots, and Romans kept Boadecia and her and her armies on their toes for many years. The constant need of new recruits thinned down the population drastically. Women and men were welcomed to help defend the homeland, any way they could. Britannia, as the Celtic Queen liked to call her home, was far from united. Her Queen dome was no more than the Northeastern part of Britannia. About three-quarters of the land was united by the joint efforts of the Queen and the druids and priestesses of Avalon. Times were hard and the united nobles were not easy to keep satisfied. If the warlords and kings of the continent, across the seas, weren't trying to take a piece of her beloved land, some self-proclaimed warlord or idiot would try holding part of the country for ransom to gain power. Boadecia's need to keep in touch with her daughter was flamed by the fact that Rhiannon was changing fast and the uncertainty of a Queen's life. Boadecia's part in warfare was very hands on. It was getting harder to recognize her daughter, let alone really reach her. The short periods of time they shared in between battles left little room to ask her how she was feeling. Rhiannon was never permitted to stay away from Avalon longer than a fortnight at a time. Sometimes the young woman rebelled against Eilan and stayed longer. It was then she spent most of her time roaming the forests of Albion, Norfolk to the Scots.

Leaving her mother as an impressionable girl, the red haired youth matured into a tall, athletic and stable woman. The warrior's way was still within reach at times her mother needed another good swords woman. The discipline needed for battle and Boadecia's talent to get the best out of every soldier gave Rhiannon a mental balance. Avalon was demanding on the girl. Seasonal visits to the Orkneys, where her twin sister Vivian resided, provided her with very welcome news from around the known world. Prasutagus conquered the islands North of Scottish territory, where some Vikings had tried to set up house, for his pride and joy, Vivian. The islands roughed landscape and wide variety of animals to study gave her a break from the exhausting lessons Eilan kept her busy with. Learning to obey her aunt was proving to be the greatest challenge Rhiannon had ever faced. The High Priestess was not just teaching her the way of the Lady. She wanted the girl's very soul, or so it felt.

Rhiannon was being trained to become the next High Priestess of Avalon. The woman's skills grew stronger and more varied as Eilan taught and influenced her as much as her niece let her. Unknown to all who had a stake in her future, Rhiannon did not feel she was in the right place at all. The redhead wanted to set off into the world and be a warrior... Not stay on the small island and practice the druids' sciences and rituals that Eilan thought were important. She loved her homeland and most kinfolk. She enjoyed learning in general but something tugged at her soul. Something stronger than soil, blood ties or even gods.

Boadecia was right. This young thing is a natural. Eilan concluded to herself as she watched Rhiannon master the sight over little time. Much less time than the High Priestess had needed, as a novice. She figured that the Moon Goddess would claim the young woman soon. Beltaine, I should think... yes ... I like Beltaine. Eilan made note of the coming festivities and reminded herself to let the Taliesin know the time was right. Her own intuition was doing overtime and her usual cool, High Priestess radiance was fading while the student rapidly grew more able than her teacher. If only she could talk the girl into letting her warrior image go. Boadecia, you stubborn piece of work, had to leave your mark all over the girl, didn't you. At least you didn't refuse her like you tried to do with Vivian. Hubby saw to that didn't he. The Priestess cursed under her breath, walked over to Rhiannon and took hold of the young woman's left hand.

Rhiannon stopped meditating to find out what the old crow wanted of her this time. I've almost had enough of this game of taming the warrior. Rhiannon thought as a lung-full of air escaped from her mouth in an impatient rush. Patience you fool. Just sit it out until you've mastered what Eilan has to offer. Then get out of here. She put the thought firmly in her mind and looked over Eilan's shoulder as she stood up.

The redhead saw that a couple dozen priestesses had gathered at the foot of one of the offer tablets in the stone circle, half way up the Tor. Her friend Ionah was among them. They held the sacred attributes needed to tattoo the symbol of the Mood Goddess on someone and looked at her as if she was their target.

Rhiannon let Eilan lead her to the offer stone. A deafening silence descended over the field. The stone was covered in rusty, old bloodstains and mosses. The Celt sat down on the end of the stone and gave her aunt the chance to prove her wrong, face blank and arms folded. After all, Ionah got here first and was next in line to take her vows and be marked, before she became a full-fledged priestess during the festival of Beltaine. Rhiannon came up with several ways to get out of the stone circle fast, in case things took an unwanted turn. Letting her aunt have her way was never part of the plan. She had confided in Ionah about this when Eilan announced the next group of novices that were to be called. Her friend had promised to help her get off the island if Eilan refused to respect the Celt's wishes.

The priestesses formed a circle and started chanting. Eilan soaked a sponge in a bowl of water and said some blessings. She called on the Goddess to bless her choice too and locked eyes with Rhiannon.

“I already have all the markings I've ever wanted and more, you old hag.” The Celt screamed as her face went the colour of her hair from the anger rising within. She stood up fast. “I don't think that an all powerful Goddess needs the indigo moon sickle between my brows to be able to seek me out, do you? Isn't being The One mark enough?” Rhiannon knew her arguments fell upon deaf ears but continued yelling at her aunt.

“By the way, I have these great tattoo's on my cheeks that only two other, rather magnificent, royal women wear. The sickle doesn't match them.” Rhiannon could feel the priestesses around her hold their breath as the tension level rose between the High Priestess and her chosen. “I don't want any more done on my face, thank you very much. Aren't my ears enough punishment.” She caressed her own cheeks and ears and laughed wickedly. “What if I'm not The One. For the love of Hearn's friggin antlers, look at who you are dealing with, stupid, narrow-minded crow.” Rhiannon kept circling the High Priestess fast, not blinking and not giving the older woman a hairbreadth of room to move. She stopped when Eilan was trapped between her and the altar stone in the middle of the circle. “You were saying, Eilan?” Rhiannon looked around the circle of blue robed women and grinned.

Eilan's right hand flew up, aimed at the young woman's face. Rhiannon sucked in air and caught the High Priestess' wrist, just before the cold and bony hand connected with her face. “And you are trying to achieve what?” The Celt sneered and pushed her aunt to the ground with ease. She was, after all, only half the size of her mother and at least ten summers older.

Sprawled on the grass and held by the wrist like a naughty child for all her priestesses to see, Eilan felt humiliated and angry but kept her face neutral. Rhiannon had rebelled before but not like this. She had never used force while on the island. Close the circle and nobody dare move, unless I say so. Eilan commanded the other women with her thoughts and then spoke to her niece with venom in her breathy voice. “You will yield to the Goddess my dear, you must. It is beyond your control.”

“Now that wasn't very smart was it. Don't bother keeping the other lasses around, auntie. They can't force me to do anything I do not want to do. When will it sink in Eilan? You have no control over me and if I make it so, not over them either.” Rhiannon looked from the High Priestess to the baffled women standing around them. “Do not presume to know what you have created, Lady of the Lake. Your actions now will echo throughout the universe, forever.” The redhead chuckled and waved a hand without looking, to dismiss her sisters. Rhiannon was beginning to enjoy herself a little, shoving Eilan's lessons back into her teacher's face.

None of her sisters moved from the circle. They watched and waited as standing stones. So they like the show? Maybe I'm not the only one who loathes the entertainment around here. Let's see what the old bat will try to do now.

Rhiannon let go of Eilan's wrist, took a step back and folded her arms. Much to her expectation, Arafel, Eilan's right hand woman hurried to her mentor and helped the old woman up. She then walked back and closed the circle again. Rhiannon laughed bitterly at her. Suck up.

The High Priestess looked at the redhead for a moment and smiled. “You will yield.”
Her voice sounded even more resentful and dark if possible. The woman focused on Rhiannon's left eye and challenged her student. You defy the High Priestess, little girl. Remember your place.

The Celt chuckled again, planted her feet firmly and folded her hands together, index fingers pointing down. What do you want to do now, High Priestess? I'm not at all ready to take your place am I, you conniving bitch? You are careless though. I've mastered more than you know. For starters, blocking my mind and whereabouts to you at will. If you would like to find out the rest, you are going to have to catch me first old cow. Bye-bye.

Rhiannon took a few steps backwards toward her sisters and planned to sommersault over the wall of women when Ionah grabbed her sides from behind. Snatching one of her sister's hands and arm, the redhead swung Ionah over her shoulder. The priestess landed on another sister, who slammed to the ground under Ionah's weight. This created an opening for Rhiannon to bolt from the circle of women. “Traitor.” She yelled over her shoulder at her devious friend, her eyes shooting daggers.

Eilan watched her niece run from the offering field. If you won't surrender yourself to the Goddess one way, it will be dealt with in another. The High Priestess signalled the women to cancel the rest of the ritual, patted the dirt off her robe and grabbed hold of Arafel without looking. The blonde priestess grinned at Eilan and nodded. The two walked toward The Lake and sat down to 'talk' in confidence.

        Tricked or Chosen

All she could see were blurs of green bush and vague shades of red light that filtered through the trees as she ran to the point of flying. When her lungs started to burn so hot she couldn't breathe anymore, Rhiannon dropped on all fours and howled. She needed to release some of the anger and frustration that was taking hold of her heart. She almost tore into her aunt and spooked herself. Where's all this aggression coming from? Anger I know, but this feeling is making my heart ache all the time. I want to hit something. Crawling towards a stray stone to steady her, the woman noticed a flickering of something under it. Her hands methodically dug around the shiny object just enough to get at it under the stone's edge. The object cleared from under its hiding place as the redhead pulled and rose to her knees. The cool metal felt empowering and familiar in her hands. “A sword?” She whimpered, still out of breath and swallowed hard.

“Humm hmmm, it's THE sword”

The wing cheeked woman's heart jumped at the sound of the voice. She swung around fast and rose to her full length, striking the most intimidating pose she could summon.

“Like I said.” The old man continued and chuckled at the woman's moves. “The sword of Hearn the Hunter. It is destined to aid a great man from the enchanted Sherwood Forest one-day, my beautiful Elfling. A Saxon no less. Did you pay attention to any of my lessons?” The man smiled at his student and saw her anger build.

“I remember the story differently, but if you say so.” Rhiannon chewed her bottom lip and frowned. She knew the sword was a symbolic weapon and was owned by the High Priestess, residing since the beginning of Avalon.

Rhiannon felt an almost bloodthirsty rage hit her as she listened to the druid preaching at her about great men of the past and future. She grinned at the old man she knew as The Taliesin, High Priest of the Druids or Gwydion, friend and advisor of the family. The redhead tried to relax a little and prodded at some dirt with the sword. She didn't trust the druid completely but knew he was more of a talker than anything else. He'd bore her to death with his secret sciences, stargazing and magick first.

“You keep saying Elfling, Taliesin. Do you ever plan to elaborate or will you just keep on offending me?” Rhiannon speared the sword deep into the dirt, between herself and the Taliesin and folded her arms.

“Sweet child, you don't want to know, even if I do tell you more.” The druid replied with a grin and scratched his beard.

The redhead looked at the blade still well at hand, wondering if she would provoke her Goddess if she used force on an old man to get at what he was insinuating. He shouldn't make fun of me like that. Nobody I know likes elves. Why insist on calling the Queen's daughter an Elfling? Is he tired of living? Before she could act on those thoughts, her vision began to fade behind thick tears. She dropped to the ground with a thud and found herself not being able to keep her eyes open nor her mind sharp. Damn that druid. I can't move for Hearn's sake. Leaning heavily on her arm that extended into the sword; knuckles white from holding on for dear life, consciousness left her.

“Yes, that's right my Elfling. Sleep. You will soon realize who you are, like it or not.” The old man grinned, sprinkled some violet dust over the two of them, and they vanished.

Rhiannon woke with a jolt and a surging headache. “AUW. Basalt rips a girls butt to shreds. Oh, my head. Wait till I get my hands on you, son of a Banshee.” She growled and the words came echoing back to her, which did nothing if not worsen the mean thump in her head. I'm in the initiation cave? The groggy woman assumed. The slight illumination caused by a torch that lit the cave was just enough to recognize where she was. I'm naked? How long have I been here? She ran through a number of the rituals that would normally take place in this cave. Beltaine was the festival that traditionally brought the new High Priestess forth. Eilan had planned to initiate Rhiannon, if she co-operated or not. All tribe elders, nobles, anybody who was somebody and swore allegiance to Avalon would be there to see it, making it impossible to escape.

The Celt didn't feel cold even though she was unclothed. They've kept me here for a long time. I would be freezing if it were still the end of winter. Her breasts and face were covered in dried blood, judging by the stale, metallic smell coming from her body. I'M HERE FOR THE GRABBIN' NAKED HIGH PRIESTESS TO BE, PREPPED FOR THE MAIN RITUAL AND ALL. Oh, sweet Ceridwen have mercy. Those two should be quartered and have their limbs thrown out to the sea serpents, forget Tir na nOg. They can't have me willingly like all the others so they tricked me. It has nothing to do with the Goddess. My lady give me guidance, I do not wish to offend you. I don't want to be the new High Priestess, even if this is truly your way. But I do not believe it is. It's NOT on. EILAN, TALIESIN... I know you can hear my thoughts. IT'S NOT ON. You two have no idea who and what you are dealing with.” Rhiannon knew she was bluffing but made her up her mind not to give in without a fight. She tried to relax on the basalt bed and started to meditate.

Sitting cross-legged and hands together, index fingers pointed to the earth, Rhiannon decided to leave Avalon or die trying. She would defy the High Priestess, her sisters and even the Goddess if she had to. First she had to get out of the cave and determine if her deity had forsaken her completely. Unknown to the Celt a green glow started to surround her form, coming from within the woman.

Her voice echoed back from the cave walls like a mantra; “Fire... Water... Earth... Air... Metal, Elements that be, fill me, serve me. Mother of all, Goddess of the Moon, I call you... Ceridwen, Rhiannon, the unspoken one, the three who are one... I invoke thee, I invoke thee.”

Rhiannon opened her body, heart and soul to her Goddess. She invoked the power of love and forced her will to be silent. Her fear subsided, the many voices of expectation and desire that frequently filled her mind went mute. All that was left was silence. After listening to that silence for a while, one demand-like question formulated and forced its way out of her mouth.

“If I am your Chosen One, show me NOW. Give me a sign.”
A green light beamed powerfully within the cave.

Rhiannon tired fast and her personal desires ended up mingling with the words that would command the Goddess to reveal her destiny. All the gods Rhiannon placed her faith in were included in her cries for help.

“Hearn the Hunter, I invoke thee, Cybele Earth mother, I invoke thee, Rhiannon face of the Moon, I invoke thee. I ask for the power to serve my heart and extend my knowledge and skills to all who need it, unchained by borders and the selfish will of mentors and family. If I am to serve Avalon, let it be as a warrior. I do care for this place and for those who live here, my Lady. Eilan's will can never be the way it must be, please let me go, help Avalon let me go. By my ancient bloodright I beseech thee.” The cave grew silent again and the green glow dimmed.

Rhiannon came back to herself slowly and felt cool metal and antler bone resting across her knees. It was not the sword of Hearn, but a fine blade in a league of it's own. The Celt slipped her fingers around the bone and found that the grip fit to perfection. Made for her hand only. She felt some confidence return and her eyes nearly popped from their sockets at the beauty and perfect balance of the blade. Her name was engraved in the shiny blade itself. Eight sacred runes decorated with eternal knots and mystic symbols. Rhiannon gave the weapon a few spins and jumped off the rock to inspect the rest of the cave's chamber.

