She made me promise I would write this down. I'm not the bard and I don't really want to do this, but I owe her one so I'm filling up this scroll. Don't expect much -- I'm a warrior. This is not my thing.
So I'd whacked Yodoshi, yadda yadda -- I'm sure Gabrielle's written out all that stuff so I don't have to repeat it here. Anyway, after the sun went down I was stuck as a ghost. There were a bunch of other ghosts around, freed up from Yodoshi. They jollied it up for a while then they'd stretch out their little arms and wisp away. They passed through a cloudy portal a ways yonder to go do whatever it is you do in Japa after you're dead.
One by one they'd gone. I'd even seen a bunch I recognized from the time Higuchi got burned, the ones I'd been told needed a state of grace or whatever. They looked pretty graceful to me and they didn't pay me much mind as they gassed off like all the others. That ratty little samurai came by, the one that had whopped off my head and kept it as a paper weight. I was happy to see that Gabrielle had finished him off and I rubbed it in.
It was the only good laugh I had because I saw Akemi too. She told me some things I didn't want to hear, including that she'd lied to me. What a surprise, I'd said, who'd have ever expected that? She said she had a good reason for it, but doesn't she always? Dammit, I'm such a sucker. I walked away from her and she wisped off after a while like the others and I was alone.
I could see a little of the living world I saw Gabrielle walking down the mountain looking sad and pissed off. Such a beautiful woman, such nifty ears -- I love her so. I watched her as long as I could. Her sadness was breaking my heart. I felt really crappy, you know what I mean? I'd let her down.
I've promised Gabrielle that I'd be with her always, even in death, and that's a promise I intend to keep. I wasn't sure how to get back to Gabrielle from here, though. I was in this emptiness, and I couldn't seem to contact Gabrielle, even though I saw her for little snippets of time. When she would appear briefly, it was a bit in the distance and hazy, but I'd run for her. Yet it never did any good I couldn't get over not even close. It became clear this was not the way to get to her. I thought maybe if I got to the other side of that death portal I'd have a better shot at it. Certainly I wasn't getting anywhere from here.
I figured I'd gas off pretty soon like those other dead souls and I waited. Nothing. I stretched out my arms like those other souls did to wisp off. Nothing. The portal was in the distance but it was clear I wasn't going to float off nicely into it like the other dead folks. I should have known that whatever I had to do I was going to have to do the hard way. I got on my feet and started walking to the portal. Naturally it would be me who was the only ghost that had to hoof her way to hell.
That portal was a hell of a lot farther away than it looked. I suspected it was backing up. I'd pause now and then when there would open up little windows of sights into the land of the living and Gabrielle. I saw her on a boat on the sea. I wished with everything I still had in me that I was with her. Damn, I love the sea. And damn, I love her. It was such a downer. Of all the times I've died, this had to be the worst.
Afterlife in Japa is mighty dull. Nothing to do but walk at a portal. The only thing that kept me from going crazy was that time to time seeing Gabrielle in the land of the living. She was talking to someone the way she used to talk to me. I couldn't see who it was but often I pretended she was talking to me and it made me feel a little less lonely. But sometimes it would make me feel a little jealous too, I mean, who was she traveling with now? Lucky stiff.
I got to the portal eventually and what did I find? A big dragon sleeping in front of it. Yup, big scaly thing, big teeth, big claws. Well, what did I expect, virgins dancing around a maypole? We warriors always get the butt end of things dragons and stuff like that. Anyway, I tried to sneak passed it. I thought I was doing pretty well when the big lizard stretched and slapped a big nasty claw over me that pinned me down. It went back to snoring and I was trapped.
I punched, I pushed, I bent my teeth on it til I was ready to howl. Finally I managed to wiggle out. I made a couple of more tries at getting past the dragon but the results were always the same. Sleeping or not, that dragon always managed to get me tangled up in its claws before I could get past it to the land of the dead. I couldn't get to Gabrielle from this limbo I was in and I couldn't get out of limbo because dragon needed a nap.
I sat down. Obviously it was time to come up with a plan. I waited for one. I wasn't coming up with anything. I wondered why the big lummox had to take its nap in front of my portal. Maybe, I figured, if I woke it up it would go sleep somewhere else. Yes, I know that didn't seem like such a smart plan but at the time I figured any change would be something. Besides, if it woke up maybe I could fight it. I felt like fighting something. Like I said, there wasn't anything else to do but sit watching it snooze and that was getting old.
