by Anita Louise

copyright 9/96

Chapter Fourteen


Season put her right hand on Gabrielle's shoulder and said, "I know what happened, I'm sorry he
wasn't able to do anything. Remember, all is not lost and Xena must remember the feather.

Gabrielle turned to her and asked, "Does it have more of a meaning than to just scribe?"

Season answered. "That I don't know but Aphrodite doesn't give things too easily, even a feather."

Gabrielle waited till late for Xena, but she had not returned and she was beginning to get worried.
Season finally said, "I really think that you should lie down and get some rest Gabrielle. One of you
has to have a clear head tomorrow, if you are still planning on going back then. Xena will come back when she feels like it, right now she has a lot on her mind. If she thinks that riding with the wind will ease her than leave her to it."

Gabrielle shrugged her shoulders and replied, "You're right. I think I will turn in."

Xena had enjoyed the feeling of the wind against her face as Argo's mighty hoofs galloped across the fields. She always loved the thrill of the ride, fallen trees were no match for Argo, the horse would leap over them as if they weren't even there. They had been traveling for sometime and seeing they were coming to a forest she reined Argo to a stop. She slid off the horse, reached up and patted her as she said, "Good girl, good girl!" Argo nuzzled her hand and she replied, "Go ahead girl, graze a little." She walked away from the horse, who was already surveying the luscious grass with her nose.

Xena stepped over to a large tree, its branches spread out like a huge umbrella. It would have made a great shade from the sun, if that had been what she was looking for. The warrior withdrew her sword from its sheath and held it with both hands. She stared at it for a few minutes and said, "I will not go willingly, Ares!" And in her anger she struck out at the tree. The sword found it's mark
repeatedly until she finally exhausted herself and fell to her knees sobbing.

Argo looked up as she had never seen her master cry like that before. She hoped everything was all
right, but why was Xena crying? She was there, Gabrielle was there and they were all back together again. The horse couldn't understand why Xena was crying. It couldn't have been the ride because Argo had put all she had into the run. She was glad Xena had taken her wrath out on the tree and not some person passing.

Xena cried out, "By the Gods, I don't know what I will do. I do not want to go back to the dark
side. How? How can I leave my life with Gabrielle? How can I leave this and go back to what I was before? My family will hate me. I don't know, if I can go back to looting and killing, just for the thrill of victory. By the Gods Ares, you are going to have to come and get me and I will not go willingly." Each word was a sound of pain and anguish, the sound broken by heavy sobs. She crumbled to the ground, she had never felt so much pain in her life.

This was a different ache than any she had ever experienced in battle, this pain cut deep into her heart and soul. It was tearing a part of her life away, it was the part she did not want to lose. She raised her head toward the sky and said, "It hurts so bad...the pain." Totally exhausted the warrior fell back to the ground. Xena spent the night laying by the tree. The morning rays of the sun crept over her she sat up, rubbing her eyes that ached. She looked over and could see that Argo was grazing peacefully. She knew she couldn't put it off any longer as she whistled for the horse.

As she neared the house she could see Gabrielle standing on the back porch. The bard saw her
approaching and she began to wave her arms in the air. The warrior smiled, as she reined Argo to a
stop and hopped down. Gabrielle came running as she said, "Xena, where have you been? I waited
till late but you didn't come back." Nearing the woman Gabrielle could see that her eyes were puffy
and red. Reaching up her right hand she touched the warrior's face and said, "You've been crying?"

Xena brushed her hand away and walked toward the open door. "No, Just didn't get much sleep last night." The bard knew better but she also knew better than to argue with Xena. If the warrior did not want to tell her she had been crying then it was pretty evident she didn't want Gabrielle to know. Gabrielle called after her, "Season has breakfast cooked, get something to eat. I'll take care of Argo."

Stepping into the house Xena could see Season standing by the hearth. The woman turned and said, "Good morning Xena, I trust you slept well last night?"

Xena looked down and mumbled, "Yeah." Season could tell by the looks of the woman, that she had a bad night. She did not wish to bring it up, so Season changed the subject. "You know, that
Gabrielle, is probably about the liveliest mortal I have ever seen. My, she sure can keep a person on their toes can't she?" Xena walked over to a pan and poured some water from a pitcher into it. She splashed the cool liquid on her face hoping to make it feel better. Turning to grab a towel she said, "You might say that she has even been known to walk around on her toes." Season gave her a
skeptical stare and Xena said, "It's just that she lost her boots once."

It wasn't long before Gabrielle entered the room and asked, "Have you eaten yet?"

Xena answered, "No, Season is getting me something now."

Gabrielle sat down and asked, "I guess we go back today huh?"

Xena nodded and said, "Yes, there is no reason to stay. Not that you aren't a good host Season, it's know, things to do and places to go."

Season smiled at the woman and said, "I know..." After the warrior rested awhile they decided to
travel on to Thessaly.

When they arrived in the village of Thessaly, Gabrielle said, "Gee, place looks the same doesn't it?"

Xena had been glancing around and replied, "Yeah." They heard the sounds of voices and the noise
of footsteps running toward them. They turned to glance in the direction of the sounds and could see several burly men running. Xena mumbled, "Seems like we have been here before doesn't it?"

Gabrielle replied, "Yep, and not to long ago, although it seems like a lifetime." Continuing down the
street they saw a young boy standing in front of the stables and Gabrielle asked, "Can you tell me
what day this is?" He looked at her shaking his head and sputtered the day out, then he walked

Gabrielle looked at Xena and said, "He probably thought I was crazy not knowing the day. Xena, it
seems time has stood still. We are back where we were before, that means you still have three
moons." Xena seemed puzzled as she replied, "I don't understand it. Time stands still on Mount
Olympus but not here."

Gabrielle smiled and said, "That's what Season was talking about last night. She told me that time
would stand still and I thought she was talking about there."

Xena said, "I will have to thank her one day. She has given me back the time I had and I plan on
making every minute of it count.

