by Kathleen Wolf
COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER: Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and back story are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way.
VIOLENCE WARNING/DISCLAIMER: This story depicts scenes of violence. Readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of depiction may wish to read something other than this story.
LOVE DISCLAIMER: This story depicts a love relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story. Please note no graphic sexual scenes are contained within the story.
LOVE DISCLAIMER: This story is the Seventh in my Sorrow series and begins a few moons after the sixth story ends. I strongly recommend reading the other stories to understand what is going on in this one. You might find yourself a bit confused if you don't. Unless of course the idea of Gabrielle having a winged demon daughter makes perfect sense to you too.
TISSUE ALERT: Just going to leave this in forever cause I am a bad judge of the soppy stuff. So you are all forewarned to keep some tissues handy just in case.
FEEDBACK: Any comments would be greatly appreciated.
THANKS: To Cheney and Puddle, without who this series would lack a lot of the positive loving emotions for which only they have given me insight and experience of. Also thank you to all those who are following the series and have been patiently waiting for this update, please don't hang a bard for being slow - BG
Xena pulled the mask up higher on her face. The thick soot and smoke was getting almost intolerable and they hadn't even seen a hint of flame yet.
The hoard of animals and birds running, flying and doing anything else they could to get away told her the flames couldn't be far.
"Kisinda!" She barked at the ice warrior working on a tree not far away. "Any word from the Northern wall?"
"No!" The woman finished with the tree and breathed heavy. "I'll run up and see." She cast a reluctant glance at Tawnie.
"Go on, I'm fine." The blonde nodded and continued her assault on the underbrush.
"Get going." Xena urged her on with a confident smile. Things had gotten really hot in the forest and the Warrior Princes was getting more and more impressed by the ice warrior by the moment. They'd had a couple of tight scrapes so far and Kisinda had always been there to either follow her quick direction or to offer some insightful suggestions of her own. Though she tried to remain focused at the task at hand, the distraction of so many things kept biting into her mind. It offered some comfort now to have Sorrow's crew so close. She knew her worry for her daughter was as always a little misplaced but it was a habit she would never break of. As if she could ever cease to worry about any of her children. It gave her a great comfort to know that it was Danu back in the village co-ordinating everything. If anything the archer would error on the side of caution when it came to the Princess' and call the Protector to move them and the other children to safety long before the fire or smoke became an issue. Her most knowing worry was that Gabrielle was so close yet so far away. It would definitely have made her feel better to know that the bard had stayed behind in the village, but her lover's arguments had been right. She was needed on the wall and it would have been nearly impossible for the warrior to direct the assault on the entire east fire front. She laughed to herself as once again she thanked the Gods for whichever of them had had any hand in the two of them being together. It was Gabrielle alone who could force her into a situation such as this before she even had the chance to reflect and realise it was the best course of action.
Kisinda twirled her axe up into its holster and broke into a run. She knew that the Protector's crew was nearly to them now and she hoped she'd be able to bring back good news.
"Xena! Xena!" It was just as the one warrior left that another Amazon came running up from the south.
"What's wrong?" She broke her cadence of slices at the tree momentarily and with it her deep thoughts of those she loved.
"We need a healer, Delara is down." The tall woman whipped sooty sweat from her forehead.
"What happened?" It struck the warrior that the scout hadn't returned from her last report and a deep pang of guilt went through her. Had she been that distracted to not even note that the valuable scout and good friend was missing?
"Branch she was on gave out, fell along way." The woman tried to fill in what she knew. "One of the advance teams found her."
"I'll go." Tawnie spoke up having watched the interaction. She looked briefly to the direction Kisinda had ran off to, not sure how the ice warrior would react when she returned to find her gone.
"No." The warrior shook her head. "Delara will have been close to the fire line. It's too dangerous."
"You're needed here Xena." Tawnie was already picking up her things. "I'll go." She didn't know where she was finding the confidence to send such an ultimatum to the Warrior Princess. All she knew is that someone was down, and apparently very hurt. Her instinct as a healer took over. Though no one was here from her village to attest to it, Tawnie was the most dedicated of healers. One, who in the ravaging and dangerous ice flows, had risked her life more than once in the name of duty to an injured Amazon.
"Be careful." Xena conceded that it was a better option. She couldn't leave the line right now, too many quick decisions would need to be made for her to go. All she could hope was that the confident and so far competent young woman was indeed both those things.
"I will." Tawnie nodded to her and urged the other warrior to lead on.
The trip to Delara was a silent one. Tawnie was glad for the break in focus from conversation as she tried to accustom herself to the forest. The fire itself caused such a turbulent wind that it made her head feel thick. That the air was hot and dry made it difficult to breath and she rested a hand on her chest as they walked marvelling at the heavy feelings in her lungs. On the mountain the greatest danger was always that if the temperature went too low, ones lungs could freeze. The opposite problem was on order here and she made a mental note to consciously chance her tactics. Though she was sure the need for quick and decisive treatment on site in order to transport the injured back to the village, would come in handy here with the flames baring down at them.
"She's here!" Another Amazon standing guard with the injured waved from the underbrush to get their attention and the two women ran to them immediately.
"Has she been moved?" Tawnie knelt and began an immediate appraisal of the scout. Almost as an afterthought she looked up far into the huge tree to see the snapped off branch. To say the woman had fallen along way was a bit of an understatement.
"No, this is where we found her." The other woman moved back to let the healer work. "They need us at the trenches." She made the comment to the woman who'd accompanied Tawnie anxiously.
"Go back." It was Delara's voice that spoke to everyone's surprise. "I'm fine."
"You're not fine." Tawnie shook her head as she examined the bone that protruded out of her thigh. On top of the visible problem, the healer was greatly worried about internal injuries. "But if you're needed elsewhere go." She waved off the other two as she concentrated on the wound.
They looked at each other lost for a second before bounding off into the forest to go back to the trenches.
"You seem pretty confident?" Delara smiled weakly at the small woman as she moved to examine the wound closer.
"Pardon?" Tawnie looked up at her.
"You seem confident." The scout repeated. "I'm Delara." She reached a hand up to wipe at a scratch on her cheek, the movement made her grimace.
"Tawnie." The small blonde smiled. "This is going to hurt, I have to reset it before we can move."
"I'm in your hands." Delara gritted her teeth and reached up to get a hold of a something as she bore down.
