The Golden Legion

by Anita Louise


This takes place after A Time Of Reckoning.

Gabrielle has survived her fall. But problems arise when the Bard does not share the same feelings as the Warrior Princess. The woman's coma has now changed what they once shared. They are now faced with an old legend that will pit them against a formidable evil.

Hurt/Comfort Warning Disclaimer:

This story may be best classified as a Hurt/Comfort Story involving the characters of Xena Warrior Princess. Readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of issue may wish to read something other than this story.

Love/Sex/ Disclaimer This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read
something other than this story.

The television series: Xena Warrior Princess belongs to MCA/Universal...
This is merely one fan's story.

Chapter One


The Woman had been watching the golden palomino for sometime. It wasn't only the mighty horse's stamina but the intelligence Argo possessed. She was extremely happy to have the horse back with the two of them. Argo trotted up to the statuesque woman nickering as she approached. Xena laughed as she handed the horse a carrot. "You're happy to be back also aren't you girl?"
Argo began to paw at the dirt with her right hoof. "Guess that is a yes. Surely Gabrielle hasn't been trying to teach you to count. Like I'm sure a horse would know what two and two was." The animal pawed the ground four times. Xena rubbed the horse's right ear and said, "Always knew you were about the smartest of anyone I knew. You count also, that is something for
the scrolls."

She had been in the pasture for quite awhile. The horse and the woman seemed to have such rapport it was uncanny. She really missed this but not as much as she missed the beautiful woman that filled her life with love and laughter. Ever since Gabrielle had taken that fall over the cliff things had not been the same. She was thankful the Gods let the woman come back from her deep sleep. But, the Gabrielle that had returned was not the woman she had made love to. The woman that had been able to touch her with such warmth and tenderness.

Yes, that Solstice Eve was a time of miracles but it was also a time for questions that were left unanswered. She patted the horse turned and started back toward the cave. Hearing the chirping of birds she sat down on a tree stump and looked around. Finally she spied a bird high in a tree. It was singing to another, and from their actions, probably it's mate. Even the birds seemed to be happier than she was lately. Xena reached down and broke a blade of grass, leaning back she began to chew on it. The sweetness tasted as good as she remembered. As she sat she spied several rabbits dashing around the area. They were so busy courting one another they paid no mind to the stranger eyeing them. Raising her eyes, she surveyed the area. It was beautiful, flowers were blooming again and everything was green. A sure sign that the cold weather was behind them and they now had a lovely warming trend. Ephiny had begged her and Gabrielle to visit them at the Amazon village but she turned her down saying, 'It was not a good time.'

She slowly got to her feet and began the walk up to the cave. As she neared the top she stopped and took in several deep breaths as she said, "Getting soft Xena, that little climb winded you." She tossed the mangled blade of grass to the ground and hurried to the cave. Her eyes were sparkling and her face held the look of anticipation. She was looking for the Bard and hoped above all else, that Gabrielle had some of her memory return. Entering the large room she glanced around for the Bard, but, she was nowhere to be seen. Xena walked over to the bed and sat. She laid back letting her head fall into the softness of the pillow. Gabrielle was right, her mother made the
softest pillows of anyone. It had been a gift for them. Her mother thought it would made a nice addition to their home.

She heard the lovely humming of her friend and opened one eye to see where it was coming from. The Bard was walking toward the main room, she must have just come from the hot springs as the shift she was wearing was clinging to her body in the most enticing spots. Xena set up as she watched the woman walk over to the fire and toss a piece of wood on it. Her eyes never leaving
the form of the Bard as she moved about the room.

Gabrielle walked over to the fire and removed a small pot. She poured some of the contents into two mugs then turned and started to walk toward Xena. "Here, thought you might like some. It's a new herb I found today, tastes divine. It will hold you over till I get that rabbit cooked." Xena reached up and took the mug from the Bard's hand. She looked up into the radiant face of her friend. Gabrielle's blue green eyes were shining down on her, and they had that mischievous twinkle Xena had come to know so well.

Before Xena could say anything Gabrielle had set down next to her. Taking a sip she said, "That sure hits the spot. What do you think?" Xena glanced down at the liquid then she took a drink. Gabrielle was right, it was good, she wouldn't call it divine but it was good. Turning to face her she said, "Very good."

Gabrielle sighed as she said, "Just good, I would love to hear you say sometime it was celestial or delicious, everything to you is either bad or good." Xena stared at the complexion of the Bard. Neither had been outdoors for any great length of time and their skin was showing the signs.
Gabrielle's long strawberry blond hair had been brushed back and the wetness from the hot springs only made her more appealing. "Xena, did you hear what I said?"

She focused her eyes on the Bard's and answered, "You, are beautiful. Your touch is glorious and I am thankful each day you are back. You give me a celestial feeling always." Gabrielle stood up and walked over to the fire, she spread out a blanket and sat. Xena stood and followed her. Setting down beside the woman she said, "I didn't mean to make you feel uncomfortable. If
I did, I'm sorry. I'm sure you know by now we were and are not just friends."

Gabrielle took a sip of the drink, turned and stared at the woman as she said, "Xena, I know this is hard on you, one only has to hear the beat of your heart when we lay next to one another at night. I am the one who is sorry, I am sorry I can't bring forth the feelings, that you so easily lay at my feet."

Xena set her mug down reached out and grasped the Bard's right-hand in hers and said, "If all we will ever be from now on are friends, I can live with that knowing how close I have come to losing you. You are my light, your smile calms a spot inside me that I never knew could be controled. You are right, when I feel your body touch mine, I tremble with anticipation. I am glad that you take my breath away, and I am thankful every second I take a breath. All I could ask for now is knowing you are a part of my life."

Gabrielle stared into Xena's bottomless blue eyes and said, "How long do you think you can lay beside me before your desire takes over and you ravage me during the night?"

Xena looked away as she said, "Would never do that."

"Xena, I can see the desire on your face, feel it in your touch. No one is so strong as to not give in to temptation."

Xena brought her knees up to her chest as she wrapped her arms around them and said, "I will take a lot of cold baths in the river. I will take long walks, I..."

Gabrielle reached out and touched the woman on her right shoulder and said, "See how your skin quakes when I touch you. I have to tell you, I am afraid of you."

Xena's eyes were beginning to fill up with the tears she had been holding back as she said, "I am only human. You may not remember it but we made love, many times and each was more beautiful than the last." Gabrielle started to look away and Xena reached out and grasped her chin in her
right-hand, turning it as she continued, "You, made love to me, it was the most beautiful time of my life, of our lives. I'm sorry you can't remember it, but, it will return. Till then, I promise with all that I am, I will not ravage you."

Gabrielle reached out and turned the spit as she said, "Rabbit should be ready soon."

Xena replied, "Hang the rabbit woman, we need to talk!"

Gabrielle seemed startled as Xena said, "Don't be afraid, I won't hurt you. It cuts me deeply to think you are having feelings of fear."

Gabrielle got up and walked over to the wooden chest on the floor and said, "I put your clean shifts in here. Next time we get to the village we need to get some soap."

Xena stood and walked over to her then said, "Shifts look fine, you didn't have to do them, I would have gotten around to it."

The woman walked back toward the fire as she said, "When? You seem to always be playing with that horse."

Xena stepped in front of her and said, "Whoa there, playing with that horse. She has a name, it's Argo and we always have found time to frolic. You even used to get into the fun of it."

Gabrielle brushed past the woman, walked over and removed the rabbit then she said, "Set down, I'll cut you off some meat."

Xena sat down as she sighed and said, "Then, will you sit down and listen to me?"

Gabrielle set a plate full of meat along with some wild vegetables in the woman's lap as she said, "Sure, I always want to know what you have to say, at least that is what you tell me."

Xena stared at the food and said, "It looks goo..." The Bard was raising an eyebrow as she said, "I mean it looks delicious."

Gabrielle beamed as she joined the woman with a plate of her own food. Xena was glad to see the Bard's appetite was the same. At least one thing hadn't changed. Gabrielle stared at her and she took a bite nodding her head in approval then the woman began to eat her food. Xena started to say something and Gabrielle said, "Eat, talk later."

They finished the meal in silence and when they were finished Gabrielle got up and Xena asked, "Now what are you doing?"

"Going to wash the dishes."

Xena reached out and grabbed the Bard's left-hand as she said, "They can wait, set back down here. We need to talk."

