The Golden Legion - part 4
by Anita Louise
A UNION OF SORTS
As she neared the center of the village she could see the people had all gathered. Looking to her right she saw Ann and several guards walking toward the group. Picking up her step she headed in their direction. Nearing the group she looked for Queen Melosa. It didn't take long for the woman to step out of the cave and step up to the wooden platform. She motioned for her guards and they prodded Ann up the steps. As she neared the Queen, Ann set her gaze on the woman. Spying Gabrielle Melosa called her up. As her feet landed on the platform Gabrielle walked over to Ann and stood.
Melosa stared out at the group and said, "We are here today to hear a charge made against Ann Bounty." She motioned to one of the women as she left the platform. Sea had now turned to gaze at Gabrielle and she whispered, "What happened to you?"
Gabrielle answered, "I didn't move when I should have and ran into something"
Smiling, Ann replied, "That is obvious, from the looks of your face."
Melosa glared at them and they turned away from one another.
It wasn't long before the woman returned with Megan. As the young woman stepped on the platform she spied Ann and Gabrielle. Melosa said, "Megan, come here."
The woman stepped up to the Queen and as she walked past Ann and Gabrielle she made a wide circle. Melosa said, "You have brought the charge of rape, against Ann Bounty and now it is time to present your case." Megan stared out at the women and said, "I may have made a mistake, Maybe I just dreamt it. I had a lot to drink."
The group began to talk loudly among themselves and Melosa shouted, "Quiet! Hear the woman out!"
Megan said, "I am sorry."
Melosa replied, "Do you realize what you have put this woman through, not to mention the village?"
She answered, "I just can't say for sure it really happened."
Motioning to Sea, Melosa said, "Ann Bounty step over here."
Ann stepped up to Megan as Melosa said, "Do you know this woman?"
Ann stared down into Megan's eyes and said, "Yes, I know who she is."
"Did you manipulate her with drink?"
Squaring her shoulders the woman said, "No."
"Then my last question would be did you have your way with anyone last night?"
Sea turned her gaze to Gabrielle then back to Melosa and said, "I'm not sure what you mean by 'my way.' I was with someone last night."
Pointing to the Amazons Melosa said, "Tell them where you were."
Sea answered, "I would rather not."
Melosa seemed irritated as she said, "If you were with someone could that someone have been Megan?"
Never taking her eyes off the Queen Ann said, "I did see Megan last night." The women made noticeable noises of dismay as Ann continued, "But I did not force myself on her. She left my room."
Melosa looked at her and said, "I understand you met her last night, now you say she was in your room. You also said you were with someone, tell us who? If you don't the charge will stand."
Gabrielle stepped forward and said, "This is ridiculous, Ann Bounty never touched Megan."
Melosa gave her a caustic look and said, "Seems Gabrielle has something she wants to say. Tell us Gabrielle, how do you come to know this?"
Sea shook her head at the Bard as Gabrielle's eyes darted from woman to woman. Ann Bounty calmly said, "You will have to take my word for it, I would never do what Megan has charged. So if she feels it happened then it was in Morpheus's world not mine."
Megan began to take steps backwards as Melosa said, "Megan, what would you have Ann do? What is it you want from this woman?"
keeping her eyes downward the woman replied, "What is right."
Melosa turned her attention to Ann as she said, "Whether a dream or real, you have said you were with someone, you have admitted you know Megan and that she was in your room. It is our custom you do what is right."
Sea had been staring at Megan as she said, "I have a good idea what you are saying but I cannot."
Melosa looked out at the group of Amazon's and said, "Then the charges will
stand!" The Amazons began to cry out in victory as Gabrielle stepped up to
the Queen and shouted, "Ann Bounty was with me in the cave of purification
last night, she could not have been with Megan!" Suddenly there was silence
as all eyes turned to stare at her. Queen Melosa replied, "If this is true,
I will have to think this over. Was she with you all night?"
Gabrielle had seen the look Sea was giving her and she looked away. Taking a deep breath she replied, "Yes, all night."
Melosa was handed a parchment and she held it up as she said, "Megan, place your hand on here and tell me again what happened."
The woman meekly did this. When she was finished the Queen turned to
Gabrielle and said, "Now you Gabrielle, place your hand on this and tell me
what happened." When she was through the Bard stepped back and Melosa turned
her eyes to the sky. She stood like that for several minutes then she said,
"Gabrielle is telling the truth, take Megan back to her quarters. I will
deal with her later. For now..." She stared at Gabrielle and Ann and could
tell the women were waiting to hear what she was going to say. At this time
one of the Amazon's in the group spoke, "They must pay the price. The cave
is a sacred place and not meant for their purposes!" The others joined in
and Melosa raised her right hand and said, "Quiet! I will decide what will be done. This hearing is over, you all go on about your business."
Turning her attention to the two women she said, "Xena is respected here, and you have given me a lot to think about. You belong to her and I don't think she will take this lightly."
Summoning up her courage the Bard said, "Xena and I are friends, if we are anything else that is between us. She does not own me, I belong to no one. I have a mind of my own."
Melosa smiled as she said, "Yes, you do have that, but you also have a problem."
Looking at Melosa she said, "A problem, I don't see any problem."
Pointing to Ann the Queen said, "What the two of you did in the cave is against our law, you are an Amazon Princess. When Ann bounty made it her decision to seek you out there, she broke our law."
Ann replied, "I would say I was sorry, but no harm was done."
"The harm is, now that the two of you have been together there, you have only one choice to make."
Pursing her lips Ann replied, "I will leave right away."
Gabrielle's eyes looked at the woman in shock as she said, "Leave, why?"
Melosa replied, "There will be no leaving but there will be a union."
Gabrielle stuttered, "A union? If you are talking about what I think, this cannot be."
Melosa dryly replied, "It is either that or you see your friend perish because she broke our law!"
Gabrielle answered, "I have to talk to Xena."
