Fell Into a Burning Ring of Fire”
by Alan Plessinger
Disclaimer: Xena: Warrior Princess and the names, titles, and backstories used in “I Fell Into a Burning Ring of Fire” are the sole property of MCA/Universal. The author intends no copyright infringement through the writing of this fan fiction.
This is a retelling of the end of “Return of the Valkyries”.
Xena held out one hand to the flames, and felt no heat. She plunged her sword into the flames, held it there for a minute, then pulled it out. She felt the sword. Cold, hard steel.
Beowolf was right. Just an illusion. Where was Beowolf, anyway? He seemed to have slipped away without notice while Xena was examining the wall of flame.
Before she could change her mind, Xena ran through the flames, stopping short when she saw Gabrielle lying on the stone platform.
Xena approached the sleeping figure warily, still afraid that this was a trap. Sword drawn, she came closer and closer to the lovely blonde, finally bringing swordpoint to the base of Gabrielle’s throat.
So adorable. A shame she had to die. All the pretty things have to die, eventually.
“Why have you been haunting me? What do you want of me?” she asked. But Gabrielle didn’t stir.
She took a look at Gabrielle’s beautiful white gown. Different from the clothes she wore in the visions, but nice. It suited her. She removed her sword and tried to clear away some of the vines and brambles, cutting through them with her chakram. She arranged her hair nicely, so that she would make a presentable corpse.
She noticed a ring in Gabrielle’s hand. She opened the delicate fingers and removed the ring, examining it. It reminded her of something. She put the ring on Gabrielle’s finger.
“No…” she heard someone say, like a whisper in the wind, barely audible above the roaring flames.
There seemed to be a surge of power running through this lovely young woman. Xena brought her sword to the base of Gabrielle’s throat again, and held it there. She knew what she had to do, but for some reason she couldn’t do it.
Kill her she kept telling herself. Don’t hesitate!
Finally, the surge of power seemed to be over, and green eyes opened. The young blonde seemed strangely unconcerned to find a sword at her throat. She looked at Xena quizzically.
“OK, you have my attention,” said Gabrielle. “Who are you?”
“Who are you?” asked Xena, lowering her weapon. Gabrielle sat up.
“I…I don’t know,” said Gabrielle, looking around her. “How did I get here? Who are you? What are you doing here?”
Xena gave her an angry look, and said, “I’m a warrior. I came here to kill you.”
Gabrielle smiled, which was not the expected reaction.
“Then how come I’m not dead? Must not be much of a warrior.”
Xena snarled and held her weapon at the ready. Gabrielle got off the stone platform and advanced on Xena. Xena backed up a few steps.
“Stay where you are! Don’t you have sense enough to be afraid of me?”
“I swear I will kill you if you don’t stop right where you are!”
“Then kill me.”
Xena didn’t back up any farther, and held her sword pointed directly at Gabrielle’s heart.
“At least tell me your name before you run me through,” said Gabrielle.
“Wealthea. At least, that’s the name I’ve been using for the last year.”
“What’s your real name?”
“I don’t know.”
“Great. Two women trapped in a burning ring of fire, you want to kill me but you don’t know who I am and you don’t know who you are. Do you at least know why you want to kill me?”
“You’ve been haunting my daydreams and my nightmares. You’re some kind of a sorceress.”
“I don’t remember doing that, but I guess I don’t remember much of anything. If I’ve caused you pain, I apologize. I promise I won’t do it again.”
Xena lowered her sword.
“Fine,” Xena said. “Then we understand each other. I’m leaving.”
“I’m coming with you.”
Xena laughed derisively.
“Why would you want to do that?”
“The same reason you couldn’t kill me. I don’t know who I am or where I am or anything about me, but I know I was meant to be with you. We belong together. We’re the same, you and I, both looking for answers.”
“We’re not the same, and I don’t have any use for a woman like you. And if you knew the kind of life I lead you wouldn’t want anything to do with me.”
“Because I’m a warlord, that’s why! I was born to conquer. I sack villages, I kill innocent townspeople. Is that what you want to help me do?”
“No. Why do you live that life?”
“Because I can. Because I have to. Because I’m…I’m evil. I’m a rotten person. You don’t want to have anything to do with me.”
“You’re not evil.”
“You don’t know anything! You have no idea the kind of life I lead.”
“I know you don’t want to lead it.”
“Damn you! I’ve heard all I need to hear from you! I’ve leaving, and I swear if you try to follow me, I will kill you.”
Xena headed back toward the wall of flame. With a whoosh the flames suddenly became higher, and now they were real flames. Xena felt the heat hit her full in the face. What’s more, the circle was getting smaller, creeping slowly towards them. She turned angrily back to Gabrielle.
“This is your doing, isn’t it?”
“I swear it isn’t.”
