Memories, Dreams and Schemes
by Azurenon & Savanna Mac
Please see part one for all disclaimers.
Gabrielle stayed in the woods until her tears dried up; the last words Xena screamed at her, haunting her all the while. "Get back here! I'm gonna need you!" What had she meant by that? And hallucinogenic, what was that? She knew she'd heard the word before, but couldn't quite place the meaning. "You nearly poisoned me," Xena had said. Nearly poisoned? So, surely that had to mean that she'd get better, right? "I'm gonna need you!"
She slipped up to the cave entrance feeling guilty, fearful and yet concerned. Xena was seated on her bedroll, cutting the large coil of rope into smaller sections. What's she gonna do, tie me up? Gabrielle wondered. Tie me up and... kill me?
When Xena was finished cutting the rope, she gathered up all her weapons and put them by the saddle. Then she stripped her clothes off and laid them beside her weapons. Upon retrieving the brown chemise, she hesitated. Then she went to her pack and withdrew an off-white chemise, replacing the brown one in the pack. Back to the weapons now, she snatched up the knife and neatly sliced through the crotch of the garment, so that there wasn't one any longer. She tossed the knife onto the pile of weapons, then put the chemise on.
What in Tartarus is she doing? Gabrielle wondered. The warrior gathered up the pieces of rope now and carried them to the back of the cave, the crotch of her chemise open and flapping against the back of her thighs. She paused, thumb to her lips as if deep in thought. She then retrieved the waterskin, taking it to the back of the cave, as well.
"Never should've hit her," the warrior mumbled, glancing around the cave, her eyes seeming slightly out of focus. She then sat down near the pieces of rope and began tying one around her own ankles.
Gabrielle eased into the cave, as the warrior was pulling the knot tight. "What... are you doing?" she hesitantly inquired.
Xena quickly glanced up. For a moment Gabrielle thought the warrior might be glad to see her, but then her eyes quickly took on their usual guarded aspect. "Tying myself up," she answered, her tone a bit softer than usual.
"Why are you doing that?"
Xena cleared her throat. "So that I won't hurt you... or myself," the warrior answered, wrapping another piece of rope just above her knees now.
"Whaddaya mean hurt me or you?" Gabrielle inquired, moving closer, her concern growing.
"You didn't eat any of those berries, did you?"
"No, I told you..."
"Not even one?"
"Good. At least you're okay." The warrior tied the rope in a knot.
"You didn't answer me," Gabrielle prodded, still ambulating in Xena's direction.
"Those berries..." Xena glanced up. "...they make people, see things. Crazy things or... sometimes, relive their past." The warrior shook her head. "I've seen men... kill their own comrades... kill themselves, even."
"Oh, Xena..." Tears welled up in Gabrielle's eyes, as she dropped down in front of the warrior. "I'm so sorry, I... I didn't know, I...."
"Finish tying me up," Xena interrupted, holding out a piece of rope to Gabrielle; her wrists pressed together.
"But, I can't..."
"Gabrielle, I could easily kill us both," Xena said in a severe tone, as she grabbed her companion's hand. "You have to do this, understand?" She put the rope in the blonde's hand. "Now... tie me up. And make sure the knots are good and tight. I'm known for... finding a way out of things. When you get through with my hands, take another piece and strap my arms down to my sides, so I can't move them." The blonde glanced up at her and frowned. "’'Cause if I get my hands to my mouth, I'll untie them. It wouldn't hurt to strap my neck down either. Although, I don' t know what we could use for that. Have to be heavy and.... umph."
"I'm sorry, did I hurt you?" Gabrielle inquired, concern evident in her voice.
Xena stared at her. "After what I did to you and you're worried about hurting me?" she muttered. There was a gentle inquisitiveness to her eyes that was too quickly replaced with that guarded and wary aspect. She seemed to draw into herself and away from Gabrielle, as she said, "If I were you, I'd be more worried about me hurting you. Because if I get loose, I'll more than likely kill you."