Gabrielle sighed as she sat back down. Staring at Xena she said, "All right, get it over, talk."

"You don't make it easy but we need to get a few things straight."She could see the woman had set her jaw and was ready for anything she was going to say. "It was all a silly misunderstanding, you came back and saw Ephiny and me in the water and mistook an innocent kiss."

Gabrielle smiled as she said, "Innocent, I've never known you to do anything that was purely innocent."

Xena gazed at her and said, "Now, you are teasing me, you know full well what I am talking about. Ephiny talked to you and your friend Sea spoke with you. This is no great revelation."

Gabrielle beamed as she reached out and touched Xena's face with her left-hand and said, "Oh, but I love to tease, and you are so easy."

Xena felt the warmth of the Bard's hand on her face and whatever she was going to say was gone. The only feeling she had at that moment was the warm sensation Gabrielle's touch was giving her body. Gabrielle softly said, "I love you like this. At a loss for words but you are telling me all I need to know."

Before Xena could reply the Bard leaned over and softly placed a kiss on Xena's lips. She relished in the ecstasy of the touch and soon found herself lost in the Bard's warm embrace. Suddenly she heard the words, "See, I knew I couldn't trust you! I relax just once and you are trying to have your way with me!" Xena pulled back to see Gabrielle jump to her feet and run from the cave. She laid back on the blanket and whispered, "Ares, if it is the darkness you are trying to put me through, it is succeeding. Ever since Gabrielle came back, she has been going in and out. She knows me one minute and the next she is almost like a total stranger." It was taking a great toll on her. She closed her eyes and thought of the Bard's warm lips on hers.

The woman had fallen asleep on the blanket near the fire. Finally resigning herself to a life that she was having a hard time understanding. Toward morning she heard Gabrielle enter the room. Though sleepy, she listened to the woman's footsteps. Drawing her arms across her chest she brought her knees up as Gabrielle approached. The Bard placed a piece of wood on the dying fire and stared at Xena. "I know you are not asleep Xena, you look cold."

Xena opened her eyes and gazed at Gabrielle, the woman was haunched down by the fire. Noticing the way she was laying the Bard said, "Gets a little chilly. Are you all right?" The woman rose and walked over to her and reached out her left-hand as she said, "Come on, let's get you to a warm bed."

Xena answered, "Don't want to be troubling you, go on, get some rest."

Gabrielle reached down and grasped Xena's left-hand and said, "No, come on. I could not get any rest if I knew you were uncomfortable."

Xena got to her feet and said, "All right, just remember this is your idea not mine."

As they approached the bed Gabrielle turned to look at her and said, "Get undressed, I'll go get you a shift." She walked away and Xena sat down on the bed. She began to remove her boots. As the last one hit the floor she felt the presence of the Bard. Gabrielle's fingers were already releasing
the buckles that held her breast plate. She reached up and grasped the woman's fingers and said, "It's all right, I can do it."

Gabrielle set the breast plate down and answered, "I know you are capable of many things but I do enjoy doing this."

Xena stood and with the assistance of the Bard she saw her leathers placed next to the breast plate. Gabrielle held out the shift and said, "Stretch out your arms." Xena did, and the woman slid the shift over them and gently pulled the material down. She had been watching every movement of
Gabrielle's as she said, "Sometimes you are so much like you were."

Gabrielle sat down on the bed and laid on her left side staring up at the woman she said, "I am still Gabrielle and right now I am the woman that misses you next to me."

Xena gazed down at the sparkling eyes that were looking up at her and she slowly set down on the bed. Gabrielle held out her right-hand, and Xena laid back on the bed. Folding her arms across her chest she said, "Now, get some sleep, you need rest."

Gabrielle smiled as she reached down and grasped Xena's left arm. She held it up as she scooted close and laid her head against the woman's shoulder. "Good night."

Xena glanced down at the strawberry blond and whispered, "Good night." Having the woman this close and feeling her warmth as she pressed against the warrior was sending Xena's body into spasm's that she had to control. One thing she knew for sure, the river was going to see her bright and early come light.

Gabrielle woke to find Xena gone and wondered where she was off to so early. She got out of bed and headed for the hot springs. After looking around she realized the woman was not in the cave. Shaking her head she thought out loud, "Wonder where she went? It's awful early." Stretching she stoked the fire and put a pot on to make some tea. Walking over to her wooden chest on the floor she took out her clothes and dressed. She glanced toward the bed and could see the warrior's clothes still laying where they had been placed. Smiling she went back to the fire and began to fix the morning meal.

As Xena stepped into the cool water she felt the fire within her body extinguish. The coldness of the water was sending chills throughout her body. Laying back in the water she stared up at the sky which had an orange glow to it. The clouds seemed to be dancing above her as she tried to make
out formations in them. She lingered in the water for sometime. Finally stepping out and drying herself off, she pulled the shift back on and started toward the cave. There was an erriness in the woods this time of morning and she was glad when she could see the cave entance.

Gabrielle looked up from the frying pan she had been intently cooking their breakfast in. "Good morning, I woke and you were gone, gave me a scare."

Xena walked over and sat down in front of the fire and said, "Feels good. I went for a swim."

Gabrielle smiled and said, "Well, you look refreshed, your face is radiant. But, isn't it cold this early?"

Xena replied, "Yeah, cold. It certainly takes a person's mind off things."

Gabrielle removed the frying pan and distributed the food in two plates. She walked over to her and said, "Here, your morning meal." Xena took the plate as she watched the Bard set close by and started to eat. She took several bites then said, "I need to go into the village for a few things, do you think you will be all right."

Gabrielle smiled and said, "Yes, but don't you need my help?"

Xena replied, "I always need you, but I think you will be better off here for now."

Gabrielle set her plate down and moved closer to the woman. She gazed into Xena's eyes and said, "I'm not without feeling you know, I realize what this is doing to you and you probably feel the need to release a few emotions."

"I'm not going there to release any emotions, if that is what you think. Just to get a few supplies and return."

Gabrielle reached out and touched Xena's right hand as she said, "I would understand, since I can't give you what you desire." She lowered her head and continued, "I'm sorry."

Xena patted the Bard's hand and said, "You've nothing to be sorry for, it is me that has failed you. I promise, I'm just going to get supplies, is there anything besides soap you feel we need?" Xena noticed the Bard was crying and she said, "Don't cry, Gabrielle what is wrong? If you don't want me to go, I won't."

Gabrielle raised her head and answered, "I know it's been hard on you but you must know it is difficult for me also. Xena, I sometimes feel as if I am going crazy. I have lucid moments and in those I know what we had, then just as quickly I lose them. I don't really know you and it is driving me insane. You try to talk to me but what you don't seem to understand is, who are you actually talking to? At this moment I know who you are, I know you are my friend. But in the next moment or two I may not. I am a danger, not only to myself, but to you and what we had. Xena I need to leave."

The warrior swallowed hard as her eyes touched the gaze of the Bard's. The hurt and questions were apparent in them as she said, "No! I think we both learned once that running away from one's problems only makes them worse. We must face what is happening and find a solution."

Gabrielle managed a smile as she said, "Sometimes you amaze me with your thoughts."

Xena smiled back at the woman and said, "Shouldn't. We both know I'm a pretty amazing woman." The two women laughed. Xena stared at the fire then her gaze fell back on the Bard as she said, "I know you are Gabrielle, and I want more than anything to see you recover."

"Xena, what if my recovery goes the other way and I fully become the person that doesn't know you?"

Xena reached out and touched the Bard's face with her hand and said, "Then I will just have to make it a point to get to know you all over again and you me. Regardless, somewhere in your mind is the two of us and eventually we will come back to the foreground. I'm so sorry to see you suffer like this. If I could, I would take it for you."

Gabrielle reached over and poured a cup of tea and handed it to Xena. "Here, you look like you could use this."

Thanking her Xena replied, I know that Sea talked with you when she was here, did the two of you settle anything?"

Gabrielle wrinkled up her nose at the warrior as she said, "Do I catch a hint of the old green eye?"

Xena leaned back on the ground, her elbows taking her weight as she said, "In case you don't remember and I doubt that, your friend Sea Troll is beautiful, dashing and very captivating. Yes, there is a little of the green eye can't help that after I have heard of your escapade with Calico Jack."