"You have already said she has no control over you and that you are your own person. Make your decision now, it will be a celebration of your union or Ann Bounty's death."
Gabrielle looked very serious as she said, "Then the answer will be union."
The Queen answered, "Good, now you both go and prepare yourselves. It will happen on the full moon tonight." She walked from the platform leaving the two women staring at one another.
It all was happening so fast she didn't have time to even think about
anything until late afternoon. She had been given a wonderful scented bath.
Then, someone did her Hair and another oiled her skin. Setting in front of
the mirror she gazed at herself. The image was one of a beautiful woman but
it certainly didn't look like her. Gabrielle had been dressed in the royal leathers and she looked every bit a princess. She wondered how Sea was getting along.
Sea had cursed and fumed at the women as they tried to get her ready for the union. Every time one would attempt to either dress her or fix her hair she would wave them back. "I am perfectly capable of seeing to myself. Now go, get out of here!" Queen Melosa had approached the room when several of the Amazon women fled. She smiled and entered. Ann Bounty was pacing and she was also cursing. "I take it you are not happy?"
Ann stopped as she looked up to see the Queen and said, "It's not that, I very well can do this myself."
The Queen replied, "You should let them prepare you."
"Ann replied, "I don't need anyone's help, it is not what I am used to and I will never be."
Melosa walked over to a chair and sat she was staring at the woman. Ann finally said, "What? Do I have something on my face?"
Melosa replied, "It is plain to see, you are worried. I assume you have never pledged your love to another before?"
Ann replied, "I have, but nothing like this. I do not frighten easily but this frightens me."
Melosa motioned to the other chair and said, "Why don't you come over and set down. You keep up that pace and you may die before..."
Sea cut in and said, "I need to see Gabrielle."
Shaking her head the woman said, "Not until the ceremony. She is also being prepared."
Leaning back in her chair Ann said, "Can't you people just have a regular ceremony, why all this fuss?"
Setting her eyes on Ann the Queen replied, "If it hasn't hit you yet, you will not be making a union with anyone, you will be uniting with The Amazon's Princess. She is next in line to be Queen. The ceremony will be royal." Standing Ann walked across the room turned and said, "I can't do this."
Melosa stood and said, "You must, if you refuse now, you will bring disgrace on Gabrielle."
Shaking her head Ann said, "I would never do that. All right, tell them to come back. But none of that touchy stuff and I will not wear that."
She was pointing to a beautiful two piece leather outfit."
Melosa smiled and said, "I think I can fix that. It won't be long, so get
ready." The woman turned and left.
Gabrielle had been staring into space as her thoughts began to become more vivid. She was feeling afraid. She didn't know why but she was. He knees had grown weak and her stomach was tied in knots. If a union caused a person this much agony she couldn't understand why they did it. It seemed things just went to fast and now she was doing something she was not sure of. Her love for Sea was not a problem but the hurt this would cause Xena was. She knew she would not have stood and seen them condemn Sea. She also knew that the woman would have taken many with her. What a terrible mess Megan's lies had gotten them into. The sound of footsteps approaching caught her attention as she stared at the entrance. Queen Melosa entered and said, "It is time, are you ready?"
Standing Gabrielle replied, "As ready as I will ever be." They left the room together and Gabrielle asked, "Where is Ann?"
Melosa replied, "She will be there." As she stepped outside Ann Said, "From the looks of everyone, I would say you go all out.
The woman that was walking by her side replied, "When it is special, yes."
Ann asked, "What will be required of me?"
The woman said, "Just follow the Queen, you will know the minute it happens."
Sighing she said, "Thanks, you just made it a whole lot easier."
They had walked for what seemed like an eternity when they came to a ledge of rock. The woman said, "You must climb up there."
Looking up Ann could see there had been steps carved into the rock that were leading to the top of the mountain. "That's a lofty climb, just to have a union. Don't you people do anything simple?" The Amazon smiled and replied, "We had better get going, they are probably waiting." As they reached the top and Sea pulled her self up she immediately looked around for Gabrielle. When her eyes fell on the woman she stopped. Gabrielle was beautiful, more than she had ever imagined. She was standing in front of an altar, her strawberry blond hair gently blowing in the wind. The leather skirt and top she wore was remarkable and on the Bard, it was enchanting. Her hair was adorned with flowers and she wore a necklace of ivory around her neck. Leather Gauntlets adorned her wrists and the golden belt around her waist shone as if it was the sun it's self.
The minute Gabrielle's eyes saw Ann, her heart skipped a beat and a delightful spasm bounced across her stomach. She felt as if she would faint. It seemed that Ann's eyes had found the Bard at the same time Gabrielle had focused on her.
The statuesque woman, was dressed in a pair of black leather pants, She wore a leather vest that was held together by one button. Her black boots shone and the woman's arms were adorned with golden bracelets. As the woman neared she could see a lovely ivory necklace adorned her neck. Ann Bounty was breathtaking and she certainly had taken the Bards. As she approached Gabrielle, the woman smiled. Gabrielle's face lit up as her eyes sparkled at the woman. Melosa stepped forward even she was dressed in royal garb. She looked at both women and said, "We have all come here today to join Ann and Gabrielle. Great God of our people, protect them and help them through difficult times."
The woman reached out and took Gabrielle's right hand and Ann's left hand and said, "You will hold hands and pray." The woman fell to her knees as Gabrielle and Sea followed. Gabrielle squeezed Ann's hand and said, "Glad you could make it."
Sea whispered, "For you always." The two women lowered their heads for several moments then Melosa said, "Now, stand, Gabrielle I want you to look at Ann and tell her how you feel on this special day."
Gazing at Ann, Gabrielle could feel herself being pulled into the woman's charisma. The wind had picked up and it was now tossing Sea's hair. As it flowed outward, the Bard felt it would engulf her and she prayed it would.
