The Golden Legion - part 6
by Anita Louise
A Legend For All Time
Gabrielle had stepped back as Xena said, "Don't get so close to the edge."
Turning to look at Xena, Gabrielle said, "What do you think they are up to?"
Walking up to her the woman said, "I would guess they are going to try and climb up."
Throwing up her hands Gabrielle ranted, "That would be foolhardy, the rock has to be slippery. I hope you are wrong and they have gone into hiding."
Xena was giving her a look as she said, "Highly unlikely. Let's go set and wait for them."
Following Xena, Gabrielle said, "You certainly sound confident."
"When it comes to Ephiny and Sea, I don't think there is anything that will stop them."
Smiling at Xena the Bard said, "Sounds like you. Looked like they had the villagers and they were free."
"It's about time that this darkness begins to get lifted." Xena stretched out her left hand and continued, "Come set, I think that what may be coming will tax all of us to the end of our bounds. We need all the rest we can get."
Walking over to her Gabrielle placed her hand in Xena's and said, "All right, I'll set but don't expect me not to be apprehensive."
Ephiny had managed to pull herself up and out of the water, she stared up at
the formidable path that was etched in the stone. It didn't take long for
Sea to join her as she said, "I don't know what it is about the people
around here but they all seem to have things on top of high plateaus, and a
hard climb to reach them."
Now turning to stare into Sea's green eyes, Ephiny replied, "Like in the Amazon Village? I think it makes it all the more worthwhile if one has to work for it."
Leaning over as she watched the water dripping from her body Sea replied, "There are some things I would climb Mount Olympus for. Why do you mention your village?"
Leaning against the sheer rock, Ephiny smiled and said, "There really are only two places that I know of like you mention, one is here and the other at the village. Since we are both here I assume you are talking about the..."
Standing Sea scoffed, "It's not important, just trying to make conversation."
Stepping closer to the woman Ephiny replied, "No, I think you might have been on the plateau, where we hold our ceremonies. If that is the case, why and with who?"
Trying to change the subject the woman started toward the cleft in the rock that seemed to be the only way up and said, "Don't know what you are rattling about."
Staring at the woman's clothes Ephiny said, "Except for a few scrapes and smudges, you are dressed very well. Tell me Sea, did you and Gabrielle do something Xena doesn't know ahout?"
As Sea turned, her face was within inches of Ephiny's and she said, "If we did, it is between us and no one else. Gods, couldn't I have just been exploring?"
Smiling, Ephiny replied, "Yes, but if I read faces right and I have never been wrong, there is something there that involves Gabrielle. Come on if you are rested let's see if we can climb this thing."
Sea reached out and touched Ephiny's right arm and said, "All things aside, if I don't make it, would you tell Gabrielle..."
Patting her hand Ephiny said, "Yes, and If I shouldn't make it, you tell Xena the same."
Both women were gazing into one anothers eyes as they smiled then turned to begin their tedious climb to the top."
Gabrielle had been dozing when Xena made it back to where she had left the Bard. Smiling down at the woman, she knew that Gabrielle could sleep through most anything even a quake. It always amazed Xena that her friend could do that, while she always seemed to sleep with one eye open always ready for anything.
Xena had made it over to edge of the rock wall and had found the deep cleft
in it. She surmised that would be the way the two women would be coming up.
It did look like a treacherous climb and hoped they were careful. There were
a lot of questions she had for both of them. Now she was back where
Gabrielle slept and she knew an important question would be, why Gabrielle's
eyes seemed to light up every time she saw Ann Bounty. Kneeling down by the Bard she set and stared at the peacefulness in the woman's sleep. Without even knowing she was doing it she had gently caressed Gabrielle's radiant locks, brushing them from the Bard's forehead.
Mumbling then slowly opening her eyes Gabrielle softly said, "Xena, is it over?"
Laughing she said, "No, hasn't begun yet. You were sleeping so peaceful, sorry if I woke you."
Slowly sitting up she replied, "My body always comes alive when you touch me. Xen..."
Her eyes now reaching out to the Bard , Xena said, "I know, it will be hard but hey it will be all right. It won't be long you will see Lila again."
"I am thankful she is alive and well. Thanks to Sea and Ephiny."
Xena reached out and drew the woman to her as she said, "It may sound selfish but I just want to hold you."
Gabrielle melted into her arms as she laid her head on Xena's chest and said, "If I could make a wish it would be that we would always be this close."
Placing a tender kiss on the Bard's forehead, Xena replied, "Even when we are not touching, I feel your presence. We will always be this close. You and I have come too far for mere words, so just relax and melt into me, let me feel and absorb the essence of our beings."
Softly kissing the warrior's chest she said, "Always Xena."
The two women were within eyesight of the top as Ephiny dug her fingers into the notches in the rock. Sea had been following the woman and called out, "Looks like we are getting close, I don't know about you, but my body feels the strain."
Calling back Ephiny said, "Same here, even my fingers are aching."
Before long Ephiny had pulled herself onto the plateau and had reached down to help Sea. Crawling out onto the ground the woman laid still for several seconds, then turned onto her back. Ephiny had stretched out beside her as the two stared up at the sky. They laid like that breathing heavily as Ephiny finally said, "I hope they appreciate the fact we just did that to warn them."
Setting up Sea glanced around and said, "Well, we didn't get a welcome that's for sure. Let's go see what they are up to."
Helping one another to their feet the two women started up the path, Sea had her left arm around Ephiny's shoulder and Ephiny had wrapped her right arm around the woman's waist.
As they turned a corner their eyes fell on the forms of the women. Both seemed oblivious to anyone. Ephiny and Sea glanced at one another then Ephiny shouted out, "Hey you two, you can do that later!"
Startled Xena and Gabrielle pulled apart as they jumped to their feet. Walking toward them Xena said, "It was just a hug." She stopped as her eyes fell on Ephiny, at the same time Sea gazed at Gabrielle and walked past the two women picking up her step as she hurried toward her. Gabrielle had noticed the way Xena was staring at Ephiny but at that moment the beautiful red head was getting closer and her body began to play tricks on her. She felt as if she had been dropped from a high place as her stomach began to do flips and the tingling sensation she was feeling was becoming overbearing.
Sea threw out her arms as she embraced the woman. Whispering in her ear, "Gods, it is good to see you again!"
