Myth part 5
by Anita Louise
Feeling rested the two started back to camp. The days activities heavily on their minds as they walked into the area. Both stopped when they saw what lay before them. The camp had been strewn about, everything was ripped up and what wasn't was gone. Xena ran to find Salmanthron but the man was no where in sight. She hurried back to Ephiny but the woman had also disappeared. "Ephiny!" She heard the words coming from her mouth before she even thought them, as she walked around the campsite.
She was just starting to go look for her when the blond stepped into the area. She had a a look of relief on her face as she said, "The animals are all right, I prayed they hadn't been taken."
Throwing her hands into the air Xena stared at her friend and said, "Thank the Gods for that, But, while we were having a good time, someone ravished our camp."
Ephiny was staring around as she said, "And Salmanthron, did you find him?"
Shaking her head Xena said, "No, the map is gone and the cup he was guarding so carefully. It's as if he vanished."
Stepping up to Xena, her friend said, "Something has happened to him. It might have been a good thing we weren't here."
Placing her left hand on the woman's shoulder Xena said, "There may be more people than we know of that want the treasure. From the looks of the sky it will pour anytime. I'm going to follow the prints before they are washed away."
Ephiny replied, "Not without me, let's go."
The tracks were easy to follow and it didn't take them long to reach the path that led below to the sanctuary. Ephiny whispered, "They took him down there."
Looking at her friend, Xena said, "What better place, with so much going on who is going to notice a few more. Just promise me one thing?"
Ephiny's eyes widened as she asked, "What?"
"Don't go do anything rash."
Nodding the woman said, "I promise, Amazon honor."
Xena pursed her lips as she said, "Don't know why but that just doesn't make me feel any better." The two moved cautiously down the path. Xena held up her hand and said, "Well, there is your ritual. the tracks go down there. Now, where in all those people we will find Salmanthron I haven't a clue."
Ephiny had crawled up next to Xena as she said, "How do we go among them dressed like this?"
A sly smile crossed the woman's face as she said, "You stay here, I'll be right back."
Ephiny quietly called after her but she had disappeared. Sitting down on the soft dirt she felt agitated. Xena had left her again and she felt the least she could have done was to tell her where she was going. She was resigned to wait for awhile but if the woman didn't return soon, she was going to go look for her.
The sounds from below were drifting up to her and she had tried several times to get a look at what was taking place. It was the psst sounds and the pebbles that were hitting her that made her turn in the direction they were coming from as she said, "Who is doing that?"
Xena stepped into view as the woman said, "Boy, for someone who should be trying to keep quiet, I'll bet they heard that in the city."
She could see Xena was holding two ceremonial robes in her hands as the woman approached and handed one to her. "Here, I think this will fit."
Taking it Ephiny said, "What happened to the people who were wearing these?"
Xena grinned as she said, "They got a little sleepy, now put that on and let's go."
They had been sailing for several days. It took the crew sometime to get back to the rigors of working a ship after their night of celebration. The woman stood at the bow, staring off at the distance. She reveled in the spray that was bouncing off her face. Her meeting with Mary had been a good one and she was now looking forward to the one in Celicia. This time she would go there as an equal to any and she knew that Mary Ready would be a welcome friend.
Saxton had been watching her as he worked the rigging. She seemed to manage her losses well and he was surprised at the woman's stamina. She never spoke of Ann again but he knew every time he looked into her eyes the woman was there. He only wished there was something he could do to ease the pain she still seemed to have.
He gazed up at the man standing in the Crows Nest as he waved to him and said, "I'll tell the Captain."
It didn't take him long to find her as he walked up to her and said, "We are nearing Celicia, thought you would like to know."
She nodded and said, "When it is time make the arrangements to drop anchor and let me know when the boat will be ready to take me ashore?"
He smiled and said, "Aye, little one?"
She turned to stare at him as she said, "Yes? Is something wrong Saxton?"
He looked down at the deck as he said, "I worry about you, the happiest I've
seen you in a long time was when Mary was visiting. There is more to life
than just being captain of The Bounty. Someone like you should have a love,
a person to share your thoughts, your troubles, your bed." She was giving him
the look but he continued, "There isn't one man on the ship that wouldn't
give his life for you. I've seen you in battle, it is vicious. You must know that the killing you have done has not made the hurt go away."
Gabrielle bit her lower lip as she said, "If it wasn't you telling me this, I would probably run you through. I know what you are saying and you are right, I will work on it."
