THE RETURN part 2
XENA WARRIOR PRINCESS
by Anita Louise
"Hey, wait up." Ephiny yelled as Xena reined Argo to a stop. She turned to see Ephiny running up to her. Xena looked down and asked, "What's the matter can't keep up?"
Ephiny smiled at the warrior and said, "No, can keep up fine, (she was bending over trying to take in breaths of air) You ride like Hades is after you, Trachis will still be there today or tomorrow. If you keep up this pace none of us will be in any shape to take on Draco as well as Callisto."
Xena said, "Sorry, it's just were getting so close and..."
Ephiny grinned, "Can't wait huh?" Xena proceeded to ignore her remark as she extended a hand and said, "Come on up you can ride with me for awhile, at least until you catch your breath." The Warrior laughed as Ephiny climbed up behind her and she signaled Argo to continue. The horse raised her head as she galloped toward Trachis. Argo had wondered what had happened to Xena and what had happened to her talkative friend but she was happy to be on the trail again. It just felt different having Xena and Ephiny riding her. Actually she missed Gabrielle's chatter...
Reaching the plateau leading to Trachis Xena stopped the horse, and reached back as she helped
Ephiny down. She then hopped off. The Amazons sat down and began to drink water, It had been a long dry run that had enabled them to reach the plateau. As Ephiny passed around some dried meat. "Eat Hearty, you will need all your strength to take on the battle we are about to do." She handed Xena a water skin. Xena held it up her mouth, and took a deep swallow of the fresh liquid.
Ephiny set on the ground in front of the Warrior Woman and said , "Xena? You know it's flat all the
way up to the gate, they will see us for miles. There's not a way we can get up there, without being
seen, what do you plan to do?"
Xena took another drink of water then said, "We'll wait till nightfall. It will be the only chance, and
Ephiny answered, "Yes."
"You and the others aren't going, I cannot risk your lives."
Ephiny jumped to her feet, "Bu..."
Xena interrupted her, "No, don't argue. This is my choice. I am going to go in after dark. I know a
secret passage that will get me inside."
Ephiny replied, "But Xena, we have followed you all this way."
"Ephiny, if my plan works I will get Gabrielle out of there. Once we are out we will meet you here.
From there on we will need your help because the minute they realize Gabrielle is gone they will
come looking for us. That is when the battle will rage. You will have a much better defense in the
trees than out here in the flats. There is no reason for you to go into Trachis as it is heavily armed and I will not take the chance on you losing your lives because of me.
Ephiny wanted to object but knew it would do no good as she said, "Ok, we will wait for you Xena. How long do you think it will take?"
Xena thought for a second and replied, "If we are not out by the second moon, go home." She set
down the water skin, and walked over to Argo. She gently patted the horse on the neck she said,
"Old friend, I'm going to have to leave you with Ephiny. Take care of her, ok?" Argo's ears perked
up as the horse softly whinnied. Xena patted her then she reached up touching the leather band
around her right muscle and whispered, "Would be nice to have my own right now. But Ephiny is
right, I would look kind of funny walking around in this outfit with my warrior Gauntlets on. She then walked over to the saddle bag and reached in taking out a small dagger which she placed in a
strategic location. Reaching for her sword she held it tightly then put it back into its sheath. "This time I will have to leave you behind, I can travel quicker with just the dagger."
They had observed several travelers entering Trachis during the day and had assumed from the men's
dress they were probably marauders. As the sun started to sink into the great water, and the
shadows of darkness began to envelope the land Xena said to Ephiny, "It's time."
Ephiny replied, "Xena, they will still see you. Yes, it's getting dark but the moon is still shining. How in the Gods are you going to make it across that flat ground to the passage?"
Xena smiled and said, "I have many skills." She turned and started her descent to the bottom.
Ephiny watched her making her way down the plateau and she knew Xena would be spotted. She
decided to do the next best thing she could think of. She walked over to Argo and said, "Argo girl,
we need to cause a distraction." Within seconds she was in the saddle, turning the horse down the
plateau toward the main gate. Xena had reached the bottom and had started moving stealthily toward Trachis when she heard a movement coming down the plateau behind her. She turned and all she could see was a golden horse galloping past carrying a woman who was yelling out a banshee cry.
Cursing under her breath Xena said, "Ephiny! What in Gods name are you doing?" Then she knew,
the woman was going to create a diversion allowing her to get into Trachis. Xena continued moving
forward for she knew there was no way to stop Ephiny. This was one thing Gabrielle and Ephiny had in common they both could be such hard heads and totally ignore her orders.
Hearing the blood curdling yell, the sentry spotted the oncoming horse as he called for other guards.
Upon seeing the woman in the moonlight rein the horse to a sliding stop. The men stood in
amazement with their mouths wide open. The mighty horse reared up on its back legs and pawed the air with its front hoofs. The woman's cry was now ricocheting across the valley. Ephiny had neared the entrance and was now turning Argo away as the men composed themselves and grabbed their horses, following after her.
There was so much commotion concerning the lone rider, That Xena seized her opportunity. She
found the large stone that Marcus had told her about and moving it she entered the passage, that he
had showed. her. It took her a while to make it through the tunnel but as she reached the end of it she knew the next steps she would have to take would be up. She looked up the stone wall which felt damp to the touch, and wondered how she would be able to climb out of there. Reaching down she felt the ground for soft dirt she got a handful and rubbed it evenly on both hands. She found a crevice she could fit her fingers into, and found a foot hold. Then she slowly made her way to the top. She hated the musty odor that was penetrating her nostrils as she clung to the wall. Her legs were scratched from the stones. Xena stared upward and could now see the light from the square and knew she was close to the top. "Just a few more Xena and by the Gods don't slip now." Reaching the top of the well she listened to see if she could hear anyone near by. All she could hear were faint voices calling, "She went that way."
She assumed they were talking about Ephiny's foolish, but worthy, attempt to get her into Trachis.
She would find a way to pay back this amazing Amazon. Feeling no one was near she carefully lifted herself out of the well and landed softly on her feet. Glancing around she could see that Trachis did not look all that different from the last time she had been there. It seemed like a life time ago since she had been with Marcus. He was the only good thing to come from this den of thieves.
Seeing no one, she quickly ran across the square. Standing with her back against the stone wall, she
waited to hear sounds of approaching people but there were none. She could feel the coldness of the stone against her back. As her eyes became accustomed to the darkness she could see the vastness of the square and the huge stone archways, followed by paths leading in different directions. Starting to move slowly, her hand brushed something as she quickly pulled it back, not knowing what it was, until she turned to look. It was a fern. Now she remembered they were growing out of the stone walls the last time she was there.
She slowly crept her way along the stone wall until she could find the path, which led to the
Warehouse. She just hoped that they had not changed anything since her last visit. As she
approached the door to the Warehouse she could see a guard standing in front of it. Xena reached
down and picked up a pebble and threw it. The man, turning to the sound, now seemed to be more
alert. Xena quickly came up behind him and chopped him across the back of the neck with her right
hand. "One down." Xena opened the door quietly and entered the room. She spied the stone steps leading down to the main floor and proceeded to walk down them all the time her body alert to any unusual sound. She could see the torches lining the walls in strategic locations. These were giving her enough light so she could see where she was going. Once she was at the ground floor she glanced around. She could see the large wooden crates filled with spears, arrows and crossbows. And in the dim light she could also see spikes with skulls on them leaning against the walls.
Xena shivered as she remembered this was the room in which she had lost her beloved Marcus to
Mezentius's arrow. She could still see the arrow as it penetrated Marcus. In a craze of anger, she had sent her Chakum flying across Menzentius's throat killing him on the spot. And how she pleaded with Marcus not to leave her, not to make her stand by his grave. It was almost to much to bear, this room.
Walking over to one of the crates, she reached in and pulled out a sword as she said, "This will do
nicely. Now, Gabrielle, all I need to do is find out where you are." She heard the door open and
knew someone was entering the room so she crouched down behind a crate. A man walked into the room and walked over to one of the crates and reached in as if searching for something. Xena crept up behind him and within seconds she had put the pinch on his neck. He fell to his knees as Xena grabbed him turning him to face her she said, "I have just cut off the blood flow to your brain and you will die within seconds if you don't tell me what I want to know."