A few paces away, laid over a chest she found an outfit of died green leather. A cloak of the finest combed wool, woven in the colours of Boadecia's family kilt, green, purple and red. A silver Tork with matching arm braces and some other trimmings were tucked in a box bearing the sign of the Goddess, the moon sickle. Next to the chest stood a pair of hind leather boots, also imprinted with moon sickles - on the sides.

Well, well. My Lady has good taste. This is excellent indeed. Even Viv would like this.

        Destiny called as the Amazon killed

Winding her way out of the cave, her path lit by the torch, the redhead thanked her deity. Strutting up the steep path, Rhiannon's heart started to pound with the presence of death suddenly overloading her senses. She started to make out strange sounds coming from outside and picked up her pace.

The new outfit felt a little odd but comfortable. Rhiannon knew it was meant for her and she walked proud, taking in the details of her new attire. As a warrior she could be free to do good on her terms with her Lady's blessing. That prospect suited her perfectly. The sharp and nasty vibes coming from the cave entrance, on the other hand, did not. The light of the torch was soon diminished to nothing when compared to the bright blaze that hit her, at arrival.

In the opening of the rock face stood a pale, bleeding Arafel.

“What the- how long have I been out?” Talking to herself was usually a sign that Rhiannon felt lonely or baffled. Her muscles tightened of their own accord and she spoke close to babbling. “Arafel, w't is it. Who dh- did this to you?”

Before the blonde collapsed on the ground, Rhiannon threw aside the torch and caught the woman in her arms. She laid her down gently and the priestess tried to speak. “Grh- greehh- Amah- zon wants Gahbr- rielle. Help them... need the wah- warrior. Are yhou th- warrhh-” Arafel grabbed hold of Rhiannon's hair and her hand got tangled in the braids to the side of the redhead's face. She let out a last rattle of breath and blood. The Celts eyes stung as Arafel's dead weight hung by her hair, the tears of physical and emotional pain flooded her cheeks.

Rhiannon let go of the dying priestess as her eyes caught the scene outside the cave. Everyone who called themselves true and loyal to Avalon, almost all who had come to witness the ritual calling of a new High Priestess, lay scattered across the fields around the cave.

The air was filled with moans and cries, along with the stench of burnt flesh and blood. The buildings closest to the cave were on fire. Their once white plastered walls were stained with blood and grime. The grass field in front of the inferno seemed to be ploughed open and the decrepit cavities were filled with dead people and burnt body parts. Some priestesses were crying and just lying there, too shocked to move. Others were busy running for cover, back towards the village. The lords and ladies had tried to do the same but not all had made it. A line of charred human remains led up to the thatched cottages. The village cottages at the bottom of the field were still intact but filled with wounded visitors and priestesses. Rhiannon's sisters ran in and out of the supply huts, arms filled with anything available to bandage wounds and cool down burns. Three priestesses were brave enough to make a run for the healers supply cottage but got fried before they reached cover.

Amidst the burning chaos stood an Amazon woman laughing hysterically and throwing fireballs at everything and anything that moved. She gave off the most evil vibes Rhiannon had ever felt emitting from a woman. This is clearly no average human. As fast as she could, the Celt screened the field for the familiar vibes of her mother and twin Vivian. Nothing. If Viv were here I'd surely hear or feel her panic. No, mother is not here either. She focussed on the drama in front of her and sent a thought message her twin might be able to pick up. No answer. Ceridwen watch over them, wherever they are. Maybe they haven't been invited to the island for this festival in respect of mother's mourning Prasutagus. He was killed in a battle against the Saxons last winter. Eilan wouldn't want her around to see this farce anyway.

The Celt stood numb, sword hanging limp in her palm. Although Rhiannon wanted to run over to the Amazon and thrust a blade straight through her heart she realized quickly, she didn't stand a chance of even getting close enough to do damage. Her breath came in ragged, shallow spurts. Her body protested against every movement but she managed to stagger backwards into the now very attractive cave. Rhiannon focussed her mind's eye on the murderous woman and hoped she got through to her. Hey Amazon. Looking for a real fight? Find me first.

Elemented, dear Velasca, Elemented

As Rhiannon had expected, the Amazon came looking for her. The closer the intruder got to her, the more certain the redhead was that she was dealing with some sort of god.

My gods, what does this murdering bitch want? The redhead tried to get into the Amazon's mind. All the information she got was that this woman had the powers of a god and was not in a hurry to leave without something. The Amazon's mind was filled with thoughts of revenge, death and self-glorification. Rhiannon shivered at the Amazon's thoughts and placed a protective spell on herself. Maybe that would keep the Amazon from reading her mind, as gods were known to do that.

Hey little priestess not so High and mighty. Do you really think you can hide from a god? Don't irritate me you weird little shit. Hand over the pretender to the Amazon throne now. If you don't... you only delay the inevitable.” The Amazon laughed loudly, threw her head back and sniffed at the air. A warrior who tried to creep up on her from behind distracted her. The Amazon flicked a fireball over her shoulder and it killed the man on impact. She sighed and stared at her fingernails for a moment. “I know Gabrielle is in Britannia, I can smell her stench every where.” Velasca bellowed loudly and stalked her way down into the heart of Avalon.

Light as air, fast as water, light as air, fast as water. Rhiannon meditated, preparing for a quick get away.

“Where in Hades is that mortal vermin of a bard?” The Amazon came stomping into the core chamber of the cave.

Light as air, fast as water, light as air, fast as water, light as air. The Celt felt herself become lighter, her nerves on edge like an over-taught harp string.

“Avalon bids you a very, very warm welcome and farewell.” Rhiannon whispered to the fuming Goddess. Her voice was amplified by the acoustics of the rock. Like an arrow from a bow she shot herself out of the chamber, snatching Velasca's dagger from its place as she passed the roaring Amazon.

“Cute. We can end this outside too, priestess. It makes no difference. I will fry you AND the bard. That is non negotiable.” Velasca screamed at the rock walls and started to walk back towards the entrance.

Just a few paces outside the cave the warrior carved a moon sickle between her brows with the stolen dagger and invoked the elements. Rhiannon made haste to reciprocate before the lunatic woman figured out what she had in mind. She would not last a heartbeat once the Amazon got out. Arms and hands raised to shoulder height, eyes focused on the moon she chanted, “Moon Goddess, watcher and guardian of the elements, I invoke your power in me, fill me. Take this offering from a mortal. Is this what you wanted of me?”

The moon turned a dark crimson red and the cave matched its shade, as well as the Tork and arm braces the warrior wore.

Rhiannon could feel her body growing cold and numb. The stone labyrinth that led to the heart of Avalon melted and sealed in the screaming Amazon. The stone giant hissed as mist pulled toward its heating surface like a magnet.

Velasca was harmless once again, although this not to the knowledge of the now unconscious form that is Rhiannon, dead to the world, lying before the smouldering heap of rock. The chant and shock wiped the Celt out and she slept in an instant.

Brian chamber monologue

The warrior woke groggy and stiff from lying in one position, for how long she wasn't quite sure. Rhiannon sat down on a heap of rocks and focused on what was going on around her.

Priestesses were helping each other clear the field. Some were crying. The baffled Celt cried along with them from sheer relief. Many of the priestesses were wounded and at least five had succumbed to mortal lightning and fire bolts. She saw a few faces she knew among the dead visitors before closing her eyes again.

Balls of Brannan, did a horse and cart run me down or what? My head hurts, everything hurts. I've got to get off this island, then off the uh, Island and on a boat... to where? Amazons, where do they come from already? Mom told stories about them… Trees forest huts, short skirts, drums, feathers and come on brain dead. Uh... Must find out who this Gabrielle is. Both I just helped an innocent woman and this Gabrielle has some serious explaining to do or she's a black soul who wanted to harm my sisters. Can't think clearly, must rest and eat. Shit, cry... “Mother” Rhiannon's cry rang across the blood-soaked field.

From the mists of Avalon to the misty mainland

In the crowded streets of Londinium, Rhiannon bargained herself a place aboard a ship as help cook. The captain, a strong, friendly man who came from Gaul, made sure the crew didn't get rough with her. The times they tried, he found the young woman could hold her own. The Celt made sure hair or a hat covered her ears at all times. At home they would attract the kind of attention she didn't need right now. She didn't know how foreigners would react to a woman warrior with pointed ears. Frankly, she didn't want to find out, if the humiliating reaction of her kinsmen was anything to go by.

The voyage wasn't bad and the multi-cultured crew gave her fresh information on the various Amazon tribes. Especially when she sang for the men in the less stormy evenings. She was tempted to get more facts by tapping into the crew's mind but reminded herself that she had no quarrel with them. Instead, Rhiannon put some effort into learning the code of the sailors and even made some friends along the way.

Getting off Avalon was the pits compared to this splash in Llyr's big gulp, or Poseidon's realm as the Greeks called it. It was dawn and Rhiannon stood on deck, leaning against some ropes, enjoying the salty air. The wind caressed her scalp and made her hair dance. The red warrior cringed as she remembered her efforts to get away. To summon the boat, the only boat that could get her off the sacred soil, she had to go back and face Eilan once more.

First of all, she threw up when the stench of death hit her again, passing through the village center on her way back to Eilan. She recognized Ionah's badly charred body in the neat line of casualties. Rhiannon prayed for the soul of her friend and mourned the loss of her sisters. Nobody deserved to burn alive. Not these women for sure. There and then, she swore to find out who was responsible for this tragedy and not rest until she did.

Her aunt was wandering aimlessly through the narrow lanes in between buildings when the redhead spotted her. With a few back flips the Celt closed the distance between herself and the High Priestess. “I need to summon the boat,” was all Rhiannon said after she landed in front of the older woman and before she locked eyes with her.

Yield to me Eilan of the Lake. Tell me the words. She held her aunt by the shoulders forcefully.

Eilan tried to close her eyes and failed. Her student had become her master, so it seemed.
The girl had access to her mind but the High Priestess could not return the unwelcome intrusion. All she could do was give in or try to unbalance the girl. Since the first was out of the question, she shifted her weight onto her left leg. Eilan was about kick Rhiannon in the shin when the girl grabbed her by the throat and pushed her to the ground in one move.

Don't give me a reason to snap your neck, woman. Rhiannon held the fragile woman down with ease and tightened her hold around the pale neck slightly. Her knee firmly pressed against Eilan's shoulder, just in case.

“You don't have a killer's instinct dear. Bluff all you like, the chant is mine, and mine alone.” The High Priestess grinned at her niece.

Oh, you are good at this aren't you? Hmm, let's see. You... you would rather die instantly than ever feel any pain. The Celt pulled Eilan into a sitting position with the free hand, stomped her in the stomach, and jammed a knee into her face as she slumped over and slammed into the old woman's neck with her elbow. With the hand still on the woman's throat, she pushed her back into the dirt.

Had enough? I can do that again if you're not sure. No problem. The redhead held her breath, raised her eyebrows in question and watched Eilan whimper and spit out a few teeth. Her idea was working. The old woman was clearly scared of her display of strength. The fear of more pain broke the High Priestess' power to block the deepest part of her mind from being entered. Eilan had once told her niece that she was afraid of pain and what the fear did to her. Listening had paid off. The sight was not always needed to overpower Eilan, so it seemed.

The chant was simple enough and she got to The Lake shore before any of the nobles Eilan had ordered to stop her got the chance to hinder her departure. The chaos provided good cover.

A light spray of seawater brought the redhead back to the present. The waters were getting rougher and she held on to the rope coils for balance.

That stubborn woman. She's so occupied by the desire to be in control. Even if I'd killed an entire army of crazy Amazons, she'd still be on about her orders and me betraying her.
The Avalon gang and mother can get along without me while I find out who has the blood of my sisters on their hands. That Amazon came looking for some woman called Gabrielle and I plan on finding her. According to the ship's navigator, a Greek, there is a fairly well known bard who goes by that name. She travels with a lady warrior but he didn't know anything else, after being at sea for so long. Enough to go on for now I suppose.

The ship came to port in mist covered Gaul territory. Besides a couple of thugs roaming for food, coin or prejudice-related intentions, the road to Greek country was like a big picnic to the geographical naive Celt. Her naivety being the best weapon to avoid attracting too much attention. After dodging Romans, Saxons, Vikings and her father, Greeks seemed pleasant enough. She soaked up the different cultures she crossed like a new-born, first realizing that what it sees is really there. Rhiannon stopped at an inn somewhere in Corinth for some cider and bread. The redhead started to wonder if she would ever find this Gabrielle or the Amazon tribe.

The inn held a collection of men of the macho kind and several ladies of pleasure. Rhiannon settled into a booth near two good vibe-oozing examples. They both nodded at her. The bigger man gave her a warm smile, like she reminded him of something. The smaller, blonde man winked at her with his heart's wisdom glowing from behind friendly eyes.

The Celt relaxed and became very involved in the cheese and bread that a servant almost threw in front of her. Celts were not at all strange to the Corinthian public, she soon understood. She managed to get hold of some dinars, singing at taverns and inns on the way to Amazon territory. People were helpful and kind when you respected their ways. Actually, finding Amazonia would be the real challenge. Villagers she questioned on the subject had gone a little pale and walked away. Rhiannon decided that the eaves drop approach, plan-b would be effective immediately. It was then she realized that she was staring at the blonde man.

“The name's Ioulas and this big bag of cuddly bones is my best friend and travel companion, Hercules.” The blonde man beamed as he spoke and gave his friend a playful punch in the ribs.

“Oehai- uh, Hi, Hello.” The gentlest face she had ever seen on a man with such a large body turned to face her and smiled again.

Rhiannon extended her lower arm to Hercules, then Ioulas and smiled at them. She suddenly remembered one of the stories Boadecia once told her and her smile grew wider. “So you wouldn't happen to be 'The Hercules: hero of the people' I've heard about?” Her face slowly cracked into a grin. The redhead slid into the booth where the men sat and poured some cider from their tankard as her mind's-eye suddenly filled with pictures of Eire and elves. She flung her head back and closed her eyes to suppress the memories of her childhood home and it's strange ancients. Where did that come from?

“Not from these waters, hey stranger?” Ioulas guessed with a question mark for a face, also nodding and pointing to Hercules in an answer to her inquiry. His eyes searched her face and ended up resting on the side of her face long enough for her to guess her ears were showing.

“Not altogether, no. I'm Rhiannon of Avalon, pleased to meet you both. I'm honoured.”
The Celt stated and locked into Ioulas' concerned gaze.

“Eire”, Hercules vocalized with difficulty and cleared his throat. “Are you from Eire?” He looked through the warrior sitting across the table instead of at her.

“I lived there as a child, yes. Boadecia of Britannia is my mother. She has a thing or two to say about the 'little people'.” The Celt looked at her beaker and sighed. So much for eaves dropping then, gullible fool.

“And the Avalon factor you mentioned earlier?” Ioulas interrupted her thoughts.

“Oh, that.” Rhiannon kept her eyes focused on the cup in her hands and replied. “My mother and her sister take credit for that. My life was planned out by the High Priestess of Avalon, mom's sister. I was to follow her footsteps but bolted before things got too far from my heart.” The woman took a sip of cider and waited for their reaction. For sure these men must've come upon their share of weird and funky looking folks? Would they notice? She asked herself and frowned slightly, nibbling on the inside of her lip.

Hercules was the first to break the silence. “Do you have a place to stay for the night?
Ioulas and myself are staying at my brother's stables. You're welcome to share with us and a couple of horses and Pe-yew, parasights.”