He nodded as he turned and walked away. Leaning against the bulwark she felt
the power of the ship as it surged through the water. The sounds of the crew
and the feel of the sun beaming down on her gave her a relaxed feeling. A
feeling she didn't seem to have much anymore. She could not understand why
the moods kept invading her body, the worst part was she never knew when
they would strike. She knew Saxton was right, there were days when she was so frustrated she took it out on everyone. The last ship they defeated was a small merchant vessel and she had been vicious. Standing, she headed for the helm and, as she approached, she turned and went below.
Entering the cabin she could feel the mood overtaking her as she closed the door. She angrily paced the room and with each step she could feel the overwhelming sense of despair creeping in on her. She began to strike out at the air with her fists and at the same time her wide spins and high kicks sent a chilling sound through the air. She beat out at it until she was totally exhausted and had fallen in a heap on the floor. Her body began to shake as she wept, "I can't take it anymore, I can't take it!"
She heard the words but chose to ignore them as she said, "Go away, you're just words, words I have summoned up."
The warm sounds continued, "I can't stand to see you like this. Please, it will be all right, trust me."
She slowly got to her feet and said, "All right, I'll play your little game, what do you want of me today?"
She felt the warm voice by her right ear as she heard the words, "The world needs you, it needs your bright smile and loving face. And I need you."
She swallowed as she turned slowly, closing her eyes she said, "I don't want to see an apparition, so go away. My mind loves to play tricks on me."
She shivered as she felt the warm soft lips that had found their way to hers. It sent a feeling of welcome throughout as she opened her eyes. The Woman's eyes were closed but the feel of her touch was too real as Gabrielle succumbed to the tender sensation of the kiss and met it with one she never thought she would ever give again.
The kiss was prolonged and pleasurable. When she slowly pulled back she stared up into the emerald green eyes of Sea. Before she could say anything the woman reached out and placed a finger on Gabrielle's lips and said, "Shh, just let me look at you."
Gabrielle reached up and placed her left hand on the woman's face as she said, "Sea..."
Ann Bounty gazed at her, the look was tender and caring as she said, "You must have faith. Never let doubt enter your mind."
Her fingers were caressing Ann's face as she said, "I have tried, but when I go to sleep and when I wake, I am alone. Except for the few times you come to me in my dreams."
A beautiful smile crossed the woman's face as her lips found Gabrielle's fingers. She plucked each one lightly then she grasped the hand with her's and brought the palm to her waiting lips as she kissed it softly and said, "They weren't dreams, I was there, you must know, I am trying to fully come back. Until then, please, promise me you will have faith, faith in yourself as well as others."
A tear began to cascade down Gabrielle's face as she said, "I hold you in my heart and I always will, Gods. Sea I hurt so bad, I want you to be all right."
The woman began to trace Gabrielle's palm with her tongue then said, "If you believe, anything is possible. Until then, remember I love you."
Gabrielle gazed as the woman disappeared. She stared at her hand and could still see the moistness where her tongue had left its mark. Sea had been there but she was gone again. She was more lost than before and her body ached in more places than she knew existed. She walked over to the bed and laid down. Pulling herself into the fetal position she hugged herself tightly and began to rock back and forth.
She found herself standing on the boardwalk staring out at the ocean. From
where she stood her eyes took in the huge ships lined up along the bay.
Brigs, low in the water, their mended sails twisted like artless ribbons
about their masts, colored flags flew in the breeze. From what she could
see, there were a lot of pirates attending the meeting. Smaller ships were bobbing easily on the swells, and seagulls flew overhead sending sounds that traveled for miles. Several ships were pushing past one another and people were yelling out greetings to one another over the sounds of their squeaking hulls.
She took a deep breath of the ocean air and reveled in the feeling it gave her.
She was waiting for the rest of the crew to join her. They had left a skeleton crew onboard. This definitely would be a new experience for her and she still felt chills as her mind would take her back to that time in the same place. "We're all here, Captain."
She brought her gaze to the crew of The Bounty as they began to walk toward her. Saxton was within a few steps as she said, "Then let's get this meeting over. Lately, I don't seem to have much use for being around a lot of people."
The weather beaten face gleamed down as the man said, "This time it will be different, we will be right by your side and so will Mary."
Slowly she began to pace off the boardwalk. Each time she walked past the other people lined along it she would brace herself for insults, none came, instead many chanted, "It's the crew of The Bounty and..."
Saxton would step forward and say, "And the best Captain we could ask for. Gabrielle!"
As her boots landed onto the dirt of the square she stopped. Slowly circling she stared at the buildings. Most had been rebuilt and she was grateful for that. After surveying the area she started to walk toward the tavern. It was at this time a loud voice called out to her, "Hey, you! Yeah, I'm talking to you. I have something to ask you!"