They had been traveling for some duration, the road was long and dusty. Gabrielle had been keeping up with Argo most of the time falling back a few times when she stopped to stare at something that caught her eye. Xena would rein Argo to a stop and call back, "Hey, you going to gaze all day?" The bard would mutter under her breath as she picked up her step. Finally walking up to the warrior she said, "You know it's getting late. Why don't we find a place to camp. I don't know where your wrath is taking us but I need to rest." Xena stared down into her friend's face and she knew she was right. They had been pushing it, Gabrielle's face was flushed. "Over there, a nice stream and some trees. We can make camp there."

Gabrielle muttered softly, "Thank the Gods."

Gabrielle sat staring into the flames that were leaping up from the campfire. Her thoughts drifting back to Xena. After they had set up camp the warrior told her she had some thinking to do and wanted to be by herself. At first Gabrielle was hurt, then she saw Xena take the feather from the saddle bag, and knew she was going to do what Aphrodite had asked. She wondered if Xena had scribed anything yet and would she let her read it. Although the warrior wrote very seldom Gabrielle was always telling her she had beautiful writing.

Xena found a nice spot by the stream and sat down. She gazed down at the white feather in her hand and said, "I hope you write as well as you look." The woman took out a piece of scroll as she
laughed, "It was nice of Gabrielle to let me have this, considering what I did to her scroll once. Thank heavens she has forgiven me."

She thought she would start with her name and let the words flow. She was amazed when she put the tip of the feather to the scroll for it did nothing. Try as hard as she could, her hand could not move it. Finally she relaxed her grip and said, "Might know, another of Aphrodite's little jokes." She was shocked as her hand began to move with the glide of the feather.

The words were forming and she played them over and over in her mind, hatred and rage denied.
A true act of unselfish love, the path is back.

What did it mean? She mouthed the words over and over but couldn't find a meaning. She walked
back to the camp more confused than before.

Gabrielle got to her feet when she heard Xena approaching. "What did you write? Can I read it?"

Xena said, "I tried but the feather wouldn't let me. When I relaxed my hand it wrote something.
Maybe you can make something out of it, here." She handed the scroll to Gabrielle. The woman
stared at it and said, "I have no idea, how can hatred and rage and love go back. It doesn't make any sense to me. Maybe if we think about it there is a hidden meaning somewhere."

Xena scoffed, "Would have been nice to just have a meaning that made sense. Let's turn in, we have a ways to go." When Xena closed her eyes she could still hear the bard repeating the words and she hoped she could get some sleep. Things had been confusing and it seemed they were not getting any better.

As they readied to leave the next morning Gabrielle said, "I tried, Xena, but couldn't make any sense out of it. I'm sure it means something, maybe it will just come to us."

Xena laughed, "Yeah, like in a dream." The warrior swung up onto the saddle as she reached her left hand down and said, "Take my hand and climb up here with me. I will be traveling faster today and I want to be sure you are with me."

Gabrielle replied, "I'm always with you even when you leave me and go off on your little jobs. You
know the ones that need you right now." Xena took Gabrielle's hand and put it around the warriors
waist and said, "Hold on, it will be nice having company again." Argo galloped from the campsite
onto the road, and all one could see was the dust trail the horse was leaving behind.

Xena would slow the horse down and then urge it on again. Gabrielle pulled herself closer to Xena's
back, and whispered into the woman's left ear, "Xena, you are riding like Hades is after us."

Xena called back, "Ares is and that's worse."

Gabrielle replied, "If he wants to find you, running Argo at this pace will not stop him you know that. He appears at his own will." Xena knew Gabrielle was right and she reined the horse to a stop, she reached back and helped the bard down. Gabrielle stared up at her and said, "Your not leaving me are you?"

Xena hopped down and said, "Not if I can help it. I thought we could all rest. We can walk for a bit
and Argo can rest without carrying us."

They had been walking for a spell and Gabrielle said, "I was beginning to think my legs wouldn't
carry me anymore. I really can't see how you can ride like you do and not have problems with your

Xena answered, "The more you ride the easier it gets. If you do it enough you will be like me and
your legs won't bother you." Gabrielle skipped along and Xena smiled as she said, "Of course I've
never known anyone to enjoy walking as much as you."

Gabrielle reached out her right hand and grasped Xena. The woman stopped and peered at the bard, "What?"

Gabrielle asked, "Don't be mad but do you know where we are going.?"

Xena answered, "Yes, you remember the spot you had picked out for us to camp and I didn't want
to stay?"

Gabrielle replied, "You didn't want to so why are we going there now?"

Xena stared down the road ahead of them and said, "I have a feeling." She started walking again and Gabrielle ran to catch up. Xena could travel much more distance than she could. Gabrielle always marveled at the warriors long legs. They not only carried her faster on foot but when flying through the air in Xena's many fight's they could swing high and hard. The warlords hadn't a chance against her might. Maybe Xena was right maybe they could find the answer at the camp site, if not, than at least they could rest and eat. Gabrielle's stomach felt as if her throat had been slit for it was sending out strong signals and she was hungry.

After a long walk they were riding Argo again and when dusk began to fall on the land they spied the camp site. Xena reined Argo in the direction. Gabrielle slid off the back of the horse holding onto Xena's waist and said, "Ground, after we set up camp and you get us something to eat maybe we could take a dip in that stream."

Xena dismounted and said, "All right, I'll go get us a rabbit but you have to cook it. The stream
sounds nice I really need to get rid of this road dirt. There usually is a few deep spots and I'm sure
we will find them." She unsaddled Argo and took off the horses bridle. Reaching to her side she
removed her chakrum and started off. Gabrielle called, "I'll feed Argo. If you don't get back soon I
may have to try eating some of her oats." She walked about setting up the camp site.

It wasn't long before the warrior returned with a nice rabbit and walking into camp she went over to
gabrielle and said, "Here, you cook it."

The Bard replied, "Gladly, I'm so hungry."

Xena laughed and said, "Glad to see that there's nothing wrong with your appetite." Gabrielle
wrinkled her nose at the woman as she took the rabbit. Xena watched the woman go about cleaning it and prepare it on a spit. She was always amazed at Gabrielle's resourcefulness and her cooking abilities couldn't be beat by many.

