Who Has the Right?
"Who?" She winced at the pain speaking caused. Her mouth hurt. She tried again. "Why have you tied me up?" She closed her eyes and tried to focus as Xena had taught her. She opened her eyes. The man had risen from his seat. He was walking around the table. She was certain she'd never seen him before. "What do you want?"
He stopped in front of the girl. "Silence." He commanded. "I'll ask the questions."
Coal black eyes looked into her green ones and she shivered at the lack of humanity in them. "So ask." She replied and received a slap. Maybe she'd been hanging around the Warrior princess a little too long. That had hurt.
"Don't get wise with me little girl." The man's lip curled in an ugly snarl. "Now tell me where Xena is and I won't hurt you."
"No." Gabrielle's eyes blazed angrily.
Slap. "Where is she?" Blood trickled from her lip...he waited...silence, he raised his hand. Gabrielle watched as the hand came closer. Slap.
Gabrielle ignored the pain. "Why?"
The man backhanded the girl again, "I told you! I ask the questions!" He raised his hand over his head, "Where is she?"
"No." She whispered.
"She needs to pay for her crimes!" Enraged he struck at the girl again and again.
"She's not that person." Gabrielle managed to muster the energy to speak. She'd never betray her friend. She would defend her until death if that was needed.
"You weren't there!" It was too much for him. He took her by the shoulders and lifted her out of the chair, ropes straining her arms back to the chair, shook her, screamed in her face. "My family dead! She did that! Her and her Ares benighted army! And I intend to make her pay for it!"
He threw her back against the chair. "Tell me where she is!"
"Never." She whispered through her broken mouth. Blood spilling out as she spoke.
He collapsed in a chair. Spent beyond belief. The anger at finding his family dead, the years of preparation, the time to track the killer, finding her companion alone in a village tavern and now to be so close to the end and denied the satisfaction by a pip-squeak. Maybe he'd just kill her...pay-back...would it matter to the warrior, or was this woman just another convenience for the mighty Xena? How to know? How to decide?"
"I'm sorry about your family." Gabrielle said quietly. Swallowing her own blood. It hurt to talk...he must of cut the inside of her mouth up pretty bad.
'Then tell me how to find her."
"I can't do that." Gabrielle said sorrowfully.
"Can't?" he raised his face to look at the girl, wincing as he saw the damage he'd inflicted. He used to be a gentle person. "Or won't?"
"In this case it's the same thing." She spit the blood out this time. He winced. "Can I have some water please?" She bit her lower lip at the pain and the dryness of her throat despite the blood she'd swallowed.
He nodded and rising got her a glass, holding it well she rinsed her mouth, and began sipping the soothing liquid.
Minutes past as the two sat in silent scrutiny, finally Gabrielle spoke again. "Can I ask you something?" The man nodded warily. "Will you tell me about your family?"
Just the thought of his family hurt, even after all this time. She was a friend to the bitch! No she had no right to hear of his wife's beauty, her love of flowers and music...that was for friends not people like her.
Anger returned. "No!" he screamed leaping to his feet. "She murdered them and I will kill her." He spoke through gritted teeth, hands clenched at his sides. "I have a right to my vengeance! Now tell me where she went!"
Gabrielle's eyes went wide. "NO."
"If not me, than who?" His eyes flashed red anger into her eyes. "Who, who has the right to seek vengeance?" His hands curled into tight balls. "Is it only the gods? Bah! They care not for minor humans such as myself. If I want justice then I shall be the one that goes after the warrior and do unto her as she has done unto me and mine."
"She doesn't deserve your vengeance! Murdering her is not seeking justice! She's not the same person that killed your family!" She struggled against her bonds. "Why? Why do you want to kill her? Will it bring back your family? Will it ease the pain in your chest? Will it?" She yelled back, eyes blazing at the angry man in front of her...the man that had slapped her hard enough to cause her head to ring and her mouth to bleed.
He fell to his knees and cried. "No. It won't bring them back! Nothing will!" Red eyes looked up at the bard. "But it will stop her from destroying other families...and then I can die and join my family."
"No," Gabrielle topped struggling. "That's not what will happen."
He rose to his feet again. "She is a Destroyer. I don't know how she has managed to deceive you, but she has. Now tell me how to find her."
Silence...Slap. "She needs to die. Why won't you tell me?"
"Because I don't want her to die."
He shuddered at her reply, but still his hand came down. Slap. "Tell me."
