The Golden Legion - part 5
by Anita Louise
The Sun was beginning to set by the time Gabrielle reined Argo to a stop at
the corral. She quickly dismounted and removed the saddle and bridle.
Patting the horse, she left the corral and started back up the path to the
village. Stopping to gaze up at the sky she was amazed at the beautiful
colors. It seemed lately the sun was sending glorious colors across the horizon. Smiling she continued toward Queen Melosa's.
Xena had been anxious all day. She worried about the Bard and had been searching for her. Stepping out of the forest that surrounded the area she caught sight of her friend. The woman was hastily headed for the caves. Picking up her step Xena hurried to cut her off.
The sound of a cry and the blurring motion of a figure doing back flips stopped Gabrielle in her tracks. She looked up to see Xena landing on the path in front of her. The warrior was now standing. She wore a lopsided grin on her face and was walking toward her. "Gabrielle, where have you been? It's getting late and I was beginning to get worried."
Smiling up into her friends face she replied, "I took Argo and went to visit the oracle in the valley."
"Why didn't you tell me, I would have gone with you."
Changing the subject Gabrielle asked, "Did you get some rest today?"
Nodding her head the woman said, "Can't change the subject that easily. Now, tell me what was so important to you that you decided to make that long trip?"
Walking past Xena the Bard said, "I had to know if certain things were real or an illusion."
Turning to catch up with Gabrielle, Xena asked, "And did you get the answers you wanted?"
Stopping, Gabrielle answered, "I don't know if they were all the answers I wanted but yes, I did relieve my mind."
Pointing to a large rock Xena said, "Let's set, we can talk easier if you are not walking off. Are you going to tell me what it is you found out?"
Walking over to the rock, the Bard sat. She watched Xena amble toward her and said, "What's wrong with your right foot, you seem to be favoring it?"
Setting Xena replied, "I landed on it wrong today, it is just twisted. Back to you, we have the rest of the evening, tell me what happened?"
Heaving a sigh Gabrielle thought for several seconds then she said, "Before you go and get all upset you need to know that Sea was here."
The warrior's effervescent blue eyes had locked with the Bard's as she said, "I'm ready, tell me the rest."
Gabrielle hesitated and Xena said, "If you think that by telling me Sea was here will get me upset it has, but, I am not naive, I realize you two will always have a connection. So tell me what you have found out."
Gabrielle informed Xena of what the oracle had told her and very carefully left out the ceremony. When she was finished Xena stood and said, "I meant to tell you about Potidaea." Gabrielle was now standing as she said, "You knew?"
Nodding her head Xena filled the Bard in on what had transpired since she left her tied up in the cave. She left out the closeness she and Ephiny had shared. She felt that Gabrielle would get upset and there wasn't any reason to upset her more than she already was.
Gabrielle slowly answered, "Thank the gods, Ephiny showed up. I would hate to think what might have happened to you. You say that you left her in Potidaea?
Nodding her head the woman answered, "Yes, and I hope she is all right. Something strange is taking place there and from what you have said this Lord Satanic is the evil presence the oracle has told you about."
Reaching out to touch Xena's right arm the Bard said, "I am worried about the villagers. Even Ephiny could be in danger by now."
Glancing at Gabrielle's hand on her arm Xena said, "You are right, I will go back and see how things are progressing. You stay here and finish recuperating."
Shaking her head Gabrielle replied, "Oh no, I feel well enough to go besides, you might need me. And, I need to find out where Lila is. I will not stay."
Smiling down at her Xena said, "I always need you, are you sure you will be able to make the trip?"
"I'm ready, lets bid Queen Melosa good-by and be on our way. From what the oracle has said, this Satanic can only be defeated by the Golden Four."
Pursing her lips Xena replied, "Sounds good, but where do they come from and how can we let them know?"
Shaking her head the Bard said, "They are already here and probably know of Satanic."
Xena started to walk off as Gabrielle called to her, "Xena?"
The woman stopped as the Bard walked up to her and said, "About my memory, I know it will come back. The feelings I have for you are here."
She was holding her right hand over her heart as she continued, "Even if I can't remember our being together like you have told me, I want you to know I do love you."
Reaching out to caress the Bard's face with her right hand Xena replied, "And I you. It will come back in time. Let's go."
They started up the path to the caves leaving the sounds of the forest behind them. Both were ready to face what lay ahead of them in Gabrielle's home village.
Ephiny had been following Jonathan for several miles when she finaly called to the boy, "Wait, let's take a breather. That is a long walk, the steepness of the trail is treacherous." He turned and could see the woman bent over gasping for air as he smiled and headed back down to where she was now standing. "I thought that Amazons were a tough breed."
Smiling at the teasing face of the boy Ephiny replied, "We are that, but we also know when to rest. Come set down by me. A drink of water would do us both good."
Gazing down at the thick foliage that encompassed the land she brought her eyes up and said, "Do you come up here often?"
He had set and was drinking the cool liquid and as he handed the water skin to Ephiny he replied, "Sometimes, it's quiet and beautiful."
Pointing to her ears the Amazon said, "The closer we get to the falls, the noiser it becomes. I can go on alone, why don't you go back and see to your mother."
Shaking his head the young man said, "No, I signed on to help you and going back now will only help me. When you are rested we can go on, it's not far from here."
Handing the water skin to Jonathan she said, "Here, you carry it for awhile. I'm ready let's go."
The two started up the steep path once more, with Jonathan leading the way.
As they rounded a bend in the path they were met with the roaring of the falls. Ephiny stared at the water as it cascaded down. Her hands on her hips she stared down at the steep drop as she said, "Why couldn't it be easy?"
Jonathan laughed as he said, "It is pretty high but you have to admit the falls are amazing."
Reaching for the water skin the woman answered, "Amazing all right, that is if you like water."
Walking over to her he said, "You don't?"
Handing the water skin to him she answered, "I don't mind water, just not so much of it."
Leaning up against a boulder the boy said, "Then you may have a big problem."
Following him she sat down on the ground and said, "What do you mean?"
Jonathan stared down at this beautiful woman and suddenly realized Ephiny was now gazing up at him as he said, "It's just that I saw the men go behind the falls. And the only way to get there is either dive off into the water or walk around."
Ephiny replied, "That's easy, if I have my choice of water or land I will pick land."
Smiling down at her he said, "It will take you several days to make the trip around. Why don't you go on, just follow the path and I'll dive down and check things out."
Standing Ephiny replied, "Better yet, come with me. There is no reason to risk your life diving down into that."
Walking toward the edge he answered, "Saving a few lives might be reason enough. That is if you're not afraid."
Ephiny reached out and pulled him back as she said, "I would never forgive myself if something happened to you. This is my journey, you go back."
Shaking his head the boy replied, "I will take you the long way around. Wouldn't want anything to happen to you."
"I suppose you think you can protect me?"
Starting to move up the path he called back, "Nope, you do real good at protecting yourself, I just want to make sure you don't harm the wrong person." Turning to gaze at her he continued, "Actually, I am worried about you and want to make sure you do make it to the bottom in one piece."