Gabrielle took a sip of tea then she replied, "A lot like you huh?"

Xena asked, "What are you talking about?"

The Bard stared down at the warriors face as she said, "If you have missed it Xena, she is so much like you it is uncanny. Except for the hair, the two of you possess the same qualities."

Setting up, Xena scoffed, "Like me, I don't think so. If what you are saying has any truth to it, then tell me am I that easy to replace?"

"I said you have the same qualities but the two of you are as different as night and day."

Xena was now setting very close to Gabrielle as she asked, "Do you love her?"

"This would be a good time to forget who I am."She could see Xena was staring intently at her waiting for an answer. Heaving a sigh she said, "Yes, I love Sea. But it's not the same as the love I have for you. She will always be in my heart but you have my heart."

Xena softly replied, "Thank you for that, even if you might have coated it for me. Thank you. Tell me why hasn't the other one that is in your head forgotten who Sea is?"

Gabrielle shrugged as she said, "I don't know, I just wish my head would get back to normal."

Xena answered, "I know. You don't have to hide it from me. I understand how much she loves you and how much you love her. I can't say it doesn't hurt but I would give up what I have at this moment to see you become whole again. No more suffering and return to the way you were even if it is without me."

The Bard asked, "What did Sea tell you?"

Xena answered, "She told me enough, I'm thankful she was there for you when I wasn't."

"Why would you be there? It was Sea that Calico wanted."

Xena immediately realized that she had again lost touch with the Gabrielle she knew as she said, "It's not important, finish your breakfast."

Later that morning Xena had Argo saddled and was just putting the saddle bag onto the back. When she had finished she turned to look for Gabrielle. The woman was walking toward her carrying a leather pack in her right-hand. As she neared she said, "Here, in case you get hungry. It's just a little something I fixed. I will miss you."

Xena took the pack and attached it to the saddle then she turned to stare down at the woman. "Thank you, I don't want you to worry I will be back later this evening. Don't wait up for me and promise me you won't go off somewhere."

She smiled up at the woman and said, "I promise. You and Argo be careful."

"We will." Xena bent down and placed a kiss on the woman's forehead. Within seconds she was in the saddle. Gabrielle watched the two of them until they were out of sight then she walked back into the cave.

Xena enjoyed the ride into the small village. It gave her plenty of time to mull over in her mind what had happened. Surely there was something someone could do for Gabrielle. The sounds of a man's voice brought her mind back to the present. She glanced to her left and could see a large man yelling at the ox that was pulling the man's makeshift plow. She watched him for several seconds then prompted Argo to continue. As they entered the small village she glanced at the people who were milling around.

Stopping the horse in front of a shop she jumped down and tied the reins to a post. Walking into the room she could see several women looking at items on the shelves. They looked up as she entered, then began to talk among themselves. A small robust man came walking toward her, his eyes giving her the once over. "Something I can help you with?

She looked down at him and said, "Need to get a few supplies."

He nodded his head and said, "Just tell me what it is you want and I'll fetch it." Xena handed the man a piece of parchment and said, "Things are on here. I'm in a hurry so if you can speed it up."

He took the parchment and said, "Sure, it will just be a few minutes. Look around, you may see something else you might want." He hurried off as Xena began to look at the merchandise in the room. She walked past several garments that were hanging and stopped to look at each one. They were well made not unlike the ones her mother could sew. She had stepped the entire room when she spied a beautiful golden cup. It had an etching of a man putting a rope around an Ox's neck. The detail was magnificent.

"Little expensive probably for your tastes." Xena raised her eyes and stared into the face of Ephiny. She had been leaning over and was now standing tall as she said, "What do you know of my tastes?"

Ephiny threw her arms around the woman before Xena could move and she met the Amazon's hug with one of her own. Ephiny stepped back and said, "Always have known you to want the very best. How are you my friend? How is Gabrielle?"

Xena answered, "As good as can be expected and that goes for both of us. Where is Ep?"

Ephiny's brown eyes lit up as she said, "She is at the tavern, getting us a room for the night. And you, are you staying over?"

Xena smiled and said, "Seems like all my problems of late started with just an innocent meeting. No, I have to get back to the cave."

The man walked up to Xena and said, "Here is your merchandise, that will be twenty dinars." Xena reached down and took the small leather pouch from her belt and began to remove the coins from it. Ephiny walked up to the man and said, "I believe you might have made a mistake."

His eyes darted from Xena to Ephiny as he asked, "Mistake? What are you talking about?"

Ephiny replied, "A friend of mine was just in here and bought the same things, she only paid you ten dinars."

He began to stammer as he said, "Let me check this again." Xena looked at Ephiny and then at the man who was going through the items again, perspiration now showing on his forehead. He looked up and said, "You are right, it is ten dinars, I apologize."

Xena handed him the coins and said, "Thanks." She picked up the burlap sack and said, "Let's go." Ephiny glared at the man then turned and followed her from the room. She walked up to Xena who was tying the bag to the side of the saddle. "What is wrong with you Xena? The Xena I know would never have let some weasel of a store clerk get away with that."

Xena looked up as she finished and said, "Just didn't want to argue with him."

Ephiny reached out and touched her right arm as she said, "How about a drink before you head back."

Xena smiled as she said, "Sure, I could use a drink after that long ride." She untied Argo and the two women started walking toward the end of town. Xena was leading the horse, as Argo plodded behind. People stopped what they were doing to gaze at the tall woman and the beautiful blond Amazon walking side by side. Ephiny nudged her and said, "Looks like we are the topic for
the day."

Xena laughed as she looked around then said, "I do believe we are the best looking people in this place." She thought for a second then said, "Besides Ep that is."

Ephiny smiled up at her and said, "We are here, let's go get that drink." Xena tied Argo to the hitching rail then the two women walked into the tavern.


Chapter Two


The two women looked around the room as Xena said, "I don't see Epinon."

Ephiny replied, "She is probably in the room or at the stable. Let's sit down." She gestured toward a table and Xena pulled out a chair and sat. Ephiny walked over to the bar and returned with two goblets of port. She handed one to Xena then set down. Xena thanked her and said, "To you,
friend." They clinked their goblets in unison as Ephiny said, "To better times."

Xena was delighted to wet her lips and said, "This hits the spot, it was a long dusty ride in and I needed this."

Ephiny smiled across the table at the woman as she said, "I hate to see you like this. Before you go get all bent out of shape just listen to me." Xena leaned forward her blue eyes taking in the woman. Ephiny leaned back in her chair and asked, "Have you looked at yourself lately?"

The woman shook her head and said, "Why?"

Ephiny continued, "You have let yourself go. Your caring for Gabrielle has taken its toll on you. I know you love her but Xena, you have to think about yourself also. If you don't who else will?"

Xena reached across the table and said, "Still can take you."

Ephiny smiled as she answered, "You don't know how long I have waited to hear you say that."

Xena's eyes met the woman's as she said, "Then let's do it right here."

Ephiny set her goblet down as she flexed her right arm. Then she reached out and said, "All right, but you have to make it worth my beating you."

Xena laughed as she said, "Yeah, and what do you have in mind?"

Ephiny thought for a few minutes, took a drink from her goblet then replied, "I have my way with you. Of course if your scared I will beat you then we can wager something else. Tell me, if you win what would you ask of me?"

Xena emptied her goblet and called for another then she said, "I'll think on it."The two women had been the center of attention since they walked into the room and now people were gathering closer as they watched them prepare to arm wrestle. Xena stared up at the crowd and said, "Don't any of you have anything better to do than just stand around and watch two women arm wrestle?"

"Not when the two women happen to be you and this lovely Amazon, Xena."

Xena turned to stare at the man that was approaching the table. She studied him and said, "I don't know you, how do you know my name?"

He bowed and said, "My name is Salmanthron, I am a Bard among other things. I met Gabrielle when she visited us sometime back. Where is your friend?" The man was looking around the room. Xena stood up and gazed down at the man as she said, "She is fine and none of your business. This lovely Amazon and I are having a meeting and I would appreciate it if you all would just leave us alone." He shrugged his shoulders turned and walked away. Xena scowled at the others and they stepped back, then she sat back down and said, "Now where were we? Right, I am going to win a bet."

Ephiny smiled and answered, "You are going to try."

Ephiny smiled at the man that brought them their refilled goblets and said, "Keep them coming, I need all the help I can get."