"Xena, I'm really sorry about the berries, I..."
"Forget it," the warrior grumbled, her gaze surveying the cave. "Ah, yes, that should do. When you finish tying me up, go get the saddle. It's not very heavy, but it oughta keep me from moving around too much. Remove all the weapons... or anything you think I might be able to get my hands on and use as one, then bring it over here and strap my neck down to the seat."
"But, Xena, you can't possibly get out of all these ropes, I don't think strapping..."
"Let me do the thinking," Xena interjected sternly. "You don't know what I'm capable of, Gabrielle, but I do. Now please... for your own sake, just do as I tell you to. Don't ask questions. Trust me, I know what I'm doing."
It took a while, but finally Xena was satisfied with the results. She was now lying on her back; arms strapped to her sides; hands tied at the wrists; feet bound at the ankles and legs secured above her knees. Her head was on the saddle seat -her sleeping skin placed between herself and the saddle at Gabrielle's insistence- her neck moored in a crisscross fashion, Gabrielle's pink nightie between her skin and the ropes to prevent chaffing, the latter another of Gabrielle's ideas.
"Now listen carefully," Xena said. "You're gonna have to force water in my mouth. Doesn't matter what I say or do, get water in me so that the drug will be flushed out quicker, understand?"
Gabrielle nodded. "That's why you cut the crotch out of your chemise? And came back here?"
"Exactly. Now, there is a herb that will help speed things up, but... I'm not sure it's on the island. It should be, but..."
"I'm good with herbs," Gabrielle interrupted. "Just tell me what it looks like and.. if it's on the island, I'll find it."
Xena then described the herb to her, adding, "If you can't find it, don't worry. Just get water down me and some food. If you can, that is. I may have moments of seeming normal, but... whatever you do, do NOT untie me until you're positive all the effects of the drug are over."
"How long are we talking about?"
"Three... four days... maybe longer."
"By the gods," Gabrielle gasped.
Xena suddenly felt lightheaded. She'd heard this comment before... another time.. another place...
"Xena... Xena, are you...?"
"Yeah, I'm... still here. Maybe not for long, though. Take care of my horse now. Move her around to better grazing or..." She paused and shook her head. "No, better to just let her roam free with that cat around. Go get some vines, Gabrielle. Strong vines. Keep them handy in case I break these bonds."
"Do you want something to eat before..." Gabrielle cleared her throat, feeling a bit emotional.
"Got anything without berries?" Xena almost smiled.
Oh boy, she must be losing it, already, Gabrielle thought. But she said, "Some partly dried jerky."
"Go get it then. And Gabrielle..." The warrior paused as her companion turned back around. "About hitting you, I... I shouldna done that. I have a hot temper and..."
"We can talk about this later," Gabrielle interrupted. "Right now, let's get some food and water in you. And no more berries, I promise."
"Do I know you?" Xena asked calmly. "Can't kill anyone twice," she mumbled. "Hee-yah!" she exclaimed and jerked, trying to move her arms and legs, then her neck. She growled deep in her throat, struggling against her bonds.
Gabrielle turned away, unable to bear watching what she knew she'd caused.
"Island," Xena mumbled, a bit calmer now. "Large cat... Gabrielle... Where am I? Can't... can't remember..."
Tears were clouding Gabrielle's vision. The guilt was overwhelming.
"Gabrielle! Come back here! I'm gonna need you!" Xena exclaimed, struggling once again.
Gabrielle was glad she'd insisted on putting her nightie between Xena's neck and the ropes, otherwise the warrior would have rope burns by now. The blonde lifted a stick and poked at the fire, as Xena grew quiet. She knew this would happen again. This was only the second episode and it wasn't even sundown yet. Possibly four more days to go.
"Hey... Gabrielle... you here?" the warrior asked, sounding lucid.
"Yeah, right here." She got up and went to her charge.
