THE USUAL; XENA AND GABRIELLE DO NOT BELONG TO ME; RAVEN DOES!! SHE’S COPY-WRITTEN; PLEASE DON’T USE HER WITHOUT MY PERMISSION.
LOVING RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN TWO CONSENTING ADULT WOMEN, DON’T LIKE IT OR UNDER AGE, BEST BE GONE!! YOU DON’T BELONG HERE!
The two armies faced each other across the clearing that was soon to become a battle field. The tall leather clad warrior glanced back, raised her sword high above her head, her beautiful features contorted in a feral snarl. Then swinging the sword down, she screamed the attack.
Suddenly the air was rent with the battle cries of both sides as they came together in a thunderclap of clashing weapons and the horrific shrieks of those who had already begun to die.
It was during a brief lull, as both sides regrouped, before the second wave began. Eponin who had been fighting beside Xena during the first wave now grabbed Xena’s arm, her voice a study in hushed awe. "Xena? Xena, look! There!!"
Following the Amazon’s pointing arm Xena looked up towards a low lying hill off to the left and slightly behind the enemy lines. Silhouetted by the sun, head held at a proud angle, as if it were actually watching the battle below, was what appeared to be a large, dark......dog?
For a moment Xena and the animal seemed to be frozen in time; the sun behind the animal made it impossible to see it clearly. Yet Xena could not tear her eyes from it.
Gabrielle, seeing Xena standing there as if carved from stone, staring up at the hill, as if under a spell, went swiftly to her lover’s side. Her concern showing plainly on her pretty face, she laid a hand on Xena’s arm;
"Xena? Xena, what’s wrong?" At the continued silence, Gabrielle turned to see what held Xena’s eyes with such intensity. Shading her eyes against the suns glare, Gabrielle focused on a large dog pacing back and forth on the top of the hill. She saw no reason for Xena to be so affected, and as she turned to question her love again, a sudden war whoop broke the relative stillness, and the battle was joined once more.
At that exact moment the great beast on the hill lifted it’s head and howled a cry of such despair that for a moment all activity ceased, as every head snapped to look at the hill and the large dark animal which now bolted off in the direction away from the killing field.
Wide-eyed, Gabrielle spun Xena around to face her, the question showing plainly on her face; Is it possible? I mean....how can it...? But the question was never really asked and never really answered because once again the battle raged around them, and the lovers were suddenly torn apart by a surge of warriors from both sides.......
The battle had gone well, Xena was pleased. Amazon casualties were light although the damage they inflicted would set Sardious back on his heels for awhile. The Warlord would now have to recruit more men, and that would give Xena and the Amazons the time they needed to defeat him once and for all!
The grime of fighting was hanging on her like a cloak, her hair hung in sweaty hanks around her shoulders; A hint of that feral sneer still lingered about her full lips, her glazed eyes yet held death’s gleam. It was a sight that chilled the blood, more so for those who remembered.....
"Xena! Xena!!" A voice cried out to her, shaking herself slightly to re-gain her focus, she then whirled around and she saw her mate, running towards her!
Oh, Gods; Gabrielle....she thought. Thank the Gods...you’re safe. Grabbing the bard in her strong arms, Xena kissed the girl passionately, holding her close, Xena whispered; "Don’t ever leave my side like that again!!"
Gabrielle, trembling in the arms of her lover, tears on her face; "Oh, Xena!!" She cried..."I thought for a moment..."
Taking the warrior’s head in her hands Gabrielle kissed her love long and hard. Xena, quite taken by surprise, nevertheless enjoyed every minute of the exchange, her heart racing, not only the battle lust raging in her; but the rising lust her mate inspired in her every time she held her and kissed her like this!! As Xena grabbed her soul-mate tighter, Solarie came running up to the two.
"My Queen?...Xena?..."she gasped out.
Turning, both women looked at the exhausted Amazon;
"My Queen...I’m sorry..."she was slowly regaining control of her breathing, swallowing hard, she looked at the two and continued in a hesitant manner, "but...the one you told us about...the one you said runs with the wolves...we have her! At first we thought...." Her voice trailed off
At this, Xena stiffened, Gabrielle held her lover closer.....
"Where is she?" Xena rasped out, her eyes glittering like blue diamonds,
"Ephiny... she...shot her..I mean.... the animal with her crossbow...she thought the creature was attacking her...I ...we knew your orders, Xena! But I swear...I thought it was attacking also!!"