He gasped, "Anything, I'll tell you anything."
Xena released the pinch and said in a throaty whisper, "There was a young woman brought here in
the past few moons. A blond, I need to know where she is?"
The man replied, "There are a lot of blonds here, you expect me to know which one you are talking
about?" Xena reached out grabbing him from the throat she pulled him up so his face was within
inches of hers as she replied, "She's probably with Callisto. If she is even still alive. Maybe that will
help your memory."
The man asked, "Callisto?"
Sneering at the man Xena replied, "Yes."
He said, "You mean the young feisty one. Callisto's protege?" Xena smiled as she thought, yes,
Gabrielle could be called feisty by some people. "Protege? You mean she isn't being held captive?"
The man sneered, "You think sharing the same quarters and having the run of the place is captive.
Last time I looked it was called something else." He laughed.
Xena replied, "I don't care what you think just tell me where I can find the two of them." He told her how to find Callisto's quarters. Xena knocked him out, dragged him behind a crate, and left. She proceeded up the stairs and outside. Glancing into the square Xena could now see that there were still clothes hanging from the lines that someone had forgot to bring in from the night air. Proceeding carefully up the path the man had told her she came to stone steps leading up to a balcony and began to climb them to the top.
As Xena approached the wooden door she leaned against it, trying to hear any sound coming from
the inside. There wasn't a sound to hear. She grasped the door handle and tried to open it, while
holding her sword in a ready state. The door wouldn't budge. She took in a deep breath of air,
stepped back raised her right leg and kicked the door with such force it sent the wooden structure
splintering into the room. Somersaulting into the center of the room, she awaited a confrontation with Callisto. Xena stood in the dimly lit room in silence for there was no one there. She circled the room looking for someone to jump out at her from the shadows but no one came and finally she lowered her sword and began to take in the room.
There were two pallets laying on the floor each across the room from one another. A table with two
wooden chairs and a large vase which seemed to have water in it. There were candles placed in
spots along the table. Xena reached down to touch a candle and drew back her fingers as she
muttered, "Still warm, you two haven't been gone very long." Xena then walked over to the pallets as she knelt down and surveyed each one. Nothing special until she came to the one laying below the window. As she knelt there she was consumed with the flowery fragrance of Gabrielle. Her blue eyes began to mist up as she laid her hand down on the pallet. It was warm. Gabrielle had been there and very recently. By the Gods, where is she and where was Callisto?
As Xena stood up as she thought, the man had implied Gabrielle was not a prisoner and that she and Callisto were very close. Xena shook her head, No, he had to be wrong, Gabrielle would not make a friend of that terrible woman. There had to be another reason. She turned and left the room heading back down the stairs. Xena was just approaching the arch way by the well when she heard someone walking toward her. She pulled back into the shadows waiting for the person to pass.
"We've got to tell Callisto."
"Yeah, better you than me." The man turned and ran away leaving the other to stare after him . Xena watched him cross the square, heading toward the Grotto. She decided to follow him and see if Gabrielle was at the hot springs with Callisto. The man had opened the wooden door and entered. Xena approached it and carefully pulled it open. She entered leaning against the wall while hiding behind a large fern, she listened. She also prayed that she would not find Gabrielle having a bath in the hot springs with Callisto.
The man begged Callisto's forgiveness but had to tell her something important. Xena could hear
Callisto's voice as she said, "It had better be good! No one ever disturbs me in my bath."
"The man said, "Forgive me Callisto, but you should know that in the commotion that has occurred
outside the gates Gabrielle was seen running away. We did mount our horses and try to follow but
she just disappeared it was as if the land swallowed her up."
Callisto said, "You dare to come to me and tell me that you have let Gabrielle escape?"
The man said, "I'm sorry..."
Callisto replied, "Your sorry all right!" There was a cry and then the sound of a thud hitting the
ground. As Callisto said, "No one makes a mistake more than once!"
Stepping out to confront Callisto, Xena suddenly felt a sharp pain on the back of her head as
darkness surrounded her, she fell forward hitting the ground. Callisto, hearing the noise, came rushing forward. As she neared she could see a woman's body laying on the ground and one of the soldiers standing above her. Callisto asked, "What are you doing?"
The man said, "She was hiding in wait for you, do you know her?" Callisto kneeled down as she
looked at the woman's body. She had thought she might be one of the peasant woman they had
recently purchased from Sentereia. She reached down and rolled the woman over and she uttered,
The man said, "There must be a mistake, the Warrior Princess is dead and this does not look like a
warrior, much less a princess."
"Looks can be deceiving, this is Xena. The way she is dressed, no wonder no one has seen her in her
warrior outfit. There are many questions I want to ask her and many things we need to discuss. Tie
her up and put her in the Dungeon. No one is to hear of this, understand? He started to say
something as she pointed to the dead soldier, "If you do you will end up like him."
He said, " I understand, I will tell no one."
Callisto smiled, "Gabrielle has left to find Xena but we now have her, so I know that it won't be long that my little bard will be back here looking for her friend. Great! Then I will have them both!"
Ephiny had led the men on a merry chase evading them at every turn. She knew it wouldn't be much
of a problem after all she had Xena's horse, Argo leading the way. As she rode back into the
Amazon encampment and jumped to the ground, she reached up and patted the horse as she said, "I see why Xena loves you so. Thank you, mighty steed." She asked one of the women to feed and
water the horse as she turned her attention toward the gate of Trachis.
There seemed to be some kind of disturbance going on, and she strained her eyes to see if she could make it out. It was at this time she saw a woman running out the gate heading toward the plateau. She didn't think it was Xena, but whoever it was, was in trouble and would never make it across the flat land before being caught.
Ephiny ordered the women to form a solid line, then asked them to draw their swords, raising them
toward the sky. She then asked them to touch each others weapon, forming a long metal shield. She knew this would bring the suns rays down onto the shield. Glancing toward Trachis, she could see men on horseback riding out the gate heading for the lone woman.
Ephiny said, "Now! Turn the swords in their direction." The women did this, resulting in the suns rays bouncing off the metal, and down into the eyes of the oncoming men. Ephiny grabbed Argo's reins as she jumped into the saddle saying," One more time girl. There is a woman in trouble and it might be Xena." She reined the horse back down the plateau toward the running woman. As she approached her, Ephiny reined the horse to a quick stop. Staring down at the flushed face of the woman she said, "Gabrielle! Give me your hand, no time to talk now." Gabrielle obliged and with Ephiny's assistance climbed up behind her, as Ephiny turned Argo back toward the plateau. Upon reaching the top, she helped Gabrielle down and then dismounted. The two stood staring at each other, and in unison they chimed, "Where's Xena?"
Gabrielle put her hands on her hips and said, "That's what I said, where's Xena and what are you
Ephiny replied, "That's what I said, Where's Xena?" They didn't seem to be getting anywhere, so
Serria stepped forward and said, "Gabrielle, she went into Trachis to get you."
Gabrielle looked shocked as she said, "Get me, I was leaving to go find her. Ephiny, what is going
on? It looks to me like you have the Amazon Nation here."
Ephiny motioned for Gabrielle to set down, then proceeded to tell her of Xena's recent entry into
Trachis. As she finished reciting the recent events she said, "You forget you are an Amazon Princess, Queen Melosa sent us.
Gabrielle could see the woman was very concerned as she said, "Amazon Princess, yeah right. I'm
glad she sent help with Xena. I haven't seen Xena since she was injured at Amphipolis. Tell me she is all right? I have waited and waited for her to come and find me. Just the thought of seeing Xena again is the only thing that has kept me going. I was beginning to feel like she didn't care."
Ephiny said, "Care? She almost killed herself trying to chase you down. I would only hope one day
to have someone care as much for me. You are all she could talk about. I believe she willed herself
well. You look thirsty, here drink." She tossed a water skin at Gabrielle. Gabrielle caught it as she
gave Ephiny a look of bewilderment. Raising it to her lips she took in the wet liquid, not realizing she
was so parched. She began thinking about the one thing that Ephiny did, that seemed to annoy her
the most, she was always talking to her like she was some sort of pet. Come here, go there, do this,
do that and oh how she hated it, but the water did taste good. As Gabrielle handed the water skin
back to Ephiny she said, "Thanks."