As Gabrielle hugged Sea, she could see that Ephiny and Xena were in a tight embrace as she closed her eyes and said, "I have been so worried for you. It wasn't until recently I actually found out what happened. I'm so sorry."
Gently pushing her back, and gazing at the woman, Sea said, "Nothing to be sorry about, it happened. At least I was able to hear you tell me how you feel and that was enough. I'm just thankful you are ok. We have to talk, all of us, Satanic and his forces are heading this way."
Xena and Ephiny were walking toward them as Ephiny said, "I told Xena."
Staring at them Xena said, "The next thing we need to do is prepare a defense." She walked up to Gabrielle and placed her right arm around her waist as she said, "Let's go talk strategies."
Sea and Ephiny were walking behind Xena and Gabrielle as Ephiny said, "Might as well get over it, we might have a small amount of their affection but those two have the real thing."
Sea tapped Ephiny on the shoulder as she said, "Nah, they just think they do. Let's catch up and get this thing over with."
Lila had started to go with the others then decided to turn back. She was
now hiding in the foliage near a rock cropping. This gave her an excellent
view of the four on top of the plateau. When her eyes fell on her sister she
softly said, "Gabrielle, be careful." It was at that time she noticed Sea
and Ephiny walking toward Xena and Gabrielle.
Pondering it over in her mind, she thought back to the time she and Sea had
a deep discussion about her sister. Now seeing the flaming hair of the woman
being blown about her head she realized she too was in awe of this woman.
Her thoughts went back to the moment Sea asked her to hold her vest while
she put the shirt on. Never one to be shy she actually blushed as the woman
casually handed the vest to her and removed the sleeves that were tied around her neck. Lila could still see the smooth skin as the shirt fell down and was enthralled at the beauty of Sea's breasts.
Sea had noticed Lila and had said to her, 'Guess you don't see many people like me huh?'
Lila had answered, 'Not many that look like you.' Upon realizing what she had said she hurriedly continued, 'I mean none as casual about undressing in front of a person like you.'
A sound from above brought her mind back to the present as she gazed upward.
Xena and Gabrielle approached a fallen tree and sat. They watched Ephiny and Sea as they ambled toward them. "Here, you two look like you could use a drink." Xena tossed the water skin toward Ephiny. Catching it she handed it to Sea and said, "After you."
Sea gladly took it and enjoyed a long drink then tossed it back to Ephiny as she said, "There may be some left for you." The Amazon wrinkled her nose at the woman as she set on the ground next to Xena.
Gabrielle had walked over to Sea and said, "You have injured your hands and your wrists... Sea what have you done?"
Looking down at Gabrielle she smiled as she watched the woman examining her hands. Finally she whispered, "Hurt the hands on the jagged rocks getting up here and the wrists are compliments of Lord Satanic himself, felt I needed to be manacled."
"They look pretty bad, are you sure you will be able to fight?"
Sea patted Gabrielle's right-hand and said, "Have you ever seen me when I wasn't up for a good fight or anything else for that matter?"
Feeling her face flush she stammered, "N... No of course not. Why do you continue to do this to me?"
Pointing toward a group of trees Sea replied, "Come with me, I'll find a nice limb and make you a staff."
"Let me tell Xena."
Sea had been watching the rapport between Xena and Ephiny as she said, "Looks like your friend will be well occupied, I'll wait for you right here."
She watched Gabrielle and Xena exchange a few words then the Bard started back toward her. "Let's go, Xena and Ephiny are going to set up some traps while we get me a staff."
Ann started to walk away and Gabrielle ran to catch up with her. It didn't
take them long to find a nice crop of trees, as they looked around for a
nice round limb. Gabrielle spied one just before Sea as they both said, "Up
there." Gabrielle reached out and grabbed the woman's shoulder and said,
"I'll go get it, you've done enough climbing."
Stepping back Sea replied, "Are you sure you can handle it? Looks like it might be difficult."
Smiling at the woman Gabrielle said, "Just give me a boost up and I'll be back down in no time."
Sea never took her gaze from the woman as she scurried up the tree. She was very agile and it didn't take her long to send the cut limb to the ground. "Be careful coming down, it is a long drop."
Gabrielle called back, "But you would catch me wouldn't you?"
Laughing the woman replied, "Thought I already had."
Gabrielle was almost to the second branch when she said, "Very funny Ann Bounty." It was as her foot stepped on the branch it snapped and she found herself plummeting down. In an instant Ann held out her arms and caught her as she said, "Now, you are where you belong."
Feeling her resistance fading Gabrielle laid her head on the woman's right shoulder as she said, "I always feel safe and secure in your arms. But, we can't have Xena see this."
Slowly letting her feet touch the ground Ann said, "I don't care, Xena knows more than you may think."
Gabrielle started to pull away from the woman and Sea whispered, "If I am to go into a battle I may not return from, at least let me feel your body against mine once more."
Gazing into the emerald green eyes of the woman she felt her knees start to buckle as Ann's strong arms reached out and brought her close. "Sea..."
Bringing her head down she softly said, "Shh, kiss me as if there will be no tomorrow."
Ephiny stood watching from behind a large bush. Shaking her head she turned and started back toward Xena, this was one thing she did not want her friend to see. It would be hard enough battling Satanic, they did not also need to be battling one another. Xena spied Ephiny as she walked toward her and said, "Did you see them?"
Hurrying up to the woman Ephiny replied, "No, probably went further in. They will be back, nothing to worry about. Did you get the wood set up?" As Ephiny was within arms length of her, Xena said, "Let's go set for a few minutes. I'm tired and I know you have to be."
Sea and Gabrielle had been setting their arms entwined around one another as Sea said, "Gabrielle if something happens to me would you promise me something?"
Her eyes wide as she stared up into the serious face of Sea, Gabrielle answered, "Nothing is going to happen to you, you're too ornery."
"I'm serious, Gabrielle."
Setting back she gazed at the woman and said, "All right if it will ease your mind, what? You know I will do anything for you."
Reaching out to caress Gabrielle's face with her right-hand Sea said, "Someone will need to tell mother. I would rather she hear it from you than a stranger."
Tears welled up in the Bard's eyes as she said, "Gods, Sea, why don't you just rip out a persons heart. Of course I will go to Spoon Island and I will also tell Saxton. But there will be nothing to tell, because you will live a long and happy live either on the Ocean or on the land. Now, that, that is over we have to get back. We have an army to fight."
