A Past Remembered part 2

by Anita Louise

Chapter Three

Gabrielle felt a chill run up and down her body as she turned to glance over
at Xena. It didn't take the Bard long to realize that her friend was not
laying on the furs. She sat up and reaching out she placed her hand on the
furs. They felt warm. That meant her friend hadn't been gone long. She
scrambled to her feet calling, "Xena! Xena! Where are you?"

"You keep up that yelling and you're going to have the rest of the Amazons
dashing in here to see if you're all right." The cool voice radiated from
the back of the cave.

Gabrielle's eyes lit up as she ran toward the sound saying, "Don't ever do
that to me again, you scared me, I thought you had left." Gabrielle found
herself running into the warrior who was walking back toward the chamber.

Xena reached out and caught the woman. Gabrielle stared up at her and said,
"Before you say it, you're right, I got a little panicky. But you have to
admit Xena, it is not unlike something you would do." Xena reached down and
picked up a leather backpack and handed it to Gabrielle. Gabrielle asked,
"What's this?"

Xena started walking toward the light of the chamber as she replied, "We may
need some of the supplies. I'm sure the food will come in handy." Gabrielle
followed her and when she entered the chamber she could see the warrior was
carrying one on her back. Gabrielle set it down and said, "You've been a
busy person for so early in the morning, I guess we have everything we will
be needing to make the trip then?"

Xena removed the backpack, turned and looked at the Bard as she said, "Yeah,
but you had better check and make sure I'm not forgetting anything."

Gabrielle's face beamed as she said, "You are trusting me to do that?"

Xena gazed into the woman's eyes as she smiled and answered, "I have trusted
you with my life, a backpack isn't much after that."

Gabrielle seemed to be radiating as she asked, "Have you eaten breakfast

Xena shook her head and said, "I did check in on Melosa, she had a bad night
but the fever seems to have broken. I think she's going to be all right.
Before we leave she wants to see you."

"I've brought your breakfast, hope you two are hungry." They both looked up
to see Epinon standing at the entrance to the chamber.

Gabrielle looked at Xena and said, "I'm starved."

Xena walked toward Epinon and said, "I find myself hungry, breakfast sounds
good." The woman and another Amazon carried in several dishes of food and
chalices filled with drink. Before they left Epinon said, "If there is
anything else my Queen would like, just let me know, enjoy your meal."

Gabrielle stared at her and said, "That will be all Epinon, if we need
anything else, we will let you know." After the two women had left, the
warrior walked over to Gabrielle and wrapped her right arm around the Bard's
neck, bringing her left fist down on Gabrielle's head she briskly rubbed it,
then said, ""Don't want you to let this Queen thing go to your head."

Gabrielle laughed as she replied, "Oh I won't Xena, but just remember as an
Amazon Queen all my subjects obey me and since you are here..." Xena raised
an eyebrow and her eyes seemed to penetrate the very soul of the Bard, as
she replied, "Does my Queen want me to leave the room also?"

Gabrielle looked down at the food and said, "No, I think we should eat."
Xena smiled as she sat down and waited for the Bard to join her on the bed
of furs.

Gabrielle never knew when Xena was joking with her, as her sense of humor
sometimes was very dry. The two of them ate a hearty meal both knowing they
would be traveling and would need their strength for the trip. When they had
finished Gabrielle fell back on the soft fur and said, "I don't know about
you, but I'm full."

Xena followed, landing next to Gabrielle as she said, "Me too, most I've
eaten for awhile."

Gabrielle turned her head and their eyes met as they said in unison, "Since
last night!"

The two laughed as Gabrielle said, "A person could get used to this.
Couldn't you Xena?"

Xena smiled and answered, "Who needs all this, that's why I have you
around." The woman barely got the words out of her mouth before she found
herself attacked by the feisty blonde. Gabrielle sat straddled on Xena's
stomach as the woman said, "Oh, is that all I'm good for Xena?"

Xena smiled as she said, "I just ate, you're wrecking my stomach. Get off."
Gabrielle reached down and grabbed the warriors hands, holding them she
said, "Not until you give me an answer." Gabrielle knew that if the woman
wanted to, she could send the Bard flying across the room but she also knew
she wouldn't as she smiled down at Xena. Xena laughed and said, "All right,
I could get used to this."

Gabrielle squeezed her legs in on Xena's sides and said, "Not the right
answer." Within seconds the warrior turned the table on the Bard and
Gabrielle found herself on the bottom with Xena straddling her. Gabrielle
looked up at the devilish grin on Xena's face as she said, "Ok, so maybe I
don't need you to answer."

Xena fell back on the furs as she said, "You know, you should stay here,
I'll feel better..." Gabrielle set up and stared at Xena as she pressed a
finger to the warriors lips she said, "You know you want me to go, and I'm
going. Right now, I'm going to go see Queen Melosa, lay back, relax and I'll
be right back." Xena stared after the Bard as she ran from the room then she
closed her eyes a smile crossing her face as she thought of the bards words,
'Oh is that all I'm good for Xena?'

