The Return copyright 9/96

by Anita Louise


The Return:

What a momentous, action packed ride. Take this incredible journey with Xena and Gabrielle. The
Xena and Gabrielle we have all come to know and love. With each step you will become a traveler
with them. Journey with them in their desperate fight with the Gods as well as several old and new
nemeses, if they cannot win then they will be lost forever. Laugh with them, fight with them cry with
them. You will feel their frustration, their anger, their tears of sadness and joy. The Return an
incredible adventure. An ending that will give you chills and show you the true bonds of friendship
and love.

Violence Warning/Disclaimer:

This story depicts scenes of violence and/or their aftermath. Readers who are disturbed by or
sensitive to this type of depiction may wish to read something other than this story.

It follows the television series in the respect of violence, subtext, the closeness the two women
share. There are not explicit sex scenes.

Hurt/Comfort Warning Disclaimer:

This story may be best classified as a Hurt/Comfort Story involving the characters of Xena
Warrior Princess. Readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of issue may wish to
read something other than this story.

The television series: Xena Warrior Princess belongs to MCA/Universal... This is merely one
fan's story about the travels of our beloved couple.


The smell of the rancid air still seemed to fill her nostrils. It had been awhile since she and Gabrielle
had arrived at Potidaea, Gabrielle's home village. Gabrielle needed rest and Xena felt this was the
place for it. As she watched the young woman practice with her staff she could see the difficulties she was having in some of her movements. Xena marveled at how well Gabrielle was doing after the serious injury she had sustained at Thessaly.

When they found themselves in the forest, she and Gabrielle had argued a bit about what route they
should have taken. Gabrielle had said that they should have taken the Southern route and Xena had
said that this way was shorter. It was during this time the two women ran into the crossfire of the
Thessalian defense and the Matoan advance.

They found themselves in the middle of a blood bath. It was a war like no other they had been
through. The Matoans were not taking any prisoners, they were killing the woman and children as
well as the men. Xena and Gabrielle found themselves in the Thessalian Healing temple which was the only sanctuary in the area. Here Thessalians and Matoans lay wounded. Xena quickly took over
command of the situation and, with Gabrielle's assistance, they began to sift through the wounded and dying, trying to save as many as they could. It seemed at times to be hopeless. Xena could still hear the screams of the man whose leg she had cut off, and the cries of the dying. She could also hear through this mound of fear, the joyful cries of happiness as she delivered Ephiny's baby.

It was during this time that a wounded man asked Gabrielle if someone could go out to the tree by
the stream and save his young boy, who was hiding there. Gabrielle, being the very kind person she
is, left the protection of the temple to oblige the man.

She ran into a Matoan who was out for blood. Gabrielle would not kill but she did try to defend
herself and during the process was seriously wounded. When Xena saw them carry the wounded
body of her friend into the temple she was horrified. She had stitched up many, and tended many but this was not just anyone this was Gabrielle. This was the person who had become so important in her life that she would have given her own life to save her at any moment and now she was wounded. Xena did the best she could to sew up Gabrielle's wounds. She tried to comfort her and now wished she had taken the Southern route.

During this time Gabrielle went into convulsions and stopped breathing. Xena was beside herself with worry, she tried everything she could to bring the woman back but nothing seemed to work.
Everyone around her told her to let Gabrielle cross over peacefully to let her go. Something inside her would not let this happen. She couldn't accept this, and she kept trying to revive her. She used mouth to mouth resuscitation. She did everything she could and at the end when she knew that she had lost Gabrielle she let herself go. She cried, and begged Gabrielle to come back to her. During these moments, wherever Gabrielle's soul was, she heard the Warrior Princess calling her and she did come back. As she gathered the woman into her arms, Xena had never been so happy. She told her, "Everything was going to be all right."

When the Thessalian and the Matoans finally made peace, Xena was happy that the war was over.
She was also happy to see that Gabrielle was on her way to recovery, although not well, yet she was doing better. She would never forget Gabrielle's words when she said to her, 'We have so many wars to fight and despots to foil, your going to need my help.'

Xena smiled remembering the words she had spoken, "I couldn't do it without you. But you're going
to need some rest."


Chapter One

An Ill Wind Cometh

There was a soft wind blowing down the canyon. The tree limbs were gently moving and the grass
was weaving back and forth, as the palomino chased it with her mouth. Argo didn't know why they
had been in one spot for so long but she was getting used to this lazy life. She nodded her head in her masters direction and yes, she was still watching her friend. Argo never really liked Gabrielle and wondered why Xena was always whispering in her ear telling her to be nice to the woman.

That is until the day she took over for Xena when she was so sick. It was then that Argo realized that this person was more than she seemed. And after many travels, Argo could now see what Xena saw in her friend. The two of them would give their life for the other and so the least Argo could do was the same. It seemed the right thing to do. Argo had never been so happy, after all Xena now had a close friend and she wasn't as grumpy as she had been in the past. She even smiled once in a while. Yes, this was the life.

Xena set on the hillside looking down at Gabrielle practicing with her staff, "Be careful, don't over do it."

Gabrielle looked up smiling as she waved, "It's all right, I'll just practice a bit." Gabrielle took her
stance and began to put the staff through its paces. She had to admit that certain moves still caused
her to cringe in pain but she couldn't let her friend see this because when Xena got ready to go she
was going to go with her. She knew that if Xena knew about the pain she wouldn't let her. Gabrielle
bit her lower lip and continued.

She heard the sound and looked up to see a staff flying at her. With the left hand she reached out and caught it but not before she grimaced in pain. She felt the strong hand grasp it from her and heard the cold voice as Xena said, "I knew it, you have been faking your health. When are you going to learn, you will never get well if you keep hiding it."

Gabrielle replied, "It's not every day I am almost hit by a staff flying at me. You could have prepared me."

Xena reached out to grab her friends staff, taking it she asked, "Just how are you feeling?"

Gabrielle could now see the concern in Xena's face, setting down she said, "Ok, so I'm not in perfect health yet, that's the operative word, yet but I will be. That's why I've been practicing so much. Besides you have been watching me like a hawk." She reached out a hand and took Xena's right one in hers as she pulled her down to the ground. Xena set crossing her legs looking intently into her friends eyes and asked, "What's the matter?"

Gabrielle smiled as she said, "We have never spoke of this, but we need to Xena, it happened and
we have to talk about it." Xena looked away, "It happened that's, that."

Gabrielle said, "No, that's not that. Xena I know you practically sold your soul to Hades trying to get me to come back from the other side, I also know what a toll this has taken on you. I know all that you did because Ephiny has told me. Xena I really think that if I had died, you would have gone back to your dark side."

Xena looked down, "I, I don't know I only know I realized if I had lost you, I had nothing to live for. After all if someone as caring as you died... It would have been my fault for insisting we take the short cut I would never have forgiven myself. You are probably right and before you say it, I know I promised you but things change. Anyway you're here and I will not make that mistake again."

"That's what I'm afraid of, Xena you have to put that in the back of your mind, I will still be with you
and I will travel with you, but you have to let me fight my own battles, you cannot be there all the
time. I need to be with you and I need to know this will not cause you any more pain."

Xena said, "I'm not the maternal type, Gabrielle but I will continue to take care of you, I haven't told
you this but we will be leaving here in a day or two. I received a message from Toris and I have to go home, there is trouble with a war lord who is trying to take the valley."

Gabrielle looked concerned, "Oh, Xena, I'm sorry, you probably would be there if it wasn't for me."

"Don't start that, we will get you well and then we, we'll both go, there is time."

"Hey you two."

They looked up to see Gabrielle's sister, Lila heading in their direction "Boy you two are hard to find, When are you coming back to the village. They are planning a celebration of your recovery Gabrielle and also to Xena because she brought you back to us."

Gabrielle and Xena stood up Gabrielle said, "They shouldn't have done that, after all it should just be a celebration thanking the Gods that we are both here right now."

Xena laughed and said, "Your so right Lila, it's time we had a little fun, couldn't hurt to listen to some good music, dance a little, and have a good feast, besides Gabrielle, the food will help you regain your health sooner. And I've never known you to turn away from that.

Gabrielle tapped Xena on the shoulder and said, "Would be worth it just to see you dance."

Xena raised two fingers and pointed them at Gabrielle and said, "Oh no, that's your speed, you'll
never catch me doing that, but it is fun to watch."

Back at the village Lila approached Xena, "Xena."

The woman turned and answered, "Yeah" "I want to thank you again for all you have done for my
sister, I don't know what I would do if I lost her."

Xena smiled "She is a wonderful person and the world would be lost without her spirit and kindness. As I have said before, It was Gabrielle that decided to come back I was merely there."

"Well I know better and so does Gabrielle but Xena, I have noticed you have been looking tired, are you all right, maybe this has all been to much for you. I have seen you attending to Gabrielle, and I know that worry can be a terrible thing to have to carry, I owe you so much."

Xena took Lila's left hand in hers and said, "I have been repaid a million times, just having your sister as my friend. So lets forget the thanks and just enjoy the celebration." Lila smiled as she turned to go help with the food.

Xena was beginning to feel faint and she went into one of the huts, she found a pan of water and
began to splash water onto her face.

"What's wrong?" Xena whirled to see Gabrielle looking concerned. "Nothing, just washing some of
the dirt off."

Gabrielle threw her a towel and said, "You know, I really miss our dips in the lake. Now that's the
way to clean up, besides it can be an adventure, and so much fun. Remember the fishing, bet you
thought I'd never catch it."

Xena looked away, "No, I knew you'd get the hang of it, after all we had only been practicing for
months. It was worth it to see the look on your face when you came up with that fish in your hand. I
have to admit you are getting really good, almost as good as me." (laughs as she throws the towel at

Everyone seemed to be having a good time that evening, the music played and they danced around
the fire.

Xena wouldn't let Gabrielle join in. "I would rather you set here by me, don't need you over doing it
after today. Besides there will be plenty of time to dance. Remember we have to go see Ephiny for
the Celebration Of Life Festival, the Amazons are having."

"Oh, yeah that's right, after all it was them that taught me most of the things I know because a certain person wouldn't."

Xena wrinkled her nose at Gab.

The celebration went on into the night and toward early morning one could see people laying about,
some huddled together and others leaning up against trees. Xena felt a blow to her back and
immediately knew Gabrielle was having another bad dream. She rolled over to catch her friends
hands which were beginning to strike out, she whispered, "Shhh, it's all right, it's over. I'm here, your safe, Gabrielle, wake up."

Gabrielle opened her eyes, they were filled with terror and pain. This broke Xenas's heart she
couldn't stand to see her friend in such torment.

