The Golden Legion - part 2

by Anita Louise


Chapter Four


It didn't take long to find wood and start a cheery campfire. Ephiny was happy to see the flames as she said, "I was getting cold, the fire feels good."

Xena threw out a blanket and said, "Set, I'll put on a pot of water so we can have something warm to drink."

Ephiny sat, crossed her legs and said, "Sounds good, I really am cold." Xena walked over to her leather pack and handed it to the woman. "There is some dried meat inside, may not be the best but it is filling." Ephiny took the pack and replied, "Right now, anything sounds good. Looks like you learned the art of rubbing sticks together to get a fire started."

Xena wrinkled her nose at the woman as she said, "It seems being around you always gets a fire started."

Ephiny's eyes glimmered at the woman as she said, "Why Xena, are you trying to tell me I tend to warm up things?"

Xena sat down by her and answered, "Oh yes, you have a certain knack."

Ephiny asked, "How are you feeling?"

"I'm all right, sore but that is to be expected."

Ephiny glanced at the fire as she said, "I think the water is hot."

Xena got up and poured two mugs, then she walked over and handed the Amazon one as she said, "Enjoy, best diluted tea you will ever drink."

Ephiny laughed and handed Xena the leather pack saying, "Better eat something. After all you need to keep up your strength."

Xena took it as she said, "My strength is just fine except in one area."

Leaning back Ephiny said, "I would certainly hope that being around me might weaken you a little."

The warrior replied, "Only a little? Seems like the last time we were in close quarters I felt weaker than I ever have."

Ephiny set her mug on the ground turned and stared into the woman's face as she said, "About that night, Everything was sending us signals, and we both listened but at the last moment you took off. I would hate to think that being with me appalls you."

Xena's eyes were now gazing into the Amazon's as she said, "Appall? Gods woman being around you is like walking a tightrope. Just one careless move and I'm gone."

Ephiny had moved closer as she said, "I pray to the Gods each day you will make that move. Xena, do you even know what I have been going through? The time in the cave was wonderful. Time heals all wounds but it certainly has not healed the empty spot I still carry in my heart for you. We both have someone else in our lives but that is no reason to shut the other out. I know we are friends, but you must admit, we are far more than that."

Xena nodded her head and said, "You are not the only one that lives with certain feelings. But I have Gabrielle and she is all I could ever hope for and you have Ep. We will always have a certain time and place that we will share but it can never go any farther."

Ephiny laughed as she reached out and touched Xena's face with her left hand, "We can, if you could just get past a certain Bard. She and Ann Bounty were really close and I mean close. They are friends and we are friends this does not mean we don't care for Gabrielle and Epinon. I need some more tea, give me your mug and I'll go get you some."Xena handed it to her and laid back on the blanket. She had closed her eyes as thoughts of the day were rushing through her head. It didn't seem like it was long before she heard Ephiny approaching. Setting up she said, "I didn't realize it but I am tired."

Handing the mug to her Ephiny set and said, "After you drink this, it will relax you and you can sleep. At least I know now, we are starting off tomorrow together."

Xena took the mug as her bottomless blue eyes took in the amazing Amazon that was now setting by her. She took a sip then said, "I guess this is a night for revelations. I believe we both know how we feel about one another, but I never realized I had left an empty spot in your heart."

Ephiny replied, "I know, there is Ep and she is wonderful but you and I share a special bond and a feeling that will never go away."Xena had been drinking the tea, and she was staring into the bouncing flames of the campfire. Ephiny was now tracing the mug with her middle finger. She had
taken it in circles several times when Xena reached over and grasped her hand. "As my hand touches yours, there is an impulse that is coursing throughout my body. Every fiber of my being is alive." Feeling the woman's hand on her's Ephiny stared at it. She was feeling a multitude of spasms and she fought with herself to settle down. "Xena, do you know what your touch does to me? You say you are feeling these emotions, well, so am I."

Xena removed her hand and said, "This is why it is not good for us to be alone."

Ephiny stood up and flung the mug into the night, then turned and stared down at the woman as she said, "You and I could be in a crowded room and the same feelings would be there the only difference would be there would be people to see how much we love one another." She flung out her arms and continued, "Here, you have the darkness and the eyes of the forest watching.
Hang it woman, we are meant to be."

"And what of Gabrielle and Epinon? Shouldn't they be consulted about this amazing disclosure of yours?"

Ephiny had been pacing back and forth as she fell to her knees in front of Xena she said, "I am on my knees, I will covet you for the rest of my, of our, lives and you say you have feelings for me, then why do you keep torturing me this way?"

Setting her mug down the woman reached out and placed her right hand on Ephiny's shoulder as she said, "Never fall on your knees for me. We are equals and have always been." Ephiny moved closer to her and sat. Her brown eyes gazing into Xena's as the warrior continued, "If this is to be a night of truths then so be it. From the very wounded and scared young woman in that cave, to the lovely Amazon who became my friend I will always care for you. We both know that there will always be a strong bond that will hold us together."

"Xena, if you can admit to a strong bond then why can't you commit to our love?"

Xena's delicate fingers were slowly rubbing Ephiny's left shoulder as she said, "After this night it must not be spoken of again." The Amazon nodded her head as Xena raised her hand to the woman's lips. She began to slowly trace the outline of the Amazon's lips as she softly replied, "I love you, I know I shouldn't but I do." Ephiny placed a tender kiss on Xena's finger as she said, "That's what I have been waiting to hear. I love you with all that I am and all that I will ever be." She brought her mouth up to meet the warrior's in a soft methodical meeting of rapture. The touch was titillating as the two fought to gain control of their emotions. Xena pulled away and jumped to her feet as Ephiny cried out, "No! Not again!"

Xena walked several paces away and said, "It can never be. How can a person love two people in one lifetime? I hope the fates are kind because I swear Amazon, you bring out feelings in me that should never be." She stared down at Ephiny and said, "If it is the words you want to hear, I love you and Hades be damn! See you in the morning." The woman turned and disappeared into the night leaving Ephiny calling out her name. The blond Amazon doubled over onto the blanket. She was now feeling extreme pains of a love lost. The silence of the forest seemed to echo back the woman's sobs.