It was at this time a loud screeching noise was drowning out the sounds of
the falls. Both looked out to see a large black raven flying toward the
bottom of the falls. Ephiny grabbed Jonathan's left arm as she whispered,
"It's that bird, must mean he couldn't be far behind." The two stared down
at the bird as it circled then seemed to vanish into the water of the falls. After the bird disappeared behind the falls another loud noise could be heard followed by glorious colors that seemed to merge into the colors produced by the water as it fell. It was as if it was an illusion but there
were several figures wearing dark armor and they were carrying the body of a beautiful woman. Ephiny gasped, "Ann! They have Ann!"
Jonathan asked, "Ann, who is she?"
Ephiny replied, "I'll tell you later, but it is important we get down there as soon as possible."
He pointed down and said, "You go around, I'll go down and see what I can do."
Ephiny yelled, "No, you sta..."
He had already dove from the edge and she watched in horror as his body plummeted down. When he hit the water and disappeared under it she softly murmured, "Jonathan, why?"
With no thought for herself she jumped off the edge as her body fell straight down toward the whirling water.
Holding her breath, as she entered the water, she cringed as she felt her body being taken under. Summoning all her strength she fought to make it back to the top and she did. Treading the water she glanced around for the boy but he was nowhere in sight. Holding her breath she dove under again and began to swim around searching for signs of the young man.
Finally catching sight of the boy unconscious, she swam over to him and brought the limp body to the surface. Then she began to swim toward the shore as she pulled him along.
Grabbing the jagged rocks with one hand, she continued to keep his head above the water. It took her quite a bit of time but she finally was able to pull Jonathan onto the shore. Checking his vital signs she began to give him resuscitation. It took several compresses on his back before he coughed up the water.
She set back against the wet ground and stared at him. He was coughing and spitting up water but in a few minutes he was on his knees. Seeing her he shook his head and said, "What happened?"
Ephiny answered, "You did a foolhardy stunt and almost drowned yourself."
He looked sheepish as he said, "And the Amazon that doesn't like water, saved me. Thank you."
Ephiny reached out and touched the side of his face with her left hand and said, "You're welcome, I may not like this much water but I can swim. Don't ever try a stunt like that again."
He was setting trying to take in air as he said, "I've done it before, must have landed wrong."
Ephiny had made it over to a slopping rock and sat as she said, "The falls are magnificent but I certainly don't want to do that again. After you catch your breath, I want you to go back to the village. I am going to go see about the others behind the falls."
He shook his head and said, "No, I am going to go with you."
"It would be easier for me, if you go back. I don't want to have anything else happen to you."
He nodded his head and said, "You win, I will not argue, but it is so cold."
Standing Ephiny said, "I will go get some kindling, start a fire so you can warm up. Stay right there, I'll be right back."
He stared at her as she walked away and whispered, "You'll thank me when I find your friend."
Reining Argo to a stop Xena pointed to a fallen tree and said, "Looks like a good place to stop. I need to get down and rest for a bit and it will probably be good for you too."
Gabrielle answered, "Looks like a nice spot. I do have need to stretch my legs. They are sore from setting for so long."
As the two women dismounted they found themselves staring at the surrounding fields. Gabrielle said, "They are beautiful, don't you think Xena?"
Looking disinterested the warrior replied, "Yeah, another field. And don't even mention smelling the flowers."
Walking over to the fallen tree Gabrielle set and said, "Come on over here, get off your feet."
Muttering Xena replied, "I have been off my feet for miles." Reaching her right hand toward the woman Gabrielle said, "Yes, but setting like that has cut off a lot of the circulation. And if you are already having a problem with your foot, it will just make it worse."
Limping over to the tree, Xena sat and said, "Happy, I am setting."
Gabrielle dropped to her knees as Xena said, "What are you doing?"
Reaching out to touch Xena's boot the woman grabbed her hand and said, "No, it's fine leave it be."
"Xena, I can see from your boot that the ankle is swollen, you have to take the boot off. Let me tend to the ankle."
Smiling down at her Xena replied, "It is good to see you wanting to do something for me, but it is not my ankle that really needs tending to."
Seeming to blush the Bard replied, "Let me take care of this, and if you want me to tend to something else just tell me. There isn't anything I won't do for you, you should know that Xena."
Handing the Bard her dagger Xena replied, "It's too swollen, have to cut the boot off."
Taking the dagger Gabrielle said, "What are you going to do for a boot?"
"I'll worry about that later."
The Bard did not wait for her friend to say anything else she meticulously
began to slit the leather. As she reached the ankle she was very careful.
Just the movement of the knife and the leather of the boot caused the
warrior to grimace and when Gabrielle gently removed the woman's foot from
the boot she heaved a sigh of relief. Staring at the swollen and inflamed ankle she said, "God's Xena, it's bad." She gazed up at the woman and could see she was turning white. Setting the foot on the ground she said, "There is a stream not far, I am going to go get some water and some poultice. Stay right there, don't move."
"Promise, I will still be here when you return."
Xena had slipped down to the ground and was now leaning with her back
against the log. She was tired and the throbbing in her ankle was making her
sick to her stomach. She laid her head back and closed her eyes as she
listened to the sounds of birds singing in the trees nearby. Argo nickered
and she opened her eyes to see the Bard walking toward her. Gabrielle carried a water skin over her left shoulder and a leather pack. As she approached she said, "Finally, you are doing what I ask. Too bad it has taken a sprained ankle to get you to do it."
Xena's blue eyes sparkled up at the Bard as she said, "You have some of your memory back."
Kneeling beside the woman Gabrielle replied, "I've lived and traveled with you long enough. Now this may hurt but in the long run, it will help."
Xena was amazed at how gentle Gabrielle was. She bathed her foot in cool water then carefully applied the poultice as she placed mud around the ankle and then covered it with leaves. Walking over to the horse she took a shift and began to tear it. Then she knelt and began to wrap the ankle in the material. When she had finished she said, "There, it should be as good as new in a few days, but you have to stay off your foot."
Smiling at the woman Xena replied, "We have a far piece to cover still, how do you propose I do this?"
Gabriele stood and said, "I am going to go clean off my hands, when I get back I will set up camp. We are not going anywhere else today."
Seeming surprised Xena said, "I've never seen you so commanding, I'm not sure if I like it or not."
Reaching down and placing her middle finger on the woman's nose Gabrielle replied, "Then better get used to it woman. It will do us both good to rest. Potidaea will still be there tomorrow." Xena watched the woman until she was out of sight then she glanced down at her foot and said, "This is just great. I have to go and hurt my ankle. What next?"
That evening as Xena set watching her friend tend to the camp, she smiled and thought, what a long way Gabrielle had come. She was so innocent when they first met and now she was very worldly. The Bard had developed her own special skills and she definitely was not the woman who seemed to need her help. The glow from the campfire was sending warm light onto the woman's face as Xena said, "The fire feels good. You really amaze me."
Gabrielle turned her attention to the warrior as Xena continued, "When we first met, you were this starry eyed village girl who depended on me and now you are so independent."
Standing, Gabrielle walked over to Xena and sat down by her as she said, "That's not bad is it?"
Smiling at Gabrielle Xena sighed and said, "No, Gods no, it's just hard to let you go." Patting Xena's right-hand with her own Gabrielle said, "Not going anywhere. You have to admit one thing, I am not such a bother now. I can at least stand on my own and help you when there is trouble. How are you feeling? The ankle is it any better?"
Gazing down at her foot Xena answered, "Feels somewhat better, thanks to you."