Tears began to roll down Gabrielle's face. Xena pulled her close as she rocked her in her arms and
began to hum the song that Gabrielle loved to hear. Soon Gabrielle was fast asleep. Xena laid her
back down covering her with a blanket.

She set staring into the coming Dawn and said, "I am so sorry, If I could take it all back, I would
have gone the other direction. I only hope you will forgive me..."

A cold wind could be felt blowing in from the hills and Argo knew that the life of luxury was over, her master had saddled the horse and she could tell things were different. Before long Xena and Gabrielle came out of the hut. Gabrielle was hugging her sister and thanking her for letting them stay and for taking care of them.

"I am just happy you are ok, and that you have such a good friend as Xena. If you two ever need
anything, you remember to come here." After a few hugs and kisses the two of them were on their
way, Gabrielle on Argo and Xena walking, Argo thought, This was different usually Gabrielle

Gabrielle looked down at Xena "You know, you really should be riding, I can walk."

"No, No, I'm loving every minute of it, as soon as you get your strength we can switch. If I get tired
I'll ride up with you. For now we are going to be taking it slow."

"Xena, are you all right?"

The warrior looked up at her and said, "I'm fine but will be better when I reach home." They traveled most of the day and when Xena found a stream she decided to put up camp. Gabrielle went to get fire wood and she went to get some water. While at the stream she noticed a fish jump and thought, that would be good eating, much better than bread or cheese. She put down the bucket and proceeded to fix a stick, sharpening it. She went and set watching as the fish would come up out of the water and go back down. She waited and then, bam, without warning the fish was on the stick she raised it out of the water and smiled being very pleased with herself. She walked over, picked up the bucket and headed for the camp.

Gabrielle was setting down the wood, looking up she said, "Fish, wow, thank the Gods, but how?"

Xena handed the fish to her, "It's your turn, fix it, one day I'll show you this trick."

Gabrielle took the fish and turned, "You know there are plenty of horse tracks back in the woods,
looks like there have been a lot of people there. I would say an army of some sort."

Xena looked worried, "I'll go take a look, you stay close to camp, be back." Gabrielle was right,
Xena knelt down and surveyed some of the tracks she laid the palm of her hand over one and
grimaced she knew the person the horse belonged to, Draco, he was close, heading for her village.

She wouldn't tell Gabrielle, no need to worry her. She would go back and tell her that it was
probably a band of wanderers, nothing to be concerned about but she would keep her eyes open.

That night they dined on fish, bread and cheese, with nut bread for desert. Xena was happy, she
glanced at her friend, whose strawberry, blond hair seemed to be dancing in the light of the campfire.

And to think I wanted nothing to do with her when she first approached me, Ephiny was right,
Gabrielle grows on you, after all Ephiny was always asking Xena how she put up with Gabrielle and
now the two of them were the best of friends. Ephiny and Gabrielle both Amazons one born to it an
the other through fate. When watching the two of them it was as if they never disliked each other.
Yes, not only had Gabrielle grown but also Ephiny.

Xena was feeling warm from the fire and she was full. Gabrielle was walking about humming and
Argo was grazing nearby. Xena thought if Draco wasn't looming in the picture this was what made
life worth living. Not realizing just how tired she was she set back feeling the warmth of the fire
listening to the lovely humming of her friend she drifted off to sleep.

Gabrielle walked over seeing Xena sleeping she smiled, taking a blanket she placed it over her and
went back to cleaning up.

A Scream woke Xena, jumping to her feet, she felt the stabbing pain across the back of her head,
and fell forward. Seeing Gabrielle in the clutches of a man, she shook her head trying to see clearer.

"Good to see you again my beloved." Draco, the voice was Draco's, once again she underestimated
him. Thinking he had traveled on and he had doubled back.

"Let her go, Draco, it's me you want not her."

He belted out a sadistic laugh, "Your right, it's you but I have found the only way to get to you is
through your little friend here. Everyone knows how you brought her back from the dead and how
you have been hovering over her taking care to see she gets well. Now I have her and I have you.
You see Xena, I can get you to do what I want, as long as I have your pesky little friend." He twisted Gabrielle's arm as she cried out.

Xena still shaking her head said, "Let her go, I will do what you want."

"No, No my pet. I know you will do what I want, as long as I have my knife at your friends throat.
Don't get any ideas, I would kill her without hesitation. But right now I need your help."

Gabrielle yelled, "No, Xena, don't listen to him."

"You win, Draco. I will not do anything, don't hurt her. I will do what you want."

He handed Gabrielle over to one of his men and said, "Take her to my tent, I have to talk with

Xena felt helpless as she watched them lead her friend off. She was brought back by Draco as he
reached down grabbing her by the hair and pulled her to her feet. Without warning his fist slammed
into Xena's stomach. She doubled over feeling another blow and then another. She crumpled to the
ground folding, feeling the boot, kick her over. She looked up to see Draco smiling down at her,
"That's only a start of what I owe you, just think of it this way, you take the blows and I won't have
to harm your little friend." He turned to a guard, "Tie her up, I have to go see to my other prisoner."

Xena pleaded, "Please, don't hurt her. If you hurt her, I'll kill you. There will be no place you can

He laughed as he walked off.

Xena let the guard tie her up and pull her over to a tree as he bound her to it. She was feeling
extreme pain in her stomach but knew she had to make herself stay alert. She had to keep an eye on Draco's tent. If she heard one sound that meant Gabrielle was being harmed the ropes that held her would be gone in and instant. But she could do nothing for fear he would carry out his threat and kill her friend. She would have to bide her time.

Thinking back she had, had the chance to kill Draco and she let him go. She faintly whispered, "One day you'll learn Xena, some people just can't be trusted."

The next day they had picked up camp and were beginning to mount up, getting ready to move on.
Draco came out of his tent pulling a bound Gabrielle behind him. She was trying to keep up with the
man all the while her eyes were darting around looking for Xena. There she was, her friend looked
haggard. She had dried blood about the mouth; she knew the man had hurt her, "I must pray to the
gods, to please help her, even Ares, who loves Xena very much must be knowing what is going on,
maybe he will help her."

Xena's eyes met Gabrielle's and she could feel the fire that was in her friends eyes she shook her
head as if to tell Gabrielle to be calm, not to start anything. She tried to smile just to let her know it
was all right. If one could call the situation they were in, all right.

Gabrielle smiled back and then she said, "What have you done to Xena? What is wrong with you,
you'd be dead if it wasn't for her."

Draco lifted her up into the saddle as he climbed up behind her "She'll be fine, your friend is a strong person and she's alive because she didn't kill me, so think of that."

"I.... Can I go to her?"

He yelled, "Tie her to the horse she can keep up behind it walking or running,"

"No, Please she's hurt, let her ride, I'll walk."

He snarled, "Really you two are something else. If Xena had never met you she would not be in this
mess and if you had never met her you wouldn't be in this mess. So it looks like your fates have been sealed. Set back and enjoy the ride. Lets go." He waved his men on.

As the horses started off, Xena felt the ropes tightening around her wrists. She found herself running
to keep up with them. A few times she stumbled, falling and was dragged a small distance but she
managed to regain her footing, she would not let this man win. He would pay.

By the end of the day they had reached the plateau above Xena's village. He ordered his men to
dismount. When the horse stopped, Xena fell to the ground. Her legs were shaking and her wrists
were throbbing, she could see the blood around the ropes. She knew that her wrists had been
bleeding. She sighed. "What's the matter? I thought the woman warrior was stronger than this."

She looked into Draco's face "Try keeping up with a running horse all day while being tied to it,
Draco, it might improve your disposition." She never even saw the boot coming at her but she felt it.
She blacked out.

"Wake up, sleepy head, wake up." Xena felt the boot on her chest, there was something about the
rhythmic sound of the voice. She felt a chill run over her body as she focused her eyes on the form
towering above her. The blond hair, the evil smile, the cold brown eyes, her worst nightmare had
become a reality. There stood Callisto, looking no worse for wear. Last time she had seen her she
was in chains heading for jail. How? What are you doing here?

"Well Xena, I told you we would meet again and under different circumstances. Draco said you
shunned every advance of his and every offer he made you. Well I'm not that stupid. Together the
two of us have made an invincible army. Our only problem would have been you but with your pesky friend ours so are you."

"Don't count your chickens before they are hatched, You will not win."

She shifted her weight causing more pressure on Xena's chest, "Chickens, couldn't you think of
anything more timely like a Hydra? Tssk, tssk you are slipping Xena. I can see that Draco has made
you right at home."

Xena realized the spot she was in as she said, "Look Callisto, I hold you no ill will, what you have
done in the past is your concern, you will have to atone for that. But here, now. Think, joining Draco will only get you killed."

"By who Xena, surely not you. You are bound up like a pig to slaughter. Surely you don't think I fear you."

From a tent came the cry, "Callisto, get in here." The woman looked away and Xena asked,
"What's the matter, your master call?"

Callisto said, "Don't you wish. No one is my master and Draco will soon learn that. I will be back
and we can finish our little discussion. Don't worry your friend is now in good hands, mine!" She
turned and walked away.

Xena strained at the ropes binding her hands. Realizing this was futile she set up looking down at her breasts and closed her eyes mustering up all the air she could get into her lungs. She prayed to the gods that she would have the strength to perform this one more time. As she exhaled the dagger she kept there popped out flying up, and as it came down she caught it with her hands. She had used this many times and every time she thought about how Gabrielle had come out of the shop looking so smugly, standing so straight and tall. She had asked her if something was wrong, telling Gabrielle she looked different, as her friend puffed up and said, 'No it was just the air.' Then it fell, Gabrielle tried to make an excuse how the dagger got into her clothes.

Xena had picked it up and put it between her own breasts, she knew it wouldn't fall through on her.
No it would set snugly, until she might need it.

Gabrielle had told her she didn't need it because her breasts were dangerous enough. She couldn't
help but smile when thinking about her. Gabrielle's face had turned a rich red from the
embarrassment. Yes, her friend kept her on her toes and she couldn't help but marvel at Gabrielle
wanting to grow up, It was as if she wanted to experience everything all at once. If only she knew
that sooner or later there was no going back, "Thank you Gabrielle for buying this and I'm really glad it didn't fit."

She quickly untied her hands finishing with her feet. Her wrists were covered with blood. She moved her hands slowly in and out trying to get the circulation back into them. Holding the dagger she silently crawled toward the horses. A guard was standing leaning his back to a tree. He never even heard Xena creep up and before he knew it she put one hand over his mouth and with the other she slit his throat as she said, "One less of Draco's men to contend with."