"Water," the warrior said, licking her lips. "It' s hot in here."
Gabrielle knew this wasn't so. Xena might be hot, but she wasn't. "Here," she offered, holding the cup for Xena to drink from.
"Umph," the warrior grunted after taking several swallows. "Hits the spot." She opened her eyes and looked up at the blonde, blinking several times. "You're pretty," she commented rather softly. Her arm twitched as if she'd intended to move it. "More water." Gabrielle obliged; Xena's blue eyes staring up at her. "Eyes the color of the sea," the warrior added a moment later. "Where are you from, hmm?"
"A little village called Poteidaia," Gabrielle answered. "And you?"
"I know where Poteidaia is. On the way to Amphipolis."
"Amphipolis is that your home?"
"No!" Xena turned her face away abruptly. "I have no home." She paused. "Lyceus... he's dead."
The warrior's gaze met hers again. "My brother. He... had hair like yours. Only curly... like a sheep." Xena did smile this time. "I loved him," she admitted. "We... were a team!"
"How did he die?" Gabrielle asked and immediately regretted it.
"None of your business, you little bitch!" the warrior growled. "Now let me out of these. Whaddaya think you're doing?" she screamed. Gabrielle began backing up. "Don't you know who I am? I'm the Destroyer of Nations. And I'll have your head on a pole for this!" She laughed wickedly and struggled more violently against her bonds.
"Xena, please..." Gabrielle pleaded, noticing the silky nightie was slipping a bit with all the movement.
Xena abruptly spat in her face. Gabrielle got to her feet and went back to the fire, the warrior hurling obscenities after her. Glad I came back in time to help tie her up, she thought, or she truly might have killed me right then and there, if she'd been able to get loose.
"Just wait'll I get my hands on you!" Xena screamed. "You'll be praying for Hades to come and get you and take you to Tartarus, just to end your pain! Rar-Rar," she growled, struggling again and sounding for all the world like a mad dog.
Gabrielle wiped at the tears on her cheek. And I thought she was a mad woman before. Now she really is and... it's all my fault!
The herb Xena had described was familiar to Gabrielle. The yellow root was used by the healer in her home village. And she had seen this plant on the island, but she couldn't remember where. She would go look for it tomorrow, for there was not enough daylight left now. She'd have to be cautious, especially with that cat out there... somewhere. The horse, she thought, I need to go set it free. She wished Xena'd had time to teach her how to use the sword. And whose fault is that? she asked herself.
The warrior finally quieted down and Gabrielle sighed with relief. She needed to set the horse free, eat and get some rest while she could, because it may well be a long and sleepless night if Xena continued to carry on like this.
Xena had awakened her. The warrior's head was moving from side to side, her body flinching and jerking, loud moans and groans accompanying each movement. Gabrielle could not imagine what was going on; for, the warrior wasn't screaming or cursing at anyone, real or imagined. Then suddenly she went very still and quiet, her eyes wide and staring. She was too still and Gabrielle grew concerned. Could the drug kill her? She wasn't sure. Xena had only said that she might kill one of them, she'd never mentioned any other effects.
She got up and went over to her charge. Xena's eyes were focused on something Gabrielle couldn't see. She waved her hand in front of the staring orbs. The warrior didn't even bat an eyelash. Oh yea gods, how do I check to see if she's alive?
"Xena... do you hear me? Xena?" Gabrielle shook the warrior's shoulder, but got no response. "Oh dear gods, please," she whimpered. She turned the warrior's face towards her. Xena's eyes were still set in the same position. Tears welling up in her own, Gabrielle placed her hand above the warrior's mouth and closed her eyes, cutting off this sensory input, so that she could concentrate on her hand. She felt the warm breath, right before moist lips pressed against the palm of her hand. Her eyes flew open.
Xena was nuzzling her face into her palm, her gaze focused upon her, as if she were really seeing her now. "You smell so good," the warrior said softly. "Your scent... it was on the sleeping skins last night. So sweet..." The brunette shivered slightly, as she inhaled deeply.