Leaning back against the tree Gabrielle's left shoulder touched the warrior's right as she said, "This is nice, isn't it? Being here together, the warmth of the fire and..."
Xena grasped the Bard's left hand and gave it a squeeze as she whispered, "And knowing you are this close. There are so many things in the past that I am sorry for."
Gabrielle reached up and placed a finger on Xena's lips and whispered, "Shh, the past is the past." She was taken in by the warrior's eyes as they invaded her own. Gabrielle began to stammer, "Xen... Xena, I, l don't know anyone who has eyes like yours. I feel as if you are touching the very tip of my being."
Laying her head back against the tree Xena smiled, I am trying, I hope I succeeded. I really miss..."
Setting up she turned her head and stared at Xena and said, "Never miss, if things work out and my memory returns fully, it will be as if I wasn't gone. And I hope to make it up to you for the pain you have suffered. "
"And if your memory doesn't?"
The Bard leaned forward and placed a tender kiss on Xena's lips as she said, "Then you will have to teach me all over again. I am a fast learner."
Xena raised her left hand and placed it on the Bard's face as she said, "I love you so much, I know it is always you that has told me, but, I have always loved you. These are not words that come easy to me. With each day I look forward to seeing you, I am grateful to a certain warlord for taking the women from Potidaea, because, if he hadn't I would never have met you."
"There you go again, getting all mushy on me. You know how I get when this happens."
Smiling the warrior replied, "I can hope." Getting her to her feet Gabrielle said, "I'm going to go pour some tea, want some?"
Nodding Xena answered, "I always seem to relax when I drink your tea."
It didn't take the woman long to make it over to the fire and return with two mugs full of the warm liquid. She handed one to Xena and said, "Here, drink, it will relax you and you could use a good nights rest."
As she set down Xena took a sip then said, "I can think of something else that would relax me a whole lot more."
Smiling at the woman, Gabrielle's eyes sparkled mischievously as she said, "I feel it could be an adventure. But for now, drink the tea."
"Yeah, an adventure, ok, I'll drink the tea.
When she had finished she said, "Help me over to the fire, I need to lay out my blanket."
Standing to help the woman to her feet Gabrielle replied, "All done, you just need to change into a shift and I'll tuck you in."
Growling at her Xena said, "I'm not some baby, I don't need tucking, thanks for laying out the blanket."
As they neared it she stared down and said, "Gabrielle, where is yours?"
Gabrielle had walked over to the saddle and taken off the saddle bag. She walked over to Xena and handed it to her and said, "Take your clothes off, and put the shift on."
Xena had been balancing on one foot as she searched for a shift. Finally she said, "Gabrielle, there is only one in here." The Bard turned to stare at her friend hopping on one foot as she smiled, It's yours, put it on and get off your foot."
Collapsing on the blanket Xena cursed, "Blasted foot, as many times as I have done flips I have never injured my foot." Gabrielle had kneeled behind the woman as she said, "Just relax, I'll help you."
Grabbing the Bard's hands Xena scowled, "No! I can do it myself! Like I said before, where is your blanket and shift?"
Setting back on the blanket Gabrielle replied, "All right, be independent, I was just trying to help. I don't need a shift and I plan on sleeping right next to you, hope that answers your question."
Xena's eyes widened as she continued to release the breast plates. As it fell Gabrielle reached out and took the armor. She laid it within reach of Xena then said, "Now, that you have shown me how self sufficient you are lean forward and let me remove this."
Smiling the woman did as she was told and it didn't take the Bard long to remove the leather garment. As she held up the shift Xena replied, "No, if you are not wearing one and that is obvious since it is wrapped around by ankle, then neither am I."
Standing Gabrielle walked over to the fire and said, "Maybe not a shift but I will wrap a blanket around my body." Xena laid back on the blanket, her eyes never leaving Gabrielle as she said, "You know, this Lord Satanic sounds pretty bad, none of us may make it back from this."
Gabrielle had carefully removed her clothes and had wrapped a blanket around
her body as she turned and walked back over to Xena. She stared down at the
voluptuous form of her friend and said, "By the Gods, you are beautiful."
Setting down beside the woman she took the blanket she had wrapped around
herself and laid it over Xena, then pulled it over herself. Laying her head
on the warrior's shoulder she said, "Can't have some passing person, see you laying there like that."
Turning her head toward the woman Xena replied, "Maybe they will appreciate what they see."
Setting, Gabrielle stared down at her friend's face and said, "That is not
like you Xena, to be so hurtful. I can't help it if I don't seem to remember
certain things like you. If it is the words you want to hear, then, you are
right, I don't want any passer-by to see you or to desire you. I know it may
sound selfish but..."
Xena interrupted and said, "It's all right."
Setting up Gabrielle replied, "I'm sorry, Xena, I never stopped to think."
Looking at her quizzically the woman said, "Stopped to think, now what are you talking about?"
"I never stopped to think that maybe you don't want me laying next to you."
Xena was now setting as she reached out and placed her hands on Gabrielle's shoulders and said, "Now, you listen to me, whether you remember our being together or not is not important at this moment. But, you apologizing because you are laying next to me, I won't hear that. If there is anyplace I would like to have you be, it is beside me, traveling, in battle and in anything else we might encounter."
Gabrielle managed a smile as she said, "Then you are not mad at me?"
Xena placed a soft kiss on the Bard's forehead and said, "Never, now, let's get some rest."
She had laid back down and was holding up the blanket for Gabrielle as the woman snuggled under it next to her.
Xena went to lay on her right side as she groaned and fell onto her back. Gabrielle raised herself up on one elbow and said, "What is the matter, are you all right?"
"I'll be fine if the ankle ever gets better, I forgot about it and hit it just now."
Gabrielle thought for a second then said, "Maybe you should let me check it."
Gazing into the Bard's face, Xena whispered, "I'd rather you tended to something else." The longing in her eyes as well as the look on her face seemed to weaken the Bard as she said, "I, I don't know, I don't want to be a disappointment."
Xena reached up and placed her right hand on the back of Gabrielle's neck. She slowly brought the woman down toward her as she said, "You are never and will never be a disappointment to me. Just lay with me, that is all I ask."
Gabrielle's face was within inches of Xena's as she said, "I love you Xena."
The warrior raised her head as her lips sought the Bard's. Gabrielle
hesitated at first then slowly her lips caressed Xena's. Her breasts were
now touching the woman. And as she moved, Xena's seemed to rise to meet
them. The warmth the two were feeling was definitely not from the campfire.
Raising her head Gabrielle said, "Xen..."
Xena's tongue seductively crept into the Bard's mouth, as Gabrielle writhed in ecstasy.
The flickering flames of the campfire were now playing on the movement under the blanket as the sounds of rapture echoed through out the camp.
Ann slowly opened her eyes. It seemed to be difficult at first to focus them as everything was hazy. She tried to set up but fell back, her head was extremely foggy and it seemed her body did not want to do her bidding.
"Are you all right?"
She turned her head to see where the words were coming from. Her eyes looked up at a lovely woman. She had hair the color of dark sand and eyes to match. There was something about the woman's features that made Ann feel at ease. "Who... Where am I?"
The woman had crawled nearer as she said, "You have been taken prisoner by Lord Satanic and his evil bunch."
Ann pushed herself up against the stone wall and was setting. She was able to get a better look at the woman as she said, "Who are you? And who is this Satanic?"
