by Anita Louise

copyright 9/96

Chapter 10


Gabrielle had watched Xena drift off to sleep. She knew this ordeal was taking a big toll on the
warrior, at the same time it was also taking its toll on her. She could now understand why Xena was
not in a big hurry to go to Amphipolis and why she didn't want to stop at the campsite she had
picked. Now knowing, what Xena had told her to be the truth, she knew that the Gods had to have a hand in it. No mere mortal could cause something like this to have happened.

She softly said to herself, "Me? Like Callisto? Now that really is a nightmare." Picking up a blanket
she laid it over Xena hoping to keep her warm and since they had both been soaked she didn't want the woman to get sick. Xena was right though, what was she thinking? Gabrielle watched the woman off and on, when she finally realized Xena was going to be all right, she laid down and dozed off.

She was awakened by the warrior's loud rambling's. "No! Gabrielle, no, not after all we've been
through...No! All right, Callisto, I'll drink it. Dizzy... So dizzy..." Sitting up she got to her knees and
crawled over to where Xena lay. Reaching out her right hand, she brushed it across the woman's
moist forehead and whispered, "Xena, it's going to be ok. It's going to be ok."

Xena, opening her eyes, looked up into the bard's concerned face. "Gabrielle, what are you doing?"

Gabrielle replied, "You were having another of your nightmares."

Xena asked her what time it was and Gabrielle replied, "Don't know for sure, I think we have shot a day though." She sat down and asked, "Xena, do you feel like talking?" Xena replied, "Yeah."

The bard said, "You know, Xena, I've been thinking about that creature and the more I think about
it, it looks like something that might have come from the Furies."

Pondering her remark Xena said, "The Furies, why would they come after me?"

Gabrielle looked concerned as she said, "I don't know, unless it's for past retributions."

Xena smiled and said, "If it has something to do with past retributions, Gabrielle, then I think that they would have come after me a long time ago. We both know when I left that path. No, I have a feeling that someone else is up to this."

Gabrielle said, "I don't want you to be upset, because you brought us here. I do like this cave. I really don't think that the creature lived here. I think that it was sent. I also believe that no matter where we would have been it would have come calling. Someone has it in for you, and as we both know, you have a lot of enemies."

Xena replied, "Yeah, and so do you, that's what you get for traveling with me."

Gabrielle smiled as she said, "One thing for sure, it's never boring. If you think you're going to be all
right, I think that I will go lay down for a while. Maybe I can get a few nods on the Sandglass before we leave."

"I'm fine, go rest." She watched the woman crawl back over to her pallet and lay down. Within
seconds she was asleep. Shaking her head she said softly, "I've never known anyone who could drift off like you do. I believe if we were in the midst of a quake you would probably sleep through it." She could think of many times, the two had been sleeping, when robbers attacked their camp.
Although the fighting between the robbers, and herself, was sometimes violent, the bard slept right
through them.

Xena could not shut out all the questions that seemed to be running through her head. It was enough
to drive most mortals over the edge. She thought, could Gabrielle be right? Would she find the
answer at Mount Olympus? Xena knew it was a treacherous place to visit. The Gods did not like
their territory to be invaded by mere mortals. She worried about taking her friend with her. Sighing
she said, "If you don't, she will just follow you. This way you will at least know where she is." Xena
had discovered a long time ago that leaving Gabrielle out of her excursions only prompted the woman to follow her, and usually getting herself into some very dangerous situations.

Realizing her legs were itching, she reached down with her left hand to rub them. Noticing the
bandages that had been put there by the bard, Xena carefully unwrapped them. Making sure to roll
each up. She knew the bard would want to keep the cloth. She was surprised as she noticed there
were no cuts. Her legs were smooth, there was no evidence of any injuries. The woman's psyche had been shaken, and now she muttered, "What is going on? Who is doing this to me? I don't know how much more of this I can take..."

Xena would not go back to sleep. She stared at Gabrielle for a long time. Whenever she felt her head start to fall, she would quickly jerk it up and rub her eyes. She did not want to revisit the dreams she had been having. "Wake up sleepy head." The sound of the warrior's voice echoed in Gabrielle's ears, causing her to sit up and gaze around the room. Xena was busy putting their things on Argo's back. She turned and saw Gabrielle now getting to her feet. "Did you have a nice rest? That is, after I stopped having the nightmares."

Gabrielle replied, "Yes, it was nice. I never heard you anymore. Looks like you got away from the
bad dreams huh?"

Xena handed the bard a mug and said, "Here, it's not as good as yours, made you some tea. Are you hungry?"

Gabrielle took the mug in her hands as she sipped it. "It's good, no, I'm not hungry. Actually my
stomach feels a little queasy and this tea will hit the spot. Looks like you are almost ready to go."
Xena walked over to Gabrielle's pallet and began to roll it up. Then she took it over to Argo and
attached it to hers.

Gabrielle, looked down at her feet as she began to dig into the soft dirt with her toes she asked,
"Where are my boots?"

Looking sheepishly at the bard Xena replied, "They are on the other side of the saddle, I'm sorry. It
will take a few days for them to dry out. But if it will make you happy, you can wear mine."

Gabrielle laughed, "Wear yours, and who's going to catch me when I topple over. You have to admit one thing Xena, our feet are not the same size." Xena chose to ignore Gabrielle's remark as she walked over to her and sat down on the ground. "Well one thing is for certain, you are not going to be doing any walking. If we leave soon, we will arrive at Amphipolis before nightfall."

"My legs are still sore, but I don't really think I would walk too far barefoot. If Argo doesn't mind, I
don't." When Gabrielle, finished her tea she changed into her clothes and Xena gave her a hand up on Argo as she led the horse from the cave. Gabrielle glanced back at the large room and said, "Maybe we will come back one day and just rest. No monsters, just the warm water and..."

Xena looked up and asked, "What are you mumbling about?"

Gabrielle smiled and answered, "Nothing, just saying good-by to the cave."

Xena beamed as she shook her head and continued walking. Gabrielle said, "The air smells fresh, like there has been a good rain. I love this time of year." Xena thought to herself, the bard could find
wonder in all things and this always amazed the warrior. They had traveled most of the day, stopping at times so the horse could rest and so Gabrielle could climb down and try to walk again. Xena knew that Gabrielle would never let her forget that it was her fault she didn't have any boots and had to ride.

True to her word, they arrived at the fields outside of Amphipolis before nightfall. The women from
the village were just taking in their gardening tools and waved at the two of them as they passed.
Xena reached up and touched Gabrielle's left leg as she asked, "How's the legs? Won't be long and
we will be at mothers. You can stretch out and I'll search for a pair of boots for you."

Gabrielle smiled, "Can't be soon enough, I will never walk the same again." Xena stopped Argo in
front of her mothers tavern as she helped Gabrielle down. She tied Argo's reins to a post and said,
"Come on, lets get something to eat and drink." Gabrielle glad to be on solid ground again followed
her, limping. Walking through the door into the room, Xena spied her mother behind the counter as
she called, "Hey, got anything to feed a pair of starving travelers?"

"Xena, Xena you've come home." Her mother came running toward them. Reaching out her arms she embraced the woman. "You should have let us know when you would be here." She grabbed
Gabrielle embracing her as she continued, "And you have brought your little friend." Gabrielle thought that the woman's grip would suffocate her and was relieved when she let her go.

Xena said, "Were glad to see you too. Where is Torris?"

Her mother answered, "He has been checking the outer edge of the village preparing for the worst. A glow of happiness showed on the woman's face as she said, "We don't have to worry anymore, the warlord has changed his mind and will not be coming this way after all."

Xena, pulled out a chair and sat down as she motioned for Gabrielle to do the same. Her mother
said, "I will go get you two something to eat and drink. Then you can tell me what the two of you
have been up to. She scurried off and Gabrielle looked at Xena and said, "Xena, you know you and your mother are nothing alike."

"Yeah, what do you mean by that?"

"Have you hugged your Bard lately? Seriously, your mother is so full of vitality, she was almost
bursting with enthusiasm at seeing you. She is so free with her emotions. How could you have left
her?" The minute the words came out of Gabrielle's mouth she had wished she would have bitten her tongue.

Xena's face turned cold and her blue eyes frigid as she said, "It was something I felt I had to do at the time. Don't judge a person until you have walked in their shoes." She could see that the bard was having difficulty with what she had said and she continued, "Actually I did offer my shoes to you. You're right about one thing, I've never been a person to show my feelings. I think that is part of being a warlord. You do things and you don't allow yourself to feel, because if you do, you could
make a mistake and it could cost you your life, as well as your men's."

"Xena I'm sorry it was insensitive of me to say that. Maybe your not like your mother, you show me
your feelings in other ways. I didn't mean to upset you."

Xena replied, "It's all right, Gabrielle. If you don't tell me then who well? Most are afraid to even talk to me, much less like you do."

Gabrielle replied, "Well picking myself up several times after you have sent me flying across a room
has honed my reflexes." Xena's mother had returned and had set a lovely meal in front of them as she hurried back to bring over two goblets of port. She said, "I have a few things to take care of and I have sent for Torris. This will give you two a chance to eat something. If you need anything else, Xena you know where it is at." She turned and hurried away.

Xena looked at Gabrielle and said, "She must have seen us talking and felt she needed to let us be
alone. Your right Gabrielle, mother and I are definitely different. I would have just barged right into
your conversation. She raised the goblet and saluted the bard as she said, "To you, I wouldn't know
what to do if you weren't here to shape me up." Gabrielle, raised her goblet to Xena as she took a
big drink of the liquid. It was so good and she was so thirsty that before she knew it she had emptied the goblet.

Xena replied, "Take it easy, you know how that always goes to your head. Drink it slow and eat
your food. We haven't eaten since yesterday." Gabrielle had already began to eat the meal. Xena got up and went over to the bar and got two more goblets of port and returned. Setting one in front of Gabrielle she said, "Slow, you'll be no good to me if you have a hangover tomorrow."

Gabrielle reached for the goblet and as she took a drink she said, "I could drink you under the table if I wanted. Or is that over the table?" She thought about what she has said for a second, then
continued eating her meal. When she had finished she asked, "Do you suppose your mother has any
more of this?"

Xena replied, "I'll go check." Walking away she eyed Gabrielle tipping the goblet up and she knew
that the woman had emptied it again. Xena knew the bard would not be happy later but at the
moment she was feeling no pain. She returned from the kitchen area with another plate of food which she set in front of Gabrielle and said, "Here, mother was amazed when I told her it was for you. She can't imagine the little one, eating this much. She thinks it's for me. Gabrielle started to say something and Xena said, "Hold on, I'll go get it." She walked back over to the bar, getting another goblet she brought it back to Gabrielle.

Xena began to eat her meal. It now was cold but it still tasted good. She found herself comparing the meal to Gabrielle's cooking. Gabrielle had tackled her plate of food as if it was her last meal. Not leaving even a crumb. They had just finished the meal when Torris entered the room and seeing her he headed straight for them. "Xena, it's so good to see you" He turned to Gabrielle and said, "You too Gabrielle."

Squinting one eye, Gabrielle looked up at him and said, "Yeh good seeing you also, all seven of you."

