Despair and Salvation
By Petra Piperno
The main characters in this work of fiction belong to MCA/Universal/Renaissance Pictures; they are merely being borrowed. The story does depict some violence and a loving/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If this is illegal where you live, or if the idea bothers you, or you aren't of age, don't read it.
If you would like to send me feedback, here is my email address mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have also included commercial breaks for those of us who love to be interrupted in the most dramatic or inopportune moments during this extraordinary television show. Thanks to K for the idea, but the commercials are mine - I came up with them in the middle of the night when I should have been sleeping. Two bewildered cats can vouch for me.
Xena looked over at Gabrielle, sleeping peacefully beside her. "I cannot endanger her anymore. My demons are too powerful and I love her too much. I'm bringing the wrath of everyone evil and half the gods down on Gabrielle's head. If I'm gone, maybe she'll have a chance to live in peace." Gently, Xena reached over and touched Gabrielle's face, brushing aside a lock of hair, being careful not to wake her. She placed another log on the campfire so that it wouldn't go out by morning. Then, Xena went over to Argo and stroked her, whispering in her ear, "Thank you."
Quietly leaving their campsite behind, Xena walked off into the forest, without her armor, and without her weapons save for a dagger. She was careful to cover her trail, for she knew Gabrielle would come looking for her in the morning. After three hours of hiking, Xena had made her way through the forest to the cliffs and began looking for the path that would lead her to a well-hidden cave she had used years ago to hide weapons. Her trained eye spotted it fairly quickly in the early morning glow. It was treacherous going to get to the caves, but Xena was determined that no one find her. She made her way slowly along the overgrown path along the side of the cliff, down the face of the mountain to the opening of the cave.
"Gabrielle, I love you," she said as she took her last look at the outside world and entered the small opening. The entry opened into an enormous cavern with two tunnels leading further into the mountain. She lit a torch, one of several lying near the entrance. Xena made her way along one of the tunnels, deep into the mountain. Finally, she reached the spot she had been searching for. She rammed the torch into the ground. Alongside a subterranean river, Xena stood contemplating her final act upon this Earth. "Maybe I can do some good in Tartarus," she stared at the shiny dagger she held in her hand. "How many times have I covered my weapons in the blood of innocents? Hundreds, if not thousands. I can even turn this dagger on the ones I love," she thought in disgust.
Xena knelt down by the river and looked at her reflection. She watched herself lightly run the exquisitely sharp dagger along the inside of her left arm. The next time, it would be with a lot more pressure. Her head was pounding, and the blood that would soon scatter along the rocks and into the river coursed through her veins, oblivious to its impending fate. Xena cleared her mind, relying on her supreme focus to concentrate on the task at hand. She placed the dagger to her wrist.
[Commercial break: Whips N'Chains, Esther's Chicken Shack, Cy's Used Chariots, Horace's Horseshoes]
Gabrielle turned over, her arm falling to the ground where Xena should have been. She awoke. "Xena?" she mumbled sleepily. Peering around the campsite and seeing no Xena, Gabrielle sat up. She noticed Xena's armor and weapons were just where she had left them. With a bit more alarm, she called out, "Xena!" Gabrielle got up and scouted around the campsite. She found some footprints leading away from camp, but they quickly disappeared. "That's odd," Gabrielle thought to herself as she began to grow more and more concerned. The fire was still going strong. In fact, it looked like a new piece of wood had been placed on it fairly recently. "Well, if she's gone, it wasn't too long ago. But I don't like the feel of this."
As she looked over everything at the campsite, it finally dawned on her. Something was missing and it was Xena's dagger. Gabrielle began thinking about the past several days. Xena had been particularly moody, and Gabrielle knew she hadn't been sleeping well, but when she asked about it, Xena had quickly dismissed it. "She'll tell me in her own time," Gabrielle figured. But now, something was telling Gabrielle that the situation was much more urgent. Quickly, she doused out the fire and packed up. Grabbing Argo by the reins, she said, "It's up to you girl. I can't follow nonexistent tracks, but you can follow her scent. We can't be more than a half an hour behind, judging by that wood on the fire." Gabrielle sensed that something was terribly wrong, and she hoped that they would be able to follow Xena's trail and catch up to her before anything happened.
They reached the edge of the forest just as the sun was creeping above the horizon. Argo trotted straight up to a thick mass of vegetation along the cliff. Gabrielle looked over the edge and spotted a narrow path, but she couldn't see very far along it. "Is this where she went?" Argo wouldn't budge from the spot. "Alright, then. This is where I go." Gabrielle told Argo to stay, and began making her way down the treacherous path.