Xena’s ice blue eyes glared at the hapless warrior, her voice low and menacing;
"WHERE IS SHE, SOLARIE?"
"My Queen...??" Her eyes pleading to Gabrielle’s deep green ones first, then at Xena’s unforgiving glacial ones, Solarie bowed her head, and said quietly….."IT…… has been taken to the prison hut."
Holding Gabrielle close, Xena pushed past the young warrior; "Come on", she said harshly to her love... "I....we have to find out. It may not be...." Xena ‘s voice trailed away as she followed Solarie back to the village.
As Xena and Gabrielle made their way to the hut where the captive lay, they said not a word to each other; but they both were thinking the same thing;
The dark haired woman lay on her back; the haft of crossbow bolt still sticking out from her chest.
Once again ,Gabrielle was struck by the many fine scars covering the woman’s body. The patch still covered her left eye, but she looked leaner than she had before, her leanly muscled frame bore an almost hungry look. She still wore the short battle garb that Gabrielle remembered from their last meeting. Raven’s short spiked hair now bore a small blaze of white over her right eye. Her finely chiselled face, although peaceful now, showed her weariness and Gabrielle’s heart once again hurt for the dark warrior. As Xena bent to check her out, a low menacing growl held her hand. There laying beside the dark warrior, was a stocky, bow-legged, thick-furred, cross-eyed....animal!!! In the dim light of the hut it was hard to make out exactly just what kind of animal, but it was definitely there.
MERR.. It growled....low in it’s throat, as it moved closer to the unconscious warrior. It’s glowing green eyes visible now as was the rest of it’s face.... it was a…CAT??!!!
Xena was stood back as the animal growled again, her blue eyes wide in surprise. Gabrielle started to giggle. Xena snapped her head towards the bard and whispered... "This is not funny, Gabrielle!!!"
"Oh, I don’t....MMMuufff"...she tried to cover her laughter, but could not, her green eyes sparkling in the darkness of the hut.
"Gabrielle!!!!" Xena hissed. She looked again at the dark warrior lying on the bed, and the short, bulky animal that guarded her. It’s luminous, crossed green eyes regarding what had to be two of her!
Xena tried once again to remove the crossbow bolt that lay in the dark warrior’s chest, but once again, the little creature’s fur bristled, and a still surprised Xena backed off.
Laughing, and grabbing her lover’s arm, Gabrielle led Xena from the hut. Xena, sputtering, let herself be led to the royal hut she and Gabrielle shared when ever they were in the Amazon village. Once inside, Gabrielle fell into a chair and started to laugh long and loud, as Xena stomped around the room and fumed. Stopping and glaring at the bard, Xena, hands on her hips looked at her lover and said,; "Just what in Tartaras is so funny!!?"
"Oh Xena!!" Exclaimed the bard.... "If you could have seen your face!!
When that ....that.... cat!!!" And the bard was lost again in a helpless spasm of laughter. "OH, Gods!!! MERR??? Xena…it said MERR!!! MMUFFFUMP!!" Gabrielle threw her hands up over her mouth to stifle yet another loud gawfaw.
Xena’s ice blue eyes stared, unbelievingly at the bard. "GABRIELLE!!! … RAVEN’S WOLVEN!!! What in Hades Eyes is she doing sleeping with a CAT!!!?"
At that statement Gabrielle let loose with another loud bark of laughter, tears rolling down her lovely face, emerald green eyes sparkling through the moisture, holding her ribs, she suddenly fell from her chair...still giggling. Xena ran to her life-mate, concern written on her finely sculptured features; "Gabrielle!? What’s wrong?" Holding her love, Xena looked into Gabrielle’s lovely green eyes and suddenly saw the humour that had taken over the situation;
Xena’s ice blue eyes started to crinkle up at the corners and; all of a sudden, she started to laugh too!!
"By the Gods Gabrielle," she laughed..." that was one ugly critter!"
"Xena"..Gabrielle gasped through her tears.. "did you see it’s eyes?" Laughter still in control of the girl, she stuttered out, "One...one... looks North...one looks South!!!"
Xena realising that what Gabrielle was saying was true, pealed off into her own fit of uncontrollable laughter. Holding each other as they laughed, the tears running down their faces;
In the darkened prison hut, the object of their derision was at that point tugging and chewing gently at the crossbow bolt that was still stuck in Raven’s chest.
Early the next morning, Solarie pounded on the door of the Queen’s hut; My Queen..Xena !!??