The woman didn't move, she just kept staring at Gabrielle. Reaching out and grasping Sea's left hand she said, "Come on."
"Give me one last moment."
Gabrielle was on her feet and tugging at Sea as she said, "Stop it! You are beginning to scare me. When this is over, I promise, I will come to visit you and your mother for a spell. Xena won't mind, she will have her hands full taking care of Ephiny."
Sea was now standing as she asked, "Taking care of Ephiny, I don't understand."
She told the woman about the quake and the possibility that Epinon had been killed.
Wrapping her right arm around the Bard's waist she said, "Then let's get your new staff and get back. There isn't much time left."
Xena thought better about telling Ephiny what she had heard about Epinon. She had decided to tell her after the fight. She and Ephiny were setting braiding vines together when Sea and Gabrielle entered the area. Walking up to them Gabrielle said, "Got a new staff, looks pretty good huh?"
Glancing up at the two women Xena muttered, "Yeah."
As Ephiny stood and said, "Looks like you can do some damage with it. Sea can I talk with you?"
Nodding her head she followed the woman back down the trail.
As they entered a crop of trees, Sea turned to face the woman as she said, "All right, I know something is up, what is it?"
Stepping up to her Ephiny said, "Be thankful, it was me that saw you and Gabrielle in one another's arms."
Turning to walk away Sea replied, "Oh, and you are being the good friend I take it."
Following her Ephiny said, "I just think you should be careful, if Xena had seen you two she would not have taken it very lightly if you get my drift."
Stopping she turned and faced the woman as Sea replied, "Oh I get your drift. I don't run from anyone and Xena does not frighten me. I think we could settle things as adults. Besides why do you feel it is your place to talk to me? I have seen the way you and Xena look at one another. I would say it is pretty evident in my eyes and probably Gabrielle's, that there is a strong bond between the two of you."
"You're right, Xena and I share a past, but she has made it very clear, it is past. I just thought I would warn you."
Smiling Sea replied, "Then consider it done and let's get back and help with what we can."
"Well we have given them some time together, I have something else I want to say to you."
Turning her gaze on the Amazon, Sea asked, "What?" Ephiny reached out and grasped Sea's right arm as she said, "Just wanted you to know that I am proud to know you."
Having set up their many traps and readied themselves for what was to come the women were setting in a circle, their hands grasping one another's. Gabrielle looked at the faces of her friends as she said, "It is starting to get dusk, they will be here any moment."
Smiling at the Bard, Xena said, "I feel a power unlike no other as our hands join together. Gabrielle, would you say something?"
Looking perplexed she said, "You want me to say something?"
Nudging her with her elbow Sea said, "Yes, something that will stay with us."
Nodding Ephiny said, "Like they said, you are the one with the knack for words."
Closing her eyes Gabrielle sighed as she said, "We have met on this spot to defend the principles of our people. No one has the right to take what is ours. There is enough bloodshed and tyranny throughout the lands, we have no need of a ravaging raven or the cruelty of Lord Satanic and his men. So, if there is anyone listening, please help us to make it through this."
Sea smiled at the Bard as she said, "Couldn't have said it better."
Xena stood and said, "Here, Sea, take the whip. Make it down to the first crop of trees. When I send the logs rolling down toward them, you do what we discussed." Turning to gaze at Ephiny she said, "Eph, you man the vines we have stretched across the path and Gabrielle, You stay here."
Starting to protest, Xena looked at her and said, "Because there will be many that will make it past us. It will be up to you to stop them."
Nodding her head Gabrielle said, "I'm as ready as I ever will be. But what about the bird?
Xena threw up her hands as she said, "It's just a bird, bigger than most but still a bird, whoever gets the chance, destroy it."
Sea and Ephiny started down the path as Xena and Gabrielle watched them. Turning her attention to the Bard, Xena said, "Gabrielle, if it seems hopeless, I want you to get out of here. Just do it!" She didn't wait for a reply as she crept up the embankment and huddled behind a large boulder.
Stepping behind the logs that had been piled neatly in a row she stared at them. Xena had placed several in front as braces and she could see they were straining from the heaviness. Gabrielle knew she would not want to be hit by them careening downward but hoped they did a fair bit of damage to Satanic's forces. Leaning against a tree she gazed toward the path and shivered as she heard the sounds of a raven and felt the ground under her feet shake from the marching that was now within striking distance.
Sea stood on a large branch that was stretched over the path. She had lashed the whip to it before she swung up. Now she was looking at the men that were heading her direction. They were a scruffy lot and as they neared she noticed one in particular. He was one she had encountered in the cell. Turning her attention toward Ephiny who was laying behind several large stones, she smiled. This Amazon was fearless and could see what Xena saw in the woman. Ephiny had her hands on the thick vine they had strategically placed across the path. Placing a hand above her left eye she looked for Xena and Gabrielle, finally spotting Xena she glanced down and could see the Bard leaning on a large boulder. The loud sounds of men talking and the thunder of their footsteps brought her attention back to the oncoming force. She watched them as they marched by each seeming oblivious to the possibility of anyone getting in their way.
Upon seening the men nearing, Gabrielle stepped out into the open, she was waving her staff back and forth in the air. Xena had spotted what she was doing and began to mutter under her breath, she had no idea what the Bard was doing, because she had told her to stay hidden.
Ephiny and Sea had spied Gabrielle's actions at the same time, neither moving but Sea did shake her head. Since their first encounter on the Bounty to their many voyages, the woman never ceased to amaze her.
Xena had now stood haunched over as she watched the men hurrying toward her
friend. She reached down and released her chakrum, holding it in readiness
she waited till she could see the whites of their eyes. The men were
brandishing swords as they charged toward Gabrielle and as they neared, Xena
stood and yelled, "Gabrielle, take cover!" She sent the round discus into
the wood that was supporting the logs as they began to careen down onto the men. Their cries of surprise and agony were well noted as the woman smiled then let out her battle cry as she somersaulted through the air and landed in the midst of the melee. The logs had made their mark and she was on her way to making hers.