They dined on a pleasant dinner and Xena was feeling sleepy as her head stared to fall and she
jerked it back up. It seemed she had been in this place and had the same feeling before and she was not going to let that happen again. Gabrielle had been watching her and she said, "We've been
through eating long enough, come on lets go take that dip. It will make us both feel refreshed."

Xena rose to her feet and said, "Don't have to ask me twice I'm right behind you." Laughing they
walked down toward the running water as Gabrielle began to shed her clothes and yelled, "Last one
in is a rotten egg." Xena darted ahead of her and ran into the water clothes and all as Gabrielle yelled, "That's not fair." It didn't take long for the Bard to walk into the coolness of the water as she yelled, "It's cold!" Xena stepped back out of the water and stood dripping as she said, "Well now that we can see who is the rotten egg, I can take these wet clothes off."

Gabrielle had gone farther out and had found a deep spot as she lowered her head into the water and surveyed the bottom. She had spied a big boulder and made her way over to it. She placed her feet on the rock and stood still. She seemed to be waist deep and Xena thought that would be deep enough for a good body cleaning. "How's the water?"

Gabrielle replied, "Wonderful, you get used to the coolness and it does wake up your body. Hurry
up come on in." The Bard was splashing it up onto her face. Since Xena's clothes were wet she had a harder time getting out of them than Gabrielle did when she removed her own. Dropping the last article of clothing and laying them on a rock to dry she walked back into the water. She could see that Gabrielle was having a good time splashing the water and she walked toward her. Xena could also tell the sand under her feet was sloping and the water was reaching higher up on her body. Gabrielle was splashing the water and Xena decided to go to the right of the Bard. Gabrielle had watched Xena with a sparkle in her eyes and relished every step Xena took toward her.

Xena, was not prepared for what happened, as she took a step the bottom dropped out and she
found herself going under the water. It didn't take her long to make it back to the top and as she
glanced over toward the bard the woman was laughing as she said, "I may be the rotten egg but I got ya!" Smiling, Xena swam toward her and said, "Your right, waters great." They had been enjoying the water for a long time when Gabrielle said, "If I don't get out I will be all wrinkly."

Xena laughed and said, Yeah, but wrinkles never looked so good."

As they arrived back to the campsite, Xena took her clothes and laid them on a tree branch. She
walked over to the saddlebag, took out two shifts and tossed one to Gabrielle as she said, "Here, put this on before you catch your death." Gabrielle had fixed some tea and when Xena finally walked over by the fire and sat down she handed her a mug and said, "Here after that cold swim it will warm your insides." Xena took the mug as she stared into the bards lively eyes she replied, "I'm already warm." Gabrielle smiled as she walked over to pour herself one. It had been a long day but the time they spent together was precious and Xena wanted to relish every moment. She leaned back against a tree and felt herself start to drift off...


The jail wagon moved slowly along the long dusty road. Gabrielle kept one eye on the men who
were riding ahead of the wagon and the other on her friend who was beginning to stir. She crawled
over to Xena and patted her face with her right hand. "Xena. she softly whispered Xena, wake up."
The woman tossed her head back and forth low moans coming from her mouth. Gabrielle put a hand over the woman's mouth and said, "Shhh, we don't want them to hear you. Xena wake up."

A raging pain shot through her head as the warrior slowly opened her eyes. She raised her left hand
to hold it steady. Xena was astonished to see the face of her friend staring down at her. The eyes she had come to know so well, were apprehensive yet soft. "Gabrielle? Where are we?" She started to sit up and Gabrielle said, "Callisto drugged you. You have been out for sometime and I was beginning to get worried." Xena had glanced around at the bars on the wagon and the women who were now huddled together staring at them. "They didn't take you too? How did you get here?"

Gabrielle quickly related the events to the woman and when she finished Xena said, "Thank the
Gods, I taught you how to pick locks." She touched Gabrielle's face with her right hand and said,
"I'm glad to see you but I'm angry you would risk your life like this. If they find you ..."

Gabrielle replied, "I wasn't thinking, I just reacted. I've seen you do the same thing a thousand times. I was worried about you Xena."

Xena replied, "I need you to stay out of sight. But first," She held out her wrists. "Unlock these."
Gabrielle smiled as she took out her small knife and started to pick at the locks that were holding the woman's wrists and ankles. The warrior watched in awe. Gabrielle had learned the skill well and in minutes they were loose. "You're good, almost as good as me."

They softly laughed.

Gabrielle quickly related the events that brought her to the wagon and Xena managed a smile as she
uttered, "That's my friend, I knew you couldn't have meant what you said, but Callisto, will be coming after you in a fury. The two had plenty of time to devise a plan and they talked it over numerous times. Xena whispered, "I will pick my way out of here after they all go to sleep, a few guards will be easy."

They had been traveling most of the day when Santos raised his right hand into the air and said, "Let's make camp here. I am weary and the horses are tired. See that the women have food and water." The caravan turned, heading into a cropping of shade trees. Gabrielle was relieved the wagon had come to a stop. She walked back to the other women and said, "Xena will get us out of here we just have to remain quiet." One of the women stepped up to her and said, "You may be willing to risk your life but your not going to risk mine." She started to walk toward the front as Xena threw her foot out sending the woman face down. In an instant her fingers darted to her neck rendering the woman unconscious. "Gabrielle, take her back there with the others. She will sleep like a baby for awhile."

Gabrielle walked over and grabbed the woman by her arms and dragged her back to the others.
Looking up at the others she said, "If you don't want what she got or a fate even worse then I suggest you go along with us." They nodded, staring at the beautiful tall woman who had now rose to her feet. The young blond woman who had befriended her before said, "Your friend is beautiful but can she fight?"

Gabrielle smiled toward Xena and said, "Can she fight? That's Xena, Warrior Princess, don't let the
clothes fool you."

The woman said, "My name is Mirtha and I have heard of Xena. I thought she wore a leather, battle outfit?"

