Myth part 4
by Anita Louise
Glancing around one more time then taking a deep breath she started on the path. She could not be the reason Ann Bounty did not return to those who loved and cared for her. If it were at all possible she would see that Ann returned.
She was starting to enter the mist and it was laying a moistness on her.
Gabrielle was tired and it actually felt good. Bending over she touched the
ground and was relieved to find out it was solid. She definitely did not
want to take anymore giant steps into thin air. Placing one foot in front of
the other she slowly moved forward. It was the screeching cry that brought about her sudden stop.
She felt her skin begin to crawl and knew she had heard a sound like that once before but it had been Satanic's raven. It couldn't be the bird because it disappeared at the time he did. Trying to see she searched for something she might be able to use to defend herself. The only thing her hands fell upon was a rock and not a very big one. She tossed it in the air and caught it as it fell. Muttering to herself she said, "You're not David and you sure don't have a slingshot. I could certainly use Xena's Chakrum right about now."
The sound was almost deafening and she knew at any minute she would meet whatever was making the gruesome noise. Straining her eyes she stared at the moving mist. It was then she realized it was moving because something was coming toward her.
Standing with her legs spread apart and her two feet firmly planted on the ground she squared her shoulders and waited. Her first instinct was to run, but there was nowhere to go, so she decided to face whatever it was.
It didn't take long for the gigantic creature to make it's appearance known. As the mist seemed to evaporate she could see a monstrous winged creature heading her way. It appeared to be a gigantic bird but it had the head of a woman with one eye in the center of its forehead.. She watched as it cocked the head from side to side. The dark eye had now found her as it stared down at her. Flapping the wings the creature said, "You have to get past me, and I look forward to the kill."
She gazed at it in wonderment as she called out, "You're big, I'll give you that." Waiting for some sort of reply and getting none she continued, "I don't know who or what you are and I have no reason to fight you, so if you just let me past, I'll be on my way."
She started to walk forward and at the same time the left wing spread out knocking her to the ground. The creature taunted her as it said, "This is going to be easier than I thought. I was told you would be a challenge."
Getting to her feet she placed her hands on her hips and said, "How about a compromise, Isn't there anything I can do that will settle this?" She had watched a long tongue extend out of its mouth and as it began to make smacking noises she said, "Besides, being your next meal? Surely, someone that looks as intelligent as you will at least give me the opportunity."
Stopping what it was doing it turned its attention toward her and said, "What do you have in mind?"
She shrugged her shoulders and said, "How about a riddle?
Throwing back it's head it howled and said, "Like a certain Sphinx, she did always have a full stomach. But, she met her match and since you brought it up I can assume you are good at riddles."
"Not necessarily but I have been known to tell a good story."
Shifting from one leg to the other she watched as it buried it's sharp talons into the dirt. Finally it looked at her and said, "Stories, I haven't heard a good story since the Trojan War. All right, tell me one and if I don't like it, you will know."
Gabrielle walked over to a boulder and sat. She stared at this awesome looking creature and smiled. It looked at her and said, "You find the idea of being my meal amusing?"
She shook her head and said, No, it's just you act mean but under your facade, you are just so darn cute." She hoped to confuse it.
The creatures wings began to flutter and it screeched so loud she put her fingers in her ears to try and drown out some of the sound. At the same time the draft from it's wings sent her toppling onto the ground.
Crawling to her knees she stared up at the creature and said, "You don't have to go get all bent out of shape, I guess compliments are not your strong suit."
In an instant the creature's long tongue lashed out and wrapped around her waist. She felt the firm grasp and knew the ground was leaving her once more. The creature dangled her close to the face as it said, "See how easy I can have you. So don't even pretend to play games with me. When I am tired, I will have my meal, although puny, it will have to do."
Gabrielle felt helpless as she was suspended in front of the creature. She
was about to give up when she remembered the rock. She had placed it next to
the leather pouch between her breasts. It didn't take her fingers long to
find it. Staring into the gruesome face she threw the rock with all the
force she could conjure up. It struck the creature solidly in the center of the eye, as it let out a wailful cry, the tongue released its hold and she fell plummeting toward the ground.
The flapping of the wings and the cries of pain as it lashed out at the air
were now causing the area to tremor. Falling toward the ground she curled
herself and somersaulted. Grabbing the opportunity to strategically move
past the thing she hurried toward the mist leaving the creature's cries of
The mist had grown thicker and she was taking each step with extreme care. She had been moving for what seemed like a long time but she wasn't sure of that because it seemed like time had no meaning where she was.
Suddenly she ran into a cloaked figure that was in her path, and she struck out with her right fist. A surprised look covered her face as her fist traveled right through. "What? Who are you?"
The mist was so thick all she could see was the dark cloak and little else except the eyes that shone at her. A thick sound was heard as the figure said, "Very good, you have passed Ceylon but you still have one more test to take, that is, after I finish with you."
Trying to see the figure more clearly she stepped closer and said, "No, you have it wrong, there are only supposed to be two."
A cackling laugh echoed out at her as the figure spoke, "Ahh, but Ceylon and I are one. If you were lucky enough to get past, and that was very doubtful, you still had to contend with me."
Tapping her left foot Gabrielle said, "Look, I'm tiring of all your silly journeys and tests. I won and I get to proceed!"
The figure took its time then said, "Here, you play by our rules and the rule is you still have to get past me to get to the final test. You say you are not too good at riddles. If you can can answer the one I put to you, then you can go on."
Staring at the figure Gabrielle replied, "I suppose I have to, whether I want to or not. And if I can't figure it out, then what?"
A low laugh rumbled forward as it said, "Then I'll hold you myself as Ceylon has a fair appetizer."
Throwing up her hands in frustration she said, "All right, let's get it over with, what's your riddle?"
The figures eyes began to glow brighter as it said, "What is warm, cold, brown and sweeps through your life?"
Gabrielle repeated the words over and over in her head. She began to walk in small circles as the figure said, "You seem perplexed, are you ready to concede?"
Turning her full attention to the cloaked form, Gabrielle swallowed hard as she said, "The sands of time."
As her last word was spoken the figure vanished in a puff of thick black smoke. Dropping on her knees to the ground, she sighed loudly.
She stayed in that position for a long time. Her legs were still trembling when she managed to get to her feet. Her eyes glanced at the mist as she said, "Get a grip Gabrielle, only one more to go, after everything this should be a piece of cake."
