Eternal Spirit Part 1

by XenaFan22


Disclaimers: Xena Warrior Princess, its characters, and all related materials are the property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. The other characters were created by me. No copyrights were harmed during the production of this non-profit fan fic.

Subtext: This story is based on the principle of two women in love. I do not have any graphic or explicit scenes but the theme of their relationship is current throughout the story. If this type of relationship bothers or offends you then I suggest you go elsewhere and come back when you have an open mind.

Violence: There is reference to sexual violence. There is nothing explicit or graphic in any way. This story does contain scenes of violence and/or aftermath.

This is my first attempt at writing not only fan fiction but a story, so any comments you have are greatly appreciated. Please be gentle >=) Email:
Part 2 will be coming out soon hopefully.

The restless warrior eyed the bard that was sleeping safely within her loving embrace. She gently brushed the strands of blonde hair, still dampened with the sweat from the last nightmare, from the bards face. The bard stirred releasing a slight groan. Her body tensed and faint whimpers escaped her breath. “Shhhh Gabrielle, it is alright”, Xena whispered to the bard as she rocked her gently. She kissed the top of Gabrielle's head sweetly as the bard began to relax and fade back into a content sleep.

It had been 4 days since the bard fell silent to speech. The only words spoken were those during the nightmares that plagued her. That day was still painfully fresh in Xena's mind.

They had decided to visit with the Amazons for a few days after word was sent of the death of one of the Queen's sisters, Rajiah. Gabrielle needed to be there for her tribe and for the Amazon burial ceremony. After a long day came to an end, Gabrielle looked forward to the comfort of her lovers embrace as they settled down for the night.

“If only I stayed holding you in my arms….” Xena's voice trailed off as she looked warmly at her lover. She traced her finger lightly over the dark bruises that still dwelled on Gabrielle's face.

Xena had awoke before her lover, as she usually did. She saw how content Gabrielle was sleeping and knew this was rest very much needed. To not disturb her lover she very carefully slid her arm free from under the bard's head and quietly put on her armor. She took advantage of this free time to take Argo for a hard ride. The mare had been lacking proper exercise for weeks now. She bent down and placed a gentle kiss on the bard's forehead and headed for the stables.

Xena shut her eyes tightly hoping it would push the thoughts of that day back. She can still hear sounds of a battle, swords clashing at each other, .Amazon shouts. She takes a deep breath and begins to slowly rock the bard who has begun to stir again. “Shhh my love, it is alright. You are safe. I am here with you”.

Xena had stopped by the lake so the mare could replenish with a cold drink. “That was quite a ride we had girl,” Xena said to the mare with a smile. That was when she heard the first sound of the battle raging back at the Amazon Village. She quickly mounted Argo and headed back towards the village. Her heart was racing as thoughts of Gabrielle flooded her mind. “Ya Argo, faster girl” she yelled.

Once she reached the village she flipped off the saddle…”Ayiyiyyiyi” and struck one of the soldiers in the back of the head with a swift kick. She looked down at the hurt soldier. He raised his hands above his head in a pathetic attempt to block the blow Xena was about to endorse. She noticed the snake tattoo branded on his hand. “Draden”, she said to herself and with that she knocked the soldier unconscious with a raging kick across the face. All around her soldiers and Amazons were fighting. “I must find Gabrielle” she said with a sense of fear and began to call out her name. She heard a familiar cry and turned to see Ephiny pinned down by a soldier and his sword about to strike her. “Heeyah” She back flipped knocking the sword from his hand. Then with the quick motion of her legs she locked them around his neck, with a swift twist, the soldier fell lifeless to the ground. “Ephiny are you alright?” she asked.

“Xena…he…took...her” her breath very faint. She struggled to speak. “Gabrielle…I tried to stop him…there were so many men...I…I…” losing her breath she fell to the ground tears streaming her face. Xena patted her friend on the shoulder. “Hang in there Ephiny. You are going to be alright. I will find Gabrielle,” She said hoarsely. Xena yelled above the battle sounds “DRADEN!”

He came up to the top of the rising on horseback. A man with quite a large stature and dark brown hair that fell just above his rugged shoulders smiled heartlessly down at the warrior. Black metallic armor embraced him. His eyes, a piercing cold shade of blue, were slim and narrow. A very visible scar, about 2 inches long and ½ inch thick, traced just below his left eye. He grinned evilly calling out to his men, “Retreat!” His men did as commanded leaving an empty battleground of injured Amazons, Xena, and their leader. He looked at Xena a cold smile playing upon his lips. “Do I have something precious of yours Warrior Princess?” his laughter echoing as he rode off.

Xena felt the rage boil within her. Those words still stinging her heart. She glanced down at her lover's face and caressed her cheeks softly. “Yes very precious indeed” she thought to herself trying to hold back the tears. She pulled the bard closer to her tightening her arms around her. “I love you Gabrielle,” she whispered into the sleeping bard's ear. One tear found its way down Xena's cheek.