As Gabrielle approached the entrance to Queen Melosa's chambers, two guards
seeing her, stepped aside. Gabrielle smiled at them and continued into the
room. The torches were lending an eerie glow across the Queen's form. As
Gabrielle slowly approached, she could see that the Queen was awake as she
knelt down by her.

Melosa turned her head managing a smile she said, "Xena told you I wanted to
see you?"

Gabrielle nodded and said, "I would have come anyway, are you all right?"

The woman replied, "Thanks to Xena, I understand if the arrow hadn't of been

Gabrielle answered, "She is a wonder to behold, I'm glad she was able to
help you. Is there something you want to tell me?"

Melosa reached out an grasped Gabrielle's right hand and said, "I know if
something were to happen to me, that you will assume your rightful place as
Queen of the Amazons. This sets my mind at ease. I don't know you as well as
Xena does, but I do know you will not quit until the Amazons have been
avenged and those that were taken are returned."

Gabrielle replied, "We will do all we can, you just need to focus on getting

The Queen said, "I want to give you something, it will help you with your
search and keep you safe."

Gabrielle looked skeptical as she said, "I have Xena, don't worry everything
will be all right."

Melosa said, "Go get Epinon." Gabrielle knew not to argue with the woman,
who was having a hard time speaking, so she got to her feet and left the
chamber. It didn't take her long to find Epinon and the two returned to the
chamber. Epinon walked over to the Queen and said, "Gabrielle said you
wanted to see me?" Queen Melosa asked her to bring her the chest and Epinon
left the room. Gabrielle looked concerned as she said, "I'll be all right,
you don't have to worry about me. If I had a choice of an Army or Xena
protecting me, I would pick Xena. She cares about me and with an Army of
people I don't know, it would cause me to wonder where their loyalty lies.
There is no cause to be alarmed, we will find Ephiny and the others."

Epinon returned carrying a large chest. She walked over to the bed of furs
and set the chest down. Melosa looked up at her and said, "Open it."
Gabrielle watched the woman unlock the box and pull the lid back. Melosa
looked at Gabrielle and said, "Look inside, you will see two belts, one
large one and a smaller, remove the smaller." Gabrielle stared at the two
belts that shone up at her. She was sure they were made of Gold and she
said, "Gold belts, if you weren't so sick, I'd think someone was playing a
joke on me."

Melosa answered, "You are looking at the Golden Girdle of the Amazon's, The
Amazon Queen wears it. Many have tried to steal it but all have failed in
their attempts. The smaller one, get it Gabrielle."

Gabrielle reached down and removed the belt and handed it to Melosa. Melosa
looked at her and said, "You will wear it, it will protect you and if any
harm should befall you I will know immediately. It contains the power of
Apollo." Gabrielle stepped back and looked at Epinon whose face was stern
and said, "A belt, no, that's ok, you keep it."

Melosa looked at Epinon and said, "She will wear the belt, see she does
before she leaves." The woman passed out.

Gabrielle frowned and said, "Tell her I said thanks, but no thanks." As
Gabrielle turned to leave she found Epinon standing in her way. The woman
said, "Gabrielle, you must wear the belt or you will not leave."

She could see that this usually calm Amazon was very serious and she
shrugged her shoulders and replied, "All right, don't get bent out of shape,
I'll wear the belt." Epinon walked over and picked it up, then walked back
to Gabrielle and placed the Golden Belt around the Bard's waist. Gabrielle
looked down at it and said, "It's beautiful, but, I don't know how Xena is
going to take this."

As she entered their chambers she could see the woman honing her dagger.
Xena heard the bard enter and stood up. "Glad you are back, we need to get
going." As Gabrielle neared her she looked up at the Bard and said, "What's

Gabrielle looked sheep-ish-ly and answered, "A Golden Belt."

"That's just great, I let you out of my sight for an instant and you come
back wearing something that will catch the eye of every thief along the
road. Take it off."

Gabrielle mumbled, "I didn't want to wear it anyway, Queen Melosa insisted
and Epinon wouldn't let me leave without it." Gabrielle reached behind and
unbuckled the belt, letting it fall to the floor. She reached down and
picked it up saying, "The Queen told me it held the power of Apollo and
would protect me. It is pretty don't you think?"

Xena reached out and took the belt, surveying it she said, "It's very pretty
and if you were going to stay here I could see you wear it, where we will be
going it will just cause trouble."

Gabrielle asked, "What are you going to do with it?" Xena walked over and
laid the belt down on the fur bed and said, "Before we start back down the
path, I will tell Epinon there is something in here she needs to pick up.
Let's go while we still have the light of day ahead of us." The two picked
up their belongings and left the comfort of the cave. Gabrielle stood
waiting for Xena to return as the woman walked over to talk to Epinon. She
saw Epinon nod her head and knew that the Amazon, was not going to be happy
when she found the belt left behind. Gabrielle hoped Xena knew what she was
talking about. Xena approached the Bard and smiled as she walked past her
saying, "Come on, before Epinon sees what it is she needs to pick up."