Ephiny was standing as she raised the vine and jerked it. As it was elevated off the ground, the men found themselves caught by their ankles and fell forward. Immediately she charged the ones that were on the ground and rendered them unconscious in moments. Taking a sword from a dying man's hands she began to unleash the temper she was well known for at the charging men.
Sea had watched the last group walk past her point, as she grabbed the end of the whip and swung from the branch. Her feet struck their backs sending them to the ground, as she dropped onto one's back. Her left foot struck out with fury. The mercenary that had made it to his feet, and was heading for her, with his sword outstretched never even knew what hit him as he fell in a heap. Grabbing the whip she pulled it loose from the branch and began to strike out at the men. She found herself surrounded by them as they grouped and started toward her.
Lila was watching the battle in awe of these women. There were so many of
Satanic's men but they were evening the odds. She had watched Xena
somersaulting through the air and had held her breath when she saw her
sister standing, trying to get their attention. She admired Gabrielle but
she also thought she was foolhardy. Her eyes had been watching the action and were now focused on the magnificent woman that was wielding a whip as she kept an advancing force of men at bay. The snap of the whip, as it struck out, and the form of the woman that was making it do it's tricks
caused her heart to quicken. She knew that she was afraid for them.
Gabrielle stood ready to do battle with the men that had managed to get past
the others. Her legs were spread and she had a menacing stance as she
wielded the staff in her hands. Nearing her a soldier snarled, "And you
little girl, do you think that playing with a stick will scare me? Prepare
to die!" He charged toward her, an evil smile crossing his face as he struck out with his sword. Gabrielle dodged his parry and quickly turned, sending the staff across his back. He stumbled but caught his balance. Turning he glared at her and charged once more, this time she leaped into the air and as she came back down she twirled the staff then sent it across the side of his face. She swung it with such force it knocked the wind from the man as he collapsed. Staring down at him she said, "That will teach you to call me a little girl."
Xena's warning of "Gabrielle look out!" Reached her at the same time she raised the staff over her head stopping the blow that would have killed her had the man made contact. Quickly spinning around she knocked the sword from the man's hands. He glowered at her and sent his right fist toward her face, she moved her head just in time as she felt the air as it passed by. Bringing her right foot upward, she landed a solid blow between his legs as his eyes stared into hers, they rolled backwards as he fell to the ground.
Gabrielle was now staring at the staff, it was almost cut in two and she
knew that she would not be able to use it for much longer. Reaching down she
picked up his sword as she felt it in her hand then began to twirl it.
Finally she dropped the staff as she started toward Xena and the men that
were approaching her.
Sea had kept the men at bay but her arm was getting tired. She knew that she couldn't keep it up. Ephiny had spied what was going on and was now on her way to even the odds. She had felled so many, she had lost count as she yelled at Sea, "Never knew you could swing a whip like that, need any help?"
Turning as she kept the whip lashing into the air she saw Ephiny and yelled back, "I can handle them but I could get this done a lot quicker if you did,"
It didn't take Ephiny long to attack them from behind and they now realized
they had the two women to destroy. Try as hard as they could, the men were
falling from the women's blows. As Ephiny pulled her sword from the chest of
one she turned to gaze at Sea. She reached down and picked up a sword as she
said, "Here, better use this!" Tossing it to the woman she smiled as Sea
Three men had charged the woman and she was now parrying with them.
Ephiny watched the swords as they struck and was amazed at the endurance of
Sea. She was able to stop each blow as it cascaded toward her and keep her
position. Ephiny had walked over and picked up a dagger and was staring at
it. "You, Amazon!" She turned to see the dark figure heading toward her and
she knew it was Satanic as she said, "Well, at least I can see you get
something right. Satanic I assume."
Stopping, he brushed the hood from his head and said, "I hope you have made peace with your Gods, because you are going to die!"
Sea had disabled two of the men and was in a fierce fight to save her own life when she caught the words of this evil man. They were walking in a tight circle, their swords pressing onto one another's. The soldier clinched his teeth as he said, "You are a tough one, but I would rather make love than fight, all this fury and energy would do well in bed!"
Staring into the man's face Sea replied, "I bed who I want and when I want, and it would never be the likes of you."
Their bodies were almost touching when the man said, "Like your friend Gabrielle, too bad she had to die!"
Sea quickly glanced toward the spot she had last seen the Bard and it only
took that moment for the man to bring his right knee up into her stomach.
Doubling from the blow she felt a fist strike her face as she fell
backwards, stumbling over a dead body she careened to the ground. Shaking
her head she stared up at the evil sneer on the man's face as he approached her. Struggling to get to her feet she felt another blow striking her. "I've gotcha now, my beauty!" She was reeling from the extreme pain her body was feeling, as she fought to keep her senses. The man had dropped to his knees and was leaning over the woman. He reached out and grabbed the front of her shirt as he pulled her up he said, "It will give me great joy to take you."
Sea passed out as he set his sword on the ground and began to undo his pants, it was at this time the woman brought her legs up and as they grasped his neck she send him falling backwards. In seconds she was on top of him as her fists struck his face she said, "Never underestimate a woman you pathetic excuse for a mortal." Her fists were raw but she had beat the man to death. Staggering to her feet she saw Ephiny facing Satanic.
Ephiny's eyes never left the man as she said, "The question should be, are you prepared to meet your destiny, because it is all over!"
He laughed as he said, "It is for you." He had pointed his hand toward her and at the same time Sea dove forward knocking Ephiny to the ground and the bolt of light, stuck as it disintegrated several trees.
Staring into Ann's face Ephiny said, "Thanks. " Then her eyes lowered to the woman's body as she said, "There could be a time I would welcome this, but we really need to get back to business."
Leaning forward Ann gave the woman a quick peck on her cheek as she jumped
to her feet and said, "Just a little something to remember me by." Ephiny
scrambled to her feet as they turned to face Satanic, they could not see the
man anywhere. Ephiny picked up a sword as she said, "Let's go give the other
two a little help." The two women stepped over fallen bodies as they headed
toward the fighting that was still ensuing. Ephiny reached out and grabbed Ann's left arm as she said, "What's all this to remember you by?"
Turning her gaze on the woman Ann smiled as she said, "Just trying to put a little levity into a rather dark situation that is all."
Ephiny looked serious as she said, "Well, thanks for that, from all this death and destruction, there isn't much room for levity. Let's get this over with, I have someone who will be waiting for me to come home and I know you have a ship and crew ready to set sail for new bounties."