Xena and a few Amazons immediately mounted their horses and headed over the rising to where Draden had stood. To Xena's disbelief Draden and his men were nowhere in site. “Impossible” she muttered beneath her breath. She slid off Argo anger rushing through her like flames and knelt down. She studied the hoof prints in the dirt fear etching itself in the pit of her stomach. “There are too many prints all in separate directions. There is no telling which belong to Draden,” she stated with a sullen sadness. An Amazon walked over to Xena and placed her hand on her shoulder. “We will find the Queen Xena, we will.” She said with a reassuring smile. Xena stood up and attempted to smile back, “I know we will” she replied silently.

Once back at the village Xena went to Ephiny who was now up on her feet. “Xena...” She whispered as she ran towards her with concern. “What happened? Did you find Gabrielle? Xena…talk to me….please.” She saw the mix of fear and sadness in Xena's eyes. “Let's sit down you and I Ephiny” trying to force a calming smile for her friend.

Xena began to tell her concerned friend the story of Draden the warlord. “Draden was one of the most vicious warlords I knew as a warrior. Back in my darker days I strived off his lack of humanity and the strength of his army and leadership. He and I became allies very quickly and together we destroyed every village along the east border that refused to surrender to us. Joining forces the strength of our army could compare to no other. Several hundred innocent villagers lost their lives to our command. In those days Draden and I shared the same lucid desire: conquer and control. My heart was so dark in those days Ephiny.” Her voice broke off. She looked down at the ground ashamed to look into the tender eyes of her friend. Ephiny placed her hand upon Xena's and smiled softly. Xena, her eyes now focused on the ground beneath her, cleared her throat and continued with her painful story. “The day came, as it undoubtedly would, that I would betray Draden and the battle lust we both shared.” She closed her eyes reflecting upon the events that led to that day.

“We had traveled together for 8 summers. In each village we destroyed homes were burnt to the ground. Nothing remained except the spared lives of the women and children of the villages.” She paused briefly. “Draden and his army never harmed a woman or child?” Ephiny questioned cautiously. “Never under my command were any women or children harmed.” Pain filled her eyes. “During the last battle we fought together I was injured. We were at a small village called Liria. I saw one of Draden's soldiers attempting to assault one of the young girls. I killed him after beating him nearly to death for disobeying my direct orders. That was enough to catch me off guard and I took an arrow deep in the chest. It was a severe wound near fatal in fact.” She paused taking a deep breath. “Are you all right Xena?” Ephiny questioned with concern. Xena nodded. “This is just difficult. I will forever carry the cries and innocent blood of those people on my hands Ephiny.” She turned her face as tears began to sweep her cheeks silently. “You are not the same person you once were Xena. Think of all the lives you have saved. Nothing can erase the past my friend, but we are what we do and we can recreate ourselves each second of our lives.” She smiled sweetly. “Please continue Xena.” Xena nodded her friend's last words lingering in her mind. “It would be a few days at least before I would be well enough to engage in battle. Draden decided he would lead his army into the neighboring village alone. We would then meet further down the border once I was well again.

A few days had passed and I began riding north with my army. I grew restless and was well enough to fight without too much pain. Draden and his army had indeed destroyed the targeted village. I found myself standing in the middle of the ruins they left behind. The homes and lands of the village were gravely scorched by fire. Villagers were piled all around me ruthlessly butchered. Old as well as very young women of the village were raped, beaten, and brutally tortured until life escaped them. Every man, woman, and …” her voice quivering with anger, “child were savagely murdered. Their innocent blood covered the abandoned battleground.” Xena reached for her chakram and released it into a tree close by. Anger was rushing through her like fire. Ephiny covered her mouth with her hand trying to shield the horror and anger that rose within her. “Now I understand what led you to betray him.” She said softly. “What did you do after all this Xena?” After taking a few moments to calm down she continued. “I wanted nothing more than to see the destruction of Draden and his men. My army and I joined forces with a warlord named Sierra. Sierra has tried unsuccessfully several times with her army to defeat Draden. He was responsible for the deaths of not only her entire army but her family as well. She had spent many winters rebuilding a strong army never losing sight of the revenge she planned to seek one day. I knew with the power of my army by her side Draden had no chance. I did meet back up with Draden as planned about a week later. I mentioned nothing of the village or my hatred and anger towards him. I could have easily killed him myself but what I had planned for him was much better than any death I could bestow. Under the impression we were entering a village I had set to conquer, Draden and his men followed me into the trap Sierra and I had planted. Draden watched as his army was viciously slaughtered. Not one soldier remained alive. Sierra did indeed take her revenge. She took everything from Draden: his army, his honor, and me. Sierra and I had beaten and whipped him close to death but spared his life. We knew for him to live with the dishonor, betrayal, and the loss of his entire army would be far worse than his death. I left the battleground and never looked back. I could hear Draden screaming as I rode off: “Xena I swear to you with Ares, God of War, as my witness, I will seek my revenge. That light of goodness you have hallucinated yourself to believe you have will die along with anything you cherish or hold dear. You will never be free of me Warrior Princess….NEVER!” Xena looked up into the eyes of her friend a single tear treaded down her cheek. Ephiny wrapped her arms around her comfortingly trying to take in the incredible story Xena had confided in her. “If only there was something I could do to relieve you from all this pain Xena, I would.” She whispered softly. “After all these years Ephiny…after all these years… He has found a way to defeat me. He has taken what I cherish more than my life itself…Gabrielle means more to me than anything. If he lays one hand…” she chokes back the tears. We have to find her Ephiny. We have to begin searching….now.” Ephiny gathered herself together and mounted Argo behind Xena. She took one last look at the tattered Amazon Village as they rode off…