Tawnie took a deep breath before moving back the flesh with one hand as she slammed the bone back down flush inside. The scout's eyes rolled up into her head as she hung desperately onto consciousness.
"Hard bits over." She tried to offer comfort as she moved over to two thick saplings and hacked at them with her sais. She quickly paired them down to bare sticks. "Just have to brace it now."
"You're so beautiful." The pain seemed to subside as Delara felt herself hit a heady almost drunken state. "The fire matches the ends of your hair." She looked at the healer as she worked with a crooked grin. This petite woman truly was beautiful. The scout wondered how she'd never even caught a glimpse of this rare flower in the village before.
"The fire?" Tawnie froze as she turned and came face to face with approaching flames.
'Kisinda!' The warrior's name came into her mind as a plea for help.
Gabrielle stood by the rive line watching the flow. Though it had increased dramatically it was nowhere near what they needed. With a big breath she moved back to her spot in the trench.
'I hope the children are okay.' The motherly worry came into her mind for the thousandth time. The wind had been kind so far, its southerly direction should be the most of it from the village.
"Queen Gabrielle!" A runner came broke from the thick of the forest at full tilt. "Word from the north." The woman reached her and dropped to one knee.
"Please just give me the report." The bard knew her voice was a bit clipped and she noted to herself to tone it down. She just couldn't help but worry if her flood plan was taking valuable women off the firewalls and would inevitably lead to the destruction of the village. But if it worked, which she prayed to any God that would listen that it would, things would turn out better than anyone could have imagined.
"The Princess is happy to report her wall and Xena's are joining up now to fight the eastern front." She smiled. "Though they expect the fire to hit them any time and..." The woman hesitated.
"And what?" Gabrielle wanted to get excited but she held herself in check till she heard it all.
"We have one scout down and both her and the healer they sent to find her are missing." The report came in a pained voice.
"Who?" The bard's question jumped from her. So far all reports had outlined only minor to moderate injuries. It was such a naïve hope that they could have gotten through all of this without losing anyone.
"Delara and one of the newcomers from the mountains." The woman gave all the information she had.
"Sweet Artemis." She nodded that the runner could be dismissed as she turned away back to the river. Unbidden her mind conjured a picture of the scout. A loyal and valuable member of the village, but more than that, she was a good friend. One who had been a key factor in getting her daughter-in-law back from the clutches of the evil Aldernon Queen. As her mind reeled, a horrible thought hit her. If only the ice mountain healer was missing, only Tawnie was missing, that meant Kisinda was still working close to Xena. A picture of the young sweet-faced woman jumped into her mind. Though she knew it a horrible thing to think, it would be so much more comforting in a sense to know it was Kisinda lost in the wilds of the fire. That it seemed would be on par with having Xena out there, minus all her emotional attachment of course. But this was the equivalent of her being lost in the fire, with Xena still on the wall. She hoped the ice warrior would keep a level head and not do anything rash or foolish that might further her lover's suspicion of her.
'You'd fine a way to get out of it Gabrielle, so will she.' The bard tried to make herself feel better. 'She hasn't survived all this time on the ice or all the adventures she's told you about with Kisinda because she's stupid.' She looked to the plum of thick black smoke that billowed out of treetops. 'Sweet Artemis, hang on Tawnie. You have so many more stories you promised to tell me.'
"Come on Ephiny." She whispered as she turned back to look at the river hopeful her Regent would pull them through.
"Last one ladies." Ephiny bent down with her hands on her knees trying to find air. They'd done nothing but run, chop, carry and dig for too many candlemarks too count.
'There the biggest by far.' She looked at what was the beginning of the Amazon river. Here at the base of the small mountain the large river came down like thunder from a waterfall pooling before it split into three equal sized rivers.
"We do one then the other." The Regent looked around and appraised how best to finish. "Anyone got any brilliant ideas?"
"Rock slide?" Nakor, one of the younger members of the party pointed up to the small gravel hillside that loomed over one of the waterways.
"Now that is brilliant." Ephiny felt a genuine smile cross her face as she looked up to where the woman pointed. "Everyone to the top!" She moved to start the climb.
'Fire, fire, fire!' The word went over in Tawnie's head again and again as she hacked at bush around Delara trying to get a open space to brace the scout's leg.
"Funny but it doesn't seem so hot now?" Delara gave her a crooked delirious grin.
"Delara, I know everything is fuzzy right now." The small ice warrior knelt down beside her and began bracing the leg. "But I need you to stay with me. I need your help."
"Anything doll." Delara reached out to play with her hair. Something in the scout tired to fight the shifting state of the world but the pain bore down on her too much and this consciousness seemed more attractive than being out completely.
"I need to tell you a secret..." Tawnie tore the cloth pack she'd been using into strips tying the braces onto the scout's long leg as she explained.
"Xena?" Kisinda moved up to the Warrior Princess and the Protector toying with the axe handle in her hand. She knew they had bigger priorities right now but there was no way she could concentrate until she knew. The north was holding and the east wall was taking a battering but none of it mattered to the warrior anymore.
"Yes Kisinda?" Xena looked up from the hastily drawn battle plans. "Word from the trenches?" She gotten word of Gabrielle's idea to flood the forest, it was a long shot but hey they'd taken lots of those in the past and quite often things had managed to somehow work out. She had to admire her lover for coming up with the idea.
"No, not yet." The tall ice warrior scanned around again through the faces of the Amazon's working around them. "Have either of you have seen Tawnie?"
"Delara, one of our scouts, was down and badly injured. You weren't back with the northern progress report so I couldn't leave the wall." Xena gave her the facts. "She volunteered to go and tend to her."
"You let her go off by herself?" Kisinda couldn't keep the bite out of her words. Though part of her screamed that it was suicide to direct this amount of hostility at the Warrior Princess she couldn't help it. Tawnie was off in the forest alone and the ice warrior's stomach had sunk so low she was sure something horrible had happened.
"Yes, she volunteered." Xena cast a warning glare at the warrior, her internal worries coming forth again as she expected the woman to pounce on her.
"She can't be off in the forest alone, too much movement. She won't be able to keep track." The pained look of ultimate worry fell onto the ice warrior's face as she moved from being mad to being manic. "You don't understand she won't know the fire's coming."
"Kisinda, what's going on?" Sorrow noticed the sudden difference in the warrior. It wasn't rage anger but concern anger, something she'd felt many times. "Why does the movement matter?"