She quickly found Argo and saddled her, leading the horse into the bushes she tied her. Creeping
back into the camp. She squinted her eyes focusing on the surroundings. Draco had built up a big
army and with Callisto joining she was right, they would be hard to stop.

She centered her attention on Draco's tent. Although her wrists were stinging with every move she
whispered, "Come on Xena, you have to focus. Gabrielle is the important one now."

Making it slowly to the back of the tent she proceeded to cut a slit into the material. Making sure it
was silent. She took a hand and opened the flap. Surveying the inside she immediately saw Gabrielle laying on her back, her hands, and feet tied to stakes.

She felt a stir within her, it was one she had, had before but could not make any meaning of. The first time it had happened when Gabrielle had reached over touching her hand, as she smiled telling Xena she could be so clumsy. Gab's eyes had sparkled and danced as the words flew at Xena and she was perplexed at them. 'For someone who can fall Giants, Hydras, Armies, and Gods you are so nieve in somethings, Xena.'

Xena had fallen deep into Marcus's world and she had sworn when she lost him that she would never feel again for that which would make her so vulnerable. Yet the feeling was there. She chose to believe it was because she had been beaten so mercilessly. Her senses were not as they should be. She knew she was tired and her head was feeling fuzzy. What the cause, she only knew that deep within she had a stirring she could not understand.

"If I never do another thing I have to get Gabrielle out of here."

Callisto tried to kill her before and she knew that Draco would not be able to keep her from harming her friend.

Gabrielle was sleeping soundly, Xena put her hand over her friends mouth. The eyes flew open in
terror as Xena put a finger to her lips, "Shhh, I've come to get you out of here."

She quickly cut the ropes loose and led Gabrielle out of the tent. The two of them made their way to the bushes and a waiting Argo. Xena jumped into the saddle reaching down for Gabrielle's hand she pulled her up behind her urging, "Go Argo." The horse reared her head and began to gallop into the forest. Gabrielle held onto Xena's waist laying her head against Xena's back. She didn't say anything she was just so glad to see her friend and to be with her again. The questions would come later but for now she felt content.

Gabrielle reached down with her right hand feeling her stomach. As she thought, I must be hungry for my stomach feels so different. She felt as if someone had taken her and turned her upside down,
hanging her over a high cliff. For she felt as if her insides were up into her throat. Never had she felt
like this before she must remember to talk to Xena about this. There must be some new sickness
going around. They needed to go the see Hestia and get a drink of the water there at the shrine. It
was supposed to help health and family.

Xena felt the wind against her cheeks, felt her hair blowing in the breeze and felt Gabrielle's arms
around her waist. She was glad she was able to free her friend and she was glad to have her with her again. For now they were heading for Xena's village to get them ready for Draco and Callisto's army. Which would be coming down on them as soon as they knew Xena had escaped and had taken Gabrielle.

Gabrielle said, "Thank you, you have saved my life again."

Xena answered, "Glad to have you back, we have a lot of work to do. As a team we can't be beat."

She called, "Go Argo, Go." A smile crossing her face.


Chapter Two


As Argo's mighty legs took them into the village of Amphipolis a villager could be heard yelling. "It's
Xena, It's Xena!"

Xena pulled back on the reins as the horse slid to a stop. She helped Gabrielle down and flew off
onto the ground. Gabrielle stood staring at her in amazement. She always marveled at the way Xena
dismounted. She remembered there was one time that she tried it and landed on the ground in a
heap, looking up at a smiling Xena.

Toris came running out of the tavern a wide smile across his face until he saw the faces of the two
women. "Xena, What's the matter? Your face..."

Xena scowled, "Never mind that, we have work to do."

Toris reached out to greet Gabrielle noticing she even seemed paler than usual. "All right, Gabrielle,
someone tell me what is going on, I can see that Argo has been run hard, she is covered with lather. I know that you wouldn't do that unless there was a good reason."

"Xena, Xena, you've come home." She turned to see her mother running toward her. Reaching out
her arms she embraced the woman. "You should have let us know that you would be here, we could have prepared a feast."

Xena looked into her mothers eyes and said, "Mother try not to be alarmed."

"No, don't tell me something has happened to you. "Her mother now had a look of dread in her eyes.

Xena took her right hand in hers and said, "Mother, we have come to warn you and the villagers of
an impending attack."

Toris swung her around and said, "All right, tell us, what has happened."

Xena replied, "Its Draco and Callisto, they have formed a union and they are at this time probably
bearing down on the valley."

He said, "There's more to this than that. What has happened?"

"I don't know about Gabrielle but I could use a drink lets go inside and I will fill you in."

They all turned to walk into the tavern. Her mother went and got them something to drink as she
brought it over to the table she set the tray down. Gabrielle reached out and took a goblet waiting for the others to get theirs.

Xena set back in the chair, raising one leg she let it fall onto the table. Her mother gave her a scathing look but didn't say anything. They all waited for her to speak and finally after she drank down all the port in the goblet she said, "I really needed that, ask Mendia to bring me another." Toris smiled and called to the young woman at the counter and she walked over to them. Smiling she went to bring some more port to the table.

Xena reached up to wipe her mouth and grimaced. Gabrielle reached out and said, "Don't, Xena, I
need to tend to that. You have a bad bruise and an ugly cut on your mouth."

The woman replied, "I had forgotten, I have so many things on my mind. And that's not one of them."

Her mother reached out touching her cut with her hand and said, "Gabrielle's right, you need to have this cleaned."

"You two, worrying about a silly cut, we have more important things to tend to, Toris we have to get the villagers together and tell them what has happened. Those that want to stay and fight can and those that chose to run can. These two people are a wicked lot and I won't begrudge any one who runs."

Toris jumped up and said, "Well I won't run this time and I will fight to the death."

"Don't be a fool brother, I have lost Lycias and I don't want to lose you also and there is mother to
think about."

"Don't worry about me, I can fight with the best of them."

"I know you can mother but I don't want to see you stand and fight the likes of them. Besides if I
know Callisto and Draco they will try to get to you and to Gabrielle as well as Toris. They will try to hit me where it hurts and that includes all of you."

Gabrielle set down her goblet and said, "She's right you know, they captured me. Thank the Gods
Xena saved me. Maybe you should go."

Xena slanted her eyes toward Gabrielle and said, "You too."

Gabrielles blue green eyes shot sparks at her as she said, "Not me, I will stand by you. I'm not
running and you can forget that right now. Now lets talk strategy."

She was happy that her brother had not been idle since his return home. For he already had trenches that were dug, covered with straw and wood. He had barricades ready to put up if need be and he had an ample supply of weapons. He told Xena that their mother was not happy with what he had done but he was glad he had done it.

Gabrielle tugged at Xena's right arm and she turned to look at her. "Xena, it looks like Toris was
already prepared for something like this to have happened."

Xena looked down at her and replied, "It's better to be prepared. We could never get this place into any position to withstand what is coming and even with all this, I'm not sure."

Her friends eyes glistened, "I have no doubt that you will be able to. Just think about yourself don't
get side tracked over me or Toris. You know that's how they get you every time."

"Well not every time but your right if Callisto can get her hands on you or Toris my fight is gone. I will not be responsible for the death of either of you, you know that. And by the Gods if anything were to happen to you I..."

Gabrielle reached out and took her right hand in hers, "It's ok, nothing is going to happen to me and
right now you just have to think about Callisto and Draco, prepare yourself for what's coming. I
know that you can do it."

Xena smiled as she looked into her friend's wondrous eyes and gave her hand a squeeze, "What
would I ever do without you."

Turning she went to talk strategies with Toris as Gabrielle ran to catch up.

Xena and Toris gave their mother a hug good-by and reassured her everything was going to be all
right. When the few carts left the village Toris rode with them he wanted to make sure they made it to the fork in the road then he would return. Gabrielle gave him a startled glance and he said, "It's all
right, Gabrielle, I will be back, I won't let you two and the rest, face them without me." He rode off
and Xena even wondered if it was the last they would see of him. She would reserve her opinion until the sun hid in the great waters and darkness fell then she would know.

Watching one of the men struggling while trying to put up a barricade she rushed to help him. She
grabbed the heavy wagon just as it was about to fall on the man. Pushing it back, he reached up and helped her set it down. "Thank you Xena, It could have killed me."

She stood motionless as she said, "It's all right, go be with your family, I will call you when it starts."
Gabrielle had a special sense inside of her that seemed to know when Xena was in trouble, within
seconds she was by her side and her hands had already reached out as if to catch her.

As if she could hold Xena up but she could soften her fall and that is exactly what happened. Xena
fell as Gabrielle grabbed for her. They both landed with a thud. Staring into Gabrielle's eyes she said, "Thanks, you make a great cushion." Gabrielle stared into Xena's bottomless blue eyes as if
mesmerized. Xena rolled off onto the ground with a groan. She didn't move. Gabrielle was on her side getting to her knees she said, "Xena, what's wrong?"

Xena answered, "Guess I'm not as invulnerable as I thought, Draco must have messed up my

Gabrielle seemed perplexed and Xena told her about Draco's beating her..

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"There wasn't any time and I wouldn't be telling you now except I seem to be in a strange situation. I can't move. Gabrielle, we can't let the villagers see me like this. If they do all hope is lost. You have to help me up and into the tavern. Get Argo." Gabrielle was up and running for the stable as quick as her feet could propel her. She found Argo and saddled her. Within moments she jumped into the saddle, reining her in the direction of Xena. As she slowed the horse down and Argo came to a stop she flew from the saddle and hit the ground. Kneeling at Xena's side.

Xena asked her for the whip which Gabrielle tied to the saddle horn and with Gabrielles help Xena
raised herself up and was standing as she held onto the saddle. Gabrielle walked along side her as the two made their way to the tavern. Argo walking very carefully so as not to hurt her master. She didn't know what was wrong she only knew that for Gabrielle to ride her like she had just done Xena must be in some kind of trouble.

As they stopped in front of the tavern, Xena whispered, "Gabrielle get your staff and bring it here. I
will support one side with it and you can help me on the other." Gabrielle ran into the tavern to
retrieve her staff. She rushed back out to the waiting horse and her friend who was hanging on to the saddle looking paler by the minute.

"Xena here!" Handing her the staff. "Get a good hold and I will try to get you from this side. If you
fall. This time could you do it on my other side. That way both sides will look alike, I will have a
bruise on each." She managed a laugh.