"My name is Lila, I come from the village of Potidaea."
Alert now the woman said, "Potidaea? Then you might know Gabrielle?"
Smiling the woman replied, "I should, we grew up together, Gabrielle is my sister."
Ann's eyes were surveying this woman and she finally said, "Gabrielle... Gods! Is she here also?"
Lila looked startled as she said, "You know Gabrielle? No, she is not here. Why did you think she would be?"
Sea was now aware of the coolness she was feeling as she glanced down at her vest. The button was gone and it was open, the material had fallen back, exposing her breasts. She grasped the leather and pulled it together as she said, "Sorry about that, It was buttoned last time I looked."
Lila set back as she stared at the woman. Sea was becoming uneasy and she finally said, What is the matter?"
Gazing around the room then setting her eyes back on Ann she replied, "If I was to make a wild guess I might think you would be Ann Bounty."
Sea was the amazed one now as she said, "How...?"
"Then you are the amazing Sea Troll, that Gabrielle goes on an on about."
Bringing her knees to her chest, Ann stared at Lila and said, "Guilty, I hope she hasn't talked about me too much."
Lila replied, "Enough, she is in awe of Xena and follows her everywhere. The two of them share a deep love for one another but when she talks of you I see a difference. In the beginning I didn't believe her, a woman pirate and one taking a fancy to my sister was funny."
Sea's eyes were misting as she said, "Believe it, your sister has taken me on a different path. She is the most amazing woman I have ever met."
"By the Gods, it is real, it did happen. My sister had been traveling the ocean on a pirate ship."
Nodding her head Sea said, "She takes to water like a true pirate."
Lila asked, "You seem to think that Gabrielle might be here, what can you tell me about her?"
Sea filled the woman in on what had happened. She felt it would not do anyone any good to tell about the ceremony. When she was finished she said, "We have to get out of here."
Lila replied, "Easier said than done, this Satanic is evil, he seems to come and go at will. He has evil powers working with him."
Lila told her what had been happening and when she finished Sea stared around the room at the huddled figures and said, "You are telling me that this Satanic's raven, has..."
"Yes, he feeds one of us to the thing every day. It is horrible. The cries of horror and pain as the raven picks at it's meal is blood curdling."
Ann reached out and placed her right hand on Lila's and said, "I will see what I can do."
Sighing the woman replied, "There is nothing that can be done, each day that thing grows and he talks of taking over the lands."
Sea was now standing and as she swayed Lila reached out to help steady her. Thanking the woman Ann said, "It must have happened to me when that bird attacked Gabrielle." I don't know what they did to me but I feel like I have been on a good bender for days."
Lila gave the woman support as she checked each person in the cramped quarters. Staring at the large iron door she said, "The door, I take it, is the only way out of here. I have checked the entire area and can't even find a small hole."
The sounds of people approaching sent the two women further back into the room. Ann watched as the door swung open. It made a sound that sent shivers up and down her body. The light from the other side was finding its way into the darkened room.
The tall figure dressed in a dark robe walked to the entrance. The light from behind was silhouetting the form. Stepping into the room he reached up and removed the hood that had adorned his head. His eyes had circled the room and were now setting on the tall woman who glared at him in defiance.
"Ah, I hope you have found your accommodations satisfactory."
"I don't find this very humorous. I don't know who you are but you have made a big mistake sending that flying thing after my friend."
He stepped further into the room and said, "I have you here, don't I? It won't be long before I also have your little friend."
Seething Ann stepped toward the man and said, "Leave Gabrielle out of this!" Laughing the man replied, "Can't, there are only four that can stop me and she happens to be one of them."
Seeming surprised she asked, "Gabrielle? She doesn't even know who you are, how could she stop you. You mention four, do you know who they are?"
He was now staring at Lila as he said, "I have a good idea and as soon as I rid the world of the only threat against me it will all be mine."
"You people with all your big ideas of overthrowing the world are pathetic!"
He snarled, "After you hear a few people cry for mercy and listen to their skin being ripped from their bodies it might change your mind."
Her eyes locked with his as she said, "I'm not going to just stand here and let you do it!"
He ignored her remark and turned to his men and said, "Take the woman who stands by this one!"
Lila cowered as Sea stepped in front of the men and said, "I don't think so, the young lady has better things to do!" She struck out with her right fist as it smashed into the oncoming man's face. He fell back and she leaped into the air sending her left leg across the second man's head. Within seconds she had incapacitated the men and was now standing in front of Lila.
Satanic smiled and said, "I let you do that, I wanted to see just how strong you are, now I know and I can't have it." He raised his hand and pointed it at her sending a flash of light from his fingers. It struck Sea in the chest sending the woman spiraling backwards. Her body crashed into the rock and fell limp. He waved at his men and said, "Tie that one up, I don't want anymore trouble from her." turning to stare at Lila he said, "That seems to be this ones problem, she has feelings, too bad, she would be good fighting on my side. You have been saved for today but your time will come." He turned and left the room. His men reached down and grabbed Sea, raised her to her feet and dragged the woman across the floor. Her vest had fallen back. The two men stared down at her and said, "Wonder if Satanic would care?"
Lila had approached them, she was holding a stick of wood in her hands as
she said, "You touch her and I'll kill you!" They turned to stare at this
village woman. The man closest to her lashed out and knocked the wood from
Lila's hand as he said, "It looks like the women have all the spunk in this
village. Come on, lets get her tied to the wall. Satanic will be looking for
us. I don't know about you, but I don't want to become food for his pet."
Turning to stare at Lila he said, "Next time, I will teach you a lesson."
The two men turned and left the room. Lila hurried up to Sea. She reached
out and patted the woman's face and said, "Ann, are you all right?"
Ann didn't answer as Lila stood and stared at the woman.
"She is the most striking woman I have ever seen."
Lila turned to stare at Jarred and said, "She is that, and foolhardy."
He said, "If she hadn't done what she did, you would be food for that thing now."
Shivering Lila replied, "I know, but look where it got her." She noticed the man's eyes had rested on Sea's breasts and she said, "Go take yourself somewhere else before I bop you one,"
He smiled, turned and walked back toward a group of people. Lila walked up to several men and said, "I have need of a shirt, which one of you is going to be a gentleman and give me the shirt off his back?"
They looked at one another, then one stood and removed his and handed it to her as he said, "I sure hope you are going to put this to good use."
Thanking the man she replied, "The best use it has had in sometime, thanks." They watched as she walked back toward Sea.
The woman was hanging limply from manacles, her wrists were straining as Lila placed her body against Ann's and gently pushed her up, relieving the pressure on the woman's wrists. Pulling the leather vest back. she stared at the dark mark in the center of the woman's chest. Without thinking she touched the spot with her right hand. It was still warm from whatever had struck her. At first she felt embarrassed to be touching this beautiful woman. Then swallowing she began to slowly rub the spot. As she was doing this she could hear Sea groaning and knew the woman was coming out of it. Taking the shirt she placed it on Sea's chest and took the sleeves and wrapped them around the womans neck as she reached back and tied them together. Reaching down she tucked the front of the shirt into the woman's pants then reached back and pulled the vest over the shirt. Staring at her handiwork she whispered, "At least you are covered now."