"She doesn't like anyone to know." Kisinda looked at the Protector lost. She knew she couldn't keep the healer's precious secret to herself any longer. As she looked at Sorrow the burn of an age-old guilt fuelled up in her again to scorch her soul. "She's almost deaf, there was an accident when were children. She only can hear high tones in her right ear and nothing in her left."
"She's deaf!" The Protector repeated the words almost astounded. "But?" She looked at the Warrior Princess as her question remained unspoken.
"She reads lips doesn't she?" Xena asked the ice warrior outright, feeling a sinking feeling in her chest. She'd sent a deaf woman into a forest fire to tend to someone she should have been looking after herself.
"Yes, she's gotten so good at it no one can tell." Kisinda replaced the axe in its holster. "I'm going to find her."
"Kisinda, there is a dozen trackers looking for them as we speak. Mother put the team out the moment they went missing." Sorrow filled in the news from the last report she'd heard regarding their disappearance. She'd had no idea it was Tawnie that was lost with Delara. "Kisinda, we need you right now. The fire's threatening to break through here." She pointed to the map desperate to focus the warrior's anger where they needed it most.
"You don't understand." The ice warrior backed away looking caged and frightened. "If she's hurt..." She shook her head at the order to stay. "I have to find her."
"Let her go Sorrow." Xena reached out to put a sooty hand on the Protector's arm. She knew the look that the ice warrior held. "Go find her Kisinda." She gave a stiff nod of approval to the woman who took off immediately.
"Xena?" Sorrow looked at her a bit lost. "I feel just as selfish asking her to stay but you said it yourself we need the three of us here."
"Sorrow if that was Danu missing where would you be?" She looked at the Protector as she picked up her axe. The Protector looked at her Mother for a moment before a look of understanding crossed over her face.
"Point taken." Sorrow turned to see the ice warrior disappearing into the smoke that filled the forest. "I hope for both their sakes she finds her."
Tawnie finished with the ties on the brace. She coughed and pulled the cloth up over her nose further before doing the same for Delara.
'Think, think, think!' She prompted herself as she turned again to see the flames were getting closer and they had to move now. 'What would you do Kissy?' She smiled to herself as the old childhood name came into her head. 'Kissy would get our butts in gear and think on the road.'
"Time to go Delara." Tawnie grasped the taller bigger woman and got her upright. She'd seen Kisinda make this move a few times as she shifted Delara up across her shoulder's to carry her. The weight made her legs want to buckle at first, but she stiffened up and started to move.
'When in trouble always travel in a straight line if there are no enemy.' Tawnie let the lessons that Kisinda had drilled into her come back as she walked steadily. 'The closest help is at the trenches and that is south.' She looked up briefly, mostly keeping her eyes on the ground as she concentrated on walking with the load on her shoulders. She paid special attention to not bash the injured woman's leg off anything as she went. It made the journey much harder as she often had to walk sideways to get between trees.
'Straight line angle down to the trenches away from the fire line.' She confirmed a plan of action to herself as she moved. The air was getting thick and her breathing was hindered. She only hoped Delara's unconscious state would help make her an easy burden.
"Goddess help me Kisinda." She laughed sadly to herself as she walked. "If I get out of this I swear I'm going to tell you how I feel and not waste anymore time."
"One more push!" Ephiny urged the half dozen Amazon's pushing on the large boulder to give it all they had. "Our homes ride on this!"
With one last exhausted heave the boulder seemed to slide a bit in the loose gravel below it before finally shifting and sliding off the ledge it had occupied for an eternity.
Catching one of her tribe mates from tumbling after it, the Regent moved close to the end watching the large rock fall. The hope had been that it would be coming from a high enough place to urge a lot of others to join in on its way down into one of the small rivers that was tapping the main Amazon one of flow.
"It's working!" Nakor raised her hand happily as she came up by the Regent and saw the once lonely boulder being joined by enough rock and gravel to block the river.
Their rockslide came to an abrupt and violent stop as it hit the river. Water, weeds and fish splattered up as the rocks displaced them. In a slow motion the river on the downstream side of the block dried up to a small trickle of water fed by the smaller holes left between the rocks.
"We should try it on the other side as well." The young Amazon pointed to another rock ledge high up above the second still running river. The flow of it and the Amazon river had increased dramatically as the third riverbed was no longer taking water from the falls.
"You heard her ladies!" Ephiny looked to the other ledge with a tired grin as they all began to move. "To the ledge."
Gabrielle dipped her hand in the rushing water and smiled. She rubbed it across her forehead, not surprised by the black soot that came off into her palm.
"Come on Ephiny." She whispered the words of encouragement to the stiff white peaks of the fast flowing water. So far, they had built weak retaining walls between the river and the trenches so that whenever the flow was strong enough it could choose to break them down and head into the forest and to the fire. She only hoped all the time and effort spent on this preparation would be used soon or else if the flood did come it would be too late.
She turned back to the forest, muted by the thick plume of smoke and red tendrils that now capped it like a crown at the horizon.
"This is going to be close." She looked back to the river hopeful that things would work out.
"Tawnie!" Kisinda moved through the trees her senses tuned into everything. She knew the yelling was pointless really as there was no chance that her calls would be heard. She did have the hope that Delara might be conscious enough to hear though so she kept on screaming. "Tawnie!"
Slashing her axe through a thick dry bush, the sight before her stopped her dead. In all her panic and worry she'd completely lost track of the fire. The oversight now left her face to face with the burning menace itself.
"Come on Kisinda, you have to focus." She backtracked away from it quickly. "There is only so much time and space you have to cover. There is no option here but to find her." She hurdled a fallen log and kept going. "And when you do find her your going to finally get over this little shyness of yours." The sudden thought made her laugh at herself.
"Tawnie!" She screamed her companion's name again as the fear hit her. How much time had she wasted worrying and watching to see if the small blonde carried the same feelings? "Tawnie!" There was no choice now, she had to find her alive or else she'd never forgive herself. She'd let the blonde down once when they were young and she'd vowed to herself then she'd never let it happen again. Today was not going to be the day she failed.
Ephiny knew there was no more need for words of encouragement or instruction as they all took their places behind various small boulders and rocks that sat in precarious positions on the north side of the waterfall. The rushing river below was the last thing stealing power from the Amazon river and it would have to be blocked in order for Gabrielle's plan to have any hope of succeeding.
"One..." She dug herself down into a crouched position shoulder to the stone in front of her. "Two..." She heard various deep breaths around her as everyone prepared themselves. The Regent hoped the simultaneous timing would create the biggest slide possible. "Three!" She cut the last syllable of the word short as she heaved at the rock.