Gabrielle replied, It's a long story and I don't think you should mention that to her. Xena's a little
touchy about her outfit."

Xena could see a guard walking toward the wagon and she signaled the others to settle down. She
laid back down on the floor and closed her eyes. The man approached carrying a water skin and
some food. He peered into the wagon and said, "Stay back all of you. I see the princess is still
sleeping. It will be easier transporting her than Santos thought." He unlocked the door and set the
water and food on the floor. He had a toothy sneer as he closed the door, locked it and turned away.

They went to get the food and Xena said, "It could be drugged, better to wait until we get out of

They sighed and Mirtha said, "We are all so thirsty."

Xena answered, "Thirsty enough to sleep the rest of the way. I need you all to be alert. We will be
leaving here tonight, trust me." The women seemed to be in disagreement, but as Gabrielle coldly
stared at them they sat down.

They had been watching the men taking care of their horses and setting up camp. Santos had been
surveying the work. He turned and walked over to the wagon. "Step back my pretties, just checking on your passenger." He reached his left hand through the bars and caressed Xena's face as he said, "Yes, you will go for a good price." He laughed and walked away. Xena had cringed at his touch wanting to cut the man's hand off. But, she laid still and let him fondle her face. Gabrielle said, "I wanted to grab his hand."

Xena sit up and said, "In time Gabrielle."

The men had grown louder and the women could see they were drinking heavily. Xena thought this
could be an advantage for them. "It's time." Gabrielle pulled herself out of a soft doze as she crawled over to Xena. "Be careful."

Xena answered, "Always am. If I don't come back in a certain amount of time, I want you to take the women into the forest and stay there." The woman couldn't tell if Gabrielle was listening to her or not. She quickly removed the manacles and took Gabrielle's knife. She reached out between the bars finding the lock she placed the tip of the knife in it. It wasn't long before they heard it give and Xena removed the lock as she swung open the door and hopped down. It was quiet now, most of the men had passed out. The smell of smoke from the camp fires had reached them but as she crawled closer she was hit with the strong smell of grog and mead.

The men definitely had a night of drinking. Slowly she made it to the area where the horses were tied. She could see a lone guard sitting on a rock and he seemed to be oblivious to what was going on around him. It didn't take her long to make it around him and come up behind. Her fingers moved so quickly he never knew what hit him as he crumpled to the ground. Xena found a piece of hemp tied the man and dragged him behind a huge boulder. She had made her way around the entire camp taking down each sentry. As she tied up the last one she brushed her hands together and said, "Good job if I do say so myself." The woman turned and started back toward the wagon. As she approached it Gabrielle beamed and Xena put her hand to her lips and said, "Come on, the guards are all sleeping." She led them to the outside of the camp and said, "Gabrielle get them out of here."

Gabrielle asked, "What about you? Aren't you coming?"

Xena replied, "I have a score to settle, besides, if I go with you now they will just come after us. I
won't give them the opportunity. Now go!"

She stood watching as the women were led off into the night. She turned and walked back toward
the camp saying in a low voice, "Santos this is one woman you will wish you had never laid eyes on." She moved slowly toward his tent and as she reached it she cut a slit in the material and peered in. She could see the big man laying on a bed on animal skins he was fast asleep and spread out in all directions. She was amazed at the loud sound emitting from his mouth. She had heard some people sleep like that, but he was the first she had ever seen. Xena was thankful she had never been around anyone who made such horrible noises in their sleep.

She slowly edged her way in and as she neared him she quickly put her left hand over his mouth and held the knife to his throat with her other hand. The man's eyes flew open in terror as she scowled down at him and said, "Surprised to see me Santos? You made a very big mistake when you bought me from Callisto." He was trying to beg her not to kill him she could see it in his eyes.

She smiled wickedly and said, "I should kill you, but what would be the fun in that? Get to your feet! And be quiet about it." He eyed her cautiously as his eyes darted downward. Xena smiled and said, "The knife won't slip unless I let it. Now get up." His movements reminded Xena of a whale that had lost its way in the big waters and ended up on land. He was puffing and blowing as he faltered. It seemed his legs were made of jelly and he began to shake.

She brought her mouth close to his right ear and said, "Must make you a really big man to capture
defenseless women and take them from their families. I guess it doesn't even cause you any loss of
sleep at night knowing what you have done and how many lives you have ruined." He tried to talk but nothing would come out as he stammered. Xena slightly cut his throat as she said, "That is nothing, if you move or make a sound I will finish the job. Do we understand one another?" He nodded all the while his eyes seeming to pop out of their sockets. He had the look of a man who feared death. Xena sneered and said, "I am going to remove the knife. Don't become fool hearty and try anything because before anyone can even hear your pleas you will be dead, trust me."

She reached out grabbing his throat with her right hand as she said, "Ever wonder what you make us feel like when you do your biding? You treat our bodies like they are just another Dinar to you. Let me tell you about the feeling, it doesn't go away. Because all I want to do is see you dead right now. I seem to be having a battle with myself. You will soon find out, does he live or die?" She flipped the knife over and over into the air each time catching it with precision timing. Each time coming closer and closer to his face. Santos had begun to perspire and it was now running down his face in streams.

Xena reached out with her knife and touched the front of his shirt. She slid it under his leather ties and began to cut through each one. She made sure he was aware of each cut as she came nearer and nearer to his skin. He stuttered, "What are you going to do?"

She smiled and said, "Show you what it feels like not having any choice in the matter." She walked
around the man eyeing his large frame and she could already see spots of wetness adhering to his

As she stepped behind him she squatted and reached out with her hands and grasping his ankles. She began to slide her hands up his legs. He started to move and her right hand traveled further up as she said, "Stand still unless you want to be without a few essentials." He trembled and she slapped his butt and said, "Sound! You would make a substantial servant." She reached out and grabbed his left arm as she felt it up and down then said, "A lot of fat and little muscle, seems you really need to work out more. Chasing woman for slavery is making you soft."

