Some Kin of Bacchus

Part I

by Hunter Ash

July 27, 2000

Disclaimers: the usual, Xena and Gabrielle belong to someone else. This story is written for entertainment purposes and no copyright infringement is intended. Donít bother suing me, I donít own anything of value. Trust me, I work hard at being a struggling artist. Hah!

Copyright: Cassian and Samius are copyrighted by the author (me) elsewhere and may not be used without my permission in any context.

Sex: This story depicts a relationship between two consenting adults of the same gender. If this is illegal in your state or country, exit now and change your laws. If you are under 18 or 21, leave and bookmark the page, come back when youíre "of age." If this type of story disturbs you, sorry - leave now. There is some non-consensual sex, or is it consensual? Hard to tell with vampires.

Violence: light, actually.

Timeline: kinda loose, actually. Pinpoints: Gabrielle has long hair and itís after "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun."

Summary: Xena and Gabrielle are investigating the disappearance of young women in a city and meet a mysterious warrior who might be part of the problem.


Some Kin of Bacchus

 

The smaller robed figure pulled her hood down as she looked over the vegetables for sale in the marketplace. The taller figure stood back a couple of steps, obviously content to let the blond woman do most of the shopping. Then the taller figure did move closer to the stall to take in some of the various herbs for offer.

Gabrielle smiled and held up a squash for Xenaís inspection. The taller woman grinned. "Youíre the cook, little one."

Both the women and the merchant frowned and turned towards the sounds of shouting and scuffling. They watched with disinterest as two merchants began trading fist blows instead of merchandise. The two women were about to turn back to their purchases when both moved, Gabrielle had ducked forward and grabbed the merchant by his shirt and pulled him headfirst over his table of wares and Xena had spun around, hands flying faster than the eye could follow.

Both the merchant and Gabrielle looked up from the ground, surrounded by vegetables and herbs. Xena, face still hidden in the hood of the robe, held two daggers in her hand, having caught them in midair. The merchant looked over the fallen table to see two more stuck in the wall behind where he had been standing. The small, dark little man went very pale.

Gabrielleís attention, however, was riveted on a figure standing over her, facing Xena. A dagger in one hand and then Gabrielle realized that another dagger was grasped in the other hand and the hand was bleeding profusely. The young bard scrambled out of the way as blood began to hit the ground.

Xena and the other woman eased up, lowering their caught daggers once Xena realized the other woman had just saved Gabrielleís life by catching the two daggers. Gabrielle stood up and helped the merchant to his feet. Xena and the other womanís eyes were scanning the crowd but nothing seemed out of the ordinary and no one seemed to have noticed a thing.

"Thank you! Thank you!" the small merchant was hugging Gabrielle and kissing her cheeks, first one then the other and repeating the process. Xena, tucking the daggers away in her belt, pulled her cloak together and smiled at the bardís problem. Gabrielle finally managed to detach herself from the grateful merchant and started picking up the table. The merchant quickly took over, as Gabrielle had planned, freeing her from more profuse thanks. She turned to the woman and Xena.

Xena moved them away from the booth and Gabrielle reached out and took the other womanís hand as she and Xena inspected the wound. Xena grabbed the dagger and, with a quick glance into the other womanís eyes, pulled it out quickly. The woman hissed and gritted her teeth and Gabrielle quickly grabbed a scarf out of her bag and wrapped the wound.

"Thank you," Gabrielle was the first to speak between them.

"Letís get off the street, I donít like this crowd." Xena hissed and quickly moved the two of them towards a nearby inn. Once inside, the warrior quickly scanned the room and motioned the other two towards a table in the back. Gabrielle, knowing her warriorís habits, moved through the small crowd easily, knowing that Xena would want a table in the back.

The small crowd didnít pay much attention to the two cloaked women but the other woman did catch their attention and held it.

As they sat down both Gabrielle and Xena took in the warrior. Gabrielle had already taken in the womanís height at just a couple of inches shorter than Xena, which definitely placed her taller than Gabrielle (who was getting tired of being the short one, she complained to herself). The striking red auburn hair was swept off her face and tied behind her neck with a leather thong and two warrior braids trailed down the left side of her face. Pale skin and green eyes made Xena instantly think of the Kelts. She wore leather trousers tucked into fur lined boots, criss-crossed with leather thong lacing. A simple cotton tunic crossed by two leather belts, each holding a short sword, a dagger showed from each boot as well. The leather gauntlets were simple, with no design, unlike Xenaís usual pair. A cloak lined with wolf fur completed her look and Xena knew with a practiced eye that the woman probably knew how to handle each of the weapons she carried and probably had others hidden on her body.

"Yes, thank you for saving my friend." Xena said finally.

A barmaid approached them. "Do you drink alcohol?" Gabrielle asked and the woman nodded. Gabrielle turned to the barmaid with a smile. "Two ports and one cider, please."

Once the woman had left Xena reached across the table, gesturing for the other womanís hand.

"Iím Cassian," the woman said simply and extended her hand. Gabrielle frowned.

"Xe...., uh, the bleeding isnít stopping."

"We need to get that looked at where we can get it cleaned. Iím a healer." Xena said.

"A healer and a warrior, interesting combination." the woman smiled.

"What makes you think Iím a warrior?" Xena questioned cautiously.