At the cue every woman pushed and a shower of large stones began to make their way down the hillside. The rocks bounced off various outcroppings on their way down to the enemy river.
Ephiny leaned over the slight ledge hopeful. They'd had to make a much higher climb then on the other side.
"That can't be good." It was Nakor that again appeared at her shoulder pointing to right of them where several of the boulders had taken unexpected bounces and were heading more south than expected.
It all seemed to happen in slow motion as the wayward rocks gathered momentum and were sent into the sidewalls of the waterfall.
"Everyone hold on!" Ephiny barked the warning as the mountain itself seemed to shudder inside and moan from the onslaught. Grabbing Nakor by the back of her shirt she pulled the younger Amazon back to cling to the rock face with her.
As new water broke forth from behind thinned rock shields, shards of sharp stone were sent out into the river and forest below. Years of internal erosion within the mountain had left the underground rivers that fed the waterfall poised to one day double its size, but now the waiting was over as the wayward boulders had provided a catalyst.
"Someone is on our side today." Ephiny smacked Nakor on the shoulder ecstatically as the mountain came to rest again after the explosion. "I hope Gabrielle is ready for this." She eyed the wall of water that was heading down the Amazon river in foamy white waves. "I only hope its in time." She added thoughtfully as the high peak gave her a bird's eye view of the area. Far in the distance the sky was a tower of smoke and flames. Contenting herself that they had done the best job she could, she looked to see the others were beginning the climb down to the forest again and though her limbs ached she moved to join them.
Tawnie tried to shift the every growing weight on her shoulders and misjudged she sent her and the scout crashing into the forest floor again. Her chest coming across a semi-rotted log, she felt the wind being knocked out of her. She closed her eyes, trying to fight the panic as her body struggled for air. Going out now would be the worst thing she could do. The fire was bearing down on them quickly and they had to keep moving. It was an unexpected relief when Delara moaned and rolled off of her.
"What's going on?" A moment of lucidity struck the tall-injured woman as the pain threatened to pull her down again.
"We're in the forest." Tawnie managed to grab a staggered breath as she moved to sit up. "We have to keep moving the fire is right behind us."
"We'll never outrun it." Delara shifted her head back to see the ever-approaching flames, grimacing against her body's hatred of the movement. She looked around trying to get her bearings. "There's a big old tree about twenty feet that way." She raised her arm a little to point. "It has a hollow." She hoped she was making sense as darkness began to pull at the edges of her vision.
"Gotcha." Tawnie nodded and taking a few deep breaths moved to pick the scout up again. "To the tree." She tried to inject some level of enthusiasm, though the increased smoke and heat around them told her they were nowhere near safety.
Gabrielle could feel the colour drain out of her face as she stood on the riverbank and finally caught a glimpse of the white wall of water in the distance. She'd expected a flood but nothing of this magnitude had ever seemed possible.
"Everyone to higher ground, the water's coming!" She barked out the hasty order happy when everyone began to scramble to do just that. Moving up onto the nearest large boulder, she kneeled down watching the approaching menace. "Sweet Artemis." She swore to herself as the water raced towards them. The sudden sound of Kisinda's voice made her turn
"Has she been found?" The ice warrior yelled the question as she ran out of the trees, expecting hordes of Amazon's to be working at the fire line and within the trenches. That she saw no one made her sense do a double take. Adjusting her focus, she immediately scanned to find Gabrielle who hadn't left the riverside since all of this had began.
A heartbeat later she zoned in on the slight figure of the Queen and then to the river bearing down on her position. Instantly judging the current shift in her surrounds, the warrior sidestepped her way out of the disintegrating trench she'd emerged into and wadded through the rising water towards Gabrielle. Shifting the axe out of the holster on her back, she planted in the slushy ground in order to facilitate a daring flip. The risky manoeuvre was her only chance to reach the top of the high boulder before the tide would over take her.
The bard watched wide eyed as the ice warrior soared through the air to land next to her gently. It was a flip that she'd only expect from the Warrior Princess and again she found herself impressed by the woman's skills.
"No word yet." Gabrielle called above the roar.
"If I may be so bold your highness." Kisinda turned from her assessment of the river to wedge the blade of her axe in a crevice within the stone.
"Of course." Gabrielle made the agreement without truly understanding as the ice warrior's thick arm went around her and held her tight. Kisinda's other hand gripped around the axe handle. As the bard looked back at the huge monster tide looming down on them she understood immediately the warrior's words. "Everyone brace yourself!" She just managed to get the warning out as the beginning of the main wave hit them.
The fire danced around the old hollow tree. Tawnie shifted Delara into the back of the small sanctuary behind her as she watched the menace outside. For a moment they were somewhat safe.
"Nowhere to go, nothing I can do." She resolved herself to the impending. They were surrounded now. Too far to get ahead of the fire line and unable to assess how long it would take to get behind it.
"For a girl who's lived all her life surrounded by ice, I never thought I'd be bested by a forest fire." She almost laughed to herself but then felt more like crying. A thousand memories flashed by her eyes. It was then as the myriad of images began to hold one common thread that she truly realized the weight of the situation.
"Kisinda." The name of the warrior came softly from her dried lips. It was horrible enough to know she would die here, holed up in this Gods forsaken tree awaiting death but to know how hard Kisinda would take it was agony. She knew that the warrior would always see it as a failure, the ultimate failure. One that would compound the foolish error they'd made as children into a guilt she feared would destroy the soul she loved so much.
"Don't blame yourself my love." She whispered into the face of the flames as she put her hand over her heart. "By rights I should have died that day in the sacred place. You have given me so much more, so many good times and so much love." She closed her eyes to the ever-increasing heat with only one regret. All the times she'd been too nervous, too scared to explain her feelings came rushing back and she wished she could have that time again. Just have enough time to tell Kisinda three simple words.
On crimson wings Sorrow rose up among the hot wind and soot. The eastern crew had stood as long as it could before calling retreat. Sure the rest of her crew was safe she'd decided to scout from the air to see how the village would fair under the new onslaught. If the smoke would be too much for the children she'd need to start moving them. She thought of calling out to her archer, but the idea of trying to even briefly explain that the fire was coming and at the moment they might be losing was an unappealing one.