Looking perplexed Xena grabbed him by the right arm and said, "Set down, she's just been
celebrating a little and oh how she is going to feel it in the morning. Tell me how have things been

He filled her in on his plans for the warlord had he attacked and also told her he was relieved to learn the man and his army had taken a different direction. Xena said, "Thank the God's for that at least." He asked her what she was talking about and Xena told him that she and Gabrielle were going to go to Mount Olympus. When she had finished he said, "No, Xena no one ever returns from there. You know that it is forbidden for a mortal to seek the Gods in their home."

"I know, but I have to. There is no other way." She filled him in on everything. When she had finished he looked at her in disbelief and said, "I think that maybe you've had a little to much port also, sister." Xena, shook her head, how could she expect him to believe her, after all she was having a hard time with it. Gabrielle, who had been silent said, "Tor, old buddy, the God's are nota challenge for us. We live and breathe danger. Right Xena?" Her words now becoming slurred as she spoke.

"Right, Gabrielle." Xena could now see that her friend was way past sober as she said, Let's get you to bed."

Gabrielle replied, "Not tired. I'll keep Tor old buddy company."

"Oh no you don't, it's been a long day and a little rest will be good, come on." Torris looked at the
two and Xena said, "You can bet she will regret this tomorrow. Tell mother I will see her in the
morning. I have a feeling I will be up late tonight with Gabrielle."

Torris smiled at his sister as she helped Gabrielle to her feet and asked, "Where's her boots?"

Xena replied "Another long story. Remind me tomorrow, where can I purchase her a pair of new
ones? Good night brother." With one arm around Gabrielle's waist she helped the woman from the
room. Gabrielle had yelled back at Torris, "Sle...ep tigh...t...don... Do not leeeet t.h. e.m l..itt.. le...
cra... wl.. y th... i ng.. s b.. i.. t e."

Xena shrugged her shoulders, she had no idea what Gabrielle was talking about. Entering the room,
Xena sat Gabrielle down on the bed and she turned to close the door. By the time she turned around Gabrielle had gotten to her feet and was standing by the window. "Look, Xena. It's dark, lets take a walk. Where are my boots? Tor is sure cute."

Xena walked over to her and said, "Gabrielle, it's late, don't you think that you should try to rest?"

"Can't got to many things to do." The woman staggered and fell backwards.

Xena reached out catching her as she said, "Your not going to do much walking like that."

Gabrielle had shaken Xena's hands off and said, "Can walk just fine, look." Xena shook her head as she watched the bard try to walk a straight line as she weaved all over the room. Gabrielle
whimpered, "Don't feeeel so goood." Xena reached out catching the woman as she fell backwards
passing out. She carried her over to the bed and laid her down. Walking over to the saddle bag she
retrieved a clean Shift.

Gabrielle began to mumble and try as she could it did not make any sense to her. Xena reached
down and released the ties that held Gabrielle's top together as she gently slid it off the young
woman's body. She turned Gabrielle onto her right side and reached behind her, loosening the ties
that held the skirt together and pulled it off. When she reached for the Shift Gabrielle's eyes flew
open as she glanced down at her body she said, "Xena, some one has stolen my clothes! You must
find them. I have no shoes and now I have no clothes." She started crying, if there was one thing
Xena hated it was crying. The last time Gabrielle had cried like that was when she had eaten the
laced nutbread.

Xena held the Shift and tried to get Gabrielle to hold still so she could slip it over her head.
"Gabrielle, no one stole your clothes, I took them off. Now help me, put this on." Gabrielle raised her hands as Xena slid the Shift onto the woman. She had just finished when Gabrielle fell to one side of the bed hanging her head over the side she said, "I think I'm going to be sick." Xena grabbed a pan as she dove to that side of the bed. Barely arriving before the bard threw up. She had felt fine until then. The smell was bad enough but watching Gabrielle going through the heaves was making her own stomach queasy. Gabrielle reached out grabbing her right hand as she said, "Xena, I'm dying."

Xena patted her hand and said, "No, no you just drank to much and your body can't take it Lay
back. I'll get you a cool rag." Xena walked over to a pitcher and poured out some water as she
grabbed a cloth and soaked it in the liquid. She softly said, "Bet you listen to me the next time." Xena tried to be upset at the bard but when she gazed down at Gabrielle's very pale face all she could feel was sympathy for her. She placed the cool cloth on Gabrielle's forehead.

Gabrielle looked up at Xena as she said, "By the God's, you are beautiful!"

"Uh Huh and you are drunk. Try to rest." Xena was up with Gabrielle most of the night. At one time
she heard a knock on the door and when she opened it her mother was standing in the doorway as
the woman said, "Poor Gabrielle, Xena why don't you go out and take a walk. I'll stay with her, the
night air will do you good." Xena didn't want to leave the bard but her mother was right, what she
needed was some fresh air. As Gabrielle drifted off to sleep Xena turned and left the room.

Walking outside she drew in several deep breaths of fresh air, the smell of freshly cut grass hung
heavy in the air. It was a welcome smell compared to the odor she had just left. She felt for the bard, there was a time in Xena's life when she would not have felt anything for anyone. If they got
themselves into this type of situation then she felt they could get themselves out the same way. She
heard the laughing first and turning she could see the figure of a man. It was Ares, looking very smug as he said, "Good evening, Xena."

"Ares, what are you doing here?"

He walked closer and said, "Why, I've come for you."

"Then you will have a long wait. I'm not going anywhere with you. I have told you, I gave up that life. I will not go back to it."

He sneered as he said, "Have you forgotten your words? The ones you said when you were in
Callisto's Dungeon? 'By the Gods, I would do anything to go back.' Xena flinched at the man's
words. He was right, she had said them. At a time that was so dark, all she wanted was to go back.
"It was a bad time, you can't begrudge my wanting out of that spot."

"No, I'm glad you made the request. You know most of the Gods just wanted to watch you try and
get out of your situation. Not me, I saw my opportunity and I took it. I have been watching you, it
seems to me that you have been delighted to be back with your friend."

Xena's blue eyes flashed at him as she said, "It was you, the creature? I should have known. Well
you can forget it Ares. I'm taking the words back."

He shook his head and said, "Sorry, you can't do that. Your wish has been granted and now you
must pay the price, think of it Xena you and me. The earth will shake at our feet."

"No, there has to be some other way."

He laughed as he said, "Enjoy the few days you have left. Say good-by to your family and your little
friend. There won't be any time for them when we join forces. You have three moons Xena. Then I
will come for you and you will have no choice but to follow." There was a flash of light and he was
gone. Xena stood in silence as she said, "I'm not beaten yet Ares, who knows what will happen in
three moons.


Chapter Eleven


Xena stared at the spot after Ares disappeared. She walked over to it and said, "There has to be
another way. The Gods always give you another way. We will have to search for it. "She turned and went back into the Tavern. She walked over to the bar poured herself a goblet of port downed it and turned and walked back into her room.

Entering the room she spied her mother sound asleep sitting in a chair. She walked over to her and
tapped her on the shoulder as she said, "Mother, I'm back. I'll take it from here. Thank you."

Her mother stood up and said, "First thing in the morning I will make my special potion. Make sure
Gabrielle drinks it. I have cleaned her up and cleaned the room. See you in the morning." She kissed Xena on the right cheek as she left.

Xena thought, Gabrielle was right, her mother was very affectionate. It would take Xena a long time
to get used to that. She noticed her mother had opened the window and the grass smell from outside was now infiltrating the room. She couldn't smell any bad odor in the room.

Xena reached into the saddle bag and brought out her Shift and began to remove her armor, then the leather outfit. She pulled on the Shift and sat down on the bed as she undid the laces of her boots and pulled them off. She really missed Gabrielle's gentle hands. The bard had made it her job to remove the warrior's outfit, always taking great care in how each piece was placed. All Xena wanted to do was get out of them.

She quietly laid back onto the bed, she did not want to wake Gabrielle who was now sleeping on her left side. Xena reached over and blew the burning candle out and let her head fall gently into the
softness of her mother's home made pillow. She turned her head toward the window and although it
was dark outside she still could see the stars. Xena finally dropped off to sleep and this time it was a sweet sleep. A smile crossed the warrior's lips.

A crowing Rooster awakened the warrior and as she opened her eyes, she could see the rays of the sun filtering into the room. Starting to move, she realized she couldn't. It was then she realized that Gabrielle had found her way to Xena's side of the bed and was fast asleep. The bards left leg now lay across Xena's legs, her left arm draped across the woman's body and Gabrielle's head nestled nicely onto Xena's left shoulder.

The woman looked so peaceful, Xena hated to move her. She stared at Gabrielle for a few minutes
then she carefully picked up the bard's arm and moved it as she slid out from under Gabrielle's head. Xena carefully got out of bed. She walked over to her clothes and changed. Glancing back at
Gabrielle who had now moved to the other side of the bed. The woman seemed to be eating in her
sleep. Xena shook her head and left. She entered the main room and could see her mother talking
with Torris. She walked over to them and said, "I hope you two were able to get some sleep last

Torris smiled up at his sister as he said, "Slept fine. How's Gabrielle feeling this morning?"

"Don't know, she's still asleep. She should be tired, after all she kept most of us awake last night."

Xena's mother poured her a mug of tea and said, "It's probably not as good as Gabrielle's, but it will warm you. Are you hungry?"

Xena answered, "I may never eat again. I saw more food last night than I ever wanted too." Taking
the tea she took a drink. "Thanks mother for last night. Tea is good."

Her mother shrugged her shoulders and replied, "I'm used to that, it wasn't anything. Glad I could
help. Daughter?"

Xena said, "Yeah."

Her mother said, "Lets not speak of it. I don't want to cause Gabrielle any embarrassment."

Xena nodded as she said, "Depending on how Gabrielle is feeling today, we need to leave."

Torris said, "You're still going to go to Mount Olympus?" Xena gave him a scowling look as her
mother said, "Mount Olympus? Xena no, you can't go there. I worry about you, not as much since
Gabrielle has chosen to follow you but I still worry, but going to face the Gods. I won't have it. No!"

Xena said, "It will be all right mother, Nothing will happen, I promise. There is something Gabrielle
and I have to do that's all."

Torris shrugged his shoulders as he mouthed the words, "Sorry." Xena looked up into her mother's
kindly face as she said, "I know you worry, try not to. I wouldn't take Gabrielle if I thought there
would be danger." Her mother had poured something into a mug and as she walked over to Xena
and handed it to her she said, "We all know better. If you didn't take her with you, she would just
find a way to follow. Here, take this and make sure she drinks it. I have a feeling she will not be
feeling very well this morning, this will help."

As she took the mug, she was hit with the foul smell of the liquid as she said, "You expect Gabrielle
to drink this?"

Her mother said, "Well you seem to have many skills, see that she does."

Torris smiled and said, "Well I am going to go see to the horses." He patted his sister on the left
shoulder and said, "Good luck."

Xena replied, "Yeah thanks." She turned and headed back to the room.

Closing the door behind her she could see that Gabrielle was still sleeping. She was sprawled across the bed. Her left hand was touching her face and Gabrielle now had a beautiful smile crossing her lips. Xena set the mug down as she reached her left hand down to the woman's face and lightly patted it. "Gabrielle, wake up It's time, we have to get moving."