The edge of the dagger just drew a drop of blood from Xena's wrist when she heard someone yell "NO!!!" Almost simultaneously, Gabrielle tackled Xena, sending them both to the ground with the dagger clattering noisily on the floor of the cave. "What are you doing?" Gabrielle beseeched, panic-stricken, as she tried to hold Xena down.
"Let me go," Xena said calmly. Gabrielle was disarmed by the calmness in Xena's voice, and she let go immediately, clambering off her friend. Xena looked up at Gabrielle, then away. "Why are you here?"
Gabrielle had tears in her eyes. She quickly picked up the dagger that was on the ground nearby and, holding it out, asked, "Why are you here?"
Xena stood up, but didn't answer. The two of them stood there in the flickering firelight for what seemed an eternity. Tears flowed quietly down Gabrielle's cheeks, and Xena stared at the water flowing lazily in the river.
Finally breaking the silence, Xena said, "I'm sorry, Gabrielle. I never meant to hurt you."
"Then what in the name of all the gods were you doing with this dagger? Is this how you never meant to hurt me?" Gabrielle grabbed Xena's arm and looked down at the small bloodstain along her wrist. She then threw the dagger off into a dark corner.
Xena quickly wrested her arm from Gabrielle and turned away. She couldn't look Gabrielle in the eyes, and she was in completely unfamiliar territory. Xena didn't know what to do. All she knew was that the situation was incredibly painful for both of them.
"Leave me alone," Xena forced out the words.
"I am not going anywhere unless it's with you," Gabrielle said as she put her arms gently around Xena's waist. "If we have to die here together, then so be it."
Xena felt the desperation in Gabrielle's embrace and in her words. "That's it, then," she thought to herself, "I can't go through with this. Somehow I have to return, I have to find my way back." She took Gabrielle's hand in hers and turned to face her. Gabrielle looked up into Xena's azure eyes and saw the struggle that was taking place in her soul. "Gabrielle, I am so sorry. In some strange way I thought I was trying to protect you. Actually, maybe I was only thinking of myself. Oh, I don't know what I was thinking. I know I'm being vague, but one thing I do know for certain is that I love you," Xena said as she pulled Gabrielle close.
"I love you, too, Xena," Gabrielle said as she held on tightly.
[Commercial break: Weapons Are Us, Candles and Things, Ravenica's Secret, Cy's Used Chariots]
They made their way back up the path to where Argo was waiting. Neither one spoke. Gabrielle was desperately trying to decide what to do next, for she knew this was not over yet. Xena could not think of anything to say. The morning had been extremely intense, and now it seemed there was nothing.
"Maybe we should have some cheese and apples," Gabrielle ventured as they stood overlooking the valley below.
"Sure," came the curt reply.
"Xena, I think maybe we should go and visit the Amazons. They've just made peace with their neighbors and it should be pretty quiet. You could get some rest, we could see all our friends, just for a change of pace." Gabrielle hoped this suggestion would go over well. She needed help and she knew Ephiny would be there for them.
"Alright, but I'm not much in the mood for a lot of well-intentioned prying," Xena said impatiently. She couldn't come up with a counter-argument, and the truth was, Xena didn't really care what they did next.
As night fell, they arrived at the Amazon village. Advance scouts had already informed Ephiny that they were on their way, and she was at the entrance to greet her friends.
"Well, hello you two. It's been a while," Ephiny began, as Gabrielle ran up to her and gave her a big hug. "Gabrielle, you're about to squeeze the stuffing out of me," she laughed, and then noticed the dark, serious look on Xena's face. "What's wrong?"
Xena nodded in Ephiny's direction, then walked away with Argo and began taking off her bridle and saddle. As soon as she was out of earshot, Gabrielle related the events of the morning. Ephiny listened in stunned silence. "Please don't tell anyone else why we're here. I don't think Xena's in the mood for much company and certainly not for scrutiny, but I didn't know where else to turn."
"You know, Gabrielle, she's always had darkness and rage churning just below the surface, but I never thought she would turn it on herself. Perhaps she should go through our purification ritual. Xena is not an Amazon in name, but she has the heart of an Amazon. I'll keep the purpose of your visit quiet, and I will make sure you're not bothered, but I will have the purification hut prepared for Xena in the morning. Try to convince her to go through with it."
"At this point, I'm willing to give anything a try. Thank you, Ephiny, for everything," Gabrielle turned and went after Xena, who was just finishing brushing down Argo.
Gabrielle spent an hour convincing Xena to go through the ritual, but she finally relented. The night was long, however, with neither one of them getting much sleep. In the morning, Xena quietly entered the hut that had been prepared for her while Gabrielle stood by outside. The attendant poured more water on the hot rocks and Xena watched the steam rise from them as she took off her robe and laid down on the ritual platform. The heat and the drone of the music from outside lulled Xena into a semi-conscious state. At midday, the attendant exited the hut.