Xena snapping out of their bed, sword in hand, shouldered on her leathers, and flung open the door. Solarie bowed deeply to the Queen’s consort,
"It…." Taking a deep breath, Solarie looked at the Queen’s consort, and prepared for the worse, "it has escaped!! Xena...the creature is gone...." Solarie’s brown eyes were wide with confusion and perhaps just a little fear...
Xena, a look of disbelief flying across her beautiful features; said in a low menacing voice; "HOW IN HADE"S NAME COULD YOU LET THAT HAPPEN!!!!" Xena’s voice was trembling...whether in anger or in fear....no one in the room knew for sure, no one in the room was willing to ask...not even Gabrielle.
As they looked through the darkened hut, Xena’s eyes tried to glean whatever information she could from the surroundings, all the warrior’s eyes could discern were the tiny tuffs of white and brown fur....that and the chewed off haft...of a crossbow bolt.
Raven was staggering, running through the woods surrounding the village. She knew she couldn’t get to far today...but once the night came...her one amber eye gleamed at her small companion; "soon...." she whispered... "soon."
MERR...MERR.....came the softly growled reply, the deep sea green eyes beheld his mistress, and knew all would be all right; so long as he was there...and, he thought to himself, night..... night was falling....
Xena was busy barking out orders; the Amazons were scurrying about the village setting up the defences that Xena and the Queen had ordered to be set.
"Come on!!" Xena ordered. "The night is almost here!!!"
Gabrielle was setting up a possible triage, in case they needed it, in the Amazon mess tent. Getting the healers and their helpers to setting out supplies and bandages;
She had seen the damage Raven could cause...she knew what Raven could do if she so choose to...she and Xena knew what ....just exactly what Raven really was...
OH,GODS.....she prayed; DON’T LET HER HURT MY AMAZONS!!!
Hurriedly, she continued with her preparations.
The woods were quiet; the squat, bulky animal; lifted his head, green eyes glowing; scenting the wind. Standing up, the critter slowly reached out his front paws, back arched up and back, tail standing straight up and his ears perked forward, the animal stretched. Tail flicking rapidly to right and left, the fat cat, his face marked with a white blaze down his nose and around his expressive mouth, down his throat, his belly; the markings became dark brown with black tiger stripes, around his large body, his tail and legs, except for his large feet, which were also white; the brilliant white areas of his body were his curse.....his downfall, really; but for his mistress....
Raven awoke, the pain in her chest was real. OH GODS....she thought Xena...again!! Why will this not leave me be??!! I am not responsible.... her soul crying out, the wounded warrior pounded her fists into the ground....her amber eye, bleeding tears into the night; her hands gripping the grass, her lean muscles clenched, breaking the moon’s light, as she cried out her grief to the sky....the wail soon became a howl, as the dark warrior’s body started to change...the lean, scarred figure laid down and curled up protectively into a ball....the body curled and bunched; her fingers grew shorter...squatter.... The tanned arms, lengthening, growing; the hands, always expressive; each becoming tangled together in a dark mass...
A low growl rippled through the air; The smaller, chunky animal at her side, growled softly; MERR...MERR!!!? The large wolf growled in recognition, it’s one amber eye glowing at the smaller green ones. Stay here.....her mind directed...This I.... must check out….
Xena’s scent was in the air...so was Gabrielle’s.... The beast held it’s nose in the air a little longer........these were .....friends.
The wolf started to scent around,; and discovered a nasty smell off to her right...the ones who had hired her. She had been a fool to hire out to these men....her mind was racing, she had to set things right. If she could not let Xena know what was going on, at least she could help make things better. The wolf let loose a howl, head thrown back, amber eye glowing, her lips pulled back from her gums in a feral snarl, teeth bared, the wolf ran towards the camp of the invaders.
Then all Tartarus broke loose...the screams of the dying men echoed all the way back to the Amazons who were scouting the area for the captive they had lost earlier that morning. Xena leading the way, stood suddenly, her eyes wide, startlingly blue, as she stared off into the distance. The Amazons behind her stopped in confusion, as the warrior slowly, tensely, stood there... "RAVEN"....she whispered through clenched teeth. Her hands balled tightly into fists.