"Only a warrior or someone very lucky could have caught two of those daggers like you did." Cassian shrugged and pulled the hand back. "We canít leave until we have our drinks. By the way, youíre welcome." Cassian smiled as the barmaid set the drinks down.

"Iím Zeraidesta, a healer and this is Brie, bard apprentice." Xena introduced the two of them.

Cassianís eyebrows raised and Xenaís eyes narrowed. Cassian placed both hands on the table, showing they were empty. Gabrielle was almost holding her breath, she could feel the tension at the table.

"You are Xena, warrior and healer and this is Gabrielle, exceptional bard." Cassian countered.

"What makes you think that?"

"Everything. I donít care that you donít wish to be known, itís not my concern. Iím just stating Iím aware of your identity warrior and it is apparent someone else is too, otherwise why would someone want to kill a simple bard and healer?"

"I donít know. Neither of us know anyone in this town except the innkeeper and heís not telling anyone weíre here." Xena frowned but Gabrielle could sense her easing up a little bit.

"I am glad that I was able to help but I am not your target, warrior."

With an inner start Xena was surprised to think to herself that Cassian was almost a taller version of Gabrielle, was that what was making her nervous? Besides the fact that Gabrielle could have been killed?

"Xe," Gabrielle started, keeping with the alternate names, "letís go up to the room and see to her hand." the young bard suggested and Xena nodded.

Xena noticed Cassianís eyes go unfocused for a moment when she stood up but the warrior shook her head and moved towards the stairs leading to the rooms. She stopped at the top and let Gabrielle move past her to point out which room was theirs and unlock the door.

Once in the room Gabrielle quickly moved Cassian to a chair and began unwrapping the temporary bandage while Xena rummaged through their packs for her healing supplies.

Gabrielle gasped when she saw the managed flesh and the fresh blood pouring from the wound. Cassian hissed with the contact of air on the wound and closed her eyes. Xena quickly moved beside the chair with her supplies and a bucket of clean water and clothes. She frowned at the wound as well and began to work quickly.

Both her and Gabrielle noted the clenched jaw but the warriorís refusal to voice any pain.

"Stubborn warriors," Gabrielle complained. Cassian opened her eyes and attempted a small smile.

Xena noted the Keltís pale skin and clamminess. "I need to stop the bleeding," she muttered.

"Clean the wound and sew it up, I heal quickly." Cassian instructed the other warrior.

"Youíve cut major veins in there. Also nerves, muscles, bones, and skin."

"I know, itís not a simple wound." Cassian agreed.

"Xena?" Gabrielle questioned, wiping a cool cloth of Cassianís forehead. Xena was slightly surprised when the other warrior allowed the bard the contact.

"She may lose the hand totally, at the least sheíll lose most of the use of the hand." Xena said bluntly and she could tell by Cassianís eyes that the warrior knew the truth before Xena had said a word.

"She may lose the hand because she helped us?" Gabrielle began to sound angry and Xena felt a similar anger rising in her.

"Why would someone want you dead?" Cassian asked through gritted teeth as Xena began cleaning the wound out. Her other hand clenched the arm of the chair tightly. "Arrrghhh," she muttered, muscles of her other arm and hand standing out but her wounded hand and the arm attached to it she kept relaxed. Xena was impressed with the pain control of the tall redhead.

"You mean besides the usual reasons?" Gabrielle muttered.

"Yeah, why this town?" Cassian hissed again and Xena heard the warriorís teeth grinding.

"Our friend who owns this inn asked us to come and help solve a mystery. Young women have been going missing for several months. Usually one or two a week. No one paid close attention when it was just the prostitutes but then young peasant girls and farm girls started disappearing. Now some of the merchantís daughters and wives are missing."

"What do you suspect, slavers?" Cassian whispered.

"Xena!" Xena looked up from the warriorís hand to see the woman slumped in the chair, head on her chest.

"Itís the blood loss. Let me finish here and weíll put her to bed. When she wakes up weíll get some food in her and see what the damage is."

"Do you think sheís part of it?" Gabrielle questioned and Xena was surprised, usually the bard could rarely see any wrong and usually didnít consider treachery in their midst.

"I donít know but I donít think so. See those swords and daggers? She fights with both hands, I donít think anyone would risk that just to get close to a target." Xena commented, putting away her healing herbs and salves.

Xena was examining the daggers by the firelight when she heard Cassian call to her. She quickly got up and bent over the warrior and was shocked and worried. Cassian was drenched in sweat and thrashing in the bed. Her eyes were bright and almost unfocused.

"Donít touch the blades, something...." the woman muttered and closed her eyes, continuing to thrash. Xena frowned and went back to the daggers and examined them closer. Not seeing anything on the blades she sniffed them and pulled back. They were coated with something clear but whatever it was had a definite odor.

"Damn!" Xena flung one of the daggers into the fire in anger and went back to the thrashing woman.

Gabrielle entered with a tray of food which she quickly placed on the table and joined Xena. "What is it?"

"The knives were covered with something. Some kind of drug or poison."

"What!?"

"I think those daggers were meant for you, my bard." Xena said softly.

Gabrielle felt her knees go weak and Xena grabbed her by her arms and steered her to the chair. "Whoa." the bard muttered. Xena knelt down in front of the smaller woman, her face filled with concern for her best friend. She wanted nothing more than to take the bard into her arms and hold her but held back. Xena had long ago realized that she had fallen in love with her best friend but didnít dare approach the young woman.