As she walked she could see the mist was getting thinner and before long it
disappeared. She stood frozen as she stared at what lie in front of her. It
was a path but it was water and swimming on top were snakes. She quickly
looked to the sides and realized she was hemmed into the spot by huge walls
of sheer rock. There was no way out except forward and she knew what waited
for her if she went back. Stepping closer to the water, she seemed to be transfixed at the slimy snakes laying on it as if basking.
Bending over she placed her hands on her knees as she heaved a plaintive
sigh. It had been a long journey and she was tired, she had hoped for
something easier but should have known better. Her face had now broken out
in heavy beads of perspiration and she didn't think her body would ever
recover from the shaking it was still doing. Finally standing erect, she muttered to herself, "Have to try, I hate snakes but I have to attempt to do this."
She carefully placed her left foot into the water and watched the snakes as
they began to swim vicariously through the water. Feeling the warmth of it
she brought the other foot cautiously in. Slowly she began to walk forward
placing one foot in front of the other. As she reached the middle, she found
the water was now up past her waist. Taking a deep breath, she cringed as
one of them swam past her right arm. She had been eyeing the slithering and was trying to keep them in scope of her vision. Her body felt like something was crawling on it, as her shivers became widespread. Swallowing several times with difficulty she forced herself forward. It was at this time an enormous snake rose out of the water in front of her. Its head swaying from side to side as the forked tongue struck out at the air.
Sensing she was at the end of her rope, her eyes were transfixed on the motions of the snake. Feeling panic and fear beginning to invade her every thought and movement she was ready to give up when the words Aphrodite told her began to play over and over in her head. 'What you fear the most is really in your mind.'
Remembering the leather pouch, she reached in and took it from its resting place between her breasts. Staring at it in her hand she whispered, "Maybe you are not a rock, but, it will make me feel good to just throw something at the slimy thing."
The loud hissing noise was growing louder and she could tell by its movements it wouldn't be long before it struck at her. Totally frustrated and angry at that moment she glared at the thing dancing above her and yelled, "You may win but not without a fight!" She quickly threw the leather pouch at the snake and yelled, "Get out of my life, you overgrown worm!"
As the leather pouch made contact with the snake, a large flash occurred and it vanished as well as the others. Slowly she made it to the other side and pulled herself onto the dry ground. Laying her head down, she felt her body succumb to the strain as she closed her eyes and darkness enveloped her.
"Gabrielle! Gabrielle!" The words were beginning to arouse the woman as she opened her eyes to find she was laying on the ground. Pushing herself up, she leaned against a tree. There they were again the same sounds, "Gabrielle! Gabrielle!"
It didn't take long for Kiera to appear in view and when she saw Gabrielle she hurried toward her. "There you are, I have been looking all over for you. I was afraid something might have happened to you."
Standing up she started toward the woman. Waving her right hand she called, "I'm all right."
Kiera approached her as the woman's eyes surveyed Gabrielle she said, "You look a sight, come, let's get you cleaned up."
Shaking her head Gabrielle said, "I'll go with you but no cleaning up, I think I have had about all the water I can stand for sometime."
Kiera seemed perplexed as she said, "I don't understand."
Wrapping her right arm around the woman's waist Gabrielle said, "Neither do I but for now, I'm back and maybe things will be all right."
Kiera smiled as she said, "You are talking in riddles my child. It's no never mind anyway, we need to start back, that is if you feel rested enough."
Gabrielle looked up to see Alexia enter through the back door and walk into the kitchen area. As the woman started to walk past her, she reached out and grabbed Alexia's left arm and said, "Alexia? We need to talk."
The woman stared down at her and said, "What seems to be the matter? Have I done something to upset you?"
"It's about the ritual."
Alexia's eyes grew wide as she said, "Ritual? I don't know what you are talking about. It was wonderful when we saw you and Mistress Kiera ride in yesterday."
Nodding her head and releasing the woman's arm Gabrielle said, "It was a long journey but then I'm sure you know all about it."
Still seeming perplexed the woman said, "Oh, I hope the Island gave you peace."
Looking away Gabrielle answered, "It has been a journey of discovery in more ways than one. I have packed a few things and will be leaving in a little bit. I will talk with Kiera and then I will be gone."
Alexia smiled at her and said, "I hope you will grace us with your presence again soon. Mistress Kiera is in the garden I saw her when I came in."
Thanking the woman, Gabrielle left the room and walked out into the sunlight. She walked into the garden and toward the woman who was in deep conversation with a beautiful flower. "Kiera, I'm glad I found you."
The woman looked up at Gabrielle and said, "My you are a sight today, only this flower could hold a candle to you."
Smiling as she walked up to Kiera, Gabrielle said, "You and your daughter seem to have such wonderful ways of complimenting people. Thank you." Staring at the flower she continued, "It is beautiful."
Kiera seemed to burst with pride as she said, "It has been failing for sometime but today when I came out, it seems to have new life in it. It was Ann's favorite."
Gabrielle bent over and touched the petals with her nostril as she said, "Smells celestial. Kiera I was looking for you to tell you good-by."
A sadness seemed to engulf the woman's face as her eyes gazed at the Bard. "Good-by? Surely you don't have to leave so soon. Stay a little longer."
Gabrielle smiled and said, "I would love to live the rest of my life on Spoon Island but it is not possible. I must go, I have people waiting for me and there is much I need to do. I will return and if my feelings are right, so will you daughter."
The woman hugged Gabrielle as she said, "You are always welcome here even if Ann is not with you. Take care of yourself."
Thanking the woman she turned to go back to the house and get her pack. She had sent a message to Saxton earlier and felt he would be waiting for her when she arrived at the beach. After she said her final good-bys she left the home far behind and began her trek back. It was a warm day and the birds were making melodious sounds to one another. She smiled and stopped to watch several, then started up the path again. For some reason, she felt good, her body felt rested and a sense of good will was surging through her. It didn't seem like it took her long to walk from the shrubbery onto the beach. She was thrilled to see Saxton waving as the man walked to meet her.
Gabrielle smiled as he reached out and hugged her. His eyes sparkling as he said, "Your presence has been missed, glad you have returned."
Her eyes met his as she said, "I'm glad to be back."
Turning, the man pointed to the longboat and the men that were standing beside it and said, "Then best we get you back to the ship. There are things we need to discuss."