Raven was wreaking havoc; the men in the camp never knew what hit them...the large dark wolf attacked them with a vengeance...most of them died without knowing who or what had killed them. Swords flashed at the wolf striking it in a dozen places, but the animal pressed on weaving destruction at every turn. The Amazons arrived and took over the fight, their swords flashing in the early morning sunlight...Xena , engaged in a fight with three men barely had time to register the fact that the wolf was limping slowly off the battle field.
It had taken Xena a day and a half to track down Raven; but she found her, in a small clearing. The green-eyed hunting cat was playing. Pushing and pulling the last piece of the crossbow bolt that had fallen from Raven’s chest.
Xena watched as the stocky little animal, lifted the piece and flinging it high in the air, batted it around the clearing, tail held high, large paws held high in the air as it leaped and flung itself through the game. She watched the stocky little creature as it pranced about the area...but her eyes kept returning to the dark, lean warrior who slept beneath the large oak tree.
Gods...Xena thought, she still looks the same....thinner now, but the same. Xena continued to watch the dark warrior as she slept. Her thoughts tumbling around in her head like a pebble in a coconut shell. Gabrielle had not been happy; in fact, the little bard had been furious, her emerald green eyes glittering as she stormed around the hut, shouting her protests at being left behind yet again. And, Xena thought with a hint of a smile on her beautiful face, not a small touch of jealously; Gabrielle knew that she had a "history" with Raven; and the idea of her consort wandering around the woods alone, especially when Raven was in the area... Wolf or not, Raven was still Raven...and Gabrielle knew she still invoked strong emotions in Xena.
And she would be right, Xena thought as she looked at the sleeping warrior, there was still a part of her that loved the dark-haired warrior. She’s hurt worse than I thought...she doesn’t know I’m here yet....she should have scented me a long time ago. As she watched, the squat, thick-legged hunting cat crept up to the sleeping warrior, his large paws on Raven’s shoulder, his deep sea green eyes peering at the warrior intently. The cat gently pushed his head into the warrior’s chin. Xena watched amazed, as Raven started to stir, slowly almost reluctantly from the arms of Morpheus. Raven her one eye glowing amber in the dim light of the small clearing, smiled a weary greeting at her small companion as it settled on her shoulder.
"Ah, Barious..." she whispered hoarsely to the animal... "no rest for the weary? Even today?"
MERR...MERRR...the cat said softly, it’s paw reaching up to touch the side of Raven’s face, as if in a caress. Grimacing slightly, the dark warrior slowly started to rise. The cat stood and stretched along side of his mistress. Wincing inwardly, Xena watched as Raven haltingly stood up....her heart breaking as the still wounded warrior tried to shake off the effects of the last hard fought battle.
"I’ll be back, little one," she spoke softly... "how about fish for breakfast?" Raven grinned her lop-sided grin at the smaller animal looking intently up at her weary face, his green eyes shining. Kneeling down, Raven’s shoulders hunched forward, and shuddering slightly...Raven began to change...
Startled, Xena gasped out loud, the half wolf turned it’s head turned suddenly....it’s one golden eye fixed on Xena;
"XENA..." a coarse, choked whisper; Then, head down, shifting to the shadows, the transformation was complete....the wolf still looking at Xena’s hiding place, turned suddenly, it’s great scarred head thrown back, let loose a howl and bolted off in the opposite direction. Xena, trembling, the small hairs on her arms and the back of her neck still standing...her crystal blue eyes opened wide and staring as she watched the dark wolf lope off into the forest.
Sometime later as Xena was preparing the campfire, Raven walked back into the clearing, three dressed pheasants hanging on a vine in her left hand.
Stopping, Raven’s amber eye glowered at Xena; then she threw the birds at her, stalking away from the fire.
"Hungry?" Xena’s wry voice broke the tension, and brought Raven up short, her leanly muscled legs braced, hands clenched at her sides, then, her craggy face breaking into a sheepish grin...she turned back to look into Xena’s face....
"He tends too eat a lot...." she said, her teeth gleaming white in the late morning sun.
Xena, still holding Raven’s catch in her hands, smiled up at the dark warrior; "I thought we were having fish," she said, loving the brief look of surprise that flashed across Raven’s face.
"Yeah, well," she mumbled, running a hand through her short, spiked hair; "there’s not enough fish in that river to feed that one...." nodding towards the bulky cross-eyed cat laying in the grass of the clearing; "He’s a damn bottomless pit when it comes to food," she grumbled looking at the animal.