Xena had spent many a restless night tossing that one around. The mighty Xena, Conqueror of Nations, terrified of a small bard. Yet it was true, Xena was terrified of losing Gabrielleís friendship. So terrified that Xena didnít approach Gabrielle with her true feelings for fear of Gabrielleís rejection of her. Xena couldnít believe the change in herself. The feared warlord was now more than willing to spend a lifetime with someone and never touch them the way she wanted. It was enough to drive even the most patient person in the world insane and Xena was not known for her patience at times.

"Why me?" Gabrielle looked up with tears in her eyes and Xenaís heart felt heavy with pain. Every instinct yelling at her to gather the two women, throw them on horses and get out of the town as quickly as possible and put as much distance between them and the mystery before nightfall hit them. Xena knew she couldnít do that and neither woman would want that either.

"I think we got someoneís attention, like we planned. I didnít think theyíd risk doing something like that in public. I think youíre the next target."

"Great, just my favorite past-time." the bard muttered with a weak smile.

"I'll be right there, Gabrielle." Xena reassured her friend and was pleasantly surprised when Gabrielle leaned forward and grabbed Xena in a hug, holding on very tightly. Xena closed her eyes and held her friend, her hand unconsciously stroking the blond hair of the bard.

Gabrielle closed her eyes and let herself drift, safe and content in the strong arms of her friend, the smell of leather and Xena's hair soothing her like nothing else could. The young bard felt a warmth settling over her, centering right in her loins. All she wanted to do was reach up slightly and sink her teeth in Xena's neck and then capture those beautiful lips with hers. Gabrielle flushed profusely when she realized that her hands were beginning to run up and down Xena's back. She pulled away and muttered something about checking on Cassian.

Xena was confused, she had seen Gabrielle's blushing face. What was Gabrielle embarrassed about? She knew the bard wasn't interested in women, was she? Xena shook her head, she couldn't even dare hope that, damnit.

"Xena!" Gabrielle's voice snapped Xena out of her thoughts, she quickly rushed to the bed and found Gabrielle trying to hold Cassian onto the bed. The warrior was suffering seizures, back arched, every muscle in the warrior's body tensed. Xena grabbed a piece of small kindling and managed to get the woman's teeth unclenched enough to place the piece of wood between her jaws.

"Let's hope against splinters," the warrior/healer muttered.

Finally the tremors stopped with a scream from Cassian and her body went limp. Xena quickly moved Gabrielle aside and checked the woman's pulse. She nodded reassuringly at the young bard when she felt a heartbeat.

"It's irregular but there." Xena said simply.

Gabrielle sat down on the bed.

"What can we do?" she asked.

"I'm going to go out and ask around and see if any of the other women took ill before they disappeared. It might help us know if those daggers were meant to kill us or drug us today."

"Should you?" Gabrielle frowned.

"Well, that was the original plan, become a target and find who in Hades is doing this. I'm worried about the drugs though." Xena admitted.

"I'll stay here with Cassian." Gabrielle offered.

"Good, I won't be long." Xena promised, reaching out and touching the bard's arm.

Both women were surprised when Gabrielle pulled Xena into another hug. "Be careful, please." the bard whispered.

"I will." When Xena pulled back she was puzzled by what she might be seeing in Gabrielle's green eyes, love definitely but what depth? Xena felt her heart skip a beat. Before she could do something she might regret, she was out the door, grabbing her cloak.

"Damnit! Why can't I just tell her how I feel?" Gabrielle snapped and threw a pillow across the room.

Gabrielle busied herself with cleaning the room and giving Cassian a rub down with a cool cloth. Gabrielle noticed with a blush that the warrior's body was very similar to Xena's. Gabrielle had imagined Xena's hands on her body so often that it was driving her to distraction. She knew about love between two women, she had seen enough among the Amazons to know that quite a number of them had preferred the company of women and a large number of them were bonded, pledging their lives and souls to each other.

Gabrielle felt a tear escaping her eye and brushed it away with impatience. She knew that she felt that way about Xena but it was killing her not to know if Xena felt that way about her. What could Xena see in her, anyway? Simple farm-girl trying to be a bard, hah! She hadn't even been with anyone sexually, not even Perdicus. She frowned at the sudden onslaught of memories that his name caused. She had loved him but not like she did Xena and realized that now. She had been grateful their wedding night when they both realized they had a little too much to drink and just wanted to sleep. Gabrielle had tossed and turned most of the night in his arms, thinking of nothing but Xena and wishing it was the warrior's arms around her and not Perdicus. Gabrielle didn't know what to do. Xena had given her blessing to the wedding and had left and now Gabrielle wasn't sure she wanted to be married. She didn't want to hurt Perdicus but she wanted to be with Xena, but did Xena want to be with her? Obviously not, Xena had left, never once indicating that she might have the same feelings for Gabrielle.

Gabrielle had resigned herself to a life with Perdicus, she knew they could be very good friends and there was a basis of a love of some kind there. Then Callisto had come along and ended that problem.

Gabrielle picked up the pillow and threw it again across the room. The guilt she carried over that! She didn't want Perdicus dead, damnit! At the same time it did free her to continue on with Xena, even if she couldn't tell Xena how she felt, she could still be with the warrior. Gabrielle realized that a lot of the grief she felt after Perdicus was her own guilt over the sense of relief. She had turned her anger on Callisto but had been unable to cross her inner line of murder, even Callisto.