Xena set her elbow down on the table and said, "Well, what are you waiting for, my hand awaits."

The Amazon set her jaw as she grasped Xena's hand and said, "Let the best one win."

Ephiny was surprised at the strength the warrior had, though she looked like she hadn't been outdoors much, her strength was still phenomenal. The people oohed and ahhed as Xena would bring Ephiny's arm down and the woman would muster up enough strength to regain her position and then send the woman's arm down almost touching the table. This went on for sometime neither giving an inch. Salmanthron, had begun to take bets and the man was enjoying the struggle the two women were having. The longer it was taking, the more bets he was taking. Xena had glanced at Ephiny and she could see the woman was having a hard time, her face was now covered in perspiration and she said, "It's not to late to give."

Ephiny grinned as she answered, "What's the matter, getting too much for you?"

Xena stared at the woman's grip on her hand as she said, "Never." Suddenly Ephiny felt the pressure of Xena's grip and the woman began to push the Amazon's arm closer to the table. Xena smiled and said, "Gonna make you eat your words." Ephiny was exerting all the strength she could to keep the woman from touching the table with her arm. She knew she couldn't keep it up and she said, "Gabrielle!" Xena glanced up as she relaxed her hold and within that instant the Amazon had the warriors arm pinned to the table. Xena stood up and looked around the room as she said, "Gabrielle isn't here is she? You tricked me."

Ephiny took a drink from her goblet as she said, "It worked, couldn't have you show me up like that." Xena was running her fingers up and down her arm as she said, "That wasn't fair, let's go again?"

Ephiny sighed as she said, "Sorry, my arm is as sore as yours, another time maybe. Drink up, the night is young."

Xena stood up as she said, "I've wasted too much time already, I have to get back."

Ephiny replied, "Surely Gabrielle can tuck herself in without your help. Come on Xena, you haven't done anything in sometime, a little drinking and talking with an old friend is not going to hurt anything." Xena swayed as she set back down and said, "Ok, but I am hungry. Gabrielle fixed me
something to eat, go get it from my saddle bag will you."

Ephiny got up and said, "Be right back." It didn't take her long to retrieve the saddle bag and lay it on the table in front of the woman as she said, "Here, knowing Gabrielle, it is probably something good."

Xena laughed as the woman walked around the table and sat. She stared at her and said, "What is so funny?"

Xena replied, "It's just your remark about it being good. Gabrielle tells me that is all I say when she asks how things are. It is good to know someone else uses the word "good." "

Ephiny replied, "If it makes you laugh and look that happy, then I am glad I said it." Xena offered the woman some of her meal but Ephiny shook her head. She watched Xena eat the meal and when the woman was finished she said, "That was good, should have had some. I still don't see Epinon."

Ephiny answered, "She got us a room, I know which one it is, why don't you come up with me and we can wait for her. I'm sure she would like to visit with you."

Xena set back and said, "Not a good idea, you and I in the same room."

Xena, after the cave and our many other times, we know one another like a scroll, there would be no harm. I promise not to ravage you."

Xena looked at the woman and said, "Ah but, I have been without for a long time. I need to stay where there are a lot of people."

Ephiny reached across the table and pressed her right-hand on Xena's as she said, "Come on let's go. We need a little privacy. Besides, I just won the bet."

Xena placed her other hand on top of Ephiny's and said, "Yeah, but you cheated and that voids it."

"Not true, a bet is a bet. The least you could do is tell me what you had in mind for me had you won."

Xena stood as she said, "Can't, didn't happen so I think I will just let you think about it."Ephiny got to her feet and said, "Follow me, I'll have a bottle of port sent to the room." Xena held back as she said, "What will Ep think, don't feel like fighting with her." Ephiny smiled as she reached back
and grabbed Xena's left-hand she said, "She won't fight you, remember Amazons have a different code. She will be happy to see you. The least you could do is come up and talk, we need to get away from all these gawkers." Xena stared around the room as she nodded her head. She picked up the saddle bag and threw it over her right shoulder as she followed the woman up the stairs.

Ephiny walked into the room and headed toward a table that had a softly glowing lantern on it. She immediately turned the flame higher. Xena walked over and pulled out a chair and sank down onto it. Ephiny looked at her and said, "I believe that was a moan, God's woman, you have become so un-Xena."

The warrior looked up at her and asked, "Yeah, well just what do you call Xena?"

Ephiny set down and said, "Number one, you are out of shape, probably couldn't even hit one of those pesky flying things."

"Well, I was strong enough to beat you, that is if you had played fair."

Ephiny smiled as she said, "Not a fair statement, you know what you always do to me and besides the old Xena would have pinned me to the table first time." Xena glanced around the room and said, "I see Eps things, she should be along soon." She could see that Ephiny was waiting for her to say something else and she asked, "What?"

"What I just said, the old..."

Xena cut in and said, "Yeah, yeah, could pin you to the table first time. Ever stop to think that I was just giving you a break."

Ephiny answered, "All right, I will consider that, but you are still out of shape."

Xena stood as she glanced down at her body then she said, "There is nothing wrong with my shape." Ephiny stood up and as she approached Xena she quickly reached out and grabbing the woman's right hand, pinned her arm behind her and in an instant she had the warrior on her knees. The minute Xena touched the floor she released her hold and stepped back. Xena slowly got to her
feet turned and scowled at the woman as she said, "You don't play fair, I never knew you were going to do that."

Ephiny replied, "A robber, or worse, will not give you advance warning either. Admit it, you are soft."

Xena walked back over to the table and said, "Where is that port, I could use a drink."

Ephiny answered, "It will be here soon. Xena, what can I do to help?"

Xena stared at her as she said, "I'm fine, don't need any help unless you can bring Gabrielle back to her senses."

Ephiny set back down as she said, "I feel I am close enough to tell you this, if you don't do something, and start to take care of yourself, I will fear for you."

Xena flashed a smile as she said, "What do you have in mind?"

"For starters, you need to get out, get some exercise, chase a deer, save a village. When was the last time you helped someone, besides Gabrielle?"

Xena slowly answered, "Been sometime, don't worry about me, I can take care of myself. I don't let many people get as close to me as you did awhile ago." There was a knock on the door and Ephiny went to see who it was. The man from downstairs was standing holding a bottle of port as he said, "Your drink." Ephiny took it and thanked the man then she closed the door and walked back over to the table. "Here, have a drink." Xena reached out and took the bottle as she said, "I know I am a little out of form, maybe I try to deny it, but I haven't had the time to do the things you speak of." The two women had been visiting and swapping stories when Ephiny said, "Well, we
have done in another bottle. You say you are in good form, take me on."

Xena raised an eyebrow as she said, "Take you on, didn't we just do that downstairs? Sides, I don't want to hurt you."

Ephiny answered, "Rules, there will be rules, No knifes, just hands, and feet if you don't hit the face."

Xena replied, "You could get hurt, I would never want to do that."

Ephiny reached out and touched Xena's right hand as she said, "I won the bet, I get to have my way with you. And, while you are here, you will do what I say. Remember the cave, we tossled quite a bit as I recall."

Xena stood up as she said, "And I recall it always left me bothered."

"Well, this is not the cave and we are not teenagers, we are grown women with minds of our own and bodies to match. I'm willing if you are."

Xena laughed as she walked away then said, "Allright, but whoever gets..." Before she could finish the words, Ephiny had tackled her sending the woman to the floor. Xena could feel Ephiny straddling her back as the woman's arm wrapped around her neck. Ephiny gripped and pulled putting a strangle hold on the woman. Xena let the Amazon feel she had won. Within a second she
brought her legs up and grasped Ephiny by her shoulders, pulling her back but she was not relinquishing her hold. The two of them looked like a sickle the way their bodies were rocking. Ephiny strained, "Give up Xena!"

Trying to get a breath Xena answered, "You give." The warrior's long legs finally won out as she gained added control of the woman's shoulders and pulled the Amazon backwards. Ephiny released her hold and fell to the floor. Xena rolled, then she jumped to her feet. She watched Ephiny as the woman set up and stared at her. "Always knew your legs were strong, never realized
how." She held out her right-hand and Xena stared at her. Ephiny said, "Guess you're not going to help me up." Xena shook her head as she circled the woman.