Xena took the staff and put one arm around Gabrielle as the two moved slowly toward the tavern
door. Once inside Gabrielle took her over to the closest bench and helped her to set down. By this
time Gabrielle was shaking and her eyes were filling with tears. Xena reached out to wipe off a tear
that was rolling down her cheek and said, "Be strong Gabrielle. If something happens and I can't...
then its up to you"

Gabrielle took a deep breath as she replied, "Xena, I need to get someone in here to look at you.
You know I will do what I can but right now. I think we should run, I think we should all run. And
return to fight another time. You know if you are injured there will be no way to protect yourself from them. No, I won't see you killed."

Xena forced a smile as she replied, "Gabrielle it's going to be all right, I'll be ok, just let me rest for a few minutes and get me some Henbane. I know what it did to you but you ate to much of it. If I get just enough and drink some warm leafed water I will be all right."

"Xena, if there is something really wrong won't that hide it? I mean you could kill yourself couldn't

"Not to worry, Gabrielle, I've done it before and everything will be fine. Just get me some Henbane."

Gabrielle got up from the bench and said, "All right but don't go anywhere."

Xena forced a laugh and said, "I'll be right here, wouldn't leave without you."

Xena tried to move but the fire that was coming from her insides sent a lightening bolt of pain
throughout her body and she set motionless muttering under her breath, "What have you done to
yourself now, Xena? Come on body, your not going to let a pair of smelly boots do you in now are
you? Have to concentrate, have to think positive. By the Gods, I will not be defeated this way. Ares, can you hear me?"

The silence was evident, there wasn't even a sound coming from outside. Just as suddenly she saw a swirl of dust sweep through the doorway into the room. She couldn't imagine how a wind devil had gotten into the tavern, but there it was and she just hoped it didn't cause any damage. Just as
suddenly as it had appeared it stopped and there stood Ares, just as smug as ever. He walked over
to her reaching down he grasped her left hand in his. Raising it to his lips, he planted a soft kiss.
"Hello, my dear, we meet in the oddest places. But at least this time your not attacking me with your
sword. By the way, where is your trusty friend."

She sneered up at him and pulled her hand back, "My trusty friend, would you be speaking of my
sword or Gabrielle?"

He raised his head and laughed, "Your sword of course. I know where she is."

"Ares, you haven't done anything to her have you? If you harm one hair on her head, I'll..."

He said, "Do what, from what I have seen, you can't do much at the moment. I can't believe that the
one person to finally fail the mighty Xena is my old friend Draco."

"Don't become to confident, Ares, I still have a lot of life left and I wouldn't give you or him that

Walking around the room he turned and said, "You know the offer still stands, I will make you the
head of my army and you will rule the world. Just say the words and I will make your pain go away.
We will make a great team. People will tremble at the names of Ares and Xena."

"I...I can't. It's not me anymore."

He snarled, "Its that pesky friend of yours isn't it? You just don't want to leave her. Well I could find some place for her in my army. She would make a great concubine." Xena jumped to her feet and swung at him, catching Ares off guard. The blow landed a solid right to his chin and he crumpled to the floor. He looked up to see her right leg swing and felt the blow to his head from her boot.

As he lay dazed she leaned over him and whispered into his right ear, "Be nice, don't ever
underestimate me Ares. I owe you for what you have said about Gabrielle, and you'd better think
better of it in the future and if there were ever to be anything between us you'd better remember that." She pulled herself up standing above him statuesquely turned and walked out the door. When she turned to look inside he was gone as quick as he had arrived.

Leaning up against the wall she felt a cold chill run over her body and felt sweat pouring down her
face. The earth under her feet began to swirl as all she saw was blackness.

"XeenNAH. .XeenNAH!" She heard the words coming to her as in a fog but they were strong and
so was the hand that was slapping her face. She opened one eye and squinted into Gabrielle's face.
Her left hand reached up and grabbed Gabrielle's hand. "I'm awake, what is going on?"

Gabrielle said, "I was so worried, Xena what in the world were you doing passed out in front of the
tavern. Of course I guess if one passed out in front of a tavern it would probably be from to much
port but in..."

Xena interrupted, "Gabrielle, there you go again, rambling. I'm glad to see you."

The girl seemed to glow, her eyes sparkling at Xena, "Whew, makes me feel better, now here set up you can lean on me and I'll hold the cup, just drink it, I make a mean pot of Henbane if I do say so myself." Xena managed to set up while leaning against Gabrielle, she reached out to grasp the cup her hand shaking. Gabrielle grasped Xena's hand in hers and held it to the cup, helping her raise it. Xena drank the entire potion. Wrinkling her nose, when she finished she said, "Your right, I've never tasted a better cup of Henbane, Gabrielle"

Gabrielle kept asking why she was outside and Xena finally told her of her visit with Ares, she just
left out a certain part. Xena began to feel warm inside and the pain she had been feeling was ebbing
away. Slowly she let herself fall back. Gabrielle went to move but she couldn't. Xena muttered as she closed her eyes. "Stay, Gabrielle, you make a great cushion." She managed a smile and was fast
asleep. Gabrielle looked down at her friend and knew that the Henbane had to work. And also the
praying she had done at the Shrine couldn't hurt. She didn't know what she would do if Xena were
never a part of her life. She would never let that happen. She whispered softly, "Sleep Xena, sleep,
you'll feel better when you wake up."


Chapter Three


The sounds of people talking and the pleasing aroma of her mothers cooking caused the woman to
stir. She could almost taste it. Opening her eyes she glanced around the room. Setting at a table was
Toris and Gabrielle. They seemed to be deep in conversation and she knew at once that Gabrielle
was probably telling him another of their adventures. If one could write a scroll she knew it would be
her friend. She always had people on the edge of their seats with her stories, waiting for what was to
come next.

She raised herself into a setting position.

Gabrielle was aware of Xenas movement and she turned and called, "Hey sleepy head, glad to see
you among the living again. Did you have a good rest?" Xena stood swaying for a moment her head
throbbing. The pain in her stomach gone. She walked over to the table, pulling out a chair and set

Toris laughed, "If Gabrielle had not told me about the Henbane. I would swear you were drunk."

"Well I've had fewer headaches from that. Did everything go all right?"

"Not to worry they are all on their way and I checked around a bit before I came back. So far
nothing. Gabrielle told me what happened."

Xena shot a cold stare at her friend, "She would. Is that mothers cooking I smell?"

"Yes, she fixed it before they left and told me to warm it up. I knew if anything would wake you up
that was it." Gabrielle went to get a bowl and spoon. After filling the bowl she walked over and set it
down in front of Xena.

"I guess I will have to live that down from now on." She looked at the two of them questionly and
Toris said, "Its ok we've already eaten. Its time for me to take my turn around the village. Gabrielle
fill her in will you." He turned and left.

Gabrielle set and watched as Xena scoffed down the food. "I can see you must be feeling better.
Seriously, Xena did it work?"

In between bites she said, " I do feel better, just a headache but that's to be expected. Stomachs
back to normal and after this delicious meal I'm ready for almost anything. Has Toris been back

"He arrived right after you went to sleep. I had to tell him what happened. He was surprised to see
you sleeping with Callisto and Draco not far away."

"Is everything ready for them?"

"Best we can do, I only hope what we have will throw them off guard." She reached over and
grasped Xena's right hand, "It will be all right, you've beat them before and you can do it again."

Xena smiled at her friend and said, "That's why I love you Gabrielle, you are always the optimist.
When I am down you always seem to have a way of lifting my spirits." Pushing the bowl away. "I
must tell mother how good that rabbit stew was."

The Woman warrior had walked over to Argo's saddle, reaching up she removed a leather pouch.
Turning she walked toward the table where the strawberry, blond haired woman had began scribing
on a parchment. As Xena set down she said, "Still writing your stories? Who are you writing about

Gabrielle set down the quill she had been using as she turned to face the mischievous grin on Xena's
face. "As if you don't know. Of course I'm writing about you. Why are you looking at me that way?"

Xena set the leather pouch down in front of Gabrielle and said, "Go ahead open it."

Gabrielle reached for the pouch a look of anticipation on her face, "You shouldn't have gotten me
anything, but I'm glad you did. Did I forget something?"

"No, Gabrielle, it's just my way of saying thanks for being you. I know I may not show you often, but
I appreciate all you do for me." Xena received more pleasure in just watching the look on her friends
face as she opened the pouch. Gabrielle reached in and brought out a small package. Unwrapping it
she asked, "What in the world did you get me?"

Xena smiled, "I thought it would look good on you."

"OHHHHH! I love it, how did you know I have been wanting one?" Gabrielle brought out a very
delicate, beautiful Amulet.

Xena reached over, "Here let me put it around your neck." Taking the leather she tied it around
Gabrielles neck. The Amulet fell down resting on her friend's warm skin. Gabrielle reached up
touching it she said, "It fits just right. Thank you Xena." She reached over giving her friend a very
warm hug.

"I know you have wanted one and I feel that you could use a Talisman against evil and also for luck. I
was going to give it to you after we left Amphibolis."

Gabrielle's eyes began to tear up and Xena said, "Well I've got to go check the area, want to come?"

The woman jumped to her feet, "The story can wait. Hold up."

As they walked along the edge of the village. Gabrielle took in a deep breath, "Its hard to believe that
they are out there somewhere. It's such a wonderful night, the stars are shining down upon us so
brightly, its as if the Gods are pleased."

"Don't let a few stars fool you, Gabrielle, we both know how devious Callisto and Draco can be.
They probably have Ares on their side already. You are right though, it is a lovely night and if we
didn't have them looming in our future, I can think of other things that a night like this can be used

Gabrielle smiled and started to say something when Toris loomed into view calling, "Xena, we've got
trouble." Xena turned to see her brother hurrying toward them his face red from running, and he was
out of breath as he said, "They are here, I can see the campfires on the North and it won't be long
before they will be right here."

She reached out a hand and placed it on his right shoulder, "Its just a fire. They want to get us
confused. We won't let that happen. Go get the villagers and take them to their posts. We have to be
ready from here on out. No telling what those two are planning." He nodded, turned and ran off
hastily to warn the others.

Gabrielle stepped forward, "Got to go get my staff. What a waste."

Xena smiled, "There will be other nights, Gabrielle."

Gabrielle sighed as she said, "That is if we live."

"We will and Callisto and Draco will regret what they have done." The two turned and walked
toward the Tavern. They had to get their weapons and join the villagers who were already gathering
at the defensesive lines. By the time they approached the entrance of the Tavern, the campfires had
encircled the village.

Gabrielle said, "They are all around us."

"That's what they want us to think. We're ready for them just don't get confused. That's what they
rely on. If we all get confused we can't predict their attack and we will be vulnerable to them."