Now she was with Xena and they had deepened their friendship but they didn't talk much about Gabrielle's marriage. Gabrielle wasn't sure that Xena's scowl whenever she heard Perdicus' name was because of jealousy or her guilt over not stopping Callisto in time.

Gabrielle brushed another tear away and pulled the covers back up over the unconscious warrior. Noting the redhead's regular breathing, the bard moved to the small table by the window and pulled out some parchment paper to work on some scrolls, trying to pass the time.

Gabrielle was relieved when she heard Xena's knock on the door and opened to find her warrior smiling at her. Gabrielle suddenly had to remember to breathe as she looked deep in those blue eyes.

"Can I come in?" the taller woman teased and was delighted when Gabrielle blushed and stepped aside.

Xena dropped her bag in a chair and quickly checked on Cassian. "She's been sleeping since you left." Gabrielle commented.

"Maybe it's passing out of her system," Xena said hopefully.

"What did you find out?" Gabrielle asked as the other woman pulled off her cloak. Gabrielle tried not to stare but found she couldn't help herself.

Since the two hadn't wanted to draw attention to themselves they had opted for different clothing while in the city. Xena had her leathers packed in the saddlebags and was wearing cotton trousers and a tunic, a bit male identified clothing but healers often had to travel fast and comfortable and not many thought much about whatever clothes healers wore. Wearing her sword and chakram would have been noticed however so Xena had decided to stick with a matching pair of daggers in her belt, two more in her boots and her chakram in her bag. Gabrielle did miss helping Xena remove her armor at night though, she missed the contact.

So did Xena but couldn't think of many excuses to touch the bard.

Gabrielle blinked and went over to stir the fire, busying her hands.

"A bit, actually. Each woman took sick just before they disappeared. Their symptoms were much milder, though. None of the muscle spasms and delirium. They took sick to their beds and disappeared in the night."

"They were drugged to keep them from struggling or crying out." Gabrielle deduced.

"Exactly." Xena agreed.

"Then why is Cassian so sick?"

"Maybe she's allergic to the drug or it was too high of a dose. I don't know. Since whoever did this wants the women unconscious I'm pretty sure it's not poisonous." Xena sat down in a chair and propped her feet on the table, leaning back. She looked tired and Gabrielle used the excuse to walk behind the warrior and begin massaging Xena's shoulders. Xena moaned with pleasure and Gabrielle almost stopped breathing totally at the sound. She bit her lip and continued working the shoulder muscles.

"Do you think they'll come tonight for her?" Gabrielle asked, instinctively glancing to her staff.

"I don't know, depends on if they saw her get cut and if they saw her brought here. A few ifs in there." Xena muttered.

"It'll be dark soon, I'll run down and get some food for us and some soup for Cassian. I think she might wake up soon." Gabrielle suggested.

"All right. I want to get ready for tonight. I don't want to leave the door open but I don't want to make it impossible for someone to get in either."

"What's your game plan?" Gabrielle continued working on the warrior's muscles and could feel the muscles actually beginning to relax a little. The bard knew that the warrior was almost constantly on alert and Xena relaxing a little bit with her, because of her hands, pleased the blond immensely.

"Wait for someone to come in, beat the Hades out of them, threaten them and find out where they take the women and whose responsible." Xena said simply.

"The usual," Gabrielle grinned, resisting the urge to nuzzle Xena's neck.

Xena was basking in the enjoyment of having Gabrielle's hands on her. She almost whimpered when the hands left her skin and pulled the tunic back up on Xena's shoulders.

Gabrielle crossed the floor and lit a candle next to the bed and then several more around the room. Xena, tired but relaxed, watched the bard move, unaware of the intensity in her own eyes. Gabrielle glanced over and was startled once more by the passion she saw in the blue eyes. Xena blinked and sat up, not looking Gabrielle in the eyes again.

"Xena?" Gabrielle whispered.

"You better get dinner, it might be a long night."

Gabrielle frowned, what was Xena avoiding. Was it what she, herself was avoiding?

"All right," Gabrielle agreed. As she started past Xena to the door the taller woman touched the bard's arm, Gabrielle was surprised when Xena handed her a sheathed dagger. The bard raised her eyebrows.

"I know it's not your way, but just for self defense, please."

Gabrielle hesitated a moment and then stuck the dagger in her waistband in the small of her back, out of sight under her cotton shirt. Impulsively she reached up and lightly kissed Xena's lips and started out the door.

"I love you too." and the door was closed.

Xena stood looking at the door, stunned. 'How did she mean that?' her heart demanded. The warrior scratched at her hand unconsciously.

Gabrielle frowned when she reached the top of the stairs. She put the tray of food down and drew out the dagger, the door to their room was open. Gabrielle approached quietly and slowly, keeping out the center of the hallway, as Xena had taught her.

When the young bard glanced around the door she stifled a gasp. Cassian was thrown across the bed with someone bending over her, stretched the length of the warrior's body. In the candlelight Gabrielle could see Cassian's shift had been torn aside and the attacker was bent at the woman's neck and a hand between the warrior's legs.

Gabrielle glanced behind the door and was assured there wasn't anyone else in the room and leaped into the room, past the doorway quickly.