His blonde friend looked wide-eyed at him before standing up and walking toward the inn door.

Hercules was looking slightly off guard with a goofy smile plastered on his face. Rhiannon decided to make use of the offer and followed the men out. So there are horses, a warm, comfortable stable hey, and clearly something that he doesn't want me to know about. The Celt sighed and almost skipped alongside Ioulas. They trust me? What a break.

“So who are you looking for, Rhiannon?' The blonde man asked and pointed the way.

“I'm looking for a friend. One of the priestesses has developed a rebellious streak and I'm here to help her find the way back to her family. They are afraid she might get hurt or lost.” Looking at her surroundings with great interest, the Celt spun a tale and avoided eye contact, as much as possible. So far, the hero's helper bought her story.

“Sounds like someone I know.” Ioulas giggled. “It takes a rebel to know one, and think like one. Do you need help?”

“Right now I need sleep and giving me shelter for the night is all the help I can do with. Tomorrow you might be able to show me where to find a map and supplies. Perhaps I could sing for you two as a return favour.” A wide smile accompanied her request and offer.

        New-found wings

“And I've got strange connections. Didn't feel like mentioning your brother is the bloody King of Corinth. Anything else you forgot to tell me?” Rhiannon edged the big fellow into conversation as they entered enforced dwellings.

Hercules stopped, faced the curious woman, opened his bulky arms invitingly and said, “Shoot.”

The redhead lowered her head for a heartbeat, looked up at Hercules and let him know she was charmed by his openness with a wide grin. “As you were, friend. I don't mean to storm the castle like that. Just worried if I should know about protocol 'n all. I'd rather blend in, hard as that can be at times. At home they want folks to act like obedient sheep, whenever some 'big fart' noble is around. No disrespect intended to your brother, mind.”

“None taken.” Hercules replied. “Whatsoever. I know what you are talking about. The
'big fart' brother is out yonder and we pretty much have the place to ourselves. You know, the three of us and some ho-”

“You are not my type, the pair of you, so relax big fellow, relax.” Rhiannon interrupted when she saw the man blush shamefully and study a stain on his shirt with great concentration. “I think three is safer a number than one, being a lass 'n all. I trust you. Do you trust me?”

“You haven't given me a reason not to. I know how hard it can be as the stranger in town.” Another smile beamed across the man's face.

Ioulas led the way into a small courtyard at the side of the main building and opened a door. The stable was sturdy and spacious. A fire burned in the center, horseboxes to the sides, some occupied by mounts and fresh straw as far as the building stretched.

Coming from a sealed box, seen from the corner of her left eye, the redhead heard a soft constant twitching sound that reminded her of feathers ruffling. The building was saturated with a sweet, musky scent. Parasights my foot Hero Man. You've stashed some animal in that box, I'll bet. And I just have to find out what Hercie is hiding, don't I. The woman noted to herself and hid a smile behind her hands, pretending to yawn. And why does the king's god-brother sleep in the stable anyway?

The two men eased into a routine and made a comfortable place to eat and rest up.
Only a few of the King's guards patrolled the grounds, with his hero brother in for the night.

Rhiannon laid out her bedroll; kept her leathers on and got under the plaid she used as a blanket. Her sword by her side, she pretended to fall asleep after wishing her companions a peaceful night and promising to sing for them tomorrow. Am I getting paranoid or was that all too easy? Such sweet blokes. Suppose I'll find out what they think of me soon.

A low, whispering voice crossed her thoughts the moment she formulated them “So what do you think Herc. What's an Avalon babe really doing out here? A warrior and priestess at that? Ioulas asked his friend. “Come to think of it... stick her in Gabby's green top, imagine her hair a couple of tones lighter and you gotta admit there's a resemblance.”

“You have an uh, active mind my friend.” Hercules chuckled and continued, “But I see what you mean. Although, this warrior has about the same height as another warrior we know. A lot more woman coming at you if she's into Xena's kind of action. Not that Gabrielle can't suck a hard punch. But why she is really here, I have no idea. I do know that these 'half breeds' as some might call them are on the Islands”. The hero paused and pointed at himself. “Us. They have about as much as a rough time over there, as I sometimes do here. I remember how they mistrusted me vividly. Let's give her the benefit of the doubt for now. The only part I'm curious about is why she never mentioned she's a half elf? She knows we saw her ears.”

Ioulas looked over to the sleeping form of Rhiannon and took his companion's word for it.
“I don't think I would advertise my ears if they looked like that. Greeks are known to act on their fear of the unknown. Makes sense.” The blonde man yawned and stretched his arms in the air. “I'm with you, pal. Now can we get some shuteye because Zeus won't tolerate us coming late tomorrow. You know how he hates it when Pegasus' hooves touch land for too long. The dumb animal gets cocky. And I don't want to have to catch that- that- Thing again.” He sighed and rolled himself into a pile of straw. “Night Herc.”

“Good night Ioulas, tomorrow should be fun. Don't worry about my father, as long as I have Pegasus, he can beg me for him. Meanwhile, we have perfect transportation.” Hercules replied, sprawled out on a horse's blanket and dozed off with a grin.

As the two heroes' fell into the arms of Morpheus, Rhiannon waited until she could hear two steady, deep breathing patterns of sleep. She sat up and gathered her gear without making a sound. The Celt sheathed her sword and faced the horseboxes to her left, then started to meditate.

Light as air, soft as water, light as air, soft as water, light as air.

The stable bathed in a green glow as the woman chanted to herself. Soft as water...
Quarter candle mark further, like a feather floating on a breeze she headed towards the sealed horsebox.

        Brain chamber dialogue

Hi there horsi- aren't you a divine looking, double pare of trotters.
And wings to go hey... Okay here goes.
Rhiannon took in the beauty of the horse for a moment and started chanting under her breath. “Epona, I invoke thee, by the spirit of the 'uncloven hoof'. Let me control the instincts of this beast. Pegasus, yield to our unity, sense I mean you no harm.”

The woman mounted the animal from her slightly elevated position and dug her heals deep into its silvery white flanks.

The beast stood perfectly still, twitching its wings.

Rhiannon repeated her command and still nothing happened.



Say please lady.

Oh, it's you. But how ca- you think as a human?

Brought to you proudly by the Pantheon of Greece.

Yes and thank them for me will you bu-- how can you be discussing with me?

Horsie to Celtie, hello? The gods are at work here. Now, say please.

Gods, stop fussing and get me out of here.

I'm waiting... still waiting.

Can't hear you.

ALL RIGHT... Please?

'T is that simple, hold on.

Woouaah, the doooor.

The warrior all but caught a glimpse of Ioulas jumping and stomping around in the courtyard and Hercules smashing his fist into the stable door. Pegasus lifted off with profound wing strokes and was above the clouds in what seemed less than a heartbeat.

Where to m' lady?

        Easy for you to say

“Ephiny” The Bard hissed at the Regent sitting across from her seat in the food hut, from a certain warrior's lap.

“What did I do or not do now my Queen?” Ephiny asked as she threw back some stray curls and looked straight at the Bard whom she wanted to interrupt before things got more or less out of hand. Gabrielle noticed her eyes on them before she had the chance.

“That, stop staring and get some of your own... girlfriend. Oh, come on Eph. Only you know we are here yet.” Her Queen added and returned to biting her lover's earlobe.

Ephiny took her eyes off the Warrior and her 'demanding drapery', with difficulty, intoxicated by their display of love. Easy for you to say Gabrielle, how long has it been since I've - Her inner musings were interrupted when a loud voice slapped around her ears.

“Can we have some privacy here?” Gabrielle asked with a smile before that raven-haired woman reclaimed her mouth for a quick kiss.

“For Zeuh- It's a public place... girlfriend. Get to your hut already. Keep this up and the whole village is going to know their Queen is having it on with her wife in the back of the food hut. It's almost time for lunch.” The Regent gulped down her wine and strode out of the quarters.

Every time they visit since they've admitted their love to each other, it's the same. They get so wrapped up in each other, wherever they are. How am I supposed to get the Amazons to uphold some kind of privacy rule, when they do that? She's the Queen for Artemis sake. Despite herself, the Regent giggled, remembering what happened when she was in love.
So long ago.

        To catch a Queen

Slightly dropping from their safe height, winged horse and rider hovered above the heart of the Amazon village. Rhiannon screened the village as best she could from so high up.

Who would be in charge here? What does an Amazon Queen look like? Plenty of guards round the longest hut to the right. Hmm, steamy vibes coming from inside. Proud, very distracted Amazon woman coming out of the hut, only two guards. Good, she'll do.

Swoop, Peg, swoop.

What do we say, Rhi, what do we say?

Please Pegasus, swoop down. Let's catch us a Queen by making her come to me for this beauty on legs.

Ephiny walked, deeply centered in her own thoughts, across the village square.

[What really happens now requires proper explaining of magick. But The Moon Goddess would have my hide if I spilled the beans here. Sorry folks, more Avalon hocus pocus stuff we won't bother about. Branwyn, down girl. If you really want to know more, visit the Harlequin's hut, over at The Bards Village!]

In between two blinks, the Amazon found herself being lifted by the scruff of her neck, planted on a white flying blob and floated off into sky, while losing all control of her body.

Rhiannon grabbed hold of Pegasus' manes tight as the beast swooped down on the absent-minded Amazon. She picked up the bundle of surprised woman and pulled her up front.
Pegasus yielded to her command to lift and climb. The redhead caught sight of the Amazon's perplexed expression. Hello there precious, can't take it all in yet can we. The Celt giggled and dropped the killer-Amazon's dagger --she retrieved it from the mad woman on the spot where the curly haired Amazon had been standing.

The winged horse flew them to a field, a day's walk from the Amazon village.

M' lady, 'tis here where this winged horsie gets off, God-Boss on line and he is not a happy man. Tell Epona, 'twas a ride... linking up with a kindred spirit. Tell her... any time.

Rhiannon slid down from Pegasus' back, holding on to the Amazon to break her fall.

My heart thanks you, my people thank you, I hope the Amazons will at hind's sight.
Epona on your way, divide and sever the link, beast be off.

Oh, la di da, woman. You think these sisters can't take care of themselves, Elfling?

If you say so Pegas- “

The snowy white horse was already a dot in the sky, when it's last word sunk in.


Leather dug into dirt, callused hands clenched fists full of it. Xena was down on her knees, panting, teeth flashing as she snarled. “Damned horse.”

Gabrielle stood beside her, looking from left to right with fire-spitting eyes. The Bard couldn't figure out whether to scream or scream even harder. She needed more than the usual search party, right now. The bard filled her lungs for a few commands, loud enough to raise the entire village.

“Guards, Amazons, Guaaards, Unite.”
The Queen howled.

“Gabrielle.” Xena sighed and got up.


“Gabrielle.” Xena voiced loudly to snap the blonde out of her angry daze.

“Honey, we'll find her much faster if we go look for her together. The sooner we get Eph back, the better.” The Warrior whispered into her lover's ear and put an arm around her startled wife. “Take control my love, you can do it, focus.”

“Everybody hold it, freeze.” The Amazon Queen commanded over Xena's shoulder where her chin rested.

Thadda girl.
Xena chuckled to herself and looked around at the gathered Amazons and confused guards. Turn on the royal stuff.

“Now listen up. Xena and I will take Argo and go look for my Regent to the south. That's where the Pegasus horse seemed to be heading. Eponin, secure the village and assemble as many teams as you can to search the other directions, just in case. Clear?” Gabrielle stated, somewhat out of breath but with authority.

“I go where the Queen goes, and the Queen stays here. You aren't on the road right now.” Solari reminded her Queen, stepping forward; hands buried in hips to back up her line, anticipating an argument from either Xena or Gabrielle. “Xena can tag along with one of the Amazon parties if the rest are okay with the idea. I don't think it would hurt to have the Warrior Princess around right now.”

Lizzeah, the head battle instructor, who got on well with Xena offered to guard the Queen's Consort if she joined her party and winked at the Warrior.

Gabrielle planted her staff down with a thud and looked at Xena for a moment. She realized by the look on her Warrior's face that she was on the brink of bolting off on her own. She herself was quite disappointed but knew her duties had changed the moment they had returned to the Amazons for a visit and took control of the talking again.

“While we are standing here arguing, that stranger on the flying horse is getting farther away from us. Must I remind you that an act of war has just been committed here people? For the sake of Ephiny's safe return, listen to Xena and work together. I promise to stay here with Solari and help arrange for the village to be safe-guarded. Now MOVE.

        Etiquette's of a Celt

A pale and restless Rhiannon put a light sleep spell on her captive, the moment Pegasus was out of sight and the Amazon started to realize something really, really strange had overcome her. The woman reduced to a heap of skin and leather at the slightly nervous warrior's feet.
Wonder how long it will take a whole village of Amazons to find me? Maybe the Greeks use their own magick. Gods, I hope not. The Celt sat the dozing woman up against a tree trunk near the clearing where the winged horse had left them. She tied the Amazon's hands behind her back with a belt, fumbling at the knots with trembling hands. I say, my captive is rather a looker. Will this woman understand why I had to take her the way I did? With leather straps she bound her ankles together. A shard of plaid serviced as a gag.

The Amazon started to come round after Rhiannon checked her surroundings for signs of trouble for at least the seventh time in half a candle mark. No fire, the smoke will give me away too easily. Olivewood will never burn without smoking. Not even with a simple spell. I need all the time I can get with this Amazon. Gods, I hope she can tell me who ordered that crazy god woman or what ever she was, to slaughter my people over this Gabrielle?

“Hmmmnh, hrr, oohwwwhelleghrraah.” The Celt heard coming from the tree.

Ephiny struggled against the tight restraints and fell over onto her side, giving up what she knew to be a lost cause. “Hhhhuuwwh wwhhnn.”

“Don't know if winning is the point here.” The redhead replied and walked over to the woman slowly, screening her general state. She's a little shocked and pretty angry. Figures. Rhiannon kneeled and pulled the Amazon upright. She's also drop-dead-gorgeous in leather.

“I apologize up front for snatching you like that.” Huh, yeah. Good start Rhi. The redhead frowned and took a deep breath. “ I usually pay my opponents the respect of a fair fight. Can't afford the luxury in this time and space though.” Rhiannon told the Amazon to her face and straddled the woman's legs, keeping her distance by staying on her knees. “I mean you no harm woman. No harm at all, for I pray to any God who will listen to help me, see the truth here Amazon. Artemis, I hope your Amazon can muster up some empathy here, help me huntress. I want an explanation. The Amazon side of the story. First, I need to tell you my side and hope you know the point to it all or at least some of it. For your Queen's sake and mine.” Rhiannon swallowed hard. For a fraction of a heartbeat, the Celt thought about tapping deeper into the curly blonde's thoughts but rejected the idea. That will get me into more trouble than I need. The Goddess will have my hide for lunch.

Ephiny frowned. Who in Hades is this woman? She's so cute I'd almost overlook her kidnapping me just for that but what in the known world is she going on about? I must remember to ask who braided her hair and where she got those amazing boots. Oh, Bad Amazon, Ephiny grinned to herself.

“I'm going to take the gag off now.” Rhiannon informed the Amazon and placed a hand over her heart before doing so. “I come to you for help, may it be in a hostile manner. I apologize once more.” The gag came off. Rhiannon stood up to get some water for the silent and somewhat dazed Amazon.