"Gabrielle, do you not have anything to pledge?"
Looking very serious she said, "I don't know when it happened but it did, I found myself falling into your world and couldn't stop. With every breath you take and every look you give me, my life begins anew. I have grown to value your friendship and while you were being my friend, I fell in love with you."
Sea's eyes were reaching out to her and Gabrielle said, "Yes, Ann Bounty, I love you. I will always."
Melosa looked at Ann and said, "And You Ann what do you have to say to Gabrielle?"
Ann was still as her eyes gazed into Gabrielle's. She could feel the wind as it tossed her hair and was fascinated as Gabrielle's was flowing with the breeze. Becoming aware that everyone was staring at her she smiled and said, "From the first day I laid eyes on you, I wanted to conquer your every being. Then something happened and I found myself being conquered by you. It was subtle, but you slowly worked your way into my soul. I can not imagine a day without you in it. Your smile warms my heart and tells me there is good in the world. If I were never to love again, knowing you would be all I would ever desire."
Gabrielle's eyes had misted and Sea found several tears were now running down her own cheeks. She pressed her thumb into the palm of Gabrielle's hand and began to rub it gently as she said, "I love you Gabrielle of Potedaia, and will always."
Melosa and many of the Amazon's found themselves wiping away tears. She was given an earthen bowl and she walked up to Gabrielle and Sea as she said, "Drink this, it contains the blood of a new life." Handing it to Gabrielle she said, "You must both drink from it."
Gabrielle placed her hands around the bowl and Ann did the same. Then they touched their mouths to the rim and drank the liquid. When they had finished Melosa took the bowl and said, "You are united in love. May the Gods bless you."
Glancing around at the other women, Gabrielle said, "I can't believe it, it has actually happened."
Stepping close to her Ann whispered, "All my dreams have come true. In case I haven't mentioned it, you look marvelous."
Gabrielle stared at the open neck of the vest and said, "And you certainly know how to tantalize a person, you are not wearing anything under that."
Smiling Ann replied, "That's right, and only one button. I have waited for so long. I feel I will wake at any moment and it would have been a dream."
Reaching up Gabrielle gently touched the woman's lips with her's, then pulled back and said, "Believe it, I'm real."
The coolness of the water was now bringing the woman around. Moving slowly she seemed to be fighting to open her eyes.
"It's all right my child, I am here with you."
Gabrielle's eyelids were flickering and in moments her blue green eyes were staring up at the face of Queen Melosa. Starting to move she felt a weakened sensation and fell back on the bed. Melosa reached out and placed a cool cloth on her forehead as she said, "Shh, don't move, relax you are going to be fine."
Seeming totally confused Gabrielle said, "Where...Sea?"
The woman smiled and answered, "Seems she has been with you for days at least in your mind."
Setting her eyes on the Queen, Gabrielle said, "What happened? And where is she?"
The woman had reached over and now held a goblet in her hand as she said, "Try to set up, you need to drink this." She could see the anxiety in the Bard's face as she continued, "After you drink, we will talk."
Nodding her head, Gabrielle accepted the liquid. It took her several swallows before she said, "Enough." And laid back on the bed. Queen Melosa set the goblet down on a small table then turned her attention to the Bard. Melosa stared across the room then back to Gabrielle and said, "Do you remember anything?"
"I, I don't know, Ann was with me."
"Only in your mind, Ann Bounty was never here."
Gabrielle's eyes widened as she said, "I would know, and yes she was. Tell me what happened and how did I end up here?"
The Queen answered, "You came here because you were having problems with your memory. I told you to go to the cave of purification. Do you remember this?"
Nodding her head Gabrielle said, "Yes, Is Ann outside?"
Melosa continued, "When I went to the cave to check on you, I found you had passed out. I guess you had been there too long and the heat overcame your body. You had lost a lot of liquid and were not well. I had you brought here and have been caring for you since."
Seeming more confused than ever Gabrielle said, "And Sea?"
Shaking her head the Queen replied, "Sea was not with you nor has she been here." Setting up Gabrielle replied, "I know she was, what have you done to her?"
Melosa replied, "I know all about it, the days I sat by your bed and tended to you I heard many things."
Seeming apprehensive Gabrielle said, "What kind of things?"
Reaching out she placed her right hand on Gabrielle's forehead and said, "I now know you care very deeply for the woman Ann Bounty.
Gabrielle's voice had fallen as she asked, "I said that? If what you say is true and I have been unconscious how could I have?"
"Because you were having illusions and you talked a lot about Ann."
Smiling at the woman Gabrielle said, "If I was, I can imagine it was pretty mixed up."
The Queen answered, "No, it was very clear, your feelings for her were not confused."
Gabrielle replied, "I have to get out of here, have to see for myself."
"In due time, your strength will return quickly. For now, lay back and rest. I will have some porridge brought in for you, we must get your strength replenished." The woman got up and left the room. Reaching up to touch her face Gabrielle cringed. Slowly running her fingers along the side of it she whispered, "It's swollen." Managing to get to her feet she stumbled across to a table. Picking up a piece of metal she held it to her face. There it was, a fading bruise and as she touched the skin, it was swollen. Seeking a chair she sat down. If it was a dream where did the mark come from. She remembered Lilith hitting her but if it was all an illusion, how did she get this? She had been setting in the chair when a woman walked into the room. She spied Gabrielle and walked toward her. "I've brought you the porridge Queen Melosa asked for.
"Looking up Gabrielle's eyes shot fire as she said, "Megan! What are you doing here?"
The woman set the bowl on the table and said, "I don't know what you mean. I live in the village."
Getting to her feet Gabrielle swayed as she said, "After what you did to Ann and the mess you got everyone in?"
The woman glanced around then said, "The Queen said you had been delirious, I don't know what you are talking about. As for Ann, I would guess you are speaking of Sea Troll."
Nodding her head Gabrielle replied, "As if you didn't know, where is she?"