Suddenly Xena barked out a loud HAH!!! "I know what you mean!!" Then, looking up at the confused warrior, she said with a sheepish grin on her face; "Well, you see...uh...Gabrielle...well it’s kinda a joke now...but...well..." "BY THE GODS THAT GIRL CAN EAT!!!" This last came out in a rush, Xena shaking her head and chuckling softly at the memories that flooded her head with that statement.
Laying a large callused hand on Xena’s shoulder, Raven, grinned down at Xena; that smile still did weird and wonderful things to Xena’s stomach.....
"Trust me," Raven said... "I can sympathise." Turning then, Raven went to the edge of the clearing and started rooting around a while. Coming back with some wild onions, some fiddlehead greens and some wild leek...Raven’s lop-sided grin flashed at Xena again. "For flavour; from what I hear you’re not much of a cook!!" Now it was Xena’s turn to be surprised, as Raven chuckled softly, while walking over to the short haired animal waiting for her by the tree. While Xena finished putting the birds, stuffed now with the greens, on the spit, Raven lay back against the tree, and closing her eye, the cat, curling at her side, went back to sleep for a much needed healing rest. Content knowing that between the cat and Xena, she could rest easy. Xena watching as the warrior slept, kept an eye on their breakfast and watch on the glade.
Raven awoke in a sweat, she quickly scanned the clearing...panic written on her face. Seeing Xena tending the fire and the food she visibly relaxed, wiping her scarred hands across her face, shaking off the effects of the dream that had so shaken her. The cat at her side, paw reaching in an effort to comfort and perhaps protect. MERR....MERR? It growled....it’s bright green eyes...wise and knowing.
"Awake are you?" Xena’s soft voice caressed Raven’s heart, a little comfort to ease the terrors of her visions.
Not a dream then. Raven grunted an unintelligible reply and stiffly started to rise. Limping slightly towards the fire, stretching and flexing until she had worked the majority of kinks out.
Xena, her voice carefully neutral, said, "Come on, you better eat while you can....before I burn it beyond recognition."
Raven’s throaty chuckle caused Xena’s breath to catch in her chest....the same, still the same she thought. Looking down quickly she lifted the spit and using her dagger she pushed a bird for each of them onto some wooden plates that she had in her saddlebags. Looking up at Raven with a perplexed gesture, Xena held up the last bird.
Once again came the chuckle, this time accompanied by Raven’s lop-sided grin as she looked over at the now alert cat, it’s ears perked forward....tail twitching and thumping heavily on the ground. It’s intense, slightly crossed green eyes never leaving the bird that Xena was unconsciously waving about in her uncertainty, his large head moving in sync with his breakfast...round...and round...and round....
Xena, who had turned to glance at the cat was unknowingly mimicking the animals movements, her own head going...round...and round...and round.... Suddenly a loud bark of laughter broke the spell. Xena, startled, slipped back from her crouch and unceremoniously landed hard on her butt, her arm automatically flying back to brace her back; the bird flew off the spit, arcing out over the clearing...the bulky animal’s body tensed, his rear end wriggling in anticipation.... He suddenly leapt up into the air and wrapping his front paws around the soaring piece of bar-b-que, sinking his teeth into the carcass, he landed nimbly and then proceeded to drag it off to his spot under the tree. There he tore into his breakfast with a single-minded relish that oddly enough, Xena could relate to.
Raven’s gasping laughter brought Xena back with a jolt, glancing over at the helplessly snickering warrior, Xena waited until Raven started to get control of herself. As Raven wiped the tears from her face she looked up at the dark haired warrior sitting across from her and found Xena giving her the "look", the ice blue glare of the Warlord. This same look had brought many a strong man to their knees and froze armies in their tracks.
Raven kept a straight face for as long as she could, then holding her ribs with her right hand, she broke out into a fresh fit of uncontrollable laughter. Her left hand slapping the ground, her head between her knees, Raven, once was again a captive of her hilarity.
Xena tried to maintain her stern visage but thinking back on it, as she fell backwards on her elbows she had seen the leap for the chicken the cat had made, and she was pretty sure that the look on her face had probably shown the astonishment she had felt. Watching Raven as she struggled for air between bouts of laughter, Xena could feel her own smile begin tugging at the corners of her mouth, suddenly imaging her expression, Xena felt her own laughter bubbling to the surface, and then she was laughing as hard as Raven, which of course sent Raven off on another fresh burst.
"Xe....Xe..na....stop...I can’t take anymore." Raven was gasping for air, laying on her back now, face wet with tears. "Gods," she gasped, slowly regaining control of her breathing, "I’ve not had that much fun in a long time."