Xena stared out the window beside the bed at the bright shades the full moon captivated. She was trying her best to push the thoughts out of her mind. The events are still so very vivid. The warrior stroked the bard's hair softly careful not to startle or wake her. She gazed at the bard's bare skin tracing her finger lightly over the dark wounds that covered her body like a sheer blanket. Xena couldn't fight the tears back any longer. Tears came flooding silently down her cheeks. She remembered what her bard looked like when she and Ephiny had finally found her…

It had been 5 days of endless riding and searching. Neither Ephiny nor Xena were ready to give up but hope had diminished slowly day by day. “Xena let us stop a while by the stream ahead. Argo can use the break as much as you and I can.” Ephiny suggested. “Alright” Xena agreed. Once they reached the stream Xena led Argo by the reins to replenish the Mare with some cool water. Just then she heard Ephiny scream...”GABRIELLE!” horror had filled her voice. She put her finger to her neck to check for a pulse. “She is still breathing thank the gods” Ephiny whispered. Xena made her way quickly to her lover's side. Gabrielle's delicate body was vastly thinned and scorned with deep bruises. Her clothes were torn and scattered. Tender wounds exposed themselves across her still body. Her eyes were blackened and swollen. Dried blood covered her like the dark sky. Xena's eyes filled with tears. “Oh Gabrielle, my love, I'm so sorry. I know you can hear me love. Everything is going to be alright. Keep fighting Gabrielle. Don't give up! I love you” She knew she had to be strong. Her hand swept along the bard's bruised face, delicately as tears fell silently down her face. “Xena we need to get her back to the Amazon Village” she said trying to hide the worry from her trembling voice. “Ephiny get a piece of cloth from the saddlebag and wet it in the stream for me please. I want to tend to these open wounds before infection can fester. Then we will move her.” Xena choked back the tears. It was tearing her apart to see her precious lover so tattered. She knew she had to act quickly if Gabrielle were to live. After cleaning up the open wounds as best she could she wrapped the half dressed bard with a blanket and carried her to Argo.

Xena wiped away the tears that continued to streak her flushed cheeks. She knew Gabrielle couldn't have been by the lake more than a few hours or she would have been….dead. “Thank the gods we found you in time” she silently prayed her eyes never leaving her lover's face. The bard began to tremble violently in her lovers embrace. Fear and pain exposed itself cruelly as the beginning of another nightmare plagued itself on the defenseless bard. “Its alright my love. You are safe. I've got you now and no one is going to hurt you” she kept repeating with a gentle tone. The bard's whimpers reformed into a loud shriek and the bard jolted up awake shaking limply in her lover's warm embrace. Hot tears trickled down her face making their way to her trembling lips. “No don't touch me! Leave me alone!” she started screaming frantically trying to break from Xena's embrace. Panic flooding her soft green eyes. Xena struggled to keep her arms around her. She tightened her hold slightly around her lover. “Its alright, it is just me love, Xena. I'm not going to hurt you. It's alright.” Calming the bard down. Gabrielle nestled into Xena's neck tears flowing uncontrollably. Xena comforted her lover with tender words and a gentle rocking motion.

“Xena?” she whispered panic in her low tone.

“Yes love it's me. I am right here with you. Just you and me love, just you and me,” with a gentle comforting, voice. “Thank the gods she has finally started to speak,” she thought to herself with a sweet sense of relief. “Artemis, please give me the strength to be strong for her,” the warrior silently prayed forcing the tears back as she soothed her lover's whims.

She brushed the hair from her lover's face gently stroking it. The bard began to relax slightly in her arms. “That's it Gabrielle, slow deep breathes. You are safe love it was just a dream. No one is going to hurt you. Your safe in my arms,” she comforted tenderly.

“Xena?” she whispered faintly.

“Yes love?” she said trying to hide the concern in her voice.

“I feel so safe in your arms. Please…don't let me go…don't leave me,” she pleaded trying to choke back her tears.