I climbed up on the dragon's flank and shinnied along its neck to its big floppy ears. I grabbed one and yelled "Halloo!" into it as loud as I could. It started to shake. I lost my footing -- it was covered with scales after all -- and I hit the ground. The dragon slapped a sleepy paw on top of me and there I was again.
The dragon had its eyes sort of half open. It put its nose to me and then, for crying out loud, it began to lick me. I have to tell you something about this dragon -- it was sort of cold. I was wet all over with dragon slobber and it felt like that cool, refreshing feeling you get when you swim in a clear blue mountain lake. Brisk and alive. I sort of liked it although I figured after it got done cleaning me off I would be dragon food.
For a brief moment I considered just going with it. Eaten by a dragon or gassed off into a portal -- who was to say which was better? Problem was -- simply giving up is not my way. I got a little leverage on a claw and slipped out from the dragon's grasp again. But I still felt wet and cool all over -- I couldn't get the dragon slobber to dry off.
Then, as usual, just when you think things can't get any worse they do. I heard "Hello, Xena!" behind me and there she was -- Callisto. It was not even the cleaned-up, look-they-let-me-into-heaven Callisto. It was the old, bugged-out, over-the-top one in the chain-mail and leather with the poison darts, swords, daggers and Ares only knows what tucked in her belt.
"Welcome back, Xena! Do you know where you are? You've arrived in Chin! Such a lovely country! These beautiful mountains and rivers and waterfalls, although it doesn't look like much from limbo here. You really should try one of the scenic overlooks!" She ran her long finger along my wet face. "Ah, I see you've made the acquaintance of the Blue Dragon. How nice! Isn't it something?"
"Yeah," I said, "it's a real doozie. Why don't you go over and see if it's hungry?"
"Xena, how I've missed you! Have you missed me?"
"I've got nothing to say to you, all right?"
"All right, dear," she said. "I'll just sit right down here in case you think of something." She sat on the ground and sidled up next to me. Amazingly she kept her mouth shut. Why Callisto? I thought. I thought this Callisto, the crazy dangerous one, was long gone. I thought... I didn't know what to think. I must be dreaming or something. She stayed by my side. Occasionally she would wink at me. I couldn't take it any longer. She'd won -- I had to ask.
"What are you doing here?" I asked. "Are you really here?"
"Why darling, I'm visiting you! And I'm really, really, really here!"
"I thought you... I thought Eve..." I mumbled.
"Oh yes, Eve. That's a little complicated. Another time perhaps." She twirled a lock of her hair and smiled coyly. I could punch her but what was the use? "Little Eve," she went on. "How do you suppose she's doing?"
"Ha! I suppose she's fine."
"She loves you, you know."
"Yup, she's full of love. And peace. And vegetables," I said. "She was such a good fighter. She has passion, you know, real passion! Where's that passion going now, I ask you? Praying? Meditation? If you're not fighting or you're not making love what's the point in being Greek? Shoot," I said, "I blame the Romans. Always acting like they have a pole up their rump!"
So this made Callisto laugh. "Well, she was raised by Romans."
"That was not my idea!" I said. "She's got the Peloponnesus running through her veins just like me! She should get off her high horse and fall in love! That'll bring the Greek out in her!" Callisto fell over laughing which sort of ticked me off. I had no intention of amusing her. Talking of love though made me look around to see if I could see Gabrielle. Callisto spotted me and figured it right out.
"Oh yes, your little friend," said Callisto. We could both see her, laying under a blanket, sleeping on the edge of a cliff. "Look at her," said Callisto. "She drank some magic water, she has a magic sword, she has your chakram and she wears a magic tattoo. All that magic and all she's doing is sleeping."
I didn't have anything to say -- I could see that Gabrielle had been crying. "Such a pretty girl," Callisto went on, "Sunny hair, big strong thighs, ears like a set of chariot wheels..."
"Hey! Lay off those ears! You don't get to talk about her ears!" I gave her a kick in the side to help her remember.
"Oof," she grunted. "I was just recalling how she listened to you. And talked to you. And talked to you and talked to you..."
"Yeah," I said. "I wish I knew who she's talking to now!"
"Oh, I know that," said Callisto, smirking.
"Who? You?" I said and I grabbed her by her breastplate to pull her to her feet. No point in being delicate; no one else was there but the sleeping dragon.
"Why Xena," she said. "Can't you tell? She's talking to her love of you. It follows her around."
"What?" I said. "I'm here, dead, nowhere!"