Ephiny asked, "Just what was your role in that den of thieves? How did you keep them from sending you to Hades?
"Gabrielle stood up and said, "Can't talk now, I have to get back down to Trachis. I have to find
Ephiny got to her feet and said, "No, Xena said to wait for her here, I'm sure she knows by now
you're not there. She will be back..."
Gabrielle sensed the woman's apprehension and replied, "No, I'm going back in. If she is there I will
Ephiny stood in front of her and said, "Fraid not! We will wait as Xena asked and you don't need to
go running back into that place. I don't think you would be welcome with open arms."
Gabrielle began to pace back and forth as she replied, "Your right, I'm sure by now Callisto is not
happy with me and Draco never was. But if something has happened to Xena because of me I will
never forgive myself."
Ephiny knew she would have to keep her eyes on Gabrielle. One thing she knew for sure about Xena and Gabrielle was the magnetic draw they seemed to have toward one another. This seemed to get them into precarious situations all the time and neither one seemed to care about themselves, only the other.
Gabrielle asked. "Got anything good to eat?"
Ephiny smiled and said, "Some dried meat, let me get you some." She walked over to a leather
pouch and brought over several sticks of the dried food and handed them to Gabrielle who
immediately began to devour them. Ephiny said, "I thought Xena was exaggerating but you do have
Gabrielle said, "Better in than out. And besides when were you and Xena discussing me? Ephiny
chose to ignore her question and said, "If I can trust you, I need to check something out."
Chewing a piece of meat, Gabrielle said, "Go ahead, I'll be right here."
Gabrielle watched Ephiny walk over to a group of woman and then proceed further up the plateau.
Patiently she waited till she was out of sight, then she got to her feet and started walking down the
plateau. Checking behind her several times to make sure no one was following she proceeded
toward the gate of Trachis.
Waking up, Xena moved her head, causing a stabbing pain to spread across it. She managed to set
up, trying to move her hands, she realized they were bound behind her back. She could feel the
tightness of the ropes around her hands and waist. As her eyes became more accustomed to the
darkness of the room she started to glance around. The last thing she remembered was stepping out
to confront Callisto. After that she had no recollection of what had happened. She could only guess,
from the extreme pain she was experiencing, that someone had come up behind her.
As her back touched the wall she drew away from it. It felt cold and clammy, not unlike the walls of
the well. She seemed to be in some sort of cell. There were bars on the door surrounded by heavy
stone walls. Xena thought to herself, by the Gods had she been captured by Callisto? She knew she
had to get out of there and as soon as possible. Pushing herself against the wall she forced her feet to try to stand. She was almost up when the room began to spin and blackness enveloped her again.
Swallowing hard, Gabrielle approached the large wooden gate of Trachis. She murmured to herself,
"Here we go, may the Gods protect me for I don't know if Callisto will now or not." The sentry
yelled, "Be on the look out! Someone is approaching the gate." Within seconds there were men
running out of Trachis, they were heading toward her. Gabrielle raised her hands into the air and said, "I come in peace. "
Rough hands grabbed her as they began to push her toward the entrance. Once inside the walls a
man walked over to her and said, "You may have saved a few lives. Callisto's wrath has not been
favorable to many of my men. She will be happy to see you."
Gabrielle looked into the face of Draco and said, "Where is she?"
He said, "Maybe she will reconsider my offer now that she can see you are not to be trusted."
Gabrielle replied, "Then why am I back?
He scratched his head and said, "That I do not know, but I will in time. Take her to Callisto."
The men's hands grabbed her pushing her forward, toward the Grotto. Reaching the door they
knocked, then entered. Callisto was standing by the small water fall that was sending billows of steam throughout the room. She turned as the men entered. Upon seeing Gabrielle her face seemed to light up as she said, "What is this?"
A man stepped forward and said, "Draco said to bring her to you. If this is not what you wish, we
can take her elsewhere."
Callisto walked up to Gabrielle and said, "No, leave her."
They turned and left the room. Callisto asked, "Where were you?"
Gabrielle softly said, "At the shop." Callisto reached out cupping Gabrielle's chin in her right hand as
she said, "Don't lie to me. I have had troops scouring the area, and you were no where to be found.
Besides I also heard you escaped. If this is so, what are you doing back?"
Gabrielle said, "Your right, I did escape. I had to go find Xena. But, I changed my mind and knew I
couldn't leave Trachis, not yet."
Callisto released the hold she had on Gabrielle's chin as she said, "So you are telling me you returned because you wanted to. There is really something in Trachis you had to tend to?" Gabrielle answered, "You might say that."
Callisto replied, "I don't buy it, you had a chance to go find your dearest Xena and instead came
Gabrielle said, "Yes, I realized my life is here, not with her."
Callisto smiled and said, "There is no way you would know. But I am still uncertain. I have something to show you. "She reached out and grasped Gabrielle's right arm and led her from the Grotto out into the square. Gabrielle asked, "Where are we going?"
Callisto laughed, "Oh it will be a surprise!"
Gabrielle went with her willingly for she knew she had to be very careful if she was going to try to
find Xena. Callisto stopped in front of a large stone building and talked with the guard and then said, "Follow me." Gabrielle followed her into a darkened room lit only by a torch and she asked, "Where are we?"
Callisto said, "The Dungeon, thought you might enjoy the tour."
Gabrielle stepped back, "That's all right, I really don't need to see it. I know what Dungeons look
Callisto grabbed her by the hand and said, "Oh, but not this one." She started to walk down the
stone steps pulling Gabrielle behind her. As they reached the ground floor Gabrielle felt a cold chill
run through her body. She had always hated jails and Dungeons were the worse. "Can we go back
Callisto led her over to a steel door and said, "If what you have told me is true then this won't bother you." She reached up and took down a torch from the wall and held it to the door allowing light to shine into the room. Gabrielle's eyes widened as she cried. "Xena!"
Callisto said, "Yes, it's your old friend, the one you don't want to be with anymore. I can tell by your expression and loss of words, you have lied to me."
Gabrielle said, "You don't understand, she wouldn't be here if it wasn't for me. What is wrong with
Callisto said, "She was laying in wait to attack me and one of my men got her first, poor Xena. Now she will know the wrath of Callisto!"
Gabrielle turned to her and said, "No, let her go. I will stay here, I will do what ever you want. Just
please let her go."
Callisto laughed and said, "I suppose if I should let her go, she will just give up on you, and go her
merry way. I can't take the chance." Gabrielle reached out with her left hand she touched Callisto's
and said, "Let me have some time with her. When I am finished, she will go, and she will never look
back. Please at least give me this."
Callisto looked at Gabrielle's hand on hers and said, "All right, I guess I owe you that much. I will
leave you for awhile. Get it done! And be sure and bid your friend good-by." She unlocked the door and let Gabrielle enter, closing it she said, "I'll be back."
Gabrielle stood gazing down at the features of the woman now laying on her right side. She held back a cry as she whispered, "Xena..." There was no movement and she fell to her knees by the woman. She could then see the rope wrapped around her waist, and as she bent over her, she could see it was attached to Xena's hands. Gabrielle began to try to undo the knots in the rope, it took her a few minutes but she succeeded in getting them loose. She pulled the rope from around Xena's waist she gently rolled her over, onto her back.
"Now that's a sight for sore eyes."
Gabrielle's heart leaped into her throat as she looked down at the beautiful blue eyes that were now
gazing up at her. A trace of a smile now crossing the woman's lips. Gabrielle replied with a catch in
her voice, "Xen..na? Your all right. I've missed you so much."
Xena raised her left hand, putting it over Gabrielle's, "Not as much as I have missed you. We have to stop meeting like this." She tried to laugh. Gabrielle had been staring at Xena's clothes as she said, "What happened to your leathers?"
Xena snarled and said, "I'd rather not talk about it. Are you trying to tell me you couldn't get used to seeing me dress like this?"
Gabrielle replied, "If it wasn't in this dreary cell and you hadn't been hurt..."