“Nothing could make me leave you. No person, god, or event could make me ever leave you Gabrielle. I love you with my entire heart and soul. Don't ever lose sight of how much you mean to me love. I am right here with you now and always,” kissing the bard on her forehead. Her heart was breaking at the sight of her lover in so much pain. She felt so helpless. She was just thankful that Gabrielle was alive. Life would mean nothing without Gabrielle.

The warrior could feel the bard relax within her embrace her arms tightening around her waist.

“How long have you been in here with me?” she asked softly.

“Four days.” Trying to hide the shudder in her voice.

“I don't remember….How did you?….How did I get here?” confusion and panic in her frail voice.

“Shhh it's alright,” rocking her softly. “You haven't been completely conscious until now love. You were so battered and weak when Ephiny and I found you.” A tear trailing down her left cheek. “ We found you by the stream just outside Amazon Lands.” Her voice broke off attending lovingly to the bard who began to tremble. “What is it Gabrielle?” she asked lovingly.

“The stream…I remember being there…I thought…I thought I was going to…that I would never get to see you again.” She began to whimper. “I remember everything getting hazy and then everything grew dark…They just left me there…Xena,” closing her eyes tightly releasing hot salty tears. “I never lost hope…I knew somehow you would find me…I just knew it,” her voice trailing to a faint whisper.

“I can only imagine how difficult this is for you Gabrielle. I know that you are hurting and I would do anything to take this pain from you. I would bear it a thousand times to save you from it.” Stroking her cheeks softly. “Please talk to me love.”

“No…please…I can't,” Gabrielle whimpers cutting Xena's words off.

“Yes you can Gabrielle. I know you can. Nothing can harm you, I promise. Remember you are safe now. Keep telling yourself that over and over. You are safe love. You are stronger than those who hurt you. Fight them. Memories cannot hurt you.” Gabrielle began to cry softly into her lover's shoulder. “Shhh love I know how difficult this is. It breaks my heart that I cannot heal your suffering. I would do anything…”

“You are doing something Xena…believe me you are,” she said interrupting the warrior. She tightened her grip around her lover's waist. She wanted so much to erase it all from her memory. She was so afraid. She knew Xena would become enraged enough to kill them. She couldn't bear the thought of Xena's dark side embracing her with visions of hatred and revenge. Deep down there was another fear; the fear of her lover not wanting her in the same way anymore. “Gods I don't want to lose her,” she said silently.

“Gabrielle, please tell me what happened,” gentleness in her tone.

“I can't Xena. I don't want to think about it right now. Please Xena just hold me,” her eyes pleading with the warrior.

“I am right here with you Gabrielle. It's okay we will talk when you are ready. It's going to be alright,” trying to hide the emotions she was feeling. “When I find that bastard I am going to rip him apart,” she said to herself anger boiling deep within her. “How could..,” her thoughts interrupted by a knock at the door. “Come in,” Xena called out. Sensing the fear that arose within her lover she rocked her tenderly. Ephiny walked in with a tray of food. “Gabrielle, your awake. Thank the gods,” making her way to her friends side relieved. “How is she, Xena?” looking at her friend concern in her eyes. Before giving her a chance to answer she sat beside Gabrielle speaking softly to her. “Gabrielle it's Ephiny, are you doing alright?”

Gabrielle nodded her head slowly. It still throbbed tremendously with pain. Her entire body ached.

“Why don't you try to sit up, ok?” she looked at Xena for support.

“That's not a bad idea Eph, come on love let us help you sit up.” She smiled down at her lover while helping her sit up. “Lean back against the pillows Gabrielle,” fluffing the pillows behind the bard.

“It hurts so much,” she managed to say between sobs. She felt surges of pain throughout her back and shoulders. Her stomach was sensitive to motion and with every movement made, a flood of sharp pain followed. Xena and Ephiny comforted her as she finally sat up and laid back against the pillows.

“I am so sorry Gabrielle,” her hand caressed her friend's cheek gently. “You have to try to eat something. You need your strength. You have been so weak for days,” she spoke softly trying to get Gabrielle's attention to something else for the moment. She picked up the tray and placed it on Gabrielle's lap. Try to eat some of this warm broth ok?” her eyes meeting the green eyes of her friend. Gabrielle nodded slowly. Ephiny motioned for Xena to get up with her as she slowly stood up.

“I'll be right outside the door love. I am going to talk to Ephiny and I will be right back. Just try to eat as much as you can,” she smiled sweetly. Gabrielle nodded. Now that she thought about it she was surprisingly hungry. Xena and Ephiny headed out the door.

“My heart is breaking for her Ephiny. This is all my fault. He hurt her because of ME. I will never forgive myself for this, never.” Her voice a low growl.

“Listen to me Xena,” she said firmly. “This is NOT your fault. Draden is the only one that can take blame for this. He did this. You can't expect to protect Gabrielle from everyone Xena. It is not possible. We are each responsible for our own actions, not those of others.” Her hand reached up to Xena's chin. “Understand?”