They waited through out the night, smelling the burning wood from the campfires. Toward dawn a
horn could be heard. Those that had been nodding off were fully awake. Toris looked at Xena with
apprehension and Gabrielle walked over to her friend, "Xena, what's that?"

"It's Callisto's way of telling us she's coming down. This could be a trap. Toris make sure everyone is
ready all around, I don't want anyone sneaking through the back while I'm busy up here with her."

It wasn't long before the lone horse could be seen coming into view and setting regally was Callisto.
She stopped short of the Village and called, "Xena, oh Xena we need to talk."

Xena stepped forward as Gabrielle grabbed her by her right arm, "Xena, don't be a fool, you can't
go out there. It's probably a trap."

"I have to Gabrielle."

"Well if your going then so am I"

"No, You stay here, Toris will need all the help he can and I would feel better knowing you are here
and not out there where they can get to you."

Gabrielle wasn't very happy but she replied, "Well all right, but you be careful. I know how Callisto
can get under your skin."

Xena started walking toward the horse as she called, "I'm coming out to talk, Callisto, you tell Draco
to back off." Gabrielle and Toris watched as Xena in her statuesque form walked proudly out to
meet Callisto. As she approached the horse, Xena could see the sneer on Callisto's face and she
said, "Think better of it Callisto, turn and leave. We won't give in to the likes of you two."

Within a second Callisto did a forward flip off the horse and landed at Xena's feet, "Surprise, I learn
from the best. Why must we always meet like this Xena, you could just give in to your feelings and
things could be different."

"How different Callisto, you have vowed to see all my loved ones dead. I have tried to tell you that
the burning of your village wasn't my fault. It was the fault of renegade men in my army. But I have
taken responsibility for what happened, as hard as I try I will always carry that with me."

Callisto cocked her head to the side as she said, "Tch Tch, trying to blame men for your failings. Not
like you Xena. They were your men, and you should have known what they were doing, it was your
army and I don't buy your excuse. I have told you before, when I feel satisfied I will quit. You will
pay and so will your loved ones. After all I lost mine now isn't fair, fair?"

Xena stood, uncertain what Callistos next move might be as she eyed her carefully, "Where is

"He's around just waiting for my sign. You know Xena I can't wait to get my hands on your pesky
little friend again. Only this time you won't take her away from me."

Blue eyes flared as Xena stepped back, "You touch Gabrielle again and I'll kill you."

"OHHHHH so scared. Xena you make me quake." She laughed sadistically. "Well got to go, see you
real soon." She flipped backwards, leaped and was in the saddle, turning the horse she ran it up the

Xena stood still, trying to take in Callisto's final words.

She turned and walked back to the village. Gabrielle ran to meet her, "Xena, what did she say?"

"Not important, we had better get ready and I mean now. They will be upon us before we know it.
She reached out and said, Gabrielle, this may be the worst of all of our situations and I just wanted

Gabrielle touched her hand and said, "I know, Xena, me too." They walked back into the village and
to a waiting Toris.

Within seconds the village was bombarded with flying rocks, flaming arrows and an army of men,
attacking from all sides. People were trying to dodge the arrows and trying to avoid the rocks. Many
were hit by the flying debri. Buildings were set on fire and they ran to try to put the flames out. The
men stood bravely at their watch and as the army started to run into the village, the trenches that
Toris had prepared began to swallow them up. Many of Draco's men saw what was happening and
they jumped over them, continuing to attack.

Xena and Gabrielle stood back to back taking on each and every one that made their way over the
pitfalls that had been prepared. Gabrielle could see that Toris had too many against him and she ran
to help. Taking them down with her mighty blows from top to bottom she struck and Toris beamed a
thank you as he continued to defend himself.

Xena had glanced over and was happy that Gabrielle had learned the staff so well when Ephiny and
the Amazons had taught her.

A woman's cry could be heard and Xena glanced in the direction of the sound and could see two of
Draco's men bearing down on her mothers friend Herma, who had refused to leave her husband.
Xena reached to her side and grasped her Chakrum swinging it with the velocity of a falling star
toward the men.. The Chakrum knocked the swords from their hands. Flying on into the wall it
bounced off and started back to the men. As it passed them the round disc made contact with their
heads sending them both face down into the dirt. Herma looked toward Xena and approvingly gave
her a nod. Xena reached out and caught the Chakrum as it made its way back to her.

Gabrielle had glanced in the direction of the noise and when she looked back she saw one of Draco's
men bearing down on Xena's back, his sword thrust out in a deadly rush. Before she could warn her
friend, Xena had drawn her sword twirled it around in her hand flipping it backwards she ran the
sword straight back under her arm into the on coming man's stomach. Gabrielle shook her head, as
many times as she had seen Xena do this, she still never could understand how Xena knew just who
was coming and where.

Xena felt a pain in the back of her head as she stumbled forward she turned to see Draco bearing
down on her. She quickly stepped aside throwing out her foot she caught his as he stumbled and fell
forward. As he hit the ground she was on his back kneeling as she pushed her right knee into his
back. One hand reached around his head as the other one held the sword to his throat. "UH HUH,
don't you move. I'd soon slit your throat as not. Call off your dogs, Draco."

He grimaced, "I should have killed you when I had the chance Xena. You know I can't control

"I'll take care of her, call off your men, now, Draco!" She helped him to his feet.

He called out, "Drop your weapons, stop, retreat."

"Thats better, Draco now lets go find Callisto."

Toris had walked over to Gabrielle as the two of them smiled at Xena. Toris said, "I knew she could
do it."

Gabrielle replied, "Yeah but they never seem to learn. I'm going to check out the tavern, Toris tell
Xena I'll be there. After this we can all stand a good drink."

Toris answered, "I'll go for that, I'll tell Xena and as soon as we round up the remaining prisoners.
We'll join you." He went to help Xena with Draco and his remaining men. The villagers were yelling in
celebration. While some of them were tending to wounds.

Xena turned to Toris and asked, "Where's Gabrielle?"

He looked up, "She went to the tavern to check it out said when we finished to come over and get a

A flash of fear traveled across Xena's face as she said, "Toris, you let her go there alone?" "What
could be the harm," he replied.

Xena stood up, "Callisto, that could be the harm. Take care of Draco." Toris watched her as she ran
across to the tavern.

As Xena approached the door she drew out her sword, holding it in front of her she called,
"Gabrielle, are you in here?"

"She's right here waiting for you, Xena, enter at your own risk."

A skitter of fear lashed through her stomach and she felt she would be sick. Walking into the Tavern
she glanced around the room her eyes stopping on the figure of her friend, who wasn't moving and
the all consuming figure of Callisto standing behind her, her sword at Gabrielles throat she sneered,
"This what your looking for?"

Xena walked cautiously toward them her eyes darting from Callisto to Gabrielle, "Gabrielle, are you
all right?"

"She's better than she should be. You have taught her well Xena, she didn't give in with out a fight."
Callisto grabbed Gabrielle's right arm as the woman cried out.

Xena could see the red flowing down Gabrielle's arm as she said, "The Gods had better protect you
Callisto because I won't, this is it. Let her go, It's me you want, or are you to much of a coward!"

Callisto looked at Gabrielle and said, "It's not over till its over, seems like I've heard that before.
Little girl go set down while I deal with your would be protector." She pushed Gabrielle toward a
chair. Callisto, white lipped, eyes flashing leaped and lunged swinging her sword at Xena. "Ready or
not here I come."

At the same time Xena charged at her, belting out her battle cry. As the two approached each other
they both summersaulted into the air and as they passed their swords met with a resounding impact
that shot of sparks. As they both touched the floor they turned and eyed one another for a second
then Callisto began her charge again, straight for Xena.

Xena deftly side stepped her rush, circling warily watching her closely trying to see the movement of
her hands and her body before she made a move then she whirled just in time to avoid Callisto's
blade. Xena grabbed a small foot-stool with one hand, trying to keep her back. Her sword in the
other hand.

Again Callisto swung her sword, shouting and Xena ducked bringing up her sword she nicked
Callisto's right arm. Callisto swung again and this time Gabrielle dropped to the floor to avoid
Callisto's wild circles.

Callisto was strong and for a moment Xena felt she had met her match. Callisto swung again and this
time splintered the stool Xena was holding like it was a piece of kindling. She swiftly raised her left
leg and kicked Xena in the stomach while her fist came around and caught the woman on the left side
of her face sending her reeling back. She kicked the sword from Xena's hand. Xena saw her lunge
for her again and this time she dodged the woman's powerful thrust.

Gabrielle picked up the sword as she threw it she yelled, "Xena catch." Xena caught the sword while
nodding approval to Gabrielle. She began to move stealthily in a circle dodging Callisto's fury. Finally
Callisto seemed to be faltering and this gave Xena the opportunity to move in. She flicked her sword
in and out, moving swiftly arround her opponent.

Still circling and dodging Callisto's sword jumping from table to table, flipping and landing on the
floor. Callisto was spitting like a mad cat and her dark brown eyes shooting fire as she swore,
screamed and lunged at Xena.

Too late, Xena stepped aside and Callisto nearly fell. Xena moved deftly and lashed Callisto's left
arm leaving a deep gash. Callisto yelled in surprise and pain. Staring for an instant at the hideous
slice, she charged at Xena with new intention now born of fury.

Calmly Xena stepped around and behind her laying a swift kick to Callisto's back sending her
sprawling to the floor. Callisto screamed and rolled on her back flipping to her feet, holding her
sword with both hands she caught Xena's right shoulder, slashing it open and the sword served a
glancing blow on Xena's forehead. She rocked back falling against the wall.

Gabrielle had watched the two with horror on her face, she was terrified.

Callisto parried the sword one more time with a Demonic blow. Now Xena fought for her life, she
balled her fists and her face was white with strain. Her shoulder felt useless to her, but she knew if
she faltered she would be dead. Callisto lunged hoping to decapitate Xena, who was pinned against
the wall but she swung to far and wide and Xena bent down on her knees coming up under her arm,
thrust upwards with her sword and cut Callisto's face.

Turning to look at Gabrielle, sure the fight was out of Callisto she lowered her sword. From behind
her Callisto rushed her again her sword held high, blood flowing down her face.

Gabrielle yelled, "Look out Xena!" Xena moved just in time to avoid her thrust as she fell to the floor,
rolling behind her.

Callisto stabbed viciously into the floor beneath her. Though Callisto seemed to be near blind from
the blood that flowed from her face. She hacked wildly in all directions. She swung for Xena again
and Xena rolled under a table. Callisto's sword hit the leg of the table and fell from her hand. Xena
rolled out from under the table bounced to her feet in a flash her sword was at Callisto's throat.