"Get off her!" Gabrielle hissed and felt her heart skip several beats as the attacker raised her face to reveal yellow eyes ringed with red and a bloody mouth showing vicious fangs.

"Bacchae!" Gabrielle whispered, a chill gripping her soul. It hadn't been that long ago since she had been under the spell of the bacchae and had almost become a full bacchae herself.

Before the bard could rouse herself the vrykolaka leaped across the room and was out of the window. Gabrielle shook herself and ran to Cassian's side.

"Thank the gods," the bard muttered when she noticed the woman breathing. Cassian began to struggle and Gabrielle held the woman firmly by the arms. "Cassian, you're safe! It's Gabrielle!"

"Gabrielle," Cassian whispered. Gabrielle got a cup of water and held it to the woman's lips. Cassian nodded and tried to sit up. Gabrielle helped her lean against the headboard, placing a pillow behind her. The bard blushed and pulled a sheet over the womanís nude body.

Cassian reached up and felt her neck and swore in a language Gabrielle didn't know. "Godforsaken bastards!" Cassian switched to Greek.

"Where's Xena?" Gabrielle demanded, now that Cassian was semi-coherent.

"I woke up when I heard Xena calling for you..."

"For me?" Gabrielle whispered.

"Yes, she tried to grab a chair but fell to the floor, she couldn't seem to keep her balance or focus. She dropped her sword and I couldn't get her to talk to me. I was crawling out of bed when the vrykolakas entered through the window."

"Vrykolakas, you mean the Bacchae?"

"No, vrykolakas, vampires. There are many types of.... of, what's called Kin. Bacchae are one form of vrykolaka, these are another." Cassian swung her legs around and sat up, steadying herself for a moment. She didn't seem concerned with her state of undress so Gabrielle just ignored it.

"How do you know that?" Gabrielle asked, grabbing one of the cleaning cloths and wetting it in the water bucket. She sat next to the woman and began cleaning the wounds on the woman's throat.

"I've dealt with these types before. Actually, we're fortunate they're not Bacchae." Cassian closed her eyes and swayed for a moment and Gabrielle steadied the woman, wrapping a arm around the other woman.

"How so?" the bard questioned.

"These vrykolakas are a lot easier to kill than bacchae. I am not up to digging up a dryad and arguing with it for it's bones."

Gabrielle grinned. "I understand that," she agreed.

"You've fought Bacchae before?" Cassian turned to the smaller woman with a questioning glance and Gabrielle found herself blushing with the memory of her encounter with Bacchus and his followers. Especially about being turned into a fledgling bacchae and actually biting Xena and turning her into a fledgling bacchae as well. The bard and warrior had never discussed that bite much, especially the erotic feelings it had caused and how Gabrielle ached to nibble on Xenaís neck again. Without the fangs, thanks.

"Sort of, Xena did most of the fighting." Gabrielle mumbled. Gabrielle raised her head and looked at the auburn haired warrior. "How do we fight these?"

"Decapitation, fire, or breaking their spines with spears or stakes."

"Swords won't work?" Gabrielle frowned.

"Well, it is easier to cut off a vrykolaka's head or spear them with a stake if you cut off their legs but a sword merely slows them down." Cassian grinned and again Gabrielle was more than reminded of her warrior.

It seemed to Gabrielle that the warrior in their midst was like a weird combination of herself and Xena, like a blending.

"What happened with Xena?"

"The vrykolakas, all women, entered the room and laughed at Xena and me." Gabrielle saw the warrior's eyes blaze with fury and felt the woman's muscles tense up.

"Two of them grabbed Xena and went out the window, the other one came for me. I fought back, I think I surprised her and she hit me. Next you were saving me." Cassian grinned.

Gabrielle blushed and then frowned. "Xena," she whispered, a tear beginning to escape from her eye. Cassian leaned over and brushed it away.

"Get me some clothes, little one. We have to rescue your love."

"I, uh, okay."

Cassian swayed on her feet when she attempted to put on a thick leather vest from her pack and Gabrielle again grabbed the woman to steady her. She then brushed away the warrior's hands and began lacing the vest up. "I help Xena all the time." she explained.

"Does she know how much you love her?" Cassian asked, receiving a blush from Gabrielle and the young bard shook her head, not meeting Cassian's eyes.

"You could tell?" she whispered.

"Half of Greece probably could tell. Except maybe for Xena herself. Why haven't you told her? Have you seen the way she looks at you? Are you both dense?"

Gabrielle laughed a rueful laugh. "Probably. I was afraid she wouldn't want me."

"Want you, darling, she is dying inside to be with you." Cassian attempted a slight laugh.

Gabrielle decided to change the subject. "How do we find her?"

"That's easy. I know where she is."

"What!" Gabrielle backed up and stared at Cassian. "You've known where the women are?!"

"No, I wasn't sure who was behind it until I saw the vrykolakas. Now I do and I know where to find him." Cassian began buckling her sword belts. "Maybe this time I can kill him."

"You know who it is?"

"Yes, a man named Samius. Heís a vrykolaka of the highest order. Unlike his bastard offspring, he doesnít fear the sunlight and he canít be killed by a wooden stake. Fire is the best method for him."

"Youíve dealt with him before." Gabrielle stated.

"Yes. Letís just say itís personal." Gabrielle noticed the fury in the warriorís eyes and thought she had seen that look before, in Xenaís eyes when she thought Gabrielle was hurt or in danger.