"What the...?" The beginning of a low hissing made her turn midair to look down towards the river. A thick cloud of sooty steam emerged up from forest blocking the horizon from view. She swooped towards it. This was not the plume of a raging fire and for a moment she couldn't figure out what it was as she struggled through the thick foggy mess before emerging again into clear sky.
"A flood?" Her mind assessed as she watched the water soaking the forest and moving inwards to destroy the fire. "Where in Hera's name did a flood come from?"
The dark thick smoke billowed around her and Tawnie did her best to keep her mouth shielded to find a breath of air. Though her body concentrated on the task of trying to survive her mind seemed content to ignore the distraction of the outside world and focus on the memories.
Her mind consumed itself with the most precious memory she carried. A memory of a tall and defiant Kisinda at her warrior's initiation ceremony, the memory of the moment when she'd fallen in love with her beloved warrior so long ago. Kisinda had stood unbroken, long after all the other would be warrior's had fallen to the tasks of the weapons master, the no holds barred attack of the tribe's commander and then even under the glare of the Shamaness who looked deep into each of them. There had stood her warrior, with long black hair tied up high on her head so that even the small comfort it would offer from the winter's wind was taken from her. Unable to yield though her hands bled from the weighted staff she held aloft in trial. It had been that day that Tawnie knew she'd lost her heart. Though at the time she hadn't realized how far it would take them.
A sudden lost of all the air around her drew her back to the present. She closed her eyes tight to the stinging soot and ash.
"I love you Kisinda." She mouthed the words as she turned her back to the engulfing flames and buried her face in her arms waiting for the end.
The crest of the largest wave came and went, battering its way into the forest and past the various Amazons who clung to precarious positions against its onslaught. After the reprieve came, Kisinda looked up and loosened her grip on the Queen.
"I think that's the worse swell." The warrior coughed lightly to try and urge the small woman to release the death grip she was holding around her waist.
"I think you're right." Gabrielle pulled her face out of the protection of Kisinda's arms and surveyed the water. "It'll reach her area in time." She turned in the close quarters looking the other woman in the eye. "She'll be alright you'll see."
"I..." Kisinda tried to block out what the mystic crystal at her neck was feeding her. "I..."
Gabrielle watched the tall warrior struggle with a vague curiosity. The lost gaze in her eyes, the vague underlying panic that sat behind them. She'd seen this look before many times. Needing one last thing to confirm her suspicions, she reached out and placed her hand over the large one that clung white knuckled to the axe handle.
"You're shaking." She appraised in a soft voice that only the warrior could hear over the waves.
"I..." Kisinda's eyes grew wide as she looked down into concentrated green.
"You love her don't you?" She knew her words were both a statement and a comment at the same time. She hoped they wouldn't hurt the ice warrior, as she meant no malice by them. In fact it filled her with a great sense of warmth to see how deeply this warrior cared for Tawnie.
"I..." The ice warrior looked away.
"She'll be alright Kisinda." Gabrielle squeezed the hand under her own. "I promise." She closed her eyes to the tears her heart wanted to cry. She only hoped that all the times she and Xena had managed to cheat the separation of death before they'd been strong enough to reveal their feelings hadn't drained the well of miracles and there would be a small one left for the warrior before her.
The first thing she realized was that for some reason the fire wasn't hot and the flames didn't burn her. Though her skin did feel like it she was being soaked in a hot spring. The feel of it came up quick around her, engulfing everything.
The sudden clearing of it all and the rush of hot but breathable air made her finally open her eyes.
"By the Gods?" She looked down to see the water lapping around them and her first instinct was to get the scouts head above the water level in the sudden new fear that she would drown.
The current came hard and fast after that, rocking the two of them around the inside of the hollow with its wrath.
"Are we dead?" Delara opened a sleepy eye.
"No." Tawnie shook her head. "I think we're saved."
"Oh good." The pain came up again and the scout dropped off.
"I don't know, but I swear to whatever God or Goddess made this possible." Tawnie stuck a reluctant head out of the hollow as the water level began to drop. "I will tell Kisinda that I love her and I will do it by the next full moon."
"How did you know?" Kisinda stood up straighter trying to regain control of herself.
"Sorta a been there done that situation." The bard smiled slightly. "It's easy to see the signs when you've been there yourself. How long have you been in love with her?"
"As long as I can remember." The warrior shoulder's slumped again as she knew the bard had her pinned in place and there was nothing she could do to get away.
"Why haven't you told her?" Gabrielle asked softly, though she remembered her own time of longing for Xena and the answer came to her. "Wait I know the answer to that but Kisinda trust me." She reached up and rested her hand over the warrior's happy to see the shaking had lessened. "Whatever the reasons you have for not telling her, you need to tell her."
"I can't." Kisinda shook her head. "I have no right too. She's never showed any other interest in me than as a friend. I don't want to lose her friendship."
"It's a hard leap to take Kisinda, but if you tell her how you feel without any pressure." Gabrielle tried to reason with her though somehow she knew she'd never get through to the warrior. If she was anything like Xena, things would take time and effort before she would see.
"I'm sorry but I can't tell her, no matter what." The ice warrior took a hard stance. "If Tawnie feels the same for me, it will be up to her to let me know. I won't impose my wants upon her."
Before Gabrielle could argue more, the intimate moment she was sharing with the ice warrior was interrupted.
"A little warning would have been nice." The Warrior Princess guided Argo through the decreasing water towards the rock where her bard had sought refuge.
"It was a long shot." Gabrielle beamed back at her partner. "I didn't want to hinge the effort on it." She looked back at the ice warrior to whisper. "Don't worry this is between you and I." The relieved nod she received was enough to signal an end to their conversation.
"Still..." She pulled the mare next to the rock and offered the redhead an arm to come join her on the horse. "Some warning would have been nice."
"Next time." The bard agreed as she settled in behind her and gave her a tight squeeze. "Did your side hear anything about the missing?" She asked the question knowing it must be what was on the ice warrior's mind as she stood above them.
"No word." Xena shook her head, looking up at the tall woman. "Sorrow is scouting from the sky." She returned the stiff nod she received from the other warrior. "And thank you."
"No need." Kisinda shook her head and removed the wedged axe from the stone. "I'm going to go see if I can find her myself." The ice warrior dropped down into the ever-decreasing river flow.
"Good luck. Many of those on the walls are out looking already. We'll check word on the way back to the village." Xena watched her travel off and pulled Argo to head back to check on Danu's progress and the children.