Xena had been running for sometime and had now stopped to catch her breath. She collapsed on the ground as her hands reached up to brush the flow of tears that were running down her face. The woman had never encountered the feelings she had at that moment. Always being a person who guided her own destiny, she was always in control of what she wanted and when. The old Xena would make love to someone just to get her way and she always did. The art to love making was nothing to her but that an art.

The day the Bard came into her life she could feel a change coming on. In the past two years the main change had been in her. She no longer lusted after anyone but Gabrielle and even that was futile until recently. Xena always knew she would wield power of some sort and she relished in her many acts of courage.

Now this feeling had entered her life and was making a shambles of it. She knew the deep feeling she had for the Bard was real and was all she ever wanted. Now, she had been introduced to a past, a past she had let fall into the back of her mind. What was she going to do? Her love for the Bard was strong and she would never give that up.

Her problem, if one could call it that, was the past had now been brought to the present. She found herself in a quandary. She had been setting for what seemed like eternity as she reached down and picked up a rock; tossing it into the air she hurled it with the speed of one of Zeus's lightening bolts
as it crashed into a tree. "Tell me Xena, are you in that much misery?" The voice was low as it rang out behind her. She turned to see who had spoken, it was a man, he was of medium build. As he neared she could see that he was rather good looking. "I realize it is dark and you are probably cold, let me start a fire for you."

Xena watched as he walked over to a small pile of twigs. The man found a few pieces of wood and before she knew it, he had a very delightful fire started. Xena approached him and said, "Who are you? I could have built a fire had I wanted."

Turning to set his gaze on her he replied, "My name is Anteros. You might know my mother, Aphrodite."Squaring her jaw the woman replied, "Oh I know Aphrodite, does she know you are out so late?"

He smiled, "Joke all you want but I am here for you."

The warrior stared at the man. His kindly brown eyes seemed to hold the light from the fire in them as he said, "One thing you never need tell a God, is what you mortals are up to. We keep a good record on your comings and goings. Seems you are in a dilemma and I have come to help you out."

Xena replied, "Good, then send Gabrielle back to me."

He smiled and replied, "The dilemma at this moment does not involve the Bard. It does, however, involve a certain blond friend you have." Xena reached out and grabbed the man by the front of his shirt as she said, "If you have hurt her!"

He reached up and grabbed her hand as he said, "She is fine, if you can call confused, anguished, and longing for you being fine."

The woman scoffed, "Then she is not alone. Now, tell me what are you talking about?"

He gestured to the ground and said, "Shall we sit?" Xena did and he followed. He held out his hands and said, "Fire feels good. Now back to your problem. I am known as The Avenger Of Slighted Love. I know what just happened between you two was something you both wanted. My question to you is why did you turn away from it?"

Xena pursed her lips and said, "It is not right, we both have committed our love to others." He smiled and said, "What can one night hurt? It will let the two of you know how you really feel and the two of you will not be wondering anymore. Best thing for both of you." Xena laughed as she said, "Yeah, and if it's real good and I have no doubt that it will be, what then? Seems once a person gets a taste they will not settle for just being friends."

He reached out and touched the woman on her left arm. The touch seemed to relax her as he said, "You two will always be friends, nothing will ever change that. I am here to tell you I am giving you tonight. It's up to you what you make of it."

Xena shook her head and said, "Can't live with the consequences." He smiled and said, "There will be none. What will be, will be. Then it will have never been. Heed my words warrior, if you don't grasp the night it will be lost to you forever." In a flash he was gone. Xena set staring at the
leaping flames of the campfire pondering the man's words.
Ephiny had cried herself to sleep. She was laying in a fetal position, her arms crossing her chest. The fire had died down and she was beginning to feel chills. The woman's body seemed to be shaking as she mumbled, "Sorry, I'm so sorry Xena." She was having very mixed up dreams and wasn't sure the cold she was feeling was actual. As her body shook again she could feel the
warmth against her back. She sighed and was happy to stop shivering.

Although ignoring it at first it was the nibble on her left ear that caused her to stir. She felt the arm wrap around her and pull her body closer at the same time she sensed the tongue that was playing with her ear. Ephiny moaned as she said, "If this is a dream, I don't want to wake up."

The words were soft as they were whispered into her ear, "Not a dream, at least not now."

The Amazon opened her eyes as she turned onto her back and gazed up at the face of the woman she loved more than life itself. Before she could speak Xena brought her head down and touched her lips with a consecrated pattern of suggestions, easing and caressing. Ephiny's eyes widened and when Xena pulled her head back the Amazon said, "What? Am I dreaming?" Xena placed
soft kisses on her neck as she said, "Can you feel it?"

Ephiny quivered, "Gods yes, more than I ever thought I could."

Xena reached down as her fingers began to untie the leather that held the woman's halter top together. "I love you Ephiny, and I need this night to be one we both wanted. If you would rather I go ..."

Ephiny cut in as she cried, "Go! Never! I am putty in your hands. My body trembles at your touch. I want you more than anything."

As Xena pulled the leather top from the woman, she stared down at the beautiful breasts that were now in front of her. "You are so lovely, I feel as if I have stumbled into a little piece of heaven and it is all mine."

Ephiny reached out and grasped the woman's right hand as she said, "I am yours, do with me what you will."

Xena brought her head down, placing her mouth on the woman's right breast. Ephiny writhed under her touch and Xena felt herself warming from the touch. Her tongue swirled and teased the Amazon's nipples and when she had finished, both breasts were wet and longing for more. Running a finger around the woman's left breast she felt the erect nipple as she said, "For tonight, let's just be close, I want to know what it is like to have you touch me, love me and..."

Ephiny slid a hand down the woman's body and placed it between Xena's legs as she said, "Shh, we will explore every facet of each other. I thank whoever is responsible for your about face. Tonight, let us enjoy the ecstasy of each others love." Xena moaned as Ephiny pulled the woman down. As Xena's body touched the Amazon's, Ephiny rolled and now found herself straddling the warrior. She gazed at the desirous face of the woman as her fingers began to move in a most delicate and sensuous manner. She brought her lips down and kissed the warrior passionately.