"Letís go," Gabrielle insisted.

"Wait," Cassian grabbed Gabrielleís arm. "We need to talk first."

"Xena could be dead by the time we get to her!" Gabrielle protested.

"Yes, she could and thatís what we need to talk about."

"No," Gabrielle whispered, closing her eyes. Cassian shook the smaller woman slightly.

"Yes, we need to face that before we enter the castleís lower levels. When a vrykolaka claims a victim they die unless offered the blood of a vrykolaka. They then become a vrykolaka. They can be saved if their vrykolaka attacker is killed before they taste human blood. Unless they are claimed by Samius or his kin, his powers are too great. If Xena is bitten by Samius then she is probably lost. If sheís half changed thereís only one person on earth who can reach her mind and try and keep her back from tasting blood while I kill the vrykolakas and, hopefully, kill the one vrykolaka who made her."

Gabrielleís head was spinning. "Wait a minute, let me sort this out. If Xena is bitten she might be a half vrykolaka?"

"A fledgling. At that point she could turn either way. In rare occasions, the vrykolaka can fight against the consuming hunger and not give into it. They can lead normal lives but theyíll always deal with the thirst and most give into the darker side of the life. If they give in they are lost. They fear the sunlight and lose most of their souls. They lose control over their hunger and kill anyone in their way or anyone they want. Some become very evil and delight in the power they have over mortals." Cassian explained.

"This is getting complicated." Gabrielle complained.

"I know it is, the dark side is complicated. Comes down to this, if Xena is a fledgling, I need you to reach her."

"How?" Gabrielleís soul was filled with fear.

"Tell her the truth when she comes for you." Cassian said simply.

"What do you mean Ďwhen she comes for meí?" Gabrielle whispered and Cassian steered the woman to a chair at the table.

"The bond you two already have is so strong that youíll be the first she seeks out if sheís turned. Youíve got to distract her long enough for me to kill the other vrykolakas. We hope that one of them is the one that bit her. If you can keep her from taking you and tasting human blood and kill the vrykolaka, sheíll return to human."

"And if I canít?"

"Then youíll both probably be lost to the darkness and Iíll be dead." Cassian shrugged.

"Why wouldnít they turn you?" Gabrielle asked curiously.

"Like I said, itís personal between Samius and me." Cassian started to stand but Gabrielle reached out her hand.

"Please," the bard asked.

Cassian closed her eyes for a moment. "Short version, bard, her name was Myatt and we were bonded as mates. That night Samius took her and changed her. She killed her entire family and delighted in it. I couldnít reach her and get her back. I drove the stake through her heart and through her spine."

"Iím sorry," Gabrielle placed her hand over the warriorís. Cassian smiled and then stood up.

"Time to leave, theyíll be deep in their celebrations by now. Listen, I wouldnít take anyone on this journey if I could help it, especially you. You kinda remind me of Myatt. These creatures arenít human anymore and the delight in torturing humans, especially young woman. It might be rough." Cassian warned.

"Xenaís in trouble." Gabrielle said simply, strapping on Xenaís sword and tying the chakram to her belt. She placed the dagger back in her belt and grabbed her staff and cloak.

"Can you use a sword?" Cassian asked.

"Not really but it might slow down an unarmed vrykolakas. Besides, you canít use one of your swords either."

Cassian held up her bandaged hand and amazed Gabrielle by closing her fist, although she did grit her teeth while doing it. "I can manage. I heal quickly." she grinned.

"How do we get in?" Gabrielle asked as they approached the stone mansion of the local Prince, one Samius.

"Simple." Cassian grinned and boldly approached the guards at the back entrance. "I did a little scouting around here before I ran into you two. This is the quickest way to the entry to the tunnels and ritual chamber below ground."

"Why do they insist on caves?" Gabrielle complained.

"Listen, when we get up there donít say a word, Xenaís life may depend on it. Not a word, act like youíre somewhat unfocused." Cassian hissed.

"What? All right."

The two guards stiffened to attention and crossed their spears across the doorway to the garden. Cassian stopped and looked at them and no one spoke for a moment.

"Who are you? The Prince is having a private function tonight." one guard finally asked.

"Cassian Quintanius," Cassian pulled out a ring on a chain from around her neck and showed the guard the design. He nodded his head towards Gabrielle. "Sheís mine for the night." Gabrielle resisted the urge to raise her head in puzzlement, keeping her eyes on the ground, leaning heavily on her staff.

She did manage to look from under her brows and saw the guard turn back with a frown to Cassian and then stumble backwards, both guards quickly pulling their spears back and unlocking the wooden door.

"Please, Milady, enter." the guard offered.

Cassian moved through the gate, grabbing Gabrielle by the collar of her hooded cloak and pulled the young bard along with her, roughly. Gabrielle bit her lip to keep from protesting. Cassian continued through the garden, moving quickly towards the main building. Once out of sight of the guards she released Gabrielle who was attempting to keep from fuming too much.

"Sorry, had to convince them you are part of the party." Cassian shrugged, warding off Gabrielleís protests.

"Part of the party? What about you? Milady? You certainly arenít dressed like royalty."

"Must have been something he saw in my eyes."

"What was the ring?" Gabrielle demanded, wondering if she dared trust the woman who seemed to know the comings and goings of the castle where Xena was supposedly a prisoner.