"Why did you thank her?" Gabrielle held a bit tighter as they moved, reaching around slightly to kiss the warrior on the neck. She was so grateful to know things were safe again and the woman she loved was in her arms.
"Well you obviously got a little overzealous and didn't have yourself in a safe place." She explained having noted the position of the warrior's axe. "And I believe I have Kisinda to thank for you not floating away?" She poised the question with a smirk.
"Hey I can swim." Gabrielle slapped her shoulder playfully as they moved off. It felt so good to find a moment of brevity, even knowing that there would be much to deal with.
Kisinda moved through the flooded forest with a purpose. Though she dared not believe it, something inside her held a small ever-growing flame of hope that her small companion was alive.
"Tawnie!" She called as she wadded through the water. "Tawnie!"
She knew the calls would be almost useless unless she was right on top of the other woman but again there was a vague hope that Delara was conscious and would hear the calls.
The ice warrior felt her heart drop when all her efforts proved fruitless and she saw the black charred line within the forest of where the fire had reached before the flood snuffed it out.
"I plead to anyone or anything." Kisinda dropped to one knee where she stood. "Please spare her, for she is..." The warrior never got to finish her statement as the soft questioning voice in the distance drew her vision down from the sky.
"Kisinda?" Tawnie shifted the heavy load of the scout on her shoulders trying not to drop her from the shock of what she had seen when she'd cleared a dense area of trees.
"Tawnie." Kisinda whispered the woman's name as their eyes met and in an instant she was on her feet and moving through the burnt wood to get to her.
They met face to face, only a short distance between them and stopped. Each looked the other over for visible injury or trauma.
"I was so worried." Kisinda finally spoke as she flipped her axe back into its harness.
"So was I." The small healer smiled so much she felt her jaw start to hurt. "We have to get Delara back to the village quickly." The weight on her shoulders reminded her of the weight of the situation.
"Here let me take her, we'll make better time." The ice warrior shook all the feelings from her and shifted around the smaller woman to carefully take her load from her.
"I haven't been doing that bad. Only a little singed at the edges." Tawnie relinquished the scout someone relieved. As always, she studied her warrior's face and realized her humour had come at a less that perfect time.
"A little singed is too much for my liking." Kisinda's face was soft and pained.
'You were so petrified weren't you?' The though registered in the small woman's mind and she couldn't help but smile again. After all her vowing and praying during the fire, could it be that her warrior felt the same.
"Let's get going." Kisinda's voice pulled her companion back to the real world.
"Lead on." Tawnie began to reach out to touch the warrior's strong arm but pulled her hand back. This wasn't the time for this now, but soon it would be. Soon she would know if Kisinda held the same feelings in her heart and as one part of her longed for the moment to be now, the rest of her settled into the familiar silence that would allow her to hold her tongue with ease.
"You lead." Kisinda motioned for her to go first and was happy to see her do so without much fuss. "I'm not ever letting you out of my sight again." She whispered as she followed knowing the healer couldn't have heard her.
Gabrielle looked at the small stub of a candle and pushed the parchment away from her. She looked out the window to the dark sky. It would only be a few hours before the morning came again and a there first day after the fire would begin.
'A dozen warriors badly injured and another dozen moderately injured.' The human statistics rang through her head over and over. 'A good portion of the forest burnt out and a river that now flows at twice its highest.' The rest of her worries played in the background.
"It could have been much worse." She reminded herself with a sigh, reaching up to massage her temples with her hands. "At least now it's just a matter of dealing with the aftermath." She tried to find some comfort in that fact.
"Think maybe it's time a certain Queen went to bed." Xena leaned against one side of the doorway appraising her. She been secretly watching her love for some time, picking up each of the subtle queues that told her Gabrielle was far beyond tired.
"I think you might be right. I've just been trying to get all the procedures in order for the rest of the night." Gabrielle yawned again and stood up. "Any new reports?"
"Only that most everyone has gone to get some shut eye. Oxin is keeping only those most required at the infirmary, so don't even think that you need to go there to check up on things. " Xena moved across the room to meet her. "Ephiny's team just got in and they all pretty much collapsed. Though to ease your mind no one in her party was injured, minus a few cuts and scrapes."
"You seem to be reading my mind tonight?" Gabrielle laughed lightly as she reached out and let herself fall into her warrior's arms to receive a much longed for hug. "Are you sure there's nothing we're needed for?" She snuggled in against familiar leather.
"The only thing we are needed to do right now is to go home and assure our two gorgeous daughters that we are indeed alive and healthy." Xena kissed her lover's forehead as the vivid memories of recent peril making her hang on just a bit more desperately.
"Just makes you want to hug them and never let them go." Gabrielle closed her eyes under the kiss. "Though I think maybe the second thing we need to do is dunk ourselves in a long hot bath. Cause I'm sorry love, but I think it's going to take a week to get the soot out of your leathers." She rubbed one finger down the warrior's side and held up the black skin for Xena to see.
"Hugs for the girls and a bath for you and I." The warrior urged the bard towards the door. "Sounds like the best offer I've had in days."
Tawnie pulled the soft cotton of the shift down over her head, happy to be free of her dirt laden leathers. She was tired and sure that she had never felt this exhausted before in her life. There had been so many to tend in the infirmary when she'd gotten back to the village that it had seemed selfish not to offer what help she could. Only on Oxin's order to get some rest did she finally leave and retreat to her hut.
"Are you alright?" Kisinda's had woken when she'd heard the other woman entered but had decided it best to delay talking till Tawnie was dressed for bed. She shifted up to sit as she questioned.
"Just so tired." Tawnie yawned as she tried to smile. She padded over to the bed. "Are you okay?" She questioned remembering the wound she had treated earlier. Looking down at the dirt and blood stained bandage gave her no comfort. "You haven't had this changed have you?" She shook her head at the warrior as she retreated to grab her bag and then moved back to the bed.
"Had other things on my mind." The warrior admitted sheepishly.
"You have to be careful Kissy." Tawnie busied herself with the removal and replacement of the bandage.
The warrior watched her work in silence, a bit stunned by the use of a name she hadn't heard in ages.
"I'm sorry." Her word's came in a whisper as the healer finished with the bandage.
"There is nothing to be sorry for." Tawnie shook her head, trailing fingers down around the new bandage on the warrior's arm.
"There is, I shouldn't..." Kisinda tried to explain but was stopped by a slim finger coming to her lips.