She knew she was right but she couldn't help feeling guilty for her lover's suffering. “Yes Ephiny I understand. Gabrielle didn't deserve this. It should have been me. Why couldn't he just hurt me? I am the one that betrayed him. Gabrielle is nothing to him. “ Anger rising in her voice.

“Because he knew nothing could hurt you deeper than watching Gabrielle suffer.” Her eyes blinked tears away.

“When I find him I am going to…” Her sentence interrupted.

“NO! You are not going to do anything. How is that going to help Gabrielle? As much as I would love to tear him apart for hurting my Queen we must think of her. We both know how deeply it would hurt her if we became monsters out for revenge Xena, you know it as well as I. “

Xena's eyes lowered releasing painful tears.

“He will be brought to justice. That, my sister, I promise you. We must do this the right way as hard it that way may be.” Trying to be strong. “Xena has anyone examined her since the day we brought her back?” she asked concerned.

Xena shook her head. “No not yet. I have been tending to her exposed wounds as best I could.”

“I am going to speak to the Amazons that are still here and update them on her condition. The others still have not returned. Hopefully they will return soon…and with them…will be Draden” her eyes growing cold. Do the best you can Xena. I will be back later.” She smiled confidently at her friend and then turned to go.

Xena entered the Queen's hut and was happy to see she had eaten all the broth from the now empty bowl. “Hello love how are you feeling?” she asked affectionately.

“Much better now I think. The broth satisfied a few aches in my stomach.” She smiled slightly. Xena walked over and sat beside her lover. She cupped her face in her hand gently and placed a kiss upon her lips careful not to hurt her.

“Gabrielle I need to take a look at you and check your open wounds. I need to keep them from becoming infected and treat them with some salve. I have only been able to reach what I could see or get to for the past few days. “ her eyes grew softer. “I need to make sure you are alright love. I promise to be gentle.” She smiled.

Gabrielle shivered at the thought of Xena seeing all her bruises and wounds. Terror griped her tightly. She choked back the tears that continued to fall silently down her cheeks. “I know you will be gentle Xena. You would never hurt me. I just…I don't want you to…” she struggled to get the words out.

“Shhh love I know and it is alright. Nothing about you is anything less than beautiful to me. That will never change. Whatever happened was not your fault Gabrielle and no matter how horrible it was it will never make me love and cherish you any less than I do right now. Please know that.” She stroked the bard's hair.

Wiping away the tears the bard nodded at the warrior. “Okay…” she managed to whisper.

Xena helped her sit at the edge of the bed. Her eyes never leaving her lover's she smiled reassuringly. “I need to take the tunic off love. Keep reminding yourself that it is just me, Xena, and you are safe.” She waited for the bard to nod and then began to unfasten the laces of her tunic. Xena crept behind the bard the bowl of salve and warm water right beside her. Once she was behind the bard she pulled the tunic down off her shoulders. “It's alright love,” she comforted gently. “This is going to sting a little but it will help you heal faster.” Trying to hide the hurt in her voice. She carefully applied the salve to her lover's wounds. Her back was covered with deep whip lashes. “Be strong Xena,” she told herself. She continued tending to the other wounds on the bard's body. Her skin so harshly mangled and broken. Once she finished applying the salve she checked the bard for any broken ribs as gently as possible. Her body from her waist to her chest was a sheet of black and blue. Whip lashes trailed across her stomach. The warrior's heart was breaking. “Be strong, Xena. You have to be strong for her. Get yourself together,” she commanded herself. “Oooow,” Gabrielle cried out tears flooding her flushed face. “I'm sorry I know this hurts. I had to make sure nothing was broken,” a tear falling from her eye. She helped the bard sit back against the pillows and tended to the wounds laced on her face and neck.

“Gabrielle I need to ask you something very important ok?” The bard just looked at her frightfully. “Did anyone force….” She was struggling to shut the anger from her voice. The thought of anyone hurting her made her want to….

“Yes,” she answered meekly lowering her head. She was too ashamed to even look at her lover.

Trying to stay calm as possible the warrior snuggled tenderly beside her lover. “It's alright Gabrielle, it's alright. I know this is not something you want to talk about right now but please love you need to tell me. The extent of your injuries could be….” She couldn't complete her sentence. She lifted her lover's head by her chin and looked into her green eyes warmly. “You have nothing to be ashamed of. I love you with everything I am. It breaks my heart to know you have been hurt like this because of my past mistakes. You don't deserve to suffer because of me, Gabrielle. I am so very sorry.” She began to cry silently.

“It's not your fault Xena, please, it is not your fault.” She whispered.

A rage like none before began to consume the warrior. Visions of her beloved's torture circled her mind feeding the hatred that enveloped her body. “When I get my hands on that bastard I am going to torture him in a way that would make a lifetime in Tartarus feel like the Elysian Fields,” she thought to herself. Her eyes shifted to meet those of her bard. Her troubled emerald eyes released a string of tears coated with a deepening fear that broke the warrior from her visions. The warrior's face softened and caressed the bard's cheek lovingly.