Gabrielle's look was questioning as she asked, "Discuss? What things?"
"There will be time for that after we are aboard."
They walked the rest of the way in silence. The men greeted her with enthusiasm as she climbed into the boat.
When her feet touched the deck of the ship she turned to stare back at the magnificent beauty of the Island. "It grows on you, I can tell by the way you gaze at it, you have left part of your heart there."
Turning to stare at this knowledgeable man she said, "I will always carry a piece of Spoon Island with me no matter where I am. And if you are speaking of Sea, she will always hold a warm place in my heart. You said there are some things you needed to talk to me about. I guess that now is as good a time as any, let's go below."
She really hadn't been gone that long but when her feet stepped into the cabin she felt as if she had come home. Saxton followed as he closed the door and said, "I had a bottle of port brought in, thought you might be in need of a drink."
Walking over to the desk, she stared at the bottle and said, "You will have a drink with me?"
He nodded and watched as she poured two goblets. She turned to face him and held one toward him, he took it and asked, "How is Mistress Kiera?"
Walking toward the bed she said, "She is as good as can be expected." She pointed to the chair by the desk and continued, "Please sit." She took a lengthy drink as her eyes began to roam around the room.
Saxton had sat and was watching her as he said, "Have you had time to make any decisions?"
"When I was a child I couldn't wait to grow up. I thought that being an adult was a wonderful thing and I wanted the opportunity to make decisions about my own life. Since I have been given the opportunity, I find that making certain decisions are not easy."
His face showed concern as he said, "Adulthood is not always what it is thought to be."
She had emptied the goblet and had walked back toward the desk to pour another when he said, "It's about Mary Ready."
Stopping she stared down at him and said, "Mary? What? Have you heard from her?"
He caught a glimmer in her eyes as he said, "A message came for you, there is to be a large meeting in Celicia. All Pirate Captains and their crews are invited to attend and Mary wants you to go."
Scowling at the man, Gabrielle spat, "She must be out of her mind to even think I would set foot there again. In case you forgot, I was condemed to hang. I don't relish the thought of my neck dangling from someones rope."
He noticed the hand that held the goblet was trembling as he said, "Calico is not there, if you decide to take command of The Bounty, you will need to go. The ship and crew must be represented."
Setting the goblet on the desk she turned and walked across the room. He watched as she paced, then he leaned back in the chair as she turned to face him and said, "Saxton, I have made a decision, I am going back to the village and Xena, she needs me. I will sign whatever I need in order for you to represent The Bounty."
He stood as he said, "It pains me to hear you have made this decision. In my opinion, Xena does not need you as much as the ship and crew does. Gods little one, I need you."
She approached him and said, "You will be just fine, after all we both had a good teacher in Sea."
Nodding his head he said, "Aye, the best. I better get topside. Rest, maybe you will change your mind."
Before he left the room she called, Saxton?"
He turned as she said, "Set course for the Village."
He nodded as he left. Gabrielle walked back over to the bed and laid down. She suddenly felt very tired and the comfort of the room and this bed welcomed her as she closed her eyes.
They had been sailing for days and Gabrielle was beginning to get edgy, Her
life had not taken her in the direction she had started. She had heard many
stories about a Warrrior Princess and most had been bad. But, the woman that
she met that day long ago was not like any of the stories she had heard.
When given the opportunity to travel with the woman and learn from her, she
was beside herself with joy. Yes, knowing and falling in love with Xena was worth everything she had endured. Yet, she never planned on meeting anyone as vital as Ann Bounty and she found her mind drifting back to the woman each day.
There was a knock on the cabin door as the voice of Saxton called out, "Gabrielle, we are nearing sight of the Amazon Village. The inlet will be coming into view soon."
She called back, "Thanks, I'll be up in a few minutes."
Gazing around the cabin she walked up to the desk as her right hand reached out, her fingers traced the top of the music box, she whispered, "Xena would never understand my taking this, so I will leave it and try to leave the memories."
Turning to go, several musical sounds began to play and she said, "Impossible, it's your imagination."
Closing the door behind her she headed for the deck, and in the empty room the melodic sounds from the music box still played.
Saxton waved at her as she approached and said, "We are almost there, I can see you haven't changed your mind."
Smiling at the man she answered, "I will always remember The Bounty and you, but my heart lies there with Xena."
He shook his head as he said, "I know it has not been easy. I'm all right with it, maybe one day we will meet again."
"Saxton." Her tone was sad as the man looked at her.
"What is it? Are you all right?"
"I have signed papers and you should be able to take control. That is, until Ann returns."
The glow on the man's face and the wide smile touched her heart as he said, "You know something I don't? Annie is coming back!"
She reached out and placed her right hand on his left arm and said, "I feel it deep within, I have no proof."
"As close as you two were, that is all I need to know. I will pray each day she returns."
Gabrielle could see the Island as it came into view. The smoke from their
fires in the village were sending messages to the sky. She smiled as she
whispered to herself, "It has been a long journey." She could feel the
anticipation growing as the vision of Xena entered her mind. After they had
dropped anchor and climbed down into the longboat Saxton said, "You look radiant little one, I only hope Xena knows how much you love her, you've given up so much to be with her."
Smiling, she replied, "She will know, we have a connection and we always seems to know what the other is thinking."
It didn't take long for the men to row the boat into the inlet and pull it ashore. She glanced around for the woman but Xena was no where to be seen. Feeling disappointed she accepted Saxton's help from the boat. Walking out of the water she turned and said, "I can go on from here."
He stared at her and said, "I can see it in your eyes, you thought she would be here. I will wait till you find her, then we will leave."
Gabrielle tried to convince the man to leave but he finally won out as she said, "All right, I will return and tell you to go after I find Xena. Thank you, friend."
The man smiled as he watched the proud woman walk away. It hurt to see Gabrielle leave but he was also happy she was going to be happy.
The walk to the village was invigorating and she enjoyed the feeling of
being back again. The trip had been long and at times confusing. She knew at
that moment she wasn't confused anymore and couldn't wait to see her
friend's effervescent blue eyes smiling down at her once more. Walking into
the village she could see the women milling about. Many were working and stopped what they were doing to stare at her. She waved and continued toward Queen Melosa's. She had just approached the entrance when Melosa stepped out. Seeing Gabrielle, she smiled and said, "You have returned, I was beginning to think the life on the ocean had captured your heart."