Sea heaved a sigh as she said, "And Xena and Gabrielle have some quiet time coming. All right, it's the four of us against the rest, can't be too difficult."
Laughing the two women started toward the raging battle between their friends and many of Satanic's force.
Xena and Gabrielle had been holding their own against the oncoming men and had both spotted their friends heading toward them. As they neared the line of men that were approaching Xena and Gabrielle, Ephiny looked at Sea and said, "Shall we?"
Nodding she said, "Only one sure way to get to the other side, let's go." Within seconds they had somersaulted over the tops of the men and had landed by the two women. Gabrielle stared at Sea as she said, "You look..."
Sea replied, "I know, ran into a little problem but when this is over, I will be as good as new."
Xena was gazing at Ephiny as she said, "Saw what Sea did, she is handy to have around. Sure glad you two could make it."
Ephiny glanced toward Sea and Gabrielle then back at Xena as she said, "It's time we put an end to this."
Nodding Xena answered, "Then let's not keep them waiting!"
The women had stretched out their hands as they grasped one another's and in a straight line the four of them somersaulted into the air flipping over the tops of the charging men. All four landed at the same time as they struck out with their feet sending them into the backs of the men.
Lila watched as her eyes widened at the remarkable movements that were
taking place above her. She never would have believed Gabrielle to ever
defend herself like she was and Xena was mesmerizing all by herself. The
woman had struck many with elbow jabs, head butts, and high kicks but it was
the amazing way she handled the sword that amazed Lila. She had never seen a
weapon take so many twists and spins as it was glided through the air and into a foe. As the last glimmers of the sun shone down on the four women just before they made the fantastic leap into the air, they were consumed in a golden light. Lila had never seen anything like that before and she knew no one would ever believe her. Hearing sounds approaching her she turned to see Jonathan as she said, "What are you doing here?"
He replied, "Came back for you, come on let's go. The further away from here the better, besides they will need tending when this is over and someone needs to get a place ready." She nodded her head as she glanced back once more then she turned and followed the boy.
It was a hard battle but the four women were now standing gazing around at the destrution. Ephiny was breathing hard as she fell to the ground followed by Sea. Xena walked over to them as she said, "You two are not going to tell me a little exercise has you spent, now are you?"
Looking up at the woman Ephiny replied, "Well if you get a chance, take a look at yourself, first time I have ever seen you work up a sweat."
Gabrielle walked up to Xena as she said, "We are all spent and Satanic and that bird are still out there somewhere."
Turning to her, Xena's bottomless blue eyes became warm as she smiled into Gabrielle's she said, "I thank the Gods every day, you decided to follow me. Thank you."
Feeling embarrassed the Bard said, "You're welcome, but why are you thanking me, it is I that should thank you, after all you did allow me to follow."
"Yeah, and once you got a toehold, you fully crept into my heart. I am thankful for each day with you in my life."
Ephiny smiled at Sea as she said, "Xena, come on, we know you can do better than that,"
Turning to gaze at Sea and Ephiny she smiled and said, "You two got anything better to do than listen to me ramble?"
Both women shook their heads as she shrugged her shoulders then turned her attention back to Gabrielle. Reaching out she cupped the women's chin in her right-hand and said, "You have always told me I keep things back that I never express how I feel, well in front of our two best friends, I want you to know, Gabrielle, of Potidaea, I love you and will always."
She lowered her head and placed a soft kiss on the Bard's lips. It was at this moment she heard the sounds of the bird and the words, "Xena, warrior princess! A fitting title, too bad you have to end it all here!"
A PROMISE TO KEEP
Slowly turning, she stopped as her eyes met Lord Satanic. The man was
smirking at her as he wielded a large sword. She stood watching him as he
put the blade through many spins and twirls. Her hands on her hips and her
lips pursed she watched as he finally stopped and pointed the blade toward
her. Xena took a step forward as she said, "Well, now that we can see you do
tricks, how about disappearing?"
He threw back his head and sent a chilling laugh throughout the area as he said, "I must admit you are amusing. Now, get ready to die!"
Xena glanced at the others and could see that Ephiny and Sea were on their feet and ready for anything. She softly spoke, "Gabrielle, what ever you do, stay away from his lightening bolts. You know what they say, all for one, it's time we take this man and his pet pigeon and send them back where they have come from." Turning her gaze on Satanic she scowled, I'll kill you, you bastard! You will not have the chance to destroy anymore innocent people."
The Bard reached out and placed her right hand on Xena's shoulder as she said, "Xena..."
The woman called back, "I know." She leaped into the air as her battle cry reverberated throughout the area. Somersaulting over Satanic's head she landed behind him. The second her feet touched, she did a leap and a spin that sent her right foot crashing across the side of his face. Satanic fell forward and Xena didn't give him a chance to regain his footing as she did a forward flip and landed with both feet on the man's back sending him careening to the ground.She was starting to put the pinch on him when the large black bird swooped down. As it's talons hit her, it knocked her to the ground. Sea and Ephiny had watched in horror as they ran to ward off the bird. It was hovering above Xena as the woman crawled to her feet. She could hear the sounds of the wings as they swooped above her. Sea had taken a running start and had now jumped into the air and had somersaulted onto the ravens back. The bird forgot about Xena as it made screeching noises and tried to loose the weight on it's back. Sea hugged it's neck as she called down to Ephiny, "Ephiny! Throw me a knife!"
Ephiny reached down and picked up the dagger, she had picked up before, and tossed it to the woman.
Xena was on her feet once more, her back was bleeding from the where the bird had hit her. Satanic was limping away as he spied Gabrielle and said, "Maybe you will not die right now, but your little friend will!" He pointed his hands toward the Bard as Xena screamed, "Gabrielle! Look out!"
Gabrielle dove toward a pile of rocks and rolled to the other side.
Satanic's lightening bolts struck sending pebbles exploding into the air.
Ephiny had grabbed a round rock and hurled it toward the man. The rock found
its mark as it struck his right arm. Satanic turned toward the Amazon as he
directed his deadly strike toward her. Ephiny had already done somersaults and was out of striking distance.
Xena looked up at Sea as she yelled, "Get off there, that's not a horse you know!"