Ephiny gulped down the fluid offered to her eagerly. The plaid dried her mouth so badly she couldn't utter a word and her throat felt sharp as knives. After catching her breath, she started asking questions in a rush. “Who are you? Pegasus- how- why- what are you talking about?”

The Celt squatted next to the Amazon and took a slow deep breath, closing her eyes for a brief moment. Looking Ephiny straight in the eyes, the Celt started to explain. “Who I am is difficult. Here we go again. Rhiannon of Avalon will do for now. Pegasus, I borrowed, courtesy of Hercules and his friend.” How? Know anything about magick?” Stupid, stupid. The Celt chewed on her lower lip and looked pensive.

Ephiny shook her head once and her eyebrows raised in question. This lady is so nervous I could reverse the situation if she got comfortable enough to untie me. Magick?

“Didn't count on it. Maybe some day I can show you. Why is a good question though.” The Celt swayed a finger at the sitting woman. “Why, is to the point.” Rhiannon got up and started pacing in front of her captive. She wanted to explain things fast, before the Amazon wrote her off as an enemy or nutcase all together. “The proof of my story should now be in the hands of your fellow Amazons. When you get back, it will verify my story. It's like this, some medium height, brown hared, blood thirsty, out of her mind-“

Rhiannon's body started to shake all over and her mouth went dry. Visions of the horrendous scene she walked into after winding out of the cave forced her to her knees. She had been so focused on getting to Amazon territory, that the journey had left her little time to feel. Previously pushed down anger, frustration and guilt fringed relief caught up with her as soon as the words from her mind connected to the pit of her stomach. Great, tears. What a way to convince a warrior woman of what happened. Let's take a short walk Rhi.

After walking into the woods for a while Rhiannon regained control of her emotions. She swiped her face with the back of her hands and found her way back to the clearing. She looked at the other woman with an embarrassed grin. Why didn't I just knock on their gate, for Hearn's sake?

Ephiny cringed at the sound of the crying warrior who was clearly trying to suppress her pain and save face. As she waited for the warrior to come back, the Regent had a try at loosening her ties. Gods-be-Damned, this woman knows her knots. Okay Xena. Time you found me already.

When Rhiannon appeared beside her, eyes puffy and breath still ragged the curly blonde spoke and made sure her voice was gentle. I'm Ephiny. If you untie me, we can maybe start over and help each other. You are clearly hurting and you think the Amazons have something to do with the cause of that pain. Am I right so far?”

The redhead blinked away the last few tears and squatted. She stared at the Amazon for a while before letting her head hang. “I don't know if I can trust you yet.”

“Tell me what happened to you that you seek vengeance so far from home. I don't understand.” The Regent held her breath in anticipation of the warrior's reply. Come on gorgeous. You can do it. Trust me. Hazel brown eyes travelled over Rhiannon's face and took in the curious woman. What do those cool tattoos mean and why are her ears shaped like wings? Ephiny felt a sudden blush spread all over her cheeks and tore her eyes from the woman in a hurry, hoping the Celt didn't notice.

“Okay.” The Celt stood up again. “My village was attacked by some insane Amazon-like goddess. She set fire to everything in sight and killed many of my people. Some of my sister priestesses were also killed. She came looking for a person by the name of Gabrielle. Some kind of bard or perpetrator to a throne or something, I think she said.”

Ephiny's heart shrivelled into a tiny ball when the words of the redhead hit home and her face went white as a sheet. Please let me be wrong.

Rhiannon picked up on the shift of emotions in her captive and started pacing to and from the Amazon. “What? Tell me, please.” She stopped moving and stood over the still bound woman. Tears were announcing her anxiety and pain once again and the Celt fought them back unsuccessfully.

“Velasca.” Was all that the Regent uttered before her face went hard with anger. She tried to kill our Queen. We got rid of her, or so we thought. She must have found a way to free herself out of the lava pit she was trapped in. Oh Gods, Gabrielle.” Ephiny whispered under her breath, closed her eyes and let her head rest back on the tree. Realizing the warrior must have heard her Queen and friend's name escape from her mouth, she added, “Velasca also tried to kill my best friend, Gabrielle. Gods, did that lunatic Velasca follow you, do you know?”

At the sound of that name the Celt drew her sword instinctively. “No. The bitch was cremated and her ashes are trapped in a melted down cave for the rest of eternity as far as I know. You know the Gabrielle she came to Avalon for?”

Ephiny slumped with a sigh of relief. Tears welled up behind her eyes and she lifted her head to face the Celt. “You did the entire Greek Amazon nation a tremendous fav-- you did actually kill her, yes? I mean see her dead body.” A trembling voice inquired to be sure.

“Is she blessed with the powers of your gods in any way?” Rhiannon knew the answer to that but was not completely convinced of what her senses had picked up. Greek gods were not her speciality and she was very emotional at the time.

The Regent swallowed hard and sniffed a few times. “She managed to get her hands on some Ambrosia. The food of our gods.”

“That explains her aura. Damned it.” The redhead turned to face the tree the Amazon was sitting against; drove the pommel of her sword into its bark with a loud crack and howled.
Panting hard she re-focussed on the sitting woman and spoke in a slightly higher pitched voice, “Velasca will be stuck where she is for a very long time. But not forever as would be what I was aiming for. Damned be this.” For a moment Rhiannon was having trouble deciding what to do or say next. Gods, no. Please. I don't want to go back, but if that bitch is still a threat to Avalon, I must.

“Hello up there.” Ephiny called out to the dazed woman. “Does keeping me tied up solve your problem?”

“Sorry, no. Of course not.” The Celt knelt beside the curly blonde and slid her blade through the leather straps around bruised wrists. Wait just a moment, she hasn't answered me about Gabrielle. Oh no-

With one move the Amazon was loose and on top of a startled redhead, pinning wrists to the grass with one hand. Holding the Celt's sword in the other, it was pressed firmly into her neck. Ephiny took advantage of the fact that Rhiannon was distracted by her thoughts and emotions and squatted so close. She grabbed hold of the Celt's leg after the knife slit the leather and pulled the woman's feet from under her. At the same time she rolled over and onto the Celt, pressing her down. Ephiny breathed into her captive's ear, “I feel for your situation Avalon woman, but you still have to stand before my Queen and answer to the charge of kidnapping her Regent. Now, will you co-operate or do I return the bondage thing and kick you to the village?” Ephiny finished cutting her legs free and lifted some of her weight off the flustered Celt.

On her back, under the Amazon, Rhiannon tried to refocus and found that impossible to do during the first set of deep breaths she managed to inhale. Breathe woman, breathe. She focused on the Amazon 's forest brown eyes and inhaled deeper. This is making things worse and oh, those eyes. Co-operate, yep, just a tick. Rhiannon blinked a few times, swallowed the surprising new feelings down hard and looked at the face, hovering over her.

“I give up and will face your Queen.” So you are the Regent. Damn, so close. She said with a husky voice and swallowed again. “Ephiny, about the tying up.” Her brain interrupted her speech again. Not now. “Not required. I will come of my own free will for I expect your Queen to understand my motives when I tell her. And you, will you tell me more about your people?” The Celt ended, totally out of air.

        Finally... Gabrielle

“And she melted Velasca into a deep cave on Avalon. I'm sure she's talking about Velasca.” Ephiny finished her summary of recent events and the Celt's explanation. She scoped the room for reactions. Her statement was made on behalf of the Celt, now guarded by two Amazons in a far corner of the conference hall.

To the Celt's amazement, her former captive spoke from her heart and not from a bruised ego. The women gathered in the hall, all Amazon Warriors as far as Rhiannon could figure, were discussing the matter, mumble style, as if she wasn't even in the room. Most of them accepted Ephiny's conclusion that the woman was harmless. About fifteen of them would not hear of it, after examining the stranger closely.

Xena disturbed the meeting by coming through the hall door with a boot flying in first, pushing Eponin aside in her stride towards the crowd. “Where is the abductor?”

Ephiny rushed over to the Warrior and held her hand up to block the woman's path.
She leaned into the raven-haired woman and whispered something into her ear. Xena took a step back and said, “Report to me, Regent. I will call a council if needed after we hear the facts.

“She's not a threat to your Consort or the nation, trust me your highness.” The Regent ignored the hissing, coming from the center of the hall.

“That remains to be seen Regent.” Solari added herself to the scene but lowered her head when she met her Regent's warning stare.

“Would someone please fill me in already.” The raven-haired woman snarled at no one in specific, eyes rolling up impatiently.

The Amazon collective started to discuss and argue with each other to the point that shouting was a better word to describe what was taking place. Xena stood among them with her arms folded. Her face grew hard and her nose twitched.

Rhiannon giggled softly as she saw what the arrival of the Queen caused to the atmosphere in the hall from a distance. Hello ladies, over here. Questions directed to me are an option. Yoo-hoo. Not a dead legend yet girls... right here. Oh come on. Chaos already? The Queen is pretty informal with her subjects. This just might turn out to be fun, after all.

Quiet people... what in the name of Zeus is going on here?” Gabrielle shouted as loud as her voice permitted, standing on a table with hands around her mouth. She had entered the hall a few moments after Xena and was amazed by the way her Amazon's were all saying the same things, but were not hearing each other.

Xena motioned her Bard to get down and felt her impatient rage subside at the sight of this beautiful woman. She tried to smile and take matters to a calmer pace, taking Gabrielle by the hand and helping her off the table. The dark Warrior whispered something to her Bard and grinned. Gabrielle stood slightly behind her lover and lowered her eyes.

The Amazons settled down and waited for Gabrielle to take over. Much to their surprise, she didn't.

“Ephiny has managed to reverse the situation and has brought in her kidnapper. They must have passed the guards somewhere on their way back.” The Warrior gave Ephiny a wink. There seems to be some confusion about her identity and what to do with her. The Regent says she's from Avalon.” Traces of mischief danced round the raven-haired woman's mouth. “I think she's a warrior of some sort, judging by her moves on Pegasus. Bring her forward, guards.” Xena demanded, raising her voice so they could hear her at the farthest end of the building.

With eyelids drawn to a slit, the Warrior scoped out the hall, stopping near a tall shadow at the end of the room. The stranger's face was cloaked in shadow. The guards shoved the woman toward the waiting party.

Rhiannon corrected her balance after the first few shoves. The last one made her crash down on her knees hard, nose almost touching the boots of the Queen. Shrugging her shoulders she lifted her head and had to lean back on her heels to stay up when she saw who she was kneeling before. This is getting more interesting all the time. Xena, an Amazon Queen?

The Bard studied her Consort's face, as the Warrior's eyes grew wide with a mixture of recognition and surprise.

Xena's puzzled eyes analyzed the woman before her. One eyebrow vanished behind dark bangs. Unless she's found the spring of eternal youth that's not Boadecia. She's got Bo's marks though? Yes... she's... Oh... Ares in Tartarus, who again. I know her.
Moon sickle on the boots, yep Avalon. A moon crazy warrior priestess... no, doesn't ring a bell but she's from that weird Island so everything is possible. What else? She's in my good book for taking care of Velasca for now. Must tell her that.

“The Amazon Nation thanks you for taking care of Velasca. I believe you dropped this dagger earlier.” Xena broke her stare and smiled at the woman. The Warrior pulled Velasca's knife out of her left boot. She slid it to the center of the table her lover was standing on, so all the Amazons could see for themselves. “Now I remember who I've seen that dagger on before.”

Gabrielle turned her attention to the Celt and gave her the once over. This woman is interesting. She clearly knows Xena and I think Xe is starting to remember who she is. Who does she remind me of? Those tattoos are like Boadecia's. That warrior woman was the only good thing that happened in Britannia. Right, I need to know more, now. How did she get mixed up in all this?

Xena pulled the Celt to her feet. “State your name, woman.”

“I am a priestess of Avalon, daughter of Boadecia of Britannia.” Her reply came boldly.
Think Xena. Think back eight summers.

Before the crowd broke loose and started demanding the Celt be put through more examinations to prove she meant no further harm, Gabrielle decided to intervene.
“Can we please talk like civilized Amazons and find a comfortable place to do that. At least, if everyone is satisfied with the fact that the Queen believes this woman is of no further threat to either the Regent or herself?” Oops. Not very subtle bard. The Queen's scribe would not be so bold. I think I know that she's harmless but will the Amazons settle for so little explanation? Will Ephiny?

“Yes, the Bard speaks wisely. The woman is familiar to me and I will settle the matter in a more pleasurable surrounding. The Regent will report to you if council is needed.” Xena, secretly enjoying the role as Queen, examined her fingernails closely and waved at the Amazons casually.

Struck with some confusion, the Amazons left the hall; all but the royal guard and the Regent.

“My Queen, may I suggest we retire to the food hut and continue the conversation in some comfort?” The Bard smiled at the part time Queen and Ephiny.

Ephiny untied the redhead, winking at Gabrielle.

“Let's go, shall we?” The blonde bard took Rhiannon by the arm and escorted her down the hall.

“And you are?” Rhiannon inquired.

“Gabrielle, Amazon and Bard.” The blonde woman answered and blushed. “I write down what goes on around here.”

        At the other end of closure

Done telling her story, in finer detail this time round, Rhiannon felt relieved.
It took most of the energy she had left not to burst into tears again. The Bard had poured her two beakers of port so far. The tangy liquid had gone straight to her head.
She noticed a puzzled pair of blue eyes, frequently flashing at her and decided to give the clueless Warrior a break. After all, Xena and the Regent treated her with respect. Now her lost childhood hero had become Queen of the Amazons, she'd better do the same in return.

“Hey, Xena.” Rhiannon let out with a small burp. Oops, you're not at home Rhi, keep it polite and ya might live another day. This is Xena, remember. “Picture this, a sloped battle field, the usual muck and trenches. A bunch of berserk Scots to the left; garrison of Boadecia's troops to the right. You at the head of her men. A young girl runs out of your garrison pointing a sword at that Scot 'head fart' and all goes hay-wire. You lunge out to her; she ducks and fits you with a tailor-made black eye. You dive at her again and crash on top of the young thing and break her arm landing. She-”

“Yeah, yeah... which one are you then, Vivian or- Oh, no. You're Red Terror Rhi. The Warrior interrupted, jumped from her seat, leapt to the Celt and folded her into a bear hug. “What in the name of Tartarus are you doing here, girl?” Xena asked, holding the newfound piece of her past tightly. She started to worry about the answer as well as her decision to greet the woman as if she were an old army mate and let her go.

Gabrielle and Ephiny were looking at the two hugging and wrestling women before them with astonishment.

“So will you two let us in on your, uh, past together?” The Bard required.

The Celt broke away from Xena and caught her breath, leaning against the table the select group was sitting around. She avoided direct eye contact with the Warrior who had let her go a little too suddenly.

“Well,” Rhiannon panted and the Bard interrupted.

“Catch your breath first. You've been through quite an ordeal to get here. We don't want you getting hurt now, do we?”

“Thank you.” The Celt said politely and bowed her head, not looking away from the blonde woman's gaze. This lady is really something. She almost outshines her Queen. “I know Xena from the time she was part of Boade-”

The Warrior nudged the talking redhead into a chair and took over, “Boadecia, the warrior woman we helped scare off Caesar a while back.” Xena's voice went soft and quivery, “That is probably why Velasca went looking for Gabrielle in Britannia. I couldn't figure that part out until now. Dahok attracts evil like-” She stopped and looked over to her soulmate for reassurance and sat down hard, numbed by the pain reflected in green eyes.