"It bears the crest of the House of Lillu, the guards know it." Cassian looked away.

"All right, weíll talk about it later. Whereís Xena?"

"Letís go," Cassian agreed.

The tunnels were typical of stone tunnels under buildings, Gabrielle thought; cold, dark, damp and uncharming. She found herself trusting Cassianís instincts as to which tunnel to take and when to be quiet. The bardís trust level had gone up considerably once they hit the tunnels, Cassian had killed four guards already and Gabrielle had reduced one to an unconscious heap with a broken jaw and cracked skull.

Cassian signaled a stop and moved forward very cautious. Gabrielle had the feeling that they could have marched down the tunnel banging a drum for all the noise that was coming from around the corner. Cassian signaled her forward and motioned for Gabrielle to take a look at the main chamber.

Gabrielle gasped, nothing Cassian could have said would have prepared her for this.

Xena shook her head, she felt slightly sick and her eyes were refusing to focus. She concentrated on her breathing, forcing her mind to work around the remnants of the drug. Once she was a little more assured of her mental state she slowly became aware of very loud music and the sounds of partying. ĎWhat in Tartarus?í she thought. Xena slowly opened her eyes cautiously.

She was stunned to see something like a fabled Bacchanalia. There were people everywhere, most in a state of undress. Some were dancing to the music and most of the dancing would have made even Aphrodite blush. Xena growled when she realized she was tied down on a stone block. ĎDamn, bet itís an altar,í she thought to herself. She glanced up to find her clothes had been changed for a wrap around robe that, thankfully, was currently closed and held with a silk belt. The ropes were secure and on each ankle and wrist.

Then Xena noticed several young girls on various other blocks, dressed the same and tied down. Most of them were waking up and some were screaming. One of the woman of the party approached one of the screamers and leaned over the young thrashing girl. Despite the girlsí muffled protests and attempts to pull away, the woman kissed the girl brutally. "Quiet and you might enjoy it." she snapped. The girl obeyed the order of silence.

Xena was not amused but kept still, not wanting to draw attention to herself as she began to work at the ropes.

"Greetings, children!" a loud male voice announced. Xena pulled her head up and saw a tall, young man step up a few steps to a platform where he casually threw himself into a royal chair. He was the clothes of a royal and had the arrogant grin that Xena often found with Princes. When he spoke again Xena was shocked to see fangs.

ĎA male bacchae?í she wondered.

"I hope that you enjoy tonight. These women are yours for the pleasing. Caution, however, I want them turned to join us. Donít kill them outright." he spread his hands, indicating all the girls on the stone blocks. Xena felt a chill pass over her spine. This did not look good, she thought.

"Milord!" one of the male guests called out.

"Yes?"

"It is rumored that Cassian Quintanius has been seen in the city, is it true?"

"Yes, and it has been dealt with. She wonít bother us, so begin your pleasures, children."

ĎThey fear Cassian, I wonder why.í

Xena felt her breath catch as two women approached her. The warrior hadnít seen such a predatory look on anyoneís face before except when she faced the bacchae before. "Gabrielle, I wish I had told you," she muttered and began to fight against the ropes.

Gabrielle had heard rumors of Bacchus rituals, of orgies and drink but this made those seem tame. This gathering included sex everywhere and drink but it also included blood and rape. Each of the young girls on the stone blocks were either already fledgling vrykolaka or in the process of being raped and drained, usually by more than one vampire.

Then Gabrielle spotted Xena and Cassian placed a restraining hand on the girlís shoulder.

Xenaís back was arched in what Gabrielle knew could only be passion. Between the warriorís legs, was one vrykolaka, another was sucking and biting on one of Xenaís nipples, with a hand working the other one; and another vrykolaka was kissing the warrior deeply.

"No!" Gabrielle whimpered and Cassian pulled the bard back and forced the bard to look at her.

"Listen to me! You said youíve fought bacchae, do they have sexual control over their victims?"

"Yes, itís like you canít resist them. You welcome the touch, the taste, you beg for the bite." Gabrielleís eyes clouded over in memory.

"You were bitten?" Cassianís voice rose a notch.

"Yes," Gabrielle blushed and dropped her head. "Xena saved me by letting me bite her and together, with our last strength, we killed Bacchus and were free."

"Thereís at least fifteen vampires in there as well as Samius. Most are blood drunk or just drunk but I donít know if I can take all of them, especially if they release the fledglings before I reach Samius. We have to move quickly."

However, both women were held stunned as they glanced around the corner and saw Xena and her vrykolaka attackers. The warriorís body was covered in sweat and her wrists were bloody from fighting against the ropes. Neither the bard or Cassian was sure if the struggle was from passion or desperation any longer.

The vrykolaka between her legs continued to nibble and run her tongue over Xenaís swollen clit and slowly pump several fingers in and out of Xenaís womb. Xena was thrashing, unseeing anything around her.

"Xena?" Gabrielle whispered, tears beginning to fall down her face.

She felt Cassianís hand reassuringly on her shoulder. "Thatís not Xenaís doing. She canít fight against three of them. Iím going to circle around in the shadows of the servantís hallway and try to get close to Samius. If I can take him out quickly then the others might panic."

Gabrielle merely nodded.

"When you hear me move, you get to Xena as quick as you can and get her out of here."