The sound of a bird singing brought the woman out of a sound slumber. She slowly moved and stretched. Sitting up she noticed the fire was out and from the looks of the sky she assumed it was early morning. Getting to her feet she started back through the forest. Stopping from time to time to stare at the waking animals that were busily feeding. She smiled and hurriedly retraced her footsteps from the night before.

Walking into the clearing she spied the Amazon curled up into a ball. She was asleep and the campfire was out. Xena approached cautiously as she walked over and picked up the water skin. Stepping near Ephiny she let a few drops fall onto the woman's face. "What...!" The woman had jumped up flinging her hands in the air and cursing. Staring at the grin on her friends face Ephiny said, "What a way to wake a person! I assume it's time to leave?"

"Yeah, we have a long way to go today."

Ephiny walked over to the leather pack and said, "If it's all the same to you, I am hungry and some of this dried meat looks good."

Xena stepped up to her and said, "Take a piece, you can chew on it as we walk."

Ephiny handed the pack to the woman and said, "Don't you believe in eating a morning meal?" Xena had started off and she ran to catch up to her calling, "Wait up!"

They had been following Argo's hoof prints until they came to Amphibolis. It was here that the tracks became mixed with many. Xena was haunched down, and surveying the many tracks. Standing she glanced at Ephiny and said, "Seems we have lost the tracks. Too many and I can't tell which are Argo's."

Ephiny gazed down at the ground and said, "I guess we were lucky to follow her this far. Do you suppose she stopped at your mothers?"

Xena shrugged her shoulders and said, "We can find out. Seems she doesn't know me but there are many she still remembers."

Ephiny looked up at the sky and said, "We have been moving steady all day and it looks like it is getting late. Maybe we can get something to eat and drink. That dried meat just didn't fill me up."

The warrior laughed as she replied, "I have been moving pretty fast. We will stop at the tavern and rest. Maybe someone has seen Gabrielle."

Ephiny smiled at the woman and said, "Good, let's go."

Entering the dimly lit tavern Xena stared around the room. Her mother was no where in sight as she gestured toward a table and said, "This looks good, let's set."

Ephiny pulled out a chair and said, "I can't believe we are really staying put for a few minutes." She sat and glanced around the room.

Xena pulled out a chair as she set and said, "I am really surprised."

Ephiny looked at her questioningly and asked, "Surprised? Why?"

Xena raised her right leg laying it on the table as she said, "Do you realize we have been traveling all day and you haven't come on to me once."

Ephiny leaned forward and said, "You may not have heard the words, but I thought them. Figured after you ran off again last night I had better keep my mouth shut."

Xena noticed her mother coming from the cooking area as she waved to the woman. It didn't take her long to approach the table. Xena stood as her mother hugged her. "Xena, good to see you again." She turned to see Ephiny and walked around the table saying, "And Ephiny, you are as beautiful as ever." Ephiny embraced the woman and when she stepped back Cyrene looked at
Xena and said, "She is isn't she daughter? As beautiful as ever."

Xena smiled as she replied, "Yes, mother, and she always will be. Speaking of this lovely woman, she is hungry and thirsty as am I."

Her mother smiled and said, "I'll go bring the two of you something. Set and relax. It is so good to see you again." The two women looked at one another and laughed. Xena was now staring across the table as she said, "Mother is right you know, you are more beautiful today than you have ever been."

Ephiny grinned and replied, "I know I had a wonderful sleep last night, and feel perfectly refreshed today. That might have something to do with it."

Leaning back in her chair the warrior replied, "I believe that your beauty would show through regardless. Sorry about last night. Felt my leaving at that time was for the best." Ephiny noticed the woman's mother heading toward the table as she said, "Well, here comes some nourishment. And about last night, though it was hard to understand I have come to terms with it. But if you should ever change your mind, I will be waiting."

Smiling Xena replied, "I know." Her mother set the plates of food in front of the women and said, "Be right back with your drinks. Is Port all right?"

Xena smiled and said, "Fine mother and thanks."

Ephiny stared at the food as she said, "Smells and looks heavenly."

Xena answered, "Mothers cooking is wonderful, eat, enjoy the meal."

They had finished eating and were into their third goblet of port when Cyrene walked over to the table and sat down. "Tell me Xena, is there a problem with you and Gabrielle?"

Xena leaned forward as she said, "Why do you ask mother?"

"Because when I saw her she acted like she didn't even know you."

Xena's eyes widened as she asked, You saw Gabrielle? When? Tell me all about it."

Cyrene glanced at Ephiny and said, "She came through here yesterday. Had something to eat and drink. When I tried to make conversation with her she was elusive. I was surprised to see her dressed as she was and carrying a sword. This is so unlike the Gabrielle I know."

Xena seemed apprehensive as she said, "The point mother, get to the point."

The woman smiled and said, "Waiting never was your strong point." She reached out and touched Ephiny's right hand and said, "She said she was looking for you. I thought that strange and became concerned that something had happened to Xena."

Ephiny managed a smile and said, "I have heard that recently. I have no idea why."

Xena had leaned back in the chair, her eyes taking in the two women as she said, "We know, now tell me what happened."

"She told me that she had left the cave. She actually acted like she didn't know you Xena."

"She doesn't. You knew she had a bad accident, seems like she has been going in and out of reality. One day she knows me and the next she doesn't.

Ephiny cut in and said, "That's right, she left Xena tied up while she waited for the village elder to send someone to cart her off to jail." Xena's right foot struck out and kicked the woman's ankle as Ephiny cried, "Owwh!" The look the Amazon was giving her was not one of joy.

Cyrene looked at her daughter and said, "You let Gabrielle get the best of you? Xena this is not like you, Gabrielle is strong but she is no match for you."

Xena scowled, "Let my guard down, before you say anything let me tell you that the Gabrielle you saw is not the same person you and I know. She is every bit a match to me and has grown proficient with the staff. Her time with Ann Bounty had taught her the tactics of the sword. I pray each day we will find her and I will be able to bring her back to her senses."