"Is she alright?" Gabrielle asked the young woman.
"I think she actually fell asleep," she replied.
"Good, maybe she needs rest more than anything else." Gabrielle was satisfied that things were going well.
Inside the hut, Xena was staring at the ceiling. Suddenly, her skin began to crawl and she muttered, "Ares, show yourself."
"Well, well, well. So here is the mighty warrior princess, battling her demons instead of warlords or peasants," Ares mused aloud. "It seems like such a waste of time."
"I promised Gabrielle that I would go through this."
"And you think it will help?"
"I don't know."
"Well I know. It won't. There is only one thing that can help you now, and that's me. I have a proposition for you."
Xena didn't like the sound of that, but she wasn't going anywhere, so, "What deal do you have for me this time that I can reject?"
"I can see that you have grown tired of fighting. It happens to the best of mortals who are good at what they do. And with you, the toll is even greater because you are fighting your very nature on top of everything else. I am offering you release from your torment."
"Oh, really? At what price, Ares?"
"All I want from you is two weeks of your life. I have amassed an army south of here. There is a series of valleys that are of strategic importance to me for a future campaign that I have planned. The army needs a leader to secure the villages. I want you to lead that army."
Xena finally sat up. "What makes you think that I would agree to lead that army?" Ares had to have something up his sleeve.
"Because I am offering you the two things that you want. After securing the territory in question, I will finish the task that was so rudely interrupted yesterday morning and," Ares paused, "and I will personally guarantee the safety of your precious Gabrielle for all time. She will never have anything to fear from warlords, or peasants, or even the gods."
The words hit Xena like a thunderbolt.
"This is your chance, Xena," Ares continued. "Two weeks of doing what you do best. No need to fight your nature, no need to fight your demons. One last grand show of force on this Earth and it will all be over. And you won't have to end it yourself. You can die as all great warriors die, in battle. Just two weeks, Xena, and you can secure the safety of your beloved. I give you my word." Ares grinned, knowing he had finally hit upon the one thing Xena could not resist in her present state.
"Take me with you," Xena had made her decision.
[Commercial break: Warlord's Fashion Warehouse, Cy's Used Chariots, Salmoneus' Fizzy Water]
"How much longer is she going to stay in there?" wondered Gabrielle. "It's got to be getting pretty hot."
Just then, Ephiny came up and gently put her hand on Gabrielle's shoulder. Startled, Gabrielle looked up and saw the concern in her friend's eyes. "I'll go and see how she is," Ephiny said, "I thought that she would have come out by now."
Ephiny entered the hut and saw the empty platform, looked quickly around, and rushed back outside. "Gabrielle, she's not here."
"What do you mean? Where could she have gone? I've been here almost the whole time." Gabrielle was kicking herself for taking a walk earlier. They ran to check on Xena's things, Gabrielle to their hut, Ephiny to the stables. Everything was gone.
Over the course of the next five days, Ephiny had several scouting parties go in search of Xena. Gabrielle went out as well, hoping that they would find a trace of the warrior princess. As she made her way back to the Amazon village that evening, she couldn't help thinking how much she missed Xena. But, she was furious with her, too, for abandoning her. The evening wore on, and Gabrielle was about to strike out on her own when Ephiny came looking for her.
"Gabrielle," she began slowly, "one of the long-distance scouting parties that I sent out three days ago has gotten word back from far south of here." Ephiny stopped and looked at the floor.
"What? What did they find out?" Gabrielle could tell that the news wasn't good. She hoped against hope that they hadn't found Xena dead.
Ephiny looked in the pained emerald green eyes of her friend and continued, "Apparently, they heard rumors of an army laying waste to several villages, some with a militia, some under the protection of a warlord, but some not, in a valley even further south. According to someone claiming to be from one of those villages, Xena was leading the way."
"No. That can't be right. There must be some mistake. Xena doesn't do that anymore," Gabrielle said in anguish, but knowing full well that Xena had not been herself lately.
"I can send more scouts out that way. We can get more information back more quickly," offered Ephiny.
"No. I'm going there to see for myself." Gabrielle was determined to get to the bottom of this. "Just get me there."
As Gabrielle looked over the valley before her as she reached a small gap among the trees, she could see the smoke wafting up from the burned houses and stables in the distance. "Please, gods, please let this be all just a dream," Gabrielle implored. She still had at least another half days journey to catch up with Xena's army. It became impossible to stay on the main roads because there were patrols in place at every fallen village, so Gabrielle had to make her way through the forest, which slowed her progress. Occasionally she would catch a glimpse of villagers burying their dead and her heart would rend as she watched. "Xena, please stop this. What has happened to you?"