She stepped behind him and cut through his shirt as if it were a piece of twine. "You see Santo, I
remember you told Callisto you would enjoy breaking my spirit. Now whose spirit seems to be

He whimpered and faltered as if his knees couldn't hold him up and she said in a throaty whisper,
"Now you know how the women feel when you put them through this. Not a very good feeling is it

He cried, "No, please don't hurt me. Please, by the Gods please don't" Xena walked over to a table and picked up a long black whip and as she walked over to him she let the leather fall gently over his shoulders. She said, "This is a terrible thing to use. Is it something you would use on an unwilling woman?

"I won't kill you but you have to promise me you will not do any more slave trading." Do I make
myself clear?" She slowly pulled the whip back and wrapped it into a coil. He answered, "I
understand. Just please don't use it." Xena noticed a buldge on the side of the man's trousers. "What is this?" She asked. He ignored her so she slid her knife into the side string of his pants severing it. As his trousers fell to the floor so did a leather pouch. Xena reached down picked it up as she felt it and said, "Why, Santos hiding something from me?"

She pulled the drawstring and was amazed to see the money that lay inside. She smiled and said,
"You won't mind my taking this will you?" He had passed out and was now hanging by his wrists,
limp. Xena shook her head and said, "I believe you will remember this and I shall hope you will
decide to change your ways. If not maybe this will help you to remember." She took the knife and as she turned to leave she cut a large X across his back Xena knew that he would be humiliated if his men found him like that and he would think twice before he made a deal with Callisto again. "I had every intention to kill you but I've changed my mind."

As she crawled away she thought to herself that Gabrielle would be proud of her... She actually
didn't kill any of them. That was a first for her. She easily made it back to the area where the horses
were tied and picked out one beautiful palomino. She released the others and shooed them away.
Jumping on the back of the horse she slowly guided it in the direction the women had taken. She felt
that she could easily catch up to them with the horse. It was as she neared a group of bushes that the horse stopped and Xena prepared herself for what was scaring the animal. She was amazed when it was Gabrielle that stepped out and said, "Surprise, I waited for you."

Xena shook her head and said, "I told you to take the women and go. Why do I even say it, you
never listen to me."

Gabrielle answered, "Sure I do. It's just sometimes I change your order to suit my intentions. Your
not mad at me Xena, I can see it in your eyes. You are glad to see me."

Xena leaned down and asked, "Where are the women?"

Gabrielle replied, "I guess on their way back home. Mirtha said she would guide them. I thought you might need my help." Reaching her left hand down the warrior said, "Take my hand, you can ride up here with me. Let's go find them and make sure they get back to their village. They rode like the wind as Gabrielle held onto the woman's waist for dear life. It didn't take them long to come upon the women who had decided to take a break by a small stream.

Gabrielle slid off onto the ground as Xena hopped down. Mirtha saw the two and came running,
"Xena, you did it!"

Xena grumpily asked, "You had doubts?"

The woman said, "Gabrielle said you could do it and now I know she was right. Are they..."

Xena answered, "All fine but I don't think they will be doing any slave trading for a long time and I
hope never." She watched the women as they enjoyed the water. She didn't know how long they had been captive but they were making up for it now. The water was not only refreshing them but they had found a spot where they could drink.

Gabrielle walked over and sat down by Xena as she said, "Nice huh? According to Mirtha we
should get them back to their village by morning. Are we going to push on or rest for the night?"

Xena answered, "Push on at least a while longer. The further away we get from Santos and his men
the better. I have known warlords to renege on their promises." After the women were refreshed
they decided to travel on. The sun was beginning to rise and Mirtha shouted, "There! The village
we're home!"

Xena said, "We will leave you now." Mirtha reached out her right hand and grasped the warrior's as
she said, "Thank you, and thank you Gabrielle. We will not forget what you've done." She turned to
run into the village with the others.

Xena and Gabrielle stared after the women as they dashed for home. Gabrielle smiled up at the
warrior and said, "Xena, don't you think it's time we went home?" The woman stared at the bard
seeming puzzled as she asked, "Home? Whose home Gabrielle, your village or mine?" The bard
smiled a twinkle in her eye and said, "You know that special place you are always talking about.
Some kind of cave." Xena smiled as she thought, the bard had a good memory. Maybe they should
go there. It had been home to her and her army once. Why not the two of them?"



Chapter 15


Traveling most of the day the two were happy to come to a small village and Gabrielle said, "I hope
they have an Inn and that they can cook because I am starving."

Xena smiled and said, "I'm sure they have something that will wet your appetite, among other things.
I've never seen anyone who could eat like you and stay in such good shape."

Gabrielle laughed and replied, "Except for you, you mean."

Xena thought about the remark for a second and said, "Here, a tavern. We'll get something to eat
and maybe find a room for the night. Might be nice to sleep on something besides the ground. I do
miss the bed at mothers."

The bard laughed, "Me too, except I don't remember too much about it. When I got up that morning I did notice how soft it was though. Maybe next time I will have the opportunity to try it out in a conscious state." The two dismounted the horse as Xena walked over to a young lad and asked, "Is there a stable here?" He nodded and she handed him several Dinars and asked if he would take the horse to the stable and see it was cared for. They watched him lead the horse off as Gabrielle asked, "Are you sure he will do it?"

Xena answered, "I'm sure. Let's go in."

They entered the dim lit room and could see it looked like all the other taverns they had frequented.
Xena pulled out a chair and sat down as she motioned for the woman behind the bar to come over.
When she was finished with a customer she hurried over to the two women and said, "You are new, just passing through, or staying awhile?"

The warrior shook her head in disgust and said, "Right now we are just hungry and thirsty. Bring us
something and make it soon. My friend has the look of someone who may gnaw on your leg if she
doesn't get something to eat." Gabrielle had been watching the two of them and as the woman
walked away she set her gaze on Xena and said, "Do I really have that look?"

The woman smiled at Gabrielle and said, "She was nosy like most of the others. I just wanted her to
go about her business." It didn't seem very long before they were brought a nice meal and several
goblets of port. Gabrielle looked at Xena and said, "Meal looks good but two goblets do we look
that thirsty?"