Cyrene gave her daughter a kindly smile and said, "You will, the love the two of you have for one another will not just evaporate. Now, you will spend the night. Your room is ready, you and Ephiny get some rest. Tomorrow is another day."

Xena started to say something as Cyrene got to her feet she turned and stared at Ephiny and said, "See that Xena gets some rest, you too."

Ephiny nodded her head. After the woman was out of distance she said, "Your mother is right, we both need to rest. If you don't want me in your room, I can lay a blanket outside the door." Xena stood and said, "Come on, you are right. I am tired and from the looks of you, you are also." As the two women left the building and headed toward the back Xena reached out and grabbed
Ephiny's left shoulder. She leaned close to the woman's ear and said, "I don't ever want to hear you say you will sleep outside my door again. We are adults and can sleep in the same bed. The operative word is sleep."

Ephiny laughed and replied, "Ahh but you can't tell me what I can dream." She turned to stare into Xena's warm eyes and whispered, "Thank you, for accepting me." Pointing to the stairs the warrior replied, "Since the day we first met we have accepted one another and it will always be so. Let's get to the room."

Entering the room Xena walked over to a table and set down the leather pack. She slowly turned and looked at the area. "It looks like I never left."

Ephiny replied, "You're right, it looks just like the last time I was here."

Xena raised an eyebrow and Ephiny said, "That time long ago when I was looking for you. I told you all about it."

Xena nodded and said, "Do you have a preference?" She was pointing to the bed and Ephiny answered, "No, I'll take the side you don't." There was a knock at the door and Xena walked over and opened it to see her mother leaning against the wall. "I just wanted to tell you that I have had a bath prepared for you in the..."Xena cut in, "We'll be right there." Her mother turned and walked away. Xena turned to gaze at Ephiny and said, "When mother prepares a bath, better do it. Come on, won't hurt to wash away some of this dust." Ephiny smiled as she hurried to catch up with the woman.

As the two women entered the room behind the cooking area, they were hit with the steam that was spiraling from the water. Xena closed the door and said, "One thing for sure it looks warm."

Ephiny walked up to the large tub. She placed a hand in the water and quickly withdrew it as she said, "Warm, I'd say hot. What does your mother want to do, bake us like some shell fish?"

"It always feels that way to the first touch, trust me, it will be just fine." She began to remove her clothes and noticed the Amazon was just staring at the water. "What's the matter? Don't tell me you are suddenly becoming shy."

Ephiny replied, "Not shy, you should know that. I just don't want to put you in an awkward situation. I will leave and return when you are finished."

Xena gazed at her and said, "I think we can take a bath together. Besides, you don't want to get in the water after me. We might as well wash off together. The water is warm and it will feel good on an aching body."

Xena had stepped into the tub and was now setting and enjoying the warmth of the water on her body. Ephiny slowly removed her clothes and had just stepped into the water when Xena's mother knocked at the door. "Xena, is it all right to come in and get your clothes? I'll have them cleaned for you and Ephiny." Xena glanced at Ephiny who was setting holding her arms across her breasts. The warrior smiled and called out, "Come on in, the clothes are on the floor."

The door opened and the woman stepped into the room. She walked over to the tub, bent down and gathered the clothes in her arms. Standing she glanced at the two women and said, "There is plenty of soap and some nice scented oils." Turning her attention on Ephiny she smiled and said, "See that Xena washes behind her ears." The woman turned and left the room.

Xena felt around the water until her hands fell on the sponge. She reached for the soap and soon was busily washing her arms. Ephiny had relaxed and was now leaning against the tub. She had been watching the woman lather herself.

"Here!" She heard Xena's voice as the woman tossed the sponge at her. She reached up and caught it as she said, "Thanks." Xena had submerged herself several times. Each time she came up shaking her head. "You know friend, I do believe under all that bravado, you are embarrassed around some people."

Ephiny had been washing her neck as she turned to gaze at the woman. "It was your mother, Gods, you and I..."

Xena replied, "We are taking a bath and mother knows that. Never thought I would ever see the day you would be bashful."

"Xena, your mother knows of our past together and she knows I love you. I just don't want any trouble." Xena reached out striking the water with her left hand she sent it splashing toward the Amazon as she said, "Stop! If you don't, I'll ravage you right here!"

Ephiny's eyes grew wide as she stared at the set face of the woman. Slowly washing her chest she said, "Well, never thought my hearing you say those words would put me at a loss for words. I will stop. Turn around and I'll wash your back."

Xena raised an eyebrow as Ephiny moved nearer, the warrior said, "Just the back."

Ephiny held her right hand over her heart and said, "Pledge of the Amazon, I will not do anything unless you provoke it."

Xena smiled as she turned and said, "All right, wash away."

Cyrene had approached the door and was getting ready to knock when she heard the two women laughing. She shrugged her shoulders and whispered, "I'll come back later, it's good to hear Xena laugh."

The water was cooling and Xena finally said, "Better get out of here. Dry off and get to bed."

Ephiny had just re-surfaced and was wiping the water from her face as she said, "I had a friend tell me I should try underwater swimming once. Told me I would see things I never knew I could."

The warrior gazed at her and stepped from the tub. Ephiny watched as Xena's feet stepped onto the floor. Xena had been walking around the room as Ephiny stepped from the water. Xena turned to stare at her friend when she heard the splashing.

Ephiny asked, "Where are the towels and clothes?"

Xena walked up to her and said, "That is what I have been looking for. Seems mother has thought of everything except that."

Ephiny laughed and said, "Well I suppose we both look like drowned..."

Xena interrupted the woman and said, "It's a cinch we look all wet. Now what are we going to do?"

Ephiny replied, "You're the one with many skills, you tell me."

Xena had a wicked smiled on her face as she whispered into the woman's left ear, "Race you to the room."

Ephiny stammered, "Race? Xena, what if people see us?"

Xena laughed and said, "Best sight they will ever see. Come on!" Ephiny stared at Xena's back as the warrior dashed from the room. She looked around the area, shrugged her shoulders and ran after Xena.