Blood flowed again. She winced. "I don't...can't...one of you would die."
"Yes." His eyes burned with unholy glee. "She will."
Gabrielle nodded her agreement. "Yes, if she knows why you've come to kill her...she would probably agree with your assessment of the situation." She paused and spit the blood out of her mouth. It hurt too much to swallow. "But if she were to learn of your deed tonight...you would die." She took a breath wincing at the pain. So her stomach had an injury as well. This was not good. She looked at the man and wondered what he had been like before Xena had destroyed his life..."I don't want that."
"I need to kill her." He whispered the words.
Gabrielle shook her head. "You'd die."
His hands shook. He fell to his knees. He stared unseeing at the bard.
The tears finally leapt from his eyes, tumbled down his cheeks. "I want to die."
Gabrielle was so angry at the unfairness of it all that tears came unbidden to her eyes. Why life had to hurt so many people...she sighed, letting out a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding. "I'm sorry." She whispered the words, gently as his own mother might have when as a child he'd been injured while playing.
"I'm so very, very sorry." Gabrielle attempted to soothe the broken man, a difficult task considering she was tied to a chair, but being the woman she was she managed. Her melodic voice and her uncanny empathy with all beings proved to be his undoing...slowly she eased him back into the human race. All the time wondering how to get free how to find her way back to Xena and most of all how to stop Xena from going crazy when she saw the damage that had been inflicted on her body.
Xena smiled as she slid off Argo. The hunt had been successful and that guaranteed her and Gabrielle a room for the week. Gabrielle needed the time to recuperate from her illness...not that the young woman would admit it. She shook her head as she untied her catch and slung it over her shoulders. I swear that woman can be as stubborn as me sometimes. She chuckled to herself as she pictured the little red-head stomping her feet angrily and insisting on having her own way again and again. Entering the tavern her eyes automatically scanned the interior for Gabrielle. Frowning when she failed to spot her friend. Cautiously she made her way to the bar and laid her burden down.
The owner winced inwardly when he spotted the warrior at the door. Xena had kept her end of the bargain, bringing him enough meat to last awhile. He doubted she'd want the room now, but he had set it
aside and moved the Bard's things into it. Nervously he wrung his hands together. "Ah, Xena." He nodded toward the bar. "I see things went well with you."
Xena's frown deepened. Something was wrong...her stomach twisted. "Where's Gabrielle?"
"Ahm, I don't know." He admitted, biting his lower lip and hurrying to explain himself. "I sent a man out to search for her when she didn't return but he found no sign of her."
"What do you mean didn't return?" Xena felt her insides grow cold.
"This morning after you left she decided to go for a walk. She said she'd be back to help in the kitchen in exchange for food for the road. When she didn't return..." he shrugged, ...well I got nervous and sent Alex to check on her. When he returned -"
"Det! Det!" A young boy came running into the tavern carrying a staff.
Xena moved lifting the boy into the air and twisting the staff out of his hands in one swift motion. "Where did you get this!?"
The boy's eyes grew wide and he stuttered incoherently. "D.D.D.D..."
The Detrich, the man that Xena had been speaking yelled. "No!" And raising his hands motioned for Xena to lower the boy. "Xena, he's one of my boys. Put him down." He flinched at the ice cold eyes the warrior woman turned his way, but he didn't back down. "I set a group if boys to look for any sign of your friend. Obviously young Zach found this."
Calm. I must stay calm. Slowly she lowered the trembling boy to the ground and loosened her grasp on him. "Can you show me where you found this?"
Zach shuddered. He nodded his head, but didn't speak.
She knelt next to the boy, moving her hand to his shoulder, and stared into his gray eyes. "I'm sorry. I'm just frightened for my friend. I think she needs my help."
Again he nodded, but didn't speak. Xena sighed. "Show me now."
The boy looked to Det. The man nodded and the boy turned back to Xena. "I'll take you." He turned to leave and Xena followed holding the staff tightly and praying that Gabrielle was okay. The last time
the bard had lost her staff Xena had lost her eyesight and Gabrielle had come very close to losing her life. Xena sent a small prayer skyward to whatever gods might care to protect her young friend.
Eventually the man's sobbing stopped. For awhile Gabrielle watched murmuring soothingly every so often, despite the pain moving her mouth caused. She focused on the man, his pain, and ignored her own growing discomfit, yet in the back of her mind was the ever growing knowledge that she needed to find a way to get free before Xena arrived.