Xena said, "Probably didn't want to make an extra trip. Eat up and go easy on the port."

Gabrielle laughed and said, "Oh, I will." When they had finished the meal Xena walked over to the
woman and asked, "We need a room for tonight, do you have one?" The woman took out a
parchment and stared at it as she replied, "We have one it will be ready when you are wanting to go
up." Xena paid her as she turned to Gabrielle and said, "It's all set looks like we will have a room for the night."

A cold voice could be heard coming from outside the tavern, "Xena! I know you're in there, either
you come out or I'll come in!" Xena and Gabrielle's eyes widened as Gabrielle replied, "That's
Callisto's voice I'd know it anywhere. She must have found I was missing and went looking for me.
What are we going to do?"

Xena looked at the woman behind the counter and said, "I need a sword." She reached up and
brought one down from the wall and as she handed it to Xena she said, "It's my husband's."

Xena turned to face Gabrielle and said, "You will do nothing, it's time Callisto and I settled this once
and for all." The woman who had given her the sword was now wringing her hands and looking
worried as Gabrielle said, "Don't worry we will take this outside." Xena grabbed Gabrielle by her
shoulders and stared directly into her face with a somber look as she said, "I will take it outside.
Stay here, keep out of it."

Gabrielle watched her friend walk out of the room and she waited until she was out of sight and
followed her. Walking out of the door way she saw Callisto sitting on her horse. The woman was
sneering at Xena who was now walking out onto the street. Callisto said, "Thought you were real
smart didn't you Xena, making sure Gabrielle went with you. Is she the one that broke you out or did you do it all by yourself?"

Xena walked cautiously as she replied, "Did it all herself after she found out you lied to her and were not letting me go."

Callisto replied, "Then she will pay, as will you Xena, for interfering in my life again."

Xena answered, "It seems it was you that interfered in my life. What's the matter Callisto does it hurt to know that she prefers to travel with me rather than spend the rest of her life in that den you call home?"

Callisto had spotted Gabrielle and she said, "Gabrielle, you can still come with me. Leave this mad
woman now and we will go together." Gabrielle stepped forward at the same time seeing the look on Xena's face. Xena was shaking her head and muttering under her breath and she knew the woman was upset that she hadn't listened to her. "No, Callisto I want to stay where I am. Please leave us alone."

Callisto sneered as she let out her battle cry and vaulted from the saddle. She landed in front of
Xena. The two stood glaring at one another, each twirling their sword around in the air. Xena had
been watching the woman with great care for she knew Callisto was cunning. It wasn't long before
Callisto made a running charge and Xena blocked it with her sword.

Gabrielle watched as the two struck out at one another with a fury she had never seen before with
neither giving an inch. The sounds of the swords striking, and the angry words, that were flowing
between the two women, brought several people out of the buildings to see what was happening.
Callisto had screamed at Xena in the loudest cry she could muster and at that time the Warrior
leaped somersaulting into the air, landing on both feet, with Xena's battle cry still ringing in their ears. Callisto not to be outdone, followed suit it seemed to be a dance of swords and leaps. People stood with their mouths open, aghast at the sight that was taking place before them.

They had never seen anyone who could banish a sword like these two women.

Gabrielle watched the women trying to catch the other off balance with neither one giving an inch.
Xena found an opportunity and sent her right fist into Callisto's face. She knocked the woman off
balance but only for a second. Callisto rebounded with a round house kick, that sent the warrior to
the ground. Xena rolled, and as she regained her balance she was quickly back on her feet. Leaping
into the air she came down on Callisto's shoulders, sending her to the ground. Callisto looked up at
the feet flying toward her but couldn't move in time as she went down and Xena followed.

Gabrielle had walked out on the street and screamed at them, "Stop it! Enough this is insane!" The
women totally ignored her as they rolled on the ground. Neither letting go of the other. Callisto struck out at Xena with her left fist. At the same time Xena struck out at Callisto with her right. The crowd was getting bigger and they began to egg them on with shouts. Gabrielle knew it wouldn't take that to keep them going, she was afraid they wouldn't stop until one or both of them were dead. She had seen them fight before but this was wicked, they had struck out at each other's body so many times they were both bloody and neither would quit.

The fight had raged between the two women for some time, neither giving an inch. Gabrielle watched in awe as the two of them continued. She worried about Xena but at the same time she also feared for Callisto. Why couldn't these two women just stop fighting? They could do so much if they both decided to team for the good of the people. Callisto really wasn't a bad sort if given the chance. She had found this out herself.

The two women were back on their feet and began to flick their swords at one another again. As
they charged full force toward one another the sound of the metal clashing was almost unbearable.
They had neared the spot where Gabrielle stood. Their swords ringing out. Xena had turned to
glance at Gabrielle to see if the bard was all right. In that instant Callisto lashed out with her left foot, sending it into the warrior's stomach. Callisto then swung her other leg into the air and hit her with a hard blow across the right side of her face. Xena staggered as she fell backwards, and Callisto seized this opportunity and charged straight toward the woman.

Her sword held outward. Gabrielle screamed, "Callisto! No! Xena!" As she ran between the two.
Callisto started to thrust her blade, only it did not hit the warrior, it sunk into the soft flesh of the bard. Callisto's mouth fell open as she said, "Gabrielle!"

Gabrielle looked up as she fell to her knees and said, "Xena..." Xena looked at her falling friend as
she reached out and grabbed her helping her to the ground. Callisto had withdrawn her sword and
stood with a shocked expression on her face.

Xena said, "Gabrielle Why? She couldn't hurt me."

Gabrielle whispered, "I was afraid for you. Xena..." Her hand covered the spot the sword had hit and it was now covered with the Bard's blood.

Xena wailed, "No! No!" She looked up at Callisto who stood dumfounded.

Callisto had dropped her sword and said, "Gabrielle, I'm sorry." Xena held the bard in her arms like
a baby and whispered, "You'll be all right, you'll be all right." Gabrielle raised her left hand to the
warriors face and softly said, "I love you Xena." Her hand slid down leaving a trail of blood. Xena
screamed, "No! NO! You can't leave me, no!" She patted the bard's face, she shook her hand, felt
for a pulse there was none.