Everyone in the kitchen area did a double take as the two women moved swiftly past. Cyrene had been stirring some soup as Xena rushed by her. She dropped the utensil in her hand and uttered, "Xena..." Meg had been cutting a loaf of bread and had brought the knife down on several eggs. They had just recuperated, when the beautiful blond hurried past. They all stared at Cyrene as Meg said, "That was Xena I just saw wasn't it?"

Cyrene had picked up the utensil as she replied, "Oh yes, in all her glory." The women looked down at the wet tracks on the floor and burst out laughing.

It didn't take the women long to bound up the stairs and enter Xena's room. As Ephiny closed the door and leaned against it she said, "That was one for the scrolls. Good thing you are not a teenager now, your mother is not going to be happy." Xena had walked over to a drawer and removed two shifts. She tossed one at Ephiny and said, here, this should fit you." She looked around until she saw a towel and said, "Dry off with this." Ephiny looked up to see it flying her way. She glanced down at the shift and the towel then said, "How about you? What are you going to dry off with?"

Xena smiled and said, "That run dried most of the water off and the rest will evaporate." She pulled the shift down over her arms as it found it's way down the woman's form. Ephiny had been drying off and had now put on the shift Xena had thrown to her. She turned and said, "Fits fine."

Xena walked over to the bed and pulled the covers down as she said, "After that warm bath I am really relaxed." Ephiny walked up to her as she turned to gaze at the woman's eyes. Xena's look was questioning and Ephiny said, "Which side do you want?"

Xena replied, "Don't like the wall." The Amazon smiled as she crawled across the bed and laid down. "Fine with me. Good night." Xena walked over to the table and blew out the lantern then walked over to the bed and sat. She slowly raised her feet and slid them under the covers. Reaching down she pulled the covers up as Ephiny replied, "You really like that many covers?"

Xena smiled, "Well, usually it's pretty cool. After we got so wet neither one of us need to catch a cold. Sleep well." She turned onto her right side and closed her eyes. Ephiny lay facing the wall as she listened to the breathing of her friend. She could soon tell the woman had passed into
Morpheus world. Ephiny hated to face a wall but she definitely liked the other alternative as she turned onto her right side. She stared into the darkness trying to see the warrior's back. Slowly she edged her way closer to the woman. Stopping to make sure Xena was still asleep. Finally she felt
her body touch Xena's and she placed her left arm around the woman's waist. Xena sighed as she reached up and placed her hand on Ephiny's. As her head lay against Xena's she took in the fragrance of the woman and said, "Sleep well." Closing her eyes as a delightful smile eased across her face.


Chapter Five

The Oracle

The woman sighed feeling the warmth of the body she was snuggling against. She buried her nose into the heavenly scented hair that cascaded from the Amazon's head. Wriggling her nose she tried to ignore the sensation of something tickling. Slowly she opened her eyes and saw the blond strands of hair. She then realized she was laying against Ephiny. She carefully moved her right arm. It had been draped over her friend's waist. Xena slowly moved to the other side of the bed and lay still. She stared up at the ceiling for a few minutes, then she turned to gaze at Ephiny's back.

When she went to sleep they had both been on their own side of the bed. What had prompted her to move over to Ephiny? She smiled and whispered, "Never did like to sleep alone." She had grown so used to having the Bard lay with her. And it was not uncommon to find the two of them like she had just found herself with the Amazon.

Xena crept from the bed and walked over to the door. She opened it and peered out. She smiled when she saw her and Ephiny's clothes laying in a basket. Reaching out she pulled the basket into the room and closed the door. It didn't take her long to dress and she left Ephiny's clothes on the
table. Picking up the basket she left the room and headed to the kitchen area of the tavern, humming as she bounded down the stairs.

It didn't take her long to make her way to the cooking area. This time of morning there weren't many customers. When Xena entered the room, Cyrene looked up from preparing bread. She stopped what she was doing and smiled at the woman. "You look refreshed this morning daughter."

Xena set the basket down and said, "Thank you for doing them." Cyrene reached over and poured a mug of tea then walked over to Xena and handed it to her. "Sit, have some tea and I'll get you something to eat. Where is Ephiny? Will she be down soon?"

Xena sat and took the mug from her mother as she said, "Thanks, Ephiny is still sleeping and I don't know when she will be down." Her mother didn't take long to set a plate of food in front of the woman. Xena stared at it and said, "That's a lot, don't know if I can eat it all."

Cyrene motioned to Meg to take over making the bread and she sat down. Xena took a sip as she stared at her mother. Cyrene leaned back in her chair and said, "I hope Ephiny isn't too embarrassed to come down after last night."

Xena reached for a fork and began to dabble at her food. She took a bite then set the fork down and said, "Sorry about that but we didn't have any clothes."

Her mother smiled and said, "Well the two of you certainly have given this village something to talk about for sometime. It was my fault for not taking you the towels and clothes."

Xena's fingers began to nervously tap the table as her mother said, "You're too old to admonish daughter and there was no harm done. Actually, it was a pleasant surprise. This place gets pretty boring from time to time. I tend to forget what it was like when I had growing children in the place."

Xena realized she was tapping and stopped. She said, "Actually, I'm not very hungry. It's just being around Ephiny sometimes brings out..."

Her mother cut in and said, "Now, don't try to tell me that lovely woman was the instigator of what happened last night."

Xena shook her head and said, "No, that was all my idea. But, you don't know Eph the way I do and she is lovely, but, what you saw last night was mild."

Her mother replied, "Don't try to put any blame on her, I saw how shy she was last night in the tub."

Xena leaned back in the chair and said, "You are right mother, I tend to be an influence sometimes. Ephiny would never think of doing what we did last night." Her mother smiled and said, "I had better go help Meg, enjoy your breakfast."

Xena had been staring at the table when she heard the warm words as if floating down to her. "There you are."

She raised her eyes and stared at the radiant face of her friend. Smiling she said, "You sound as if I was lost. Set down, I'll go get you something to eat and drink."

Ephiny pulled out a chair and sat. She watched her friend walk over to her mother, and soon return with a plate of food and a mug of tea. Setting it down in front of Ephiny, Xena said, "Mother says to tell you good morning."