Megan replied, "She left sometime ago."
Finding her way back to the chair the Bard sat. She stared up at Megan and said, "Then Ann was here. Tell me what you know?"
Megan glanced around the room then she said, "The Queen has told us not to speak of it."
Gabrielle replied, "I need to know, I won't say anything."
The woman had been wringing her hands and she said, "Ann brought the Queen and the village a chest of goods."
Motioning with her hands Gabrielle said, "And?"
"Nothing much more, she stayed a few days and went back to her ship."
Leaning back in the chair Gabrielle replied, "She stayed with who?"
Megan smiled at the woman as she said, "The Queen gave her quarters, she stayed there."
"Did you speak to Ann?"
Nodding her head the woman replied, "Yes, she is so nice."
Getting irritated Gabrielle said, "Yes, she is, but I need to know about Ann and..."
Queen Melosa had entered the room as Megan saw the woman she hurried away. Melosa approached her and said, "I see Megan has brought you something to eat, do eat it before it gets cold."
Pushing the bowl away Gabrielle said, "I'm not hungry for food, that is, I have need of answers."
Melosa replied, "Eat, when you have regained your strength we will talk again." She turned and left. Gabrielle watched the woman leave then she dabbled at the porridge. Megan's words were running around in her head. Ann had been there and Melosa told her she hadn't. This was beginning to become a puzzle and she was determined to find out what happened and just where Ann was.
Finding her way to her chambers, the Bard got dressed and cautiously left
the cave. She had to admit she was weak, she had only traveled a short
distance and had succumbed to the weariness that was overtaking her body.
Seeing a large rock she sat and mumbled, "I don't know what happened to me,
but I do know, I am weak." She set for a long time taking in the warmth of
the sunlight and watching the women of the village doing their daily chores.
After rubbing the muscles on her legs she stood and started walking. Having
no idea where the path she was on would take her, she continued. Several
times she started to turn back but for some reason she continued. Finally
stopping in front of a very high rock ledge. Gazing up at it she could see
there were steps carved into the rock. Glancing around and seeing no one she
turned her attention to the steps. Slowly she pulled herself up. Feeling
several times she would not have the strength to continue. Something inside
of her seemed to push her on as she felt the top with her hands and raised
herself up. Crawling onto a level spot she lay trying to catch her breath.
The climb was hard and Melosa was right, she was in a weakened state.
Having climbed up she had no idea how she would find her way back down. After several moments she got to her knees and then to her feet. The view was breathtaking. The Ocean was far below and it gave her a celestial feeling. It was as the Bard turned she froze. Her heart quickened as she started to walk toward the spot. Nearing it she stared at the Altar. She felt a warmth encircle her and in her mind she could see Ann Bounty standing in this place with her. Ann's green eyes were warm and her smile inviting. Gabrielle fell to her knees as she cried, "It was here, if it was a dream how would I know. Gods, Ann where are you?"
Queen Melosa and several of the guards found the woman passed out in front of the altar. She shook her head and said, "The back way is longer, carry Gabrielle down that way, take her to my chambers." They nodded and picked the woman up carrying her from the spot. Melosa stood for a long period of time staring out at the Ocean. her eyes falling back to the altar. She slowly turned and started back down the steps of the ledge.
Xena had raised her eyes to the sky and she knew it wouldn't be long before
she would be at the Amazon Village. She had no idea what she would encounter
there and hoped that Gabrielle was all right. When her friend had left her
tied up in the cave, she had a hard time understanding it. It had been a
long hard time for both of the women as Gabrielle recovered from that
terrible fall. Pursing her lips she knew it had been Ephiny and her fault.
Gabrielle was too fragile and what she saw was too much for her. She must
have thought that Xena had betrayed her. Taking a long sip of water the
woman set back against a boulder. She glanced around the area and softly said, "I will be there soon Gabrielle, whatever the problem we will see it through together."
Feeling something around her wrists the woman fought to move her arms. When
nothing happened she realized they were tied. Staring around the room she
knew it was the cave and from the looks of things, the Queens Chambers. Why
was she tied and how did she get there? She remembered vividly the climb up
the ledge and the altar. The feelings she received there were overwhelming.
That was the last thing she remembered until now.
The sounds of voices echoed into the room and she knew someone was coming. Turning her head in the direction she saw Queen Melosa entering. The woman approached the bed and said, "Good, you are awake."
Staring intently at the woman Gabrielle said, "Why am I tied? How did you find me?"
Melosa pulled up a chair and sat. She gazed at this vibrant woman whose eyes were speaking volumes. "I found you and had you brought here. The ties are to keep you in one place until you are strong enough to go out on your own again."
With renewed strength Gabrielle began to fight the ropes again as she said, "You can't do this to me, you have no right!"
Melosa answered softly, "I have every right, you are in my province, and you have not been well. I will not see you harm yourself on some whim."
Relaxing Gabrielle said, "I would not harm myself."
Melsoa stood and walked across the room as Gabrielle yelled, "Tell me the truth! Was Ann Bounty and I united at that altar?"
Melosa turned and smiled, "All things will become clear to you. For now, lay back and rest." She left the room and Gabrielle screamed after her. Turning her attention to the ties around her wrists she began to try to squeeze her hands through. The Bard struggled like that for hours and finally succumbed to sleep.
Walking into the village Xena headed for the Queen's Chambers. A guard stepped out in front of her and said, "Good to see you again Xena, wait here, l will tell Queen Melosa you are here." Xena smiled then turned to gaze around the area. The people were friendly enough when she spoke to them but she could sense a difference. Shrugging her shoulders she waited for the guard to return.
She was happy to see the vibrant face of the Queen when she stepped from the cave. "Xena, it is good to see you again." The woman held out her right hand as the two greeted one another. "I can tell from the look on your face, you are looking for Gabrielle."