Xena replied, "I have to admit I do look different. Callisto seemed to find me anyway. I hope you
have a magic carpet up your sleeve. We need to get out of here."
Gabrielle's blue green eyes seemed to sparkle as she said, "This is serious, Xena. Callisto has you
captive and I have asked her to let you go."
Xena replied, "Good luck, Callisto never lets anyone go unless it is to Hades."
Gabrielle looked very serious as she said, "She promised me, if I let you go, she will also let you go."
Xena said, "No, don't believe her. You can't mean you will forget me." "Have to Xena it is the only
way. This way you will live."
Xena held Gabrielle's hand tighter and said, "Would rather die. Can't imagine life now, with out you
nagging after me."
Gabrielle knew Xena was trying to make light of the situation, but she also knew that in Xena's own
way she was saying she really would miss her. Gabrielle could feel her insides tighten and she felt she would be sick to her stomach. How could she say good-by to this marvelous woman. Xena had taught her so much about life and love, and she also knew if she were never to see her again, her own heart would die. She swallowed several times and said, "I have something to tell you Xena, it's about Callisto. There is no you and me anymore. My heart is here now. You have to realize it and go on with your life."
"No, I can't, I won't."
Gabrielle leaned down and softly kissed Xena and as she pulled back she said, "Yes, you will,
promise me you will not look back. This is good-by!"
Gabrielle started to get up as Xena clung to her hand, "You don't mean it, Gabrielle, how can you
just write us off as if we were nothing. We've shared so much, we've always been there for one
another, ever since the day you stepped into my life." Gabrielle pulled away as she heard the door
open above, and she knew it was probably Callisto returning. Standing up she said, "Xena, get on
with your life for it's not with me anymore." Xena stared up at her friend a look of disillusionment on
her face. Gabrielle had never seen anyone look as hurt as her friend did at that moment and she
would have gladly taken her own life if it would have stopped the hurt she had now caused Xena.
She turned to face the cell door as it opened and Callisto stood in the light and said, "Are we finished with our visit?"
Gabrielle said, "All done here, I'm ready." Callisto smiled as she closed the door and locked it after
Gabrielle had walked out. She then turned and said, "Sorry Xena, guess the best one has won. I'll be back to take care of business." She put her right hand on Gabrielle's shoulder and said, "Lets go."
Xena watched them leave the room as she whispered softly, "Good-by, I will never forget you my
friend..." Tears now clouding her eyes.
Continued in Chapter Eight
As they stepped out of the building, Gabrielle turned to Callisto and said, "You will keep your
promise won't you? You will let Xena Go?"
Callisto replied, "Yes, I will let her go."
"If it's all right with you, I would like to lie down for awhile," Gabrielle's voice seemed a little strained
and she was thankful Callisto could not see how shaky her legs seemed to be at that moment.
Callisto answered, "Yes, go ahead. I have some things I need to do. I'll talk to you later." She
watched the woman walking across the square and as Gabrielle disappeared from view she
muttered, "Yes, Gabrielle, I'll let her go, But not the way you think." She turned and re-entered the
As she neared the cell she stood silently and watched Xena who seemed to be pacing the room.
"Well, Xena, I've returned to discuss our business."
Turning Xena scowled at the woman, "What have you done to Gabrielle? What kind of potion have
you given her?"
Callisto replied, "I have given her nothing. What she has done is of her own free will."
Xena snapped, "No, I know Gabrielle. She would never have done what she just did unless she was being forced into it."
Callisto said, "No, it was her choice. Actually all I wanted to do, was kill you!"
With the speed of Zeus's lightening bolts, Xena rushed for the cell door hoping to grab Callisto who
was standing very near. Callisto had already stepped back and all she grasped was cold air. Callisto smirked, "No, no, no Xena. Is this how you repay a benefactor?"
As Xena's eyes met Callisto's she asked, "Benefactor? What are you talking about?"
"I did promise the Bard, I would let you go. For her, I will keep the promise, but with one little
Xena answered, "Yeah, what?"
Callisto's face lit up as she replied, "Well you know, I really can't just let you walk out of the gates of Trachis. I can't trust that you will just go away. So I am going to do the next best thing. I'm going to send you to a place where you will never get to Gabrielle or me again."
Stepping back, Xena asked, "What are you rambling about?"
Callisto raised her left hand to her face and touched the scar that Xena had put there as she said,
"Santo is here from Liberia. He has been doing business with Draco. I think I can persuade him to
take you along with him when he leaves. It isn't everyday, they would get someone like you."
Xena spout at the woman, "You can go to Hades, (laughs) If you think that I..."
Callisto sneered as she interrupted her and said, "Let me put it another way Xena, I am going to sell
you to the slave traders and you will do nothing about it, because if you do, I will kill Gabrielle."
Xenas' eyes widened as a glimmer of fear crossed them, "Kill Gabrielle? How can you even say that after what she just did for you?"
The woman answered, "Lets just put you to the test, Xena. Let's just see if you still have any feelings toward your friend. If you don't care for her anymore then it won't make any difference. You will do, what you feel you have to do, and we will probably kill you. If you still care for her, and you don't want to see her head decorating a spike, then you will go along with it. Which is it to be?"
Stepping further back into the room, Xena replied, "Kill me if you want, I really don't care."
Callisto smirked, "My, my Xena you certainly are taking the break up awfully hard. "
In a voice that was weary she answered, "If I were to never see Gabrielle again, I could live with it as long as I knew she was going to be all right. But now realizing what she has done to save my life...it's a torment I can't live with, so yes, kill me Callisto, get it over with, and let Gabrielle go."
Callisto said, "No, no I don't think so, Gabrielle is just fine where she is at now, my quarters."
Xena stepped toward Callisto as the woman said, "You remember, I am bringing the trader Santo
down here pretty soon, to have a look at you, now you be good and nothing will happen to your
friend. You do anything you shouldn't and you will never see her again. Then you can be tormented
for the rest of your life, knowing that her death was your doing. Think about it Xena, I'll be back."
Callisto turned and left.
Many things were running through her mind at that moment but the most important one was the
thought that she could not let Gabrielle die because of something she did. Xena was just beginning to come to terms with what the Bard had told her and she felt within her heart that Gabrielle didn't mean the hurtful things she had said to her. She now felt it was Gabrielle's way of saving Xena's life.
Sometimes, Xena thought, Gabrielle was too trusting. She should have known that Callisto could not be.
When Gabrielle had told her good-by Xena had felt as if the bard had run a dagger through her heart. She had time to think about what Gabrielle had said. She now knew, in the back of her mind, that Gabrielle had given herself to Callisto's evil world just to save her, and this was now tormenting Xena. She could not stand to live the rest of her life knowing she had caused Gabrielle's death. Gabrielle was such a sweet, caring person. She would never take a life. She would do what ever she could to save a life, and she was always happy. Xena could not see her existing in the vileness of Trachis. She knew eventually this would rub off on the Bard and the Gabrielle she knew would be gone. Xena also knew that she could not be the reason Gabrielle died. She had fought to bring her back from Hades hands.
Standing in the middle of the room, resigned now to the fact that there was only one thing she could
do. She raised her fists, in anger, toward the skies and let out the loudest blood curdling cry she
could muster. It was a cry of pain, sorrow and anger and caused the building to shake. She picked
up the stool that set by the back wall and flung it across the cell. She then approached the rock wall, drew her right fist back, and rammed it into the solid rock. All she wanted was to experience pain and knew if she was seriously injured the slave trader would not want her. All she wanted at that moment was to die.
As her fist slammed into the stone, Xena had braced herself for the pain which was to come. There
was no pain and as she pulled her arm back all she could see was a hole. And as she surveyed her
arm, there were no cuts. Xena could not understand what had just happened. At this time the guard
came running down the steps, and holding a spear in his hand he ran to the door and raised a torch as he peered in. He couldn't see anything unusual, just the woman standing looking at her arm. He
gruffly asked. "What's going on in here?"