Xena, wiping her face grinned back at the dark warrior, " Come on, eat, you need to put some meat on those bones. Here, I made some tea," handing a mug to Raven who was still wiping her own face. Grinning at one another, they settled down to eat their slightly delayed breakfast.
The silence of the small glade was broken only by the loud smacking noises coming from the direction of the tree and the occasional snicker or snort from the two women by the fire. The cat, obviously enjoying his breakfast, was totally unaware, or perhaps totally unconcerned by the inane antics of the two women by the fire, his concentration devoted to stripping the last remaining pieces of meat from the carcass. But as the smacking got louder and laughter threatened to burst out once more, he cast a wary eye in the direction of the two by the fire, silly beasts, he thought, the things I have to put up with, and with that he started thoughtfully gnawing on a leg bone.
Finished with the meal, Xena stood, "Well, let’s get this cleaned up. We’ll have to set out soon….." her voice trailed off as she realised she had just assumed that Raven would go with her to the Amazon village, she hadn’t asked her. Holding out her hand to the dark warrior, the hesitation was fractional, then clasped her hand to Xena’s and was pulled to her feet.
Shimmering amber locked with sky blue for the briefest of instants before Raven broke the electric contact. Smiling a grim smile, Raven looked back at Xena, giving her a resigned shrug, She nodded and started to help Xena break camp.
They worked in silence, their easy companionship gone. Once everything was packed, Raven walked to the tree line and from under some brush retrieved her pack and her weapons. Talking her pack she went further into the bush and disappeared from sight. Xena stood where she was, torn by conflicting emotions. Turning towards the tree she spotted the squat cat lounging in the shade casually preening himself. His placid green eyes regarding her as if to say, I do not doubt her, why do you? Xena, her gaze locked into his realised Raven would never leave without him, her loyalties, her honour, ran too deep. At the sudden shift in the animal’s attention, Xena looked to the tree line as Raven walked out of the bush. Her hair was wet and she had changed her clothes. Xena was mildly surprised at Raven’s attire, it was a far cry from what she had been wearing. She wore long trousers of a supple black leather, thigh high black leather boots with a medallion of unusual design set at the side of each knee. Her shirt, tucked in the trousers, was a sleeveless off-white linen that laced up the front to about the middle of her chest. Its half collar reminded Xena of the ones she had seen in Chin. Her leather arm bracers and greeves carried the same strange design on them as the medallions at her knees.
As she drew nearer she felt Xena’s eyes on her and stopped. Feeling self-conscious she meet Xena’s gaze head on. "What!!?" She growled, the irritation showing clearly in her voice.
Xena’s eyebrow arched and her mouth quirked in a half smile. "Ummmm…..well now. This IS a new look for you, huh?" The smile was full blown now as Raven squirmed in obvious discomfort.
"Stow it cub!! I was aboard ship the last few moons. And you’ve not grown too big that I still can’t teach you a lesson in manners! Raven’s words took Xena by surprise and for a moment she was seventeen again, in awe of this warrior…..and in love for the first time in her life. Raven catching the look turned suddenly and walked towards the tree to retrieve her weapons. She buckled her broadsword to her back, then the long slender sword with the carved dragon hilt she buckled to her waist to hang at her left hip. Lastly she put on two bandoleers studded with metal stars over each shoulder. Xena looked at them with interest but said nothing. She knew Raven rarely wore anything just because she was a slave to fashion, so, she was curious about the stars, but she also knew Raven would fill her in as to their purpose in her own good time, not before.
"Xena….." Raven began hesitantly, "I want you to know, I harmed no Amazon…I led them here, I got them in, but when I realised what was really going on…..when I sensed you….I knew something was wrong…..I…." Suddenly slamming her right fist into the palm of her left. "BLAST MY SORRY HIDE!!!" she spat out bitterly, "I should never have hired out to….but that last trip….I wasn’t completely…" her voice trailed off as she looked at Xena, realising she had never fully explained the how, the why, or the wherefore of her unusual existence. Clearing her throat she continued, "I wasn’t completely recovered. I don’t know, I wasn’t thinking straight, my instincts were just that little bit off….I know it’s no excuse. I accept the blame for what I’ve done, I’ll accept the punishment." Raven’s face was grim but calm at this last statement.