Toris came running in yelling, "Xena, he got away!" He stopped when he saw his sister with her
sword to Callisto's throat.

"Let her go Xena!" Xena turned to see Draco holding a knife to Gabrielle

Xena scowled at the man as she said, "Draco, let Gabrielle go."

He sneered, "You first, let Callisto go and I'll let your little friend go."

"Let her go, now!"

He snarled, "You let Callisto go, drop your sword and step back, that goes for your brother too."

Xena could see the fear on Gabrielles face and she gave her brother a cold hard look as she dropped
her sword she said, "You win, Draco, take Callisto and leave."

Callisto picked up her sword as she reached up to wipe blood from her face she stepped close to
Xena her face was almost touching hers as she said, "You will learn Xena, we are meant to be and
after we leave you can think about what you have brought on everyone." She reached up with her
bloody hand and wiped it down both sides of Xena's face. Xena looked revolted but didn't move a
muscle. She turned the sword around and quickly ran the handle into Xena's stomach as she said,
"Nighty night."

She flipped backwards two times and hit Toris knocking him out, she then turned to Draco," "Come
on lets go, we'll return but at another time. And bring the pesky friend. I'm sure I can find a use for
her, besides if Xena knows we have her she will come after me. Only next time she won't win."


Chapter Four

Healing Hands

Opening her eyes, the Warrior Princess moved slowly. She felt an errieness in the room. Trying to
get to her knees she faltered falling back to the floor. Her stomach ached as did her shoulder. Xena
tried to move her arm but couldn't. She reached up and touched the spot where Callisto's blade had
found it's mark. She held her hand over the opening trying once more to get to her feet.

Xena's eyes fell on Torris who was beginning to move. Had her worst horror come true? Her body
began to tremor with fear. Immediately she looked around the room Calling out, "Gabrielle,
Gabrielle!" There was no reply.

Torris, hearing Xena calling for Gabrielle, had managed to get to his feet. He hurried over to where
she was and reached down to try to help her up. Xena flashed an icy blue stare at him. Torris had
met many but when his sister stared at a person like that the look could freeze. She rumbled, "Don't
you touch me! I'll manage. I always do."

Drawing his hand back he replied, What's the matter?" Torris looked at her bewildered.

Xena managed to get to her feet and turned and walked away from him, "As if you don't know,
Torris." As she staggered toward the doorway she lost her balance and fell against the wall. Torris
following her. As she neared the doorway she screamed, "Gabrielle, Gabrielle where are you?"

Torris said, "She seems to be gone."

Xena turned to scowl at him, her worst fear now looming in front of her, "If you had been more
careful this wouldn't have happened, you, you have let Draco get away. Now he and Callisto may
have taken Gabrielle. I'll never forgive you for this." She turned and walked away from him. Torris
stood staring, still not exactly knowing what happened. It seemed to occur so quickly. Xena was
right, it was his fault, he did let Draco get away. He only hoped that he could help recapture Draco
and Callisto.

Xena walked around the bar looking through drawers until she found one that contained a bone
needle and some sewing material. She quickly took them out of their resting place and held the
needle up to a flame. Threading it and taking a finger she pressed it against the area on her shoulder
cutting off the pain. She then proceeded to hold the skin together and begin stitching it. It was a slow process. Finishing, she got a cloth and wet it with ale and proceeded to put it all over the wound.

After wiping up all the blood that she could, she picked up a cloth and wrapped it around her neck
and shoulder. Then slipping her arm into the sling. She pressed and released the area she had
numbed before causing her to double over from the excruciating pain.

Xena couldn't believe what had happened. She got up and walked to the middle of the room, staring at the spot where Gabrielle had been standing. Her foot touched something and she looked down to see the Amulet she had given Gabrielle. She reached down and picked it up. Xena held it tightly and said, "I won't quit Gabrielle, I will get you back."

Xena strode past Torris and stepped out into the night air. The aroma of smoldering wood still heavy in the atmosphere. The villagers were very busy scurrying back and forth. She could see bodies laying on the ground and suddenly she felt such revulsion that she doubled over and the food she had recently eaten now found its way to the ground.

She felt so sick. Not from the injury. But sick that after everything, she had still lost Gabrielle, to the
one person she feared the most. Xena walked back into the Tavern. And finding a pan of water, she splashed the water onto her face, washing off the blood that had begun to dry. She wanted to wash Callisto out of her mind but she knew that was an impossibility.

She wanted to leave that night. Torris and some of the other villagers finally talked her out of it Torris said, "Xena, I know you don't like me at the moment but Draco is a very wary opponent. And his men over powered me before I had a chance, but you will never believe that. I'm sorry I truly am. If I could do it again.."

Xena stared at him, "You can't go back Torris, none of us can go back, we can only go forward.
That's what I'm going to do, I'm going after Gabrielle."

He reached out and said, "Xena, look at you. Have you looked at yourself in the mirror? Your in no
shape to go any where, after anyone. You need to rest. If I have to stand in your way, I will." Xena
looked around and she could see that the other villagers had begun to stand behind Torris. She said, "I suppose that your all going to help him stop me?"

An elderly man stepped forward saying, "Xena, we owe our lives to you. The least we can do is try
to help you now. You have been injured, your sick, your weak, please spend the night and try to get some rest."

Xena sighed knowing she had been bested, turned and said, "All right, I'll spend the night." She
walked back into the Tavern. Turning she walked into her old room. Setting down on the bed. She
had not realized she hurt as bad as she did but there wasn't a place on her body that didn't ache. Her shoulder throbbed mercilessly. It was as if someone was sticking fiery needles through it. It was
incessant pain and she knew she couldn't stop it. She also knew that she needed that arm, it was her fighting arm. She could do ok with the other, but this was the one that she used the most. She only hoped that Callisto was also having the same problems.

Meanwhile Draco, and his men with Callisto and Gabrielle in tow, had found shelter in a cave. The
men were standing around a small fire trying to get warm. Some trying to tend to wounds. Draco was pacing back and forth. Gabrielle sat shivering, she did not know what was going to happen to her next. Draco finally turned and walked over to Gabrielle. He untied her hands and said, "Listen little girl. If you want to live, you will tend to Callisto. Get her well. "

Gabrielle replied, "But she's lost so much blood I..."

He interrupted her and said, "No, I don't want to hear any buts. You get her well and do it now!" He pushed Gabrielle so hard that she fell on her knees landing by Callisto. The woman was barely
moving, she did open one eye and stare at Gabrielle. Not saying anything. This was the first time
Gabrielle noticed how white the woman was and how terrible the gash was across Callisto's face.
Turning to Draco she asked, "Do you have a needle and something I can sew this cut up with?"

Draco snapped his fingers and yelled at one of his men, and gave the man the order. Within seconds the man returned with a makeshift needle and some material. Gabrielle tore a piece of material from her skirt and tried to pull the skin back up over the cut on Callisto's face. She pressed her hand on it hoping the pressure would stop the bleeding. She yelled at Draco, "If you want me to help her, you had better get over here and help me." He turned giving her a scowl and she continued, "I only have two hands and I need somebody to put pressure on her shoulder wound. He walked over and proceeded to put his hand where she directed, all the time frowning at her.

Gabrielle took the needle in her hand and whispered under her breath, "Oh please let what Xena has shown me help me do this right." She placed the needle over a flame, then threaded it. She walked back over to where Callisto lay. Kneeling down by her side she said, "This is going to hurt."

Callisto murmured, "Nothing can hurt as bad as I hurt right now. Just do it." Gabrielle proceeded to
attach the skin to it's former place. When finished with that she sewed up the wound on her arm. She glanced at Draco who was looking a little pallid, "I need some ale. I need to pour it over the

He laughed, "Are you cracked, who would waste good drink that way?"

She said, "If you want her to be around then I need it. Of course if you don't care if her wounds get
infected and she dies then neither do I." She took a cloth and tried to wipe away as much blood as
she could. Although Draco had been muttering about a waste of good drink he did bring her a small
flask. Gabrielle poured the contents on Callisto's wounds then she took a cloth and wrapped it
around Callisto's face, leaving a slight opening for the eyes, nose and mouth. She then proceeded to
wrap up the shoulder wound. Sitting back she said, "That's all I can do. I can't do any more."

"You'd better hope she lives." Said Draco as he reached down grabbing Gabrielle, and jerking her to her feet. He reached out and lashed Gabrielle's hands together then pulled her over to a huge boulder and tied her to it. Gabrielle lay back against the cold rock and began to sob, "Xena, where are you? By the Gods I am scared. Please hurry."


The next morning when Xena woke she was tossing and turning. She had, had a bad night. Trying to sleep, but every time she would drift off, there would be Callisto, beckoning her. She would almost reach Gabrielle but Callisto would take her away again. Her shoulder was aching more than it had earlier and she knew that she had to get out of there, before anyone else woke up.

She saddled Argo and was getting ready to leave. She stopped long enough to leave a note for
Torris telling him that he needed to stay behind and take care of their mother when she came back.
He needed to get the village back in order again, the people needed him.

She proceeded with Argo in the direction she felt that they had gone. Following the tracks as far as
she could however when she reached the river she knew exactly where they had gone. According to all indications they were on their way to Trachis. Knowing that Trachis was a crossroad for
murderers and mercenaries. Xena knew it was one of the worst places to try to penetrate.

Her mind drifted back to the last time she had talked with Gabrielle about Trachis. Her friend was
deeply concerned she was going there. Because it was a den for thieves, murderers and mercenaries. Her friend was concerned that Xena might decide to stay. Xena was happy she was able to set Gabrielle's mind at ease about her worries. Argo whinnied and her mind came back to the present. She reached down and patted the horse as she said, "It's ok girl. We've just got to find Gabrielle."

She had been traveling on Argo for most of the day when she began to feel faint. It was as Argo
went to leap across a chasm in the road that Xena fell from the saddle. Argo immediately stopped,
turned and went back where the woman lay. The horse nuzzled her and Xena reached up to pat her
and said, "It's Ok girl. Just not myself today..." She crawled back to her feet. She reached up and
grabbed the saddle horn as she pulled herself back up into the saddle. Xena muttered, "I do need
help. I'll go and get Ephiny. She leaned over whispering into Argo's ear, "Go to the Amazon Village,
we need to get Ephiny." The horse's ears perked up and she turned trotting in the direction. Xena
bobbing up and down in the saddle.