As she squinted her eyes she turned to him with a look that would slay a Giant. The man stepped
back, seeming to be frozen by the woman's stare. Xena could not understand what had happened to her as she said, "Go away, little man." She then walked back over to the wall and gazed at the hole her arm had put into the stone. She reached out and felt the rock, it was solid, why had she not been hurt? While deep in thought, she heard a door open and the sound of footsteps. She knew it was probably Callisto returning.
It wasn't long before she could see Callisto walking toward the cell followed by a burly man, who
seemed to move with a shuffling gait. He was dressed in normal attire, carrying a sword on one hip
and a black whip on the other. Callisto approached the cell door and said, "What is going on in
Xena replied, "Nothing."
Callisto laughed, "Having a little temper tantrum, are we?"
Xena did not answer her. Callisto then said, "Just thought I would tell you, before I unlock this door
Xena that one of my men is keeping Gabrielle company, and if he doesn't hear from me soon, I will
have him carry out what I have promised... Now be a good girl and step back."
Xena curled the corner of her lip up and let out a low snarl while stepping back. Callisto then entered the room followed by the man. She walked over to Xena and cupped Xena's chin in her right hand as she tilted the woman's face from side to side. She said, "Just look Santo, the features, beautiful don't you think? She will be a welcome bonus to your group."
As Callisto moved Xena's face from side to side. The man, now approaching Xena, stood staring.
Xena could feel her skin crawl at the woman's touch, and it was all she could do not to lash out at
her. She kept reminding herself that if she didn't control her temper it would be Gabrielle who would pay. Xena had one eye on Callisto and the other on the man, who she could see more clearly now. He seemed to have dark leathery skin, as if he had spent most of his life outdoors in the elements. His face was round, eyes setting deep in their sockets, a crooked nose that looked like it had been broken at one time. He had vague lips that were surrounded by a mustache and beard. The man appeared to have a thick neck, and as he raised a hand to his head she could see he was also bald. He reached out a hand and touched her right arm. As Xena doubled up her fists. Callisto said, "No, no Xena, remember? Think." The man started to walk slowly around Xena and knelt down behind her. He reached out grasping her legs in his hands. He began to slide his hands upwards and Xena moved away from him, as Callisto said, "He has to see if your worth the money!"
Xena replied, "Then you had better tell him to keep his stubby fingers off my body, before I rip them off his hands."
Santo had stood up and was now standing by Callisto as he said, "A little fire, I like that in a slave.
Gives me something to do. I love breaking their spirit. I believe I have seen enough. There will be
time to check the merchandise later."
Callisto said, "This one will not be cheap."
He said, "Name your price."
Xena watched them as they bartered over her as if she wasn't even in the room. The man said to
Callisto, "Have her brought to my caravan before one turn of the Sand Glass."
After the man left, Callisto turned to Xena and said, "Good, that was good. You just might make it
out of here alive Xena, and just remember what I have said." At this time a man came into the room
and handed Callisto a small bowl. She turned back to Xena and said, "Oh yes, I forgot, you need to drink this."
Xena asked. "What is it?"
"It doesn't make any difference Xena, it's not going to hurt you and you need to drink it."
Xena shook her head and said, "No, I'm not hungry and I'm not thirsty."
Callisto replied., "Remember what I said if I did not return in a certain time. Take it and drink it. "She pushed the bowl into Xena's hands.
Xena stared down at its contents. "Drink!" Callisto snarled at her, "I'm growing out of patience and I
want to get this over." Xena slowly raised it to her lips, drank the contents, and handed it back to
Callisto, as she said, "Happy?"
Callisto smiled and said, "Very." As she turned and left the room.
Xena had no idea what she had drank. If it was poison she hoped it would hurry up and take her
away from this nightmare she was having. Loudly Xena said, "By the God's, I would do anything to
be able to go back." She was beginning to feel light headed as if she was floating in the clouds and
Approaching the top of the steps Gabrielle stared at the empty space where there was once a large
wooden door. Walking into the room she spied pieces of the door in several places and she then
realized that Xena had been there. If Xena had found her there with Callisto what would she have
done. Would she have stopped to reason what was going on, or would she have let the darker side
come out. Even now after knowing the Warrior two years, she never knew when Xena would shift to her dark side. It seemed to give her Godly powers, and at that time she really didn't care who she hurt if they got in her way.
Gabrielle was thinking back to the time when Xena was captured by the villagers, who thought she
was responsible for their friends deaths. Gabrielle had gone to the cell to talk to Xena and was met
with a mad woman who was lashing out at the village men, sending them flying into the walls. She
thought that she could talk to her and ran up just saying, 'Xena' as the woman's fist knocked her
across the room. Since that day she had tried to be more careful around Xena, especially if she
seemed irritated. And by the looks of the door, she was irritated.
Gabrielle walked over to the wooden table flung her hands out and knocked the vase to the floor
spilling its contents into the room. Then she picked up a chair and threw it, as she kicked the table
over. She collapsed on the floor in a heap and began to sob. What had she done? All she ever
wanted to do was follow Xena, learn from her, help her and be her friend. If it wasn't for her, Xena
would probably be home with Torris and her mother.
Gabrielle was still setting on the floor, her eyes red from the tears she had been shedding. The man
called out to her, "Gabrielle, Callisto has asked me to come by and check on you. She has asked me to keep you company. "He walked into the room with a look of amazement on his face. He had seen rooms that were ransacked but nothing like this one. "What Happened?"
Gabrielle brushed the tears away as she stood up and said, "I was redecorating. I don't need you to
baby sit me. Go away!"
He said, "If you send me away, Callisto will probably kill me. She doesn't like to be disobeyed."
Gabrielle said, "All right, quit your whining, you can put the place back together again." The man did
not seem too happy about it but he did set down his weapons and began to pick things up. Gabrielle had sent him to the shop to get a new door by telling him that if Callisto returned now and found the door broken she would be upset. Since she had sent him, it would probably be him she would take out her wrath on.
After he was out of sight, Gabrielle ran back down the steps and hurried over to the Dungeon. She
knew she had told Xena Good-by but, she had to see her one last time. She had to know that
Callisto was going to keep her promise. Nearing the door she could hear men talking and she
stopped to listen. "Don't ever cross Callisto because, if you don't end up dead she will sell you to
A deeper voice replied, "Yeah, like Xena. It's a good thing she is getting her out of here before
Draco finds out she is here. I don't want to have to take sides."
Gabrielle bit her lip and softly muttered, "Slave traders, Xena wouldn't go with them,and they are
crazy if they think she would." She could hear footsteps approaching the door as she fell back into
the bushes. Gabrielle's heart sank when she saw the men carry out the limp body of Xena. Callisto
lied, she wasn't letting Xena go. Was she all right? What had they done to her? She slowly followed
them, keeping back so they couldn't hear her, a trick she had learned from the Warrior Princess.
As the men approached Santo he yelled, "What is this? I have paid for healthy one, what is the
matter with her?"
They laid Xena's body down and one said, "Callisto gave her something to make her sleep. She felt
the transfer would be easier this way."
He stared down at Xena and said, "Well before she wakes up manacle her wrists and ankles, and
put her in the cage."
Gabrielle watched as they put the steel bracelets on Xena, wanting to tear them apart. She knew she had to bide her time. Jumping in at that moment would probably mean she would also be captured and she definitely did not want to feel Callisto's anger." As the men tossed Xena's body onto the wooden floor of the cage, one said to the other women who were standing in it, "Do not worry my pets, we will be on our way soon. Brought you a traveling companion." They turned and went into a stone building. Gabrielle took out the small knife she had hidden in the side of her right boot. She carefully made her way to the iron door of the cage. The women had watched her approaching and seemed to be startled. Gabrielle held a finger to her mouth, indicating to them to try to be quiet. She then proceeded to have a look at the lock. Gabrielle muttered under her breath, "Piece of nut bread. Xena and I have cracked these before."
As soon as Gabrielle got the lock open she entered the cage and pulled the door shut behind her,
reaching out of the bars, she locked it. A young blond woman said, "Are you crazy? You have just
locked yourself in a cage that belongs to the slave trader, Santos. We are all unwilling slaves. Now
you will become one."