"Kissy don't." Tawnie shook her head. "This isn't anyone's fault." She shifted and moved up to sit next to the warrior, keeping herself turned so that she could still look into the hazel eyes she loved. "Let's just get some sleep." She wrapped her arms around the bigger woman without any hesitation and pulled her close to her before guiding them down together under the thin covers.
Kisinda didn't have the courage to argue, her mind afraid it would lead to being pulled from the safe haven she embraced now. The slim arms and body that wrapped around her made her feel more safe and protected then any shield forged by the Gods ever could.
"Sleep now my warrior." Tawnie kissed the top of auburn hair and closed her eyes. She prayed for a second that Kisinda wouldn't pull away as she realized what she had done. She needed this contact right now maybe more than she thought the warrior did. As the figure in her arms chose to snuggle closer rather than move away, she sighed lightly and drifted off into much needed sleep.
"I believe we were right here before we were rudely interrupted." Danu laughed as she dropped down on the bedroll next to the Protector, the stress of the last day melting away.
"I think it was more like this." Sorrow turned and snuggled up behind her.
"I think your right." Danu dipped her head to kiss the arm that encircled her. "It was close out there wasn't it?" Her voice dropped lower.
"It was." Sorrow answered her softly, holding a bit tighter. "But close is better than too late."
"Don't let go." Danu felt herself shake a little as she made the small plea.
"Never my love." Sorrow held her tighter still.
"I like it when I can feel your heart beat." The archer tried to focus on something other than the fear that had rooted inside her as she realized just what they all could have lost if the Queen's flood hadn't of worked.
"It's one of the most comforting things in the world when I can feel yours." Sorrow kissed the soft flesh of shoulder that hovered close near her lips. "I'm sorry we had to be split up today."
"You have no reason to be sorry." Danu shook her head slightly, wanting to turn to face her partner but not wanting to lose the thick rhythm the Protector's heart was drumming into her back. "Today wasn't about you and me love. It was about the entire village and they needed you were you were and me here."
"I know, that doesn't make it any easier to leave you." The Princess kissed the archer's shoulder again. "Especially with Tawnie and Delara going missing. I was reminded of just how precious it is to have your love."
Unable to speak without seeing her lover's eyes, Danu turned slowly in the embrace to bring them face-to-face.
"You have always had my love Sorrow." She ran her hand down the Protector's pale cheek. "And no matter what is going on around us, you will always have it." She was about to lean in to kiss the Protector when the look on her lover's face made her stop. "What happened out there love? Talk to me."
"It's silly really." The Princess frowned slightly.
"I'm sure it's not silly." Danu cupped the cheek she caressed in her hand.
"It's just." Sorrow sighed deeply. "When Kisinda realized that Tawnie was missing, she wanted to go and find her. I was so selfish Danu, I asked her to stay and help with the fire."
"That's not selfish love, you needed her there." Danu's voice was soft and comforting.
"I know, but me reminding her of her duty at that time was the last thing she needed when the woman she loved was in danger." Sorrow closed her eyes and leaned into Danu's hand. "It would be like someone reminding me of my duty when you were in danger. Like I wouldn't be struggling with that fact already."
"Sorrow, you're being far too hard on yourself." The archer ran a loving hand and ran it through her partner's hair.
"Am I?" The Princess shook her head lightly. "She hasn't even told Tawnie how she feels for her yet. If she'd have lost her in the fire, it would have been like Xena coming into the practice field that day before..." She didn't finish it was just too horrible to talk about.
"But Xena didn't come earlier that day and Tawnie wasn't even hurt in the fire." Danu bent in and kissed her lover finally.
"Do you think it would be horrible if I talked to her? Tried to make her understand that she has to be honest about how she feels?" After enjoying the kiss she asked the worried question.
"I don't think talking to her could help, but don't be pushy." Danu smiled and briefly kissed the Princess again. "You know how you warrior's are, you don't like being told what to do even if it is the right thing and you are being pig headed at the time."
"Me pig headed?" Sorrow raised an eyebrow feeling the weight of her worry lifted slightly by her lover's words.
"Yes, you." Danu leaned in closer. "Now kiss me again you pig headed warrior because I want to remind you how much I love you."
"Xena, I've finished up all that I can do in the infirmary. Is there anything else I can help with?" Tawnie approached the busy warrior with some trepidation. Even though over the past week the Warrior Princess had been treating both her and Kisinda with less distrust and more respect she still couldn't help but feel awed by the great warrior slightly.
"No, everything is delegated out." The warrior turned purposefully to make sure the healer could see her face. "You've put in some long hours, why don't you take some time for you?"
"I really wouldn't know what to do with myself." The healer smiled at the idea of time off. "Is Kisinda still working on the dam?" She asked the question tentatively.
"Yes, but her crew is done to be relieved around dinnertime." The warrior smiled to herself. It was becoming more and more likely as the days went on that Tawnie had the same feelings as Kisinda did. "The hot springs are always a great way to relax and kill time."
"I've heard some pretty good things about them." Tawnie nodded.
"Tawnie, I've been meaning to talk to you." The warrior put down the scroll she was holding and guided the healer away from the others in the room. "I wanted to let you know that I don't think it changes you in anyway. Though I'm sorry I didn't know before I sent you after Delara, I would have made sure someone stayed with you."
"What doesn't change me Xena?" Tawnie fixed her with hazel eyes.
"Kisinda didn't tell you she told us?" Xena took a step back realizing she'd made a big mistake.
"What did she tell who?" The healer put her small hands on slim hips.
"When you went missing, she explained to Sorrow and I that you'd had an accident when you were a child." She made her explanation brief and too the point.
"She told you I'm deaf." The blonde shook her head. "If you'll excuse me Xena I think I'm going to go and try the springs. I have a sudden need to relax."
Xena knew perhaps that she should say more but she wasn't sure what to say and before she could object the ice healer was gone.
'Nicely messed up Warrior Princess.' She chastised herself as she went back to her work.
Tawnie sat cross-legged on the bed just waiting. If Kisinda's crew had finished work at dinnertime, then it was likely the warrior would have gotten cleaned up before she would have become concerned enough about her to come looking. After visiting the infirmary she knew Kissy would try here.
"Here you are." Kisinda came through the door and her face instantly went to a look of relief. "I've been looking all over the village for you. I though you were going to meet me for dinner?"
"I wasn't sure they'd let a cripple into the mess hall." Tawnie tried to bite back her own anger but it seeped out of her without consent.