Finally, she reached the main camp and carefully scoped it out. As night fell, Gabrielle began her approach. Just at the edge of the forest, Gabrielle heard the snap of a twig behind her and spun around. It was Xena, her sword drawn. Gabrielle looked into her eyes and could see nothing as Xena thrust her weapon into Gabrielle's heart.
[Commercial break: Cy's Used Chariots, ElysianDays Undergarment Liners, Sword-Mart]
Gabrielle, wake up!" Xena was shaking Gabrielle, trying to wake her back in their hut.
Finally, Gabrielle bolted awake. "Xena! You were you I followed you," she stammered, still confused by the realistic events of her nightmare.
"It's alright, you were dreaming. I could barely wake you," Xena held Gabrielle close.
"Xena, I don't understand. It seemed so real. You had disappeared from the ritual hut, and we heard that you had gone south, destroying villages. I followed you there and you discovered me and then " Gabrielle trailed off, holding Xena tightly.
"I was gone, but only for an hour. I figured out what's been going on with me lately. Ares came to me while I was going through the ritual. He offered me a deal, but I knew there was more to it. I went with him, letting him think that I had taken his offer, but I was buying time to gain information. As it turned out, he had been using Morpheus to try to drive me over the edge and back to him."
"Morpheus? The god of dreams?" Gabrielle remembered her run in with Morpheus and knew that he also wielded a lot of power.
"Yes. Ares had him interfere with my dreams and push me to the point where I would be receptive to his deal. But he wanted me to come willingly, by my own choice. He couldn't live it down on Mount Olympus if they found out that he had simply made me do it. Morpheus was only too willing to help him since you slipped out of his fingers a couple of years ago. The nightmare you were just having was probably given by him out of spite."
"So everything is back to normal, now? No more nightmares? And you're alright, too?" Gabrielle asked, hopefully.
"Everything is fine," Xena replied.
Xena looked in Gabrielle's trusting green eyes and saw that she was calming down. They sat on the bed and held each other for a few minutes. Then, Xena gently took Gabrielle's head in her hands and kissed her.
"Are you alright?" Xena asked.
"As always, in your arms," said Gabrielle as she looked into the deep blue eyes of the woman who meant the world to her.
They kissed again, their tongues flicking and dancing with each other. Xena ran her fingers through Gabrielle's hair and then began undoing her top. Gabrielle responded in kind and soon, Xena's robe was on the floor, along with Gabrielle's clothes. They sat there for a moment and gazed at each other. The passion welled up in both of them as they could not wait any longer. Hands began urgently exploring as Xena lay down and pulled Gabrielle on top of her. Breasts met breasts, hips met hips, and lips met lips. Gabrielle began kissing Xena on the neck, then along the breastbone, and made her way to Xena's waiting nipples, first one and then the other. As she ran her hand along Xena's firm thigh, she heard Xena moan, "Gabrielle, do it," and she entered her hot, wet center.
Xena felt her lover inside of her, working her into a crescendo of passion. All the cares of the day, all the problems were melting away as the moment approached. Beads of sweat formed on Xena's body as she rose and fell with the rhythm. She grabbed for the bedpost, but missed and knocked a vase from the table by the bed that went crashing to the floor. Fleetingly, she thought, "Do I always have to break something?" Soon after, the moment came and Xena arched her back and hissed, "Gabrielle, by the gods, yesssss!"
Without missing a beat, Xena turned over onto Gabrielle, spreading her legs with her knee as she felt Gabrielle's hands massaging her back. They kissed again, deeply. The throbbing between Gabrielle's legs was almost too much to bear. Xena licked an already erect nipple as she ran her hand along Gabrielle's thighs and abdomen, teasingly close to her target. Slowly, she ran her tongue down to Gabrielle's wet center and entered her, tasting the sweet juices. Gabrielle shuddered as she felt her lover's tongue on her sex. "Oh gods, Xena!" she managed to utter as her hips rose. The moment of release was very near. Xena came back up, kissing and licking Gabrielle's tight stomach as she rubbed her golden locks with her fingers, maddeningly teasingly, until she again entered her throbbing wetness. Within moments, Gabrielle's release came as she cried out, "Oh Xena, oh yes, Xena!"
Xena gently exited her lover and looked down upon her beautiful, enticing body. Gabrielle opened her eyes to see the warrior princess gazing at her with love and devotion. All was well as they fell into a peaceful sleep in each other's arms.
Disclaimer: Yet another knick-knack was harmed during the making of this motion picture, as was Xena's sleep schedule, but she will be able to overcome it.
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