"How do I know when you make your move?" Gabrielle asked, drawing her staff into a fighting stance. Cassian looked at it for a moment and then stunned Gabrielle by grabbing it and pulling out one of her swords. "What?"

"Hang on, this might save your life." Cassian, with a couple of quick strokes, had chopped the end of the staff into a very wicked stake end. She handed it back to the bard. "When in doubt, ram that through their chest, itíll kill human or vrykolaka." she grinned.

Gabrielle turned even more pale than she had been. "I canít kill." she whispered.

"Oh what a time to find this out." Cassian complained. "Never mind, do what you can, if you know itís vrykolaka, kill it." Cassian blinked and almost stumbled. Gabrielle frowned. "Just a little remnant of the drugs." Cassian attempted to reassure her.

Then Cassian was gone into the shadows.

Gabrielle turned back, unable to turn her eyes away from Xena and the vampire seduction except to look at the stake end of her staff. "Xena?" she questioned.

Gabrielle quickly bit into her hand to keep from crying out as she saw all three of Xenaís vrykolaka attackers look at each other and extend their fangs. Xena was thrashing at the height of her approaching orgasm and unable to even open her eyes. All three buried their fangs into a vein of the warrior, one at a wrist, another on the inside of the thigh and the other at the neck.

"Gabrielle!" Xena screamed as her body shook and bucked with the waves of sensation. "Gabrielle!" the warrior screamed endlessly. Other girls were also screaming, some in fear, some in the vrykolaka induced pleasure. Gabrielle wanted to shut her eyes and ears to everything she was seeing and hearing but another part of her wanted to hear that cry again. Xena was crying out her name in pleasure, no one elseís.

Gabrielle did turn away when one of Xenaís attackers bit her own wrist open and pushed it to the warriorís mouth. When she steeled herself to look Xena was drinking readily from the vampireís wrist. When the vampire pulled away Gabrielle could see Xena whimper and then gladly resume feeding when one of the other vrykolakaís offered her wrist to the warrior. Then the third completed the circle and Gabrielle was horrified.

All three of them would have to die before Xena could be saved, she realized.

"No," she whispered.

A shrill cry broke through all the noise in the ritual chamber and everyone froze, except Gabrielle, she darted forward, shoving several figures out of the way, attempting to reach Xena.

She glanced over near the platform and saw Cassian slashing her way through the crowd, leaping over Roman sofas and impaling the figures on them with her swords. She quickly fought her way through the confused vampires and humans and jumped on the platform. Samius stumbled out of his chair and looked around quickly.

"Whatís the matter? Whereís your sword, forget to bring it to the party, Samius?" Cassian taunted, running her sword through the left side of his ribcage and yanking the sword out. He grimaced and held his ribs with a snarl.

"Dear, sister, why didnít you tell me you were in town, I would have sent you a proper invitation." he attempted to put the overturned chair between them.

Gabrielle reached Xena and, despite a momentís hesitation, rammed the staff through two of the vrykolaka before they could react. Gabrielle wasnít surprised when they turned to dust. Bacchae had exploded, sort of.

Samius noticed the bardís activities.

"I see you brought a friend."

"Yes, I thought it might be more fun that way."

Everything was in chaos, most of the vrykolaka running back and forth in terror, others trying to gather their clothes to fight better, the few human servants there were kept tripping over confused vampires and hadnít reached Gabrielle or Cassian yet.

"Protecting humans, sister? Why?"

"Youíll never understand, brother." Cassian leaped over the chair and feinted with one sword and spun on one foot, surprising her brother with the second sword, decapitating him.

Gabrielle thought chaos had surrounded her before, now it was absolute at the sight of their father vampire falling that sent the vrykolaka into terror induced flight.

Surprisingly, within moments the place was empty except for a tied up Xena, Gabrielle and Cassian.

"No!" Gabrielle shrieked and Cassian was by her side in a flash. "The third vrykolaka, she escaped! The one that bit Xena!"

Cassian quickly looked over the unconscious warrior and noted the three sets of wounds. "She was bitten by three of them?" Gabrielle nodded. "You got two of them?" Again Gabrielle nodded. "And the last one is gone?" Gabrielle began to cry and nodded.

Cassian again swore in a language that Gabrielle didnít recognize. "Weíve got a few options open to us." She turned and touched Gabrielleís cheek, neither one of them noticed it was covered with blood. When she pulled her hand away it looked like Gabrielle had been blooded from a hunt. Cassian shivered, maybe the bard had. "All is not lost, little one. Letís get her out of here. You grab one of the table coverings and cut her bonds and cover her. Iíll carry her out after I burn Samiusí body."

Gabrielle moved forward and was cutting Xenaís bonds when she snapped her head up at Cassianís curses. "What is it?" the bard called.

"His body and head are gone! By all the gods! Will this never end!?" Cassian raised her fists above her head and screamed a primal scream of rage. It sent chills down Gabrielleís body.

"Heís dead, what does it matter?" Gabrielle asked, cutting the last bounds and heading for a table laden with fruit.

"Heís not like other vrykolaka, only fire can kill him. He can recover from this." Cassian said wearily.

Gabrielle quickly wrapped Xena in the cloth and Cassian grabbed the warrior and heaved the unconscious woman over her shoulder. "Itís uncomfortable for her but quicker for us."

Continue to Part 2

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