Ephiny jumped to her feet and turned to watch the warrior. Xena stopped and said, "Come on. give it your best shot." She was motioning with her hands and Ephiny laughed, "If you think your egging me on is going to cause me to charge, you are mistaken. It's your turn, attack me."

Xena shook her head and said, "This is your idea, not mine. I'm ready to stop." Ephiny leaped into the air sending her right foot onto the woman's left shoulder. The impact threw Xena backwards. Ephiny fell to the floor but was back up in a second as she swung her left leg striking the woman's
ankles sending her to the floor. Xena stared up at the beautiful Amazon as she said, "Gods, woman! I'm your friend what do you do to those that are not?"

Ephiny smiled as she said, "Told you, you are out of shape."

Xena threw up her hands and said, "For some reason I don't think this has been fair. But you are right, I was not ready for any of your moves."

Ephiny was now on her knees as she reached out and touched Xena she said, "I hope I didn't hurt you."

Xena moved her shoulder then said, "No, just my pride. Sorry I wasn't much of a match for you." Ephiny leaned forward as she said, "You have always been a match for me, maybe one day you and I will listen to the voices of our hearts." The woman's light brown eyes were staring into the fluorescent blue of her friends. For that instant they seemed to connect as Ephiny slowly brought her lips to the woman's. Xena reached out and touched the Amazon with her right-hand, her fingers trailing Ephiny's face. The softness of the caress was rapture to the woman but she pulled back and said, "You promised."

Ephiny smiled and said, "I'll keep my promise, just give me these few minutes."

Xena started to move and felt the Amazon's hands on her shoulders. Ephiny was pushing her back as the woman's body slowly fell on her. Xena stared up at the sly smile on Ephiny's face. "We can't."

Ephiny reached out and caressed Xena's face with her left hand as she said, "I've dreamed of our being together."

Xena grasped her hand as she said, "That's what it has to... be, a dream. I, I can't do this... to Gabrielle and you shouldn't to Epinon."

Ephiny answered, "Never knew you to struggle for the right words. Relax, I won't hurt you. After all I won my bet."

Xena gazed at the lovely face that was beaming down at her and said, "You won, but not this, not now."

"Then when Xena? There will always be something, don't you want to know what we lost."

Xena smiled as she said, "Oh, I know what I lost. That is one reason I was so heart broken. Ephiny, you can't recapture the past. Didn't Gabrielle's accident show you anything?"

Ephiny glanced down at Xena's heaving breasts and said, "I know you want me as much as I want you. Before you say anything, just let me lay with you for awhile." Xena laid her head back against the floor and answered, "We are messing with fire, I don't want Epinon walking in here."

The blond glanced toward the door then she said, "She hasn't shown up yet, besides I just want to be close."

Xena sighed, "It's evident you haven't been without, why me? Why now?"

Ephiny leaned down and whispered in her right ear, "Cause I can't get you out of my head, give me this one moment."

Xena swallowed hard as her eyes never left the woman's face. Ephiny raised her head and placed a soft kiss on the woman's forehead, trailing down her face to finally land on her sensuous lips. Xena's body writhed from the Amazons touch as her lips danced slowly, caressing then penetrating every sense the warrior had. Xena sighed, "Gods forgive me." As she placed her left arm around the woman and drew her even closer. The warrior's lips crushed against the woman's, as her tongue glided then pushed deep. Ephiny met Xena's tongue with a touch and a dance as she moaned, lost in the ecstasy of the warrior's touch.
Xena had been running the horse for what seemed like an eternity. As she neared the forest she reined the horse in and said, "We will stop there, by that river. Give you a chance to rest." As the horse stepped across the many scattered sink holes, Xena reached out and patted it's neck as she said, "Bet you were beginning to wonder what happened to me.Ephiny, that's what happened to me." She stared down at the horse and whispered, "How can I expect you to understand what I am talking about? I don't even understand it." She reined Argo to a stop and dismounted. Dropping the reins she turned and walked toward the bubbling water that was just ahead of her.

Xena could hear the sounds of Argo nickering after her as she made her way to the bank. It didn't take her long to remove her clothes and wade into the water. She walked out until her feet were barely touching then she sat down. Her body now submerged, she stayed under for several minutes and as she surfaced, Xena screamed. The forest was so quiet at that time of night all she heard was her own piercing cry bounding back to her. Xena raised her fist's and flung them into the water. If any animals happened to see her, they probably thought she was touched by insanity.

She stayed in the water for a spell then found her way back to the shore. Standing on the sand she looked around until she found her clothes. putting them on she tied her boots to the side of the saddle and swung up. Argo pawed the ground as she said, "All right girl let's get home." The vibration of the horses hoofs pounding the ground was the only sound that could be heard. Xena heaved a sigh as she glanced at the darkened trail ahead of them.


Ephiny was laying on the bed her right arm covering her eyes. Epinon entered the room and spying the woman she closed the door softly. She walked over to the table and looked at the empty bottle of port and shook her head.

Ephiny was having the sweetest dream and was relishing in thoughts of a certain warrior princess when Epinon approached the bed. She stared down at the woman and wondered just what was giving her the smile that crossed her face. Bending down she placed a kiss on Ephiny's lips and said, "Miss me?"

Ephiny's eyes slowly opened as she said, "Yes."

Epinon reached up and removed her leather top and within seconds had stepped from the short skirt. She stared into Ephiny's eyes and said, "Move over, I've missed you too." Ephiny's eyes darted around the room then settled back on the woman as she said, "What took you so long?"

Epinon reached out and brought the woman to her as she replied, "We have the rest of the night."


Argo could find the way home even if she was blindfolded and it didn't seem like long before the horse had stopped at the entrance to the cave. Xena stepped down as she took the reins and led Argo into the cavern. She was delighted to see the fire as she entered the chamber. After nsaddling the horse she fed her then walked over to the fire and sat. Holding out her hands she relished in the warmth that was penetrating her very cold skin. Taking the dip was not a bad idea but she had nothing to dry off with, and now found that she was freezing.

Slowly getting to her feet she walked over to the wooden chest and found a shift. It didn't take her long to locate a towel and walk back to the warmth of the fire. After removing her clothes and drying off she stood in front of the fire, turning several times. Then she pulled on the shift. It seemed to take awhile before she began to feel the warmth. Xena had walked over to the bed and checked on Gabrielle, she was sound asleep. Turning back to the fire she laid out a blanket and sat down on it. The thoughts of the day echoing in her mind. Putting another piece of wood on the fire she laid down and pulled the blanket around her body.


She was awakened the next morning when Gabrielle's hand shook her shoulder and she moaned. "What is wrong? Xena are you all right?" The Bard was gazing down at her. Her pleasing blue green eyes sparkling as she repeated her questions.

Xena tossed the blanket back and set up. She answered, "Just tired."

Gabrielle had reached over by the fire and brought back a mug as she handed it to the woman and said, "It's hot, might wake you."

Taking the mug the warrior flinched as she thanked her. Gabrielle set back and replied, "There is something wrong with your shoulder. What happened?"

Xena took a sip of the warm liquid then said, "Ran into something. I'm all right."

Gabrielle leaned back as she thought for several seconds then said, "Want me to have a look at it?"

Xena stood up as she said, "No, I said I would be fine." She had been looking for her clothes but couldn't see them. Finally the Bard asked, "Looking for something?"

"Yeah, my clothes, I laid them right here last night."

Gabrielle answered, "They were all wrinkly and damp. I took them back to the hot springs and hung them on a rock. Thought maybe the steam would straighten them out. How did they get into that condition?"

Xena mumbled, It's a long story. Just as soon let it lay."

Gabrielle stood up as she walked up to the woman and said, "I knew I should have gone with you. You went and got yourself into some kind of trouble. I don't even want to think about what it might have been." She turned and walked away as Xena pursed her lips and watched the woman until she was out out sight. Grabbing a towel she headed back toward the hot springs. Every step she took was painful and her body moved like it was crumbling. She was happy when she spied the steam spiraling into the air. It didn't take her long to shed her clothes and enter the warmth of the water. Her shoulder was feeling better as she relaxed her body and enjoyed the sensation of the

"Is it getting to you Xena?" As the words reached her she looked around and said, "Ares, I wondered when you would finally show your face." The God Of War was standing on a large boulder. His hands were on his hips and he had a very satisfied grin on his face. He jumped down and stepped up to her clothes. "You have never been one to mince words. Glad to know you have been waiting for me."