Gabrielle ran to catch up to her and said, "She's not going to be to happy
Xena, the belt might have come in handy." Xena stopped, turned and waited
for the Bard to approach her then she said, "I hope I don't have to hear
about the Belt this whole trip."

Gabrielle shrugged her shoulders, smiled up at the woman and said, "What
belt? Xena do you think that horse is still there?"

Xena laughed, "We'll soon find out, and I just may let you dig the hole."
The warrior loved to see the look of dismay on her friends face, and she had
to admit that there were times she loved to tease the Bard.

It didn't take long for the two to make it back down the mountain. Gabrielle
had to quicken her pace in order to keep the warrior in her sights. Reaching
the bottom she sighed, "Thank the Gods, flat ground." Xena headed for the
corral and Gabrielle yelled, "Xena, hold up, you're not really going to make
me dig that hole are you?"

Xena was staring at the corral as she turned to see Gabrielle fast
approaching, her face red from the pace she had been keeping. The woman
said, "I was just joking, but the horse is gone, the Amazons have taken care
of it. Let me get our horse saddled and we will be on our way. Give you a
chance to rest a bit."

Gabrielle collapsed on a log as she watched the woman saddle the Palomino.
The horse looked a lot like Argo and she knew the warrior was worried about
her mighty steed. If anything bad were to befall the horse, Gabrielle hoped
whoever caused it was ready to meet Hades. She found herself staring at the
empty huts and her mind wandered back to the time Ephiny had treated Xena
when she was wounded. Although she tried to stop the thoughts they were
invading her mind. Did Xena know Ephiny before? What kind of a bond did
these two women have? While Xena was recuperating, what did she and Ephiny
do? Were there any quiet times? Why wouldn't Xena talk about it?

"You going to sleep all day?" The warm voice of the warrior echoed down as
Gabrielle looked up. Xena was sitting on the Palomino gazing down at her, a
smile on the warrior's face. Gabrielle's face flushed as she stood up, "No,
I'm ready."

Xena reached down and said, "Take my hand, I want you up here with me."
Gabrielle obliged as she settled in behind the warrior, she reached around
and held onto Xena's waist as the woman urged the horse forward. They had
been riding for awhile when Xena called back, "By the way, want to tell me
what had you so deep in thought back there?"

Gabrielle replied, "Nothing in particular, just looking at the devastation
of the village."

Xena called back, "Never knew devastation could bring such color to your

Gabrielle laid her head against the warrior's back and said, "You're too
observant Xena, maybe one day I'll tell you." The horse had carried them
most of the day and Xena reined it to a stop as she said, "Let's walk a bit,
give us all a breather. We will stop at the creek up ahead."

Gabrielle slid off the horse and said, "Can't hurt to walk, need to get my
legs back to solid ground anyway." They had been walking for quite a
distance when Xena said, "There, the creek, let's stop. It will be getting
dark soon and we could all stand to rest." Gabrielle set her things down and
walked over to help the woman, with the gear she was removing, from the
horse's back and said, "Xena, I was thinking, could I name the horse?"

Xena laid the saddle down and said, "Name the horse? I don't know why not.
What do you have in mind?"

Gabrielle reached out and patted the horse and answered, "Savior."

Xena frowned at her and said, "Savior? What kind of a name is that for a

The Bard stepped back and said, "Well, he did carry you and me from danger,
he has been there for us. Why, what would you name him?"

Xena had been watching her friend closely and she replied, "Savior sounds
fine, just be sure and let the horse, know you penned the name on it."

Gabrielle replied, "Good, now that, that's settled I'll go get some firewood
and start a fire."

Xena watched her friend walk off and said, "Be careful." Gabrielle called
back, "Well, you could come with me." The warrior thought for a minute,
smiled and ran after her.

That evening the two sat by the campfire. Gabrielle watched Xena, poking at
the embers with a long stick. The smoke from the campfire, spiraling into
the air, then changing directions caused by the gentle breeze, came floating
toward her. She didn't move as it passed over her like a ghost in the night.
After the smoke passed, she was hit with a fragrance she knew so well, and
she said, "It has been a long day, I think I will turn in." Xena looked up
and replied, "I'll join you in a bit. I have a few things I need to do."

Gabrielle turned on her left side and whispered, "Hyacinth and Cinnamon, I
knew I would eventually figure out the combination. It's heavenly."

Xena called over, "What are you mumbling about?"

The Bard softly replied, "Nothing."