As she stopped, her men drew their cutlass's and she turned to face the voice. "Well, give it all you have, because I'm, ready!" She barely got the words out as she found herself face to face with Mary Ready. The two women stood staring at one another and by this time people had gathered. Saxton stepped forward and at the same time Gabrielle reached out and said, "It's all right, tell the men to go on to the tavern, I'll be there when I finish."
They holstered their weapons and headed for the tavern leaving the two women to face one another. Gabrielle stared at the curious people then back at Mary as she said, "Now, look what you have gone and done? They are all expecting a show."
Throwing her head back the woman howled as she said, "I don't care what they want, now, to my question."
Gabrielle was very confused as she said, "What are you talking about?"
Mary stepped close as she said, "Will you to come with me, no questions?"
Cocking her head to the right, Gabrielle answered, "No questions, you lead, I'll follow."
Mary laughed as she said, "I have something I want to show you."
The two women stared at the curious onlookers as Mary called out, "Sorry, have to wait for a fight, because there is definitely not one here."
She grasped Gabrielle's left hand and began to pull her toward the alley. Gabrielle smiled when she saw the waiting horses and said, "Something beside the constant wave of the ship, wonderful!"
Mary had jumped into the saddle and waited for Gabrielle to hoist herself onto the sorrel. She pointed to the saddlebag and said, "Brought something to drink and eat, let's go."
Gabrielle called out, Where are we going?"
Mary laughed as she called back, "Follow my dust if you can."
They had been galloping the horses for sometime and Gabrielle had urged her horse forward and was now reining up beside the woman's dapple gray. Mary beamed over at her and said, "I'll say one thing, you ride even better than you did the last time."
She pointed toward the left and Gabrielle reined the horse to a stop as she said, "The Chimneys, at least this time I can enjoy them without the thought you were taking me back to that cell."
Mary had dismounted and walked over to the sorrel. She reached out and took the reins in her hands as she said, "I take it you like?"
Staring at the ground then back at the woman, Gabrielle answered, "I like, I always thought is was so inspiring."
Mary had tethered the horses and was walking back to where Gabrielle stood. She placed her left hand on Gabrielle's shoulder as she said, "Shall we?"
The two women made the climb to the area and when they found themselves standing in the middle, surrounded by the delicately placed rocks, Gabrielle found a log and sat. Mary followed as the two took in the magnificence of the area. They sat for a long time, neither saying a word. Mary finally broke the silence as she said, "Your prayers were answered, would you like to go for a swim?"
Turning to look into the woman's blue eyes, she said, "Yes, they were. Swim?"
Mary grinned as she said, "Swim, there is a great spot near and it will do you good."
Standing, Gabrielle said, "Why not, I haven't been in sometime. It's been a long voyage and it will feel good."
Mary had taken the saddlebags from the horses and said, "Then follow me, it's really not too far from here."
Gabrielle was actually enjoying the chance to do something different and it had been awhile since she went for a casual walk or a swim. Mary had stopped and it didn't take long to make her way to stand beside the woman. She looked down in the direction Mary was pointing as her mouth fell open and she said, "It's beautiful."
She followed the woman down the path and with each step her eyes took in the gently sloping beach. Stopping she gazed out at the water and could see there were overhanging reefs lurking just beneath the surface. The water was the bluest she had ever seen and the white sand on the beach took her mind back to Spoon Island.
"Is something wrong?"
Realizing she had been daydreaming she shook her head and said, "No, just let my mind wander for a second. It is beautiful, do you come here often?"
Shaking her head the woman said, "No, never much time but I have been here a few times."
Gazing into her eyes, Gabrielle softly smiled and said, "I see it in your eyes, you and Sea have been here."
"That obvious huh? Sorry, don't want to bring up unpleasant memories."
Looking very serious Gabrielle said, "It doesn't, to know Sea had good times here with you, gives me a good feeling. Now, about that swim."
Mary smiled as she laid the saddle bags on the sand. She sat as she said, "First thing, off comes the boots."
Plopping down beside the woman, Gabrielle began to remove hers. Then she stood and pulled the leather lace from her blouse. Mary stared up as the breeze caught the material and swept it back. She swallowed hard it was as if she was having a hard time getting air. Gabrielle's imposing beauty and curvaceous body was enough to stop anything in its tracks, but, the full breasts that struck out at the air took the woman's breath away. She immediately turned away and began to fumble with the buttons on her blouse.
"Hurry up slowpoke!"
She heard the words and looked up to see Gabrielle stripped to the skin as she dove head first into the white cap. Mary was fascinated at the woman as she watched her begin stroking through the current, moving as she pleased through the water.
Muttering to herself she finally managed to take the shirt off and in seconds the pants found themselves laying by the shirt on the sand. She waved at Gabrielle as she dove into the water.