Sea laughed as she said, "It was getting a little boring, thought I would liven it up a little." She had ran the dagger deep into the birds neck as it began to fly erratically. Falling toward Xena, and suddenly swooping straight up, Sea was getting a ride she hadn't planned on.
Satanic was getting angrier and he began to strike out at the women. Though he was tearing up the landscape he had not been able to hit them.
They looked up to see that the bird was swooping toward Xena once more as the woman fell to the ground and rolled. Ephiny had grabbed a sword and was striking out at the bird. Spying Sea she yelled, "Get off that thing, we'll finish it down here."
Sea plunged the dagger in once more and as the bird swooped at Ephiny she jumped from it's back. Hiting the gound she fell and rolled. Gabrielle had watched in horror as she ran toward the woman. Sea was not moving as the Bard knelt by her and said, "Sea, are you all right?"
"Just got the wind knocked out of me for a few minutes, I'll be fine, now you better find a place to hide."
Gabrielle reached down as she grasped the woman's right hand and said, "Don't run from anyone, I think it's time we join Xena and Ephiny and finish this job."
Getting to her feet she stared over toward Xena and Ephiny as they began to encircle Satanic. Turning her gaze at Gabrielle once more she squeezed the Bard's hand and said, "Let's do it. Gabrielle, when this is all over I hope you will remember how much you mean to me."
Smiling at the woman Gabrielle said, "We will have plenty of time to talk about this. We have become family, and families always stick together."
They ran to join the other two women. Satanic had jumped into the air and was now standing close to the edge of the sheer drop off. He was waving his arms in the air as he said, "Xena, do you think you are strong enough to hold off the will of darkness?"
Xena had flipped through the air and landed at his feet as she struck out
with her left fist sending it into the man's stomach. She went to hit him
once more and he disappeared and all she hit was air. Turning to see where
he had gone she could see he was charging toward her, his sword held
straight out and she knew she didn't have time to get out of the way. It was at this time Sea leaped forward knocking her to the side as Satanic's sword found its way into the woman's flesh. He pulled the blade out of Sea's body as they all stood as if frozen by what had happened. Sea reached down and felt her stomach as she raised her hand and looked at the blood. Her eyes
fell on Gabrielle as she softly said, "I'm sorry. " They watched as she plummeted off the cliff and her body struck the water below.
Gabrielle had been standing in shock and Ephiny had ran to the edge and
jumped in after the woman. Xena could see Satanic was interested in what was
taking place below. He readied his hand and began to point it downward. She
grabbed her sword and ran it into the man's heart several times. As he
stared at her in surprise she held the handle and watched him fall to his
knees. Finally withdrawing the blade she said, "The woman that you struck is worth a million of you. Die you bastard, die!"
Xena spun in the air as she swung the blade across the man's neck, severing his head from his body. It fell to the ground. Within seconds, Satanic's body began to disintegrate and the large bird became a puff of smoke. Xena walked up to Gabrielle and said, "Gabrielle..."
Gabrielle stared at her, her eyes were filled with horror as she said, "Sea, will be all right, Ephiny will get her."
Xena walked over to the edge and looked down. It was dark but the full moon had shed some light on the falls and she could see Ephiny diving and re-surfacing but there seemed to be no sign of Ann Bounty.
Ephiny had exhausted herself searching the cool water for Sea. She finally
made it to a rock cropping and found her way back on land. Her body aching
and soaked to the bone she lay for several minutes. Managing to get to her
feet she found the wood she had gathered earlier and started a fire. Setting
she watched as the flames leaped into the night air. Drawing her knees to
her chest she turned her attention to the falls as the water cascaded downward. The moon was casting its light down upon them and it gave her an eerie feeling. Her eyes drifted further out across the water as she rocked and hugged her knees tighter. The fire was warming her but the pain she was feeling in her heart was unbearable. Turning her head she gazed once more at the fire as she softly said, "I will miss you Ann Bounty."
Xena had built a fire and the glow from it was now illuminating the area. She had been amazed when she went to survey the damage that had been done, for all the dead were gone. Like Satanic, they all vanished. If not for a few telltale signs no one would even know a battle had been fought there.
Setting down an armful of wood she walked over to Gabrielle who was huddled against a large tree trunk and said, "The fire will warm you."
Raising her eyes the Bard stared at the woman and said, "Nothing will ever warm me again."
Setting down beside her Xena said, "Sea would want you to go on, she knew there would be a possibility none of us would make it through this."
Staring into the fire Gabrielle asked, "Is Ephiny all right?"
Xena answered, "I looked down there, and she has a fire going, she will be fine, we all will be in time." Reaching out she wrapped her left arm around the Bard's shoulder and drew her close. Gabrielle lay her head against the woman's chest as Xena said, "Try to get some rest, take comfort in the knowledge that she loved you."
Gabrielle whispered, "You knew?"
Rocking the woman as she held her close Xena softly replied, "A person would have to be made of stone not to know. Now, try to rest."
There was nothing but the light from the fire and the sounds of the falls to tell anything had happened in this spot. The blue eyes of the warrior were clouded over as she stared at the flames and within seconds, several tears found their way onto the woman's cheeks.
The next morning she had transmitted sign language to Ephiny and told her they would meet up at the village. Ephiny had waved them on and she walked back over to the Bard. "Let's go, Ephiny will meet us at the village. I'm sure your sister is anxious to see you."
Before they started back down the path, Gabrielle walked back over to the spot she had last seen her friend. She stared down at the water as Xena reached out and touched her shoulder she said, "We can't do anymore here, let's go."
Turning to stare at the woman Gabrielle nodded and began to walk away. Xena grabbed her leather pack and the water skin as she limped after the woman.
The villagers were milling about the area when the two women made it into
the center of the village. Lila had been anxiously looking for them and was
standing on the porch when her eyes caught sight of the two as they
approached the village. Running to meet them she threw her arms around
Gabrielle. Then she stepped back and said, "Xena, Gabrielle, what is the matter?"
Xena gazed around the area then said, "We need to rest, let's get to the house and I will tell you all about it."
Her eyes glancing behind the two women Lila said, " Where are the other two, will they be here soon?"
Gabrielle seemed to be in a trance as Xena said, "Let's go, we'll talk later."
Entering the dwelling, Lila said, "Take Gabrielle to the bedroom, I'll bring something to eat."
Shaking her head the Bard said, "No, not hungry."