There was a groan followed by the words, "Tired, go away." Xena sat down on the bed as she gently shook the woman's shoulders, "Oh no you don't. Come on wake up." Gabrielle slowly opened her eyes as both hands shot to her head, holding it as if it was going to break. She stared at Xena, her eyes now bloodshot as she said, "Xena, you've come back." The warrior looked puzzled, she could only guess that Gabrielle was talking about a dream she had.

"Lets get you to sit up, I have something for you to drink. Mother said it would help you feel better." Gabrielle let the woman help her into a sitting position as she cried out, "My head! Don't feel so good."

Xena smiled and said, "I warned you but you wouldn't listen. Come on drink this." As she neared
Gabrielle with the foul smelling mixture the bards hands flew out hitting the mug. Xena was glad she
had a good hold on it, as it was she lost some of the liquid but the mug still retained most of it.

Gabrielle reached out grabbing Xena's left shoulder as she moaned, "Xena, I'm so sick. Kill me, don't make me suffer through this."

The warrior said, "You'll feel better, now here drink this." Gabrielle turned her head away as Xena
said, "All right, mother. This is for you." Holding the mug in her right hand she slipped her left arm
behind Gabrielle's neck, drawing the woman close to her own body. Before Gabrielle knew what she was doing the left hand of the warrior came around grabbing the bard by the nose as Gabrielle
opened her mouth to breath Xena poured the liquid down her throat.

Releasing her hold Xena stepped back as Gabrielle coughed and cursed her. She never realized the
Bard had such an extensive vocabulary. Xena thought she even heard a few words she didn't know.
Gabrielle stared at Xena, her usually calm blue green eyes now full of fire. She ran the back of her
right hand across her mouth trying to wipe off the remains of the liquid. "How could you?"

Xena answered, "It was worth it if it makes you feel any better but it was hard for me to do. It was
mother's idea. She said the drink would help you. She's had many years experience and I feel she
knows what she is talking about. As soon as you feel you are up to it, get dressed. We have a long
way to go today and not that much time is left." Gabrielle stared after her as she left the room, "Not
much time, what was she talking about?" Holding her head with her left hand she crawled out of the

Her mother smiled at the woman as she made it back over to the counter she was standing behind.
"Is Gabrielle all right?"

Xena set the mug down and said, "She will be fine. I'm going out and check on Argo." Xena's mother watched her leave the room as she thought, Lycius would have been proud of you. Thank the Gods you have changed your ways."

Entering the barn, Xena looked for her brother. She spied Torris pitching hay into a stall. "How is it
going?" He looked up to see his sister walking toward him. He set the pitchfork down and said, "Just finished. You picked a great time to come help."

Laughing Xena said, "Who said I was coming out to help. I just wanted to see how hard you were

He said, "Well, I saved the best job for you, the pigs still need to be slopped."

"You're kidding, right?" She had walked over to the wall and picked up the pitchfork and stared at it.

He said, "You know there are many chores, won't hurt to get right in. After all you're going to go see the Gods, slopping the pigs would be a small chore."

Torris suddenly found himself covered with hay as he tried to brush it away he looked into the
mischievous face of his sister. Xena stood holding the pitchfork as she said, "Opps, it slipped."

He said, "Xeenna, you'll be sorry." Xena dropped the pitchfork and stepped back as Torris dashed
for her. She side stepped his advance and said, "You'll have to catch me first." Torris laughed as he
turned and ran for her again. "Never fear, Torris is here. I'll get you." As he neared her the woman
leaped into the air and somersaulted over his head, landing behind him she called, "Back here, you're going the wrong way."

He turned and said, "That's not fair. Stay in one place."

Xena laughed as she said, "What's the matter brother? Too quick for you?" As she saw him dive
toward her she jumped up on the corral fence and stood balancing as he fell face first into the dirt. He got to his feet, wiping his face off with his right hand he said, "Come back down here, play fair." She called down, "Come and get me."

He climbed up the fence and reaching the top he held out his arms trying to balance as he started
toward her. Torris had come within inches of Xena as he reached out to grab her she eluded him
again and she jumped down, his arms grabbing air. He found himself falling as he yelled, "No, mother will kill me." He landed face first this time into the mud and as he looked up he was staring into the eyes of several pigs who seemed to be getting amusement at the antics of these humans. As Torris got to his feet he was slinging mud from his hands as he said, "This is definitely not funny Xena." His sister was bent over laughing so hard that tears were now forming in her eyes. He climbed out slowly and eased his way toward the laughing woman. As he neared he made a mad dash and caught Xena unprepared and the tackle sent the two of them into a pile of hay.

Xena felt the crash of the body as it struck and she fell backwards. She looked up into the grinning
face of her brother as he lay on top of her. He reached up with his right hand and rubbed the wet
mud all over her face as Xena squirmed to get away as she said, "Torris, don't yuck!"

He continued as he said, "How does it feel sister? I told you I'd get you." Xena rolled over but Torris wouldn't let go and the two of them rolled all over the floor. Xena said, "Let go."

He replied, "Oh no not until your as dirty as I am." The two finally collapsed in a heap laughing. They laid staring up at the roof of the barn as Xena said, "You win, I'll slop the pigs. Sure can't hurt me now."

When Xena and Torris entered the Tavern they could see Gabrielle was sitting at the counter talking
with their mother. The two woman turned to see them walking in as their mother said, "Oh my, what
have you two been up to? Xena and Torris approached, their arms wrapped around one another's
waist as they said, "Sloping the pigs?" The two stood laughing and their mother said, "Well, you both are a sight. I will go and get a tub of warm water prepared and you follow me Xena."

Xena looked down at Gabrielle and asked, "How are you feeling?" Gabrielle reached up a finger and pressed it to the warrior's nose as she said, "Never felt better. Leave your clothes outside the door and I will clean them up for you." Xena smiled back at her brother as she followed her mother and left the room. Her mother said to her, "It's good to see you and Torris laughing. I have missed that." Xena handed her the clothes she had taken off and said, "Would you give these to Gabrielle. Thank you mother."

Xena had soaked for sometime and had laid back in the tub pondering the day ahead of them. She
heard the door open as Gabrielle walked into the room and said, "Brought your clothes back. I heard Torris talking with your mother and it sounds like the two of you had a good time."

Xena smiled and said, "Yeah, it was fun. We haven't done anything like that since I left home the first time. We were always getting into trouble. It was a game, we always wanted to see who would
come out on top."

Gabrielle smiled and asked, "Who did today?"

Xena said, "It sorta was a draw that is until Torris tackled me." Gabrielle threw up her left hand and
said, "He told me. I would have loved to have been there. Xena I have saddled Argo and we are
ready to go when you get out." Xena asked, "Are you sure you feel like making the trip?"

Gabrielle said, "I'm sorry about the port, it won't happen again. I feel fine, what ever was in your
mothers terrible smelling brew worked."

Xena had glanced down at Gabrielle's feet and noticed she was wearing a new pair of boots and she asked, "Where did you get those?"

Gabrielle answered, "Torris, he said you wanted to get me a pair, so he did guess he thought you
might be to busy." She held up a towel and said, "Here, I'll dry you off." Xena stepped out of the tub as the bard wrapped the towel around her and began to wipe the water away. When she finished she sniffed Xena's hair and said, "Smells better."

Xena said, "After last night, I don't think I would say anything about the way I smelled."

Gabrielle replied, "Touche!" As she turned and walked out of the room. Walking into the bar area
Xena headed over to her mother and said, "I want to thank you mother. You have been so
wonderful, it has been nice. Where is Torris?" Her mother reached out and took her left hand in hers and said, "He has left, he said to tell you good-by. He is hurt that you are leaving and that you are going to Mount Olympus. Don't be upset at him Xena he couldn't say good-by." Xena bend down and kissed the woman on the forehead and said, "Tell him I will be back and that I owe him one."

Gabrielle stood in the doorway waiting for the warrior to leave and she smiled up at Xena as she
approached. The three of them walked out into the warm sunlit day as her mother reached out and
gave Gabrielle a hug she said, "Try to watch over her the best you can and at the same time take care of yourself and Argo." Xena swung herself onto Argo's back as she leaned over reaching out her left hand and said, "Come on up, you can ride with me. We have a lot of ground to cover this morning."

They had been ridding fast and hard as Xena reined Argo to a stop and turned the horse down a
small incline toward a small stream that lay in front of them. She reached back and helped Gabrielle
down and then hopped off the horse. Leading Argo to the stream she let the horse drink. Gabrielle
reached up and took the water skin off the saddle and offered it to Xena. "No, you drink I'll get
some in a little bit. We will rest a short time here."

Gabrielle had walked over and sat down on a dead tree stump and asked, "Xena why are we moving as if Hades was after us. We have time to get to Mount Olympus even if it takes weeks." Xena released Argo's reins and let the horse graze the grass as she walked over to Gabrielle and sat down. "No, we don't or I should say I don't." From the quizzical look she was sending she could see that her statement had puzzled the bard.

Xena filled her in on Ares visit to her then Gabrielle said, "And I certainly wasn't any help I'm so
sorry Xena."

Xena frowned as she said, "You haven't anything to be sorry about. I think your drunken state last
night was influenced by a particular God who just wanted to get you out of the way. Besides you
certainly kept me on my toes and it didn't give me a lot of time to think about my problems and that
was good."

After they had rested a sufficient time the two were back on Argo and traveling the road to Thessaly Xena said, "I hope it won't be too much of a strain having to pass through here."

Gabrielle replied, "I have a lot of bad memories from Thessaly Xena but I also have a beautiful one.
Opening my eyes and seeing you. I will be fine."

Xena reined Argo up to a Tavern raised her right leg over the saddle horn and leaped down to the
ground. She handed the reins to Gabrielle and said, "Wait, I will be right back." Entering the tavern
she walked over to the bar and said, "How much for a flask of port?"

The man standing behind the bar said, "Five Dinars. Say your Xena aren't you?"

She laid the money on the bar and said, "Yeah, got a problem with that?"

He shook his head and said, "No, where you headed?" She reached across the bar and grabbed him by his shirt as she pulled him against the bar and said, "If your thinking about writing a scroll, leave that part out." She released her hold grasped the flask turned and walked out.

Walking outside she could hear the loud voices of men and then she heard Gabrielle's voice, "Stay
away from me. My friend is Xena Warrior Princess and you'll be sorry if you don't leave now."

She heard a man's voice utter, "Xena Warrior Princess, so afraid. Come on boys this ones just right
let's take her." Xena had followed the voices and as she rounded a corner she could see that
Gabrielle was surrounded by five very burly men all banishing swords. The woman was holding her
staff as she eyed them. A deep voice came from behind the men as they heard the words. "Got a
problem with Xena Boys?" Two turned to face the sound as one said, "Xena, well we finally get to
meet. He yelled take her!"

He dashed toward Xena his sword in readiness. He never even saw the high jump and completely
missed the magnificent leg that swung around knocking him unconscious. It happened in a second.
She stood staring at Gabrielle with that devious smile across her face as she raised both fists up into
the air knocking the two men, who had approached her from behind, flying to the ground. Gabrielle
smiled at her as she set her staff into the ground and used it to catapault over the top of the men's
heads and landed by Xena.