The Bard blew her lover a kiss and nodded, to aid the now sitting woman to continue her story, no matter how hard it was to hear the destroyer mentioned again. “What about when you were in Boadecia's army?”

“I'll explain Dahok later. Never the less, this is a part of my past I'm not sure how to feel about. It might help Rhiannon's case if I let you in on it though.” Xena started to fidget with the straps of her leathers and took a deep breath. “So she kidnapped Ephiny. The Regent is unharmed and the kid had no other intention than finding the truth. Seems to me, she's the one taking all the risks here.” The raven-haired woman stated and noticed the growing audience. I guess I owe them the truth too if they are to believe me that Rhiannon is not here to harm them, but Gods, why it getting darker in here? I can't focus like this.

A few at a time, the Amazons had gathered as close to the area where their Queen and her strange guest were dining, as possible. They caught onto the role switch between Xena and Gabrielle pretty soon and wondered where this was all leading.

“I was wandering all over the known world, lost in darkness and ended up in Albion. Up north-east in Britannia.” Xena cleared her throat. “I was fishing, unknowingly on Boadecia's land, and was being spied on by a young girl. I caught the kid and before I knew it, her mother had an arm and blade around my neck. The kid, was Rhiannon. Her mother Boadecia, Queen of Celts. What the older woman saw in me I don't know, but she let me hang with her army. She was taking back some land from the Scots. Eventually she let me join her ranks and taught me some moves.” Red Terror Rhi, as the kid was known, had a major crush on me if I remember correctly,” Xena smiled at the Celt nervously and continued, looking over to her Bard. “She was never far from me and I stuck close to Boadecia, because of my less than honourable plan to take over her army and do some of my own damage. After investing a couple of seasons with the older woman and her family, getting to know them a little, I postponed the take-over. They were getting through my emotional walls, and I... liked it. Especially the kid got under my skin. She liked me even though I ignored her at first. The kid-”

“Hey, Warrior,” Rhiannon interrupted what was possibly the longest public speech Xena had ever dared, and almost shoved the woman off her seat. “Drop the kid thing already. I wasn't a kid and you know it. You weren't even eighteen summers yourself, woman.” The Celt feigned an angry expression and looked Xena in the eyes. “You were angry at the whole world and everything on it. At the same time, you let your guard down to a teen facing similar struggles. I didn't take that anger personally and you let out a part of the real Xena. Lots like the Xena I see here now. Mom was a fool for trusting you completely. She thought she could again in Gaul. Even I could see you weren't ready to surrender to any sort of authority completely.” A giggle escaped the Celt's mouth. “Look at where you are now. Queen of Amazons. Top dogs all the way. Point proven.”

The redhead paused and took a sip from her beaker. She chuckled soft as a cat's purr and looked at Gabrielle, who gazed at the Warrior Queen with a loving smile. The Bard was taking in this new information about her lover from across the table. Her face almost materialized the way she felt about the woman. Now that has to be a pair of deeply in love eyes. My youth hero has found a mate who doesn't get spooked by the past too quickly, lucky thing. The woman thought to herself and wanted to finish what she had started, when she noticed the now overcrowded food hall. She felt all eyes were on Xena and herself and broke into a cold sweat.

Gabrielle studied the faces of the two women centered in more attention than either of them obviously could handle and helped out gladly, “So you two go back a long way, huh?” The Bard took her lover's hand in her own and waited for Xena to look at her before she spoke any further. “Do you two want some time to talk in private? My, our quarters are more private. Share the rest of the story later if you both wish.” Gabrielle had the distinct feeling that the Celt was just shy in her new surroundings and she wasn't struggling for words. Neither was she really angry. Her Consort on the other hand was struggling to no end. Xena' s expression had changed to the 'stare into oblivion and keep control' look. The blonde leaned into her lover and whispered against the Warrior's lips, “I want to hear the rest my love but I don't want it to become a torture for you. Take your time and focus on who you are now. Come back to me, my heart.” Gabrielle finished with a kiss.

A sigh of relief came from the Celt when Ephiny stepped close to her, offering her hand as a sign of peace. In return Rhiannon clamped her hands over her head to seal the unspoken truce between the two of them and, to her own amazement, winked at the Amazon, who mirrored her stance.

“We will talk later, priestess, or should I call you princess?” The Regent whispered to the blushing Celt.

The gentle pressure of her Bard's lips brought the raven-haired woman back to herself and she nodded. Looking over at Rhiannon to check that she wasn't going to deck her from behind as a joke, like she used to do, she trailed along behind Gabrielle like an obedient wife. The Queen pose was fading.

Gabrielle excused herself, Xena and Rhiannon. They left the food hut escorted by Ephiny and Eponin. Amazons went about their way and got back to their evening routines.

Solari waited until the hall was empty and sat down to think. “Did I see that Elf-thing make eyes at our Regent? What's an Elf? Where did I get that from?”

        Babes in Arms

“Give us five, Rhi.” Gabrielle asked the Celt, opened the door to the royal quarters and encouraged Xena to walk in. She smiled, followed her love and disappeared.

“Take all the time you need Gabrielle, all the time you need.” Rhiannon replied at the vanished blonde's request. I'll be standing right here appreciating your... drop dead beauty of a Regent. 'Kay? While you go feel up your Queen, she thought, standing on the porch before the hut and winked at Ephiny again, wondering why she couldn't keep her eyes off the woman or didn't feel a care in the world other than mapping out every colour in the Regent's eyes.

They could clearly hear two gasping women spend a little quality time on each other against the door and Gabrielle mumbling to her lover. The guarding curly haired Amazon blushed and fixed her gaze on the stairs. Eponin tried to suppress a giggle when she caught the Regent blushing from the corner of her eye, and stared at her boots.

Why can't I relax around this Avalon woman? Ephiny reflected on new feelings she could not make sense of, leaning from one leg to the other on the porch. She kidnapped you moron, of course you're still tense... what would those sweet, soft lips taste like? Bad Amazon. Hurry up Gab.

A few drips of candle wax later, the door flew open and the three waiting women jumped to attention. “At ease ladies, and Rhiannon, welcome in.” The Bard spoke, face flushed a healthy red and extended her arm as invitation. “Eph, join us, Ep, goodnight sister.”

Eponin nodded and trailed her way back to the food hut, talking to herself in riddles. “Lucky she's the Regent, very lucky Regent. Wouldn't mind a piece myself, but I'm glad I ain't the Regent. Poor Regent.”

Xena was lighting candles all around the hut. She took one look at the Regent, whose gaze was resting upon the Celt and for the entire afternoon had not left her former abductor's side. Red Terror Rhi was as good at seeming confidant as the Warrior remembered she could be, stealing glances at the nervous Amazon. Xena encouraged the women to sit on the furs and pillows scattered across the floor by getting comfortable herself and patting a fur. A fire was blazing in the hearth.

Gabrielle settled down against her Warrior's side and pulled the hesitating Regent down with her. “Sit down with us. You're part of this situation, Eph. Velasca would have realized fast that I already left Britannia and would come back looking for you too, eventually. Don't you want closure?” She asked her friend lovingly.

“Let's not blow this all out of proportion, Xena let me help out and tell them.” Rhiannon said and found a sheepskin to sit on, back against a wall and stretched her legs to relax.

“No.” The Warrior replied determined, sliding an arm around her wife's waist.
I'll tell the story.”

“Talk to each other, don't try to tell a story. Leave that to me. Help each other.” Gabrielle took over when Xena paused to breathe.

The Bard turned to face her lover and continued, “ Xe, talk to her as a warrior, former lover, friend or an enemy here to make peace for all... it will help to inspire your words. Talk to her, not to some far off horizon. I believe you can do it.” She kissed the vulnerable woman, shivering at the touch of the gently exploring tongue that greeted her own.

Gabrielle eased away from Xena and glared at Rhiannon with eyes so icy, they seemed to almost freeze blood. “Hey Celt. No teasing the Queen.” I'm on to you kid. More than you can fathom right now. “You are a piece of work aren't you. Try any stunts on my wife or Regent again and I turn the guards on you. You don't want that, I tell you.” I however sense that this is not your intention and you are quite lost to yourself dear. “You have nowhere to go either I suspect. Humour me and help out here.”

The Bard realized she was sitting up, leaning on her trembling arms and fists. She snapped out of Queen mode and closed her eyes to reconnect head with heart. She looked back up at Rhiannon and continued, “Sorry... you scared me with the Pegasus stunt and-” She looked over to Ephiny and swallowed hard. “I hadn't realized how badly it got to me until now. And I do resent you toying with Xena. Would you please remember where you are.”

The Regent crawled to her friend and locked the woman in her arms for a brief moment. “I'm here Gabrielle. I'm safe now.” She breathed into her friend's ear.

Xena waited for the women to settle down again and for the Celt to remember to
breathe. She resumed her hold on Gabrielle, inhaled her wife's scent deeply and asked the redhead, “Where do we start?”

“Wherever you want, my friend.” The Celt replied.

“Friend? You can call me a friend after all that I've done to your mother and sister.” Xena said surprised at the younger woman's words.

Rhiannon only nodded and invited the Warrior to speak by opening her arms wide.

Xena looked down, closed her eyes for a moment and explained to her friend and soulmate.
“I got bored after nearly three seasons, staying in Albion. Boadecia was getting prepared to
sack a fortress the Scots had backed her ally off in the autumn. I thought it would make a good headquarters for a while. I wanted power and was about to take it. I seduced Vivian, Rhiannon's twin sister for kicks. I roll-played the mysterious warrior for Rhi to stroke my ego and played nice to their mother. Viv was a little manipulator like me and we got fed up with each other real quick. Pretty clueless, huh?” The Warrior sat up, pulling Gabrielle into her arms and nuzzled the Bard's neck, trying to steady herself and waited for reactions.

Rhiannon watched Gabrielle close her eyes to savor the intimacy and subtle, non-verbal plea from her lover. The Bard gently started to rock her Warrior and whisper sweet nothings to the woman.

“Xena,” Rhiannon interrupted the lovers before her, and also caught Ephiny withdrawing her eyes from her the moment she spoke. The redhead opened her arms once again. “I knew Vivian was a tease and lost in her version of reality, where physical release was identified as love. That lesson can be a struggle. I am finding that out for myself. Viv is changing, so are you by the looks of it, so there's hope for me yet.” The redhead grinned and realized she was staring at the Regent. What am I doing?

Xena smiled warmly at the Celt and said in a low voice, “Got the guts? Go the distance my friend, go the distance. Presuming the woman you desire feels the same way about you.” She added with a lopsided grin, glad the tension between them was gone.

“You regard me as a friend after what I did to you?” The Celt knew it was her turn to
do some confessing. She already knew about this mysterious Dahok and sensed that these women had been traumatized enough by this evil being. Eilan had kept any news from outside Avalon from her, although she had overheard her speaking about Dahok the Destroyer. The whole disastrous event did however start to make some sense now. I'll keep the conversation close to home. The bard's heart almost stopped when Xena mentioned Dahok, with good reason. I think we've all had enough excitement for one day. I know I have.

“Absolutely. You wanted an honest experience; I gave you one. I'd never do that for an enemy or anybody that I do not connect with in one way or another.” Xena smiled again.

“I knew you kidnapped me to force mother out of her position and take over her army. You thought I only worshipped you but I played you for selfish reasons too. I knew drink worked like an aphrodisiac on you. Knew you wouldn't really hurt me... or mine for that matter. I worshipped the freedom you represented to me... wanted you to be the one to help take away some doubts about, you know... myself. ” A blush crept up the Celts face and she opened her mouth to speak again.

“Yes Rhi, I knew.” Xena barged in on her before the younger woman thought up another set of doubts about herself and continued. “I'm glad to have obliged, friend. It wasn't all bad, from were I stand. You didn't have to twist my arm and I am truly sorry for kidnapping you. Thank you for being there to reach me in a moment of total darkness with your kindness. I only strayed from the path of light back then. It wasn't until later that I chose it consciously. You were one of the first who had the guts to challenge my way of life with the power of friendship. That you have in common with my Gabrielle, as well as the gitter and chatter thing. Do you think we can rise above the events of our past?”

“Yes. And the present events?” Rhiannon wanted to settle this and get on with her own questions.

“I see no reason to dwell on it any longer.” Ephiny shared her opinion after listening carefully for a long time and shared her thoughts. “I think we should give the Velasca problem some more thought though. She's trapped like before, but not forever.”

“Agreed. But we will do that tomorrow morning. I could do with some rest.” The Warrior scoped the tired faces of the women present. “You are welcome to stay in the village.” The Warrior met her wife's green pools for confirmation and went on. “As long as you need to.
Eph, get the port and some beakers, we've got some making up and toasting to do. Let's leave making a plan for later. Oh and Rhi, meat the real Amazon Queen, Gabrielle.”

The gathering in the Queen's quarters went on for two rounds of candles and several skins of port. Throughout the village tongues were wagging and Amazons let their imagination fill in the blanks of today's adventures.

Just before dawn, two spent women lay in each other's arms talking about the events that night and savouring the afterglow of their lovemaking.

“Xena.” The Bard lay draped over her lover and asked. “Do I remind you of... her?”

The Warrior snuggled up to her wife tighter and replied. “No Gabrielle, she reminds me of you.”

“Oh... that's okay then.”

At the far end of the village Rhiannon tossed and turned in her cot. Of course, the blonde is Queen. Xena took on the right pose but the Bard, that woman screams royalty from within. Do all women that chose to live in a group have to play games?

Rhiannon speaks...

I had never gone the distance before. Didn't know how, I had accepted that as one of my weaknesses. The Elf inside me knew better but she was never let out long enough to have effect on my ways, nor did I recognize this. The subject of elves scared me witless. Mother always looked afraid when I asked about elves and Vivian told me the scariest story during our childhood stays in Eire. She made me believe I was swapped by the dark elves as a baby.

Living life the warrior way and having Avalon' s arms around me for so long, all thoughts of innuendo's made about my elf-like features were reduced to a dull ache in my heart every now and then. Nothing in all the known and unknown world could have prepared me for what effect she, the Amazon, would have on me. All of me.

'Bout the matter of our Champion

*Excuse me dear colleague, might I bother you for a bit?* Ceridwen directed her words to a very concentrated woman in front of her. Of course, she has to butt in just when I'm relaxing.

*Just a drip, sister.* Artemis hit her target with divine ease and turned to her visitor.
*What brings you to my part of the great cosmic puzzle?* The Goddess of the Hunt asked the Moon Deity.

*'Bout the matter of our champion. I'm here to let her off the hook and take care of some business for The Goddess.* The dark-eyed woman scratched her head and wondered how she would explain her way out of that one. The full extent of The Goddess was not part of her curriculum in school.

*I know when I'm spiritually outranked... besides, I owe you one for Velasca. The Elfling did us a favour.* Artemis said and re-strung her bow. *Be my guest. Suppose I'll see you at the Big Gathering later. Are all parties involved up to speed on the whole deal yet? * Then, little specks of gold dust were all that was left of the Huntress.

*Patience, my dear. All of The Goddesses special creatures will find their memory of Atlantis in due time.*

The air before Ceridwen started to ripple and drift towards the hut where her champion was out cold from exhaustion and the alcohol consumed that night. *Now it's up to you, my chosen one... remember who you are.*

        Fitting in between a pillow and a hard place

Rhiannon did her best to be useful around the Amazon village. She practiced sword drills with Ephiny and Xena, when the Warrior was not otherwise engaged. From The Queen she learned about Amazon customs and rituals and vice versa. Hungry for knowledge she devoured her guest's library. The Celt felt a sense of peace when she was with the Queen. Gabrielle was objective toward the Celt and after a while, treated her as one of her subjects, with love and wisdom. All she requested in return was a few of her guest's native songs round the fire at some occasions and her participation in guard duties. Rhiannon found it hard to let go of the place though she knew she must return to her sisters some time, in the near future. The Queen's hospitality didn't make it any easier.