Ephiny was standing high up in a tree. She was the look out for the day. She had been peering into
the horizon for sometime and hadn't seen anything unusual. But it was the lone rider that finally caught her eye. She didn't know who it was but she knew it was only one. There wasn't anyone following and no one around. It wasn't until the horse came into view that she recognized the horse as Argo.

And the rider slumped over in the saddle was Xena. Ephiny swung down from the tree landing on
both feet. She looked up at the oncoming horse and held up one hand and said, "Whoa Argo." The
horse came to a stop. Xena did not move. Ephiny walked over to the horse and asked, "Xena whats the matter?" She reached up to touch her as Xena fell off. The Warrior fell on her back at Ephiny's feet.

It was then that Ephiny could see the terrible shoulder wound that had been bleeding. She reached
down and touched Xena's forehead. It was damp and very hot. Ephiny knew that this was a sign of
infection. She immediately let out an Amazon cry. Within seconds there were five Amazons standing
by her side. She asked them to go back to the village and bring Queen Melosa. She also asked them to bring her some bedding and cloth for bandages.

The women nodded and headed back to the village. Ephiny bent down and tapped Xena's face,
"Xena, Xena what happened, where's Gabrielle?"

Xena looked up at her in a daze as she uttered, "Callisto..." Ephiny really didn't know what she
meant. But Xena didn't say any thing more for she had passed out. Within minutes the Amazon's
were back with what Ephiny had asked for. Queen Melosa came into sight as she walked over to the woman, "What happened?" Ephiny shook her head and explained how Xena had arrived. The
woman kneeled down by Xena as she held her hand to the woman's forehead she said, "She is
burning up." Not wanting to move Xena they decided it would be best if they just made camp there.
After laying down a pallet Queen Melosa helped Ephiny pick the woman up and lay her on it. Queen Melosa said, "You need to tend to the bleeding, that is the first thing we must stop. Then we must concentrate on breaking up the fever that has taken over her body. Has she told you anything?"

Ephiny shook her head and said, "Looks like she has been in a violent fight though. I can't seem to
find out where Gabrielle is. I hope she is all right."

After giving Ephiny instructions Melosa and the others returned to their village. Ephiny decided to
build a camp fire. After she got the fire started she walked over to Xena and began to clean the
wound. She could see that it had been sewn right. Guessing the bleeding was from all the movement
on the horse. As Ephiny Changed the bandage, she noticed that Xena was shivering. The hot flesh
along with the wetness and the shakes. Ephiny had seen this before and knew that they had certain
roots in their garden that she could use. They had used them all the time for infections. She called one of the Amazons and asked her to bring the roots to her.

During the time the Amazon had gone to the garden Ephiny proceeded to try to remove the warrior
outfit that Xena was wearing. The leather was wet from heavy sweating and it was clinging to her.
She knew that she had to get Xena out of the clothes. She finally took out her knife and proceeded
to slit the leather so she could loosen it and was able to get it off. Removing the wet leather and shift, she reached for a cloth and began to dry the woman. She reached for a blanket and pulled it over the Warrior and tucked it in around her body. Walking toward the fire she reached down and picked up several more covers. Stepping back she put them over Xena. Taking a cloth she laid it onto the woman's forehead. Wiping the perspiration off, she could feel that Xena was burning up.

Soon the Amazon brought the roots and gave them to Ephiny. She made a poultice of them and put it on a large leaf, she then laid it over the wound. "This should work, this will draw the poison out. You'll be ok Xena." Days passed but Ephiny kept constant watch over Xena. Her breathing
becoming labored, her face wet and pale, The Warrior began to tremor small involuntary wrenches
that quickly multiplied into violent shivers. Her face was flushed and hot. Ephiny stayed by her side as the Warrior went through high fevers and chills. The fevers were bad but it was the chills that scared Ephiny. She felt helpless as she watched Xena's body shake.

Finally one night, Ephiny didn't know what else to do. She had put all the blankets on her and she
was still trembling. Ephiny knew that body heat had saved the life of a friend of hers at one time and
she knew that this had worked, "You may not like this Xena but right now you really won't mind and its the only thing I can think of to try and keep you warm. But by the Gods I am going to suffocate under all these blankets." Ephiny crawled under them. She could see that Xena was laying on her side as Ephiny moved close to her pushing her body against Xena's she wrapped her arms around her and pulled her close. Making sure that the blankets were tucked in. Xena 's body shook with violent tremors. Ephiny held her tightly. She finally felt Xena's body relax and she felt her own relaxing. It had been days and she was weary as she felt her body start to drift off into Morpheus' world, only to be brought out of it by Xena talking in her sleep, "Gabrielle, forgive me. Gabrielle, Gabrielle..."

She touched a hand to Xena's forehead and said, "Xena, what happened to Gabrielle?"

The woman began to mutter and talk incoherently. Ephiny couldn't make any sense out of what she
was saying. Ephiny stared into the face she had known so well these past moon's, she owed this
woman a lot and knew that she had to do what ever she could for her. Although Ephiny was burning up from the blankets and she herself was perspiring, she still didn't move. She stayed right by Xena. Each day she would bathe Xena's body using tepid water. Hoping to break the fire that was rampaging in the Warrior's body. Days and nights passed and Ephiny did not leave the Warrior's side except to take care of Xena's and her personal needs.

Finally Xena's fever broke and Ephiny could even tell the difference in her body movement. It was at this time that she crawled out from under the blankets. She herself soaked. She reached over
touching Xena's forehead, which was cool to the touch and she knew that Xena had made it. "I knew you were to ornery to die, they wouldn't know what to do with you in Tartarous." She stroked Xena's forehead with her left hand and smiled warmly down at the woman who now had color returning to her cheeks. A certain peacefulness had settled over her features. She then proceeded to go to the camp fire, drying herself off and changed clothes. She made a porridge. This was a secret of the Amazons and it seemed to cure most sickness's like Xena had. She knew by now that Xena was weak from loss of fluids and this was a good cure. She watched the Warrior through out the night and seeing she was sleeping easily she herself laid down and drifted off.

The next morning Xena began to stir. Ephiny could hear her moving as the first words from her mouth were, "Gabrielle, Gabrielle..." Ephiny ran over to where she lay, kneeling down she reached out and took Xena's left hand in hers and said, "Xena, it's me Ephiny. Gabrielle is not here. Where is Gabrielle?" Xena opened her eyes staring up into Ephiny's face and said, "Ephiny how did I get

Ephiny replied, "Argo brought you. You have been out of it for days, Xena. You have been very
sick. But your going to be ok. The important thing now is that we get you to sit up and eat some of
this porridge."

Xena started to move, realizing that she didn't have her clothes on she asked, "Where are my

Ephiny replied, "I'm sorry Xena but you had sweat so much in them and they were so wet. I couldn't get the leather loose I had to cut it off." Xena gave her a look as Ephiny said, "I'm sorry it was the only way I could get you out of them. And you were soaked." Ephiny began to cringe knowing at any minute the woman might take her head off.

Xena reached up, touching her own shoulder. She began to move it slowly. "I don't know what to
say, except thank you." Ephiny continued staring at the Warrior, feeling perplexed. She had never
heard Xena say thank you. This was a big relief to her. Ephiny walked over to the fire pouring
something into a cup she walked back over to where Xena was now sitting up. "Here, try to eat this, it will help you to feel better" Ephiny could see that Xena was having a hard time holding the cup and she quickly reached out and held it for her.

Xena's lustrous, blue eyes seemed to have a mist in them, like a day at the great waters when the fog settled inland. She nodded acceptance. Ephiny knew the ordeal she was going through was taking its toll on this very proud warrior. She asked, "Xena, where is Gabrielle?" Xena began to tell her what had happened and when she finished Ephiny said, "Xena, I will go with you. We will get her back. When Queen Melosa finds out about Gabrielle she will have the Amazons helping, after all Gabrielle is now an Amazon Princess. She is next in line if anything should happen to the Queen."

Xena started to get up but fell back down as Ephiny said, "No, not now Xena you have to regain
your strength and your shoulder has to heal. We will go when you are better."

Xena said, "I have let Gabrielle down. Anything can happen to her between now and then we have to go now. I've lost to much time as it is." Ephiny said, "Right now Xena, I am stronger than you are and I suggest you sit back down. Try to finish the porridge. Gabrielle knows you are going to find her. And she is probably thinking about you. If you want to help her you need to regain your strength. You have just gone through a terrible ordeal."

Xena shook her head and took a mouthful of the porridge as she said, "I'll do what I have to but as
soon as I feel I can I will be gone. "Oh yeah I need some clothes."

Ephiny could feel the daggers penetrate her from Xena's icy look. She knew the woman meant
business and replied, "You'll probably never forgive me for doing that to your outfit. It can be
replaced. You can't, I'll get you some clothes from the village. Won't hurt you to dress as an Amazon at least until we can get you another leather outfit.


Chapter Five


The woman set, staring into the glistening water, her knees drawn to her chest, her arms wrapped
around them, hands clutching each other. She reached down and picked up a pebble, skimming it
across the water, she watched as it jumped and made its final descent. Watching the ripples as they
extended outward and watching them as they slowly disappeared. And in her mind she could see her friend and the words they had spoken on that day. 'See how clear and calm the surface is, that was me a long time ago and then this.' Xena had tossed a stone into the water, it splashed sending ripples recoiling around the edges. 'The water ripples and it churns, that's what I became.'

Gabrielle had answered, "But if we set here long enough the water will be still again it will go back to being calm."

Xena had replied, "I hope so but the stone is still under there, it's now a part of that pond; it may look as it did before but it's forever changed." A faint smile crossed Gabrielle's face as she remembered the warriors words and she knew that Xena had changed. She hoped and prayed each day that Xena would be all right. She thought that by now Xena would have shown up, but she hadn't and there had been no word of her and Gabrielle was feeling lost.

Callisto stood behind a bush watching Gabrielle tossing the pebbles into the water and she knew that this woman was hurting. She wished she could comfort her and though they had grown close
Gabrielle never would let her into her private thoughts. She now knew why Xena loved her so and
why Xena would give her own life for her, this was a remarkable woman. Callisto was not going to
let Gabrielle out of her sight. She had sent men to Amphipolis to inquire about Xena's where a bouts. She wanted to know where the woman was, she wanted to be prepared, she did not want to be surprised especially not by her.