Gabrielle crawled over to where Xena lay and said, "This is my best friend and it is my fault she is
here. I plan to get her out." The women gazed at her and shook their heads as they watched
Gabrielle trying to wake her friend.
A woman yelled, "They are coming back, we will surely be killed if you are found in here." Gabrielle
walked over to her as she put her right hand on the woman's shoulder she said, "Then make sure I
am not seen." When the men approached the cage they could see that Xena had not regained
consciousness yet and the other women seemed to be huddled together. Santo stepped out into the
bright sun and said, "What are you staring at? We have a long ways to go. Lets move out."
Gabrielle hunched down and remained silent as the women surrounded her. She could feel the cage
moving as the horses began to move drawing it behind them. The sentry at the gate bid them on as
the caravan headed out the gate of Trachis.
A dog barking woke the woman out of a sound sleep. She opened her eyes, glancing upward. She
could see that she was in a room, it was not the Dungeon. She was laying on her back, on a pallet
that was laying on a dirt floor, in what seemed to be a hut. Raising herself up on her elbows, she
shook her head. Hearing a slight moan she turned her head toward the sound, by the gods, there was Gabrielle, sleeping soundly, as if she hadn't a care in the world.
Setting up, she looked down at her hands, they looked as usual. She could see she was wearing a
Shift. She couldn't understand what was happening to her. The last thing she could remember was
that she had been in Callisto's hands. Callisto had forced her to take the drink, did it have something
in it that caused this? Was she dreaming? Reaching out she pinched her right arm and quickly drew
her hand back. She could feel it. She wasn't dreaming but how did she get from where she was to
where she is at this moment.
The last time she saw Gabrielle she left her, but there she was with a a sweet smile on her face.
Probably having another one of her dreams that she would tell Xena about. Knowing her it would
probably make a great tale. She quickly got to her feet. Walking toward the doorway she moved the curtain aside and walked out into the cool air. She could see it was early morning and she was in a village. She was in Potidaea! Turning, she walked back into the hut, and stood looking down at
She walked over to the corner and picked up her warrior outfit. She held the outfit up and turned it
around looking for a cut but there wasn't one. She quickly changed into the leathers and then walked back outside. She decided she was going to the stable to see if Argo was there and as she rounded the corner she could see the outline of horses. Approaching the fence she spotted Argo, at the same time the horse saw her,and came trotting to see her. She reached up and patted the horse on the nose, as Argo whinnied softly to her. She said, "Hi girl, I sure have missed you." The horse began to nuzzle her hand, she leaned over kissing Argo above the left eye and said, "I have to go now, but I will be back. " Xena turned and headed back into the village.
She could not understand how she now found herself in Potidaea, it was unreal. Before entering the
hut, Xena took the path down to the stream, where she and Gabrielle had enjoyed such pleasure.
The path was there, just like she remembered. Nearing the stream she could hear the bubbling of the water as it rippled over the rocks. She sat down and began to gaze at the water, which seemed to be never ending, as it journeyed on its way. Although her head felt foggy, she knew that she was at the stream.
Xena didn't really know how long she had been setting there. She did notice the sun was up, and it
looked like it was going to be a good day. It was during this time she heard a familiar voice call out to her, "Xena, there you are, we have been looking everywhere for you ." Xena turned to see Gabrielle fast approaching her. She stood up to greet her and mumbled, "Gabrielle..."
Gabrielle said, "Xena, you know we are leaving today for Amphibolis. What are you doing out here? "
Xena asked, "Amphipolis? Gabrielle where are we?"
Gabrielle said, "Come on Xena, you know we are at Potidaea. We have been here for sometime.
Xena asked. "Thessaly?"
"Yes, you brought me here to recuperate. Xena are you all right?" Smiling Xena put her right arm
around Gabrielle's waist as she said, "Never been better, lets go."
Walking up the path to the village Gabrielle smiled and said, "You seem to be in a chipper mood this morning. Guess the dance was good for you last night."
Xena stopped and glanced down at her as she said, "Dance. Who danced?"
"Must have been to much port, Xena. Don't you remember how Lila finally got you to get up and join in the dance?"
Xena threw back her head and laughed, "Me, dance. Is this some sort of joke? Now you, I can see
you going through the movements."
Gabrielle smiled and said, "Ask Lila, ask any of the villagers. You were way out there last night."
They walked on in silence, each deep in thought. When the two of them walked into the village, Xena could see Argo standing, saddled with their belongings attached. Gabrielle's sister, Lila, came
hurrying over to them and said, "You found her."
Xena growled, "I wasn't lost. What is going on? Who saddled Argo?"
Lila took Gabrielle's left hand in hers and said, "Gabrielle did. She knew you would want to start for
Amphipolis as soon as possible."
Xena just shook her head, "Gabrielle, you did this? I always have to wake you, to get you moving.
Are you all right?"
Gabrielle smiled and said, "I knew you would be anxious to see your mother and Toris. Besides, it's
hard to sleep when there is a draft on one side."
Xena ignored her comment, and walked over to check Argo and the saddle. As she turned back
toward the women she was hit with a flash of light, shaking her head she tried to focus her eyes.
Gabrielle was hugging Lila as she thanked her for letting them stay and for taking care of them. Lila
replied, "I am just happy you are ok and that you have such a good friend as Xena. If you two need
anything you remember to come here."
The words, the actions what was happening to her had she been there before? Gabrielle untied Argo and handed the reins to Xena as she turned to walk away. Xena said, "No, Gabrielle. You ride and I'll walk."
The stubborn streak in the woman surfaced as she said, "I can walk, you ride." Xena was not a
person to argue with so Gabrielle finally gave in.
With Xena's help Gabrielle found herself sitting in the saddle. She stared down at the ground which
seemed to be miles away and said, "You know you really should be riding, I can walk."
Xena heard herself reply, "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. "
They had been traveling most of the day and Xena could see that the sun was beginning to go down. She knew that they had to find a place to camp. She had noticed that Gabrielle's constant chatter had diminished and the last time she looked up at the woman she was looking pale.
"Xena, there, over by that clump of trees, look sweet grass for Argo and a stream. Looks like the
ideal spot." Xena grabbed Argos reins and stopped the horse from heading in that direction.
Gabrielle said, "What is the matter with you Xena? It's perfect." Xena had spied the spot before
Gabrielle. As her eyes focused on the clearing she felt a chill run up and down her back. She had
been there before and with Gabrielle. She couldn't get away from the area quick enough. She
answered, "Not the right spot, besides I know a better one just ahead." Gabrielle shook her head but she knew better than to argue with the Warrior. Xena had pulled them through many spots and she definitely knew her camp sites. Although, sometimes it wouldn't hurt the woman to concede once in a while and admit she could be wrong.
The sound of a night owl could be heard as Gabrielle said, "I'm waiting, we have been traveling for a long time. Where is this perfect campsite?"
Xena stopped walking and said, "Its around the bend in the road. Actually, it's a cave."
Gabrielle answered, "A cave! You passed the spot I chose for a cave!"
Xena smiled up at her friend and said, "Oh, but this is a special cave."
They proceeded on in silence, nearing the opening of the cave. Gabrielle climbed down from the
horse. "I may never walk again, my legs feel like jelly. How do you do it?"
Xena smiled and said, "You'll get used to it. Come on." The sound of Argo's hoofs echoed as they
entered the large room. Gabrielle's eyes widened as she gasped at the beauty of the room. Hanging
from the ceiling were large crops of rock in many shapes and colors. Some giving out beautiful light.
Xena smiled at Gabrielle and said, "We will be able to see just fine."
Gabrielle replied, "It's beautiful! I've never seen anything like this." She had began to remove Argo's
saddle and set up camp.
Xena walked over to her and said, "I am going to go out and take a look around. Don't wander off
and I will be back soon. There is a breeze filtering in here, it will be all right to build a fire." The
woman had waved her on and she turned and walked back toward the cave opening. Xena walked
over to a bush and removed a large section. She began to follow their tracks. Then she proceeded to backtrack, as she brushed their tracks away to make sure there was no evidence they had been
there. When she felt she had succeeded she turned and headed back to the cave.