Amazon life was not so different from the way she and her sisters lived on Avalon, except for the celebrations frequently visited on her hosts. Rhiannon found the Amazons to be more relaxed and exotic. The openly shown affection between women was not custom to her either. Priestesses put their sexual energy to more of a 'cosmic' use and kept interaction strictly physical. Love and affection were considered unwanted distractions. The festivities, Avalon style, were rather formal and always the music, dancing, food and drink were laced with mind-altering herbs and their effects. This would give Eilan easy access to her priestesses' energies.

Rhiannon did not dwell on comparing worlds. She sucked up each new detail of the adventure and her new friends varied lives. The redhead started to wonder if this felt like 'home' and lived for the moment, loving all of it. Her heart, on the other hand, was growing restless, like a child coming out of a bad dream. The Celt started meditating daily before sleep to keep control, wanting to find some reason to stay longer and leave, all at the same time. There was a small group of Amazons who tried to help her leave by spreading gossip. During the day, that never made her feel threatened but reminded her that Amazons are only human and not perfect. At night, the rumours about her strange appearance set off downward thought spirals.

What's happening to me? I find myself among friendly souls and am treated like one of their own by most women. I don't deserve it. The others are right. I should go back to my own sort. What do they need a freak like me for? What do I need them for? Why am I so restless? I'm still here... why?” Rhiannon lay on her back, staring at roof timbers thinking to herself. She had been offered a room in Ephiny's hut and had accepted with mixed emotions. For three moons now she had listened to the Regent's nightly sounds. By day, the Amazon was never further than a stone's throw away from her, studying her every move, questioning her about her world and life. Rhiannon had gladly shared her family history but kept her knowledge of magick and the sight to herself.

Avalon... Avalon.... Eire... nothing makes sense anymore... Amazonia... Albion? No, mother will have me back on that damned, mist-covered rock in no time just to avoid my questions. The Orkneys... and let Viv fix me up with some lame fellow... out'f the question. And what in Tir fTautha's name will I do in Eire? Go looking for relatives who don't remember me. Face it Rhi, it's time to cross Llyr's watery back and let the sisters know all is well and the Amazons mean them no harm. What about Xena's plan to check on Velasca and think up a plan to get rid of her forever. Then what? Why is knowing my heart so difficult? The agitated Celt rolled onto her side and tried to get some sleep. When she finally did doze off her thoughts transformed to dreams of battles and wild oceans of lava.

        Manuvours of a Regent

“Queen to Regent, Helloooo in there.” Gabrielle sang and waved a hand in front of her hypnotized friend. “One more treaty to look over and sign. Then you can go run around our enchanting guest again... okay Eph? Okay, enough already Amazon. I'd rather be doing something else besides learning to be a Queen all day, you know.” She added with a giggle, noticing that her Regent was still far away.

Ephiny snapped out of her daydream and quickly looked over the scroll Gabrielle was holding out to her, deliberately avoiding eye contact.

“Do you think we have led past lives Gabrielle?” The Amazon asked her friend in a matter-of-fact tone and kept reading the scroll.

“Hmm.” The Bard started to pace slowly in front of her partner and mentor at Amazon law, looked over to the woman avoiding their usual closeness and answered, “I think so, yes. I can't put to words how, why or any of that just yet, but yes, I do. A point to life is figuring out the lessons of each one. I guess the Elysian Fields and this life are two of many.” Gabrielle walked over to the Regent and cupped her friend's chin in her hand to gain access to troubled, teary eyes. “What is it Eph? Talk to me?”

Ephiny shook her head out of Gabrielle's gentle grip, kept shaking it vigorously and staggered backwards. “Can't, don't know how. Not yet. I will first have to get her to talk, really talk.” The Amazon cried, and hurried out of the Queen's library.

Gabrielle made her exit a few moments after the Regent and went looking for Rhiannon.

Under siege by a random attack of emotions, Ephiny went straight to the practice fields and challenged Xena into a sparring dual. Xena suggested they'd start by practising some feints and side blocks. The raven-haired Warrior dropped her sword and took position. Oh boy. She's all worked up and ready to punch someone. What in Tartarus did you say to her Brie?

Once the free-styling got well on its way, Ephiny's moves got less focused and more like what her Bard would call a frustration punch-up. Xena dragged her sparring partner to a barrel of rainwater and dunked the curly head into it.

“Cool off first... then we talk.” The raven-haired woman commanded to the now gasping and dripping Regent. I see that your effort to find out what is going on with her has not had a constructive effect so far, my love. The Warrior thought as she held Ephiny down a little longer on the second dunk. Don't know if my warrior talk will do the trick either... here goes nothing. Xena lifted the woman's head up by the hair and looked into blinking, angry eyes.

“Let's go for a walk, Regent.” Xena said with a voice that let the Amazon know resistance was futile and shoved the woman towards where the forest grew thicker, away from the village and it's curious inhabitants.

“Talk.” Xena commanded and took position walking slightly behind the Regent, resting a hand on the woman's sweat soaked neck. “Rage will hurt you and your Amazons. You don't want that Ephiny. I know you better than this, come on, talk to me woman.” The Warrior ended, exaggerating her impatience with the Amazon.

Ephiny shook water out of her ear, lifted her face - red with fury - up to Xena and shouted as loud as she could, “WHY ME? Huh, WHY?”

“What's gotten into you Eph. Is it that bad?” The raven-haired woman placed her arm around the Regent's shoulders, voice tone now low and confidential. Think I'll drop the warrior thing now. She softened her face and waited for Ephiny to talk.

“Why do I always have to fall for everything non-Amazon that comes within sight. Why does it always have to be so... so different. Don't say you haven't noticed she's not completely human? Have you seen the way she is with animals?” Ephiny looked helplessly at Xena and went on. “Why didn't she kidnap Solari... or anyone other than me.” She tugged at her own hair in frustration and yelled. “ I'm the flaming Regent for Artemis' sake. All this can't distract me. I can't.” The Regent sank onto a tree trunk and pulled the Warrior down with her. “I can't do this, not again.”

“Hmm?” Xena leaned her elbows on her thighs, then looked back at the Regent with raised eyebrows. “And.”

Ephiny copied Xena's posture and hung her head. “She's leaving. Problem solved, I guess.”

“And?” The low alto of the Warrior's voice and her knowing grin were enough to convince Ephiny that Xena had already figured her out, before she had herself.

“I don't want her to leave but it's better that she does, for her own safety. You've heard the talk around here, haven't you?” Shaking hands dragged through curly hair and sad hazel eyes rested upon the Warrior's face.

“Rhiannon is not Phantes, my friend.” Xena said as she cradled the Amazon in her arms and tried to be of some comfort. “Don't compare, just try to figure out what you feel. That's hard enough, I know. Then find out how she feels before jumping to any conclusions or plans, Eph. One step at a time.” The Warrior did her best to sound optimistic. She knew very well how hard it was for the Amazons to accept Ephiny's feelings for a Centaur. At least Phantes was from around here. She also knew that the Celt had to return to Avalon and she had already made up her mind to accompany the redhead. Velasca was trapped once before. She didn't count on it that a mere relocation job was enough to keep her there for too long.

The Regent got up from the trunk, looked down at Xena and tried to smile for her friend. With a broken voice she spoke. “Guess I' m just scared. Sorry you ended up as my punching bag.” She dropped herself next to Xena again and leaned her head on the Warrior's shoulder. “I have to get back and apologize to my Queen as well. I left her in the lurch back there. Thanks, Xena.”

As the Regent strode off to see her Queen, Xena stayed put for a while and thought about what Ephiny had just revealed to her.

Can't say I blame her. Red Terror Rhi isn't going to let up that easy though.
Poor Eph, she's in for a tough ride... your Celt doesn't know who she is herself and you want her to tell you if she feels... anything for you, huh. She's too busy finding herself.
I do see that you, my love struck friend, affect the Elfling. I'm just not sure in what way.
Xena rose to her feet and casually walked back to the village, humming a tune to herself. Trust your heart, Eph. Somehow she figured that the two women were in for a struggle. Something big was happening. Xena felt it in her blood but could not make any sense of it yet. She stopped dead in her trails and raised an eyebrow. Elfling, where did that come from?

        One royal to another

Gabrielle searched around the village for Rhiannon and found her in the kitchen above a pan full of steaming grapeleaf wraps. “Princess, may I have a word?” The Bard asked when the redhead noticed her enter the steam room.

“If you start calling me Rhiannon your highness, yes.” A playful smile accompanied the redhead's words and she put down a spoon and grabbed a rag to dry her damp face.

“Rhiannon it is then, if you drop the highness thing and call me Gabrielle.” The Bard leaned against the door and smiled back at the Celt.

“Would you do me a favour and have a good talk with Ephiny. I can see you two have a distracting effect on each other and don't like what it is doing to my Regent.” Ink-stained hands kept waving about, underlining their owner's request. “She is expected to carry out her duties responsibly and I'm here to make sure the circumstances for her to act as Regent are optimal. Do you understand what I am asking you to do?” Will you kiss her already?!

Rhiannon blushed and turned her back on the Bard. So Ephiny is not over the kidnapping at all. So that's why she doesn't leave me alone for even a heart beat, when she's not working.

Facing the now slightly frowning Queen once again, the Celt answered. “I will make peace with your Regent, I promise. I didn't realize that she still felt uneasy about me. I-” Taking a deep breath she paused. “I am sorry to upset the village with my presence.” Me and my dumb ideas about not using the sight outside Avalon to keep interactions equal. I know the villagers will gossip, no different than at home, but I would have seen this one coming if I had used it a little.

“Don't be sorry. We Amazon's are only human, like you. Any stranger in town makes tongues loose. We don't get many. I ask this because Ephiny is a close friend and I would like to see you two getting along. You spend enough time together so I assumed everything was fine.” The Bard walked over to Rhiannon, picked up a wrap on the way and offered her half.

“Thank you, Gabrielle.” Playing with the snack, Rhiannon felt a little nervous. “What made you change your mind about how the Regent feels about what I did to her?”

She hasn't got a clue, either. It's what you do to her now, woman. “Well, she is rather distracted all the time and-”Hold it bard. Eph hasn't admitted she has feelings for the woman... yet. Back off. Gabrielle waved her hands in dismissal. “Maybe I'm just an over protective Queen and she's just preoccupied with personal matters. Promise me you'll have a talk with her to make sure you two are okay. That's all I ask.”

“I will do that, I promise.” Rhiannon smiled.

        Learning is remembering

Rhiannon was still helping out in the kitchen, cooking up the evening meal when Solari came looking for her. The Amazon woman gave her the once over and glared, disapproval advertised all over her face. “The Regent wants to see you, now.” Solari snarled at the Celt and walked off.

The redhead grinned and poked her tongue out when Solari turned her back. The remainder of the cooking Amazons giggled and waved towards their leaving sister, gesturing the Celt would be wise to follow her.

Rhiannon let Solari gain a good head start on her so she had time to think. She didn't get far when she picked up a conversation coming from Argo's stable, just around the side of the kitchen hut.

“...she's in the kitchen.”

“And Eph?” Gabrielle asked her Consort impatiently.

“I don't know, Brie. I thought she was with you.” The Warrior replied, bored.

“They are as blind as we were, and clueless.” The Bard added with a giggle.
“At least Eph is waking up. Don't know if the Celt will crack so easily.”

“Look love, I think we'd better not interfere anymore. Even though I owe Eph for opening up my eyes to your love and Rhi for a whole lot too, I-”

“Xena, it's all right. The way I see it is that Rhiannon of Avalon has the right to some privacy, as long as that kind of freedom doesn't hurt my Amazons. Her intentions still seem honourable towards us. No reason to invade her mind, when her actions speak for themselves.” Gabrielle interrupted her lover. “The woman is obviously going though a rough time in her life and needs friends like her Xe. Ephiny can take care of herself.” The Bard paused a while. “I would like to know more about why the Celt is changing, have you noticed that her... how do I put it? ” The blonde paused again.

Rhiannon had heard enough and picked up her speed to close in on Solari. She prayed to herself. So the Amazon babe has got the hots for me. Artemis, Ceridwen have mercy on me, don't complicate things even more. She's making me crazy too but I don't know what to do.

The two woman arrived at the Regent's quarters. Solari knocked and entered.
“The woman you requested me to fetch, my Regent.” The Amazon told her Highness.

“You want to ask me some more questions or learn another song perhaps... I know a great tear teaser and-” Rhiannon was cut off buy the door slamming shut under Ephiny's arm.

“Be quiet. This time you listen to me, sit.” The Amazon Regent almost commanded, ignoring the Celt's attempt to be casual and pointed to a bench. Ephiny sat down next to the redhead and took a deep breath to steady her nerves. She started to talk, voice breaking due to the lump she felt growing in her throat. “Who are you really?”

“Rhiannon of Avalon, you know that.” You've asked me up to the point of privacy breech about my life.” The Celt stood up and walked over to a window. What is she implying? Gods, the tension in this room is almost unbearable.

“I've been having these strange dreams and overpowering feelings, ever since you showed up.
What are you doing to me Elfling?” Ephiny asked, tears rolling down her cheeks. Her face betrayed the surprise at hearing her own choice of words. Elfling? What's an Elfling?

“You just c- called me an Elfling.” Rhiannon's voice broke.

Struck by how vulnerable and frustrated the Amazon looked, Rhiannon felt tears of her own form behind her eyes. Tears of recognition. She slipped her hand over that of the Amazon and squeezed it gently.

“I don't know what to tell you.” The Celt started and faced the shaking woman beside her. “I am a descendant of the Ancient Ones by the blood of Boadecia, and a reluctant Avalon priestess. That you know. The Elfling part is a total blank to me and frankly, it scares me witless.” She ended, out of breath. “I don't even know if it's true. I mean, the word elfling is used to trash an elf or half-elf who tries to live among humans, back home.”

“You don't remember anything... at all. Didn't your mother tell you anything?” Ephiny asked, locking onto the Celt's eyes, searching the woman's face for some answer. Anything that would make what was happening, make sense, put it in some sort of perspective. Come on woman, open up to me, please. I can't stand this much longer.

“Welcome to the family's secret Ephiny. No again, sorry.” Rhiannon replied bitterly, bowed her head in shame and covered her face with her hands.

Ephiny realized the woman was suppressing sobs by the way her body tensed up.
She wanted so much to comfort this woman but was hesitant to act upon her desire to touch Rhiannon. The Regent nearly leapt from the bench with surprise when the redhead continued to speak.

“Tell me your dreams. I can at least listen and try to help you... friend.” Rhiannon smiled at the Amazon, flinging back her thick red hair. “If you want?”

Ephiny got up and fetched some beakers and a canister of water. She needed time to decide were to start. How do I do this without scaring her even more or making a fool of myself? The Amazon sat down again and poured the Celt some water then fixed herself a beaker full. These dreams are connected to her, I can feel it. Be strong Eph, you can do this.

“This is pretty personal stuff. Are you all right with that?” The Regent asked to be sure.