The man knelt on the floor in front of Gabrielle. Silently he listened with every fiber of his being to the voice, so like his own mother's voice calling him back to the land of the living. He took a ragged breath. How could he live when that murdering bitch was alive and his sweet wife lay dead their unborn child buried with her. He lifted his head to gaze at the woman before him. So small, yet able to bring him to his knees without a single blow. Could she be right about the monster he sought? Was she truly dead?
Was the warrior woman she knew a different person? But if she were...his heart skipped a beat...Where was the justice? His heart began thudding anew in his chest...the same old anger feeding the rage that had almost been defeated, by the young woman's words.
Gabrielle watched quietly as her captor's stare slowly changed and now her heart began to pound in fear. She'd seen that look in his eyes before. Only the last time it had been on the face of a crazed woman...Valesca, and she'd been trying to kill Gabrielle.
"You almost tricked me." He said.
She heard the anger in his voice. "It's not a trick." She refused to plead.
He shuddered. "Why do you care for someone so full of hate and death?" he questioned with wonder in his voice, and lifted a hand to touch her cheek, but let it fall as she winced and pulled away. "I frighten you?"
He murmured the question as though it were an impossibility. "Yet you are her friend?"
"You beat me." Unflinching she looked into his eyes. "She protects me."
He looked away. Her intense gaze hurt. What kind of a monster had he become? Horrified by his own thoughts he looked again at the woman in front of him. This time noticing the cuts, the black eye, and
the bruising . "I've become my enemy." He whispered the words agonizingly. Despair filled his heart...where was the justice? Tears filled his eyes again and he stumbled backwards, collapsing against
the table. Blindly he turned away and ran from the building, escape was all he could think of.
Gabrielle shivered as if a cold breeze had passed. She hurt all over. Inside her heart ached for the man that had just run away from what he had become, and for the woman who had caused it. Both victims,
both becoming that which they hated. When would the cycle of hate end?
Xena scanned the area where the boy had found Gabrielle's staff. Her sharp eyes catching signs others had missed. She knew Gabrielle's track and followed it until it disappeared. A slight depression showed how she'd fallen. She scanned the tracks around that spot, pausing next to a set of tracks that had suddenly deepened, as though the person making them had inexplicably gained a hundred pounds from one stride to the next. She smiled grimly. Here than was the one who had taken Gabrielle. Carefully she
double-checked her own findings, before sending the boy back to Det, with a message and turning began following the tracks through the village.
Slowly she moved, casting about for tracks. The man was tall, almost as tall as herself. A long stride...there another track...hold on Gabrielle I'm coming. The tracks moved through the village to the outskirts and beyond, still she moved cautiously. The man was not careful. She had no problem following his track and now moved swiftly toward his home. Xena looked at the small home shrouded with the overgrown weds and flowers that at one time had been carefully tended. Inside was her friend. Her eyes grew colder. She studied the home wondering how many were inside and what it would take to find out. A plan...she needed more information if she were to form a plan.
Xena rubbed her hands as glared angrily at the house. There had been no sign of activity in the hour she'd waited. No noises of any kind...she was going to have to chance getting up close. Silently she left the safety of the trees and crept toward the home. Slipping easily through the overgrown bushes she flattened against the wall, waiting, listening for any sound of life. Minutes stretched by with no sound of movement. Drawing her sword she slid to the door and taking a deep breath kicked the door in.
Gabrielle lifted her head at the sound. A smile lit her eyes, "Xena." She attempted to say more but her mouth was too dry.
Xena gasped, glaring at the room...no one. Sheathing her sword she flew to her friend's side. "Gabrielle." She breathed the name and tenderly reached a hand to the battered face. "I'm sorry." Quickly she moved to untie the small woman.
"Wa..." Gabrielle attempted to speak.
Xena looked into Gabrielle's eyes questioningly. "Water?"
The bard merely nodded.
"Easy." Xena gathered the bard into her arms. "I've water outside." Stepping through the door she whistled. If Detrich had done what she wanted Argo would be in the woods...not far. She waited a minute and whistled again. Smiling in relief as she heard a distant neigh. She stepped towards the woods and whistled a third time. Her smile widening as Argo came prancing out of the woods and nickered softly in greeting. "Yes, girl. I found her." Xena shifted Gabrielle in her arms and lifted the water-bag down from the saddle. Carefully she held the container to Gabrielle's mouth. "Take small sips." She cautioned. "Easy does it." She wiped the spilled water off the bard's chin. "Okay?" Gabrielle nodded. "Good. We have to get out of here before whoever did this comes back." She lifted the girl onto Argo and sprang up behind the younger woman, wrapping her arms around the girl she guided Argo back into the woods and toward the town.