It didn't take long for her to swim out to where the woman was basking in the warmth of the rolling water.
As she neared Gabrielle called out to her, "What took you so long?"
Mary swam toward her and said, "Ran into a few problems. What do you think?"
Gabrielle began to tread water as she said, "It's marvelous, you were right, this is one thing I needed."
Mary was within arms distance as she said, "I'm glad you approve. You take to water like a fish."
Grinning, Gabrielle splashed water toward the woman and said, "Thanks, coming from you that makes me feel good. I'm going to dive down and take a look."
Mary started to tell the woman to be careful but shrugged her shoulders as she took a deep breath and followed.
The two were enjoying following some of the reefs. Mary tried to keep her attention focused on the many unique colors and varieties of fish that Gabrielle kept pointing out. They would re-surface long enough to take in air and go down once more. A jelly fish caught the woman's eyes as Gabrielle swam fairly close. Mary reached out and grasped her right arm and pulled her back. Gabrielle didn't seem happy but she did swim further back. They watched in awe as it seemed to do it's own choreographic dance. Finally Mary tapped her on the right shoulder and pointed up as she headed for the top. Gabrielle glanced back once then followed the woman. Reaching the surface both women were gasping for air. The water was running down their faces as Mary sputtered, "What were you trying to do down there?"
Gabrielle was laying on her back as gentle waves rocked her body, she stared up at the sky and said, "What has you in such a dither?"
Mary was still trying to catch her breath as she said, "That saucer shaped thing, though it seeming transparent has tentacles covered with stinging things. If it had touched you, you wouldn't be smiling up at the sky right now."
Gabrielle was swimming toward her as she said, Thanks, it was just so fascinating. I'm going to go back in."
Mary watched as Gabrielle's arms reached out as if parting the water, and swam toward shore. She tossed her head and began to follow.
The two were laughing as they ran from the water onto the beach. Gabrielle was standing, holding her arms across her breasts. She was shivering as Mary said, "You will be all right in a few minutes, I'll race you to that stump." Gabrielle glanced in the direction Mary was pointing then her eyes took in the woman's lengthy legs as she said, "Oh no, I have found that long legs out run mine every time." Her eyes were now staring toward the path they had walked down.
Mary noticed the lovely color creeping into Gabrielle's face as she said, "Then, you can put the clothes on and get them wet, or, sit down on the beach with me and dry off. I brought some drink and food, that should help."
She had noticed part of a log laying in the sand and walked over and pulled it out. Picking it up she walked back to Gabrielle and said, "If I dust this off and we place our pants here, we can sit on it. At least we won't get sand in places we don't want."
Giggling, Gabrielle leaned over to help. It wasn't long before they were sitting beside one another. Their bodies touching as they enjoyed the food and drink. When they were finished Gabrielle stood and said, "I feel dry, I'm going to put my clothes on."
Slipping into the blouse was easy but it took a few minutes to find the leather strand in the sand. And Mary enjoyed watching the woman hunt for it. Holding it in her right hand she approached Mary, who had been taking sips of the port as she watched. Mary handed the damp pants to Gabrielle and said, "You were sitting on these so they are a little wet."
Taking them she thanked the woman and proceeded to endeavor to put them on.
Mary grinned as she watched the woman hobble around trying to place a foot
as she stumbled. She admired her for her stamina because she was persistent
and soon was pulling the pants on. Gabrielle had started the leather strand
when Mary walked up to her and said, "You are out of breath, I should have
told you, it's very difficult to put on leather pants when they are wet. But I did enjoy watching you give it a good and successful try. Now, let me."
Before she could say anything Mary had grasped the leather and began to pull it through the loops on the blouse crisscrossing as she lightly tugged. Gabrielle's blue green eyes watched the woman's hands as they meticulously closed the blouse in front. Mary's' hand had accidentally brushed across her breasts and she could now see the pert nipples showing through the material. Gabrielle stepped back as she turned away and said, "Never know when that is going to happen."
Mary smiled as she walked over to her clothes and began to put them on as she said, "You look beautiful, and when your body speaks, it only makes you more so. No, I'm not coming on to you, just a friend making an observation."
Gabrielle seemed pensive as she said, "In that case, anyone ever tell you that you are a striking woman? Sometimes I see a goddess quality in you."
Picking up the empty saddlebags Mary turned to stare at Gabrielle as she said, "No, not many that I know of with your way of words. Guess we should head back, get ready for the big meeting tonight."
"After finding the horses they started back to Celicia. They were starting to rein them in the direction of Celecia when Mary reached out and touched Gabrielle on her left arm and said, " In case you are wondering... You do things to me that are not talked about in polite circles and yes, if things were different, I would want to hold you in my arms and make love till the Gods gave up Olympus. I find you enticing, but, I favor your friendship much more and after all, emotions are like the wind, they come and go. But, where you are concerned you affect me like a twister." She prodded her horse as it galloped leaving Gabrielle to stare at the dust it left behind.