"You're alive in her heart. She just can't seem to let it go, poor thing."
This pierced me right through and even though Callisto was there I had to cry a little bit. Poor Gabrielle. Poor us. Me in limbo here, her in limbo on the other side, never meeting. "She should go back home," I said. "If you see her, tell her to go back west." Callisto nodded. Me, I felt, I felt crummy. More than ever I wanted to get my turn to go off in a puff of smoke into the nothingness of that portal. If only that stupid dragon would move.
"I wish I had my chakram," I said. I figured a couple of pops from that might shake up that dragon.
"Oh yes, your chakram," Callisto said. "What happened to that? Did you toss it one day when your sense of geometry was off?"
"It's not geometry that makes it come back. I mean, it's not just geometry. You have to will it back, really hard. Then, one way or another, you get it back." Then I noticed that even though I couldn't hold my chakram as a ghost Callisto was decked out like an armory. Real fast, I reached over, snatched her sword and made a rush for that dragon.
I was all ready to make some dragon sashimi, but halfway to the dragon the sword disappeared. I didn't want to play dodge the claw again so, sadly, I turned back. As I got back to Callisto the sword reappeared in my hand. Somehow she had another sword and she was holding it pointed right at my throat.
"Oh Xena," she said. "As long as we have eternity let's do what we do best!" She lunged at me. I parried and the fight was on. I have to admit, Callisto is a swell fighter. Good form, nice technique, very creative attacks. At times I caught myself almost enjoying the fight. But, of course, ghosts don't have to sleep. After what seemed like a couple of weeks straight of fighting I'd really had my fill. I didn't want to fight anymore but every time I slacked up, every time my attention wandered just a little, she was on me. Often I wanted to turn my attention to killing that doggone dragon, but that thought alone seemed to open a hole in my defenses and Callisto would smack me around like a handball until I was so fired up I could only think of getting her again.
Then, one day, in the middle of a dagger-tossing fight Callisto stopped and pointed with her sword. I looked and I was able to get a glimpse of Gabrielle in the land of the living. When I turned back Callisto was gone. It was over.
I turned my attention back to Gabrielle. I could tell that she was in some sort of temple or retreat, talking with this strange looking guy wearing blue. They were making some kind of deal. They seemed to come to an agreement and he put his arm around her shoulders. It didn't take long for it to become obvious to me what her part of the deal was.
Well, Gabrielle was her own woman, free to do as she wants and maybe she was lonely, me being dead and all. And the guy was sort of good-looking in a creepy, magician sort of way. Still, I wasn't happy about it and I thought that if I ever got out of here that son of a Bacchae better watch his back. Then I heard my name. I looked and saw the real Gabrielle standing behind me.
She was real. I could touch her. I could hold her and I did. I was still all wet with dragon slobber, I felt sort of soggy, even. That stuff just doesn't give up, but she didn't seem to mind. She wasn't talking but that was okay because we were communicating just fine. To my mind people talk about things too much anyway. Call me old-fashioned but I prefer action. But Gabrielle usually will talk some and she wasn't saying anything. It took me a while though to settle down, take a breather and ask her what was up.
She caressed my face with her hand and stood up. She walked right up to the dragon, turned and stretched her arms. Someone brushed past me and walked right into her. I don't mean bumped into her, I mean she walked right into Gabrielle like she was a hut. The walker turned and smiled at me just as she disappeared. It was Lao Ma, my mentor, my savior really, that I had known the first time I was in Chin. She had been treacherously killed long ago by her rotten son. There was never anyone like her.
After Lao Ma entered Gabrielle the dragon changed. It turned clear and the color of the sea; I could see waves of water roiling within it. Gabrielle pointed to the top of the dragon and said "Xena, where is your chakram?" That was the only thing she said and then she was gone.
I stared into the dragon and I thought I saw something round in it. I dove into the dragon. I was in water and it tasted like the sea. My lungs filled up with water and I was floating in it like a baby in its mother. I guess I was drowning. I felt myself going apart sort of and sea water flowing in and through me.
After a while somehow, don't ask me how, I saw sunlight and something round. My chakram -- mine. I reached for it. It pulled me up to the surface and to the light of a setting sun. I saw Gabrielle on the shore. You don't need to know the rest.
Okay, that's it. End of scroll, I'm done. I'm off to get my reward and she says she has something to tell me. This would be a good time for you to get lost, okay? Don't make me come over there.
Read Gabrielle's Story: The Flood
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