She said, "Glad you could make it, I was beginning to think I was going to have to handle this

Xena smiled as she said, "Can't leave you alone one minute and you get the boys chasing after you."

Gabrielle yelled, "Oh, oh Xena here they come again!" Xena reached back and pulled her sword
from it's sheath and stopped one of the men's swords from coming down on Gabrielle. Gabrielle
watched the two swords clashing into one another and knew it wouldn't be long before Xena would
win out.

Gabrielle saw the man grit his teeth as he ran for her and said, "Your friend seems to be distracted.
Now it's my turn. Give in to me, we can save a lot of energy."

Gabrielle replied, "Not on your life, not on my life." She swung the staff in a circle falling to her knees she hit the man across his ankles sending him face down in the dirt. He started to get up and she swung the staff over her head sending it straight down onto the back of the man's head as he fell.

She looked over and could see that Xena had beaten most of the men and the others were running
away. Xena walked over to her and said, "Let's go, before those others return with a few more of
their friends."

Gabrielle put her right arm around Xena's waist and said, "Thanks."

Xena smiled and said, "You're welcome, I have no doubt that you would have taken them Gabrielle." As they walked past the man Gabrielle had laid out she said, "Good job, bet he thinks twice about accosting a woman again."

She helped Gabrielle onto Argo walked over and picked up the flask that she had recently
purchased. She held it up and could see the contents had ran out. Gabrielle said, "Give it to me I'll go get you another one."

Xena said, "No, the man is to nosy. We will just have to make do with what we have. I knew mother wouldn't sell me any." She climbed up onto the saddle and turned Argo toward the large ominous mountain that loomed in the distance in front of them.

Gabrielle hung tightly to Xena's waist as she whispered into her ear, "I didn't know what you were
going into the Tavern for, if you had told me it would have saved a lot of time."

Xena asked, "Why?"

She said, "Because Torris already gave me a flask before we left. I put it in the saddle bag along with the provisions your mother sent."

Xena smiled, "That's my brother for you, I promise next time I will tell you." They had started through thick foliage and Xena had taken her sword out as she tried to cut a path through it. Gabrielle said, "looks like we are getting closer." Xena stopped Argo as she reached back and helped Gabrielle down. She slid off the horse and said, "I think we had better walk for a while. This brush is getting thicker and I need both hands to try to chop through."

Gabrielle took Argo's reins and said, "We'll be right behind you. Sure wouldn't want to get lost in
here. You'd have to be a giant to see where you were going." Xena glanced up and could see the sun was almost obliterated by the thickness of the trees. Gabrielle watched the woman hacking away at the foliage and she marveled at the strength that she had. Xena had begun to perspire and as the moistness ran along her arms Gabrielle could see the woman's muscles ripple with every movement. She knew from the first time she set eyes on Xena that the woman was special. Xena called back, "Look, a clearing and a house. Looks like we made it out of that jungle. Lets go see who lives here."

Gabrielle walked faster as she led Argo toward Xena. The two approached the house and Gabrielle tied Argo's reins to a tree limb. She walked over to Xena who still held her sword in readiness. The house was old, made of wood, it had a flat roof and Xena could see there was sod on it. She walked up to the door and knocked as she called out, "Anyone home? Hello." There was no answer and she grasped the door handle and opening the door she called again, "Anyone here?"

Gabrielle followed her as she walked into the dimly lit room. They could see that someone lived there for the house was furnished. There was a friendly fire crackling in the fire place. A large black pot hung over the flames. Xena walked over and said, "Check it out Gabrielle. I'll check the other room." As she walked away Gabrielle grabbed a cloth and reached up to check the inside of the pot.

"It's stew, want some?"

Gabrielle gasped at the voice as she turned to see a lovely woman standing in the door way. "You
startled me. Who are you?"

The woman walked into the room as she replied, "No, who are you and what are you doing in my
house?" Gabrielle set the cloth down and as she stepped back she said, "I am here with my friend,
we mean you no harm."

Upon hearing the voices Xena stepped out of the room with her sword still in her hand. The woman
looked up as she saw the warrior walk into the room. The woman raised her hand and as she
pointed it at Xena it shot a streak of bright light that struck the warrior with such force that it send
Xena reeling back against the wall. The warrior collapsed.


Chapter Twelve


Gabrielle didn't know what was occurring it happened so fast. When she saw the light strike Xena
she screamed, "No! Xena!" The bard ran to her. Dropping to her knees she gathered the Warrior
into her arms. She held her close as she said, "Xena, wake up, please wake up!" The woman didn't
move and Gabrielle looked up at the stranger who was now walking toward her and asked, "Why?
She meant you no harm. Help her please!"

The woman said, "She came out of my room, a sword in her hand and I wasn't supposed to think she meant to do me harm?"

"No, Xena wouldn't have hurt you."

The woman asked, "Xena? Is this the Warrior Princess from Amphipolis?" Gabrielle was trying
everything she knew to rouse the woman as she said, "Yes, I suppose you have a problem with

She smiled and answered, "Actually no, I knew she would be coming. It will be good to meet her."

Gabrielle said, "Then help her. What did you hit her with?"

The woman answered, "It was just a warning. It wouldn't kill her but she will be unconscious for a
while. Let me help you, we can take her into my room and let her rest on my bed." She reached
down to help Gabrielle lift Xena and carry the woman's body into the bedroom. After they had made sure Xena was resting comfortably the woman turned to Gabrielle and asked, "Are you sure I have nothing to fear from her?"

Gabrielle said, "Well before you hit her with your warning no but, I don't think that Xena will be very happy when she wakes up."

The woman said, "Then I will make sure she does nothing until I talk to her." She walked over to a
cabinet and took out a strand of golden rope. Gabrielle asked, "What are you going to do with that?"

Walking back into her bedroom she replied, "Make sure Xena doesn't do anything she might regret
when she comes out of it." Gabrielle followed her as she watched the woman wrap the rope around
Xena's hands and feet securing her to the bed. When she had finished she said, "How about a warm
cup of tea?" Gabrielle stared back at Xena as she turned and followed the woman.

Gabrielle gazed at the woman as she walked over to the hearth and picked up a metal pot. She was
of average height and adorned in a flowing see-through blue gown her svelte body moving gracefully. Her golden locks bouncing upon her shoulders. As she Neared Gabrielle to hand her a mug of tea she could see the woman had the deepest violet eyes she had ever beheld. "Here, I promise it's just tea." As Gabrielle took the mug she noticed the woman's flawless skin. The melodious voice that came forth, from her shapely lips, made the bard feel at ease.

Gabrielle smiled at her and said, "Thanks." she took a sip and said, "Good. If I'm not to nosy could I ask who you are?"

As she pulled out a chair she motioned for Gabrielle to sit down. She smiled at Gabrielle and said, "I don't know how much you know about Mount Olympus and the Gods."

Gabrielle interrupted her as she said, "Just a little, are you telling me you're a God?"

She said, "My name is Season."

"Are you one of the Goddesses that are protecting the gateway to the Home of the Gods?"

She said, "Yes, you and your friend have made it to the first gateway. It will be up to me whether or
not I permit you to continue on from here."

Xena opened her eyes as she cursed, "Who was that and what just hit me?" She started to move but found she couldn't and realized she was tied She tried using all her strength but she could not break the strand of rope that was holding her. Whatever was in that lightening bolt that struck her must have zapped her strength. It was a small strand and should have been easily snapped. The thought suddenly struck her, if she was tied up what had happened to Gabrielle. She let out a piercing cry, "Gabrielle!"

Hearing the warrior's cry Gabrielle set her mug down and said, "Xena, I have to go to her." Season
reached out her left hand and grabbed the bard as she said, "No, Gabrielle it's time Xena and I met.
You stay here." Gabrielle felt as if her body had been hit with a soothing aura as she said, "I'll just
finish the tea."

Xena looked at the doorway as she heard someone grasp the handle. She was not prepared to see
the curvaceous woman that entered. "Who are you? And where is Gabrielle? If you have hurt her..." The woman walked over to the bed as she pulled up a chair and sat down she said, "Gabrielle is fine. She is having a mug of tea at the moment."

Xena said, "What have you done to me? I thought I had strong fingers."

She smiled and said, "My name is Season, and I just hit you with a warning. I saw the sword and I
reacted. I thought I had better incapacitate you until we get a few things settled. I promised your
friend I would not hurt you and I didn't want you trying something you and she would regret."

Xena said, "If you mean us no harm then I mean you none and you can take these strands off me. I
never realized I was so weak but I couldn't break them."

Season said, "They are spun for the Gods. You couldn't break them." She reached over and untied
the ropes as Xena pulled her wrists loose she said, "For the Gods huh? I could use something like
that. Where can I get one?"

"I'm sorry but these are just for the Gods. No mortal can own them. Now tell me what are you and
your friend doing here?"

Xena set up on the bed as she threw her legs over the side she said, "We have come on a mission
and I have to see Zeus or Hera."

"You should know Xena that there is no passage to the home of the Gods by a mortal. You and your friend must turn around and go back or face the consequences."

Xena said, "If you truly are who you say then you know why I am here and you also know I can't go back. I have no choice."

The woman reached out her right hand out and grasped Xena's as she said, "We all know why you
are here. Zeus has banished Ares to Tartarus for his interference but he can't keep him there and he
will be back. Xena, he will come after you." Xena gazed into the violet eyes that stared at her and she felt at peace with herself. She had never felt so calm and as she pulled her hand away she realized it was the woman's touch. "Draco said I had three moons and then he was coming after me and I had to go. I will not take that path again. That is why I am here surely there is someone I can appeal to."

She replied, "This may be of benefit to you, while you are here your time will be as if it is standing
still. The three moons will not occur but the minute you step back into the world of the mortal it will. I cannot stop you from continuing but the other Seasons might. Do you have any idea what you are in for and taking that young woman on such a dangerous trip..."

Xena got to her feet and said, "You know how important Gabrielle is to me and I would not do
anything to harm her. If she agrees I will leave her here with you if that would be all right."

"Gabrielle is welcome to stay as is your horse. I will let you go out and visit with her. I am going to
rest. If you are here when I wake up we will talk more, if you have left, then the Faiths be with you."

Walking into the outer room Xena could see Gabrielle pacing in front of the hearth and at the same
time her friend saw her and came running. She threw her arms around the woman hugging her as she said, "Xena! Thank the Gods you are all right."

Xena embraced her and said, "You had doubts? Your new friend carries quite a wallop." She could
sense Gabrielle was looking for the woman and she said, "Season is going to rest. I believe she really is just giving us some time to talk."

Gabrielle led her over to the table as she pulled out a chair she said, "Set. I'll get you some tea it's
quite good." Gabrielle handed the woman a mug of sweet smelling liquid as Xena sniffed it she asked, "Are you sure this is all right?"

Gabrielle sat down and said, "I've been drinking it and I'm fine. You know Xena I have never felt so
at peace with myself as I do here. It seems that this house has a serene quality to it."

Xena answered, "Yeah, and if we're not careful I think it can grow on you. I think that is one of the
Gods ways to stop a person from continuing on. You find peace and suddenly can't remember why
you are here..."

Gabrielle interrupted, "Then you would give up. We can't let that happen."

"You let her tie me up. What if she wasn't what she said. And did you see where she got that strand
of rope?"