The Celt nodded and added. “I presume we are past the kidnapping and this is about something bigger.”

“Gods yes. Oh, please believe me it is. I would like it very much if I may also consider you as a friend. That is how big this is becoming.” Ephiny sighed hard. She was not quite sure about anything other than the fact that she wanted to be close to the women, in any way possible.

“You are scaring me but what do I have to lose, right?” The Celt bit on her lip to feel something else besides her heart pounding.

“Right. It's one dream actually, in different variations.” Clasping her hands together the Regent continued.

“We- uh, you and I, that is- kind of like... fall for each other. Over and over again. Like- Like past lives or something.” Ephiny stopped for air and looked away, afraid of her listener's response.

Rhiannon gently placed her hand on the Regent's hands again and closed her eyes.
“Snakes?” She uttered and opened her eyes immediately, stunned by what appeared before her mind's-eye.

“What?” The Regent panted, letting Rhiannon's hand slip between her own for a tighter hold.

“I just saw snakes. In your dreams, do snake's or the snake as a symbol, play a large part?”

“Yes, most of the time.” The Regent almost squeezed the blood from the redhead's hand.
“Yes... does that mean anything to you?” Ephiny repeated anxiously.

The Celt slowly stood up as if hypnotized. She walked over to a window and opened it for a breeze of fresh air and dragged Ephiny along with her. She turned her head to face the woman. “If what you say is true, your dreams may teach me how to remember. You are receiving the dreams from the part of me I do not know and can not reach on my own.” She sighed, her mouth stayed open as if to speak. She is dreaming of past lives. If the snakes appear as tattoo's around her wrists, I'm in big trouble.

“Something tells me Rhiannon, Avalon Priestess, knows what to do now and that scares me witless. I must first let you know about the latest dream... last night's variation, before I loose my nerve altogether.” She knows more than she wants to tell me, I can feel it.

Ephiny let the Celt go. “The better choice of words would be, the here and now part I am beginning to feel but not understand. The feelings grow stronger as we speak. Don't ask me to explain that because...” She paused to focus on the dream instead of her throbbing center and continued with a trembling voice. “I'm going solely on intuition here, priestess.” The Amazon took a deep breath and continued. “I'm falling in love with you... again, but must be patient and wait, for my lover has lost her way and can't see me... ME.” It was the Regent's turn to fight back her tears. Say something woman.

Rhiannon walked to the silently crying woman and folded the Amazon into her arms, from behind. “I hear you. I can't reach you as far as you need me to. I'm sorry lass, I'm sorry.” She whispered into the ear of the shivering woman as Ephiny surrendered to her sorrow.

Before the Celt realized what is going on, Ephiny struggled free from their embrace,
turned to face her and slammed her up against the door. Her face features grew serious and her eyes seemed darker. With a husky undertone she breathed into one of her captive's pointy ears. “Let me reach you instead... let me in, Elfling.”

The Amazon leaned into the Celt and their lips locked like a vault.

Rhiannon felt like she was falling into a deep pit, while surges of lightning raced through her veins. Barely standing the exquisight torture of old and new feelings and images starting to overtake her senses, she pushed the other woman away. Far enough to get out of the Amazon's hold on her and out the door.

Breathe, you dumb Celt. Slow, deep breaths, one, two, three, good girl.
Now go back in before her heart breaks. Ceridwen help me. She's having the same dreams as I did when I was a child. What in the name of The Goddess is going on?
The Celt helped herself re-focus on breathing and re-entered the Amazon's quarters. As her eyes readjusted to candlelight, the redhead could make out the Regent's form, draped on her cot. Could she be a far off descendant of the Ancients?

“Ephiny, thought I'd pass out on you there, sorry.” Rhiannon offered in explanation of her action. “Whauw.” She walked over to the bed and sat down beside the crying Amazon Regent. What do I do now? I want her so badly, but that's usually how I stuff up any chance of getting emotionally closer to women. Gods, she's so gorgeous. Rhiannon stroked the Amazon's curls and let the Priestess in her come forward.

“There is another way to go about this, Amazon.” Avalon's knowledge crept up from the back of her mind and guided her new approach, pushing any sensual feelings aside. “First I must return to my sisters and let them learn of my findings. I must also renounce my function as Priestess of Avalon.” Rhiannon slid her legs onto the bed and wrapped an arm around the now heavily breathing Amazon, and continued with a slightly trembling voice, “I have served them long enough and will return one last time to make sure Velasca stays where I left her. I intend to pay my mother a visit to find out more of my ancient blood ties. By the Gods, I will find out this time. I have the best purpose life has to offer and I owe you a better explanation than I can give you now.”

Rhiannon cupped Ephiny's chin and winked at the anxious blonde. “I want to come back and find out what is making us react to each other so strongly. I don't feel free to follow my heart at the moment, although I want to. I can't explain.”

Ephiny wanted to cry out loud so badly, she thought she would drown in her own tears or die fighting them. Her thoughts spun into a downward spiral. So she's leaving. I knew it. She almost passes out from my kiss, slips outside, returns as this in-control Avalon chick and talks about leaving on this quest. What about me? Don't my feelings count? Doesn't she get it that what she is doesn't matter? Let me in damn you.

The Amazon sat up and fell for the ocean green pools, that belonged to the woman before her, all over again. She tried to kiss Rhiannon but the woman placed a finger on her lips and talked some more. Ephiny sat there numb, just letting the Celt soothe her hunger for any kind of closeness with words and promises. Tears slowly subsided and the Amazon regained her control, nestling herself against the Celt's body, and relaxed.

The Celt looked at the woman in her arms. Empowered by a connection she felt growing, a connection that could only be described as love, she lightly kissed the Amazon's curly crown. A little voice from the depth of her Elfling soul cried out for recognition.

Ephiny was overcome by exhaustion and numb from all the emotions. Morpheus stepped in.

The God of slumber had been having a harder time catching the foreigner woman over the past fortnight.

Listening to Ephiny's breathing pattern, the Celt made a note to herself to ask Xena for a serious workout in the morning. Now she needed to release some of the stress of being unsure about everything, including how to leave this wonderful woman alone until she left, without going completely insane. Rhiannon let go of the sleeping Amazon and tip-toed out of the hut. She strolled around the village for hours thinking up a plan, a way to make things right for everyone. She crept back to the hut and laid down in her own cot, more frustrated by her plan than anything else. The human part of her anatomy finally relaxed after cultivating herself to a climax. Flashes of a certain, particularly wet and sensual looking Amazon plagued her first stretch of uneasy sleep.

        Oh Avalon, my Amazon

Rhiannon woke with a scream, soaking wet and tangled in sheets.
A candle mark before dawn, the Celt had dozed off again, right into the heart of a nightmare.
Now she was on her knees, next to her cot with the sheets around her legs, sword in one hand, growling like a wild cat.

“It's all right, Rhiannon. It's all right.” Ephiny talked softly to the woman on the ground as she closed in on the sword carefully, thinking a dreaming Celt might be a dangerous one.

Solari and Lizzeah rushed into the room. The Regent quickly stepped between the alarmed guards and the redhead with her hands raised.

“It's all right, she's dreaming. It's a nightmare. I'll take care of her. Leave us, please.” The Regent commanded her guards in a stern voice.

“She killed them all. She killed them.” The Celt panted hard and collapsed under the weight of total confusion and utter exhaustion.

Ephiny took the sword out of the unconscious woman's hand and lifted her back onto her cot. “Sleep now restless one, sleep.” She whispered and settled herself next to the redhead. “I'm here if you need me. I'm here, love.” The Regent noticed that the sleeping woman's skin had a slight green glow and glistened with pearls of sweat. The Celt started to mumble in a language the Amazon could not understand.

The Regent slipped from the bed gently, walked over to the door and ordered Solari to get Xena and a healer. This fever is no good at all.

“XENA” Solari yelled as she ran towards the practice grounds. “Eph needs you, like right now. I've got to fetch the healer. See you later.” The Amazon voiced to the worried looking Warrior as she took a deep breath and bolted.

Xena dropped her sword, replaced it with her chakram and sprinted to the Regent's quarters.

Ephiny waited for help holding onto the now shivering Celt with one arm, soaking down the woman's face and neck with a wet linen rag in the other.

“Gods, what is going on inside you my brave one?” The Regent asked out loud. This reminds me of when I tried to help Phantes fight off his nightmares. Phantes would try to suppress parts of his Centaur nature for my sake and pay for it at night. Let go woman. To all Gods, who will hear me, help her let go. “ Let go Rhiannon, only you can set yourself free.” She continued thinking out loud.

“Let go of what?” The Warrior asked, leaning against the doorframe.
“She first has to find out what to let go of, Eph.” Xena concluded.

Ephiny's heart raced but she didn't look over to Xena, who had startled her, making her presence known. The Celt was waking up and the Amazon kept her eyes on the woman's fever-plagued face.

Who are you? I know you, but who are you? How can I know you, how can I want y--
The healer apprentice's hands descending on the Celt's face interrupted the Regent's private thoughts.

“My Mistress is on retreat. I can see the woman has a fever but that's all.”
The young student healer looked anxiously from Xena to Ephiny. “I think Xena is the better choice. You've been to her land, you must know something about her?” She chattered on nervously.

Xena stepped towards the bed, stood looking at the Celt for a moment and said in a matter of fact way, “ Eph, keep her comfortable. Sponge her down to help break the fever. I'll make her some willow bark tea. As for the physical side, I'm as much in the dark as young Leta here. Mentally, I'd say she's suppressing something and running from it... herself, all at once. I've heard she could be half elf. Don't know what that means. Her family kept it a secret. Maybe she's finding out right now. This is were I need my Bard... be right back.” Xena rushed off to find her lover.

Ephiny kept her eyes locked on the Elfling's face as Xena had said something about a bard. “Leave us, the rest of you. You heard the Queen's Consort, bring me some fresh water.” She excused Leta and Solari with a wave of her hand.

Rhiannon opened her ocean green eyes. Coated with tears, they looked up at Ephiny.
The Celt's face disclosed her fear and confusion. The Amazon stroked wet cheeks with the back of her hand and spoke softly, “Where did you go my Elfling?”

Voice quivering the Celt replied, “Oh Avalon, my Amazon.” The woman floated out of consciousness again.

        Debts and Promises

“I WILL go with you and that's final.” Xena yelled at Rhiannon, taking on her Warrior Princess pose, legs spread, relaxed, arms crossed, eyes narrowed to slits.
“I need to see for myself that Velasca is harmless, for good. The Warrior hissed through her teeth. “Besides,” she added in a more friendly tone, “ I owe it to your mother and Vivian to at least get you home safely. You're barely over that fever my friend.”

“I don't want you with me, Xena. Mother is grieving and not in the friendliest of states. You two will be at each other in no time,” Rhiannon spat. “I can take care of myself.”

Xena raised an eyebrow and shook a finger at the younger woman. “You little-

“Well?” The Celt grinned and folded her arms.

“I'll deal with it.” Armor rang as Xena slapped her fist across her heart to confirm her promise “And I will stand by you all the way.” The eyebrow dropped and a smile appeared.

“Tomorrow, two candle marks after dawn. Be ready, Warrior Princess.” The Celt let her relentless escort know. “Now say goodbye to your lass and let me get on with things. Let the Queen know I will return you safely.” She smiled at Xena and returned her attention to a list of harbors.

Ephiny took advantage of the fact that Rhiannon was not paying much attention to her surroundings and surprised the Celt before she could protest or run from her. The Amazon slipped her hand around the reading woman's neck, tangling her fingers in the thick red tresses of hair and pulled her in for a passionate kiss.

Rhiannon took one look into the Amazon's eyes and saw desire beaming from the woman's pools, ducked, turned and ran as far as her legs would take her. She didn't get very far before Ephiny caught up with her and she got chased all over the village center square.

“Do you give in? Ephiny panted out of breath, lying on top of the Celt, holding her down like a wild animal.

Rhiannon kept struggling under the weight of the curly haired woman, and shook her head from left to right, avoiding a pair of hungry lips. She wanted desperately to surrender to this beauty and almost did when Xena stepped in and pulled Ephiny off her.

“Ladies, you might like to continue this 'conversation' somewhere else? The whole village is watching and getting restless.” The Warrior said in a low commanding tone.

Ephiny pushed Xena aside in her disappointment of the woman's intervention and strode off in the direction of her quarters.

The Celt stayed lying on the ground, totally out of breath and covered her face with her arms.

“Show's over Amazons.” Xena yelled to all the women standing around and scoped the square with a fowl smirk on her face, to make sure they would react and get on with things.

Women hurried back to their activities and the raven-haired woman knelt down by her old friend.

“You all right Rhi? Can I do anything to help you?” The Warrior asked the exhausted Celt and brushed some red, curly strands of hair out of the woman's face.

Rhiannon reached out an arm to let her friend help her up. She looked at Xena, shook her head and followed the path that led to the Regent's hut. Over her shoulder she mentioned to the Warrior, “I hope your Queen is as good at mending a broken heart, as she is at inspiring chats.”

        Argo's interruptus

“Oh, for the love of sweat Aphrodih- please Gabrieh”- Xena's voice gave up on her as she surrendered to her Bard's gentle lovemaking. It felt like a sacred ritual being performed for her soul's safe return, by her personal Goddess from Potediai. Her lover was taking Xena to the edge of no return, over and over and over again.

Gabrielle lay between the Warrior's legs and played around the swollen nub with her tongue relentlessly slow, while she slid two fingers in and out of her lover in slow motion, once in a while spreading them wider to fill her lover. The blonde heard her love beg and plead for release from the sharp edge between pain and pleasure. Gabrielle replaced her tongue with a thumb and held it still. The fingers inside her Warrior softly caressed the veins, throbbing just two digits deep. She draped her naked flesh half over the trembling Warrior and leaned up on one elbow.

“Look at me, my love.” The Bard asked tenderly and kissed her lover gently. “Come for me, Xena.” Then she started to circle her lover's clit with more pressure and speed. Gabrielle leaned into the climax-yearning woman, penetrating her deeper still and froze when Xena yelled out Argo's name and jumped up at the sound of hooves galloping by their hut. The Bard screamed:


The Warrior collapsed the moment she tried to get up from the bed with a loud thump.
“Beeeh- righh- backhh.” She panted, leaning on both hands and knees before a now very angry, frustrated Bard and wobbled off with great effort.

The cool night air aided Xena to regain her edge as she managed to move faster and more focussed on her mount's familiar sounds. The Warrior picked up speed and ran towards the Regent's hut, climbed up on the roof, ran over its rim and jumped onto Argo effortlessly behind a startled Celt. She grabbed the redhead by the scruff, dragged her off Argo and into the nearest public hut. She shoved the woman into a chair, then tied her to it with the string from Rhiannon's bow as she ordered two guards to keep her in sight at all times. Finally she rode her horse like mad to her lover's quarters for an urgently needed release, leaving behind one furious Celt. No words had been wasted between the two.

After a few moments of her lover's frenzied, nearly feral attention, the Warrior shot off over the edge of her orgasm and became one with her soulmate and the universe.

        Going home to come 'home'

Xena had two horses prepared and rations to last at least a fortnight, lovingly packed by her Bard. She now kept her wife trapped between her harnessed body and Argo, kissing the young woman senseless. Meanwhile the sun had well passed the noon.