Leaving the horses at the stable they started toward the tavern. Dusk was settling upon the city as they walked into the building. Men and women were milling around the room, smoke hung low and heavy as Gabrielle began to fan at it with her right arm. She spied some of the crew emjoying the company of several bar maidens as she walked past. The two women walked up to the tavern keeper and Mary said, "Need a room for tonight."
He looked at the two as he said, "All full up."
Grumbling Mary leered at him as she said, "This here is Gabrielle, captain of The Bounty and my name is Ready, Mary! About the rooms?"
He walked over to a table and picked up a parchment as he said, "Yes, right here, room is at the top of the stairs first door."
Mary looked at Gabrielle as she said, "Two rooms would be better."
He pointed toward the full room and said, "All rooms are taken, unless you want to challenge someone and take theirs."
Gabrielle stepped forward as she said, "We'll take it, come on."
Mary glanced around then followed the woman up the stairs. Entering the room, Gabrielle walked over to the bed and sat. She stared around and said, "Not much in here."
Mary laid the saddlebags down on the small table, then she pulled out a chair and sat. "You take the bed, I'll curl up on the floor."
Gabrielle leaned back on the bed as she said, "I think we can sleep here."
Standing the woman muttered as she said, "I am not made of stone and it is best if my body does not feel yours in that bed."
Getting to her feet, Gabrielle walked over to a basin as she poured some water into it she said, "Then, after all you have done for me, I will be the one to sleep on the floor."
Mary watched as Gabrielle began to splash water on her face then said, "I swear, you are as hard headed as Ann ever was. We'll talk about this later. The meeting will start soon and I have a big question to ask, "If things work out as I have planned, I want you to accept the position as Second in command of Celicia."
Drying off her face she turned to stare at Mary and said, "You are serious, are you going to try to take Calico's position here?"
The woman leaned back in the chair and said, "I don't see anyone that is better and if they think they are, then they will have to prove it by defeating me in a match."
The two women didn't have much time to enjoy what comforts the room had to offer because they were summoned down stairs as the meeting was about to begin.
Bounding down the stairs Gabrielle felt revived and almost ready for anything. As the two women reached the bottom they stared out at the large group of ruffians. Gabrielle whispered, "I don't think taking over is going to be easy."
A confident smile on her face the woman answered, "Nothing worthwhile ever is. Come on, I want to declare my intentions."
A large bearded man was addressing the group. He had offered free drinks to everyone and as he held up his goblet, Mary stepped in front of him. The worn patch over his left eye seemed to move as he squinted the one good eye at the woman. "Well, if it isn't Mary Ready. Come back dragging her tail behind her."
Mary placed her hands on her hips as she walked slowly in a circle eyeing everyone. Standing in front of the man once more she scoffed and said, "One Eye, it is your tail that needs to be draging--out of here!"
He made a rumbling noise and said, "If anyone is going out, it be you!" He quickly drew a dagger and flung it at the woman. She moved her head and at the same time her right-hand plucked it in midair. In an instant she tossed it back as the knife found its way into the man's heart. His one eye rolled back as he collapsed. She turned to stare at the others and said, "He was giving you free drink, probably something he had already stolen from you. Is there anyone else who would like to challenge me?"
The men stared at one another but not one stepped forward and Mary said, "Good, then it is settled, from now on, Mary Ready will rule Celicia."
Everyone began to cheer and when they were finished she gazed at Gabrielle and said, "And to the captain of The Bounty, Gabrielle. Who will be my second in command."
"Seems to me Gabrielle owes us all the booty that was stolen as well as her hide!" The woman's voice was deadly as Sarina stepped onto the floor, she was glowering at Gabrielle.
She turned to face her and at the same time Mary stepped forward and said, "That is past and it was a mockery of a trial. This is here and now so, go on with you."
The woman scowled at her then turned her gaze back toward Gabrielle as she said, "She was convicted by a group of her peers and I want to see justice done!"
Many of the people in the room were becoming unruly as Mary shouted, "If you have a problem with my second, then take it up with me not her!"
Gabrielle looked at Mary as she said, "No, this is not your fight." She stepped up to the woman and said, "You see that post in the center of the room? Well, I'm not tied there today. It won't be as easy to strike me as you did then!"
Sarina smirked as her lip turned up she said, "Seems I can remember sending you to your knees, it will give me great pleasure to send you to Hades!"
Mary reached out and grabbed her left arm and said, "Stay out of it Gabrielle. Let me deal with her."