Trying to hold back the anticipation she hurriedly said, "No."
Melosa had noticed the woman glancing around and said, "If you're looking for Xena, she's not here."
The woman might as well struck her because the words sent a sinking feeling through out her body. She gazed at her and said, "Xena isn't here? Gods something hasn't happened to her?"
Noticing the deep concern on Gabrielle's face she said, "No, Xena and Ephiny left not long after you."
The Queen could see the growing concern on the woman's face as she said, "They went to see if they could find out what happened to Epinon."
Gabrielle stepped back and said, "Have you heard anything?"
She shook her head and said, "They had been there but then they have set out on another journey."
Throwing her hands into the air she turned and walked away, then turned and said, "I don't believe it, Xena and Ephiny, together. Why?"
Melosa had that all knowing look on her face as she said, "Did you think that Xena would set here and wait for your return, that is, whenever you decided to come back? She will return when the two of them have finished whatever it is they are doing."
Gabrielle quickly said, "I'll go find them."
"Where would you look, the land is big and no one knows where they went. Come in, let me get you something to eat and drink. You can decide what it is you want to do until you hear word from her again."
Pursing her lips Gabrielle said, "No, if Xena felt the need to travel without me, that's fine, I have things I need to do."
After biding the Queen good-by she started toward the inlet. As she approached she could see the men setting on the rocks and was happy to catch sight of Saxton as she called, "I'm back!"
The man stood and said, "You are alone, where is your friend?"
Shaking her head she said, "It's a long story and I don't want to talk about it. But, if you still want me on board, I'm ready."
He smiled as he said, "I don't know what happened, but her loss is our gain. Want you on board, definitely. Come little one, let's get you to your new home."
Once they were back on ship, Gabrielle turned to stare back at the Island one more time then she said, "Where does Mary want to meet? Sent her word we will be there."
He nodded as he hurried off. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Gabrielle stared out at the vastness of the ocean and it was giving her a
feeling of emptiness. She made her way to the Crows Nest with ease and had
been enjoying the sight. The ship had now found some calmer waters and she
was relieved at that. They recently had sailed through some very rough
waters. The seasickness she had experienced before had found its way back to
her which didn't make the voyage any easier. Today was the first time she had been able to keep anything down and was grateful she felt better. The crew was busy cleaning up up below and she had waved at Saxton several times, and he tried to get her to come back down.
Sitting down she let her legs dangle over the edge, as she leaned against
the mast. The soft rocking of the nest felt good compared to what she had
recently experienced. Gazing at the sky she could see several clouds but it
was the warmth of the sun she was enjoying. Saxton had told her she had lost
too much weight but she chose to ignore him. Once they had set sail she
never looked back and now, the village was just a thought once in awhile.
She choose to put Xena in the back of her thoughts. She found when her mind
would go there she was racked with misery and anguish. It was good they were
not facing one another at that time because she knew her anger would have
surfaced before anything else. She could not handle what she considered the woman's betrayal, not yet anyway.
Saxton had told her that Mary and her ship the Scavenger would meet them.
She had kept the men on the lookout for sight of the ship. She hadn't seen
Mary Ready since that day in Celicia. At least she had regained her ship,
Gabrielle was happy about that. Still finding herself wondering about Sea
and Mary as a couple she smiled. Seemed even the ocean life she had observed were traveling in sets of two. She was starting to feel despondent again when she heard a low humming. It sounded like the wind but the sea was calm. Sitting up she listened and it was becoming louder as she felt a presence and could hear the words, "Take heart, things are not as bad as you might think. Ann Bounty is on her way back, do not give up."
Standing she looked around and said, "If it's my mind playing tricks on me, then quit. I have resolved myself to a life alone." She began her descent to the ship's deck.
Saxton was by her side in seconds as he said, "You always try to get down the most dangerous way."
She reached up and placed her right-hand on his shoulder and said, "Always worrying about me, I'm all right, for now, I am going below if you sight Mary, let me know?"
He nodded as she turned and left.
After she had entered the cabin she walked up to the desk and opened the lid of the music box. Finding a half empty bottle of port she walked over to the bed and sat. She had taken several drinks before she cried out in frustration, "Every night in my dreams, I see and feel you!" Crumbling to the floor she began to cry as she said, "Tell me what I have done that was so bad? Gods, why am I being punished?"
A warm voice whispered to her, "You could never do anything wrong, have faith."
She looked up and could feel a presence in the room as she said, "I'd know that voice anywhere, Sea, where are you?"
A loud knock on the door caused whatever had made the sound to vanish.
"The Scavenger is coming into view."
Gabrielle got to her feet and said, "I'll be right up." She walked over and closed the lid on the music box, then turned and left the cabin.
As her feet landed on the deck she noticed the crew busily working with the lines. Looking in the direction she could see the Scavenger approaching. Walking over toward Saxton she said, "Looks like we are going to have that meeting."
He answered, "Aye, she looks good. Last time I saw the ship it was in shape of needed repairs."
She watched as the two ships came about and lines had been thrown to the Bounty. Her crew didn't take long to secure them and place a plank between the two. She was standing in the center of the ship when she spied the statuesque figure of Mary Ready stepping onto the plank. When she saw Gabrielle she waved and began to walk toward her. Gabrielle stood, her hands clasped in front of her as she watched the woman walking toward the ship. The long hair seemed darker than she remembered, A light breeze was moving it slightly as she walked. The woman was wearing a pair of loose fitting cotton pants, a white shirt that had the sleeves cut from it. And as she smiled at the woman, Gabrielle thought that the cutlass, that hung from Mary's hip, looked right at home.
Before long Mary Ready's boots landed on the deck. Gabrielle stared at the shining black leather as her eyes traveled up to the woman's face. A broad smile crossed the woman's face as she said, "You are a sight for sore eyes, Gabrielle."
Gabrielle smiled as she walked up to the woman and reached out grasping Mary's right arm she said, "You are definitely a welcome one. It's good to see you again."
Mary grasped Gabrielle's arm then she reached out and pulled the woman into a warm embrace saying, "I have heard about Ann, I'm sorry."
Stepping back, Gabrielle said, "Thank you, but I have a feeling you will be seeing Ann Bounty again." Noticing the concerned look on the woman's face she continued, "Nothing to really prove it but I just have a strong feeling. Saxton tells me you want the Bounty to attend a meeting in Celicia. Did you forget I was tried and convicted there?"