"Yeah, like one waits for the plague. This is all your doings isn't it?"

He reached down and picked up her shift. Bringing it to his nostrils he said, "At least there is someone besides Gabrielle that relishes in your..."

"How dare you mention her name in the same breath. Ares, this is not one of your senseless games. Let her come back."

He fondled the garment then said, "You come back to me and I'll do what I can."

Xena was standing and was now stepping toward the man as she said, "Never, I have told you this enough times, maybe one day you will listen." She reached out and grabbed her shift and said, "Give me that!" He released his hold on the garment and watched her pull it on. Bringing his middle finger to his lips he stared at her in silence then he stepped back and said, "Have to admit it Xena, you have taken more cold baths than anyone I know of lately. Does the Bard know of your encounter in..."Xena yelled, "That is none of your business. Are you everywhere?"

He laughed as he walked over to a rock and sat down. "Where you are concerned, I know everything. So, why not just give up, my arms have been waiting for a long time."

Xena stepped up to the man as she reached out with her left hand and caressed his face she said, "They will wait for the rest of eternity and I will not be there get used to it!" She gave him a shove as he fell backwards and hitting the ground he replied, "Don't fight it Xena, the emotions are
there. I will be back." He disappeared as quickly as he had appeared. Xena walked over to the rock and removed the clothes that Gabrielle had placed there and started back to the chamber.

She had just entered the chamber and her eyes were darting around looking for the Bard. She heard the sound before she felt the blow to the back of her head. Falling forward she saw the ground and reached out to ease her fall. Getting to her knees she heard the words, "Who are you and why are you here?"

Raising her head she blinked her eyes as the form of the Bard came into view. Gabrielle stood in readiness as she brandished her new staff. Xena answered, "Gabrielle, it's me Xena, why did you hit me?" It was as if in a flash she saw it and felt the impact to her side. As her body succumbed to
the darkness that was surrounding her she moaned as she felt another blow to her head.


Slowly opening her eyes she tried to move. She tried several times before she was able to set up. It was all coming back to her, Gabrielle had attacked her but why?" Xena tried to move her hands but couldn't as she managed to get to her knees, she realized her wrists were bound behind her.
Struggling with the ties that were holding her she groaned as a sharp pain jabbed her insides. "Won't do you any good to struggle, you aren't going anywhere."

Xena raised her head and glanced in the direction of the voice. Gabrielle was setting by the fire, she was honing Xena's sword. The warrior tried to break her ties once more and failed as she said, "Gabrielle, this is not funny, let me go."

Setting the sword down the woman got to her feet and walked over to Xena. She stood staring down at the woman who was on her knees gazing up at her as she said, "I don't know who you are but I have called a village elder."

"Gabrielle, it's me, Xena. I'm your friend. You called a village elder, why?"

The woman haunched down as she placed her right hand on Xena's face and said, "To take you away. You can't just walk into someone's home and take what is not yours."

The warrior's eyes were pleading with the woman as she said, "You have lost your way, but try, try to come back. How can I get you to understand, this is my home too."

"Yeah and next thing you will probably try to tell me you are a Warrior Princess or something. Set back and relax, the elder will be here shortly."

Xena sat down and said, "Your name is Gabrielle and I am Xena, we are friends. You had a bad accident and have been having trouble with your memory. Why can't I break these ties?"

The Bard smiled and said, "Found some strands of golden rope. Seems to hold you just fine."

Xena cursed as she said, "The strands of the Gods, well, you seem to remember that. How long do I have to be trussed up like this before you come to your senses and release me?"

Gabrielle stood as she said, "Set back, relax you are not going anywhere until the village elder gets here."

"At least let me have my clothes."

The Bard walked back over to the fire, picked up the sword and began to hum. Xena leaned back against the stone wall and said, "What am I going to do? She has completely lost her mind."


Chapter Three


Xena's body was wracked with pain as she set staring at the woman she called friend. Ephiny was right about one thing, she had become soft. The old Xena would never have let the Bard attack her like that; she would have known it was coming. She had let Ephiny get in her strikes because she let her guard down and now this. Gabrielle had learned the staff well, she saw the flash as the Bard swung it and before she could react, it had made contact with her body several times. She now found herself in a difficult position. She was setting, waiting for the men from the village to come and take her to jail. Argo nickered and her eyes darted around the room until they stopped on the Bard leading the horse into the main area. Gabrielle was saddling the horse and Xena called, "What are you doing with my horse?"

Finishing what she was doing, Gabrielle turned answering, "Your horse? Seems the horse is in my place. I would call it my horse."

Xena struggled at the ties one more time as she said, "Gabrielle, what are you doing?"

The woman placed several knapsacks onto the saddle. She had changed into a pair of brown leather pants and was wearing a white blouse. Xena could see the woman now carried her sword in a sheath on her hip. Gabrielle approached her and said, "You will be fine right where you are until they get here. I am taking my horse. It's really none of your business but I am going to go
look for a certain blond Amazon." She turned and led the horse from the room. Xena yelled after her but soon there was nothing but silence in the room.

Gabrielle had been gone for sometime and the warrior was beginning to think she would probably never be freed. The men from the village hadn't arrived and she was grateful for that. Thoughts of what might happen to a women bound up like she was at that moment were making her struggle harder to free her wrists. The sound of footsteps entering the chamber stopped her in mid struggle as she listened. It sounded like only one person and the sounds were growing louder. Xena set, her eyes staring at the cloaked figure that was now entering the room. Whoever it was, had the hood pulled up and all she could see from the back was the size. Xena laid her head back against
the wall and closed her eyes. It didn't take long for the person to see her and approach. As the person crouched, a hand reached out to touch the woman's face and at the same time Xena wrapped her legs around the person's neck sending the cloaked figure to the ground. The person flung out hands and was trying to release the woman's grip. Xena scowled, "You'll die before
I let you touch me!"

"Xena! X...!"

Xena stared down at the face of the blond Amazon struggling to release the leg hold that was cutting off her life. Immediately she relaxed her legs and the woman rolled away. "Ephiny! What in the Gods name are you doing here?"

Ephiny managed to get to her knees, doubling over as the woman tried to catch her breath. Xena smiled and said, "Don't get me wrong, I am very happy to see you." Ephiny was now setting as she stared at the woman. Xena quickly glanced behind the woman and said, "Get me out of these ropes."

Ephiny crawled over to her and said, "How did you get yourself in this mess? And where is Gabrielle?"

Xena answered, "First, untie me." Ephiny drew her dagger and Xena laughed as the woman said, "Thought you wanted me to get you loose?"

Xena answered, "If you think you are going to cut these strands, forget it. Just untie me." Ephiny shrugged her shoulders and crawled nearer. As her body touched Xena she reached behind the woman to see how she was tied. Seeing the small strands of golden rope she set back and stared at the warrior and said, "If I knew all it would ever take to keep you in one place was a small strand of rope..."

Xena cut in, "Very funny, now if you have caught your breath, get me out of this." Ephiny leaned over Xena and began to untie the rope. When she was finished she said, "All right, you are free." Xena brought her hands around and began to flex them in and out. She got to her feet and walked toward the campfire. Ephiny followed and as the two women neared Xena turned and stared
at the Amazon. "What are you doing here? Seems I just left you."

Ephiny smiled as she sat down on the ground and said, "Brought you your saddlebag, you left in such a hurry. It had Gabrielle's talisman in it." Xena sighed and said, "Probably sent it along to protect me."

Ephiny asked, "Where is she Xena did someone take her?"

Xena laughed as her face gave way to a menacing snarl she said, "Yeah, you might say that, she has taken herself." She could see the woman was having difficulty in what she was saying as she said, "I'll fix us some tea and fill you in on what has happened." Ephiny stood and said, "If it is all the
same to you, Xena, I'll fix the tea and you tell me what is going on." Xena shrugged her shoulders and sat down. She watched Ephiny fix the tea and said, "I can boil water you know. You never complained at any of the meals I prepared for you in the cave."

Ephiny walked back over and sat down by the woman and said, "Loved every minute of it. You look like you have been through a war, least I could do is fix the tea. Now, tell me what happened." Xena slowly answered, "I've lost her, she is gone."