Looking up, her eyes met Sea's green ones. She seemed to be mesmerized and locked in time as Sea whispered, "Lila, what..."
Focusing herself the woman replied, "Satanic hit you with something, I was getting worried, you took quite a jolt."
Trying to move Sea cursed, "Blast it! They have gone and bound me. Can you get me lose?"
Shaking her head Lila said, "It's metal, don't have the key. How are you feeling?" Glancing down Sea could see the makeshift shirt that was adorning her chest as she said, "This your idea?"
Lila nodded as she said, "Those men were lusting after you."
Sea replied, "What stopped them?"
Lila replied, "I told them not to harm you. I think they thought better of it because of Satanic."
Smiling Sea replied, "Thank you, its been awhile since I've had anyone this close."
Realizing she was still holding her body against Sea's Lila stammered, "I, I was trying to ease your wrists, they were straining against the metal." She stepped back.
Sea stared at her and said, "It's all right, I'm just sorry I wasn't awake to..."
Lila quickly said, "I'm nothing like my sister if that's what you think."
"I don't know what it is you are talking about. I'm sorry I wasn't awake to stand on my own feet and not have to put you in the position you seem to be in at the moment."
Lila seemed flustered as Sea continued, "And, you seem to have a lot of your sisters qualities. Thank you for making me decent again."
Smiling Lila answered, "Thank you, for making an awkward situation tolerable. I'm going to get some water, you look like you could use a drink."
Sea watched the woman walk off as she whispered, "You are more like Gabrielle than you are willing to admit." She was fully awake by now and was trying to free her hands but to no avail.
Lila had walked over to a group of people. She searched for the water skin and upon seeing it she walked over and picked it up. Her good friend Juliana reached out and grabbed her right hand and said, "What has you so flustered?"
Staring down at the woman Lila replied, "I'm not flustered. I'm frightened."
"Well, I've seen that look before and it sure looks like you are flustered. Was good of the woman to save your life don't you think?"
Nodding her head she turned and walked back toward Sea. Her friends words were running around in her head as she whispered, "Anyone would seem flustered if they were in a situation like this."
Ann raised her head when she heard the woman's footsteps approaching. Lila held the water skin to the woman's mouth and said, "Here drink."
Ann accepted the cool liquid and when she was finished she thanked the woman.
Lila started to turn away as Ann Said, "Don't go, I would like to talk with you. I've never met any of Gabrielle's family. I could use the company."
Turning back Lila said, "All right, I will stay by you. Is there something you would like to know about Gabrielle?"
Shaking her head the woman replied, "I know Gabrielle well, l would like to know about her family."
Lila started to speak as Ann cut in, "And I would love to hear about you."
Lila sat down on the dirt floor as she said, "Nothing to tell as far as I am concerned, I'm not like Gabrielle, I enjoy staying home. I'm not looking for an adventure and I am definitely not a story teller."
Straining at the manacles Sea replied, "You don't give yourself very much credit. The two of you could not be that different. With family, there is the tie that will bind one to another."
"Oh don't get me wrong, I love my sister, and every day I miss her terribly. It's just she wanted to follow Xena and I just want to get married and settle down."
Sea scoffed, "Well, marriage is not what it is always cracked up to be. I think if that is what you want, then you will have it."
Lila leaned back against the wall and said, "I do admit when Gabrielle talks about her adventures and the places she has been I tend to get a little envious."
Sea replied, "Why don't you go with her sometime?"
"Yeah, I would probably be in the way."
Shaking the chains once more she strained as she tried to loosen them from the wall. Finally saying, "Anyone have a knife? You could start to dig into the mortar surrounding the rock and maybe we can get these things lose."
Lila stood and said, "I will go and ask." She walked away leaving Ann to struggle with the manacles that seemed to have a death hold on her wrists. Laying her head back against the cool rock her mind drifted back to the mountain top and the beautiful woman that pledged her love to her. Smiling she said, "The most beautiful sight in the world, I hope you are all right and whatever you do, do not come here. Satanic has some misconception you are one of four that will stop his tyranny."
"Are you talking to me?"
She looked up to see Lila approaching as she said, "No, just talking to myself. Did you find anything?"
Holding up a small dagger Lila said, "He didn't want to give it to me, and if Satanic caches me, we both will be a feast for that bird."
Sea replied, "I've been straining on them and they feel loser, I think with a little bit of prying, you can get them loose."
Lila stared up at the woman's wrists as she said, "Stop doing it, you are making your wrists sore, I'll do what I can. Since my back will be to the door, let me know if you hear anything or see anything." She stepped close to the woman and began to dig away at the mortar surrounding the rock that held Sea's wrists.
Sea closed her eyes and said, "Just be careful."
Lila turned her head and glanced down at the woman as she whispered in her ear, "I'm always careful and you can open your eyes."
As her eyelids opened she was staring into the smiling face of Lila. The woman seemed to be delighted that she was apprehensive at her digging around with the blade. Lila said, "I've helped slaughter beef for market, this will be a lot easier. I promise I won't slip. Gabrielle would never forgive me."
Sea replied, "Thanks for the reassurance."
Lila had been digging at the mortar for quite awhile as she said, "Got to rest, my arms are tired."
Sea began to jerk her wrists once more as she said, "I can feel it giving, it won't be long now." As Lila sat she stared up at Sea and said, "After you are loose, what then? He is not just going to let you walk out."
"I know, I will cross that bridge when I come to it but I sure can't do anything chained like this."
Lila hadn't been setting for long when they heard a loud commotion taking
place outside the room. There were sounds of yelling along with loud voices.
The two women glanced at one another as the door swung open. Lila hid the
dagger under Ann's right boot as she stared at the doorway. It didn't take
long for two big men to enter the room dragging a young man . As they
stopped the boy bit one of them then he kicked the other and ran for the
opening. He was met by another who struck him sending him falling backwards
into the room. The men stood over the still form then stared around the room
before leaving. Lila got to her feet and ran over to the boy. She dropped to
her knees and said, "Wake up, are you ok?"
He began to mumble, "Ephiny is not going to be happy with me."
Lila patted his face with her left hand as she said, "Who is Ephiny? And who are you?"
It took him longer than expected to regain his bearings. She had dragged him by his arms to where Sea was chained. The woman stared down at the boy and said, "Do you know him?"
Shaking her head Lila answered, "I've seen him in the village. I can't imagine what he is doing here and who is this Ephiny he keeps talking about?"
Sea seemed to be surprised as she said, "Ephiny, this might mean she is near."
Staring up at her Lila said, "I take it you know this person."
Sea told her all she knew and when she was finished she said, "This might mean that Xena and Gabrielle are near."
Lila was standing as she said, "How do you come by that assumption?"
Sighing the woman answered, "They always seem to be connected in some way. I worry for them all. Quick, finish digging away the mortar."
Lila went back to her previous work and Sea stared at the unconscious boy. She couldn't imagine what he might know of Ephiny.
Ephiny returned carrying an armful of kindling. She stared around the area for Jonathan, he wasn't anywhere in sight. She set the wood down and began to search the area for him. Finally arriving back at the spot where she had left the boy she sat. Staring at the water as it plummeted down she knew in her heart that Jonathan had either been captured or had taken it upon himself to go see if he could help. She stared down at her wet clothes and sighed, "Will have to wait, better go see what he has gone and got himself into now." She stood and started to jump from rock to rock as she headed toward the back of the falls.