Xena gazed at Gabrielle and she knew, from the woman's breathing, she was
fast asleep. She walked over to the horse and bridled it. Xena led it from
the camp and when she approached the thick brush of the forest, she
whispered in the horse's left ear, "Well, Savior, let's go do some spying."
The lone rider and the powerful Palomino, journeyed through the forest like
a shadow passing the moon. It wasn't long, before she reined the horse to a
stop outside the city of Athens. Xena sat taking in the vastness of the
city, her eyes seeming to search for something, then she pulled her feet in
on the horse and said, "Let's go boy, you can rest in a bit."

Slowly they made it down the plateau and onto open ground. Before reaching
the gates to the city she stopped the horse and jumped down. Taking the
reins in her hand she started walking toward the gate, a swagger in her
step. Savior walked by her side as if he had always been there. The horse
raised it's head, proud to be walking by the woman. A man stepped out of the
shadows and said, "Halt, who goes there?"

Xena stopped and said, "Just a traveler, looking for a place to bed my horse
and a place to rest for the night."

The man walked up to her and said, "Well you look harmless enough, I don't
see any weapons. There is a stable at the end of the square and "The Bilge"
about twenty paces to your left may have a room. " Xena thanked the man and
continued to walk toward the end of the square. The sound of the horses
hoofs striking the packed dirt of the street along with her own foot steps
gave the woman an uneasy feeling. Seeing a corral, of sorts, up ahead she
assumed that she had reached the stable. Xena tied the reins to the corral
fence and started walking toward the shoddy building.

Reaching the front, she grabbed the handle pulling the large wooden door
open. The sound of the creaking as it moved brought a young lad hurrying
toward her. Xena looked at him and asked, "I need to leave my horse here for
a bit, can you take him?"

The boy nodded and said, "It will cost you five Dinars." Xena handed him the
money and said, "It's the Palomino tied to your corral fence. I'll be back
to get him." He nodded and walked out to get the horse as Xena turned and
walked back toward the main gate. She started to take the twenty paces and
when she got to ten she could smell the heavy aroma of grog and heard the
boisterous sounds of men laughing and carousing. She knew she was probably
at a Tavern.

Approaching the doorway she hesitated then pushed it open and walked in.
Although it was dark inside, there were a few torches burning, sending some
light into the room. Xena closed her eyes then opened them again, she
glanced around the room and could see it was full of men, most of them
looked like they had just come in from the Sea.

This was not uncommon since Athen, sets on the edge of the Sea. It was one
of the biggest Seaports in the area. People not only traveled there on land
but also from the Sea. She walked past several tables of drunken men and
approached the bar. A man looked up at her and said, "This is no place for a

Xena smiled and said, "I'll have a tankard of ale."

He snorted then brought a tankard and set it down in front of her and said,
"You're new here aren't you?"

Xena took a long swallow then said, "What's it to you?"

He said, "These boys been out to Sea a long time, thought maybe you might
like to make a little spending money."

Xena looked around the room and said, "Sorry mate, it's not a chore I would
want. Tell me has anyone been in here talking about selling slaves?"

He nodded and said, "More than half this town consists of slaves, what kind
you looking for?

You sure don't look like a buyer to me. Or, are you a Slaver?" Xena leaned
back against the bar, her elbows resting on it and said, "Not a Slaver, I'm
asking for my family. We are looking for a few women with fire and energy to
help out at our place." He replied, "I can get you several of the women you
see in here for the right price."

Xena thought for a minute and said, "Don't look like they would last long, I
was thinking more like an Amazon. There's always more money too be made,
when things are difficult if you know what I mean."

He laughed and said, "Well your right about that, they will certainly bring
in the customers if that is what you have in mind. Tell me where is your

Xena took a drink and said, "It's near Amphipolis, the name doesn't make any
difference, It's the money isn't it? And I have money. Now tell me about the

He ran his tongue over his lips greedily and said, "I can send word."

"You, Xena Warrior Princess!" A loud voice bellowed out from the entrance.
Xena stood erect as the man that had been talking to her muttered, "Xena...
I didn't' know who she was." He ran toward the man walking into the room.
The soldier stared at him then brushed him aside and said, "Surrender, you
are under arrest!"

Xena grasped the tankard as she started walking toward the man. Staring at
him she said, "Under arrest, for what? Drinking in a tavern?" Several men
ran in the entrance behind him, their swords were drawn. The man glanced at
Xena and said, "They're remarkable, your eyes.... You are under arrest for
horse stealing."

Xena scoffed, "Horse stealing, what are you talking about?"

He said, "The horse you stabled belongs to Santos, can you prove it's
yours?" Xena glanced around and took a sip of the ale. In an instant, she
reached up and grabbed the torch that was hanging on the wall. She blew, and
as the ale met the flame, it roared into the man's face. Xena struck out at
the three men, who had their swords drawn, knocking them from their hands,
as her feet struck out sending the men to the floor. She bend down and put
the pinch on one of them and said, "I've just cut off..." He gasped and
said, "I've heard it before, what do you want to know?"

Xena whispered, "The Amazon's, where has Santo's taken them?"