Gabrielle answered, "After I saw what she did to you I didn't want to be hit with that thing besides
she said she was doing it because she didn't want you coming awake and doing something you might regret. Like trying to tear her limb from limb." The woman pointed toward a small cabinet and said, "She got it there."

Xena grinned, "Probably a smart move, we both know that I tend to get a little upset about certain
things. I believe she was right about one thing though, it will be dangerous and I can't risk your life.
She has promised you and Argo can stay with her until I return." Xena could already see the fire
returning to her friends eyes as the bard began to fume, "There you go again, treating me like a child! No, I will not stay behind and if you don't let me go with you I'll just follow you. We both know that will slow you down a lot more."

Xena sighed as she said, "All right, it was just a suggestion. Gabrielle get our things together, we will
leave at first light. Argo will be staying behind we have to travel the rest of the way on foot."

When Gabrielle opened her eyes the next morning she did not see Xena. She got to her feet and
looked around the room and gazed at the corner where their belongings had been and they were now gone and she said, "Xena, you didn't." She ran to the door opened it and dashed outside. "Xena!" A hand reached out covering her mouth and a voice said, "Shhh want to wake up every God around. I was just biding Argo good-by. She seemed to understand but she's a lot like you and does not want to be left behind. Too bad horses can't fly. Lets go." She reached down and picked up their belongings as she handed Gabrielle the leather bag she normally carried. Xena had put some of the things in a large leather backpack. Gabrielle could see she now carried her sword on her right side.

Gabrielle drew in a deep breath of the cool mountain air and said, "It's kind of refreshing don't you

Xena replied, "It's a little too cool for my tastes. Come on we've got a long climb."

The woman watched the two friends through the window of the cabin. They seemed to be deep in
conversation. She smiled as the two started walking toward the mountain and whispered, "I wish you well. I have sent word of your arrival. I know you to be a strong one Xena, but, your strength and courage will be tested as will your friends. Battle on."

They had been walking for some time as Gabrielle called out, "I need to take a rest. Can't we stop?"

Xena turned and walked back to her friend and said, "Sure, lets stop here." She removed her arms
from the leather straps and took the backpack off setting it on the ground." Gabrielle sat down and
said, "I thought I was in good shape but my legs are beginning to ache."

Xena joined her friend as she sat down and said, "We have been walking upward for some time.
Although you are used to walking Gabrielle this is different and it is causing you to use muscles you
probably don't use as much. It will not get any easier." Gabrielle had been drinking from the water
skin as she handed it to Xena, "Here, waters good." She accepted the water skin and took a drink.
Reaching into the backpack she withdrew some dried meat as she handed some to Gabrielle and
said, "Eat, have to keep up your strength."

Gabrielle had been surveying their surroundings as she said, "You know, it's really beautiful. The
fields of green grass and tall pine trees. Mostly its the flowers." She had picked a beautiful yellow
flower as she held it to her nose and sniffed she said, "Aren't they lovely?"

"Xena scowled as she said, "Yeah, lovely. If you are rested up we need to keep going." Gabrielle got to her feet as she handed Xena the flower and said, "You know Xena you just don't take the time to smell the flowers."

Xena held the flower as she took a whiff and said, "Whats so special about smelling the flowers?"

Gabrielle shook her head and said, I mean you never take the time to enjoy the simple things in life.
Close your eyes and inhale the beauty of the flower as well as the essence. Life is like that Xena,
there is so much beauty and you miss so much because you never take the time."

Xena held up her right hand and said, "Enough! I promise if we get out of this I'll take the time to
smell the flowers. Lets go."

Gabrielle shrug her shoulders as she muttered, "Well its a start. Hey hold up." She ran after the

They had come to a rock wall and Xena said, "Looks like we are going to have to climb." Gabrielle
asked, "Looks dangerous. How are we going to do it?"

Xena said, "I'll go first, then I'll throw this down and bring you up." Gabrielle stared at the golden
strand of rope that Xena had taken from her back pack. She said, "Xena, you took Season's rope?"

Xena replied, "I'll return it but I felt we might need it. You know she had a lot of rope in that cabinet. I don't think she will miss this. Besides she probably knew I took it. If she didn't stop me then I feel she wouldn't mind. I will climb up to that ledge and lower the rope, attach my back pack to it and send it up then I will send the rope down for you." Xena had put her knife between her teeth as she began her climb.

Gabrielle watched her as she carefully eased herself up the steep rock. "Be careful." Xena rolled her
eyes and continued to climb. Careful, she was trying to be as observant as she could, she knew it
was a long way back to the ground. Her fingers searched for cracks and crevices she could grab
hold of. It took all her strength to grasp and pull as she drew her feet up searching for a foot hold.
Nearing the top Xena brought her left foot up and found a crevice as she started to bring her right
foot up the left foot slipped and the Warrior lost her grip as she fell.

Gabrielle screamed, "Xena!" Xena reached up and took her knife out from between her teeth with
her right hand and she jabbed it into a crevice as she flew by. The hold stopped her body from falling and Xena clung to the knife. Getting her bearings she reached for a crack with her left hand and yelled back down to Gabrielle, "I'm all right."

Gabrielle paced back and forth as she watched the warrior climb the rock and she thanked the Gods Xena had stopped the fall. As Xena reached the ledge and pulled herself up onto it she yelled down to Gabrielle, "I'm throwing the rope down send up my pack."

Gabrielle smiled up at her and said, "Ok." She watched the woman pull the backpack up and as
Xena untied the rope she yelled, "Hook it around your waist. Grab hold of the rope and I will pull
you up."

Gabrielle yelled up, "Are you sure you can do this? It's a long way down and you know I'm not crazy about heights."

Xena said, "If I can't then you'll have a nice fall." The woman laughed as Gabrielle said, "I don't find
the humor in that remark. I'm ready." Xena braced herself against a big boulder as she began to pull
the bard up. Reaching the top Gabrielle pulled herself up onto the ledge as she untied the rope she
said, "Hard to believe such a little thing could be so strong."

Xena said, "Little? Are you calling me little?"

Gabrielle stammered, "No, not you Xena the rope..."

Xena said, "Well we've gotten this far and it looks like we go from here into that cave."

Gabrielle said, "Are you all right? That was quite a scare you gave me."

Xena said, "I'm fine, put a little fear in me I'll be more careful next time. Lets go."

Gabrielle had just stood up when they both heard the loud sounds. They turned to see a gigantic
creature standing behind them and the cave. Its body was covered with brown bristly hair. The head was decorated with short sprouting horns and, as it moved closer they could see its four feet were shaped like goats feet. Xena swung her right hand out as she shoved Gabrielle behind her and looked up at the creature and said, "We mean you no harm."

It pranced closer as it turned its head from side to side, "Who are you?"

Xena answered, "My name is Xena and this is my friend Gabrielle."

It growled, "Xena, yes we have been told you would come. I cannot let you continue."

Xena said, "If I have to fight you I will. I have to go on." The creature lowered its head and charged
the women. Xena pushed Gabrielle out of the way as she leaped into the air and sent a powerful kick onto its head. The creature shook its head as it growled. Gabrielle ran over to a large boulder and hid behind it. "Xena be careful!"

Xena had taken out her sword and held it while watching the creature toss its head and turning
toward her again, "Leave this place now!" Xena braced for the attack it charged but, as it neared her it changed direction and headed for the boulder that Gabrielle was hiding behind. Xena yelled,
"Gabrielle get out of there!" Having seen the creature change direction Gabrielle somersaulted into the open and landed by Xena.

The creature hit the stone sending it into small pieces. It turned and faced the two women as it
rumbled, "You are good, but you cannot escape me."

Xena grasped Gabrielle and said, "Get behind me. We have to make it over to that cave opening."

Gabrielle stared at Xena and asked, "Just how do you propose we do that? Seems we have big

Xena said, in a guarded voice, "We've fought bigger. Just be ready to head for that opening when I
yell." She had been eyeing the creature as they moved slowly toward the other side. "Gabrielle,
remember Athens? The robbers and the wagon that was on fire as it headed for us?"

The bard answered, "Yes."

Xena winked as she said, "Then follow me." The creature observed them and wondered why they
were going in the opposite direction from the cave but it knew it would be easier to send the two off
the ledge to the bottom of the mountain the direction they were going. It reared into the air on its
back legs and coming down charged for the two women. Xena yelled, "Now!" As the creature
neared, the two women fell to the ground and rolled between its legs climbed to their feet and ran for the cave. They could hear the echoing as the creature tumbled over the ledge behind them.

Gabrielle said, "That was close." Gabrielle leaned against the rock wall breathing hard. Xena asked,
"Are you all right?"

The woman said, "Fine, where do we go from here?"

Xena answered, "We take one of those paths. I just don't know which one."

Gabrielle asked, "How do we find out?"

The woman said, "We take one and if it's the wrong one we come back and take the other."
Gabrielle said, "Yeah, sounds easy only I don't think it will be."

Suddenly a melodic voice could be heard, "Hello Xena and Gabrielle welcome." They turned to see
the attractive woman they had left at the clearing. Xena asked, "How did you get here?"

She walked over to them and said, "You have me confused with Season I am not her. Though we
may look alike we are nothing similar. You have handled yourself well with my friend. It has got you
this far now it is up to me whether you continue.

Xena walked up to her and said, "By now I suppose you know who we are and you also know I
have to continue. Tell me what I have to do." The woman walked past her and approached Gabrielle who had been eyeing her suspiciously and she said, "You must be Gabrielle, my name is Season n ot to be confused with my alter. I have looked forward to hearing some of your stories."

Gabrielle smiled as Xena walked up and said, "She doesn't have time to tell stories. We can't stay."

Gabrielle said, "It wouldn't hurt to rest awhile and I can tell her a few stories."

Xena threw up her arms as she said, "I give, you win. We'll rest awhile." She took off her backpack
and sat down. Gabrielle found a flat rock as she sat and the woman followed. Xena had heard the
bard's stories many times but she had to admit she never grew tired of listening to her friend tell them. Each time she heard them it was as if it was the first time. Season had listened to every word and when Gabrielle finished she said, "I can see that most of your stories involve your friend Xena."

Gabrielle replied, "If there were no Xena then I wouldn't have many stories to tell and certainly none
as exciting." She smiled over to her friend. Xena smiled back as she said, "She has many but we
really do have to go." The woman stood up Xena walked over to her as Season replied, "I can't let
you continue not until I ponder it. You will stay with me for now. Follow me." Xena started to object as a huge cloud came out of nowhere and surrounded them. It began to swirl and as Xena grabbed Gabrielle the two of them were swept up into its apparent fury.

It was over in an instant and as the cloud disappeared Xena and Gabrielle found that they were
standing on a cobble stone street and looking none the worse for wear. They looked perplexed as
they surveyed each other and Gabrielle said, "All she had to do was ask I would have followed her."

Xena replied, "I wouldn't and she knew it. Well it looks like neither of us was hurt."

Gabrielle said, "It was kind of interesting..."

The warrior said, "Yeah, if you like being swept off your feet. Looks like we landed in a village."

Gabrielle had been gazing around as she asked, "Where is Season? And where are we?"

Xena shrugged her shoulders and said, "Don't know. Lets go see if we can rouse anyone." The two
women walked toward the center of the village. They eyed houses and a stable that had a few horses lazily chewing on hay.