Laying a hand gently on her friend’s shoulder, she said softly, "I know…..you always did do the right thing." There was just a trace of bitterness in Xena’s voice, as the two looked at each other for a moment longer. Then squeezing Raven’s shoulder, said a little roughly, "Come on, we should get there before dark."
Raven watched Xena’s retreating form for a minute longer, then let loose a ragged breath. She had no idea she had held it. Running a hand through her cropped hair, she shook herself slightly, as might a sleeper when first waking up, or a dreamer perhaps, chasing away the last dregs of a nightmare.
Whistling sharply she set off after Xena, her long stride quickly eating up the distance between the two women. The squat hunting cat bounding silently behind them. They had walked for at least a league when Raven stopped, her head quirked in different directions, her hand on Xena’s arm: She went a few steps ahead…..her hand still on Xena’s arm: "Stop…" her smile crocked up at the left side of her mouth. Her amber eye glowed softly, her left eyebrow arched….."A hundred paces or so…."her face calm, lifting into the wind; "six …..maybe more….women. A soft snort as she went to one knee and looked up. They’re hiding in the trees, looking at Xena’s blank face, Raven’s lip curled up in a snarl. "Your Amazons?"
Xena, knowing the sentries were there, somewhere, said nothing.
Raven stood, her eye locked to Xena’s, "Shall we?" Turning sharply, she walked off, in the direction of the Amazon guards. Raven knew how good Xena was at picking up on people stalking about her; "But," Raven thought to herself, smirking just a little, "I’m just a bit better."
Xena, startled into action, quickly caught up to the dark warrior. "That wasn’t entirely fair, you know." She regarded Raven, eyebrow arched, "Your…..senses are….oh, how do I put this? Slightly more atuned…..no….sharper…..downright animal actually!!!"
Sprinting ahead suddenly she avoided the slap Raven shot at her, tossing her head back, blue eyes twinkling at gold, "By the way," she said, "they’re not MY Amazons, they’re Gabrielle’s!"
Whistling the peace call and having it returned, Xena turned back towards Raven as she walked up the trail. "I’m sorry but….Your weapons….? Xena, as a warrior herself, knew just what she was asking of Raven.
"I’ll have to speak to Gabrielle about how noisy they are." At that point the Amazons glided down on vines from their hiding places in the trees….and Raven began to grimly remove her weapons, including the bandoliers. Catching Xena’s eye, she said softly, "Trust me on this Xena….if I get the chance, I’ll show how these things work."
Closely guarded by three warriors on each side of her, Raven looked straight ahead. She felt the curious looks she was getting. It took almost all of her will-power not to laugh out loud as the young blond to her right stumbled and nearly fell.
Xena, eyebrow raised, gazed questionably at the warrior who was now blushing furiously. Turning from the hapless woman, she allowed herself a self-satisfied smirk thinking, "Kid, I know how you feel, been there once myself!!" Shaking her head slightly she turned her gaze once more towards the village; and Gabrielle…..
Word had preceded their arrival and it seemed as if the entire village had turned to witness the strange procession. Xena’s eyes flickered towards the council hut and her heart swelled with pride as she saw Gabrielle, regal in full Amazon garb. Ephiny, the Queens regent at her side. Though Gabrielle tried her best to maintain her royal visage, she could not quite keep that silly grin off her face, and even though she was still angry at her mate, the sight of her never failed to bring this reaction.
Green eyes blazed into glacial blue as Xena walked confidently towards her lover. The tall warrior looking deep into the sea green eyes of her love, gathered her up in her long, strong arms; and in front of the Amazon Nation; kissed her Queen long and hard.
Gabrielle, her senses suddenly taken away from her…..she forgot … She knew she was upset……but for the life of her …. She just couldn’t remember why….
Ephiny smiled. Taking both Xena’s arm as well as Gabrielle’s, she led them to the Royal hut. Some things should be discussed in private.
Raven stood, erect and unflinching. Her shoulders, back, head held high; Her Amber eye, scanning the assembled Amazons; almost taunting…..
The Amazons, gathered around Raven, gingerly took her arms, and led her to the prisoners hut. Hands bound, Raven LET herself be led into the hut….and the darkness beyond.
MERR? MERRRR??? The darkness of the hut was Raven’s domain. …. The hunting cat slipped in unnoticed by the guards. Seeking his way to the dark warrior, he started to chew softly. His large paws, gently wrapped around Raven’s wrists. Raven’s dark Amber eye twinkled as she thought of the fun she would have tomorrow, when the guards came in and found her unbound.