Gabrielle was so mesmerized by this reaction, that she didn't even take her hand away.
"Lay down with me," the warrior uttered. "Keep me warm."
"You're cold?" Gabrielle queried, a host of unique feelings careening around inside her brain and body.
"Very," the warrior responded, shivering again. "Keep me warm, hmm?"
"I'll... go get your blanket," Gabrielle offered. Upon retrieving the blanket, she spread it out over her charge.
Xena's gaze was riveted on her once again, the warmth in the depths of those blue eyes something Gabrielle had witnessed only once before, by the stream. "Lay down with me," the warrior said very softly.
"You mean... you want me to sleep here?"
"Um... sleep..." Xena mumbled. "Want you... near me."
Gabrielle wasn't sure if the warrior was at herself or not. Yet, what harm could it do to oblige her, for awhile? After all, she was tied down pretty securely. Gabrielle lifted the blanket and eased beneath it, sitting up with her back against the saddle.
"Closer," the warrior prodded, her eyes now focused on the blonde's chest.
What does she want? Gabrielle wondered, but inching a bit closer all the same.
"Cold," Xena murmured. "Put your arm around me, hmm."
Gabrielle felt so guilty inside, listening to the warrior's pleas, she didn't question her companion's motives very long. Maybe she just wants to be held, she reasoned, turning sideways and maneuvering up next to her charge; her arm going across the warrior's chest; her hand resting on the opposite shoulder. Xena shifted her head slightly, her face brushing against Gabrielle's breasts. The latter felt a bit uncomfortable with this arrangement. She'd never had anyone this intimately close to her before.
"Umm... nice," the warrior purred. "So soft."
Gabrielle could feel the hot breath against her skin. It was definitely not a disagreeable sensation, but she knew it should be. She shouldn't like being this close to another woman. Should she?
"Warmer now?" she asked, to cover her discomfort.
"Umm, much warmer," Xena muttered, her lips grazing the blonde's skin.
Gabrielle shivered slightly at the contact, though it was not unpleasant either. Matter of fact, it was too pleasant; extremely stimulating, to be exact. She started to move away.
"No... no please," the warrior pleaded, straining against the ropes around her neck, trying desperately to follow the warm soft skin she'd relished having her face next to. "It feels... so good being close to you."
Gabrielle relaxed back to her previous position, the warrior's face gently nuzzling against her cleavage. "Get some rest," she murmured, enjoying this more than she felt she should. For Xena's hot breath against her skin was causing her to have feelings she'd never even dreamed of before.
"R-rest," the warrior murmured.
"Get them! Kill 'em both!" Xena screamed. "You haven't seen the last of me, Hercules!"
Gabrielle turned at the mention of the renowned hero. It was the only name Xena had shouted so far, which she actually recognized as being a real person. She poked at the fire, getting the embers going again. Come morning she'd need to gather more firewood.
Xena shouted a litany of obscenities again. Gabrielle wasn't sure how much more of this she could take. The warrior had awakened her twice that night. The last time she'd been screaming about some baby. Gabrielle had been asleep at her side, her head resting against Xena's. Her back and neck were stiff and sore from falling asleep in this position. And her heart was in turmoil. She'd hated leaving the warrior's side, but there had been no recourse. She'd learned that when Xena was angry, it was best to get away and stay away.
"You mealy mouthed son of a bitch! Why didn't you kill them?!" Xena growled. "Don't you realize with Hercules out of the way we could rule the whole WORLD!! Eh-h-eh-ya!!!" She grunted the latter phrase several times. "This is how the Destroyer of Nations deals with disobedience and insubordination!" she cried. "And unless the rest of you would like to join him on his high and mighty throne....!!" She laughed wickedly. "...then I suggest you obey my orders, no questions asked! Anyone got a question? Hmm, boys?!! Speak up!!! Then I suggest you get some sleep. We ride at dawn!! Hercules will rue the day he laid eyes on the Warrior Princess. Soon, it will be his head gracing my sword." She grunted. "Get that piece of trash outta my sight, Darphus!!!"