Ephiny spent most of the late morning calming a sore, furious Elfling down and ended up having to tackle the redhead to stop her from attacking Xena, Solari and a defenceless log. Warriors will be warriors. When the Celt finally did relax a little she found herself being drawn to the biggest distraction of all. Her body ached to dissolve into this restless Ancient soul. A few times she made a move on the Celt but ended up confusing the woman even more than she already was. Talking didn't help either. She changed tactics and stayed busy packing. The Regent wanted to drive Rhiannon out of the village, only for the woman to return 'home' to her that much sooner. She didn't want to waste another precious moment on tormenting goodbyes.

“Xena, its time,” the Celt yelled at the orally occupied Warrior and took one last look at Ephiny. Her heart felt like it would burst. Last night's dreams had plagued her with rich, erotic images of the Amazon Regent. In the dream Ephiny wore the marks of an Ancient One. Slender blue snakes curled round her wrists. How can I know you... who are you? Why don't I remember? Rhiannon thought to herself and put on a brave face and said farewell to her hosts.

“Come home to me whole, my love.” Ephiny said to Rhiannon as she closed in on her, one last try and tried to seal all the love she felt for the woman in one long, searing kiss.

Rhiannon let her this time.

Rhiannon speaks...

Xena turned out to be the perfect travel companion, apart from the arguments about who was right about typical warrior traits and the best travel route.
She left me alone to my thoughts when I asked and concentrated on getting us to Britannia in one piece. This proved to be a challenge the closer we got to the islands. I became completely useless to anyone, including myself.

I was totally taken by surprise when the change started. The Elfling in me was being reborn and reintegrated...

I was so tired of being scared that I tried to shut everything out, besides the calming sounds of nature. Sharp pains in my back appealed to the healing skills of my escort, all the way across the seas and kept us immobile in an obscure village just off Britannia's coast for a quarter moon. We had enough coin to rent a tacky, rat-infested room from an even filthier looking innkeeper. I was scared and completely in the dark about the metamorphosis I was undergoing. Xena used pressure points to dull the physical pain and told me some of Gabrielle's stories and poems to keep my mind occupied. I had no time or strength to give Ephiny much thought, come to think of that particular time...

         A Phoenix trapped in her ashes

Laying on a litter pulled by Xena for the remainder of their journey to Avalon made the Celt cranky and impossible to deal with. The fever came back and the Warrior often wondered whether it was wise to continue travelling at all. That stubborn kid has a lot of making up to do. Hera's tits, why didn't I bring more willow bark. I'll have to find some more as soon as I find a suitable campsite. It's getting dark. Please, no Banshees or other local weirdo's tonight.

The exhausted Warrior put down the litter gently and looked back at the strapped-in woman. She massaged her cramped up arms a short while and wanted to continue following the trail to Avalon, when the younger woman called her name in a gasp.

“Xena, the pain's gone. Get me out of this contraption... now.” Rhiannon said, losing her patience fast.

“Hold your horses, let me examine you first Rhi.” The Warrior replied with an equally impatient tone and started to free the woman from her bindings. When Xena slid her hands lightly over the woman's body, she noticed muscles and bones that weren't there before. Rhiannon's collar bones, shoulder blades and back muscles had grown into a different shape. Between her shoulder blades a pair of green wings, the size of a hand, had been etched under the first layer of skin.

Xena fell back on her behind in astonishment. When she landed on the forest floor, her jaw dropped and she just stared at Rhiannon. The younger woman had the most delicate green shimmer about her that seemed to radiate from her skin.

“What?” The Celt questioned the Warrior who seemed to be in a trance.

“I don't know,” Xena replied with a concerned voice. “I honestly don't know, Rhi.”

Xena explained the physical evidence of her change and described the magically appeared tattoo.

Rhiannon got up from the litter, pulled her clothing straight, then fell over the sitting Warrior in her attempt to draw Xena's sword and go clobber a tree.

“No you don't.” The raven-haired woman breathed between her teeth and took hold of the frustrated woman. “If you want answers, I suggest we head straight for Avalon. I'll check up on Velasca while you do your thing. After that we split to go drill Boadecia.” Xena finished, nodding, pleased with herself. “Focus Rhi, Focus. You feel fine now because the fever has dropped again. Keep the water skin handy and drink a lot. You are going to need your strength.”

         Trusting Gods, the Girl and Magick

“I know it's your choice but don't you want to do this with a little more style? Crossing with the boat may be the only way to get on the island but what will you do when we get there?” An amazed Warrior asked the woman crouching next to her behind some rocks. This place is giving me the creeps.

Rhiannon remained silent for a while and thought about what Xena was saying to her.
She looked out from behind their hiding place and took in the majestic view of The Lake.
I wish I never had to go back.

“Want to help me put a manipulative old crow out of position? With a little of your quick thinking and surprise tactics, my knowledge of Avalon stuff and the help of some gods, we can make it up as we go along. What do you say, my friend? The Celt grimaced at the Warrior and waited for her response.

“No killing right, just altering this Eilan's amount of influence?” Xena asked to be sure.
“But asking gods for help isn't my style girl.”

“Xena, how do I put your mind at ease on this one?” Rhiannon looked out over The Lake, scratched her head and readjusted herself against one of the rocks. “I don't invoke a God directly, you see. I summon up the power they represent, in me. If I direct that kind of energy on anything with intentions that do not correspond with the greater good, it repeats on me, three-fold. Future, past and present. Does that make sense?”

Nodding but not convinced the Warrior inquired. “It's a nice theory but what exactly can you do?”

“That's a good question. I uh, left Avalon before learning the full extent of my powers.”
Rhiannon closed her eyes for a moment and asked her Goddess for an answer in silence.
“It sure seems like I'll be learning that the natural way. I hope it's not all as overwhelming as melting rock.” That's what you get for rushing off after trapping Velasca.

Xena smiled at her companion. “We'll have to wait and see what we find, when we get there. Shall we stick to the earthly manual skills for now?” She's got a smart head on her shoulders and good intuitions, what could go wrong? What can't go wrong? I don't know this place.

“Forget about gods or this place for a moment. Do you trust me, my intentions Xena?”
Rhiannon asked seriously, reaching out to her friend's hand and holding it in anticipation of her decision. “It's all right if you doubt me. I understand because I'm not sure of myself anymore either. One thing I can promise though, I will not take any chances with your life.”

Xena looked down at the Celt's hand, which was laced with small scars, and calluses, squeezed it gently and nodded again. “I trust you Rhi. I know it's hard to know yourself and not wanting to be the odd one out all the time. Just tell me what you want me to do.”

Rhiannon took a deep breath. “Let me meditate myself into priestess mode for half a candle mark or so. Join me if you like. It is full moon tonight. How's that for divine intervention. We make a grand entrance and end this now.” Rhiannon stated and started chanting, barely audible.

        Prodigal Priestess

The thick mist surrounding the island of Avalon seemed to dissolve as the boat carved through The Lake. Xena got out of the boat first and dragged it higher up shore and gave the Elfling a hand. The younger woman had colored a pale emerald green from head to toe and her features appeared sharper. Her cheeky ears poked though red strands of wavy hair and her fingers had grown long and slender.

Xena took one of the woman's hands in her own and whispered humbly, “How beautiful you are, Elfling. Good Luck.”

Rhiannon kept her eyes focused on the misty bank before them and froze all but squeezing Xena's hand to a pulp. From the mist a group of figures were starting to appear. “Slight change of plans Warrior, they have found us first. Get behind me.”

Not quite adjusted to the role switch, it took Xena a blink to oversee the situation and wait for further instructions. She was on the Celt's territory now. If Brie could see me now. She must go nuts wondering what will happen next, every time I come up with a brilliant plan. She thought to herself and registered a second flow of adrenaline rushing through her system, just by thinking of her Bard.

Dampened by the fog, a low familiar voice greeted the women by the boat.
“Welcome back my little Elfling, you too Warrior Princess. You two kept us waiting long enough.”

“Taliesin, what's going on here?” Rhiannon let out her amazement in a high pitched voice and unsheathed her sword fast.

“Come warm yourselves by the fire dears and I'll let you in on some of the events that took place since you left us, Rhiannon.” The old man stepped clear of the mist and smiled at the prodigal priestess. “Tut tut Elfling, Hearn's sword can not be used against his Druids.”

The Celt hissed between her teeth. “It's not Hearn's sword. It's mine”

“I believe you found it here, my child. Same difference.” The Taliesin's reply came out as arrogant as ever.

“Why should I trust anything you say Taliesin, based on what? That little stunt you and Eilan pulled?” Her hollow, sarcastic laugh lost its echo to the mist.

“It's all right, Rhi.” The dark tone of a female's words overpowered the young Celt's senses. “Come here my child.” Boadecia walked from her misty cloak with arms wide.

Rhiannon's heart stopped for a beat and she jumped into her mother's arms, crying for joy and fear at the same time.

Xena stepped back a few paces to give the women some space but was grabbed by the wrist and pulled into the embrace by an ecstatically grateful Boadecia. Feeling somewhat awkward the Warrior joined in.

“Let's go to Vivian' s hut. She'll have a fire blazing and plenty of warm mead waiting to be tasted. Catch up time.” The Queen of Celts extended her invitation, wrapping her strong arms around the new arrivals and led the way.

        Perpetual motion

Xena listened carefully to the Taliesin's explanation of how the former High Priestess of Avalon was now trapped together with Velasca, the result of her own greed.

“Explain this to me again, in lamans terms this time around.” The Warrior took a gulp of honey wine from the drinking horn offered to her and looked at the Druid with a lost, slightly bored expression.

She had left Rhiannon with her family to check out the rock Velasca was supposedly melted into. To her expectation, the nosy Taliesin accompanied her as a guide. His actual name was Gwydion of Lotharian she had learned from Rhiannon. An old family friend who had worked himself up the druidicial ladder and was now one of Boadecia's spiritual advisers.

The old man smiled at Xena with a trace of mischief around his mouth, sat down on a bench by the rock face and started over. “Let me put it this way Warrior, the Powers That Be have replaced Eilan because she no longer suited the greater good. Velasca came in handy I suppose, like a decoy. They are stuck in the rock, draining each other's powers and keeping the stone around them from melting so they can get out. The perpetual motion of greed, dear.” The man paused and stroked his streaky white beard. “I simply got to Boadecia before she could kill her sister for abusing her daughter and persuaded her to co-operate with me. I lost my faith in Eilan long ago and planned to stop the egotistical, bitter woman's plan to strip the new Goddess on the block of her powers and reign supreme. Rhiannon was merely a puppet in her game. Over the time the Elfling was being trained in Avalon, I managed to turn the girl on her mentrix. This took little effort, for the woman's heart is pure and she recognized Eilan's true colors. Vivian, Rhiannon's human twin has been prepared and educated as new High Priestess of Avalon ever since I was instructed to overthrow Eilan.”

Xena stared into the distance with a blank face as the Druid spoke to her.
Sounds about right. The same old, same old. Gods and humans and mixtures of all species, trying to affect life any way possible, good or bad. Sometimes we are helpless pawns, other times we have some illusion of control. I hate that, I hate that, and I hate that. Worse, I can't do a damned thing to change that. Can I? The Warrior shrugged her shoulders to shake off the primal anger she felt rising within, took a deep breath and pictured her Bard before her mind's-eye. A smile crept up on her and she confronted the now silent old man.

“Maybe you can help me with another mystery... Lord Magick?” Xena asked the man and winked to get across the sarcasm intended.

The Druid clapped his hands and giggled. “Good Warrior Princess... you are getting the hang of it. Don't take it all so seriously. Behind all disaster lies a cosmic joke.” The Taliesin commended her attempt to be funny. “Referring to the joke you think is being had by all, at the expense of Rhiannon now, are you?” He asked, got up, lifted his long tunic up to his knees and trotted off in the direction of Vivian's hut. “Follow me.” The running man yelled over his shoulder to the confused Warrior.

“Crazy old fool.... trust you as far as I can throw you.” Xena thought out loud, first making sure he was out of hearing range and then followed him.

        Her mother's daughter

“Are you having me on, ma?” The now blackish, green colored Rhiannon screamed after the pacing Boadecia, punching the older woman's ribs from behind. “You knew all this and let me go. What kind of a mother are you?” The Elfling panted with a shrieking voice, sank to her knees and leaned back on her heels. “You let me grow up without saying a word of this?” Her voice broke and tears burnt as she surrendered to overpowering emotions, stirred by her mother's words.

Boadecia leaned down, pulled her child to her feet and tried to hug her. Rhiannon didn't give in easily and flung a couple more fists at her. The older woman just tightened her arms around her girl and explained. “Please love, I didn't know all of it I swear. I didn't know until Gwydion stopped me from trying to kill Eilan with my bare hands. After I received a parchment from Arafel's mother with word of the girl's death, I snapped out of mourning Prasutagus and decided to go take a look for myself. You were already gone. We had to deal with Velasca and Eilan before going after you. They would have destroyed everyone. The Moon Goddess appeared to our aid and promised to guide you back here. You are her champion Rhi, you and Vivian are her Moon children.” Now Boadecia was crying in her daughter's arms. “Can you forgive me for keeping silent all these years?”

“Mother, we were all used. Doesn't that teach you anything? Drop the self-inflicted guilt thing.” Vivian's irritated voice of reason butted in. “How about letting the last skeleton out of our family closet while you are confessing. Are you going to tell her of Eanfled?” The young woman tapped her heel impatiently, steeling glances of her reflection in the High Priestess robe from a mirror on the wall.

“Who's Eanfled?” Rhiannon eased out from the comfortable safety of her mother's arms and blinked away the moisture, clouding her vision. “Mother?” Anxious green eyes flashed at the older Celt.

        Your father's eyes

“I'm off to tease a Warrior Princess, ladies.” Vivian said, grinning at her kinfolk.
Reacting to her sister's sour face, “Don't worry little Elfling, I won't be too harsh on her.” She laughed, made a pirouette in front of the mirror and slammed the door behind her as she left.

“The little blood sucker. Haven't the sisters of Orkney been able to kick that mean streak out of her yet?” Rhiannon picked up a stray boot and threw it after her sibling.

“She's letting off steam, before the big ritual. You know that Rhi. Xena can stand up to Vivian just fine on her own.” Boadecia spoke warmly to her daughter. “Come and sit out on the porch with me, love. It's a beautiful night. I need to tell you some things about yourself.”

The two women went outside, carried two stools with them and got comfortable.
The night sky was metallic blue and the stars shone dim above them. A full moon rising stole their power. She covered the island in flickering patches of shadow and light, chasing each other over the soft hills of Avalon.

Rhiannon inhaled the musky night air and waited for her mother to speak.
Every cell in her body tensed in anticipation of what Boadecia was about to reveal.

Boadecia gazed into her child's anticipating eyes, leaned over and rested a hand on her knee. “You have your father's eyes. Every time you looked at me from the day you were born, up to now, I felt his presence.” The Leader of Celts stood up, kneeled in front of her child and continued.

“Your father is Eanfled, gate keeper of the Dream Stone. Prasutagus and I got lost there once, on our way home from celebrating Shamaine with Eilan. You were conceived the night before Eanfled let some elves escort us back to The Lake shore.” The older woman stopped and bowed her head to hide the tears, burning in her eyes. “I have told you some things about elves. Remember the bedtime stories of Oswyn, the High Elf.”

The Elfling clamped her hands together in her lap and waited for her mother to continue. Rocking back and forth numbly and looking down at the kneeling woman like a prisoner waiting to hear the sentence.

        End of part one

Part two 'Within the realm of flying', coming soon!


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