"You’re good Xena……just not as good as me…..or mine!"
"MERRRR" the deep sea green eyes, softened and as the large paw came to rest on Raven’s scarred face, both knew at least tonight they would have a decent night’s sleep. Wrapping soft, strong arms around the animal, both closed their eyes and fell into a deep sleep.
The morning didn’t come to early for Raven; she sat waiting for the guards….the cat close by her side…paws across her thighs….eyes turned to the door. Her Amber eye glowing in anticipation.
Standing by the doorway, Raven, a smirk on her full lips, eyebrow arched at the guard who opened the door, and just about had a heart attack when she came face to face with the glowering Warrior.
"ACKKK….? I……I mean….Your presence is required at the council hut!" The young woman tried to look like the fierce Amazon warrior she thought she was, but Raven was Raven. Intimidation and control were her pass words. Amazons or no, no one was going to try to put her in her place! She had lived too long, and fought too hard for a bunch of pups to try to discipline one such as she….. XENA BE DAMNED!!!! GABRIELLE AS WELL!!! Now she was defiantly getting a mad on….working her way up to a full blown agitation!!!!
Sparing a look towards the cat, her Amber eye glaring, her long fingered hand swept backwards…. "Not until I need you." She growled. The animal growled a soft reply in return. Still with a snarl on her face she forced the guard into leading her towards the council hut …..and whatever judgement awaited her.
Gabrielle sat at the center of the table, Xena, behind her. Ephniny to her right as her Regent. The council crones on either side of her. Raven, loose limbed and ready; hands, hanging slightly off to her sides, was prepared for anything. The guards on the other hand, were anything but!!! Xena tried to hide the small smirk that threatened to slide up the corner of her mouth, but her eyes were twinkling at the sight of the lean warrior as she sauntered……for lack of a better word….up to the Royal Dais to receive judgement.
Through the dim light of the open doorway, the silhouette of the lean, arrogant warrior; even in the shadows, Gabrielle thought she could still see that glowing eye…..
Clearing her throat, Gabrielle, stood slowly, holding a parchment in her hands. "Are you prepared to face the judgement of this council?" Her words were stern, yet her face was gentle; she knew this warrior, knew her heart, knew her softness.
"Know, you Warrior. For crimes against the Amazon Nation….you stand accused…..how do you say against the charges?´ Gabrielle’s voice rang strong and clear as she faced the dark warrior.
"I stand as accused my Queen. I led the raiders in and got them around….your guards. I……used my skills to …..bring them to this battle. I did not know at the time who I was engaged to fight…..I offer no excuse…..I am yours to punish as you and the council see fit.
Raven’s head was held high as she waited for her punishment. She looked Gabrielle straight in the eye….her arched eyebrow and slowly tensing muscles a sign, she would not go down easily.
Xena, placing her hand on Gabrielle’s shoulder, bent and quickly whispered something in her ear. A quick nod, as she looked in her consort’s face, smiled and, turning she stared down at the one-eyed warrior. "For endangering the Amazon Nation; You will now protect the Amazon Nation. Do accept this punishment? A pause, as Gabrielle steeled herself for what she was about to say next….
RAVEN… of the WOLVEN???? As Xena gasped, Raven lurched, her muscles bunched and her jaws clenched. Her Golden eye glared at her ex-lover, her lip lifting up in a feral snarl. Looking at Xena, her amber eye, cold as Hades snow……taking a deep breath, she tore her eye away from the one person she thought she could had trusted. Looking into the eyes of the Queen, bowing her head slightly, never leaving eye contact…..lip still frozen in a snide snarl; "It shall be your wish." Raven stood tall, no weapons about her; "My word is my bond, Queen Gabrielle. If you doubt me, slay me now." The words were spoken quietly, but Gabrielle knew them for truth.
"Guards!!! Show Raven to her quarters! She is now a warrior of the Amazon Nation!!!" Gabrielle’s gaze was stone…Raven’s was worse.
Raven caught Xena’s eye as she was led away to the warrior’s barracks; There was hurt and betrayal in the golden eye, and a promise never to trust ever again.
IF YA LIKED THIS SO FAR, HEY LET ME KNOW! I HAVE A WHOLE SERIES OF RAVEN
STORIES, XENA AND GABRIELLE INCLUDED. FOR PART TWO OF THIS STORY GO TO "A
TIME TO SAY GOOD-BYE"
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