Ephiny removed her cape as she said, "Riddles, just tell me what happened." The woman turned to stare at the light brown eyes of her friend and said, "Gabrielle, she has lost her mind. She doesn't know who I am. You are right, I am soft. I never even knew she was going to attack me. I have grown too trusting."Ephiny glanced down at the woman's bleeding wrists and said, "Where is your ointment? You need to get something on those." Xena stared down at her wrists and motioned toward a wooden chest. Ephiny rose and walked over to it. She returned with some ointment and cloth for bandages. Setting back down she said, "Give me your wrists, don't argue, just let me
take care of them. Now, tell me about this strand of golden rope. Why didn't you think my dagger would cut it?"

Xena allowed the woman to take her hands and place them in her lap as she watched Ephiny tend to the cuts she said, "Brought it back from Mount Olympus. It's the golden strand of the Gods. Can't be cut. If it was an ordinary rope you should know, it would not have held me." Ephiny finished wrapping her wrists and said, "Tea is ready, let's have some." She crawled over to the fire and removed the small pot, poured two mugs. Returning to Xena's side she handed one to her. Reaching up to rub her neck she said, "As I said before, you have strong legs."

Xena took a drink and said, "It is... Hits the spot. I am so grateful you showed up but tell me how? Where is Ep?"

Ephiny gazed at the woman and said, "Ep had business in a neighboring village and I told her I was coming here. There is no problem."

Xena stared at the fire as she said, "There is a big problem, last time I saw Gabrielle, she was wearing her leather pants and carrying my sword on her hip. She told me she was going looking for a certain blond Amazon."

Ephiny smiled and said, "Anyone we know?"

Xena replied, "Not funny, the way she is now, Gabrielle is dangerous."

Ephiny took a sip of the tea and said, "Sorry. I've never been hunted before, just don't understand why now."

Xena shook her head as she said, "Never would have thought she would have left me tied up like she did. I still have the village elder to contend with."The Amazon said, "Let me guess, she turned you in to them." The warrior nodded her head and Ephiny said, "We'll take care of that when it
happens, for now, you need to rest." Xena looked at her and said, "Rest, I probably will never rest again. I have to get dressed and go after her." She slowly got to her feet and walked over to a wooden chest. Reaching down into it she withdrew several pieces of leather clothing. Doubling over she grabbed at her side and cursed.

Ephiny was on her feet in seconds and ran to the woman, she reached out and grabbed Xena as she said, "Lean on me, let's get you back over to the fire." Xena felt her left arm being placed over Ephiny's shoulder as the woman wrapped an arm around her waist and helped her over to the warmth of the fire. Setting down she looked up into the concerned face of the Amazon and
said, "Thanks, you are right, I need to rest." Xena slowly laid down and closed her eyes. Ephiny picked up a blanket and placed it over her as she heard people approaching the cave entrance.

She walked out to meet whoever it was. Stepping from the cave she could see several men huddled together talking. "You boys lost?" They all looked up to see the woman stepping toward them as one walked forward and said, "Looking for a prisoner. We were told she would be here."

Ephiny stared into the man's eyes as she said, "No prisoner here, you boys must have been given the wrong message."

The man approached her and walked around the woman slowly as he said, "Why would someone have sent for us if there wasn't anyone here? The message sounded urgent."

Ephiny had placed her hands on her hips and said, "Like I said, 'must have gotten the wrong message, no prisoner here.' " He glanced at the two men that were watching the two of them and said, "We have to go back with someone, need to make the trip worthwhile. You'll do just fine."

Ephiny laughed and said, "Sorry boys, I have more important things to do. Now you go on home." The man gestured to the others as they drew their swords and started toward the woman.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you boys!" The men stopped in their tracks as they looked up to see the tall leather clad woman that was approaching them. The man that had been standing close to Ephiny said, "And I suppose you are going to stop us?"

Xena walked up to Ephiny and said, "You and Gabrielle, can't leave you alone for one second and you go get yourself into some sort of situation."

Ephiny smiled as she replied, "You were supposed to be resting."

Before Xena could answer, the man closest to Ephiny charged the woman. She ducked and as he ran past her, Xena lashed out at him with her left leg sending the man sprawling onto the ground. Ephiny smiled down at the other two and said, "Your leader is down, do you really want to join him?"

Giving one another a glance they ran toward the two women. Ephiny called out, "I'll take the one on the right, you can have the other one."

The two men never even saw the feet that glided through the air but they felt the blows that rocked them backwards. Xena stared down at the men and said, "Get to your feet and get out of here, and don't come back! Next time we won't be so gentle."They scrambled to their feet and grabbed their leader carrying him off. The two women looked at one another and laughed. Ephiny looked up at the woman and said, "Thanks, but I could have handled them. Thought I left you resting."

Xena replied, "Let's go back inside. you are welcome and it never hurts to have a little help.

Ephiny smiled as she said, "Too bad that even had to happen. If Gabrielle knew what she had done, she would hate herself."

Once inside Xena walked over and brought back a leather pack. She set it down and said, "Check and see if I have everything I will need for my trip."

Ephiny had sat and was now checking the pack, when she finished she said, "Looks like you have the essentials. Now tell me, you are not thinking of going after Gabrielle alone are you?"

Xena set as she answered, "She won't catch me off guard the next time."

Ephiny replied, "If it is me she has a mind to find, then I am going with you. Face it Xena, with me along you will find her quicker."

Xena had poured another cup of tea and said, "Yeah, but what do I do if the two of you end up facing off?"

The Amazon smiled as she replied, "Better me than some unsuspecting stranger. I am as hard headed as you so get used to it, I am going with you." The warrior set back as she stared at the determined face of her friend and said, "All right, we will leave before the day is over."

Ephiny replied, "We will leave at first light, if you haven't noticed, it is getting late and Gabrielle has a good start on us. If we leave in the morning, it will be easier to follow her trail."

Taking a sip of the tea, Xena sighed, You are right, I was bound up for so long, there is no reason to take off at this time. Guess the Amazons have taught you to track. We both know she is headed for the Amazon Village." Ephiny stood and walked over to the bed and said, "Why don't you lay down, get some rest. I'll wake you in the morning."

The warrior replied, "Can't, I can't lay on that bed not now. The blanket will do just fine."

Ephiny walked over to her and said, "I understand. try to get some rest. We will find her and hopefully before she does any damage."

Xena watched Ephiny take a blanket and make a place to lay down. The woman sat down and said, "See you in the morning."


The next morning Ephiny opened her eyes as she slowly stirred. Her body was sending her signals and the woman was cold. She set up and stared toward the fire. All she could see were a few coals. Jumping to her feet she ran over to it and said, "Xena, where are you? Fire is out." There was no answer as her foot touched the blanket she looked down and mumbled to herself, "All
right, where are you?" She turned and headed for the hot springs. The woman wasn't there and by now Ephiny knew that Xena had left during the night. Shaking her head she picked up her things and left the room.

It looked like it was going to be a beautiful day and she was grateful for that. She didn't have a hard time following Xena's tracks as the woman was heading in the direction she was sure Gabrielle had taken. By midday she felt that she was getting closer to Xena. She could tell by the length between the tracks, the woman had been running and was now slowing down. Ephiny had come to a small stream and was bending down checking out the traces. There were several hoof prints in the soft dirt and two sets of boot prints. As her hand surveyed them she glanced around. It was evident the horse was Argo and one set of boot tracks were Xena's but she wasn't sure about the second set. She was surprised to see that Xena had kept up such a steady pace considering her injuries.

The Amazon walked over to the stream and haunched down as she cupped some water in her left-hand and brought it to her mouth. It was as she reached down to get another handful of the cool liquid that she was attacked from behind. The whirring sound reached her before she felt the mpact of the boot against her side. Hitting the soft dirt she rolled onto her back, and looked up to see the Bard standing above her. Ephiny scooted backwards as she said, "Gabrielle, what are you doing here?" The Bard scowled down at her and said, "Thought you could get away with it didn't you?"

Ephiny was now on her feet as she said, "Get away with it? What are you talking about?"

Gabrielle had drawn the sword and was swinging it back and forth. She stared at the woman and said, "You know what I am talking about and you and Xena will pay!" Ephiny had gathered a handful of dirt and was holding it in her left hand as she stepped backwards and said, "Don't want to fight with you, we are friends and I have no idea what you are talking about. "

Gabrielle moved closed as she said, "I know about you and Xena! The other one was so naive." She pointed her middle finger at her own head and continued, "I felt it was time to take a few steps!"