Lila reached out and wrapped her arm around the woman's waist as she said, "Come with me, your bed is still here, at least lay down for a little while."
Xena watched the two women leave the room. Her head was becoming dizzy and
the pain she was having in her back was now throbbing. She managed to make
it over to a wooden chair and set. When Lila made it back to the room she
saw Xena doubled over on the chair and hurried to her as she said, "Xena!
What..." As she neared the woman she could see the deep gouges in her back
as she said, "Your back, what happened?"
Slowly setting up Xena said, "Satanic's raven got a good hit on me. I'll be fine, just need to rest."
Reaching down Lila placed an arm around the woman and said, "Get up, lean on me, there is another bed in there and you need to lay down. I will go get the healer."
Xena started to say something as the woman said, "Don't argue, remember I grew up with Gabrielle. Come on, let's get you comfortable."
When Ephiny finally made it to Potidaea she was spent. Her body ached and she didn't think she could walk many more steps. Jonathan saw the woman and ran to meet her as he said, "Ephiny! Thank the gods you are all right!" She stared down at the young face and said, "I'm alive, where are Xena and Gabrielle?"
He pointed to Lila's dwelling as she said, "I need to see that they are all right, after I rest up a bit we'll talk."
He nodded his head as he watched the woman amble toward the building. Lila heard the knock and went to see who was at the door. When she saw Ephiny she reached out and said, "You are all right! Come in, you look like..."
Ephiny replied, "Like I feel. A chair, I need to set."
Helping the woman to a chair, Lila said, "And Ann, when can I expect her?"
Ephiny's hands were laying on the wooden table as she suddenly lashed out with them sending articles flying to the floor.
Lila jumped back as she said, "What is the matter, have I done something wrong?"
Staring up at the apprehensive face, Ephiny said, "No, where are Xena and Gabrielle?"
Lila took her to the bedroom and told her about Xena. Ephiny approached the bed as she stared down at the warrior. Xena was laying on her stomach, her luscious black locks brushed to the side exposing the dressing on her back.
Lila went to say something as the Amazon collapsed falling on the floor in a
heap. Lila ran and got a pillow and brought it over to Ephiny, she raised
the woman's head and placed it beneath it. Then she gently let it rest on
the softness of the feathers. Taking a blanket she spread it over the woman.
She could see the bruises and cuts she had sustained and from the way she was breathing she knew the Amazon had just been through the fight of her life. Standing, her eyes glanced from Gabrielle to Xena and down to Ephiny. Turning she left the room as she whispered, "Only one left, hurry and come in Ann Bounty, the others await your return as do I."
The days passed to weeks and the villagers had combed the area from the falls down to the village but there was not a sign of the woman. Xena's back had healed and Ephiny was well on her way to recovery. Gabrielle had visited with her family and she had spoken to the others. Her tenderness and caring was evident in the way she had nurtured Xena. But she was now spending all her time at the falls. She had made a thorough search of the caves behind the falls and had dove in the water many times searching for Ann.
Xena had walked into the house from outside as she said, "Well, I have Argo saddled and ready, where is Gabrielle?"
Ephiny turned to look at her and said, "Where she usually is."
Handing the leather pack to the woman Xena said, "Get us some provisions, I'll go get Gabrielle then we can start for your village. Nodding her head Ephiny said, "Go easy on her, she is taking this hard."
Nodding her head Xena turned and left the building. She rode Argo most of
the way and when she felt she was nearing the falls she climbed down and
tied the reins to a large bush. After she patted the animal she started
following the path. The sound of running water was near so she knew the
river was within walking distance. It was as she rounded a curve she stopped. Gabrielle was setting staring off into the water. Cautiously she crept up not wanting to scare the woman.
Gabrielle had been walking the area again only this time she had resigned
herself it would be the last. As she set staring out at the water her mind
drifted back to the beautiful woman she had grown so fond of. It was on the
deck of the Bounty and Ann had been feeling euphoric after a conquest of a
merchant ship. The woman had bounced across the deck, her red hair blowing
about her head, the leather pants and open neck blouse clinging to her as if a second skin. She had jumped and was swinging from sail to sail as she flew across one and then the other. Gabrielle had begged her to be careful but she only laughed. It didn't take the woman long to swing down and land at the Bard's feet. Taking a deep breath Gabrielle could still feel the wind as it gently blew across her face and as Ann neared her the overwhelming smell of cinnamon and sea breeze seemed to intoxicate her. Ann's emerald green eyes sparkled down onto her face as the woman said, "I will never forget you Gabrielle of Potidaea."
Remembering her words to the woman Gabrielle whispered, "And I will never forget you Ann Bounty."
Xena cleared her throat as she walked into the clearing. Gabrielle turned to see her friend approaching and she stood up saying, "Xena! I am surprised to see you here."
Xena stared around the area then she said, "It's time to go, Ephiny needs to get back to the village."
"Have you told her yet?"
Shaking her head the woman said, "No, not yet, but I will as soon as we reach the Amazon Village."
Gabrielle walked toward Xena then looked back one more time as she said, "I'm ready."
Xena reached out her left hand and grasped the Bard's as she said, "Then let's go get Ephiny."
As the two women walked along the path Xena's mind was mulling many things
over and the one thing she was having a hard time understanding. Although it
was apparent the Bard loved Sea, she had not shed one tear since the day the
woman was slain. She could not understand this as she had even caught Ephiny
in a quiet moment shedding tears for the woman. The sound of Argo nickering
brought her mind back to the present as the two hurried to the horse.
The trip back to the Amazon Village was quiet. The women seemed to be deep
in thought and not much to say. It was on their last night at camp that
Ephiny approached Gabrielle and said, "I tried, believe me, if it had been
possible I would have brought her back." Gabrielle had been setting on a
log, jotting something down on a scroll as she said, "I know, I don't blame you Ephiny. I thank you for trying, you took your life in your hands when you made that leap into the water."
Shivering the Amazon replied, "I didn't think, just reacted." She set down beside the Bard and said, "I've waited to give this to you." She held out her right hand and Gabrielle stared at the leather vest she was holding.
Seeming to be at a loss for words she reached out and took the piece of clothing. Finally she said, "When did you find this?"
Ephiny looked across the campfire at Xena and said, "That night, it was hooked on a rock. Xena said not to give it to you until you were feeling better."