Gabrielle shivered, but not from the temperature of the air. She hoped Xena was indeed hallucinating; for, she could not imagine anyone being so bloodthirsty and downright evil. Although, that name... Warrior Princess... that had a familiar ring to it. She just couldn't remember where she'd heard it before.
She'd gathered the wood and had the fire going again. She had also searched for the herb near the cave, but to no avail. She'd have to search further later on. First, however, she needed to get water into Xena. She hoped she would be lucid this time; she'd nearly choked her the last time and ended up with quite a bit sprayed back in her face.
She breathed a sigh of relief when Xena asked for water. "I'm not getting much down you," Gabrielle admitted, holding the cup to her charge's mouth. "So, drink up while you can."
"Have I broke any of my bonds?" Xena asked, while Gabrielle refilled the cup.
"No, not yet."
"Your clear moments are... becoming shorter, though," Gabrielle commented. "I need to go look for that herb." She held the cup to Xena's lips.
The warrior drained over half of it. "I... smell awful!" she grumbled, wrinkling her nose.
Gabrielle grunted. The odor of urine was getting pretty strong. "Any suggestions?" The warrior offered no response. "Xena?"
"Yeah, I'm thinking," she grumbled. "Other than digging a hole and covering it... I can't think of anything else."
Gabrielle assumed she was referring to their previous discussion of digging a small hole beneath Xena's lower body and covering it at intervals with dirt to try and keep the smell down. She was surprised Xena could remember that, especially after all the tirades she'd been through since then.
"I can't... think that well, anyhow," Xena added, a moment or so later.
"It's okay. Here, you just drink some more water, I'll take care of those sorts of things, okay?" Gabrielle was a bit stunned, when the corners of Xena's mouth turned up in a manner that faintly resembled a smile. She started to make mention of this, yet feared the warrior's guarded expression would return in short order. Instead, she just enjoyed the moment. She had a feeling they might just be friends, if they made it out of this.
She was out searching for the herb again. There were only so many places she'd been on the island: by the cave, by the stream, dressing the deer and of course her trek through the woods. The latter of which she was unable to remember the exact route of, but she did know where she'd started from and that's where she was now..
A twig snapped behind her and she froze. There was a rustling in the bushes to her right. She cut her eyes in that direction, in time to see a fuzzy gray rabbit hop into view, its nose twitching, sniffing the air.
Hmm, rabbit stew sure sounds good, she thought. But, how do I get close enough to kill it? The sword was in her right hand, the knife in her left. Hmm, wonder if I could possibly hit it with the knife? She'd seen Xena hurl it and stick it in the wall. It didn't look that hard. Could she possibly...? Nah, I wouldn't even get close to hitting it, much less with the right end. The rabbit turned away from her, sniffing the ground. But, it's not that far away. What have I got to lose? Left handed was no good, however, so she slowly and quietly switched hands with the weapons. Here goes nothing, she thought, drawing her arm back. The bunny saw this movement, but not in time. The sharp knife sailed through the air, end over end, and sank into the soft flesh just in front of its back leg. The rabbit fell over twitching.
Gabrielle was shocked and elated. She could not believe her good fortune. Her first ever attempt at throwing a knife and now... she'd have rabbit stew for supper. Xena will... spit it right back in my face, she thought, sadly. But I've got to get food and water down her somehow. She'd been planning on making a stew out of the venison anyway, to see if she could get some of that down Xena, because she couldn't make her chew. Of course, eating and especially cooking venison reminded her of what she'd done to Xena. Somehow all of it now seemed tainted, though she knew it wasn't. So, the rabbit would be a nice, tasty change.