The tall woman seemed to be uneasy which was not like her. She spoke softly, "Yes, I need to know if she is all right?"
Melosa answered, "If you want to know if Gabrielle is alive, she is that. If you want to know how her mental state is that is another question."
Seeming concerned Xena said, "That is why I have come, I am going to take her to see the Oracle at Delphi, she may be able to help."
"Let's walk down to the river, we need to talk."
Xena answered, "Can I see Gabrielle first?"
Melosa replied, "It is best we talk before that, come on." Resigning herself to the woman's wishes the warrior turned and followed the Queen. As they neared the river Melosa pointed to several large rocks and said, "There, we can set."
As Xena sat she said, "I've seen Gabrielle's alter, and I can't say I think too much of her. Is she still that way?"
Melosa turned to gaze at the woman and said, "I have always felt there was a bond between you and Gabrielle. I know there is a love. How would you react if you found out she no longer has the same feelings for you?"
Turning her gaze to the running water she swallowed then said, "It would cut me and I don't know if I could ever stand to hear that."
Melosa replied, "You better prepare yourself then, because the Gabrielle that is here is not the Gabrielle you may remember."
"Standing Xena replied, "Take me to her, the sooner we start for Delphi the better."
Melosa rose and said, "No, the Oracle at Delphi will not help what is happening to her now."
Xena was really getting aggravated as she said, "Make sense, where is Gabrielle? I need to talk to her. If she has changed, I need to see this for myself. Is she still violent?"
Melsoa answered, "No, she is weak, she is in my chambers." Xena started to walk past the woman and Melosa said, "You will find her tied to the bed. Do not let her lose."
"Tied? Why? What has happened to her?"
Melosa answered, "Let's go, the sooner you see her the sooner you will believe me when I tell you she is not the same person."
Melosa stopped as she neared the cave entrance she turned to Xena and said,
"Go in, and remember what I have said." Nodding her head the woman walked
into the cave. She made her way to the Queens Chambers. Hesitating then
going in she immediately looked for Gabrielle. Her eyes fell on the figure
that was laying still. Her wrists were tied to the bed just as Melosa had
told her. Walking softly the woman approached the bed. She stared down at the sleeping figure of the Bard. A smile crossing her face, Gabrielle looked so peaceful and she was even more lovely than the last time she had seen her. Seemed the village brought out the color in the woman's face because she had never seen the Bard looking so radiant.
Reaching out she placed a chair by the bed and sat. She reached out and placed her right-hand on Gabrielle's left. Xena set in that position the rest of the day. The Bard stirred several times but never woke. Melosa had peeked in several times each time walking away shaking her head. She could not believe Xena was still setting by Gabrielle. Several times the Bard began to toss her head, it was evident she was having a bad dream and finally Xena gently shook the Bard's left shoulder and said, "Gabrielle, it's me. What has happened?"
Gabrielle slowly opened her eyes as she stared up at the concerned blue ones that were gazing down at her. Seeming surprised she said, "Xena. It is you, how did you get here?"
Smiling Xena answered, "Walked, I had to see if you were all right."
Glancing down at her wrists Gabrielle answered, "I don't think I even know what all right means anymore. It is good to see you."
The warrior reached in and removed the small dagger she kept in her breastplate and said, "There is no need for these. "She cut the ropes and said, "There, that should feel better. Tell me why did Melosa have you tied up?"
Setting up Gabrielle answered, "I guess because I didn't want to stay in one place. She keeps telling me I need to rest and get my strength."
For a moment as the two gazed at one another it seemed awkward and Xena said, "I've missed you." The woman leaned forward and pulled the Bard to her. Gabrielle hesitated then she wrapped her arms around the woman and sobbed, "Gods Xena, I have done such terrible things to you."
"Let's not speak of that now, just let me hold you. I was beginning to think I never would again." The warmth of the woman against her body and thefeeling of security gave Gabrielle a pleasant feeling as she said, "Don't let me go."
Xena had moved to the bed and was holding the Bard in her arms. She whispered, "I won't, just rest in my arms, for this moment is all I want. I love you Gabrielle."
The Bard had drifted off to sleep again. Xena gazed down at the strawberry blond hair she thought she would never see again much less hold Gabrielle so close. Whatever Melosa was talking about, she had to be wrong, this seemed like Gabrielle to her. Laying her down on the bed, Xena stood, she leaned down and picked the woman up and carried her from the room. Seeing a guard at the entrance she asked, "Which way to Gabrielle's room?" The woman pointed out directions and she carried the Bard to her room and laid her on the bed. Xena laid down next to her and as she held the Bard close she closed her eyes. It had been a long trip and she was very tired.
Gabrielle woke to see Xena sleeping peacefully beside her. She slowly crept from the bed. Staring back at the woman she turned and left the cave. Stepping outside she took in a deep breath of air. It was good to see Xena again and there were a few things she needed to tell the woman in due time. Setting her sights on Megan's hut she headed that way.
Megan was working on the entrance to the building when Gabrielle approached. "Hello Megan, I still need to ask you about Ann Bounty."
Megan looked up and said, "There is nothing more to tell."
Gabrielle replied, "Oh I think there is, tell me everything you know, about Ann and about me."
The woman seemed to be confused and at that time Lilith stepped out of the hut. She stared at Gabrielle and said, "Seems some people never learn. Megan has told you there is nothing more, now leave us alone, unlike some of royal desires, we have work to do."
A chill traveled the Bard's back as she said, "I will leave for now, but I will return Megan. You hold a few answers and right now I need all I can get."
Lilith approached her and said, "What's the matter, Xena not enough for you?"
Turning to walk away Gabrielle replied, "She is more than you could ever handle." Lilith was smiling that is until Gabrielle did a sudden leap into the air and whirled as she sent her left foot careening across the woman's face. Megan screamed at the Bard and Gabrielle replied, "You want what she just received, come on."
Shaking her head the woman said, "No, why did you do that?"