Shaking her head the woman smiled at her friend as she said, "Thanks, but, this is one I have to do myself." She stepped past Mary and continued, "I won't deny your blow was powerful and cutting enough to do that but I am on my two feet now and my hands are not shackled, so if all you are going to do is talk, I have better things to do!"
Gabrielle turned and started to walk towards Mary and at the same time Sarina kicked out sending her right boot onto Gabrielle's back. The force sent her falling forward as Mary reached out catching her. Her eyes met the woman's as she said, "Thanks."
Mary sneered at Sarina and said, "That was underhanded, if you are going to fight, then do it right!"
Sarina had been walking in a circle and she carried a very satisfied smile across her face. Gabrielle was now watching her as she said, "Is that how you get all your conquests? Either a knife in the back or something else?"
Sarina stopped as she gazed at the woman. "You are an outsider, what do you want with us?"
"Maybe once, but not anymore, just ask my crew."
The woman had been walking close to the tables and as she neared one Gabrielle recognized the woman sitting there as Rena. Within a split second she had handed Sarina a coiled whip and the woman had sent it cracking toward Gabrielle.
The hungry leather found its mark as it wrapped around her neck. She reached up trying to loosen the grip. Mary started to interfere and she found a blade touching her left side as a woman whispered, "If she is to be second in command, you can't be wiping her nose. Let the two of them settle it."
Finally getting the leather loose, Gabrielle stepped back. Sarina was slowly
moving in a circle as she let the leather trail behind her. Every once in
awhile she would let it snap and crawl across the floor. The woman laughed,
"Before I am through, I will see your hide on this whip and enjoy every
second of pleasure it gives me."
The sound of the leather cascading through the air gave Gabrielle reason to jump sideways as she hit the floor and rolled. Barely getting back to her feet before the woman stuck out once more.
The people were amazed at the agility the woman had. She had out maneuvered each one of Sarina's deadly strikes until the one that caught her left ankle sending her face first onto the floor. Falling onto her back she reached down to remove the leather as the woman's right foot careened into her side. Although the pain was fierce she reached out and grabbed her foot, twisting as she shoved and sent Sarina to the floor.
It didn't take long to remove the leather tongs from around her left ankle.
She walked over to Sarina who was getting to her feet, as she stared at her
and said, "All right, enough is enough!" In a blink of an eye she had
whirled sending her left foot across the woman's face. Another whirl, as her
right foot made contact producing a crackling sound as Sarina stumbled backwards. Gabrielle continued her advance on the woman. And she made several more spins, striking out with her feet as they made contact, and her right fist sunk into Sarina's stomach taking the woman's breath away.
She stood staring down at the ashen face of the woman. Dropping to her knees she searched for a pulse. Mary had crossed the floor and knelt down beside her as she said, "It was either you or her, come on."
She placed an arm around Gabrielle's waist and said, "Let me get you to the room."
Gabrielle stared at the women and men in the room then she said, "No, finish your business, I'll just go get a drink."
Mary watched her limp off, she wanted to be with her, to comfort her but the
shouting of the men behind made her think better of it. She turned and
walked back over to the center of the room and said, "If there are anymore
that are not satisfied and want to make retribution for that scoundrel,
Calico Jack, from now on, take it up with me!"
Their business ran into the night, not only talking but many had taken great joy in challenging others to duels. Gabrielle had taken several bottles of port and gone to the room. She was not feeling the best and wanted to get away from all the robust carousing that was going on. It had become so noisy she couldn't even hear the man when he set the bottles in front of her. Before she left she tried to see across the smoke filled room, her eyes searched for Mary but the woman was nowhere in sight.
She jostled by several men and women on the stairs and was thankful to close the door behind her. Walking over to the table she set the bottles down. Then she walked over to the basin. Finding a piece of metal, she gazed at her neck. It had welts and didn't look good. She soaked a cloth in the water then wrung it out and held it to her neck.
Finally making it back to the table she sat in the chair Mary had left out.
Glad she didn't have to pull it out from where it had been. Opening the
bottle she leaned back and took a long drink. It was good and one drink led
to another till she had finished off the one bottle. Though her head was
spinning some she didn't care because her neck wasn't hurting anymore. Walking over to the bed, she took a blanket and laid it on the floor, then slowly dropped to her knees as her body sucumbed to the port.
Toward morning Mary Ready stepped into the room. She held a candle in her
right hand and after closing the door she held it high, looking for
Gabrielle. Finally spying her curled up beside the bed she cursed and set
the candle on the table. As soon as it was firmly placed, she stepped over
to where the woman lay. Bending over she reached down and picked her up as she gently placed her on the bed. Gabrielle mumbled but she never woke. Mary knew the woman had too much to drink and would probably have a headache when she awoke.