Xena walked over to the corral and watched the horses as Gabrielle said, "Miss Argo? Me too but
she's fine Xena, Season will take good care of her."

Xena turned and said, "I hope so. Lets go check out one of the buildings." Turning to walk away they heard the clanging of metal against metal and Xena quickly drew her sword as the two walked
cautiously toward the sound. It was coming from the other side of the corral.

As they neared they could see the broad back of a man who was intently working on a piece of
metal. He had set his hammer down and walked over to get a drink of water when they approached him. When he saw Xena's sword he dived for one that was laying on a counter top. Gabrielle screamed, "We come in peace!" He had grasped the sword and was stealthily moving toward them.

Xena stood transfixed at this strapping, muscular man. His hair blond and thick. He had watched the woman put her sword back into its sheath as he walked up to her and said, "Xena, right?"

She answered, "Yes, and this is..."

He turned to the bard and said, "My name is Vulcan, glad you could join us." His deep blue eyes
sparkled and he had a smile that warmed her as two dimples appeared on his smooth face.

Gabrielle watched in amazement as the man took her right hand in his and raised it to his lips, he
softly kissed it. Xena stepped up and said, "Enough, are you the Vulcan I think you are?"

He turned to her and answered, "Architect to the Gods, may I serve you?"

Xena scoffed, "I'm surely no God but I would like to know more about this place. Where did Season go?"

He smiled and said, "Season had other errands to run she will be back. "

Gabrielle asked, "Are the golden shoes...?" He interrupted her as he said, "Yes, here." He had
walked over to a counter and picked up a pair of beautiful golden shoes. Walking over to the woman he handed them to her. Gabrielle stared at the loveliness of the shoes as she admired the golden wings that were on the back of them. Xena said, "That is how the Gods travel the air and walk on water. They move from place to place with the speed of the wind when they have a pair of these on."

Gabrielle handed them back to Vulcan and said, "Would be nice to have something like these back
home. Just think how fast we could arrive to help someone."

He turned to Xena and said, "Gabrielle has a point. Why not consider it?"

Xena looked perplexed as she said, "Only a God can have those and as I have said I am not."

He answered, "But you are so close."

"There you two are." A woman's voice could be heard as they turned to see Season walking up to
them. She greeted Vulcan and said, "Gabrielle, you must come with me. I have something to show
you and I know that you will be pleased."

Gabrielle seemed hesitant as Xena said, "Go ahead, she won't hurt you because if she does she will
be sorry."

Season laughed, "Even threatening the Gods Xena? Don't worry we will be fine and when you have
finished your visit with Vulcan he will take you to my dwelling."

Gabrielle walked over to Xena as she said, "I don't want to leave you are you sure you will be all

Xena patted the bard's right hand with hers and said, "I'll be fine. Go on and try to get some rest. I'll
be there before you know it." She watched them walk off and then turned back to Vulcan as she
asked, "What is this God stuff you keep throwing at me?"

He sat down and said, "You have had some Ambrosia the food of the Gods and you know that
anyone who eats it will become a God."

Xena said, "It was just a little but it brought me back from death."

He said, "Right, and you now have some Godliness running through your blood. If you partake in
another feast of Ambrosia you will become a God."

Xena stared at this handsome man as she contemplated what he had just told her. A God? Is that
why she didn't hurt herself when she struck that wall with her fist? She had noticed a few differences
but just chalked them up to her imagination. A God, she never wanted to be a God she had her
chance many times and threw the Ambrosia back. Why now? Hadn't her life changed enough? She
looked into his eyes and said, "No, I am happy with who I am. I will not take on the responsibility of being a God."

He said, "Suit yourself Xena, but think about all the people you can help as a God."

Xena replied, "And Gabrielle?"

He said, "She is Gabrielle and no more. Of course you would have to dissolve your friendship. There will be no place for her once you become a God."

Xena answered, "I will stay as I am. I've gotten used to Gabrielle in my life and it would be very dull
without her."

He said, "That's good I'm happy to know you care more about friendship then power. I have to
deliver some things to Zeus why don't you come with me? Gabrielle will be fine."

Xena replied, "Zeus, you know I need to talk to him. I'll go with you."

Gabrielle had stood speechless for several minutes as Season asked, "Are you all right? You haven't said a word since we approached my home."

"Sorry, it's just so beautiful..." She had stood transfixed at the beautiful Brass building with all its
golden adornments. "I've never seen anything like this. Am I dreaming?"

Season smiled as she took Gabrielle's right hand in hers and said, "Come on in it won't bite."

As they entered a great hall a handsome man dressed in black leather walked up to them and said,
"Great having you home again. I have set out a small feast in the banquet room for you and your
guests." She thanked him as he turned and left. She said, "That's Ollan he's a bright young man and
has a good future ahead of him. I have to talk over plans with him pretty soon but for now lets
adjourn to the banquet room and that feast shall we?"

Gabrielle followed the woman through many rooms each beautiful in its own way. It was large
enough for all of the Northern portion of her people to fit in and then some. How could Season even find her way around such a huge dwelling? Walking into the Banquet Hall Gabrielle spied the table which held many plates of food and as she neared the wondrous smells her stomach let her know just how hungry she was.

Season had watched the young woman with delight as she began to eat. It always pleased her to see such an appetite. She sat down and poured a goblet of sweet smelling liquid and offered it to
Gabrielle. Gabrielle smiled and said, "If that's port or anything like it I'd rather not. Though water
sounds good." She set the goblet down in front of her plate as she reached for a golden pitcher
pouring the liquid into a goblet and handed it to the woman and said, "Here, fresh water straight from the Olympian Springs."

Gabrielle grasped the goblet and took a drink. "Never knew water could taste so good. I wonder if
Xena is all right? She should be hungry."

Season said, "I'm sure she is fine. Vulcan will take good care of her. She'll be here soon." When
Gabrielle had her fill of the meal she set back in her chair and stared at the woman opposite her.
Season looked like the other only she could sense something that seemed to make her uneasy as she said, "I really need to go look for Xena she may need my help."

Season stood up as she held out her right hand gesturing for Gabrielle to take it and said, "Come with me, I'll show you exactly what Xena is up to." Gabrielle quickly got to her feet as she took the
woman's hand in hers and walked with her from the room. The had entered a smaller room that
contained several tables and chairs. It was the magnificent mirror that caught Gabrielle's attention.
Season had stopped in front of it as she said, "Gabrielle look into it and ask for what you want."

Gabrielle seemed skeptical as she said, "Sure and it's going to talk to me..."

Seasons eyes narrowed as she said, "Just do it!"

The voice was low and gravely as she heard the words, "Xena is fine and with Vulcan."

The clearness of the mirror gave way to a vision of Xena riding in a Golden Chariot. She was smiling and looking into the eyes of Vulcan who was reining four beautiful white horses as they pulled the chariot through the sky. Gabrielle called out, "Xena..."

The picture faded and she found she was staring at the clear face of the glass again. She turned to the woman and asked, "Where is she? A flying chariot and horses. What kind of spell have you put on me?"

Season said, "No spell Gabrielle, she has gone with Vulcan to make a few deliveries and if Zeus is
home she will get a chance to speak to him."

Gabrielle fumed. "She has left me here! I was supposed to go with her."

Season smiled at the beautiful young woman and said, "She'll be back. There are some things that
one has to do that are better if they do it on their own. This is Xena's. While you wait for her return
you will have the run of my home and anything you desire. I need to go speak to Ollan." She turned
and walked out of the room.

Gabrielle continued to stare at the blank mirror in front of her as she whispered, "Xena, don't forget
me while you are flying around with Vulcan. Please come back, I miss you."




Xena was amazed, when the horses raised the chariot off the ground. She had grabbed Vulcan's left
arm and said, "What is happening? People can't fly."

He smiled and said, "That's how I get around. My horses have golden horseshoes that enable them to fly."

Xena said, "My horse Argo would love that. I suppose you make the shoes?"

He said, "Yes."

She asked, "Where are you going first?"

He said, "I have to stop at Aphrodite's. She has been waiting for my report on Ero's golden arrows."

Xena said, "I sometimes wonder if those arrows actually strike the right people. If the wrong person
was hit with one, it could have devastating effects."

He said, "Has happened, and I know they have had to work endless hours trying to put things back
as they were. Tell me Xena, wouldn't life be dull if there was no love?"

She said, "Yes, I can't imagine it." Xena was now becoming more comfortable with the motion of the air under the chariot as she glanced down. "It's wonderful, I can see for miles. The people, villages, animals and lakes. It must give you a Godly feeling to be able to do this?"

He smiled as he answered, "Definitely. We are going down, prepare for a small jolt." The horses
glided down with ease and came to a stop in front of a gigantic brass building. She asked, "Aphrodite lives here?" He took her left hand in his and helped her down and replied, "Sometimes you can find her if she's not at one of her many temples."

Xena said, "If it's all the same I'll wait for you here." He turned and walked toward the dwelling.
Xena watched as he went inside and wondered to herself how much time the Gods spend cleaning
such a big place?"

"Hello Xena." The sultry voice came from the left side of the warrior as she turned to see the woman. She was statuesque and looked very sensuous as she approached Xena. Xena said with coolness, "Aphrodite, fancy meeting you here." She smiled as her sparkling green eyes danced in Xena's reflection. "It's been awhile, surely you don't blame me for that last fiasco?"

Xena answered, "Of all the couples whatever possessed you to think that he and I..."

Handing the white feather of a Dove to Xena she said, "We all make mistakes and that was one of
mine. I have apologized."

Xena asked, "What's the feather for?"

She said, "It's a form of peace offering. If you decide to accept it, find a quiet time and scribe."

Xena said, "I have so much time to write. What does it do?"

Her face became weary and she said, "You will find out." Xena looked up to say something but the
woman had vanished. Xena sneered, "Just like you Aphrodite, always leaving when you can't give a
person an answer."

It wasn't long before Vulcan appeared and said, "All done, one more stop and then we'll pay a visit
to Zeus." Xena was relieved when the horses started up again. She turned the white feather over and over in her hand. Vulcan asked, "Where did you get that?"

She said, "Aphrodite paid me a visit and gave it to me. It's a long story and I won't bore you with it."

Xena had an uneasy feeling as they circled over another large brass dwelling and she asked, "Who
lives there?"

He answered, "Bellona, the Goddess of War." Xena said, "Can you let me off before you stop here?"

He said, "It would take awhile to double back, why don't you want to stop here? Bell is a friendly
sort unless you have caused her fury at some time."

Xena scowled as she said, "You might say that. We have had our moments. Maybe I won't see her." The horses made another smooth landing and Vulcan picked up a small package from the floor of the chariot as he said, "I won't be long."

Xena laid the white feather down on the floor of the chariot as she stepped down and walked up to
the horses. "My, aren't you beautiful." She patted each one, then she reached down and picked up
one of the horse's front hoofs, holding it between her legs she surveyed the golden horseshoe that
adorned it.

"Striking don't you think?" The warm yet cool voice made the woman drop the hoof as she turned to face the figure. "Bellona!"