Walking up to Lillith, who was setting on the ground rubbing her face, Gabrielle said, "That almost makes us even. You may have caught me off guard before, heed my warning it won't happen again." Turning her gaze to Megan she said, "I'll be back for that talk." The Bard strode off leaving the two women staring after her.
She had decided to go check out the hut Ann Bounty was staying in, in her so called dream. As she approached the wooden structure she was cautious. Seeing no one there she entered the room. Once inside her eyes darted around looking for anything that might give her a clue to Ann. The table was setting where she had left it as was the pallet laying on the floor. As she walked over to it something caught her eye. Going down on her knees she reached for the object. It was a button. As she rolled it around in her left hand she knew where it had come from. Holding it to her nostril she could still smell the leather and the subtle fragrance of Ann Bounty. Setting down, she stared at the button and said, "Where are you Ann? I know it wasn't all an illusion, you were here and with me. Gods what has happened to you?"
Getting to her feet she left the room and started back to the cave. It didn't take her long to make it to Queen Melosa's chambers. As she entered the room the woman looked up and said, "Ah Gabrielle, I wondered when you would return. Did you get the answers to your questions?"
Approaching the woman Gabrielle replied, "Some, I know it wasn't all a dream." She set the button on the table and Melosa asked, "What is this?"
Picking it up again Gabrielle said, "Sea was wearing this on her vest, on the mountain."
Melosa stood and said, "You certainly have an active imagination, it is just a button, there are many here."
Gabrielle replied, "Maybe, but this button carries Ann's scent and don't tell me that there are many here that carry that."
"No, everyone has their own scent. She could have left that here the last time she was visiting."
Gabrielle answered, "Like recently, you mean."
Melosa was now staring at Gabrielle and said, "Somethings one should leave alone. You are feeling better, Xena is here, there are things the two of you need to settle."
Gabrielle replied, "I will drop my questions for now, but I will not forget, you have left me more confused than ever. I have the right to know what happened on that mountain top?"
A cool voice rang out behind her, "What is going on?"
Gabrielle turned to see Xena walking toward her and Melosa said, "I have to go see to something, I think the two of you need to talk."
Gabrielle stared at Xena and said, "It is something between Melosa and me."
"Sounds to me like it is important." She reached out and placed her hands on Gabrielle's shoulders and said, "Now, tell me, what happened on a mountain top?"
Looking down, Gabrielle replied, "I don't know what is real and what isn't anymore. I cannot talk about that, as I don't know the answer."
Xena pointed to several chairs and said, "Let's set, Melosa is right about one thing."
Gabrielle looked at her questioningly as the woman continued, "We need to talk."
Nodding her head the Bard followed Xena over to the chairs and sat. Xena was staring at her and Gabrielle said, "What is the matter?"
"After all that has happened recently, you ask what is the matter?"
Gabrielle sighed as she said, "I'm sorry, I had no control over it. I know it was probably hard being around me."
Smiling Xena replied, "Oh, it was hard. Do you remember anything?"
Gabrielle replied, "Only what you have told me. I know I was fine and then nothing."
"When you left to come here, what about that?"
Gabrielle answered, "I remember Queen Melosa that's all when I arrived."
Xena said, "You don't remember knocking me out and leaving me tied up in the cave?"
Gabrielle seemed appalled as she said, " I knocked you out and tied you up? Thank the Gods for your strength."
Xena replied, "Yeah, but you were smart enough to tie me with the golden strands from Mount Olympus."
Gabrielle looked astonished as she said, "I didn't know, I'm sorry. How did you get free?"
Smiling Xena replied, "That is not important. I need to know how you are now, you seem all right."
Although the two women were in the same room Gabrielle's eyes were distant, and Xena felt she was a million miles away. "Gabrielle, what is wrong?"
Gazing at Xena the Bard replied, "My life is in total chaos and it seems I have left yours in a mess."
Xena's look was warm and tender as she said, "I understand, it was not through your own doing, you have been ill. I am just happy that you are here and at least coherent."
Gabrielle looked away as she replied, "I guess I am more than before, it's just, I..."
Reaching out to grasp Gabrielle's left hand in her's Xena said, "You seem to be so tormented. Do you have any recollection of us?"
Turning her head she smiled up at the light blue eyes of her friend and said, "I know you are Xena from Amphipolis and I am Gabrielle from Potidaea. It has been kind of you to let me tag along, and it has been an experience."
Squeezing the Bard's hand Xena said, "Then you do remember about us?"
"Of course, we have become the best of friends."
Leaning back in her chair Xena said, "We are that, but we are more, Gabrielle, don't you remember what has happened since you and Sea were saved from execution?"
Gabrielle's eyes seemed to light up as she said, "Yes, Sea was saved and went back to the Bounty and I went with you."
"About the cave, our vows to one another."
Gabrielle looked at her and her eyes showed no emotion as she said, "I remember the cave it is nice. I'm sorry Xena it seems there is something else you want me to remember, tell me what is it?"
Xena swallowed then said, "We are more than just friends, we have vowed our love to one another."
Gabrielle turned her head away and Xena reached out and turned it back as she said, "You are so beautiful, don't turn away."
Gabrielle replied, "I...I think we should let this rest for today."
"No, it has taken too much of my life to finally find someone that means as much to me as you do. Gabrielle, we have been together, I know your body as well as you know mine."
Gabrielle tried to pull away and Xena would not release her as she
continued, "I love you Gabrielle, it was hard for me to say the first time.
I know I have grown to love you more each day. It has torn me apart to see
you like you have been. We have shared so much and to have you forget what
we have is worse than putting a knife through my heart. Because if you don't
remember us, it will cut me deep."
Staring down at Xena's hand on hers Gabrielle replied, "I'm sorry Xena, I don't remember our being together like that. I know we are good friends and I also know you would not lie to me. I hope I can get my memory back, I never want to see you hurt."