Before the man could answer Xena felt a blow to the back of her head and
fell forward. Santo's reached down and turned her over as he said, "Well,
well, we meet again Xena. We have things to talk about. Take her to the


Chapter Four

"Xena, Xena are you all right?" The woman heard the words floating to her as
if in a fog, she felt the hands pat her face as she opened one eye and said,
"Who wants to know?"

The woman's voice softly replied, "It's me Ephiny, Gods, Xena look at the
mess you have gone and gotten yourself into." The Warrior moaned as she
managed to get the other eye to open, she blinked several times then said,
"Ephiny, I've found you."

Ephiny replied, "It's more like I've found you."

Xena looked into the face of her friend and said, "I've got to get you back
to the village."

Ephiny replied, "If you haven't noticed, we're not going anywhere. It's all
lost now, my only hope was that you might come and resecue us." Xena started
to move and realized her hands were bound above her head as she said,
"You're right, I seem to be in a compromising position at the moment."

Ephiny answered, "Xena, where is Gabrielle?"

Xena looked down as she said, "Back at camp, probably having a sweet dream.
I thought I would be back before she woke up." Xena glanced around the room
and said, "Untie me."

Ephiny replied, "Can't, you're not tied, it's chains and manacles. Santos
wasn't going to take any chances on your getting away."

Xena laughed as she said, "He doesn't really think a measly chain is going
to keep me here does he?"

Ephiny began to pace the room then turned and said, "You can't, he said if
you break out he would kill the other women and Argo."

Xena growled, "I hate it when Warlords threaten things I care about. Tell
me, where are the other women being held?"

Ephiny replied, "I don't know, he only left me here so I would tell you.
Xena how is Queen Melosa?" Xena told Ephiny about the Queen and then she
said, "I've got to get out of here, if I don't Gabrielle will figure out
where I have gone and come looking for me, she will no doubt get herself
captured." The sound of footsteps could be heard. As they grew louder, they
stopped at the door and they heard voices as Ephiny said, "It's them, there
is no one to help us now." Xena struggled at the chains that held her
tightly, cursing under her breath. Ephiny stepped back, as the door swung
open and Krikis and Santos walked into the room.

Santos walked up to the woman and said, "We meet again Xena, I see you are
awake." Xena shook her head trying to clear it of the cobwebs that had begun
to envelope it. She stared directly into the eyes of the Slave Trader. Her
glare seemed to frighten the man and he stepped backwards right into Krikis.

Krikis reached out and pushed Santos forward as he said, "For Ares sake man,
the woman is tied up, she can't hurt you, where is your backbone?"

Santos stopped, his nose was within inches of Xena's and yelled back, "What
did you do that for Krikis?" Before he could step back Xena grabbed the
chains her wrists were bound to and swung her legs up around the man's
shoulders, tightened them and said, "You forget, I do have many skills."

Santos cried out and Xena said, "Tell Krikis to give Ephiny the key to these
chains, hurry up!" Santos gasped out the words and Krikis held out a key to
Ephiny. Xena had a solid hold around the man's neck and was enjoying the
pressure she was putting on it. As Ephiny reached out for the key, Krikis
grabbed her right arm and twisted it behind the woman. He now held a dagger
to the Amazon's throat as he said, "It's my turn now Xena, let Santos go or
this Amazon dies!"

Xena looked at Ephiny and shook her head as she said, "No don't... let her

She squeezed her legs tighter, then released them as the large man crumpled
to the floor. Xena stared at Krikis and said, "You said, let him go, you
didn't say how."

Krikis pulled Ephiny over to the wall and manacled her left arm to it. And
as he approached her he said, "You never cease to amaze me Xena, but then
sometimes you underestimate me, like now!" His right fist struck out at the
woman, landing solidly on her left cheek. Xena's head snapped back from the
blow and at the same time his fist made its way to her stomach, knocking the
breath out of her, she doubled over. Ephiny had been watching in terror as
she cried out, "Stop! Please stop, don't hurt her!"

Krikis said, "That's just a sample of what's to come." He reached down and
grabbed Santos by his arms, dragging the man from the room muttering, "I
don't know why I put up with your stupidity"

Ephiny stared at the limp form of her friend. She could now see a trail of
blood oozing from the woman's mouth and she tried to reach out to her. She
stretched as much as she could and was within an inch of touching the woman
as she softly said, "Xena, oh please be all right. I'm so sorry, I should
never have let Krikis get the better of me. Xena..." The woman groaned
several times but did not wake up. Ephiny finally sat down on the cold floor
and stared up at Xena. If ever there should have been an Amazon it was the
Warrior Princess, her height and strength alone would have qualified her for
their world.