“Xena please…,”

Xena interrupted her lover anger apparent in her low tone. “I'm alright Gabrielle. I can't help but to feel guilty for this, I'm sorry. You were hurt because someone wanted to hurt me. No matter how hard I try I can't keep you safe. I have many enemies Gabrielle and I can't accept that you paid the price for my past mistakes. You don't deserve this. I will not allow you to be in harm's way any longer.”

The bard spoke softly her eyes never leaving the warriors. “Xena please listen to me. This was NOT your fault. I love you with all that I am and I CHOOSE to be with you. That is my choice and nothing will change that. You may have made grave errors in your past, yes I agree, but no matter what pain or torment you caused to anyone it doesn't give them the right to inflict pain or torment on others. They are the ones who choose to follow their darkness. No one can be responsible for their misdeeds but them. There is always a choice Xena and just as you have chosen the side of goodness so could they. I love you Xena….I need you.”

The warrior sighed in defeat. “I know your right love. It is tearing me into pieces knowing how you have suffered and I could do nothing to protect you.” She pulled Gabrielle into her arms. “I am right here for you Gabrielle. Anything you need I am right here.”

After a few moments Xena broke the uncomfortable silence that fell upon them. “Gabrielle can you tell me what happened?” Gentleness in her voice.

Gabrielle blinked away the last of her tears. She leaned back slowly against the warrior snuggling deeper in her warm embrace. She began to speak in a low emotionless tone recalling what she could remember of the past couple weeks.

“I remember Ephiny rushing into the hut. She had told me an army of raiders were headed our way and we had to quickly prepare for battle. I was trying to find you but when I realized Argo was also missing I assumed you either had gone for a ride or found out about the attack and went ahead. Within half a candle mark I found myself in the midst of battle. I heard Ephiny screaming so I rushed towards her. Two soldiers were holding her down as another was beating her.” She closed her eyes trying to block the visions from approaching.

“Stubborn aren't you Amazon?” he laughed coldly as another fierce kick landed in her stomach. He uncoiled a short thick whip. “Now the fun starts Amazon,” he stated with a sadistic smile across his lips.

“I approached behind him and knocked him unconscious with my staff. The other two soldiers dropped Ephiny and came at me with their swords. I tried to disarm them with my staff but I wasn't successful. One of them anticipated my next move and knocked the staff from my hands. Without thinking I picked up the sword from the ground beside the unconscious soldier….Next thing I knew the two soldiers fell lifeless to the ground their blood staining the blade I held. “ She cried softly. “I didn't want to kill them just disarm them.”

Xena comforted her soothingly. “You did what you had to do Gabrielle.”

The bard took comfort in the warrior's words.

“I tossed the blade aside focusing my attention on Ephiny. I was helping her to her feet when we were both attacked by several soldiers. I felt hands grabbing and dragging me. I tried to get away and fight them but there were three or four pulling me. I saw Ephiny battling with at least 5 other soldiers. I heard her scream out for me but before I could react I was hit in the back of the head with something hard. That is the last I remember of the Amazon Village.” She lowered her head sobbing quietly.

The warrior rocked her gently. “Shhh it's alright love. I'm so sorry for not being there Gabrielle. I'm so sorry.” Guilt washed over the warrior like acid rain.

“Xena you have nothing to be sorry for. There is no way you could have known. I am glad that Ephiny is alright. I was so scared for you and the rest of the Amazons. I didn't know who survived and who didn't.” There was a slight quiver in her voice.

“What is the next thing you remember Gabrielle?” She asked softly. She felt the bard stiffen in her arms. Hot tears began to fall from her emerald eyes once again. Rage and anguish combined to form the glow the bard's eyes possessed.

“I remember when I awoke I was alone. My arms and legs were restrained with heavy iron shackles. I was so terrified Xena. ” Once again the visions invaded her innocence.

The cell was fairly small in size. The darkness that engulfed its walls was slightly dimmed by the light seeping beneath the drafty door. The smell of musk invaded the air with a stale stench. Voices could be heard drawing closer to the prisoner whom stood shackled to the iron chains. With bright torches in hand four soldiers entered the cell followed by their leader.

“It was hours before anyone came to my cell. Four soldiers holding torches and a man dressed in black metallic armor entered my cell and stood before me. It was hours before I finally learned who they were and why I was there.” Her voice sank to a soft whisper.

Helplessness overcame the strong warrior. She comforted her bard with soothing words. She once again found herself victim to a deep rage. “What did he tell you Gabrielle?” Her tone compassionate to her lover.

“His name was Draden. He spoke of the days when you had traveled by his side…He told me about the villages your armies destroyed, the people that were murdered, and….” Her voice was trembling. “and…the events that led to the day you betrayed him. I didn't want to listen to him Xena. I tried to shut him. I didn't want to hear.” She brought her hands over her ears.