Raising Gabrielle's hand to her lips, Xena pressed a soft kiss on it as she said, "It's all right, you are the most important, I haven't lost you and I know that eventually what we have will come to the foreground. We will have it again. I am satisfied just knowing you are Gabrielle and not that monster you became."
Gabrielle was now staring into Xena's eyes as she said, "You have taught me so much, and I feel I have failed you."
Standing Xena replied, "No, it is I who has failed you. I vowed to never let you out of my sight again. It was only an instant and all this happened. I will never forgive myself." Gabrielle stood and walked over to the woman. Hesitating for a minute she wrapped her arms around Xena's waist. She hugged the woman's back and said, "Nothing to forgive, the fall was my fault not yours. And a certain God seems to want to see us at odds with one another."
Xena felt a weakness in her legs and glorious sensations working their way through her body. The warmth of the Bard against her back was a feeling she cherished. Reaching down she placed her right hand on Gabrielle's and said, "I have missed your touch. When you are near me, it is the only time I can find peace with myself. If you don't remember, having you touch me, brings me great happiness." She had turned and was now facing the Bard. "You mention a certain God, want to tell me about this?"
Gabrielle walked away, she took several steps then turned and said, "I was told that maybe Ares might have something to do with it as well as the head injury."
Thinking for several minutes Xena finally said, "Sounds like something he would try. Who told you it might be Ares?"
Gabrielle was apparently nervous as she said, "I'm not sure, because so much has happened since I have been here and some real and some not. Things I thought were real, Melosa tells me aren't."
Approaching her Xena asked, "Real or not, who told you?" Xena had been watching Gabrielle and for some reason this question was making the Bard very nervous. It seemed she was fighting with the words. "Gabrielle, is it so hard to tell me who suggested it?"
Squaring her shoulders the Bard looked directly at Xena and said, "No, it was Sea."
Xena's face seemed to fall as she said, "Sea? She was here?"
Nodding her head Gabrielle said, "I don't know, I think so, but Melosa tells me no."
Regaining her composure Xena said, "It seems strange if it were not real that you would dream her up. I know I have told you that you still harbor feelings for Ann Bounty but this..."
Gabrielle said, "Forget it, it's not important at the moment."
Xena was now standing by Gabrielle as she said, "It is important and I want to know more."
Suddenly reaching up the Bard placed a kiss on the Warrior's lips and said, "Talk later, I have a place I have to go. Relax, it won't take me long."
Xena watched Gabrielle as she ran from the room. Reaching up she touched a finger to the spot Gabrielle's lips had touched and said, "I think we have been apart too long, I'll think of something to take your mind off Ann Bounty."
Gabrielle ran into Queen Melosa as she hurried from the cave. Melosa looked up to see the blur as the two women collided. The blow sent both women to the ground. Gabrielle was back on her feet in seconds and as she reached down to help the Queen to her feet she said, "I'm so sorry, I didn't see you."
Melosa was brushing dirt from her arms as she said, "That is pretty obvious, what is your hurry? Has something happened to Xena?"
Reassuring the woman that Xena was fine she hurried off. Melosa watched the Bard until she was out of sight then turned and walked into the cave.
Gabrielle ran down the path to the corral. She gazed around for Argo and
when she spotted the horse she whistled. Argo perked up her ears and
galloped up to her. It didn't take her long to bridle and saddle the horse.
Leading her from the corral she mounted the horse and headed up the path
leading to the Mountain of Shadows. The feeling of the ride was exuberant
and she enjoyed the freedom it gave her. The fact that her mind had been
clear for days was wonderful and she hoped it would stay that way. As her
thoughts drifted back to Xena, she also hoped what the woman had spoken of
would become clear to her. If they shared what she said, and Gabrielle had
no doubt this happened she wanted to remember. Her love for the warrior had always been there. She probably fell in love with Xena way before the woman even acknowledged her as a friend and companion.
Reaching the top of the plateau she reined Argo in. Setting on top of this
magnificent animal she stared down at the valley. It was surrounded by high
mountains and they cast a shadow on the land. Her eyes were searching about
the area when she finally spied the curl of smoke rising from a lone
chimney. Smiling she prodded Argo down the steep path. It was as they were
nearing the bottom she was overwhelmed by the smell of cinnamon. Stopping
the horse she dismounted. Holding the reins in her left hand she stared
around the area. Closing her eyes she leaned against the horse and said, "I
will find out what happened, if it was a dream, I will find out. Sea, where
have you gone?"
Argo nickered and she flew open her eyes. She didn't see anyone and continued on the path, leading the horse. As she approached the small rustic cabin she tied the reins to a tree branch, and climbed the two steps to the top of the porch. Knocking on the door she waited for an answer.
Gabrielle heard the words as she went to knock again. Slowly opening the door she stared into the room. "Hello, I've come to seek your advice."
A Woman's voice rang out, "Then close the door and come in child."
Closing the door, Gabrielle walked slowly into the center of the room. A figure rose from a chair and shuffled toward her. Taking in a deep breath Gabrielle said, "If you can't see me now, I can come back."
The woman was within inches of the Bard's face as she said, "Gabrielle, this is fine, come over to the table and have a seat. Tell me what is it I can do for you?"
Gabrielle stared into the face of Quenta, she was the oracle of the valley. She felt if anyone could relieve her doubts it might be this woman. Following her to the table she found a chair and sat. After the woman set Gabrielle asked, "How did you know my name?"
Reaching across the table the woman took both of Gabrielle's hands into her own. As she held them she said, "I know many things and that is why you have come here."
Nodding her head the Bard said, "If you know my name, then you probably already know what I have been going through."
The oracle nodded and said, "Sometimes what one thinks to be a dream is really an illusion of what is."
Looking at the woman perplexed Gabrielle replied, "A dream and Illusion are the same aren't they?"