The woman walked closer as she said, "It's been a long time. I've missed you." Xena reached back
and withdrew her sword from its sheath as she said, "The feeling has not been mutual, I hoped I was just a fleeting fancy."

Bellona was a large woman who was well known for her strength as well as battle skills. Standing
next to Xena she was a good four inches taller. Her face taunt and eyes the color of night showed
little expression. She said, "Ares can't wait but I can. I don't need you interfering in my conquests."

Xena stepped back as she said, "I wouldn't think of it. I will gladly leave the conquests to you
although, I will stop them if I can." The woman had drawn her sword as she held it in readiness. "I
had less trouble with you when you were raiding villages. This hero stuff makes me sick. To bad you didn't bring your little friend."

The two woman walked in a circle eyeing each other, waiting to see who would make the first move. Xena scowled at Bellona and said, "Leave Gabrielle out of it. This is between you and me."

Bellona stepped back and said, "Thought by now you would have grown tired of her and gone on to someone who can really help you." She dashed toward the warrior slashing out. Xena side stepped as she said, "She helps me just fine. I really don't want to do this." Bellona had turned around and was charging Xena again. But, this time Xena met her downward sword with hers stopping it in mid air. They walked a tight circle each eyeing the other as they held their swords against one another's. Bellona smiled as she brought her right knee up sending it sharply into Xena's stomach. The warrior grimaced as she jumped back. Bellona sneered, "Reflexes off Xena?"

"Don't you wish?" Xena leaped into the air and came down on the woman's shoulders with both feet sending her to the ground. Xena rolled onto the ground and flipped to her feet turning back toward the fallen woman. Bellona was back on her feet and was charging the warrior once more.

Xena kicked high with her right leg sending the woman's sword flying to the ground as Bellona cursed her. Xena said, "No sword, makes it easy for me." She walked closer and as she neared her, Bellona flung out her left hand sending a handful of dirt onto the warriors face. Xena stepped back as she tried to wipe the dirt from her eyes.

"What's the matter Xena? Can't see?" She struck the warrior with her right fist sending her reeling to
the ground. Xena saw her dive for her as she rolled out of the way of the attack and Bellona fell face first into the dirt. Xena was on the woman's back in an instant and dug her left knee into the woman's back bone. She had reached down to grab Bellona's right hand as the woman threw her head back catching Xena's forehead with a sounding blow. The warrior was dazed as she fell back shaking her head. Bellona had gotten to her knees and was now behind Xena reaching out to put a strangle hold around the warriors throat. Xena sensed she was coming and struck out her right elbow hitting the woman directly on her nose. The woman fell back hitting the ground with a thud.

"Bravo! Bravo! excellent show." Vulcan stood watching the two women. He reached down to help
Xena up but she refuses his help. He walked over to offer a hand to Bellona and she did the same.
He said, "Can't accept a helping hand? You women are something else. Are you through or do I
need to go back into the house and come out again?" Xena glanced over toward Bellona who was
moving slowly and she said, "I'm through I don't know about Bellona though."

The woman walked over to Xena and said, "For now, but we are not finished. There will be a next
time." She turned and walked away.

Vulcan said, "I wasn't gone that long but from the looks of of you two it was quite a fight." He
reached up to touch the side of her face that was beginning to swell. "One might say you were hit by
a God."

Xena managed a laugh as she said, "Ha, ha."

Once in midair he handed the reins to Xena and said, "Here, you rein." She accepted the reins and
reveled in the pull of the horses against her hands. He laughed and said, "Could get used to this
couldn't you Xena?"

She answered, "It's an experience but I'd rather be riding Argo."

They had been airborne for some time as he took the reins and started a descent toward the ground. As the Horses landed he said, "Need to rest for a bit. Besides from the look of your face it needs tending." Xena had tried to ignore the throbbing pain she had been feeling. She reached up with her left hand and touched the side of her face as she said, "It's bad, worse than I thought."

He held out his hand and said, "Take my hand I think we can rest here." She thought it was nice of
him to offer but she felt she could step down just fine and said, "I'm not an invalid." Once she was on the ground she said, "Now what?" He raised his left hand and with a sweeping motion of the arm the ground became lush green grass. A small stream rippled beside a tall shade tree. Xena said, "It's lovely."

He replied, "Follow me."

Not knowing what he was up to she walked a few paces behind him. Nearing the tree he said, "Rest here, I will be back." Before she could say anything he had disappeared. She sat down and leaned against the tree. Xena always liked to hear the sound of water as it traveled on its journey. This stream had a calming effect on her as she softly whispered, "Gabrielle, I'll be back for you." The warrior had drifted off to sleep and was awakened by footsteps of someone approaching. She
jumped to her feet and stared into the face of Vulcan and and said, "Vulcan, you startled me!"

He smiled as he said, "I had to see a special friend and needed to get you this." He was holding up a cloth that seemed to be dripping and it smelled sickly sweet. Xena asked, "What is that?" He
motioned for her to sit back down as he sat by her and said, "It's got a special potion on it, it will
bring down the swelling on your face and keep it from becoming infected."

Xena gazed into his cool blue eyes as she said, "You know one could drown in your eyes. I guess
Bellona's blow was harder than I imagined."

He said, "She probably was wearing her gloves, they have been covered with a special substance
and if she makes contact with a mortal's flesh it will make them sick and die. You, having some
Godly powers, will not die but you may well wish you had. Lean back against the tree and let me
apply this to your face."

She felt the coolness of the cloth as he laid it gently against the swelling and try as hard as she could
she could not smell the sweetness she had earlier. He reached out his right hand and felt her forehead and said, "I think we have caught this in time you feel fine." Little did he know but his touch was sending a raging fire through the warriors body. One she hadn't experienced in a long time. She felt the pain in her face start to ebb away as she closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep. Vulcan sat gazing at this remarkable woman as he said, "You may not realize it yet Xena, but we would make a great team. You could do so much with Godly power." He was amazed at himself for seeming to fall for this beautiful Amazonian woman. She sent out the air of coldness but when he looked into her crystal blue eyes he could feel a warmth radiating from them. He had met so many mortals and so many Gods but Xena was different than any and he felt a bound between them.

The tall, muscular man stood by a stream tossing pebbles into it. He looked up to see the golden
chariot circling above and he waved at the luscious, blue eyed woman who was now reining the
horses to a stop close by. He ran to her as she stepped down from the chariot. She smiled gleefully
and said, "Vulcan, I have missed you." He reached out and gathered her to him as she flung her arms around his neck. The man raised the woman off her feet and swirled the two of them in a circle. The laughter of the two rang throughout the valley.

As he released his hold and her feet touched the ground the two stared into one another's eyes. He
raised his right hand to her face and gently caressed it as he said, "Don't ever be gone that long again. I was beginning to think I was going to have to go and look for you. I can't stand to be away from you that long." She smiled and reaching up with her left hand she grasped his wrist as she answered, "It was hard on me also, I practically separated the skies trying to get back." He smiled and his dimples seemed to capture her gaze as he lowered his head and softly touched his lips to hers. "Next time don't be gone so long."

She was enjoying the sensation of his kiss when she heard the words, "Xena, where are you? Why
haven't you come back?" The woman began to toss her head as she called out, "Gabrielle,
Gabrielle..." Vulcan had been watching the woman sleep and from the look on her face it seemed she was having a sweet dream. The expression on her face had changed and she now seemed to be
desperately calling out for the bard. He gently tapped the woman on her face as he said, "Xena,
wake up you have been asleep."

Xena sat up as she said, "Vulcan, I heard Gabrielle's voice is she here?"

He answered, "No, you were dreaming. Looked like a good one."

Xena turned her face away from his gaze and said, "I don't remember." Vulcan reached up and
removed the cloth as he replied, "It did it's job, the swelling is gone and your face is back to it's
smooth, flawless state"

Xena reached up an touched her face, he was right she couldn't feel any swelling and it didn't pain her anymore. She thought to herself that if she ever encountered Bellona again she needed to be more careful. Vulcan turned to her and said, "We need to go if you still want to meet with Zeus."

Xena stood up and said, "Definitely I have come a long way and I hope he has an answer for me."
As they stepped back onto the chariot he picked up the reins and yelled, "YAH!" The horses raised
their heads and started off, soon they were airborne again. Xena seemed quiet and the man reached
over and touched her right hand with his. "Are you sure your all right?

You are so silent." Xena quickly withdrew her hand from his and said, "I'm fine, just tired of waiting
and wondering. Tell me Vulcan, have three moons passed in the mortal world yet?"

He said, "I really don't know because time stands still here. You will have to ask Zeus." They
traveled the rest of the way in silence. She knew they were nearing the Celestial Palace as they
cleared a tall mountain and she could see the green valley. There were deer grazing the fields and
white Doves flying about. Before she knew it, the palace set in front of them as the horses began their descent.

It was magnificent! The other dwellings were beautiful but this was beyond words. She had never
seen anything like it in her life. "Vulcan, it's fantastic! The workmanship, you did this?"

He smiled and answered, "Yes, One of my proudest moments. I was pleased with the building."

She stepped down and said, "Building? It's more than that. I can hardly wait to see the inside."

The two walked up to a large brass door and he grabbed the brass bell and tugged at it. It wasn't
long before a man, dressed in brown leather, opened the door and greeted them as they entered.
Vulcan said, "I have the Warrior Princess, Xena, with me. She needs to speak to Zeus." The man
seemed to be preoccupied as he said, "I'll go see if he will speak to her." He turned and scurried
away. Xena gazed around as she walked in a circle staring up at the beautiful ceiling.

Vulcan grinned as he said, "Finally, something has left you speechless besides me."

Xena stared at him and said, "I'm sorry if I seemed a little preoccupied. Guess I have too much on
my mind." She knew she couldn't tell him of her dream and his part in it. It wasn't long before the man returned and said, "Zeus will see you in the main dining hall." He walked away as Xena asked,
"Where is this main dining hall?"

Vulcan took her left hand in his and said, "Just come with me, I'll show you. I've been there many

As they walked into a very large room they heard a strange sound and Xena gasped as she watched the empty room become transformed in front of her eyes. The chairs and table seemed to move by themselves as they appeared and positioned themselves. Xena said, "How? Where did they come from?"

Vulcan said, "It was hard work but I was able to bestow self motion to them so they can move
themselves in and out of the celestial hall."

They had been waiting for sometime and Xena began to pace back and forth as she asked, "What is keeping him? I never have liked to wait." The warrior did not want to admit it but seeing Zeus in his dining hall was not making her feel very comfortable. It seemed the longer they waited the more she paced. Vulcan said, "If you don't slow down, you will surely pace a hole in the floor."

She stopped and said, "I wasn't even aware I was doing it."

They heard footsteps and looked up to see Zeus walk into the room. He was dressed in royal garb
his long magnificent train following as he walked into the room. He wore a gold crown on his head.
As he approached Vulcan kneeled down and bowed his head. Xena stood and stared at the man.
Vulcan reached up with his right hand and grabbed Xena's as he pulled her down. She kneeled and
bowed her head although it seemed to kill her to do it. Zeus said, "Rise, Vulcan, I understand you
have brought this mortal here, you know that the Gods do not permit this!"

Vulcan answered, "This is Xena of Amphipolis she has traveled a great distance to seek an audience with you."