As she watched Gabrielle, Callisto's mind drifted back, back to a dark time; a time when her body
was racked with so much pain she thought she would die and then she was afraid she wouldn't. She
wanted release from the torment she was going through. It was then through the fog, that had set into her eyes, that she remembered seeing the beautiful face that was peering down at her. At first she thought maybe she had crossed over and was in the Elysian fields, not likely she had thought. She had closed her eye and opened it again and the face was still there. And the hands, this kind soul had such gentle hands, healing hands. She painstakingly tended to Callisto's injuries, and sat by her day and night tending her wounds.

Gabrielle felt a shiver as her mind drifted back to that cave. It was during this time Draco had
decided he and his men were going to go on to Trachis and he had ordered two of his men to stay
and watch Callisto and Gabrielle. Before he left he told his men, "If she lives, bring them both to
Trachis, if she dies make sure the bard goes with her." Gabrielle felt the chill again as she thought
back. Hearing his words Gabrielle was going to do everything she could to make sure Callisto lived.
She made it her main function to stay by the woman and take care of her. She comforted, her, she
rocked her in her arms, she sang to her. She had never taken such great care with anyone like that,
except Xena. She knew she had to keep Callisto alive because it also meant her own life.

When Gabrielle had first started taking care of Callisto, she hated it, she hated it with every fiber of
her body. But as the days passed and she continued to tend to this very helpless person she saw a
different side of Callisto. It was a side no one had ever seen before. During Callisto's many nights of
high fever and incoherent speech, she spoke of a family, a mother, a father and a brother. She spoke of a village, she spoke of a child, a young child growing up and enjoying the fun of playing with other children. It was the life many had dreamed of and it was so like the life Gabrielle had, had.

It was during these moments that Callisto would cry, she would erupt into great sobs as she called
out, "Moma, Moma, where are you Moma?" Gabrielle would try to comfort her as Callisto would
talk about what had happened on that dark night. She told of the army that attacked the village and
she talked about the plundering and the murdering of the village people. She talked about the fire that was consuming everything in its path and she told of a little girl watching as they killed her mother, father and brother before her eyes.

Callisto had uttered hatred at the men but it was the venom that poured out of her mouth for a
Woman Warrior that caused Gabrielle pain. She talked about the woman riding in on a horse while
yelling out a battle cry. She talked about the warriors leap to the ground and how she, Callisto had
cried when she heard the men refer to her as their leader. It was a woman who had caused this. Up
until that time Callisto had been taught to trust all unless they gave you reason not to and she had
never encountered an evil woman until that day.

It was at that time Callisto decided that the death of her family and the loss of her village was this
woman's fault and she would make her pay one day. She would see that the Warrior's loved ones all paid the same price her own had at the evil warlord's hand. Gabrielle had put the pieces together
from the many nights of rambling. It was horrible and Gabrielle had wondered what she would have
become if this had happened to her. She couldn't even imagine the loss and pain Callisto felt.
Gabrielle knew she had heard the story before, from Xena and she also knew that Xena had
repented many times in the past over what had happened. Now she knew how Callisto felt about it
and she couldn't help but feel for the woman.

Callisto's thoughts were suddenly disturbed by the sound of one of her men calling her name. She
turned, at the same time Gabrielle looked back seeing the bush move then eyeing Callisto walking
toward her. Gabrielle got to her feet and said, "Were you spying on me?"

Callisto answered, "Not really, I was looking for you and when I saw you so deep in thought I
decided to wait a few minutes before disturbing you." They both turned to see the man hurrying
toward them. As he neared he stopped and said, "I have news of what you asked." Callisto motioned him to follow her as Gabrielle shook her head and muttered, "You're just like Xena, always taking people off so I can't hear what is being said. Well a lot you know because I can read lips." She watched the heated discussion. When Callisto turned back toward Gabrielle she was no longer standing there.

Gabrielle had made it back to the building she and Callisto had been staying in. She searched for a
bag and upon finding one she began to stuff her things into it. Tears now streaming down her face she turned to leave only to be confronted by Callisto. "Where are you going?"

Gabrielle replied, "You wouldn't have told me would you? I read lips you know. You sent men to
search for Xena? Why? Didn't you do enough damage to her?" Callisto entered the room as she
reached out to place a hand on Gabrielle's shoulder the woman brushed it off. Don't touch me!

"Well this is a different side of you. Lets talk." She motioned for Gabrielle to set down and not
wanting a struggle at that moment the woman obliged. "Gabrielle, I would have told you, I didn't at
the time because I wanted to avoid what is now happening. If you read lips then you know my man
said that there was no trace of Xena since she left the village in search of you. That was many moons ago. The villagers believe she is dead."

Gabrielle sprang to her feet and said, "No, I will never believe that!" Callisto tried to ease her
outward conflict as she replied, "What will be, will be Gabrielle. You have to accept the fact that she will not be coming after you. Make peace with yourself by knowing that the last thing Xena did was try to go after you, even though she was injured. I believe one might say, truer love hadth no

Gabrielle turned to face Callisto. " Love? What do you know of love? Will you rest now? You two
would never quit until one or both of you were dead. Is it a great feeling? Are you happy? I am going to go to her. You can't stop me." Callisto stood and said, "You forget where you are Gabrielle, Trachis. It is well guarded and you won't leave here unless I permit it.

Love? Maybe not the kind you speak of, but I have known it. Find her, how? Better yet where?"
Gabrielle lunged for Callisto, pounding her fists against her chest. Callisto let her take out her anger
for a brief instance. Before she could think about what she was doing she backhanded the woman
across the face, the force sending Gabrielle flying into the wall. Gabrielle set staring up at the woman, she raised a hand to her mouth, she could feel the warm blood that had begun to trickle out. Her eyes filling with tears as Callisto bent down and drew her close, she held her as she said, "Forgive me Gabrielle. I never meant to hit you. I could never hurt you. After all you have done for me, I'm so sorry." Gabrielle suddenly felt weary and she readily let Callisto hold her, and whisper soft appeasings in her ear. After all now all was lost and she had to reconcile with a different future. A future without the Warrior Princess. Suddenly she felt a cold chill travel down her body. Xena would not be coming after her ever...


Xena walked into the clearing as she bent over and picked up the Chakrum she had recently thrown. Ephiny jumped down from the tree landing at Xena's feet and said, "Good shot, your arm is almost back to normal."

Xena smiled and said, "Yeah but if it wasn't for you it wouldn't be. I owe you so much."

Ephiny replied, "You forget about the time you cared for me? I was just repaying a favor." Xena
turned and started to walk toward the village, knowing full well that Ephiny had and was doing more than repaying a favor.

That evening they dined on a wonderful feast that had been prepared by Aurelias. It was a send off
to those who would be following Xena and Ephiny the next day. The Amazons danced around a
campfire and chanted to their Gods to protect them on this perilous journey. Xena was setting with
her legs crossed, talking with Queen Melosa and sipping a goblet of port. As Ephiny walked over.
"Xena, come on join in the dance. Let's show everyone you are truly on the mend."

Xena said, "I don't dance just ask Ga..."

"Can't right now. Come on don't be that way, everyone is dancing. Make it unanimous, stretch out
those legs." Queen Melosa nodded approval and the other Amazon women began to dance around
her beckoning Xena to join in. Finally she couldn't take it anymore as she got to her feet. "You asked for it, don't get in my way and never breath a word of this to Gabrielle or there will be Hades to pay." The darkness of the night and the light from the campfire radiated the area around it. Which was only broken by laughter and the chanting. Ephiny gazed enchanted at the graceful movements of this woman. The tall outlined figure, with features that were unmistakable began to slowly move with the rhythm of the drums. Her body in tone with the sounds. She swayed from side to side as she stepped up to Ephiny and began to slowly move her hips in a liquid fashion. Ephiny feeling the heat from the fire and the glares of the other Amazons joined in the dance. It lasted only a short time before Xena walked over to Queen Melosa and said, If you bid me good night, I'm going to turn in."

Queen Melosa said, "Have a good rest, Xena, you will need it." Xena glanced back at Ephiny then
turned and walked away. Walking into the hut she lit a candle holding it up as she surveyed the room, looking for her belongings. She spied them neatly stacked and she knew that it probably had been Ephiny's work. Walking over to her bags she put everything into them and then stacked her things in one place so that she could get to them in the morning. She then stretched and thought that after the port and the dancing a nice soak in the hot stream would feel good. She gathered a blanket and started off down the path to the stream. Arriving at the waters edge she glanced around making sure there wasn't anyone else there. The moon had come up now and was shining brightly down on the water.

She reached around unwrapping the short skirt she had been wearing. She then proceeded to undo
the ties of the brown leather halter top she wore letting it drop to the ground. This was a first for
Xena wearing two separate pieces of clothing and not much at that. She had to admit one thing it
wasn't as binding as her leather outfit. She then stepped into the water testing it, it felt just right. As
she proceeded on in she found a spot by a flat rock and she set down in the water. Leaning back,
feeling the warmth of it massage her body, she closed her eyes trying to make peace with herself for
she knew that she could not have danced any more tonight. It was the wrong place the wrong time.


Gabrielle awoke to muffled voices outside the room as she slowly walked over to the window she
tried to listen. She could see it was Callisto and Draco. Callisto seemed to be upset and then
Gabrielle knew why as she heard Draco say, "It's time you gave her up she did her thing she took
care of you your well now she will bring a good price on the market. Like I said it's up to you but I
think it's time sell her to the slavers." Gabrielle swallowed hard as she thought, The slavers? By the
Gods, no! She had to get out of there. Then she heard Callisto's voice, "Draco, there is no way in
Hades Gabrielle is going to be sold to a slaver. If she has to belong to anyone, its going to be me.
Get that through your head!"

Callisto turned and walked away and Gabrielle could see Draco thinking about stabbing Callisto in
the back. It would have been a bad move. Gabrielle hurried back to the pallet and laid down closing her eyes as if asleep as she heard Callisto enter the room. Callisto walked over to Gabrielle reaching down her left hand she caressed the woman's face then turned and walked over to her pallet muttering, "Are you getting soft Callisto? What is it about the bard that has you so mesmerized?" Laying down her sword the woman set on the pallet as she gazed across the room at the form of Gabrielle playing across her eyes in the moonlight.

Gabrielle had vowed that night she would find a way to escape and then she would go in search of
Xena. She knew that Callisto had made an amazing recovery and only had the scar on her face to
even tell she had been so seriously wounded. The one good thing that had come out of it was that
Callisto's disposition had changed from the violent person who had forced her to go with them to the almost calm person that even smiled at her from time to time. Gabrielle knew she had to get away because if Draco had his way he would see her sold to slavers and Callisto would never know what had happened to her. She closed her eyes knowing that tomorrow was the day she would bide her time and then she would be gone.

Continued in Chapter Six


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