When the woman finally gave in to the fact she was tired, she seemed to toss and turn. Gabrielle was afraid all the movement would injure her ankle even more. She had made sure Xena was tucked in and warm. Shaking her head she whispered, "You are just as hard headed as I am Xena, I hope you get some rest."
Gabrielle set on a fallen tree and stared across the leaping flames at the woman. Xena had been sleeping peacefully for sometime. She couldn't imagine what had caused the warrior to have such a restless night. Walking over to the fire she poured two mugs of tea and started to walk toward the woman. Nearing the pallet she knelt and whispered, "Xena, it's time to wake up."
Smiling the woman turned onto her back and opened her eyes. She was amazed, each time she gazed into the blue green eyes of her friend it was as if it were the first. "Gabrielle, what are you doing up so early?"
Handing Xena a mug she said, "Thought you might like some tea, I have found some Quail eggs and thought I would scramble them for our morning meal."
Setting up the woman said, "The tea smells heavenly and something to eat sounds good. Is there something I can do?"
Setting down beside Xena, Gabrielle replied, "Yes, after we eat you can go with me down to the stream and soak the ankle in the cool water." She set her mug down and said, "Let me have a look at it."
Xena pulled the blanket back and said, "It feels somewhat better." Crawling
down to the foot she began to unwrap the bandages she had placed earlier.
There was little of the mud poultice left as she gently felt the ankle.
"Looks better, the swelling has gone down. Now, if I can just keep you off
of it for another day."
The concerned face of her friend was evident as Xena replied, "Another day? Gabrielle we need to get to Potidaea."
Gabrielle replied, "And we will, in due time, first, we get your ankle better."
Xena was staring at the gentle touch of her friend as Gabrielle glided her nimble fingers over the injury.
Sensing something Gabrielle looked up at Xena and said, "Did I hurt you?"
Shaking her head the woman replied, "No, I was just watching."
Gabrielle pulled the blanket back over the foot as she stood and said, "I'll go fix something to eat."
Xena reached out and grabbed her left hand and said, "Set with me for a few minutes."
Seeming concerned Gabrielle dropped to her knees and asked, "Is something wrong?"
Xena's face had grown very serious as she said, "Last night, did it really happen?"
Smiling Gabrielle said, "Of course, but with night comes day."
Shaking her head Xena said, "No not night, did you and I really happen last night?"
Totally confused Gabrielle sat and stared at the woman then said, "We camped here if that is what you mean, I tended your ankle, what in Gods are you talking about Xena?"
Setting up she stared into Gabrielle's eyes and said, "We were together here, last night for the first time in moons."
Turning her head away for a moment then bringing it back she gazed at Xena and said, "You had a very restless night, maybe you had a dream that something happened between us." Xena's face seemed to fall in despair as Gabrielle replied, "From everything you seem to say, it was wonderful and if it was real or not the feelings must have been there. Take it for what is. I will try to never fail you again."
"It seemed so real."
Gabrielle leaned forward and said, "With each day I remember more, with each breath I take I feel my love for you deepening." She placed her right hand on the woman's shoulder and said, "I can't imagine a day with out you in it. Since the day we met, you have been the center of my universe."
Looking down Xena said, "Go on, fix the meal, I think I will limp down to the stream."
Standing Gabrielle reached down and said, "Let me help you, and be careful."
Wrapping a blanket around her shoulders she began to limp toward the water. Gabrielle watched her then turned her attention to fixing the morning meal.
Gabrielle knew that the Gods from time to time loved to toy with the mortals of the land and she felt that they enjoyed interfering in her life with Xena more than most. It didn't take her long to prepare the food. As she placed it on several plates she hurried down to the stream. The warrior was setting on a rock dangling her feet in the water when Gabrielle approached. "Food is ready."
Xena looked up at the Bard and said, "Just let me dry my feet off." Pulling her feet from the water she swung them around only to see Gabrielle on her knees. The woman reached out and carefully dried each foot. Xena seemed to be enthralled with the way the Bard caressed each foot and said, "Well, my feet definitely feel better."
Looking up at the woman Gabrielle said, "And you?"
Holding out her right-hand she said, "I feel better too. Let's go, I am starved."
Placing her arm around the woman's waist she said, "Then lean on me." The two women walked slowly back to the camp and as they reached it Xena said, "Smells wonderful, as usual." Helping the woman down she walked over and brought back the plates of food. Handing one to Xena she said, "Thank you, I never enjoyed cooking, but I do enjoy doing it for us."
After they had eaten and Xena had put her leathers back on she tossed a small pebble as she said, "We need to talk about it?"
Gabrielle seemed surprised as she asked, "Talk about what Xena?"
"Sea and you and why she was at the village."
Gabrielle got to her feet and said, "I need to clean up the dishes."
"No, you need to set down by me and tell me what is going on?"
Turning to look at the woman Gabrielle shook her head and said, "At this moment it is not important, Sea comes and goes at the village, my being there had nothing to do with why she was there."
"But you did see her?"
Sighing Gabrielle said, "Yes, I did and now she is gone."
Xena began to mumble under her breath and Gabrielle said, "What is the matter?"
The woman said, "Things aren't bad enough, I have to go injure my ankle and there seems to be something about Sea you are not telling me. Why can't that woman find someone else to occupy her time?"
Gabrielle seemed to be upset as she replied, "And why can't Ephiny?"
"Ohh do I detect a little jealousy?"
The Bard answered, "You brought up the subject. Xena I don't know how many times I need to tell you this but, Sea and I will always have a past. I will always have a special spot in my heart for her. She helped me through some harrowing times. I understand that you and Ephiny have a past and she is also in your present. Don't try to make something of what isn't."
Xena smiled and said, "As vehemently as you try to make your point, you only seem to sink deeper. It's all right, as long as you are by my side, I will try to put a damper on the subject."
"I know you Xena, if Sea were to ask me tomorrow for a favor, you would let me go."
"When did you become so grown up and wise? It seems it was only yesterday you were chasing after me. I think I will go lay down for a little while." Gabrielle followed and said, "I need to wrap your ankle again, you close your eyes and rest."
She knelt down and began to administer to the ankle, when she was finished she crawled up to where Xena lay. The woman's eyes were closed as she stared down at her. The beautiful skin that held a few tale tell signs of the strife they had been through was all the more radiant. Xena groaned and Gabrielle felt a sensation in the pit of her stomach. She brought her right hand to the spot and held it there. The more she gazed at the warrior the more she felt the sensations. It was at that minute she knew, her memory had returned and so had the all consuming desire to have the love the two of them had shared. She lowered her head and whispered into the woman's right ear, "Xena, Xena."
Opening her eyes the woman reached up to brush away what ever had been tickling her ear and her hand ran into the Bard's face. She turned to stare at Gabrielle and said, "Gabrielle, what are you doing?"
Her blue green eyes sparkled at the woman as she said, "I'm back, Xena, it has all returned."
Having a hard time believing the words the woman stuttered, "Yo...ur back, are you telling me what I think?"
Bringing her lips down, the Bard placed an inviting kiss on the warriors and whispered, "Yes, love me Xena, let me love you."
Raising a finger to her lips Xena said, "Did I just feel you kiss me? It wasn't a dream?"