Zeus turned his gaze upon Xena as he said, "Xena? The Warrior Princess as I recall, a good friend of my son Hercules. I assume you are here about your wish and Ares involvement in it?"

Xena answered, "Yes. I need to find a way to take back my wish. I will not go to war against
innocent people again. Surely there is something I can do?"

He motioned for them to sit down as he pulled out a chair and sat. He seemed to contemplate her
question for a few minutes then he said, "I have sent Ares to Hades but he will only be there a short
time. I cannot keep him there and when he comes back I know he will seek an audience and demand you. I will have no choice but to honor his request. Have you talked with Aphrodite?"

Xena looked forlorn as she said, "Yes, a short time ago."

He said, "My son was the reason you changed your ways Xena, and I hate to see you have too go
back. Remember what Aphrodite has said to you and pay special heed in her gift. That is all I can
say. I wish you and Gabrielle a safe trip back to your world." He stood up as Vulcan and Xena rose to their feet he turned and left.

Xena reached out her right hand and touched Vulcan on his left hand as she said, "Thank you
anyway. You have been a true God and friend to me. I'm ready to go back, I just don't know how to give Gabrielle the news."

They traveled back in silence. Xena now deep in depression and Vulcan feeling a loss for this
wonderful woman. He was sorry Zeus was not able to help her but, at the same time, he knew Xena was a very resourceful person and she would not just sit back and let Ares have his way.

Gabrielle had been traveling around the village with Season and had been back for several hours.
Gabrielle said, "Being here is just like being in my home village of Potidaea the only thing missing is
my family. It really is lovely here. I want to thank you for being so hospitable to me and to Xena."

Season walked over to a table and brought back a mug of tea and handed it to the bard, "Tea will
warm you, you're welcome. You have been a delight and the villagers have already fallen in love with you. Why don't you think about staying? I think I can find you a position."

Gabrielle smiled as she said, "Me stay? It would be wonderful but no, my life is with Xena. And
before you say anything, I'm very happy."

Season smiled and said, "If you had answered any differently I would have been surprised. Xena is a lucky person."

They heard the door open and the sound of footsteps as Gabrielle cried out, "Xena! It's Xena." She
had set the mug down and turned toward the sounds. When Xena and Vulcan entered the room
Gabrielle ran toward her. Xena threw open her arms and greeted the bard as she ran into them.
Gabrielle wrapped her arms around the woman and said, "I've missed you."

Xena held her close and said, "Me too. Are you all right?"

Gabrielle replied, "Now that you're here." Vulcan had spoken with Season and gazed at the two
women for a few minutes then he turned and left the room.

It took a few minutes before Gabrielle would let the warrior walk away from her. Then Xena walked over to Season and said, "I guess Vulcan told you?" Season nodded as Xena continued, "If it is all right with you we will spend the night and leave first thing in the morning. Do you think Vulcan will let me borrow his chariot for one evening?"

Season said, "I'm sure of it. All you have to do is ask." She reached out her right hand and placed it
on the warrior's. A sad smile crossed her face. Xena was glad she hadn't mentioned anything
because she wanted to tell Gabrielle.

Xena walked back over to Gabrielle and said, "Come with me, I have something I want to show

The bard's face glowed as she said, "Bout time. I was beginning to wonder if you had forgotten me?"

Xena put her right hand on Gabrielle's right shoulder and said, "Never." Season watched the two
walk out of the room and she whispered, "I'll do all I can Xena, but you have made a few enemies
and it will not be easy. I have no doubt that love will win out."

As they neared the corral Gabrielle asked. "Didn't you get enough of this? What are you up to now?"

Xena raised a finger to the bard's lips and said, "Shhh wait and see." Turning a corner Xena could
see the chariot and horses standing as if waiting for them. Vulcan walked toward them and said,
"Your chariot awaits. Have a good flight." He helped them step up into the chariot then turned and
walked back into the stable area. Gabrielle said, "he is so cute. Did you get a little crush maybe?"

Xena narrowed her eyes at the bard and said, "Hold on."

Gabrielle was not prepared for the chariot to go up instead of straight ahead. She fell backwards
Xena reached out and pulled her back. "I said to hold on."

Gabrielle replied, "Yeah but you didn't say we were going to fly." She looked down and said, "Xena, it's a long way down are you sure you know how to drive one of these?"

Xena smiled and said, "Oh yeah, just relax. You haven't seen anything yet." It was starting to get
dusk and Xena put her left arm around Gabrielle's waist as she said, "Are you cold?" Gabrielle's face was full of wonder as she replied, "Can't feel a thing, It' s just so marvelous. Xena had reined the horses in the direction she and Vulcan had flown and she reveled in the bard's enthusiasm as she saw the beautiful dwellings. As the horses flew over the mountain top and started to approach the valley, where she and Vulcan had been, she started them downward. Gabrielle said, "Xena, look doves and a deer it's magnificent." The horses stopped and Xena helped Gabrielle down and said, "I hoped Vulcan's place would still be here." Gabrielle looked at her quizzically and asked, "You were here with Vulcan?"

Xena said, "It's not what you think Gabrielle, just follow me."

Xena found the tree and the stream as she said, "Let's sit." Gabrielle sat down and said, "This place is beautiful." She had been so wrapped up in the trip she had not noticed the warrior's face until then. Xena tried to look happy but she could see in the warriors eyes a glimmer of sadness as she said, "Xena, what is wrong?"

Xena said, "I have tried Gabrielle, but I have lost. I met with Zeus and he can't do anything for me.
We will go back tomorrow and I know Ares will come for me soon. This may be the last time we
will spend together." Gabrielle reached out her right hand and grasped Xena's as she said, "No, I will not let you go back to that world. Your mother is just now accepting you, and people are looking at you in a different light. No!"

Xena smiled at her friend as she raised her left hand and caressed Gabrielle's face. She cupped the
woman's chin in the palm of her hand and said, "I want to remember you always, your soft, warm,
skin and those lively blue green eyes that have been known to set off sparks." She touched the bard's nose with her middle finger as she continued, "Your cute nose and that smile that lights up my day. I want to remember every detail."

A tear ran down Gabrielle's cheek and Xena brushed it away she as she said, "Don't cry, we have
had a life only few could dream of. If it has to end then let us not forget its beginning."

Gabrielle tried to smile but couldn't as she said, "Xena, I will never forget you. Why can't I go with

Xena answered, "Ares wouldn't permit it but even if he did it wouldn't be the place for you. You are
a kind and gentle person and I know I have scared you the few times I have fallen back into my dark side. Just imagine living around someone day after day that was always like that? I wouldn't put you through that."

Gabrielle said, "Not even if I wanted to?" She answered, "Even then." Xena had leaned back against the tree and Gabrielle followed as she sat close to the warrior. Gabrielle said, "Why don't we stay here?"

Xena replied, "Can't, we are not Gods and the Gods prefer mortals to live in their own world unless
the Gods have a plan for them. We have tonight and maybe nothing more. Gabrielle began to cry
softly as Xena put her left arm around the bard's shoulders and drew her close. Gabrielle lay her
head against Xena's left shoulder as Xena said, "It's all right, shhhh it will be all right." The bard went to sleep like that and as Xena gazed down upon Gabrielle's face she didn't have the heart to move her. "You'll never know just how special you are to me and how much I love you. Sleep well my friend."

The warmth of the sun woke Xena and she realized she was laying on the ground. She went to move and could see Gabrielle was laying next to her, the bard's right arm laying across Xena's stomach. She looked so peaceful. So many times Xena had awakened to find that Gabrielle had traveled over to her in the night. She would miss the bard. She reached over and gently shook Gabrielle and said, "Wake up, we have to get Vulcan's team back to him."

Gabrielle opened her eyes as she said, "Xena, I wasn't dreaming you are here with me."

Xena smiled and said, "All night. Come on lets go."

Gabrielle got to her feet as she asked, "It wasn't a dream was it Xena?" Xena shook her head and
said, "No, it happened. Vulcan is probably wondering what happened to us." They stepped into the
chariot and Xena reined the horses toward Vulcan's stable. Gabrielle was very quiet the whole trip.
She looked like a person that had lost her best friend to Hades. Xena had the look of a woman who had lost. Her face was full of despair. Vulcan and Season were standing by the corral when they brought the team in for a landing. Gabrielle hopped down and Xena followed as she walked up to Vulcan and said, "Sorry about the team. I guess I just got carried away. Thank you."

She started to walk away and he called to her, "Xena, here you forgot this. She turned as he handed the white feather to her.

Gabrielle asked, "Where did you get the feather?"

Xena said, "It was a gift from Aphrodite. Want it?"

Gabrielle replied, "Why did she give you a feather?"

Xena shrugged her shoulders as she said, "Don't know. She told me to find some quiet time and
scribe. We both know that you are the scriber Gabrielle, not me."

Gabrielle said, "Maybe you should try to scribe with it. Aphrodite must have had a different reason
for giving it to you."

Xena said, "Always the optimist, aren't you, my friend. All right when I get the chance I will try to
scribe something but only to satisfy you." They bid their farewells to Season and began their trek
back to the valley that lay below Mount Olympus. Xena found it was much easier getting down than
it was climbing up. When they made it to the valley floor Xena watched Gabrielle staring at a field of flowers as she said, "They are beautiful and I haven't forgotten. Maybe one day I will be able to smell them."

They had walked for some time and Gabrielle was happy when she spied Season's house. "Look,
there it is. Oh I hope Argo is all right. Do you suppose she missed us?"

Xena replied, "Yeah, probably thought we had abandoned her." Season had seen the two woman
walking toward her home and she had stepped outside to watch them approach. As they neared she raised her right hand and waved to them. Gabrielle, spying the woman, increased her step as she hurried to the wooden house.

Xena could see that Gabrielle was happy to be down from the mountain. She watched the two
women embrace and thought to herself, Gabrielle is a friendly person and she would have no
problem finding another friend and a place to belong. It pained the warrior to even think it but she
knew there wasn't anything she could do.

As Xena walked up to them she took off her back pack. She greeted Season and said. "I'm going to go check on Argo. I'll be right back."

Gabrielle smiled and said, "I'll be in the house with Season." The two women turned and entered the
house as Xena walked toward the corral. Argo saw her and came running toward the fence and in an instant the horse had cleared the poles and stood whinnying in front of Xena. Xena reached up and put her right arm around the horses neck as she said, "I've missed you too girl. Glad to be back." The horse began to nuzzle her hair and Xena gleefully smiled, "Looks like you have been well taken care of." She grabbed Argo's mane and threw herself onto the horse's back as she said, "Let's do it girl!" The horse reared on it's back legs pawing the air with it's front. Season and Gabrielle heard the warriors cry. They ran to the window and could see Argo galloping across the field with Xena on the horse's back...

Gabrielle smiled, "Looks like she missed Argo, the two of them are a sight." She had never seen
anyone who could ride like Xena. The horse and the warrior were as one when they ran like that.
Each reveling in their new found pleasure. Gabrielle thought that Xena and Argo would be a match
crossing the sky with Godly powers. This is the woman she would remember, the warrior who could fight the fight, but who could become soft if the mood prevailed. The woman whose cries now rang throughout the valley with her hair blowing in the wind feeling nothing but the glory of the ride.


Continued in Chapter Fourteen

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