"Who is to say what is real and what is not. What you feel you have experienced was real to you. Do you think it was an illusion?"
Shaking her head Gabrielle replied, "It was so real, but I need to know for sure."
Looking Gabrielle directly in her eyes the woman said, "Some say that life is merely an illusion played on a grand stage. The answer rests within your heart."
Pulling her hands from the woman's grasp Gabrielle said, "I have gone
through this with Queen Melosa and she has hidden the truth from me. I have
come to you because I know you will tell me the truth." Her eyes were
pleading with the woman as she continued, "I hurt so bad, it is not the pain
of an injury it is not knowing. Please help me."
The oracle reached out and grasped Gabrielle's hands once more and said, "Concentrate, clear your mind of all obstructions and relax. Yes, it is coming clear to me. I have the answer to your questions."
Gabrielle's eyes lit up as she said, "Tell me!"
Quinta replied, "First I must ask you, your love for the warrior woman is it deep?"
Gabrielle replied, "From the memory I have at the moment, yes, I have feelings for Xena."
"And your love for Ann Bounty, is it the same?"
Trying once more to pull her hands away from the woman and not succeeding she said, "I care for Ann."
"The question is not if you care but if you share a deep love with this woman. It is all right, you don't have to answer the question. The way your body moves, the glint in your eyes and the tell tale signs of sweaty palms tell it all."
Your problem if you wish to see it as that is, you share deep feelings for both of these woman. Neither would share your love with the other so you must be careful."
Gabrielle answered, "Since you seem to know all this will you tell me where Ann Bounty is?"
The woman released Gabrielle's hands and leaned back in her chair as she said, "You must remember that what you are asking could cause the end of your relationship with one of them."
Starting to get upset Gabrielle said, "Never, I could never eliminate either of them from my life."
The woman replied, "You may not have a choice in the matter. Fate plays a strange game with mortals and it seems yours is sealed."
Standing Gabrielle replied, "Gods, now you are scaring me, maybe it wasn't such a good idea to come here."
"Don't run from the truth. I know the love you have for Xena is real. I also know you would not have agreed upon a union with Ann Bounty if you had not been forced into a decision."
The Bard had began to pace as she said, "That is true. But this business of my fate being sealed is giving me chills."
The woman was standing as she walked over to the hearth and brought back two mugs of tea she said, "Drink, warm your insides, it will make you feel better." Walking back over to the table Gabrielle set and picked up the mug. Watching the oracle return to the table and set Gabrielle said, "I am ready for the truth, tell me."
Quinta looked at her with a warm glow in her eyes and softly said, "Yes, my child, you and Ann Bounty were on the mountain together."
She could feel a knot in her throat as her heart seemed to leap into it. She was elated as she said, "Then it really did happen? But Melosa told me I passed out in the cave of purification."
"She told you that to try and avoid what is happening now. All your questions and the impending situation between you, Xena and Ann."
Her voice shaky the Bard said, "What happened to Ann?"
Taking a sip of the tea the woman was silent then she set the mug on the table and said, "There is a legend that has been passed on from our ancestors. It is about an evil that will present itself on the people of the land. People will begin to disappear, starting with the women. It is a plague that has been coming for centuries."
Gabrielle was wide eyed in anticipation as she said, "A plague, surely that is not what happened to Ann?"
Ignoring Gabrielle's comment the woman continued, "The leader will carry a black raven on his arm and he is here now. His men have already hit many villages, your home village of Potidaea being one."
Gabrielle gasped as she said, "My family, how are they?"
Raising her left hand in the air the woman replied, "One thing at a time. This evil has been taking the oracles, one by one they are disappearing."
Cutting in Gabrielle said, "And Sea, what does this have to do with her?"
"That evening when you two were so happy an evil presence lurked. It could not affect an Amazon or one of Amazon royalty but it could affect another."
Setting back in her chair Gabrielle cried, "Ann! It got her! Where is she?"
"It happend after the ceremony when the two of you were talking, the large bird swooped down on the group. It's target was you. It did startle you and you fell, it was at this time Ann Bounty attacked it. The raven made the most frightful noises as it kept flying at the woman. She had grabbed a sword and was standing over your fallen body trying to fend off the bird, when a puff of smoke covered you and when it was gone so was she."
The tears were forming in the Bard's eyes as she cried, "No, no not Ann. Where is she?"
Looking very concerned the woman said, "If she is alive, she is with Lord Satanic and his followers." Getting to her feet Gabrielle replied, "I have to go to her, I can't let her die because of me."
The woman stood and said, "You must remember this, she has great love for you and fought for you. But, Xena would do the same. What are you going to do if Xena ever finds out about the union?"
Gabrielle smirked, "No need to worry about that, Amazon custom, if there is no consummation the union is as if it never happened. Oh, the words we spoke will remain, our pledge of love to one another. But, we did not need a ceremony for that as we both already knew."
Quinta replied, "Then you will not tell Xena?"
Shaking her head Gabrielle replied, "Only if it becomes a necessity, Sea nor I set about to have this happen but I have to know where Sea is and try to help her. I need to know, is there anything that can be used against this Lord Satanic?"
Nodding her head the woman replied, "With the legend comes this, there will come the golden four and with their combined strength this evil will be defeated. It is spoken of as The Golden Legion."
Thanking the woman for talking with her Gabrielle said, "The Golden Four, this is as unlikely as an evil presence plaguing mankind. If the legend is true, I certainly hope they come soon. Thank you for all your time."
The woman replied, "If all of my signs are right, they are already here, have a safe journey, you and Xena."
Waving to the woman Gabrielle mounted Argo and started back up the path. She was distraught, she and Ann had pledged their love for one another and now the woman was in danger. She had to go to Potidaea and find her family and maybe on the way find out what happened to Ann. She pondered the legend over and over in her mind, how could four make a legion? They would have to be awfully strong.
Continued in Chapter Twelve
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