The young blond woman stood watching members of the village preparing for
the hunt. She had grown up in this village, never wanting anything. Some of
the first things she remembered was being taught the ways of the Amazon. Her
schooling had not only involved reading and writing, agriculture and
hunting, it had also included learning how to stay alive. Courses were given
in Archery, Chobos, the Staff, Sword Fighting and Wrestling. These were all
fun to learn, but what Ephiny enjoyed the most was the Chariot Races. She
learned at a young age how to guide the horses and out maneuver her

Ephiny smiled, as she thought of the one person, that always seemed to best
her in everything except the races. The lanky, brunette with the green eyes,
names Epinon. It had become a challenge to always try to outdo this amazing
Amazon. And now she had actually beaten her in something. Ephiny expected
Epinon to be upset, as she hopped down from her Chariot and walked over to
the woman. Epinon looked up a broad smile crossing her face, as she reached
out and grasped Ephiny's right arm and said, "I knew you had it in you,

Ephiny smiled and clasped her arm at the same time and said, "You sure gave
me a run for the Dinars. You're not angry?"

Epinon bent over taking in a deep breath of air and said, "Never, you beat
me fair and square." They glanced over toward Melena, their tutor as Epinon
said, "I'm going to go to the ritual down by the river tonight, why don't
you come along."

Ephiny nodded and answered, "I'd love to but I'm not sure Tala will let me."

Epinon smiled and said, "She won't care, it's time you found out what life
is all about anyway. I've heard so many stories, I want to see just what
happens at these rituals. Meet you by the fork in the road at dusk." She
turned and ran off leaving Ephiny standing with her mouth wide open.

That evening at their evening feast Ephiny turned to Tala and said, "Epinon
asked me to go with her to the ritual tonight."

The woman stopped what she had been doing and said, "Do you know about the
rituals?" Ephiny thought for a second as she walked over to the table,
pulling out a chair she sat down and said, "Is it different than the ones
that I have already seen?"

Tala sat down and said, "You have been a wonder to behold, watching you grow
into womanhood. You have learned well my child but there are still a few
things you do not know. I believe it is time I tell you."

Ephiny looked at her, her eyes wide with wonder as the woman started to tell
her about the Amazons and some of their customs. Tell me Ephiny, have you
noticed anything missing in the village?"

The woman shook her head.

Tala continued, "If you look around, you will not see any men. Men are not
permitted to dwell in our domain. Once a year a drawing is held and the
chosen women will travel to a neighboring village and mate with men, solely
for the purpose of bearing a child."

Ephiny replied, "I had noticed the lack of men but never gave it much
thought. You're telling me that the Amazon women mate with men just to have

Tala answered, "That is right."

Ephiny asked, "If that is the case, it must be the fates of the Gods, that
there are no male babies carried by these women."

The woman shook her head and said, "No, if a male child is born it is taken
to the outskirts of the fathers village and left for them to claim."

Ephiny set back and said, "What? You would take away a woman's baby just
because it is a male? That doesn't sound very civilized."

Tala answered, "Never let another Amazon hear you say that, it could be
taken as treason and the charge could be death or banishment."

Ephiny thought for a second then she said, "What will I learn at the

The woman reached out an grasped Ephiny's right hand and said, "In another
six moons you will be joining the hunt. Eventually, someone will come into
your life that you will hold special feelings for. When that time comes, a
ritual will be held and the two of you will be joined with Artemis and you
will start your own lives as one."

Ephiny was hearing the words as she mulled them over in her mind she said,
"And if I go to the ritual with Epinon, people will think that we are..."

Tala replied, "Yes."

Ephiny stood up and said, "I have to go care for the horses, I will not be
going tonight. Thanks for the talk." She bent down and kissed the woman on
the forehead, turned and left the room. Ephiny had learned everything they
had tried to teach her and up until that evening, Epinon and her women
friends were just that, friends. They all enjoyed doing things together but
if what Tala spoke of was true, she didn't think she would ever meet anyone
that she would want to go to the ritual with. It suddenly seemed she was
growing up way to quickly.

Late that night Ephiny was brought out of a sound sleep by pebbles being
tossed through her window. As she sat up she heard the voice, "Ephiny, where
were you?" She walked over to the window and peered out as a form stepped
out from the shadows. Epinon stood swaying as she said, "The least you could
do is come out here and talk to me."

Ephiny replied, "Shh, you'll wake Tala and it will be Hades to pay for both
of us. Just a minute." It didn't take her long to throw on some clothes and
climb out the window. As she made it over to her friend she said., Epinon,
you've been drinking, you can get in trouble for that."

Epinon smiled as she replied, "Don't be so uppity, come sit down and have a
drink with me, it's the least you could do since you stood me up."

Ephiny joined her friend on the ground as she said, "I didn't stand you up,
we didn't have a date. Don't tell me you went?"

Epinon handed the flask to her and said, "Sure did, and a good time was had
by all. You know that thing we've been thinking about Joelle and Maitlen?"

Ephiny took a drink as she scrunched up her nose and replied, "Yeah, what
about it?"