Mary gazed at her and said, "Haven't forgotten what you were put through. But Calico is not there now, he has started his own pirate headquarters in Tunis. There is no one in Celicia that would hold to his mockery of a trial."
Seeming concerned Gabrielle said, "Let's go below, what you say is good but what if it is not true?"
Mary answered, "I helped you escape, I have just as much reason as you do not to go back if I felt there would be repercussions."
Smiling Gabrielle said, "You are right, I'll have some port brought to the cabin, I look forward to visiting with you."
Saxton watched the two women walk away as thoughts of Mary Ready and Ann crept into his mind. The two women had been ruthless together and he knew they also enjoyed one another's company. He never had much use for Mary until now, she had changed as had Ann. He only hoped the meeting would not bring about a disaster. He shrugged his shoulder's and went to find a bottle of port.
After the two women had entered the cabin, Mary walked slowly around the room. She had been staring at its contents. Gabrielle watched her as she spoke, "I know about the two of you."
Turning to gaze at the woman, Mary said, "I was thinking about the last time I was in this room. I take it Ann told you."
Nodding her head Gabrielle replied, "Yes, sounded like a volatile time."
Approaching Gabrielle the woman said, "I didn't really know at that time how much of her heart Ann had given to you. I was foolish to think we could start over."
"Sit, the port should be here soon and I don't think it is ever to late to start over, that is, if both people still feel the same."
Saxton knocked at the door then walked in and said, "Port, is everything all right in here?"
Smiling, Gabrielle took the bottle and said, "Everything's just fine. Thank you."
After the man had left, Mary said, "He cares a great deal for you. Guess you have worked your way under a lot of skins, even old salty seafarers."
Gabrielle, poured a goblet and handed it to Mary as she said, "He is like a father to me. I don't know what I would do without Saxton."
Pulling out a chair the woman sat as she took the goblet and said, "Mary relied on the man. I know I would love to have him on my crew."
Gabrielle had walked over to the bed and sat, she stared at Mary and said, "In your dreams."
Holding out her goblet Mary said, "To new beginnings and a good meeting."
Smiling, Gabrielle raised her goblet to the woman and said, "To new beginnings."
Mary had removed her cutlass and laid it on the desk and said, "I would have invited you onto the Scavenger but didn't think you would want to, not after the way you were treated the last time you were there."
After taking a drink Gabrielle looked at the woman and said, "You're right, I still have nightmares of that time. You pack a wallop you know."
Seeming mortified Mary said, "I am so sorry for that, I will always have to carry the pain of what I did then. I only hope you will someday forgive me." Gabrielle pondered the woman's words then she said, "I have forgiven what happened but I probably will always carry the anguish of that time until the day I pass over. If not for you, Sea and I both would have perished that day."
"Well, if not for me neither one of you would have been put in that position."
The look on her face was stern as Gabrielle said, "If it hadn't been you then it would have been another of Calico's people. My feelings tell me it would have been much worse. So, quit beating yourself up over it and let the past lie where it should, in the past."
Smiling at Gabrielle, Mary's light blue eyes sparkled as the woman said, "To the present and us."
"I'll drink to that." Gabrielle smiled as she toasted the woman. Then she stood and walked over to the port and poured each another drink.
Mary had a concerned look on her face as she said, "You gave me reason to believe Ann is not dead. Do you know something I don't?"
Shaking her head as she walked back over to the bed and sat she said, "No, just a feeling."
The two had been in the cabin for sometime, they discussed the upcoming voyage to Celicia and when they were finished Mary said, "If you don't mind, I thought we could drop anchor here tonight. Let the crew have a reunion."
Gabrielle had been caressing her goblet with her left hand as she said, "Sounds good, I think they will enjoy a little relaxation."
Mary stood as she began to pace the floor. Finally turning to gaze down at
Gabrielle she said, "The stories of the fight at the falls has even spread
out to sea. Gods, you have been through so much and still haven't lost
yourself in some torturous demon. Thanks to the four of you we will all
Getting to her feet Gabrielle said, "You make too much of it. I was just there, it was the others that did it."
"Think you are being too modest. Guess you know now you will have a lot to live up to."
Seeming perplexed Gabrielle said, "What are you talking about? I'm not that good at riddles. "
Mary was standing in front of her as she said, "The four of you have grown into a myth. You have become a legend in your own time."
Laughing, Gabrielle walked back over to the desk. She stared at the music box as she said, "Sea, is a legend, she gave her life to save Xena."
Mary walked up to her and placed her right hand on the woman's shoulder as she said, "Yes, Sea is a legend but so are you, Xena and the Amazon."
Turning to gaze into Mary's eyes she said, "Ephiny, her name is Ephiny. I guess we all must have been a sight up there. You know, in life you can face most things. That is, if you have someone with you, someone who cares enough to stand beside you and fight the fight."
Mary could see the lost look in her eyes as she said, "And, someone to share your life in love. You and Ann have shown me the true meaning and I will search for just a little of what the two of you shared."
"Mary, you need to know that Sea and I never..."
The woman smiled as she said, "It's not always about that. You can find someone to share your bed and give you a feeling of bliss but when it is over they are gone. You have been fortunate to know a love that knows no bounds. Neither you nor Ann had to have one another physically. You managed to meet in a different world and a disparate way. I admire what the two of you had and still do. I see it in your eyes, I see it in this room."
Gabrielle swallowed as she tried to hold back the tears. "You have a way with words, I'll give you that."
"You told me once, about your good friend Xena, where is she?"
Gabrielle shrugged her shoulders and said, "I don't know, she is with Ephiny."
Mary could tell she hit a nerve as she changed the subject and said, "You are coming out on deck tonight, join the celebration?"
Gabrielle replied, "I, I don't know. I don't feel much like celebrating."
Mary sat as she said, "You are alive, and with that there is always hope. If nothing else celebrate our friendship and the joining to attend the meeting."
Stepping up to the port hole, Gabrielle stared out an said, "All right, to friendship."
Mary stood back up and said, "I need to go tell my crew that we will stay here tonight. But first, tell me, how is Kiera?"
Turning to gaze at the woman she said, "She is fine, guess you know I was there?"