Entering, she walked slowly. Though there was no evidence, she felt as if her body had been
hammered. As she neared the large room she could smell the smoke from a campfire and the
pleasing aroma of Gabrielle's cooking. Gabrielle was right, the room was huge, and the large crop of rocks that ornamented the room were enormous and glowed in many brilliant colors.
The bard, seeing Xena enter the room, stood up as she waved, "Hope you like stew. It's all I could
find for fixings."
Xena sat down and said, "Smells good. You didn't use all the water did you?"
"No, but I did use quite a bit, why?"
Xena frowned and said, "That's all the water we have, until we can find a creek or stream. Have you watered Argo?"
Gabrielle smiled as she handed Xena a bowl of stew, "Test time, right?" Xena looked perplexed as
the woman continued, "When you told me to stay put, you knew that it would be a challenge to me. I couldn't resist checking the rest of the cavern out. And yes, I have taken care of Argo"
Xena fumed, "Gabrielle, it wasn't a test. I told you to stay put for your own good. What if something had happened to you."
Gabrielle had begun to consume the stew that she had poured for herself as she said, "I'm fine.
Besides, I have a surprise for you. After you eat and rest, I want to show you something." Xena
leaned back against a rock and ate the meal. When she finished she said, "That was good, Gabrielle. I'm sorry if I snapped at you. I'm just not myself. How are you feeling?"
Gabrielle replied, "Tired, it's been a long day. Did you want anything else to eat? Something to
"No, I'm fine. You have made yourself at home. I always admire the way you can set up camp so
easily." Gabrielle picked up Xena's bowl and put it with hers as she reached out a hand and said,
"Come on, now for my surprise."
Xena replied, "It had better be good, because all I want to do at this moment is relax and enjoy the
quiet." Xena couldn't deny Gabrielle anything and she followed her willingly. It was the gleam in the
bard's eyes that made her anxious. She wondered what Gabrielle wanted to show her. It was the
sound of dripping water she heard first. As they turned a corner and entered a smaller room, she
could see the large rock cropping and the water that was falling down between it into a pool.
Gabrielle seemed very pleased with herself, "Surprise!" Xena replied, "It's fascinating, have you
Gabrielle shook her head and said, "That is one thing, I didn't do. You have told me so many times
not to drink water until you test it."
"Well it's nice to know you do listen to me once in awhile."
Xena walked over the the ledge as she reached out cupping some of the water in her hands. She
raised them to her face. There wasn't a bad smell, it seemed to be all right. She raised her full hands
to her mouth and drank the liquid. It was cool and refreshing. "That's why you used the water. You
knew this was here."
Gabrielle smiled impishly and said, "That's not all, follow me."
Xena's curiosity was at its peak and she tried to keep up with Gabrielle who was hurrying toward a
large stone wall. As they neared it Gabrielle walked over to a large rock and disappeared behind it.
Xena appeared to be stunned as she called out, "Gabrielle, this is not funny, where have you gone?"
"In here, come on in." She followed the bard's voice, and soon found herself in a smaller room,
surrounded by the same rocks that were decorating the main room. She could see a large pool of
water and from the warmth she was feeling she surmised it was heated in some way. Her eyes
glanced around the room and stopped when they spied Gabrielle sitting in the water, smiling up at
her, she seemed to be in celestial splendor.
Xena asked, "Gabrielle, is this your surprise?"
Gabrielle smiled and said, "Isn't it wonderful? Come on in, your body will love you." Xena, admitted
to herself she was tired, and a dip in the hot water would feel good. It didn't take her long to shed her clothes and wade into the water. It was warm and it had just enough ripple in it to cover her body with tiny fingers that were now massaging the knots from her muscles. She made it over to a sloping rock, on the far side and let her body lay back.
It wasn't long before Gabrielle, found a spot close by and she said, "Feels good uh? You're not upset at me any more are you?"
Xena sighed, "No, I was never upset at you, just worried. Glad you found this, the water will make
my shoulder feel better."
Gabrielle asked, "What is wrong with your shoulder?" Xena reached up to touch the spot where
Callisto's blade had found its mark and was stunned when she could not feel the scar that had been
there. She said, "There was a scar..."
Gabrielle replied, "Xena, I don't know what has got into you lately, but I know you very well, and I
have never seen a scar there. Do you want to tell me what is going on?"
Xena closed her eyes to the brilliant light flashes that seemed to be invading them. Gabrielle watched and finally said, "Xena, what is wrong?"
Opening her eyes Xena replied, "Nothing, that a good nights rest won't cure. Come on, it's time we
turned in." She had started for the spot where she left her clothes. Stepping out of the water, she
reached down and picked up her Shift, slipping it on. Hearing Gabrielle behind her as she walked out of the water. She picked up the bard's Shift, turned and said, "Raise your arms, I'll slip this on for you."
Gabrielle obliged and felt the cloth as it slid onto her body, catching in spots that were wet. After
helping Gabrielle with the Shift, she couldn't help noticing, the woman's smooth, flawless skin. Her
shapely, body now outlined under the Shift. The water had caught the cloth, adhering it to certain
parts of Gabrielle's form. Her pert, full breasts were now grasping the cloth. Xena could see a blush
cross the bard's face and she turned away as she said, "Lets get you back to the campfire, and a
change of clothes. Don't want you catching your death."
Xena never knew what caused the bard to blush, maybe she had been gazing at her. The two had
been through so much together, that the sight of each others body was nothing special. They had
become like family and had seen one another many times. She wondered why water, always seemed to have a special effect on ones body. Gabrielle never did speak of it and Xena decided to let it drift to the back of her mind.
Xena awoke to the smell of breakfast cooking. She rolled over gazing toward the fire. There stood
Gabrielle, humming as she turned something over in the pan. Xena sat up and said. "What is going
on? This is the second day you have beat me awake, this is not like you."
Gabrielle smiled and asked, "Are you complaining?" Getting to her feet, Xena walked over to the fire and said, "No, it's just unusual. You are the one that is supposed to rest."
Gabrielle handed Xena a mug of warm tea and said, "I've had plenty of rest. Besides, you seem to be the one with the problem." Gabrielle, didn't have the heart to tell her that Xena's nightmares had kept her awake. What ever the woman was fighting in her dreams, had become frightening to Gabrielle. Seeing the constant torment on Xena's face and the unexplainable tears was driving the bard crazy with fear for the warrior.
Xena gladly took the mug, and inhaled the delicious aroma of Gabrielle's special herb tea. After
taking a sip she said, "Nothing is wrong, would you mind if we stayed another day?"
"I thought you needed to get home? What about your mother and the village?"
Xena looked forlorn as she said, "It will be there tomorrow, besides Torris is well trained and if there were any trouble, he would know how to handle it."
Gabrielle sighed and said, "It's all right with me. I love this place. you were right, it is special. When
were you here?"
Xena said, "A long time ago. Although I never really explored it fully." "Those days uh?"
"Right, long past. If it will make you feel better, never with anyone like you. Your presence makes
this cave come alive."
Gabrielle replied, "Bet you say that to all the girls uh?"
Xena replied, "No, just one."
Gabrielle, had never seen the Warrior in the deep moods, she now seemed to be in. She couldn't
understand what was happening, and Xena would not let her into her thoughts. She felt as if her
hands were tied. She used to have a hard time getting through to Xena. But, with the passing of the
years and the two getting to know one another, the woman usually was very open. She only hid
things from Gabrielle because she thought she was protecting her. Gabrielle thought out loud,
"Protecting me, from what?"
Xena flinched as she said, "Protecting you, I'm sure I don't know what you are talking about." The
woman got to her feet and said, "I'm going to go take a soak. Be back soon." She turned and left.
Gabrielle, continued to stare after her, even when she was out of sight. She walked over to Argo and patted the horse as she said, "You sense it to, don't you girl?" The horse whinnied. "What is wrong with you, Gabrielle? Have it out with her, by the Gods you can't keep going in circles." She set her jaw, as she grabbed her staff and followed the woman. Gabrielle arrived not long after Xena had submerged herself in the water. Standing at the waters edge, she looked around the room but could not see her anywhere as she called out, "Xena, are you in here?"