“Now Amazon how many times must I tell you to listen without interruption?” The voice was harsh and aggressive. The warrior roughly pulled her hands away from her ears twisting them forcefully. The Amazon cried out in pain. He released her hands and backhanded her across the face splitting her lip open. “When I” he snaps the whip across her bare stomach, “tell you to listen” the whip slashes with deepening speed across her thighs, “I mean LISTEN!” The whip marks the bare skin on her back 3 more times.

She closed her eyes to the visions. “It was so horrible. He talked for hours and if I tried not to listen or spoke out he would strike me. I had no choice but to surrender to his twisted story.” She sighed heavily in defeat. Tears began to spring from her eyes once again. He told me about the village he and his army destroyed while you were recovering from a wound from a previous battle.” Hurt and anger began to slowly ease their way into her frame. She felt a surge rise through her as she spoke to her warrior. “He….he….was PROUD of slaughtering children. CHILDREN XENA, little innocent children. He told me about each and every little one and their loss if innocence and life vividly expressing each heartless detail. He was smiling taking pride in how his gloating was killing me. How could….how could anyone hurt INNOCENT CHILDREN!” she began shouting no longer able to control the rush of anger and sorrow that drowned her soul. She was wailing uncontrollably.

Xena held her tightly rocking her. She didn't want her lover to see how hurt and angry she was. “That bastard! How could he describe such inhuman acts to such a gentle soul. He will pay for this. Every minute of torture will not go unpunished!” she stated to herself anger still fueling her blood.

She could envision all the innocents of the village. She still remembers the look of fear on their still faces. The scent of death that masked the stale air that encircled the land. The poor tattered souls of the young children violently murdered.

The warrior closed her eyes fighting back tears of guilt and sorrow. The thought of Gabrielle having to listen to the heartless acts of extreme violence powerless to stop it was breaking her heart. Her rage continued to grow with fierce strength for Draden. She turned to her lover a deep sorrow nestled in her eyes. “I'm so sorry Gabrielle. Shhh love.” She comforted.

“I screamed, I begged, I pleaded for him to stop. I couldn't bear it anymore.” She whispered between sobs as visions violated her mind.

“I told you to SHUT UP!” The command came from the tall warrior dressed in black metallic armor. He unleashed an angry snap of the whip on the young bard's back, then again, and again, and again until she cried out in defeat. “I'm sorry Draden please….”

The warrior held the bard closer comforting her as best she could.

“The more I interrupted the more he would strike me. I thought I was going to die…I kept thinking of you Xena. Each time I felt myself slip away I would imagine you and your strength. That was what kept me going.” She looked tenderly into her lover's eyes.

The warrior was overwhelmed with emotions. Hatred for what Draden put her lover through, anger for not being able to stop it, guilt for not keeping Gabrielle safe, and blessed for the unbreakable bond they both shared. “I love you Gabrielle,” she whispered and kissed her lover's tears one by one as they fell from her tainted eyes of emerald. She brushed her fingers along the bard's cheek softly. “Can you continue love or do you need to rest?” Concern in her voice. “No I'm okay.” Her tone very soft.

The bard took a deep breath and let her words carry the truth of what she was envisioning.

“Want to hear about all the lives your precious Warrior Princess took Amazon? All the innocents that died at HER command. The terrified cries of the villagers as they watched their homes burnt to the ground. Will you still be able to look at your precious princess in the same way then Amazon?” A cold smile played upon his lips.

“I won't listen to you I know Xena. Nothing you say will change how I feel about her….nothing.” Pain spread like a burning fire through her body in spastic surges from the fresh whip lashes on her back and stomach.

“Then we have a very long night ahead of us Amazon, a very long night indeed.” He laughed coldly as he released the whip upon the Amazon's back, force deepening with each lash. The torture continued for 10 more lashes. Grabbing a handful of her blonde hair he jerked her head up until his eyes met hers. “Now Amazon let me tell you about the REAL Warrior princess…”

“I lost track of time. What seemed like an eternity could have been hours and what seemed like hours could have been days. Draden wasn't satisfied until he told me of your travels, the villages you conquered, and the lives that were lost to you and your army. He said he wanted me to know the real Warrior Princess.” Her voice trailed into a faint whisper. She felt the warrior tremble slightly. She lifted her head up meeting the teary ocean eyes of her lover. “Xena nothing he could say or do would ever break my faith or love for you. I know you like my own heart. You were hurting with no source of love or comfort. That is what turned you to your shield of hatred and anger. I love you, all of you, the past, the present, the unknown. Nothing Draden told me or did to me changes or will change my everlasting love for you Xena.” Her eyes pleaded with her lover's. The warrior pulled the bard into a closer embrace and cried silently. “You don't know how much that means to me Gabrielle. I love you.”

“He couldn't break her spirit even using my dark past against her. Gods I don't deserve her.” Xena thought to herself.

“Gabrielle is that where you got all these injuries and whip marks? Was it for not listening to his stories or speaking out?” She asked gently.