Removing the knife and grabbing the rabbit by its ears, she realized her search for the herb would have to be postponed again. If only she could remember where she'd seen it exactly, she could go right to it!
"Crosses. I want at least a dozen crosses!" Xena was demanding, when Gabrielle came back in the cave. "Line'em up on the side of that hill. We're gonna make an example of 'em. No one defies the Destroyer of Nations! NO ONE!!" She laughed wickedly. "Saddle up, boys! What...? If they resist... kill’'em.... KILL"EM ALL!!!" she exclaimed, then belted out that shrill and undulating cry Gabrielle had heard once before in the woods. The sound echoed off the cave walls and sent a chill up Gabrielle's spine.
She surveyed the warrior's bonds from a distance, as she placed the rabbit skin, with chunks of meat already cut up and ready to cook, close to the fire. She knew she was going to have to refill the waterskin soon, but right now she needed a bit of a rest. So, she sat down and went to work on their meal, while the warrior cursed, ranted and raved, mumbled, grunted and groaned in the throes of her delirium. From the sounds, Gabrielle thought the woman must be hallucinating about fighting untold numbers of warriors. She wondered if she had eaten the berries, herself, would she be hallucinating about the same things?
She wiped at the water that had been spit back in her face and went to check on the stew. Xena seemed to be getting worse, not better. She'd seldom been lucid all day.
Gabrielle had already left the cave several times because of things the warrior had said. For, after refilling the waterskin, she had then busied herself digging the hole Xena had suggested, which put her in very close proximity to the delirious warrior. And all the while she' d been near her, the brunette had continually spewed threats and obscenities, interspersed several times with terribly lewd comments.
"Ni-ice ass," Xena had said on one occasion, her voice rather seductive and husky. "Umm, you're not wearing any underwear."
Gabrielle had been embarrassed; for, she'd forgotten her underwear had been ripped by Toxeus and subsequently left behind. And she wasn't aware of just what position she had been in, but abruptly changed it.
"Are you trying to tease me?" Xena had continued. "Knowing I'm all tied up here? Hmm?"
A hot blush had rushed to Gabrielle's cheeks. Did Xena know who she was talking to? she wondered.
"I wasn't complaining, ya know. I liked it. Liked it a lot," Xena had gone on. "Turn back around, hmm?"
When Gabrielle had ignored her. Xena had tried once more with the seductive tone, then she'd sneered and demanded that she turn back around. Gabrielle had then got up and walked away. Her mind reeling with the implications; her body fraught with feelings the seductive tone of the warrior's voice had initiated.
She had returned later when Xena was quiet, yet the latter had awakened not long after. And this time, she had complimented Gabrielle on her looks, her cooking, her character and seemingly anything else she could think of. Then she'd tried to talk her into untying her. When Gabrielle had refused, for the second time, the warrior had then launched into a stream of vindictive obscenities. She had suggested she should have let Toxeus have his way with her. And had been going into graphic detail about what he would have done to her, when Gabrielle left the cave, in a state of anger herself. And she hadn't been able to keep from wondering if these were Xena's real feelings.
Her charge was calling out to her again now. "Gabrielle." The latter was moving towards her slowly. "Don't marry him," Xena was saying as she drew closer. Gabrielle could tell her eyes were closed, tears on each cheek. "I love you... stay with me, Gabrielle. I need you."
"I'm here," she offered, not understanding this hallucination at all, yet feeling deeply touched by the warrior's tears. They were the first she'd ever seen. And a welcome relief from all the profanity and violence.
"Hold me, Gabrielle," the warrior pleaded. "Don' t leave me. You're my life."
Gabrielle held her charge, not knowing what else do to. "Sh-h, Sh-h," she soothed, rubbing Xena's upper arm. "It's okay, Xena. Sh-h."
"Tell me that story again." The warrior nuzzled against her chest.
Gabrielle cleared her throat. "What story?" she asked, feeling strange sensations inside, caused by the warrior's lips brushing against her exposed flesh.