Epinon replied, "Well, they joined with Artemis tonight. Should have seen
the way people were staring at me, all by myself."

Ephiny handed the flask back to the woman and said, "I never really promised
you I'd go, course I never said I wouldn't. Tala had a talk with me and
discouraged my going. She said that if I went with you people would think
that way about us."

Epinon took a long swallow and said, "Whats so wrong about that, everyone
has somebody, and we do get along."

Ephiny laughed, "Yeah sometimes like Harpys in a bad mood. I think that
friends is good right now, and we definitely are that."

Epinon smiled and said, "Best friend I've ever had, lets drink to that."
Sitting on the ground, the two women held a celebration all their own,
finishing off the flask and collapsing by one another.

The next morning a crowing rooster woke them. Ephiny slowly sat up followed
by Epinon as she said, "Look at us, if we are found like this, it won't be
nice. Let's get out of here." Epinon staggered to her feet, as Ephiny put
one arm around her waist and said, "Lean on me."

Epinon whispered in her right ear, "I'm leaning, could you just stop swaying
so much. I don't feel too good."

Ephiny replied, "I've got just the cure." She found the path leading into
the forest and down to the rippling stream. Approaching it Ephiny said,
"Good, we are here."

Epinon squinted her eyes at the woman and asked, "We are where?"

Ephiny said, "Just follow me." They had taken three steps into the icy water
when Epinon screamed, "Gods, what are you doing to me?" Ephiny laughed and
pulled the woman into the deeper water. Epinon started to go under and
Ephiny reached down drawing her back up. "Are you awake now?"

Epinon laid on her back, floating on the water and said, "Oh yes, and I owe
you one Ephiny." After the two of them felt renewed, they swam over to the
hanging ledge, dove down and swam under it into the cavern. Finding the rock
steps, Ephiny stepped out of the water followed by Epinon. They walked
further into the cavern, stopping as they felt the warmth of the hot
springs. It didn't take Ephiny long to shed her clothes and Epinon followed
as they dove into the water.

The steam was curling upward and Epinon swam over to a crop of rocks that
were descending into the water. She found one and sat down, staring at her
friend laying back in the warmth of the water. Epinon called, "There's a
seat here for you, come on over join me, lean back and relax."

Ephiny swam over to her and sat down. She flicked water at her friend and
said, "Have to admit it, you must feel better."

Epinon laughed as she said, "All right, you did the right thing. If I had to
go through the day like I was feeling I wouldn't have made it. Won't they
miss us?"

Ephiny laid back on the smooth rock and said, "Nah, they will have too many
things on their mind and I don't think we are any of them." They had been
laying in the warmth of the water for sometime when Epinon asked, "Tell me
Ephiny, do you ever get any desires?"

Ephiny opened her eyes and said, "Desires? Sure, I desire my own horse."

Leaning on her elbows, Epinon raised herself up, stared at Ephiny and said,
"No, not that kind of desire, haven't you had any unusual feelings toward
anyone that you can't explain?"

Ephiny's face reddened and she said, "If you are asking if I desire your
body, then yes, every minute of the day and night." Laughing, she reached
down and threw water into the woman's face.

Epinon fell back and said, "All right, I deserved that, I pity the Amazon
that decides to court you, she may never live through it."

Ephiny sit up and said, "We had better get back, before they send out a
search party for us and we end up declaring our undying love to Artemis."

As Epinon stepped from the water she turned to Ephiny and said, "Wouldn't be
the worst thing that has ever happened to us and definitely one worth
thinking about. But you'd better think fast, we go on the hunt soon." Ephiny
stuck her tongue at the woman, reached down, grabbed her clothes and ran
from the cavern. Epinon called after her, "Gee, you sure know how to deflate
a person's ego don't you? I can see that I don't stand a chance next to your
dreams of that almighty steed."


"Hey, you going to stare into space all day? I could use some help over
here." Ephiny shook her head and realized she had been day dreaming,
something she had been called on many times. Standing up she glanced at Xena
and said, "You're awake, how do you feel?" The woman frowned and said, "Like
a Hydra just ran over me. Can you reach me?"

Ephiny shook her head and said, "I've tried, no."

Xena said, "Then step back." Ephiny did, as she watched the women rip the
chains from the rock like they were a blade of grass swept over on a windy
day. Ephiny said, "Every time I see you do a feat, it's as if it is the

first time. You are so good Xena." Xena walked over to her and grabbed the
chain that was holding the woman to the wall. She took a deep breath,
grabbed it and pulled. It didn't take long for it to pop out of the wall and
she said, "Now, let's get out of here."

"Not so fast Xena!" They both turned to see Krikis standing in the doorway.

Xena snarled at him, "Get out of the way Krikis, or suffer the

He laughed and said, "I think you have forgotten something, your horse and
the other women."

Xena stepped toward him and he held up one hand as he said, "Santos has
orders to kill them all. Now you escape and it will be the same as you
slitting their throats. Can you live with that Xena?"