Tears now streaming down her face she bent her head forward and placed a soft kiss on the bard's
lukewarm lips. Holding her close, she sobbed uncontrollably for what seemed to Callisto an eternity. Callisto reached up and tried to brush away the tears that had found their way to her eyes. Eyes that hadn't cried since the day she lost her family. Of all the people in the world Gabrielle was one that did not deserve this. What had she done? She always taunted Xena by telling her that one day she would make her pay for what had happened to her family. She would do this by taking away Xena's family and Gabrielle. She now realized they were just words. The loss she was feeling was deep.

Callisto fell to her knees by the two women as she reached her left hand out to touch Gabrielle's
forehead. Xena swung and hit the woman's hand knocking it back as she fumed at her, "Haven't you done enough! All she did was care about you, now she's gone." The warrior softly caressed the
bard's face with her left hand. Rocking the lifeless body in her arms she began to hum to her.

The village people began to walk toward them and the woman from the tavern said, "Your friend is
gone. She has passed over. You must let her go." Xena stared at the woman through tear stained
eyes as she softly said, "No, I can't." Callisto had turned to walk away. She was crying and she was
feeling remorse, as she said. "I'm sorry, I never meant to kill Gabrielle."

Xena looked up as she watched the woman walk away. She gently laid the Bards head down on the ground. And in an instant she was on top of Callisto sending the woman to the ground. Her fists now full of raging fury, pounded the woman with the soul intent of seeing her dead. Callisto never lifted a hand to stop her. She saw the rage on Xena's face and knew she was responsible for the loss. Xena had placed her hands around Callisto's throat and she began to squeeze. Several people tried to pull her off and she swung them away as if they were flies.

Her face was filled with anger and rage and it was as Callisto was taking her last breath's that she
heard the bard's words, 'This cycle of hate has to stop. Xena, promise me if anything was to happen to me you will not go back to your dark side. Promise me.' She loosened her grip as she sat back and focused her eyes on the woman who lay beneath her. Callisto was beaten and though she wanted to drain the life out of her, she rolled off onto the ground and rose to her feet. She walked over to the bard. Leaned over and gently picked her up and carried her into the tavern.

The woman from the tavern followed her inside. She stepped in front of the woman as she asked,
"What are you doing? You can't bring her in here?"

Xena scowled at the woman, "You took my money for a room. Now, I want that room!" The
woman stared at Xena's swollen red face. She saw the single tear running down and she said, "It's
the third door at the top of the stairs but..." The warrior had already started up the stairs carrying the body of her dead friend as if she was the weight of a feather.

The woman in the tavern walked over to a man who had entered and said, "That is a sad situation.
The young one seemed to be a kindly sort. I know I would not like to cause the woman who carries her any problems. I think she would just as soon mop the floor with you as not." He nodded in agreement and walked over to a bottle, he poured a drink and handed it to the woman.

Xena kicked the door open as she stepped into the room. Walking over to a bed she laid Gabrielle
down. Xena stood motionless as she stared down upon her face. A face she had known could light
up a room and now it was still. She turned and walked to the far side of the room as she screamed.
Drawing her fists back she pounded them into the wall. Her knuckles, now smarting, she turned back to stare at her friend. Xena walked slowly toward the bed, dropping to her knees. She reached out her left hand and touched the bard's face caressing it as she said, "I'm so sorry, I never meant anything to happen to you." She clasped her own hands together as she sobbed, "Why Gabrielle? Why not me? I deserve it she doesn't. By the Gods this is not fair."

The man and his wife listened to the woman sobbing throughout the night. Each time they would hear a loud sound coming from the room they would shrug their shoulders. She turned to him once and said, "Better the furniture than us."

The next morning they heard the door open as they both prepared themselves. They didn't know
what to expect from this mad woman. Xena walked slowly down the stairs and as she neared the
bottom she walked over to the man and said, "I am leaving my friend, see that she gets to her family
in Potidaea. Here." She gave him a handful of Dinars. He hesitated, and her right hand reached out
grabbing him around the neck. His wife said, "We will, don't worry we'll see she gets home."

Xena released her hold and said, "She had better, because if I find out she didn't I will hunt you down and you will be sorry!" She turned and walked out of the tavern.


Chapter 16

A Field Of Flowers

The rays of the sun were now causing her swollen eyes to sting. She held a hand over them trying to
keep off the glare. She trod toward the stable as people that were in her path scurried to get out of
her way. Finding her horse she swung up on it and galloped from the town leaving a trail of dust.

She had been riding all day with no thought as to where she was going. All she wanted to do was
erase the terrible pain she was feeling. Her heart felt as if it had broke and now there was no one
around to pick up the pieces. The horse tried to perform for the woman but finally stumbled and fell
throwing Xena to the ground. As she felt her body hit she rolled. She lay still for a few minutes not
sure whether she had broken anything or not. She moved slowly and found out that nothing was
broken, bruised maybe. She glanced toward the horse and could see it was now standing. She
crawled to her feet and said, "Well, that was quite a fall. Want to try it again?" She grabbed the reins jumped onto its back and yelled, sending it running down the long road that lay ahead of them.

As darkness began to fall she made it to a village and reined the horse up in front of a tavern. Starting to get off she fell to the ground. After a few minutes she made it to her feet and stepped into the tavern. She could see several men sitting enjoying their evening drink. She ignored their remarks and walked up to the bar as she said, "Give me some port and keep it coming." The man stared at this unkempt woman. Her hair was in tangles and her face covered in dirt. Glancing down at her clothes he could see the skirt was tore in many places. He said, "Are you sure you can pay for this?" She growled and reached across the bar grabbed him by his collar and raised him off his feet as she spout, "You got a problem with my looks?"

He stammered, "Who me? No, anything you want." She drank until she passed out. He shook his
head and said, "Leave her, let her sleep it off."