Ephiny replied, "Other one? Gabrielle, you are somewhere in there, come back. Xena needs you." The woman laughed as she approached Ephiny and stared into the woman's face. "Yeah she needs me like she needs you. Now, you will pay!" Ephiny felt the handle of the sword as it ricocheted across her face throwing the woman off balance. The Amazon rolled as she hit the ground and
was back on her feet. Ephiny reached up and felt her cheek and said, "Xena is right, you don't fight fair. That was uncalled for."

Gabrielle answered, "You will wish you were never born!" A Cold, calm voice rang out behind her, "Gabrielle! It's me you want not Ephiny, turn around!" Gabrielle smiled as she turned to see Xena approaching and said, "You are right, but now I have both of you."

Xena stared past Gabrielle as her eyes came to rest on Ephiny she said, "Thought I left you back at the cave."

The Amazon shrugged her shoulders and replied,"Thought you might need my help." Gabrielle smirked, "What a little love-fest, which one of you wants to taste my sword first!" Xena was within inches of the woman and Ephiny was fast approaching. Ephiny calmly said, "Why can't we all just set down and discuss this like civilized people?"

Gabrielle pointed the sword at the woman and charged. Ephiny sidestepped as the woman turned and charged one more time. Ephiny chided, "You are a persistent one, I'll give you that."

The Bard was seething as she charged again. Ephiny started to move then she stopped and said, "Wait!" The Bard hesitated and in that instant Xena grabbed her knocking the sword from her hand. Ephiny was now charging as Gabrielle yelled, "It's not over till it's over Xena!" The Amazon went to grab the Bard and she disappeared as she collided with Xena. Ephiny stood back and said, "What happened?"

Xena looked around and said, "I believe we were just paid a visit by a certain God that seems to have a lot of time on his hands." Ephiny looked at her and said, "Let me guess, Ares. I've never known a God to be so persistent." Xena reached out and touched the Amazon's face as she said,
"Yeah, almost as persistent as some people I know. That is quite a blow you took."

Ephiny reached up and touched the woman's hand and said, "Might soon call us the two cripples. It will be all right. If you can keep up the pace you have with your injuries this is nothing. Now, hopefully we can continue on this trek together."

All right, it will be easier keeping an eye on you if you are with me rather than following." The warmth from the woman's smile seemed to reach out and envelop the Amazon as she said, "Seems like old times."

Xena sighed and replied, "Such a long time ago and you are still in my thoughts."

Ephiny answered, "What we shared so long ago cannot be dismissed as something passing. We have both grown, but the one thing we have held onto is the thread that keeps us bound. I'm ready if you are. If we keep up with your pace, we should catch up to Gabrielle soon."

Ephiny ran to keep up with the woman. She had been moving so quickly that when Xena threw back her hand and stopped, the Amazon ran into it. Xena turned to see Ephiny setting on the ground and said, "I only meant for you to stop."

As Ephiny got to her feet she said, "Well, you have been moving so fast I was having a time keeping up with you. When you decided to stop I wasn't prepared and ran into your hand."

"I apologize, next time I will turn and motion you to stop"

"Sounds less painful. Now, why the sudden act of halting?" Xena held a finger to her lips as she motioned past the group of trees they were standing behind. She crept slowly and peered past them. In a clearing she could see a large wooden cage and it had several young women in it. There
were four heavily armed men setting around a campfire. She turned to glance at Xena as she nodded her head and pointed down. The warrior acknowledged as she whispered, "Looks like it will be even, you get two and so do I, that is unless you feel you can't handle two."

Making a face at the woman Ephiny placed her mouth on Xena's left ear and whispered, "If I can handle you, two of them should be a walk in the..." Xena had already crept away. Ephiny grinned as she followed her.

Ephiny watched Xena, and the woman was now heading in a circle. She knew that the warrior was going to come in behind the men. She thought for a second then reached up and untied the leather that was holding her top together. Quickly shedding it she stepped out of her short skirt and sighed,
"Ok, here I come." The men had been drinking and laughing as they stared at the women in the cage. "Silas said, "How's about letting them out and we have a little fun."

The man setting next to him replied, "Yeah and have Krikis slit our throats."

At this time the attractive blond stepped into the clearing. "Help me!" They looked up to see the magnificent body that was heading their way.

Xena had been watching from the bushes and when Ephiny stepped into the clearing with no clothes on, the warrior did a double take. Feeling a very satisfied smile play across her face she shook her head and whispered, "Ephiny, what have you gone and gotten yourself into now?"

Xena had never met anyone as uninhibited of her body than this amazing Amazon. Ephiny had taught her so many things back in that cave so long ago. It was an entirely different life and she had to admit there were times she would dream of going back.

The men were standing by now and greedily stared as they motioned the woman closer. Silas replied, "Come on over, we have been waiting for a beauty like you."

Ephiny stood tall and with each step her bountiful breasts moved in rhythm with her body. She answered, "I have been lost and I am happy to see I have found men who can help me."

Silas licked his lips as he replied, "We can help you all right." She was within inches of his face and could see the man's eyes were taking in her form. The other men had been standing, their mouths wide open as they watched the woman approach their friend. He turned to them and said, "What
are you waiting for men, lets help the lady!"

Before they could attack, Ephiny struck out with two fingers sending them into the man's eyes. He threw up his hands and she struck out her left fist sending him falling backwards.

Turning to face the oncoming men she heard the battle cry, and looked up to see Xena somersaulting through the air, as the woman's feet landed on the backs of two of the men. Ephiny leaped into the air and as she came around, sent her left leg ricocheting across the standing man's face. As he faltered she struck out at his stomach with her right foot sending him crashing to
the ground.

Xena was haunched by the two she had slammed to the ground, as Ephiny walked up to her. Xena looked up and said, "You sure know how to throw a body off guard." Ephiny reached out and touched the woman's face with her left hand and said, "Ever tell you, you look delightful a certain shade of red." Xena stood up and walked toward the fire. She picked up a coil of hemp and said,
"Why don't you let the prisoners out and I'll tie up these men."

Ephiny shrugged her shoulders as she searched for the key. Finding it she hurried to the wooden cage and released the women. They stared at her as one stepped forward and said, "We are from the village of Potadiea, thank you for saving us."

Xena had tied the men and was now walking toward them. She said, "The woman who is standing before you without her clothes is Ephiny and I am Xena."

My name is Serena, I know who you are. The villagers all know of the heroic acts of the Warrior Princess. Now, we have this lovely lady to add to our scrolls." Ephiny smiled then turned and walked away as Xena called after her, "Now where are you going?"

Turning to glance at the woman Ephiny replied, "Get my clothes, love to see all that color in your face, but it does get cold." Blowing a kiss she turned and disappeared among the crop of trees. Xena smiled as she glanced at the women from Potidaea. They had been watching the exchange and all now wore the most revealing smiles. Throwing up her hands the warrior walked over to the campfire and sat down. Xena asked Serena if they could get home by themselves and the woman said they had friends in a neighboring village. They would be fine, she thanked her again and said, "Tell Ephiny we said, thanks." She winked at Xena as she hurried off. Xena stared down at the
bound men and said, "Bet that was a first, huh boys? Now, what do we do with you?"

Xena had not been waiting long before Ephiny walked out of the forest. She had her clothes back on as she ambled toward the warrior. Setting down by her she said, "I don't know about you but I feel good."

Xena poured water on the campfire as she said, "Oh, I feel wonderful. Let's go. We can drop these men off on the way."

Ephiny was following behind them and was very happy when they stopped at a village and left the prisoners.

It was getting late when she finally jogged up to Xena. The woman had been walking as if there was a fire she had to get to. "Xena?"

Xena stopped and answered, "Yeah?"

"You're not mad at me are you?"

Xena turned and was staring into the light brown eyes of her friend as she said, "Never, and though you say I look good in red, let me tell you that you look fabulous in goose bumps. You just caught me by surprise." She smiled and continued, "A very nice surprise at that. Now, let's be on our

Ephiny beamed as she ran to catch up with the woman. It was getting late when Xena stopped, and leaned against a tree. Ephiny approached her and said, "I'm tired too, let's make camp, this looks like a good spot."

Xena nodded her head as she said, "We need to round up some wood."


Continued in Chapter Four

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