Within seconds of her call a hand came up out of the water grabbing the bard by the leg pulling her
in. Gabrielle screamed, "Help!" She began to kick at the hands that were holding her legs. Her
mouth, dropped open when she saw the mischevious face of Xena, rise up out of the water. Xena
said, "Got you."
Gabrielle looked down at her clothes and said, "I'm all wet, how could you do this?"
Xena splashed water at her and swam off as she said, "You've been looking entirely to serious. Have a little fun."
Gabrielle was fuming. She swam over to the edge and climbed out. She sat staring at Xena, who was now laying on her back in the water, floating, as if she hadn't a care in the world. Gabrielle muttered, "I'll show her. I can have fun if I want." She began to remove her wet boots. Holding them up to let the water run out of them, she yelled at Xena, "It will be a while now before these will be wearable. I suppose you have an extra pair somewhere?"
Xena ignored her, which made her even madder as she silently said, "Warrior Princess, you have met your match, because here comes an Amazon Princess!" It was the piercing cry, that almost broke her ear drums, that brought her out of her thoughts. Gabrielle looked up to see the ugliest mutation she had ever gazed upon. It stood up out of the water, its head almost touching the rock ceiling.
The head was a combination serpent and dragon. The large ominous eyes glowed green and it had a long, red forked tongue that spat down toward Xena. Its neck long, like a serpents, Gabrielle yelled, "Xena!" Xena had already seen the monster and had swam back among a group of rocks as she yelled, "Get out of here Gabrielle!"
The woman yelled, "No, I'll attract it so you can get out."
Xena yelled, "No, get out of here!" She frowned, why did she even bother, Gabrielle wouldn't listen
to her. Gabrielle had climbed up on a rock, holding her staff she began to yell at the monster. It
ignored her as it swam closer to the rock formation where Xena was hiding. Gabrielle looked around the ground and finally spied some lose rocks. She grabbed a handful and began tossing them at the monster. The rocks bounced off causing no reaction from the creature.
Gabrielle grabbed Xena's knife in her hand, and put it between her teeth as she raised her staff, she
made a running leap into the air landing it solidly on the rock she had previously been standing on.
Using all her strength she catapulted out over the water and landed fully on the back of the creatures head. Xena had been watching Gabrielle with fear and anger in her heart. She watched her toss the rocks at the creature, all the time marveling in the young bard's valor. It was when she saw Gabrielle make the running start that she yelled, all the time knowing it would be too late. A smile crossed her lips, Gabrielle had courage. She would give her that, but now what were they going to do?
The creature realizing it had an unwelcome guest began to toss its head from side to side, all the while spitting out its tongue and making the most fearsome noises. Gabrielle clung on to it's right ear as it tossed her back and forth. She yelled down to Xena, "Here I brought you, your knife." She tossed it down toward the woman.
Xena caught it and yelled back, "Now what are you going to do talk it to death?" Gabrielle echoed,
"No I'll leave that up to you, the death part."
Xena called back, "I'm going to try to kill it, but I may just injure it. Be ready and jump off into the
water." Putting the knife between her teeth Xena swam out into the open and dove under the water.
The water, was now becoming choppy and murky, from all the movement that was taking place
above her. As she neared the body, she could see it went on for miles. The skin seemed to be slimy, as she swam under its belly. She kept her eyes open trying to find a soft spot. She took the knife out from between her teeth and with her right hand she drew back and sent the blade deep into the creatures flesh. She drew it back out to do it again. Not prepared for the creature to fall downward, its body fell on her knocking her into unconsciousness.
Gabrielle was holding on to the creature's ear as hard as she could and knew it wouldn't be long
before she would lose her grip and fall. She felt the wild lurch under her when Xena stabbed it the
first time and she immediately jumped off diving head first into the water. She swam over to the edge as she watched the creature lurch above her, growling in pain and anguish, it soon collapsed into the water and lay still. The water around it was turning red from the creatures blood.
Gabrielle, looked for Xena. The woman hadn't surfaced and she was getting worried, as she dove
back into the water and swam out to where she had last seen the Warrior. She called her name but
there was only silence. She took in a deep breath of air as she dove under the water and swam along the length of the creatures body looking for her friend. Her heart almost stopped when saw that Xena was stuck under a portion of the monsters reptile like tail. She quickly swam over to her and began to try to pull her loose.
The fear, giving her new fond strength as she dragged the woman from her entrapment. Gabrielle held on to Xena and swam back up into the light of the room. With one hand under Xena's chin, she swam to the safety of the edge. Pulling her out of the water, she rolled Xena over onto her stomach, and began to press on her back. Gabrielle watched the water slowly trickle from Xena's mouth. She reached down and rolled her over onto her back as she patted her face, "Xena, wake up, come on wake up!"
Using the medical skill, Xena had taught her she felt for a pulse, it was there. Gabrielle, tilted Xena's
head back and began to blow air into her mouth. She was beside herself, the fear of losing the
woman drove her forward, as she cried, "Xena, this is not fair. You promised me you would never
die on me again." Xena began to cough as Gabrielle helped her sit up she slapped the woman's back, "That's it, get it all out."
Xena opened her eyes as she said, "That was a fool hardy stunt you just pulled." Gabrielle replied,
"I'm glad to see you too." Xena looked questionably as she said, "The creature? Is it...?"
Gabrielle was now holding Xena in a sitting position, leaning up against her as she said, "Yep, you did it. I don't think I could have hung on much longer. Xena what is it?"
Xena answered, "Don't know, it looks like something from the other side of Hades. I've never known there to be any kind of monster in this cave. Lets have a look at it." Gabrielle helped her to her feet and as the two looked in the direction of the creature a red light began to glow getting brighter and brighter. It surrounded the creature and in a flash it was gone. Xena had covered her eyes as she shouted, "Don't look at it Gabrielle."
As the sound died away the two opened their eyes and were amazed to see there was no creature.
The water was as it had been. If they had not witnessed it, it was as if the creature did not exist, there wasn't a trace. Gabrielle said, "This is getting scary Xena. Let's get you back to the camp fire.
Gabrielle reached down and picked up Xena's Shift as she wrapped it around the warrior. She
wrapped her right arm around Xena's waist and said, "Lean on me lets go." Xena let Gabrielle put
her arm around her waist, as she walked out of the room with the bard. Nearing the campfire
Gabrielle helped Xena sit down. She walked over to the saddle bag and removed a clean Shift and
tossed it to the woman saying, "Here, put this on."
Xena had laid down on the pallet, feeling as if all her strength was draining out of her. She felt
Gabrielle sit down on the ground by her before she heard the bards words, "I have some ointment,
Xena, I need to fix your legs." Xena started to sit up as Gabrielle said, "You were cut when you got
stuck under that thing."
"It'll be all right, you don't need to do that."
Gabrielle raised her finger and placed it on Xena's lip as she said, "Shh, don't argue." Xena watched
the woman as she carefully placed ointment, on the various cuts on her legs. The bard's fingers trying to be gentle, yet making sure the cuts were covered. When she had finished she got some cloth, tearing it, she wrapped it around the cuts.
Gabrielle walked over to the fire and added a few sticks as she said, "I need a drink of tea right now, actually a flask of port would hit the spot. By the God's, Xena, it's time you told me what is going on. The stress is getting to me."
Xena took Grabrielle's right hand in hers and said, "It's a long story and I can't believe it, so I don't
see how you will. I owe you this much. I will tell you what has happened."
She began to tell the bard of the past memories she was having. Gabrielle listened to each word and
when she finished she said, "We'll just have to go to Mount Olympus and see which God is doing this to you and fix it."
Xena laughed, "Mount Olympus? You want to go to the home of the Gods?"
"Yes, it's time this stopped. I have a life with you and Argo. We can not be split between two
different planes. Somehow this has to stop. First we get your legs well then we go." Xena was feeling drowsy as she smiled, "That's Gabrielle, never taking no for an answer. What ever you say, just let me rest a bit."
Gabrielle smiled down at the warrior and said, "The Gods don't know who they are dealing with. I
won't give you up with out a fight. "She turned, walking back over to the fire, as she poured a mug of tea. She sipped it, her eyes never leaving the sleeping woman.
Continued in Chapter 10
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