Xena was awakened the next morning by a young woman who was cleaning the room. She picked
up a chair to move it and Xena jumped to her feet striking out at the air. The woman stepped back as she said, "I mean you no harm. I was just moving the chair." Xena squinted her eyes and she could see a woman of Gabrielle's height and build as she whispered, "Gabrielle?"

She smiled and said, "No, my name is Apri, who is Gabrielle?"

Xena looked past her and said, "Someone I will never forget. The best friend one could ever have."

Apri said, "Where is she? Some friend to let you get into this state." Xena picked up a chair and
threw it across the room as she cried, "She's dead. How can you even speak about someone you
know nothing about."

The woman had taken a step back as she said, "I didn't know, I'm sorry."

She reached out and touched Xena's right arm and said, "I feel your bark is worse than your bite.
You must remember, your love for another, even death cannot take that away, it will stay with you

Xena pulled her arm back and replied, "I have to go. Don't let me keep you from your cleaning." She turned and walked away from the woman who stared until she was out of sight.

The days had become moments to the warrior she lost count of the time and began to roam around
the land a lost soul. She had avoided many skirmishes with bands of cutthroats by taking different
routes. The warrior had lost her will to battle even in her own defense. People stared at the beaten
woman and shook their heads. The once proud woman was beaten and had no concern for herself
or anyone else. The only thing she knew is that she would never pick up a sword again. People
would see her coming and go the other way. No one wanted to look into the crystal blue eyes of this woman. Eyes filled with so much pain and sorrow they thought if they looked into them, they too would die.

The horse had been plodding along the winding, dusty road. The woman slumped over in the saddle
bobbed with the movement of the animal. Xena could tell it was late afternoon by the direction of the Sun's rays. She reined the horse to a stop and for the first time glanced around. She had no idea
where she was or why she was going in this direction. She swung down from the saddle. And as she landed on the ground she glanced down at the new boots she had recently purchased. They felt
good. Her hands touched the leather outfit she was wearing and she said, "Feels right."

Xena really hadn't a choice, for the outfit she had been wearing was tattered and she knew she
needed to get some clothes. When she had entered the shop she didn't know exactly what she was
going to purchase. She had looked at several things but it was the leather outfit that caught her eye
and for the first time in a long span she felt a sensation of warmth. The owner tried to talk her out of it but she had insisted, and now felt the clothes were made for her. Xena decided to walk for awhile as she led the horse. She spied a rabbit running across the road and further down she could see a family of deer grazing. Her mind drifted back to the bard. Now she knew what Gabrielle had seen when she walked. She could behold the enjoyment the bard had in these wonderful creatures of the earth. She had missed so much by riding and thinking about what was coming next.

The sweet smell caught her attention before she came upon the field. There it was a beautiful field of
flowers. They were gently blowing in the wind. Their smells filled her with the pleasant smells of
something in the past. She dropped the reins and walked over to the field. She decided to walk
among these beautiful flowers. She had been walking through them for sometime. The woman finally
sat down and crossed her legs. She gazed at their magnificent beauty.

Without even knowing what she was doing she reached out and picked a beautiful yellow flower.
She held it and turned the stem around in her hand. There was something about the smell. Xena laid
down, her head resting in the flowers. She raised the flower to her nose and shut her eyes.

Her friend had told her to take the time and smell the flowers. She never really understood it until
now. The smell was overwhelming. She felt as if she had died and gone to the Elysian Fields. The
mind that had been cloudy for so long seemed to clear and she could see an image. It was an image
of a young woman with strawberry blond hair and the bluest green eyes anyone had ever seen. She
seemed to be coming nearer and as she approached Xena could see the smile. The woman uttered,
"Gabrielle? Gabrielle..." The sound of the horse nickering woke her and she sat up with a start.

Xena looked down at the hand that was holding the flower and she whispered, "I did it. Gabrielle. I
have taken the time to smell the flowers. You were right. Everyone should take the time to smell the
flowers before they fade away and die."

She rose to her feet and started to walk out of the field. Suddenly she heard a sound and she looked back in the direction from which it was coming. It was a tune she had heard many times and only hummed by few. She squinted her eyes to try to see where it was coming from. It was starting to get dusk and her eye sight of late had not been it's best. She turned to walk in the direction of the beautiful voice.

As she neared, her step quickened. It was a woman, her back was to her and Xena suddenly felt a
chill run through her body. The hair was long and it was strawberry blond! It wasn't possible, but her heart had quickened. A heart she felt she didn't even have anymore. She hadn't felt anything in such a long time. The woman heard something approaching her and she turned to see what it was.

They stood staring at one another, the Warrior and this young woman. The silence was deafening.
Finally Xena took a step closer. As Xena neared, the woman cried, "Xena! It is you. Where have
you been? I've been looking everywhere for you!"

Xena was aghast, but her eyes began to light up as she said, "Gabrielle?" The woman started to run
toward her and Xena cried, "By the Gods, it is you. Gabrielle." The women ran into one another's
arms their cries echoed throughout the valley.

Xena swirled the bard in a circle and as she set her feet back down on the ground she bent forward
and placed a soft kiss on Gabrielle's forehead. She gazed into the bard's lively eyes and said, "You
have been the calm in my storm Gabrielle, and when I lost you, I was lost. How did you...I thought
you were dead."

Gabrielle shrugged her shoulders and replied, "I awoke and you were gone. I have been searching
for you since. Did you miss me?" Tears were now forming in the warriors eyes as she said, "I don't
know how it happened but thank the Gods it has. Miss you? Always."

Gabrielle said, "I hear there is a really nice cave around here." Xena smiled as she gazed into her
friends sparkling eyes and said, "It's a special cave and I can't wait to show it to you..."

Aphrodite smiled down on the two as she turned a white feather around in her hand. She whispered, "This would not have happened if Gabrielle had not stepped in front of Callisto's sword. A true act of love and unselfishness. And it would not have happened if Xena had killed Callisto. Hatred and Rage denied, you two together turned the path back."



Continued in A Past Remembered

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