Gabrielle's right hand was traveling down the woman's body as she said, "It will be better than a dream, trust me."
Smiling the warrior reached out and pulled Gabrielle down onto her as she said, "If it is a dream don't wake me, I have desired your body for so long, I have been in torment and now all I want to do is consume you. Gods woman I have missed you!"
The two women had been traveling for several days, with few stops along the
way. Xena had never been happier and her foot was feeling better, she was
able to bear weight on it again. Gabrielle had taken the lead and Xena was
in good spirits to finally see her friend had returned to her. She had
missed her beyond words and it seemed that Gabrielle's memory had come back
fully. Although Gabrielle did not speak of Sea, Xena knew that in the back of her mind the Bard was still holding thoughts, thoughts she wished she could erase.
"Xena, down there, by that stream, let's rest for a bit."
Xena nodded and said, "Fine by me. I'm tired of riding and could use a rest." Gabrielle walked onto the grassy area followed by Xena and Argo. She stopped, turned and watched the horse plod up to her. Staring up at Xena, Gabrielle said, "Want some help down?"
Laughing the woman replied, "That will be the day."
With a yell and a leap she bounded from the saddle, flipping forward in the air she landed behind the Bard and said, "All healed."
Turning to the woman Gabrielle replied, "You keep doing that and you will undo all the healing." She reached out and grasped Xena's right hand in her's and said, "Let's go set on that log. We both need to rest."
Smiling, Xena followed her and the two sat. Staring around the area Gabrielle said, "If we weren't in such a hurry, this would make a great place to camp. "Sighing Xena replied, "It is beautiful. Don't look at me like that, I do know what beautiful is after all I see it every time my eyes fall on you."
Looking away Gabrielle said, "You never cease to amaze me, just when I think I have you figured out, you hit me with something like that."
"I meant it."
The Bard turned to face her and said, "I know, and I loved hearing you say it. When this is over Xena, I want us to go back to the cave. There are a few things there I need to make up for."
Shaking her head the woman said, "You never have to make up for anything, it
is just wonderful seeing you again and not your alter." The two were basking
in the warmth of the sun when they heard sounds of someone approaching. Xena
was on her feet immediately followed by Gabrielle. They stared at the crop
of trees in front of them waiting to see who was emerging. It didn't take
long before they saw a lone man running as if the wrath of the Gods was coming after him. He never even saw the two women until he ran into Xena's outstretched hands. Falling to the ground he stared up at them. Gabrielle was standing beside Xena as she stared at the man. He was slim and wore tattered clothes. His hair was un-combed and from the looks of his face he had been in a skirmish of some kind. "Xena, he doesn't look like he will be any threat to us."
Xena reached down and grabbed the man's left hand as she pulled him to his feet and said, "Who are you, and why are you running like that?"
His eyes darted from one woman then to the other as Gabrielle said, "It's all right, this is Xena and I am Gabrielle and we will not harm you."
He seemed to be relieved as he asked, "Xena, the Warrior Princess?
She nodded as he continued, "I come from the village of Tofstan."
Gabrielle looked up at Xena and asked, "Tofstan, you look like you have heard of it Xena."
Pursing her lips Xena said, "I have, it is a settlement that has been growing and Ephiny left a good friend there." Her eyes now on the man who was trembling she continued, "Now, tell me what has happened?"
He told them of a huge quake that hit the village and of the men dressed in dark that invaded what was left.
Xena tried to reassure the man and calm him down but it was apparent he was
terrified. He took a gasp of air and said, "All were killed, I was left for
dead and the first chance I got I ran." Reaching out her right-hand, she
placed it on the man's shoulder and said, "You tell me all were killed, is
there a chance anyone besides you made it?"
He fell to the ground and began to sob as he said, "I don't know, but what I saw was death and destruction."
Haunching down Xena said, "Tell me, the woman Epinon, did you see her?"
His eyes were focused on the woman as he said, "She had come to help organize the village. She was at the main house when it all started. I don't know if she survived or not but what I saw when I fled was death." He fell backwards as Gabrielle cried, "Xena!"
She had knelt by the man and felt for a pulse then stood and said, "It's no use, he has passed over."
Gabrielle could tell from the look on her face that something was terribly wrong as she said, "What is the matter?"
Turning to her friend, Xena replied, "The Epinon we spoke of is Ephiny's friend, Ephiny is at Potidaea and probably knows nothing about this."
Placing her left hand on Xena's shoulder Gabrielle said, "She may have escaped."
Looking doubtful the woman said, "I hope for her sake, as well as Ephiny's,
she did. We have to go, the sooner we get to Potidaea the better." Gabrielle
started to say something then thought better of it as she followed Xena to
the horse. The two women mounted Argo and started toward Gabrielle's home
village neither knowing what they would find there. Xena was deep in thought
and Gabrielle knew it had to do with Ephiny. She hoped Epinon was all right.
Setting, the woman began to rub her wrists, it had taken sometime but Lila had pried the manacles loose and Ann had now been able to pick the locks and free her wrists of the restraints. Lila approached her and said, "Sorry it took me so long, bet your wrists feel better." Nodding Sea glanced toward the boy that was huddled against the wall. "He still isn't saying much, the only thing I have been able to really understand is that he went against Ephiny's instructions and feels he has failed her."
Setting down by the woman Lila said, "At least we know that Ephiny is near."
Holding her hands outstretched Sea replied, "Yes, but what can one person do when there seems to be so many of the dark ones?"
Reaching out and touching Sea's right hand Lila replied, "I don't know but it does mean that Satanic hasn't gotten everyone yet. Let me bandage your wrists."
Pulling her hand away Sea replied, "They will be all right. The first time I wrap them around his ugly neck, they will be fine."
Argo trotted into the village and as Xena reined the horse in, she stared around. Gabrielle whispered in her right ear, "There doesn't seem to be anyone. Gods I hope they are all right."
Reaching a hand back she grabbed the Bard's left hand and said, "Get down, we need to be careful." As Gabrielle's feet landed on the ground she started up at Xena and said, "Now what?"
The warrior was beside her in seconds as she said, "We take Argo to the
stable and then we go look for Ephiny." Shrugging her shoulder Gabrielle
followed but she took a slight detour when she saw the family home. She
didn't think Xena would miss her and she needed to see for herself if Lila
It didn't take Xena long to find her. When she entered the house she glanced around for signs of her friend and it was in Lila's room she found the woman. Gabrielle was setting on the bed staring at the picture on the table. She didn't even hear Xena when she entered the room. "Gabrielle... It will be all right, we will find them."
Looking up at Xena she replied, "My sister... they are all gone."
Setting beside the woman Xena said, "They are not here now, but we will find them I have no doubt of that. I couldn't find Ephiny either but I did find a woman."
Gabrielle's eyes lit up as she said, "Who?"
"I didn't ask her name but it seems that her son has been helping Ephiny and he took her to the water falls. That is where we are going and I feel this is where we will get our answers."
Standing Gabrielle said, "All right then let's go, the sooner this mystery is solved the better."
Walking up to her Xena reached out and placed her right hand on the woman's cheek as she said, "If anything happens, I want you to save yourself."
Reaching up and grasping Xena's hand with her own she replied, "Run, not likely. I would never leave you when you or others might need my help."
Smiling at the Bard, Xena said, "Then let us go, Satanic seems to have interfered with too many lives and it is time he is stopped."