Mary smiled and siad, "Even on the ocean, word travels fast, the pigeons carry the messages well. Then when you reach a port, there is always news. I'm glad she had someone like you to be there. I will bid you adieu for now, but I will see you this evening."
Gabrielle walked the woman back to the plank. She watched Mary saunter across, then turned and stepped over to the bulwark. She had noticed the scar on the woman's left cheek was not as predominant as it had been and if not for it, she held a beauty that was unequaled by many.
Gabrielle had retired to the cabin and finished off the bottle of port. She prayed the voice would return but it didn't and she finally decided it had all been her imagination. She wanted to hear and see the woman return so badly she felt she had conjured up the thoughts.
As she pondered the upcoming meeting in Celicia she wondered if she would
have the courage to step into the square once more. So much had happened
since then, she and Xena had shown one another a deep love and she thought,
commitment to one another. Then the accident and her fight between
rationalities. She was beginning to think life would always be a quandary to
her. She set the bottle on the floor as her body fell onto the bed she felt her head sink into the soft pillow and said to herself, "I'll just take a little nap."
The young woman was standing at the well. She had just drawn up a bucket of water to take back to the house. "Look! It's her, the one that thinks she can change the world!"
Setting the bucket down the attractive blond turned to face the girl that was chiding her. "Why don't you go milk a cow or something."
Leiana danced gleefully in front of her as she chanted, "She is a witch, she is a witch!"
Gabrielle felt her hands ball into fists as she said, "Take it back, I'm not a witch and you know it!"
The girl had reached out shoving her back and Gabrielle felt herself falling backwards. As her body touched the ground, Leiana jumped forward and kicked her in the right side. She was just getting ready to kick her once more when a hand reached out pulling the young woman back. "Why don't you pick on someone else?"
Leiana turned to face Gabrielle's sister, Lila. The young woman was seething and in her right-hand she held a large stick.
Leiana seemed surprised as she said, "Are you always going to be there to protect her? Someday she will have to fight her own battles and you won't be around to save her."
Lila glanced at Gabrielle and back to the girl as she said, "You mess with my sister, you will have me to deal with. Now, go find something else to do!"
Leiana turned and ran away.
Getting to her feet Gabrielle stared at Lila and said, "Thanks, I don't know what I would ever do without you in my life."
Lila tossed the stick as she put her right arm around Gabrielle's waist and said, "Never happen, come on let's get the water back to the house."
Groaning the woman tossed and turned and soon found herself falling from the bed. When Gabrielle hit the floor it woke her, staring up she muttered, "Can't even sleep without repercussions." Crawling to her feet she stretched. In her mind she could see a vision of her sister Lila, the woman was smiling. Gabrielle felt a loss and she kicked out at the bed as she said, "You always told me the others were just jealous because I had such vision. I hope you are all right my sister, friend, confidant and courage."
She walked over to the desk and sit down beside it. Her eyes glancing at all
the scrolls she reached up and found an empty piece of parchment. It took
her a long time but she found the words as she scribed a letter to Lila. It
had been a lengthy stretch since the two of them had corresponded. Lila
always told her she was the one with the words. As she wrote she could see her sister the day they left Potidiea. It had been good to see her again if only the circumstances had been different.
Gabrielle always felt she could read Lila's mind but this time it seemed so jumbled and she could only attribute it to the ordeal she had gone through at Satanic's hands. She was grateful Lila had the opportunity to meet Sea even if it was in that monster's den of inequity.
She spent the rest of the day tending to matters below deck and as the sun began its descent into the great waters she found herself standing at the helm. She was observing the crew as they prepared for their night of play. She never realized they had so many kegs of ale below. Hearing noises she glanced toward the Scavenger and could see the crew was busy about the deck doing the same thing. She had never been a part of a celebration with the crew and planned on keeping far away from this one.
Saxton had pulled out his homemade flute and Beniff was working with his squeeze box. The two men were practicing when Gabrielle walked up to them. She stood and listened then said, "I never knew you could play music, it's lovely."
They smiled as Saxton said, "I would be happy to teach you if you like."
Sighing she replied, "Maybe, some other time." He smiled as the two went back to their music. As she walked across the deck the men beamed and went about their preparations. She looked down at the water and could see the longboat. It was tied to the ship as she began to step down the rope ladder. It wasn't long before she was in the boat and released the tie that secured it to the ship. Sitting in the middle she began to move the oars and soon found herself rowing toward the inlet. Leaving the sounds of the ship's crew far behind.
Mary had hoisted a few with her crew and finally decided to check on Gabrielle. She hadn't seen the woman on deck. Spying Saxton she called out to the man, "Where's Gabrielle?"
He waved at her and said, "Not on board, went over to the island."
Thanking the man she turned her gaze toward the crew then went below to her cabin. Finding a leather pack she went to the galley and put some items into it. When she was finished she went topside, standing for several minutes and staring at the island. It didn't take long to get into a longboat and row toward it.
Gabrielle had pulled the boat up onto the beach, then turned and began to walk along the sand. She found her boots sinking into the fine substance and stopped. She sat and began to remove her boots. When she was finished she left them laying on the beach knowing she would pick them back up when she returned. She was enjoying the night air and the feel of the warm sand on her feet. She knew that she should feel sad, but in reality, at that moment she felt good. There seemed to be a new energy coursing through her body and she reveled in the feeling.
When Mary pulled her longboat ashore she pulled it up along side
Gabrielle's. She had looked for the woman but couldn't see her anywhere.
Smiling she threw the leather pack over her right shoulder and headed in the
direction of the bootprints. The moon was at its best, it was larger than
she had ever seen and it was full. It hung low over the island sending its golden light down on everything.
She paused when she saw the boots setting on the sand. Sitting down she removed her's and left them by Gabrielle's, then continued to follow the footprints. The sounds of the jungle were calming and she was thankful to be where she was at that moment. She had been walking for sometime and when she rounded a curve in her path she stopped as she caught sight of the woman. She was sitting on the edge of a large rock staring down at the waves as they beat upon the shore. The light from the moon only made the woman more beautiful if that was possible and she knew she had to watch her step. Gabrielle had become a good friend and ally and she didn't want anything to spoil that. But, she could see what Ann Bounty saw in the woman, not only was she a good fighter and confident but the woman was ravishing.
Gabrielle heard the sounds and she turned to gaze in the direction from which they were coming. In the moonlight she could see Mary Ready heading in her direction. She waved at the woman and as she grew nearer she called out, "Are you lost?"