It didn't take her long to remove Gabrielle's boots but she drew the line
there. Taking the blanket from the floor she covered the woman. Stepping to
the table she could see the two bottles, one empty and one full. Shaking her
head she laid her cutlass down on the table. Walked up to the bed and sat.
Trying to be quiet she removed her boots and carefully laid back. As her
head touched the pillow she sighed, Gabrielle was leery about coming to the
island and she convinced her it would be all right. She felt responsible for
the altercation between Sarina and the woman. It seemed the more she grew to
know Gabrielle, the more she found herself lost in this woman's charm. She
had chided Ann but she now knew what the woman saw in Gabrielle. In the deviant world they lived in, she was refreshing and wonderful. She turned onto her side and went to sleep.
Mary seemed to have a comforting feeling as she slowly opened her eyes. It was then that she realized Gabrielle had snuggled up to her back and had draped her left arm over Mary's waist. She could feel the woman's head touching her neck and the warm feeling she was experiencing was one she hadn't experienced in a long time. She started to move and the woman snuggled tighter as her hand grasped Mary pulling her body closer.
Finally the woman just decided to stay put. She was enjoying the closeness and it wasn't hurting anyone. She could hear Gabrielle beginning to come around as she lay perfectly still. It wasn't long before the woman realized where she was and pulled her arm back as she sat up. Mary softly said, "How are you feeling this morning?"
Smiling she turned onto her back and stared up at the woman as she said, "A person would have to be dead not to feel you against them."
Gabrielle groaned as she said, "Sorry. I thought I was on the floor."
Mary slowly sat up next to Gabrielle and said, "No need to be sorry, I
enjoyed every second of it. After all, I don't feel that content anymore.
And about the floor, that is where I found you, I thought you would be more
comfortable up here." Mary's eyes had fallen on the woman's neck as she
said, "I am the one that is sorry, sorry about that. It should never have happened."
Gabrielle reached up as her fingers touched her neck she cringed. "I thought I could settle it without the cutlass, should have known better. Don't beat yourself up over it, you had no idea Sarina and the other one would show up and cause trouble."
"Mary softly said, "I know it has to hurt, I have some ointment on the ship. It will take the swelling down and make it feel better. Would you go with me to the Scavenger?"
Smiling, Gabrielle said, "Well, now I find myself in your bed so I guess the ship shouldn't be too difficult. Besides, I would welcome anything to get off this island."
After they had freshened up the two women rowed out to the Scavenger. As her feet landed on the deck of the ship, she stared. Mary walked up to her and said, "What's the matter?"
Turning to look at the woman, Gabrielle answered, "Nothing, it looks so different."
Mary smiled and said, "Well, can't have The Bounty outdoing me now can I? Thought it was time the ship had a good overhaul. Follow me, I'll get that ointment."
Mary walked past her and she hurried to keep up with the woman. The few men that were on the ship stared at the two but said nothing. Gabrielle was happy when they were below in the woman's cabin. She had been hesitant at first but when she walked into the room she was amazed once more. It had no remnants of the room she remembered. "
"Looks better huh?"
Gabrielle turned her attention to Mary and said, "If I wasn't here with you, I wouldn't even know it was the same ship." Gabrielle had been staring at the wall and Mary said, "They're gone, no more chains and ties in here. Come over here, let me dress those welts for you."
She walked over and sat down in the chair that Mary was pointing to. The woman's fingers were gentle as she applied the ointment and when finished she bandaged the area with a torn piece of cloth. "How is that?"
Gabrielle answered, "Feels better. What is that it had an unusual odor?"
Mary walked over to her bed and sat. She stared at Gabrielle and said, "Something I discovered on one of the islands. It comes from a plant and after you milk it, you mix it with a special blend of herb. That's what I applied to the scar on my face."
Leaning back in the chair Gabrielle said, " I noticed it had almost vanished compared to the way it was."
Mary reached up and touched the scar as she said, "It's much easier to live with. I'm going to give you some of the ointment to take with you. Just keep using it and the injuries will disappear. The healing will be faster too."
Gabrielle stood and said, "Thanks, there is something I need to tell you."
Mary had sat up straight as she said, "I don't think I am going to like this, your tone is ominous."
"I don't want you to think I am doing this because of you, it isn't, but, I cannot accept the post of your second. Don't try to talk me out of it, it is hard enough fighting someone out there." She was pointing toward the porthole as she continued, "But I feel the title will only bring about more of what happened last evening. I don't relish the idea of taking each day wondering when some pirate or wench is going to challenge me for the title."