“Well, whatever it is it won’t work. I’m a warrior; I won’t cower in this trap waiting to die. I’d rather charge the flames and take my chances. If I’m fast enough I might survive. If I die I die, but at least I’ll die trying.”
“Take me with you.”
“No. I won’t risk your life as well.”
“So it’s better to leave me here to die?”
“I don’t care if you die. I don’t give a damn about you. Haven’t you figured that out?”
Xena faced the wall of flame. She sheathed her sword and prepared to charge.
She looked back at Gabrielle, who was waiting for her expectantly. Not pleading, exactly. Just waiting.
She looked back at the flames. Cursing herself, she picked up Gabrielle in her arms and charged directly into the flames.
Before she even get close, something knocked the two of them to the ground like a battering ram.
“Damn it!” said Xena.
Gabrielle started laughing.
“What the hell is so funny?”
“It’s too crazy. My entire life is the past two minutes. Your life is the past year. Here we are, about to die together, I have no idea who I am or what I’m doing here, but I have no regrets! How do you explain that?”
Xena scowled at her, to keep from smiling. She felt a little bit like laughing, too, but she suppressed it.
“There’s nothing funny, damn it,” said Xena. But a smile escaped from her, which made Gabrielle stop laughing, and look at her.
“By the gods, you are beautiful!” said Gabrielle. She moved her lips closer to Xena’s. Xena moved away from her and stood up.
“Stay away from me!”
“Why?” asked Gabrielle, standing up herself.
“I told you. You don’t want to have anything to do with me.”
“Even though I love you?”
“Are you insane?”
“Maybe I am. Maybe we’re both insane and can’t remember. Memories are powerful, but nothing’s as powerful as our love. Our memories are gone, but if we had them they’d only confirm what we already know. Tell me you don’t love me, too. Go ahead. Tell me.”
Xena stared at Gabrielle, who was smiling that amazing smile that took Xena’s breath away. The flames were getting closer, forcing them to stand nearer each other.
“Something brought you to me,” said Gabrielle. “Something wouldn’t let you kill me. Something is telling me I love you, and it’s telling me what a wonderful, noble woman you are. I don’t know why you’ve spent the last year doing things that fill you with shame, but I know conquering isn’t your destiny. I’m your destiny, and if we have to die today I’m content as long as we go together, because I can’t live without you and you can’t live without me.”
Xena shook her head in exasperation.
“If I had a second chance,” said Xena, “ I would spend the rest of my life trying to be worthy of your love. But I don’t.”
“You are worthy.”
“Don’t you listen? I’m evil. If you knew what I’ve done just in the last year…”
“You’re not evil. You tried to save me. Should I deny the evidence of my own eyes? Should I deny what my heart tells me is true?”
The flames got closer. Gabrielle put her arms around Xena, and Xena, without thinking, put her arms around Gabrielle.
“Who’s doing this to us?” yelled Xena. “Show yourself! Kill me if you want; I deserve to die, but not her! Not her! Take me instead!”
“How do you know I don’t deserve to die, too?”
“Don’t be stupid. Anyone can tell just from looking at you that you’re…”
“That I’m what?”
Xena took a moment to take in the sight of the amazing smile and the beautiful green eyes that were so close to her. The flames were getting nearer, and the two moved closer still.
“This isn’t possible,” said Xena, “I don’t know who you are or where you’re from, or what you’re doing here. How can I…”
“How can I love you? I’ve never loved anyone or anything. How can I feel the way I do?”
“How can you not kiss me?”
Xena put one hand behind Gabrielle’s neck and pulled her even closer until their lips were nearly touching.
“You’re so perfect. Why couldn’t I at least know your name? Whoever you are…I love you,” said Xena, and kissed her.
The flames vanished. Gabrielle looked all around her, then looked at Xena.
“Hello, Xena,” she said. “Welcome back.”
Gabrielle looked around for Brunhilda. She couldn’t see her, but she felt her presence.
“Well done, Brunhilda. I don’t know if I approve of your methods, but you got results. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” she said. “Godspeed, Gabrielle.”
Gabrielle took off the ring and was about to give it to Xena, when she realized Xena was looking horrified. Xena turned away from Gabrielle. She began to slowly fall to her knees.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, though she could guess.
“Gabrielle, this past year…I became…what I was. My old life.”
“I’m sorry, Xena.”
“How could it happen?”
“Your memories were gone.”
“What am I going to do, Gabrielle? I’ve worked so hard, and now…”
“We’re going to go make amends wherever we can. And you’re going to face the people you’ve wronged, and you’re going to apologize.”
“Yes, you can. It’s no more than you asked of Eve, and I’ll be by your side all the way, holding your hand.”
Gabrielle held out her hand to Xena. Xena reached out for it, and Gabrielle helped her up.
They walked away from the stone platform together, Xena with one arm over Gabrielle’s shoulder.
“Xena,” said Gabrielle, “you kissed me.”