Gazing at the warrior Gabrielle said, "Thanks, I will keep it. I'm not upset at either one of you. Would you like some tea?"
Seeming surprised Ephiny said, "Sure, let me get you some."
Gabrielle was on her feet and had already made it to the pot of hot water.
Later that evening, Xena had thrown out her blanket and had walked over to the Bard. She stared at Gabrielle and said, "I hope you understand why I told Ephiny to wait."
Smiling up at her Gabrielle said, "I do. I'm tired, do you mind if I lay down for awhile?"
"No, the blanket is down, I'll be there in a little bit."
Standing Gabrielle walked toward the campfire, turning to gaze at Xena she set down on the blanket.
Later when Xena walked over to where she was sleeping she stared at this
woman she had come to know so well. Gabrielle was laying on her back and in
her arms she held Sea's vest. Laying down by the Bard, Xena pulled up the
fur cover making sure the Bard was tucked in, then turned onto her back and
closed her eyes. Ephiny had gone off into the night seeming awfully
apprehensive and Xena assumed the woman was carrying on some sort of ritual.
Queen Melosa had been alerted to the arrival of the women and was standing in the center of the village watching them as they walked into the area. Xena stopped Argo as she said, "Melosa, it is good to see you again. We are weary."
The Queen gazed from one to the other then she said, "You and Gabrielle will stay in her chambers." Turning her gaze at Ephiny she said, "Ephiny, I need you to come with me."
Ephiny looked at Xena and Gabrielle as she said, "I'll meet you two later."
Xena told Gabrielle to go on to the cave and she would take Argo to the corral. Watching the Bard walk away Xena had a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach as she turned the horse and started toward the corral.
When she was finished, she headed for the cave and Gabrielle's chambers. Upon entering the room she knew something was amiss. Spying the Bard working on a leather pack she approached her and said, "Gabrielle, what is the matter?"
Turning to stare at her Gabrielle said, "Xena, I have made a decision and you may not like it. "
Seeming concerned the woman reached out and took Gabrielle's right hand in her's and said, "Come set down and tell me what you are talking about."
Following Xena to the fur bed, they both sat. Taking her time she sought each word before she set her gaze on the woman's. Feeling the pressure of Xena's grip on her hand she said, "You have to let me go."
Setting back Xena said, "Let you go, never! What are you babbling about?"
"I am serious Xena, I made a promise to Sea and I will keep it. She asked me to tell you if anything were to happen to her, and to please let her mother know. I am leaving today for Spoon Island."
Xena's voice seemed to catch in her throat as she said, "Then, I will go with you."
Seeming determined the Bard said, "No, Ephiny will need you here. I will do what must be done, then I will return if at that time you still want me."
Tears forming in her eyes Xena reached out and drew the woman to her chest as she said, "Still want you, I will always want to be with you. if this is what you feel you have to do then I will not try to stop you. I will worry about you and wait each day for your return."
Gabrielle enjoyed the warmth of the woman's body against hers for several moments then she got to her feet and said, "Tell Ephiny I said good-by."
Xena was on her feet as she said, "At least let me walk you to the inlet."
Placing her fingers on the warrior's lips she said, "No, for if you do, I fear I will not be able to go."
Walking over she picked up the leather pack turned and left the room. Xena seemed to be in shock and wasn't sure she had really heard Gabrielle right.Gabrielle had sent the signal to the ship and it didn't take long for Saxton and the men to show up in a longboat. The man was elated to see her as he jumped from the boat into the water and ran picking her up he swung her in circles as he said, "Little one, you have come home!" Staring around he let her feet fall to the ground as he looked at her and said, "But where is the Captain?" Gabrielle took his left hand in her's as she said, Saxton, she won't be coming." His eyes grew large as he said, "Not coming, then are we to come back for her?"
"No, Saxton, Ann has been killed!"
She might as well have hit the man with a tree as he crumpled to the ground saying, "No, no, not my Annie!"
Falling to her knees she rocked the man in her arms. Trying to comfort him she said, "She asked me to tell you if anything were to happen to her and she wants me to go to Spoon Island and tell her mother."
He was gazing into her eyes as he said, "Yes, you must be the one, her mother will be devastated."
Standing he wiped the tears from his eyes and said, "Then if it must be so, let us go it is a ways to the island."
The man helped her board the boat then he and several of the crew pushed it into deeper water. Gabrielle set listening to the water hitting the sides of the boat as it slowly made its way to the large ship that loomed in front of them.
After they had boarded the ship and Saxton gave the crew orders to sail to Spoon Island he followed her to the cabin door and said, "There is something you should know."
"If it something hard to take, I don't feel this is the right time."
He reached out and patted her right hand with his left one as he said, "Captain made a will, I have been holding it for her. She gives the Bounty to you as well as her other spoils."
Seeming shocked Gabrielle said, "I couldn't, I can't. I am not a pirate, besides I have a life on land."
He smiled as he said, "Perhaps you will change your mind, try to get some rest."
She watched him till he was out of sight then she slowly opened the door and entered the cabin. immediately she was struck with the essence of Ann Bounty. As she closed the door behind her and stared around the room. It was as she remembered and on the desk set the music box she had given to Sea. Walking over to it she caressed the lid then set the leather pack down. Reaching inside she removed the vest Ephiny had given her. Bringing it to her nose she inhaled the fragrance of her friend, even the water had not washed that away. Stepping close to the bed she reached out and caressed the spot where Sea lay, then she slowly laid down on it. Pulling herself into a ball she hugged the vest to her breasts and wept. It had been a long time coming and she didn't think she would ever stop as she cried, "Sea, no, no... Please come back, please. If anyone should have died, it should have been me."
Saxton had approached the door and stopped when he heard the mournful cries that were coming from inside. Tears in his eyes he headed for the hold.
Ephiny and Xena stood side by side watching the ship as it began to sail away. Ephiny reached out and grasped the woman's left hand as she said, "She will be all right Xena. Gabrielle has come into her own."
"I know, but it still hurts."
Ephiny replied, "They tell me that Epinon is dead, I don't believe it, when there is no body then there is hope. Who knows, maybe Ann Bounty is still alive somewhere."
The two women could faintly see the outline as the ship faded from view.
"Good things could happen if only we believe."
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