The bard nodded. “Mostly yes. I don't know how long it went on for. I remember after he grew tired of trying to break my faith in you he would leave my cell. He allowed me no food only water. Every time I would begin to fall asleep the guards would throw cold water on my face. If that didn't have the desired affect they would strike me.” She paused for a few moments. The warrior stroked her hair lovingly but did not interrupt. “Draden came back to my cell several times. Each time was much the same.” As she spoke the visions seeped back into her memory.

“I don't care what Xena did with you in her past Draden. I know what you are trying to do and I will NOT give in to your games. I love her and nothing will change that…especially you!” The Amazon shouted with a consuming rage at the warrior.

The warrior laughed coldly. “Your bravery will get you no where Amazon. You're a fool. Your princess cares nothing for you. You are just a tool to her. A tool to help her atone for her guilt. Nothing more than useless tool.”

“SHUT UP! You don't know anything about Xena. I won't listen to you anymore. I don't care what you do to me!” She shouted tears stinging her face.

A swarm of fury rushed over the warrior with sleek intensity. His eyes narrowed cruelly on his prisoner. His face lost all proud expression and stared impassively into her green eyes. Before another word was spoken he began to unmercifully whip the prisoner until her head fell forward unconscious.”

“After a long while and many days I presume had passed he finally gave up. He realized nothing he had said or done had changed anything. He ordered the guards to remove my chains and follow behind him carrying me. I wanted to struggle finally free of those chains but I had so very little energy. With every movement came a bolt of intense pain. I had no idea where we were going or what he planned to do. A fury like none I had seen before was still present in his piercing eyes. I truly believed I was going to die, Xena.” She sobbed quietly.

“Is that when you ended up by the stream Gabrielle?” She wrapped her arms tighter around her lover.

“Yes,” she said quietly.

“What happened at the stream? Why did he bring you there?” The warrior was trying to make sense of his motives. “If he wanted her dead he would have left her that way.” She thought to herself.

“He was so enraged with me Xena. At first I thought he brought me there because he was going to kill me. His men leaned me against a tree by the stream and then left obeying Draden's command. He wanted to be alone with me.” She continued telling Xena what she was remembering in her vision.

“Well, well, well Amazon you are not so tough now are you?” His laughter sent chills down the Amazon's back. “Tell me now when your princess looks into those green eyes will you still see your Xena or the monster she truly is?” There was no response. He brought his knee to the ground before her and backhanded her across the face abrasively. Blood trickled from the corners of her mouth and nose. “What about your princess's hands Amazon? When you take them in yours are you going to see the same gentle hands or will the innocent blood of all those villagers savagely murdered at her hands stain them richly?” he smiled maliciously.
The Amazon spoke weakly. “She will be the same gentle soul I loved and will love even in death. The only monster with blood staining his soul is YOU!” She spat in his face.

The warrior sharply grabbed the Amazon by her blonde hair and brought her face within inches of his. “You dare defy me girl! I am impressed that you have been able to withstand all this torture and still your faith and love for that pathetic warrior remains.” His lips broke into a twisted smile. He licked his lips his eyes glowing with a sickening desire. “Well Amazon if I can't break your spirit and destroy your desire for her…” his smile deepening wickedly, “then I will make sure she will never again desire you!” His laughter sparked fear in the young Amazon's eyes. She closed her eyes pushing back the tears. “Always know I love you Xena,” she silently whispered into the wind. The warrior threw the Amazon down onto the ground. “When I am through with you dear Gabrielle Xena will never desire you. When you feel her touch it will be mine you will remember. One way or another I WILL destroy the Warrior Princess!” He shouted crossly

Once she was done speaking Xena pulled her lover upwards into a sitting position slowly. With her hand beneath her dampened chin she turned the bard's face around to meet hers. “Be strong Xena she needs you. This is not time to let your anger grab a hold of you.” Xena commanded herself. “He raped you and then left you there by the stream?"” She asked her lover tenderly. The bard nodded her head slowly. Her face once again bore no emotion. Tears flowed from her emerald eyes but not one sound was made. She tenderly kissed the silent tears one by one from her lover's face. “Don't hold back what you are feeling Gabrielle. It's okay. Let it all flow. Don't hold back love.” Her eyes grew softer. “I love you more than anything and nothing will ever change that. You are more beautiful to me than ever. You hold half of my heart and soul love, and nothing could ever break the spirit we share.” Her eyes never left her lover's. Gabrielle wrapped her arms tightly around Xena's neck and began to weep hysterically in her shoulder. Random plea's to her lover could be heard between sobs as she released all the shame, anger, and pain she held within. For hours the two lovers talked about the events that transpired and the torture the bard endured at the hands of Draden. The warrior tended to her lover, answered her plea's, eased her fears, and soothed her pain. That night, while neither the warrior nor the bard were aware, the spirit that joins their souls intensified in a strength so fierce that was even unbreakable to the gods themselves.

To be Continued in Part 2

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