Standing, Mary walked over to the woman, she reached out and placed her left hand on Gabrielle's shoulder and said, "If you are thinking I will be angry, don't be. I understand and should never have involved you in my plan. Though you captain a pirate ship, you will never be a pirate. But I hope you will always be my friend."
Smiling up at the woman, Gabrielle said, "Always, Mary Ready. I am proud to call you my friend. And if you ever need me, I will be there for you."
Mary's face held a sadness as the woman said, "Your crew is back aboard the ship, it is best you leave today and don't look back. Who knows, maybe one day I will actually try land again and make a visit to that cave you and Xena love so much."
Mary had her men take Gabrielle across the water to The Bounty. As she
climbed out of the Longboat and started up the rope ladder she stopped.
Turning her head to glance back at the Scavenger, then continued. Saxton met
her as she came aboard. He was happy to see the woman but concerned about
her injury. She assured him it would be fine. She was holding a leather pack
in her right hand as she said, "Get the ship ready, we are heading back to the Amazon Village."
The man nodded and walked toward the mast.
The two had come to a thicket of trees, and were creeping up to them. Ephiny was not fond of the robe she was wearing as she grumbled to herself. "This is so awkward." She had been concentrating on keeping the garment free of her feet as she crawled. She never even saw the hanging Cauldron as she ran into it. Xena reached out and grabbed it as it swayed. She glanced at Ephiny who was holding her head and whispered, "For someone who is supposed to be quiet..."
Managing a smile Ephiny said, "Didn't see it."
Looking at her friends forehead Xena said, "That is pretty obvious."
Ephiny sat and said, "What is that pot doing hanging there anyway, it's not like someone is cooking anything?"
Xena pointed to the branches of the tree and said, "See the tablets, people leave them, they scribe questions for the gods."
Ephiny was rubbing her head as she said, "Yeah, like some god is going to take the time to read them."
"If you are ready, we need to go."
Nodding her head the Amazon began to follow Xena. They had stopped directly over the group that was at the altar. There were so many people and the chanting they were doing made her feel uncomfortable as Ephiny whispered, "That gives me chills."
Xena glanced at her friend and said, "As I remember, it was you that wanted to attend the ritual."
"Well, I have changed my mind and if we weren't looking for Salmanthron and that confounded map I would leave."
Sitting down, Xena said, "That confounded map just may lead us to something worthwhile."
Ephiny had a worried look on her face as she said, "What has come over you Xena? I never knew you were so interested in treasure."
Reaching out to touch Ephiny's nose with a finger she said, "Well, maybe you don't know me as well as you might think."
Xena had started moving forward once more and Ephiny crawled after her. She
stopped to glance down at the women who were dancing, swaying with the music
and the chants. It was their faces that caused her to stare, they seemed to
be in a trance and she decided she did not want to watch anymore of that.
She turned to follow Xena but the woman was nowhere to be seen. Muttering to
herself she began to crawl faster. She was making good time but still had not spied her friend. She had been staring at the ground as she crawled and was suddenly stopped when she ran into a pair of boots. Raising her head she stared into the face of a high priest. Getting to her feet she said, "It's
not what you think."
He seemed to enjoy watching her squirm as she said, "Are you telling me you weren't crawling along the path?"
Looking down at the dust covered robe she was wearing she said, "I was but...I guess you must think I am pretty stupid?"
He raised his right arm and said, "Not at all, I've been expecting you. Take her!" Before she knew what was happening she found several priests had grabbed her as one held a dagger to her throat he said, "Come with us, we don't want to hurt you, not yet!"
Ephiny had no choice but to go with them. The people moved aside to let them pass as she stared into the blank faces she said, "What have you done to them? They seem to be in a trance."
The man said, "They are waiting."
She stared around and asked, "For what?"
He pointed to the smaller altar and said, "That."
She watched as they placed a goat on it. She watched as the priest raised a dagger into the air and into the animals heart. The high priest reached out and said, "This is just the preliminary."
Squirming at the men's hands on her arms she said, "Yeah, I would hate to know what the main thing is."
She was in sickened at what was happening before her eyes, They had cut the flesh from the dying animal and were now eating it. She turned her head and said, "You are all mad, release me, I promise never to come back here, ever!"
The man laughed as he said, "This will be your last time. Tie her to the altar."
Ephiny screamed as she said, "No! No! Let me Go! Xena help!"
The sight of the dead animal gave her new found courage as she bit and
kicked the men that were holding her. She succeeded in getting loose from
their grip and was running through the crowd of people. She had just struck
out at a priest who had tried to block her way. She was almost to the
thicket of trees when she felt a sharp pain across the back of her head. She felt her knees buckling as darkness took over.
Continue to Chapter 14
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