Ephiny smiled toward the woman. She waited till Xena set down then the Amazon said, "You look refreshed this morning."

Xena laughed and said, "So do you, guess a run in the night brings out the color in a person."

Ephiny asked, "Is your mother ok with it?"

Xena answered, "She is fine, thinks it was all my doing and it was. She thinks you would do nothing like that. And that I tend to be an influence on you."

Ephiny took several bites of the breakfast and said,"You didn't tell her what I did yesterday did you?"

The woman smiled and said, "She wouldn't have believed it anyway. After all a person as shy as you were last night would never do anything like that."

A red color seemed to crawl up the woman's neck. Xena was now tipping her head from side to side. Ephiny finally asked, "What is the matter with you?"

"Just trying to see which side of your face is the reddest. It's all right, I would never tell mother after all, you poor thing, having to be influenced by me." Ephiny stretched her right leg under the table and began to rub her foot up and down the warriors leg as she said, "I would love to be influenced by you. Shall I tell your mother it is me that yearns for you night and day?"

Moving her foot Xena replied, "Don't you dare. I was surprised to see you down here so early."

Ephiny took a sip of tea and set back in her chair as she said, "Got chilly after you left."

"You knew I was there?"

Ephiny smiled, "Oh yes, most comforting feeling ever. Don't look so amazed, it was just a hug. Besides, after you went to sleep last night I crept over to your side and snuggled up to your back. You were shivering and that was probably because you didn't dry off. Besides, I can't stand not to have the closeness of a friend. And, feeling a strong arm around me, relaxes me everytime."

Xena shook her head and replied, "You are a wonder to me, I never know what you are going to do next. How does Epinon ever keep up with you?"

The Amazon answered, "Sometimes she doesn't, like now, she knows I'm with you but that is all."

Did you tell your mother we are leaving today?"

Xena stared across the room at Cyrene and shook her head. Ephiny had just finished her meal when the woman approached the table. "Good morning Ephiny, I trust you slept well?"

Ephiny stood and said, "Fine, thank you."

Xena gazed at her friend and stood. Cyrene looked at the two women and sat down. They followed and Ephiny said, "Is there an Oracle here?"

She looked at her and said, "Yes, down by the river, why?"

"Because sometimes they can help."

Xena looked confused and the Amazon continued, "Might know of some cure for Gabrielle."

Nodding her head Xena replied, "Should have thought of that. If you are finished, let's go have a talk with him"

Cyrene replied, "With her, her name is Oleann."

The two women got to their feet and left the room. Stepping out into the fresh air Ephiny asked, "Where is the river?"

Xena pointed toward the end of town and the two began walking in that direction. Xena pointed to a path as the two left the roadway. Ephiny had been dodging the shrubbery. Xena strolled past them as if they weren't there. Xena stopped and stared down at the lone dwelling and said, "There,
by the water."

Leaning against a tree Ephiny said, "I wonder if she has a raven?"

The warrior gazed at her and said, "Probably, might even have a crystal ball. Maybe she will foresee your future."

"You lost me with the 'Crystal Ball.' But if she can enlighten me on my future, I would only want to know one thing." Xena had begun to follow the path downward as she stopped and turned she said, "Yeah, and just what would that be?"

Ephiny grinned as she answered, "You know. Now let's get down there and ask a few questions." She rushed past Xena and the warrior turned following her.

Xena walked up to the wooden door and knocked several times. There was no answer and she stepped back and surveyed the building. It was a modest cabin. The roof was sod and there was a spiral of smoke coming out the chimney. Ephiny had walked around the building and was returning when they heard someone approaching from the river bank. Xena turned to see a kindly looking woman approaching them. Her body was humped and she walked with a limp. "What are you doing here? If you have been sent by Lord Satanic I will not be bullied!"

Ephiny's eyes darted to Xena then back to the woman. She could see the woman had brown eyes and graying hair that fell to the middle of her back. Xena answered, "Lord Satanic? Have no idea what you are talking about. If you are the Oracle Oleann, then it is you we have come to see." The woman approached Xena as her eyes took in the form of this woman she said, "I am Oleann, what
is it you want to see?"

Ephiny stepped forward and asked, "Is it true, can you tell the future?"

Xena gave her a look as Oleann turned her attention to the lovely blond and said, "Someone as lovely as you has need of their future. I may be able to see some of it. Won't you come in."

As Ephiny started to follow the woman Xena reached out and grabbed her by her right shoulder and whispered, "We came here about Gabrielle."

Ephiny answered, "I know, but as long as I am here it couldn't hurt." Entering the modest room the woman pointed to several chairs and said, "Xena, why don't you and Ephiny set down. I need to set these fish in a pan." She hurried off and the two women walked over and set. Ephiny stared
at Xena and said, "She seems a kindly sort. Who is this Lord Satanic? Is that another word of Hades?"

Xena shook her head and said, "No, I have no idea who he is but I intend to ask her. She seemed to be upset when she mentioned his name." Before long the woman had returned and pulled out a chair she set down. Placing her hands on the table she said, "Join hands and concentrate."

Xena interrupted and said, "Are you a Seer also? How do you come to know our names?"

She smiled and answered, "Yes, and I receive my images in many ways. Now, as I said, let's hold hands." She held out both hands and said, "Ephiny, place a hand in mine and you, Xena do the same, now, hold one anothers."

After they did this and were setting in a circle their hands connected the woman began to chant. Xena was looking skeptical and was just getting ready to say something when Oleann spoke, "I see a strong connection between you two. I see a future of love and laughter. Ahh." Ephiny leaned forward and said, "What? What is it?"

Oleann said, "I see another one, she has blond hair. I feel a strong connection here. Ephiny, if you want to know if you and Xena will ever feel the ecstasy of your love for one another the answer is yes."

Xena frowned at the woman as Ephiny squealed, When? When?"

Oleann opened her eyes and said, "What was to be, was, then it has never been."

Ephiny pulled her hand away and said, "Riddles, again I get riddles what kind of an answer is that?"