The woman looked at Ephiny and then back at him as she said, "You already
know the answer to that, you win, what now?"

He glanced at her and said, "Looks like you have hurt your wrists, too bad
it was for nothing. Over there, the chains are still hanging. Walk over
there, and hold out your wrists." Xena did as the man asked and he unlocked
the manacles on her wrists. Discarding the useless chain, he grabbed her
wrists and locked the new manacles around them.

Ephiny had been staring in terror and when the man turned to her she closed
her eyes waiting for the blow of his fist, and It never came. Instead he
unlocked the manacle from her wrist and said, "You two behave yourselves,
I'll be back." Xena glared at him and he turned and walked from the room.
Ephiny ran over to Xena and said, "We are in trouble, aren't we? I know you
won't do anything to cause harm to the others. I've never been the one who
could get us out of sticky situations Xena, it has always been you."

Xena replied, "Yeah, we'll just have to bide our time and wait for a more
opportune moment."

Ephiny seemed to pout as she said, "It's all my fault again, I got you into
this. If it wasn't for..."

Xena interrupted her and said, "If it wasn't you, it would be someone else.
You know how I hate it when you get all paranoid on me."

Ephiny replied, "I can't help but worry, what are they going to do to us?"

Xena glanced up at her manacled wrists and answered, "It's a sure bet Krikis
and Santos have plans for me. Maybe I can get them to release you by using
some sort of ruse. For now, why don't you go lie down and try to get some

Ephiny answered, "I couldn't rest, knowing you are in such misery." Xena
gave the Amazon the look and Ephiny said, "Of course, I could go sit down."
Ephiny leaned back against the cold stone wall, even the coolness didn't
seem to bother her. She stared at Xena for awhile then set, staring down at
the floor.


Tala glanced over at her and asked, "Do you have everything you will need?"
Ephiny picked up her Bow and Arrows, turned to the woman and said, "Yeah,
I'm ready. I've never been on a hunt before, this could be fun."

Tala walked over to her and replied, "I see a woman when I look at you but
you still have the wonderment of a child. Ephiny, the hunt is not fun, it is
serious work. So many of our animals have been pushed further out. And you
know it has been hard to hunt food for the village. That is why the hunt is
extending to the outer lands. You must keep a wary eye about you. These
people do not look upon the Amazon with good intentions. Do not stray from
the group and stay away from the people there."

Ephiny thanked the woman turned and left. She didn't know what Tala was so
concerned about, she had never heard of a human hurting an Amazon.
Approaching the hunting party she could see Epinon sitting regally on a Roan
Mare. She waved to her and said, "I see you're ready."

The woman smiled and said, "Ready as I'll ever be, it should be interesting.
They tell me we just have to keep away from the village of Amphipolis."

Epinon replied, "I don't know what you would want to go there for anyway,
it's the hills we will be concentrating on. Bet you I get the first Stag."

Ephiny mounted a horse and glancing at Epinon she said, "Big talk, you've
got to spot one before me!" The woman had raced from the village leaving
Epinon staring at her trail of dust. Epinon shook her head, turned her horse
in the same direction and galloped from the village after Ephiny. The other
women sat on their horses shaking their heads at the reckless actions of the
two women and Melina said, "Those two, we had better keep our eyes out for
them. They still think everything is fun. Won't be long before they will
both have to grow up, let's go."

Ephiny had been tracking a young buck for several miles. She dismounted the
horse and tied it to a tree and started to follow the tracks on foot. She
smiled to herself knowing that she was going to out-best Epinon with the
first kill of the day. The Sun was now setting higher in the sky and she
turned her attention to the sounds of voices, and they didn't sound like
Amazon's. Slowly creeping up an embankment she lay on her stomach looking
out through the tall grass. The sounds were getting nearer.

"If I bring mother back a rabbit, she will be pleased, maybe this time she
will show me how to sew my Trousseau." Ephiny peered up at the form of a
woman standing fifty paces to her left. She had never seen anyone except the
Amazon women, but this woman was magnificent. She was tall for someone who
wasn't an Amazon. Ephiny watched the woman reach down and grab her long
skirt, pulling it up between her legs she tucked the length of it into her
waist band. Ephiny smiled, this woman was making herself short pants. The
woman reached down and picked up a rock, she touched a finger to her lips
held it up to the wind, turned and threw the rock with a speed Ephiny had
never seen. As the rock flew over her head, the Amazon ducked. The sound of
a loud thud could be heard as the woman said, "Got you." She was heading
straight toward Ephiny when someone called, "Xena, where are you?"

The woman stopped within inches of where Ephiny lay. It was her eyes that
caught her attention first, they were the bluest she had ever seen, It was
as if she was looking straight into her very soul. The woman's skin was
tanned, probably from being outdoors a lot and she had long hair the color
of the Raven. There were a lot of women in her village but Ephiny had never
seen one as beautiful as this one.



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