Mary smiled up at her and said, "No, thought you might like some company. It will get a little rakish back at the ship."
It didn't seem like long before she had climbed up and was sitting beside Gabrielle. She looked at her and said, "A pack? Are you planning on staying for awhile?"
Mary smiled as she said, "Well, they are partying and I thought you might like to have something with me. A little food, some drink."
Gabrielle watched the woman removed the articles as she said, "I've been there with Sea, I'm not hungry or thirsty. I, I really can't."
Reaching out she placed her right hand on the woman's shoulder and said, "It's just food, drink and my company if you want, nothing else."
Shrugging her shoulders, Gabrielle said, "It was nice of you to come all that way in and bring this. Don't go, I need a friend."
A warm smile crossed the woman's lips as she said, "I need you also. Let's just enjoy the night and each others company."
Pulling her knees to her chest, Gabrielle replied, "I'll drink to that."
Mary handed her a flask of port and said, "Hope you don't mind sharing?"
Taking it she replied, "No. Thanks." She took a drink then said, "Not bad, you didn't stomp this out yourself did you?"
Laughing Mary answered, "Very funny. Glad it meets with your approval. Here." She had cut a piece of cheese and was holding it toward Gabrielle. She took it and gave the flask back to the woman.
Mary had been watching Gabrielle as she said, "Even though I know you are setting beside me, I feel that your mind is far off."
Turning her gaze toward the woman, Gabrielle said, "I was just looking at the lights on the ship and listening to their carousing."
Mary leaned back as she said, "The music is nice."
Nodding, Gabrielle said, "I don't know about any of your crew but there are some of the men from the Bounty that have made instruments."
Grinning, Mary said, "Not on mine. They can fight but play music, hardly."
They finished off the port and the food that Mary had brought. The two had been enjoying the music from the ship and had been sitting for sometime when Mary said, "Don't take offense at this but would you like to dance?"
Giving her a scathing look Gabrielle replied, "I don't want any..."
"You misunderstand me, just a dance. If you want to stay at arms length, that's all right with me. Before I left the ship I noticed several of my men fooling. One had put the remnants of a mop on his head and another was swinging him onto the deck in a madcap dance."
Beaming, Gabrielle said, "Would have been something to see." She sat up and said, "All right, I'm game."
Mary climbed down to the ground as she reached up to help Gabrielle down. The music that was finding it's way inland was fast. Mary stared down at Gabrielle and said, "I'm not the best at this but it can be fun."
Grinning, Gabrielle said, "Well, it's been known to rain when I start so prepare yourself."
They stood facing one another, each afraid to take the first step. The silence was broken when both women began to laugh. Mary reached out and grasped Gabrielle's hands in hers as she said, "Let's just give it a go."
The music on ship had slowed and was sending out a rhythmic beat. It was soft as the two began to move with the sounds, stopping to giggle when someone would step on a foot. They started swaying with the music at arms length and had now moved closer as their bodies began to move in an expressive motion.
Mary could feel Gabrielle as she relaxed her body against her's. She pulled the woman closer as she felt her body begin to respond to the movement. Suddenly Gabrielle pulled back as she said, "I can't fall into this."
Smiling down at her Mary replied, "We are adults and I'm not asking for your body, just your presence. It has been such a long time. Please, just dance with me."
Looking up into the woman's sparkling eyes she felt herself being drawn back into her arms. The light from the moon illuminated the two as their bodies moved with the rhythm, and for that moment they sought comfort in each other.
It was when they were feeling close that the drums started. Both women stopped and stared across the dark waters as Mary said, "Well, they sure know how to kill a mood."
Gabrielle began to giggle as she said, "Come on, you can move to this."
Stepping back Mary replied, "Oh no, I don't do drums."
Gabrielle's blue green eyes were sparkling in the light of the moon as she said, "It's easy, come on."
Mary dropped to her knees as she said, "I'll just watch and learn."
Shrugging her shoulders Gabrielle began to sway. It seemed her body was in tune with each beat of the drum because it was moving in the most seductive manner. Mary sat as she watched the woman. Several times Gabrielle would move close to her and holdout her hands. Mary would shake her head and grin as the woman continued. She had slowly moved in a circle around Mary and with each of Gabrielle's movements she felt her body warm.
Gabrielle was standing in front of her as she began a rhythmic move that
ended when she dropped to her knees in front of the woman. Her arms
outstretched as she slowly swayed and as she leaned forward and shook, her
breasts seemed to be crying out for release. Jumping to her feet Mary said,
"I think it's time for a swim." Gabrielle watched as the woman discarded her clothes and ran into the water. Sitting, Gabrielle watched, her head felt like she had drank too much and she knew she had. She could feel the moistness on her face and body and realized she had overdone it. Reaching out to trace a finger in the sand she tried to calm down. The dance had been invigorating, maybe a little too.
By the time Mary came out of the water, she had a nice fire going and was sitting near it. She heard the woman behind her and said, "Enjoy the swim?"
Mary had put her clothes back on and sat down beside her. She gazed at the fire and answered, "It was invigorating. In case you don't know it, you dance well. Too well."
Turning to look at the woman, Gabrielle said, "Guess I got carried away, sorry it won't happen again."
Mary's white shirt was clinging to the woman as she said, "Don't be sorry, I would love to watch you dance again. Only I don't think I could take it at the moment."
Grinning, Gabrielle said, "Maybe next time you will dance with me."
Holding her hands toward the warmth of the fire, Mary said, "I don't think it would be a good idea. You are a good friend to me and I don't want to do anything that will hurt that."
"Like you said, it was just a dance."
Laying back on the sand the woman said, "Maybe to you, but you have a way of moving your body that would even make an ascetic oracle have feelings they shouldn't."
Gabrielle laid back as she said, "I'll try to remember that, I really like you Mary and I am glad to know you are a friend."
Mary reached out and grasped Gabrielle's right hand in her's as she said, "Me too, friend."
The two women went to sleep laying on the beach. The light from the fire warming the area and the two of them feeling a warmth of friendship.
Though they had been traveling slowly, Xena was surprised that they seemed to make it to each of Salmanthron's stops in the time frame he wanted. The man carried a parchment with the directions scribed onto it. She walked up to the man as he was studying it and said, "You know, if you give that to me, I could probably find an easier way to get there."