Xena set back in her chair and said, "Sounded fine to me. Now, the reason we are here is, the other one, the blond her name is Gabrielle and I need to know if there is anything that can be done to help her?" Oleann looked at her and asked, "You speak of the accident and the involvement by Ares."

Ephiny's eyes widened as she said, "You are good!"

Xena said, "Yes, if you know this, then you know what has happened. What can I do to help her? Is there something that can be done to bring her back to me?"

The woman thought for sometime then she said, "Seems the two of you are in a dilemma of sorts. You have great love for others but also for each other. Would it not be better to leave things the way they are?

Xena jumped to her feet and yelled, "By the Gods, no! Even if we are never to be again I want to see her back to normal. What she has now is no life. Yes, Ephiny and I have a past and a future as friends. I will not rest until I see Gabrielle returned to herself."

Ephiny had been watching the woman as she said, "Xena is right, we both want to see Gabrielle return. Our friendship is the most important thing to me and what will be, I will wait for."

Xena raised an eyebrow as she stared at Ephiny and said, "Thought you didn't like riddles?"

"Oh, I have a feeling this one could prove very interesting. That is, if I could ever figure it out."

Xena asked, "About Gabrielle, what can I do?"

The woman gazed into Xena's eyes and said, "You must take her to see the Oracle at Delphi. There you will find the answer."

Xena looked at Ephiny and said, "Let's go, the quicker we find Gabrielle, the sooner I can get her to Delphi." Ephiny replied, "Have to catch her first and the way she is traveling, it's obvious she doesn't want to be."

Xena looked down at Oleann and asked, "You mentioned someone named Lord Satanic, would you tell me who that is and why you were so upset?"

The woman answered, "None of your concern, take your friend and go. You can do more to help the Bard then you can me."

Ephiny stepped up to her and said, "Xena can go, I will stay and help you if I can."

The Oracle smiled at the Amazon and said, "It is kind of you to offer but your friend may need your help. I will be fine. Go, while there is still light in the day."

Ephiny looked at Xena and said, "I am ready if you are."

Xena thanked the Oracle and said, "Take care of yourself."

As they were leaving Oleann replied, "There was another thing in the vision, something about the sea."

The two women smiled at one another as they turned and left.

Xena walked up to the door of the tavern and said, "I'm going to go tell mother good-by, you see if you can get us some port." Ephiny nodded her head and watched Xena walking toward the cooking area. She walked up to the bar and ordered a flask of port to take. She had just set down when Xena and her mother walked into the room. Seeing her, Xena headed toward the bar. "There
you are, let's go."

Cyrene approached them. Ephiny was on her feet as she said, "Got what you wanted, I'm ready." Xena's mother put an arm around the waist of each of the women and said, "Take care of one another. I hope all goes well for you both. And Ephiny, please stop and visit whenever you are in the area. Don't let Xena lead you..."

Xena cut in and said, "I love you too mother. We have to go, by."

Ephiny smiled as she followed the warrior from the room. Cyrene watched the two until they were out of sight then she went back into the tavern.


It was mid afternoon and they had been climbing most of the day. Xena just made it to the top of a steep embankment. As Ephiny struggled to raise herself, Xena reached out and grabbed the Amazon's right hand pulling her up. "Thanks, it's much easier when you help."

Getting to her feet Ephiny walked around and surveyed the area. Xena was standing, her hands on her hips as she watched her friend. Ephiny had just made a circle and stopped. She looked at Xena and said, "And just what is so funny?"

"Nothing, you just amaze me. As many things that you have seen, the beauty of the land still grips you."

She smiled and sat down. Setting down the leather pack she had been carrying she said, "I don't know about you but after that climb I need a drink."

Xena approached and set. She laid her leather pack down on the ground and said, "You are right, I am dry."

"Xena we haven't spoke of it but what did you think about what the Oracle said?"

"I think the Oracle of Delphi might help."

Ephiny looked aggravated and said, "Not that, about us." She handed the flask to Xena as the warrior took it she said, "Us, oh yes, how could I forget."

The blond hit at her and said, "Quit teasing and be serious."

Xena took several drinks then handed it back to Ephiny as she said, "Let's see, what will be, will be and would never have been. Sounds like us, we have feelings for one another and want something to happen but it could never have been." Ephiny got to her feet and stared down at Xena and said, "Well, you certainly know how to ruin lovely thoughts. I certainly hope you
are wrong." Her eyes had spied a shrine on the hill and she said, "I'm going to go take a look at the shrine. Enjoy the port." She turned and walked away.

Xena leaned back on her elbows as she watched the woman walking toward the shrine. Turning her gaze to the sky she closed her eyes. There was a slight breeze and it felt good as it swept across her face. Ephiny had been gone for what seemed like an eternity when the warrior finally got to her feet and went to find the woman. She just walked around a large rock formation when she saw the Amazon on her knees. Xena stopped and watched, wondering just what Ephiny was doing. Ephiny was aware of the warrior the minute she stepped into view. She got to her feet and walked over to Xena and said, "Are you ready to go?"

Xena shook her head and said, "You have been gone for sometime and I was beginning to get worried. What have you been up to?" Ephiny answered, "Just visiting the shrine, it's a sanctum for Anteros."

The warrior replied, "Anteros, the same Anteros that is Cupid's brother?"

"Yes, it is a shrine for those of us that..."

Her friend reached out and placed her right hand on Ephiny's right shoulder and said, "Is there anything I should know. Like did you make some kind of bargain?"

Ephiny gazed into the woman's face and said, "No bargain, to make a bargain with a God is asking for trouble. As I am sure you already know, Anteros has also been known as the Symbol Of Reciprocal Affection."

"In that case we don't need him. We both share a mutual feeling for the other."

Ephiny stared back at the shrine then began walking back to their leather packs. She turned and said, "We share a mutual feeling but I need that feeling to finally engulf us."

Shaking her head the warrior began to follow her friend. Reaching the spot where their packs were the two sat. Xena handed her pack to Ephiny and said, "There is some food in there, eat."

Taking the pack Ephiny said, "You know, it's kind of odd, the night we were so close and you left, I was so hurt and anguished I cried myself to sleep. Yet, the next morning I felt wonderful can you explain this to me?"