Mentally Xena went over everything Gabrielle had told her about the man that had captured her. Xena couldn't figure out which village he was from, but then again there had been so many...yet only a few had included the death of women and children...she thought of those and how each victim was etched in her soul forever. So where was his family? Why did she not remember a pregnant woman?
She looked at the red gold hair spread on the blankets and felt a small tug at her heart. I can't lose her...I can't. She let out a breathe she hadn't realized she was holding and paced to the window. Looking over the small village she frowned. Inside she was angry, coldly, bitterly angry. The man had dared to harm Gabrielle...Gabrielle who never harmed anyone...Gabrielle who had brought light back into her soul...Sweet, loving Gabrielle. He would pay for that.
Gabrielle laid back her head pillowed by their extra blankets. She frowned as Xena paced back and forth. She understood the warrior's frustration, but she couldn't allow her to chase after the man that had kidnapped her. She'd never even learned his name, but she knew he was as much a victim as she was, as Xena herself had been. She knew the warrior better than she knew her own self and she could tell the instant that Xena had decided to go after the man despite what Gabrielle had told her.
Gabrielle's back stiffened. "Xena don't" Her tone was hard. "I don't want that."
Xena froze. "You really want to let him get away with this?"
Gabrielle swallowed. "Yes." She looked at Xena with eyes that were suddenly cold and impenetrable. Who has the right? The words reverberated through her mind and she shuddered. "Don't." She shook her head. "Don't go after him." She bit her lip. "Please...leave it alone...for me."
Xena looked back in silence...time passed...finally she spoke. "Fine."
She slapped her hand against her thigh. "If it's what you want I'll drop it here and now, but all the gods that are will not save that man if he attempts to harm you again." She held Gabrielle's eyes with her own for a long moment. What had happened that Gabrielle hadn't told her? Why let this mad man stay free? A cold wind blew and she shivered. This wasn't over...it was just beginning.
Gabrielle woke slowly. She sensed the presence of Xena in bed beside her and grinned. Even in sleep the warrior princess was being careful to stay close but not touch...afraid that the slightest movement would
cause her harm. She'd been so very lucky when the fates let her met the warrior princess...the other half of her soul and yet not a single person that knew her would ever have guessed that. She smiled and stretched sensuously, wincing slightly at the small pain in her side. Xena had said that she'd cracked a rib...even that was better than an internal stomach injury, which is what she'd thought it had been.
She opened one eye. Xena lay on her side. She was asleep. Gaia she must of stayed up worrying all night. Her chest rose and fell in a steady, deep rhythm, and her face was relaxed...the only time it was ever one hundred percent relaxed. She looked so good...Gabrielle surpressed a sigh of contentment opting for a silent smile.
She brushed her hair out of her eyes, leaned on her elbow and wondered how long it would be before Xena sensed her eyes on her. It didn't matter...looking at Xena was the most pleasurable activity she could think of. She honestly thought she could be content to do it all day long... if the warrior would stay still that long that is.
Blue eyes burned into her as Xena whispered her name, and her stomach gave a little lurch. She smiled tremulously at her love.
"How are you?" Xena reached out and encircled her waist with her fingers and then slid her hand up so that it pressed against the small of her back.
"Much better." Gabrielle replied, her eyes filled with desire.
Xena pulled her over to her side of the bed, fitting her body closely to her own. She wrapped her arms around the bard and nuzzled her hair with her nose. "Oh love, I was so worried yesterday. What would I ever do without you?"
Gabrielle frowned, for Xena to admit her feelings...it was so overwhelming. Quickly she leaned forward and let her lips touch her lover's. Wincing slightly at the pain caused by the touch.
Xena pulled back. Pain and worry in her eyes. "Sorry." She reached a hand up and lightly brushed the bruised face, wincing at the swollen lips, and the black eye. Anger starting to well up. She forced it down, aware of how her anger would disturb her bard.
"No, it's okay." She reached out and gently pressed a hand against the warm cheek of her best friend. "I love you." And as if to prove it she bent down and ignoring the pain planted a big kiss on the warrior
Xena sighed. "I know...it's mutual...you realize that don't you?"
Gabrielle smiled and placed another kiss on Xena's lips, cuddling closer to the warrior. "I'm here."
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