"You know, the one I like. About the gods splitting humans into two halves... two souls."
Gabrielle knew the story she was referring to and knew it well, but how did Xena know she did?
Ares was livid. "You said you wiped out their memories! Listen to that! Xena's remembering!! This isn't fair!!!" He slammed his fist down on the stone table. The image of Xena and Gabrielle rippled with the movement of the liquid inside the scrying bowl.
"I did remove their memories!" Zeus fired back. "Their conscious memories!"
"What? What exactly is that supposed to mean?" Ares held both hands up in the air.
"Their subconscious memories are still intact. They are soul memories, you know this, son. They cross over with them even into the next life. And if you win this bet... they will be changed. But, not until then. Because tampering with the soul's memory is... a complicated process. And this is only a test, remember?" Ares lowered his arms back to his sides and turned away. "Besides, she only remembers when she's dreaming. And right now Gabrielle will pay no attention, because Xena is hallucinating."
"She's not hallucinating," Ares argued, spinning back around. "She's... reliving her past."
"The bard doesn't know that. And I'd think you'd be happy with this. Gabrielle is scared half to death of her."
"Oh really, Dad?" the god of war said sarcastically. "So that's why she's holding in her arms right now, because she's so terribly afraid of her, right? Just... shaking in her boots, she's so sca-ared! I'm glad you cleared that up for me."
Zeus cocked one thick white eyebrow. "Don't take that tone with me, son."
"This isn't fair, Dad. Not fair at all! This is not what I wanted!!"
The king of the gods shrugged. "It's the test you asked for. How it turns out, is up to them."
"Someone has to be interfering then," Ares grumbled. "Those berries... gimme a break!"
"Not everyone knows how those affect humans. Xena does, but Gabrielle doesn't. The test is fair enough. But, of course, if you want to end it...."
"No. No way," the god of war responded. "It plays out to the bitter end," he added, knowing he'd have to stick to his bargain of no interference for a year if he opted out now. "Later, Dad."
"The berries were perhaps... a bit much," the deep voiced goddess said from behind Zeus.
"So you think I had something to do with that? I didn't do a thing, my dear, I assure you. The little bard did that all on her own. I'll admit I was a bit concerned there for a while, but Xena knew what to do."
"Any lingering effects from this?" the goddess queried.
"From the drug in the berries themselves? You know the answer to that as well as I do. So, as long as Xena remains tied up..."
"And what if she gets loose?" the goddess interrupted.
Zeus shook his head. "We'll deal with that when and if the time comes."
Both god and goddess turned their attention to the scrying bowl, where Gabrielle was just starting her story:
"A long time ago all people had four legs and two heads. And then the gods threw down thunderbolts and split everyone into two. Each half then had two legs and one head. But the separation left both sides with a desperate yearning to be reunited. And that's why to this day some people spend their whole lives searching for the other half of their soul."
"Strange tales they make up to explain things, don'cha think?" the goddess asked.
"Umph, if they only knew the truth." Zeus stroked his long white beard and continued to watch. The little bard was fascinating: such a pure, true and untarnished heart. While Xena's, on the other hand, was scarred and battered, a tough shell around it, built up layer upon layer over the years. Could the little bard break through those layers? Was she truly the key to Xena's previous redemption and transformation? Or had there been interference on the part of Hercules? He was beginning to wonder. "Only ten more days," he said aloud. "Doesn't seem enough time."
"Trust me, it was Gabrielle who worked the real magic with Xena," the goddess assured. "Xena was ready to change her life at that time, she only needed someone to give her a reason to do so. And as you've seen, she has already saved Gabrielle once, even though she didn't even know her very well. So, there's now a chink in her armor and the little bard will find it and rip it wide open, believe me. Xena's hardened and tortured heart is about to find the salve that will soften and heal its wounds. And perhaps even make it whole again. You'll see."
Continue to Part 8