He turned to gaze at the tall woman and said, "Yes, but if I give this to you, you would have no reason to take me along. Sorry Xena, I need you and with this in my possession you also need me. How is Ephiny today?"
Xena glanced back at the camp and she could see her friend laying down. Turning her attention back to the man she said, "She'll be fine. It has been a long trip and she is still grieving over Epinon."
He nodded as Xena walked past and into the thick foliage ahead. She had been searching from sometime and when she spied the small branch she walked over to it and cut it down. Holding it in her hand she began to twirl it and lash out at the air. Smiling she headed back to the camp.
Ephiny heard the footsteps approaching as she sat up and said, "I could tell it was you, where have you been?" She spied the branch in the woman's hand and said, "What's that for?"
Sitting beside the woman, Xena answered, "Thought it would make a good staff."
Ephiny gazed at her and said, "Why?"
The woman tossed the branch as she said, "Don't know, it just came over me. These days I am beginning to think I am the one losing my mind."
Ephiny reached out and touched Xena with her left hand as she said, "You miss Gabrielle, I understand. At least, you will see her again."
Turning her blue eyes toward the woman Xena said, "I did it again, wallowing in my own thoughts I know what a hard time you are having. Forgive me."
Getting to her feet Ephiny said, "I think all this thinking time is doing neither of us any good. Let's go down there."
Xena stared in the direction Ephiny was pointing as she said, "It is their ritual day, probably not a good time to go."
Ephiny's face showed a glimmer of sadness as Xena said, "Oh, all right, what can it hurt. It may do us both good to take our minds off this trip."
Smiling, Ephiny said, "Good, I know there are a lot of people down there but at least we will be away from his eyes."
Salmanthron had been staring at the two as Xena said, "You are right, we haven't had much privacy since he has been around. I'll go tell him."
Ephiny watched her friend stride up to the man and engage in a battle of words. She could tell they were finished when Xena began to saunter towards her. Ephiny stood as she asked, "Well?"
Xena glanced at her and said, "Let's go, he'll find something to do."
"Yeah, like probably follow us. If I didn't know better I would think Joxer had another twin brother."
Salmanthron shook his head as he watched the two women walk from camp. Their laughter was ringing back as he muttered, "Women."
The two women were quite a sight as they ambled into the main square. People were dressed in their sacred garb and many raised eyebrows when they saw them. Ephiny reached out and grabbed Xena by her left arm as she whispered, "I think they are staring at us."
Nodding her head the woman continued walking and said, "Give them something else to do. Guess we really aren't dressed for the day."
Staring at her clothes then at Xena Ephiny said, "We stick out like a sore thumb. Maybe we should go."
Xena stopped, turned and said, "I don't think so, if they don't like the way we look, then they can look the other way. Come on, I'm hungry let's go get some sweet bread."
Ephiny hurried to catch up with the woman.
After they had purchased the bread and some port the two walked to the edge of the city and found a stone bench to set on. It was an overcast day and from the looks of the sky it might pour at any moment. The clouds were growing thicker, Xena didn't like the way they appeared as she said, "We should probably get back, it looks like it is going to pour."
Ephiny was enjoying the quiet as she took a drink of port and said, "Do you remember..."
Xena gazed at her as the two women laughed and in unison said, "Cleopatra."
The two shared so much and it seemed on this day they had always been there for one another. Several people had walked past them when Ephiny finally asked a man who was approaching, "Where they were all going?"
He stared down at the two strangers and said, "The ritual at the sanctuary."
Thanking the man she turned to face Xena and said, "Ritual, have you ever been to one?"
Shaking her head the woman said, "Not one of those, I don't think I want to see any sacrifices today."
Seeming alarmed the woman set back as she said, "Sacrifice, you don't mean it."
Gleaming the woman took a drink and said, "I don't know but I have heard stories as to what goes on in the rotunda."
The amazon thought for a few seconds then said, "I have heard it is the most religious center in Greece. Many think it is sacred and is the center of the world."
Xena looked at Ephiny as if for the first time as she said, "Do you know even now, you carry so much of the wonder that teenager did so many moons ago? You still surprise me. You are right, I've heard the same things but I have also learned not to believe everything I hear."
Ephiny reached out and touched the woman's nose with her forefinger as she said, "You are pretty amazing yourself. Now, can we go?"
Standing , Xena said, "Not a good idea, you will only see an altar, and a stature of Apollo. We are outsiders and may not be looked upon with favor. I don't know about you, but I don't relish the idea of being stoned today."
Ephiny laughed as she said, "Since you put it that way, me neither. Let's go back and see what else there is to eat."
A slight smile crossed Xena's face as she said, "You and Gabrielle."
They walked back the way they had come and anyone that spied the two knew they were having a good time.
It wasn't long before they found a tavern and entered. There weren't many people inside which suited Xena because she hated large crowds. After they had sat, Xena glanced at Ephiny and said, "How about some chicken?"
Nodding, Ephiny said, "Sounds good."
A robust man took the order and left as Xena said, "Looks like he hasn't been missing a meal."
Her friend grinned and said, "I know what you are doing, you agreed to come down here with me hoping it would take my mind off Ep."
Nodding, as she raised her left leg and let it fall across the table. Ephiny's eyes traveled up the woman's long leg as she said, "Your mother hates it when you do that."
Glancing around the woman replied, "No mother here, besides, it was starting to cramp. It's not bothering you is it?"
Leaning forward Ephiny whispered, "Not in the sense you are talking about. I'm not dead you know."
Xena sat up as she raised her leg and brought it to the floor, then said, "I'm glad to know something still has you feeling."
Ephiny glanced around the room then said, "You will always give me certain
feelings, either in bed or out, I love you woman and you know it. That
didn't mean I didn't love Ep, because I do, I did. It's just Amazons are
different. I guess I should confess that besides Ep there has only been you
that has set a fire in my heart."
Xena looked up to see the man returning with two plates of chicken and two mugs of grog. After he had set them on the table and left Xena said, "Smells good, dig in."
She was happy the meal had arrived. The direction the conversation was
headed in gave her a very uncomfortable feeling. As she watched her friend
partake of the meal she smiled, it was good to see the woman beginning to
come out of her shell even if it meant she was going to start making
advances toward her once more. The question that played in the back of her mind was, it had been a game, but now, would it grow serious?
Continue to Chapter 12
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