Xena shook her head as she said, "No, I felt the same way, but, after a good nights sleep I too awoke feeling relaxed and wonderful. Maybe it was something we drank."

Ephiny laughed and said, "The last thing I remember drinking was your weak tea, don't think that would do it."

Xena shook her head and said, "If I knew it would make me feel that way, I would drink a lot more of it."

Ephiny pointed and said, "I guess we made this climb to try to cut some time. We should be in Potadeia soon."

Xena nodded her head and replied, "As soon as we have rested, we'll start the climb down the other side. You are right, we will be in Potadeia before nightfall. Ephiny?"

The woman looked up from the cheese she was cutting and said, "Yes, is something wrong?"

"No, I just wanted to thank you for coming with me. It has made the trip much easier."

Ephiny reached out and handed a piece of cheese to the woman as she said, "Thank you, for allowing me to accompany you. I wouldn't have missed this for anything." Laughing the warrior replied, "Me neither, now, let's eat and be on our way."

They had a harder time making their descent down the other side. There were a few times the ground crumpled under Ephiny's feet but Xena was within reach and she grabbed the woman. Ephiny heaved a large sigh as her feet finally touched solid ground and said, "Thank the Gods, that was not an easy descent. Thank you Xena, if you hadn't of grabbed me I hate to think what
might have happened."

Approaching the woman Xena said, "You would have been fine, you had a solid grip and it would have held you."

Turning to stare at her friend, Ephiny said, "Can't you ever accept a thank you?"

Smiling at her friend Xena said, "You are welcome and any time you feel like hanging around, I will be happy to catch you."

Ephiny replied, "Very funny. Can we rest for a few minutes?"

Xena set back on a rock and said, "Sure, here." She tossed the flask and as Ephiny caught it she said, "I can use this."

The warrior never took her eyes off the remarkable Amazon. She noticed that Ephiny had several beads of perspiration on her face but it was the woman's arms that caught her attention. The day was now leaning toward evening and as the sun bounced off some low hanging clouds the rays had settled on the Amazon. As she raised her arms to sip the port, her muscles rippled. The way
the rays were playing on her body she looked like a Goddess surrounded in gold and at that moment the warrior was in awe.

Ephiny noticed Xena had been staring at her and she said, "Do I have something on my face?"

Realizing what she had been doing Xena stood and said, "No, just noticing how the suns rays were playing on your body."

Ephiny stared down at herself then said, "From the look on your face I would say it might have been pleasurable."

"It was different." She walked past Ephiny and called back, "Well, are you coming?" Shaking her head the Amazon ran to keep up with the woman.

It didn't take long to make it to the entrance of the village. As the two women walked through the streets they noticed many people had stopped to stare at them. Ephiny nudged Xena in the side and said, "Things seem different."

The woman stopped and looked around then she said, "I feel it too. Let's go see Lila."

A small boy stepped out into their path and said, "Have you come to help?"

Xena leaned over and asked, "Help? What kind of help do you need?"

A woman dashed from a building and grabbed the boy as she looked at Xena and Ephiny she said, "He is but a child, pay him no heed." She quickly dragged the boy away.

Ephiny had been watching and said, "Something is definitely wrong. The sooner we find Lila the better." Xena nodded her head and started in the direction of Gabrielle's parents home. The woman had been knocking for several minutes and there wasn't any answer. Ephiny said, "Seems like no one is home. Where do you suppose they have gone?"

Her hands were on her hips as Xena walked out into the street. She noticed a man standing by an establishment and walked toward him. He saw the women and began to run. Xena quickly looked at Ephiny then she ran and somersaulted through the air landing in front of him. He turned to go back the way he had come and ran into the Amazon. "Please don't hurt me!" the man cowered and
his body was shaking. Xena stepped up to him and said, "We don't want to hurt you, just need a few answers." His eyes were darting around and he had the look of a man that was about to be devoured. He nodded his head and said, "What... I know nothing."

"Oh I think you know a lot. Now, where are the people that live across the street?"

He shrugged his shoulders and said, "Don't know, they packed up and left several days back."

"And Lila where can I find her?"

She should be at the..." He grasped his chest and fell to the ground. Xena fell to her knees as she tried to see what was wrong with the man. Ephiny had been searching the area as she said, "If I am right, he has passed over."

The woman stood and set her gaze on the Amazon as she said, "He has, but how did you know?"

Ephiny pointed to a large raven perched on Lila's parents home. Xena stared at the big bird and said, "So, it's just a raven."

Ephiny replied, "No, I feel an evil presence, Xena we must be careful." The whooshing sound caught the Amazon's ears way before she saw the chakrum strike the bird. As the disc touched the bird the raven disappeared in a puff of smoke. Xena reached out and caught her chakrum as it found its way back to her and said, "Seems you are right. Let's see if we can find anyone here that will tell us what happened." The two were walking down the street and Ephiny reached out and caught Xena by her left arm and said, "There, the woman at the clothesline." Xena started to walk in that direction and Ephiny whispered, "This time let me try."

Xena nodded and watched her friend amble up to the woman. She watched them as they talked and when Ephiny walked back to where she was standing the woman looked at the Amazon questioningly. "Seems there is a little black magic going on. Lila's parents are fine as are the villagers that have left. They are in hiding." She reached out and placed her right hand on Xena's
left shoulder and said, "As much as I have enjoyed traveling with you, I think you should go on and find Gabrielle. I will stay here and see what I can do."

The warrior argued but the Amazon finally won. Ephiny walked Xena to the end of the roadway and as they turned to gaze at one another Xena said, "Promise me you will not take any unnecessary chances. I will come back as soon as I can."

"I promise and you take care of yourself and Gabrielle." Xena nodded and turned to walk away as Ephiny called, "And Xena!" The warrior stopped and turned to see what Ephiny wanted. At that time the woman reached out and placed a soft kiss on the warrior's lips and said, "Amazon custom, if our lips touch one another's it means we will be together again. Take care." She turned and walked back into the village. Xena watched the woman saunter down the street then smiled as she turned and took the pathway from the village.


Continued in Chapter Six

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