The two women left the room. Gabrielle looked back as they started up the path that would lead them to the falls.
Ephiny had made it past the cascading water and had found the entrance to the cave. She began to creep slowly as she felt her way along the rock. As she approached an arch in the tunnel she stopped. There were several voices filtering back towards her and she flattened her back to the wall. She could tell it was men as she listened, "Satanic really going to feed that kid to the bird?"
The other laughed as he said, "Yeah, thought it could use a light meal."
Ephiny felt chilled and hoped they were not speaking of Jonathan. As she edged her way along the rock she spotted a reflection of light and knew she had found a passageway. Stepping out she was met by a burly man who upon seeing the woman charged for her. Seeing the man hurdling toward her she fell to her knees and he went careening over her back. Jumping to her feet she leaped into the air and sent a blow across the man's face with her left foot. She heard the crackling sound at the same time he fell back. Smiling to herself she whispered, "Well, Xena you would be proud of me, I broke his neck with the first blow."
By the time she made it down the second passageway, the woman had encountered five of Satanic's followers, each one she rendered unconscious. She was now holding an arm around a guard's throat as she held his back to her body and put pressure on the man she said, "Tell me where the prisoners are and where is the rest of Satanic's force?"
He didn't say anything and she increased her choke hold on the man as she said, "I will cut off your breathing completely unless you tell me what I want to know." He gasped and said, "All right, the prisoners are in there." He pointed to a large wooden door.
Ephiny whispered in his left ear, "And, where are the rest of you?"
Trying to breath he said, "At the end of the passageway."
Quickly jerking the man's head she broke his neck. Taking a deep breath she approached the large door. Turning the key that was still in the lock she slowly opened it.
Hearing the door moving, Sea and Lila stood, as Sea grabbed a large stick of wood and approached the door cautiously.
Ephiny had taken a torch from the wall and held it in her right hand as she entered the room. As the glow from the flame illuminated the interior she and Sea stared at one another.
Ephiny exclaimed, "Sea!"
As Sea called out, "Ephiny!"
Lila approached them and said, "Well, now that you two have gotten your greetings in, where are the rest of the troops?"
The two women grasped arms as Ephiny replied, "Good to see you again Ann Bounty you old scalawag. But what are you doing here?"
"Same here, Ephiny. It is a long story and I might even tell it to you if we live. How did you get in here? Didn't you run into any guards?"
Glancing around the room her eyes fell on Jonathan as she said, "You might say they ran into me. Excuse me for one minute." They watched her as she glided past and walked up to the boy who was standing. Lila and Sea both smiled as they watched the look on Ephiny's face, she was smiling at the young man and seemed extremely concerned as Sea whispered, "We won't let this get out, the fact that Ephiny seems to have a tender side. It might ruin the reputation she has worked so hard to make."
Lila laughed as she said, "We all know that under that demeanor beats a heart of gold, it's just finding it sometimes is hard. Looks like the boy has found a soft spot though."
As Ephiny approached the boy he closed his eyes and said, "Go ahead, hit me, I deserve it, I didn't do what you said." He didn't feel anything as he slowly opened his eyes to stare at the concerned face of the woman.
Ephiny cocked her head to one side and said, "I'm not going to hit you but a hug would be nice." Within seconds he ran into her outstretched arms. She held him in her arms as he began to cry, "I'm sorry."
She gently pushed him at arms length and said, "You are hard headed, I'll give you that but I am not mad at you. I just thank the Gods you are all right. Now, we have to get these people out of here, think you can handle that?"
Smiling he replied, "I will be right behind you."
As they slowly began to exit the room Ephiny turned to Sea and said, "We will get these people out of here, then I am returning to take care of Satanic."
Grasping Ephiny's right arm Sea replied, "Getting the people out is a good idea, but, when you return so will I, I have something to settle with his darkness." Nodding her head Ephiny whispered, "I will be happy for the company, after all two against an Army sounds much better than one."
Xena and Gabrielle had made it to the top of the path and were now staring down at the water as it cascaded into the mist that was building around it. "X...Xena, that's a long way down, how do we get there?"
Turning to gaze at her Xena replied, "Probably jump."
Walking away she said, "Oh, no. I will not jump down into that."
Xena had approached her, she gently pressed herself against the Bard as she wrapped her arms around the woman's waist and said, "You stay here, I will go." Turning around she gazed into Xena's inviting eyes as she said, "Always the martyr, but if you are going then I guess I will follow, can't let you have all the fun."
Xena's face turned to concern as she said, "This Satanic is unlike anything we have ever come across, I want you to stay here and if I don't come back get away."
"Xena have you spoken to any trees lately?" The woman looked at the Bard questioningly.
"Well if you have, you would get further telling a tree to stay in one place. I would think by now, you know that wherever you go, so will I."
Bringing Gabrielle close the woman held her tightly as she said, "I could not live if something were to happen to you."
"Nothing will, you know together we are an unbeatable force."
Stepping back Xena said, "All right then, what will come will."
Gabrielle was staring up at the woman as Xena bent her head and placed a soft kiss on Gabrielle's lips then said, "Let's go."
It was at this time they heard the commotion that was taking place below them. Stepping back towards the edge they looked down to see villagers running from behind the falls. It didn't take long before the form of Ephiny followed by Sea and Lila joined the people. Gabrielle grabbed Xena's arm as she said, "It's Lila and..."
Gazing down Xena replied, "And Sea, as well as Ephiny. At least we know they are all right." Placing her hands around her mouth she formed a cylinder as she sent her yell cascading downward.
As the sounds echoed past the noise of the falls the women gazed up to see the Warrior and the Bard waving down to them. Sea's eyes were transfixed on Gabrielle as she motioned with her hands for them to go back.
Ephiny joined her as Xena placed a hand to her right ear as she said, "Can't hear you."
Ephiny looked at Jonathan and said, "Is there a way to climb up there without going all the way around?"
He pointed to a jagged rock that was protruding from the edge of the cliff and said, "There is a steep path, it is treacherous."
"Take the people back to the village then get everyone into the mountains. Don't argue with me, there is going to be blood spilled and I would like it not to be yours."
He hesitated and she said, "If I were to ever have a son, I would want him to be just like you, now go!"
He turned as he walked up to the villagers then gazed back and called, "Take care of yourself Amazon, remember I won't be there to protect you." Waving he and the others disappeared into the foliage.
Sea had been watching as she said, "Well you had a hard time telling the boy to go and it was hard for me to convince Lila but they will be better off with the villagers and much safer."
"I guess that just leaves the four of us against Satanic, sounds like an
even match to me." The two women were laughing when they heard the cries
coming from behind the water falls. The turned to see one of Satanic's men
stumbling toward them. Sea reached out and caught the man as he fell.
Helping him to the ground she said, "Looks like he has been stabbed."
His eyes darted from woman to woman then he gasped, "Satan... he has left by the back exit." Raising his left arm he pointed toward the top and said, " He is on his way..."
The man had passed on and as Sea got to her feet she said, "They are heading up there, Xena and Gabrielle need to be warned. I'll climb up." Ephiny reached out and grasped Sea's left hand and said, "Looks like a good day for a climb, I'm right behind you." They motioned for Xena and Gabrielle to stay in one place, then dove into the water.
Continued in Chapter Fifteen
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