"What?" Kisinda found herself taken by the sudden words. "Taw what's going on?" She closed the door and took her axe off to lean it against the wall.
"What's going on?" The healer stood up. "What's going on is that I found out today the person I trust most in this world has felt the need to betray me."
"Hold on Taw, what are you talking about?" The warrior found herself stung by the hurtful words as she stopped her motion to unclip her harness and just stood there lost.
"What did you tell them?" Tawnie walked up to the much taller woman and poked her in the shoulder. "Did you tell them how I'm a helpless little cripple who can't hear anything? Did you tell them how pitiful I am that I have to read everyone's lips and if they turn away I can't figure out what they've said?" She poked the tall woman again. "Come on how did you tell them?"
"I didn't say anything like that." Kisinda stepped back away from the physical onslaught that hurt her more than any weapon could. "You were missing, I had to give a reason why I needed to go look for you. I only told them there'd been an accident when we were children and that you were deaf. Taw I would never say any of those things and I'd challenge anyone who did, you know that."
"I thought I knew a lot of things Kisinda." Tawnie backed off shaking her head. "But then out of no where I have Xena telling me how she still has faith in me despite the fact that 'it doesn't change me'." Her voice grew in volume again. "Why didn't you warn me?"
"I didn't know how to tell you." Kisinda slumped down to sit on the edge of the bed. "You hate it so much when anyone knows. This was just what I wanted to avoid, I didn't want you to be upset."
"Well good job Kissy, because I'm more upset than I ever thought I could be." Tawnie crossed her arms over her chest. "I've gone from being a competent Amazon who helped save another injured Amazon to being a cripple who somehow managed to muddle my way through a fire and not kill Delara in the same time. Not that I wanted praise for what I did, I just didn't want it tainted by this." She pointed to her head.
"I'm sorry Tawnie." Kisinda apologized softly. "I was..."
"You were what?" Tawnie stopped waiting for her to say something.
"I was worried." The warrior stood up abruptly. "I'm sorry I told them, but I had no choice. There is only one thing in the world that could make me abandon my duty and we both know who that is."
"You still should have warned me." Tawnie's angry lost a lot of its bite as she let her arms fall to her sides. "I just don't like being different Kissy, you know that."
"I know, I know." The warrior lost her momentary flare reaction and moved over to the smaller woman. So many emotions bubbled up inside her. There was so much she wanted to say but how sincere could they all appear if she blurted them out now after such a fight? 'You are not telling her!' Her momentary weakness struck her but was replaced by silent resolve once more.
"It's not like you, they'll see me as weak and useless." The healer's head hung down.
"They will not see you as any such thing." Kisinda reached up and pulled the blonde's face up so that she could read her words. "If Xena said that it didn't change who you are, then that is exactly what Xena meant. She doesn't mix words Taw. Give them a chance, you'll see that they won't look down on you because of it."
"I'm still mad at you though." Tawnie firmed her jaw slightly as she looked at the warrior but seeing the heartbroken look on the tall woman's face she couldn't keep it up for long. "So for that you now have to go for a walk with me."
"You think that's fitting punishment do you?" The warrior raised an eyebrow at her slightly relieved that she was off the hook.
"Yes, as it's been ages since we've gone walking for fun." Tawnie went over to the wall and leaned the warrior's axe so that it would rock over into her hand. "I mean it won't be the same as hiking the glacier, but I'm sure we can find a trail of some kind."
"Lead on then. I accept my punishment." Kisinda smiled as she shifted the axe into place.
Tawnie smoothed her hands down her skirt and nervously approached the Royal Guard that stood outside the door to the meeting hall. She couldn't for the life of her figure out why she'd been suddenly summoned to see Gabrielle. All the repairs were almost finished in the village, all the wounded were well on their way to recovery and in the lull Kisinda and Gideon had even been given permission to begin lessons with Madalene. So far they'd been going very well from Kisinda's accounts, as the Princess showed an astonishing ability in all the necessary skills. Maybe that was why she was being summoned.
'Only one way to find out.' She steadied herself as she reached the guard.
"I was summoned to see the Queen." Tawnie spoke softly
"Yes, her Majesty is waiting for you." The woman opened the door and motioned the healer inside.
"Oh Tawnie, good. I'm glad that Solari was able to find you." Gabrielle looked up from the scroll she'd been working on and motioned for the healer to come up to the desk as she went back to finish the line she was working on.
"What can I do for you my Queen?" Tawnie approached the desk and lowered herself to one knee. There was an air of formality and she didn't want to show Gabrielle any disrespect.
"Please Tawnie!" Gabrielle looked up again to see the healer kneeled. "This isn't anything official. I just wanted to talk to you to get some details for a story I'm writing."
"Oh, I thought..." The healer blushed slightly at her misinterpretation of the meeting. She pulled herself to stand immediately. "What kind of story could I help you with your Highness?"
"Gabrielle." The bard smiled and motioned to the chair at the side of the desk. "And the truth is Tawnie I'm trying to comply a collective story that chronicles our different tribes, their traditions and their people."
"That sounds wonderful." The healer sat down and pulled the chair closer to the desk. "So much of our history is sterilized into boring accounts that neither truly capture the event or show the lives of the people involved."
"My thoughts exactly." Gabrielle nodded. "You either get the dry boring stuff that doesn't tell you anything, or the overdone sensationalized legends which are half truth and half lies." She smiled at the healer as she leaned back in her chair. "I'd really like to hear some of the great stories you must have about the adventures that you and Kisinda have had."
"Oh you wouldn't believe some of the adventures Kisinda has dragged me into." Tawnie laughed. "Well more that she was going and I wouldn't let her go on her own."
"I know how it is." The bard laughed with her. "I bet you get the 'stay behind it's for your own good' thing a lot too then?"
"Do all warrior's learn that speech?" Tawnie laughed harder. "I mean she didn't even want me to come with her this time but I didn't give her much of a choice."
"You've known her for along time then?" Gabrielle applauded herself on how well things were going so far. Yes it was scheming and a bit underhanded but if Kisinda wouldn't budge on telling Tawnie how she felt then just maybe she could get the healer to do something about it.
"Kisinda and I have known each other for as long as we can remember." Tawnie pulled one leg up under her in the chair. "Every memory I have has her in it."
"You two seem so perfect together." The Queen choose her words carefully.
"Perfect?" Tawnie's eyes went wide. "Perfect together?"
"Yes, you both make a lovely couple. I'm sure your joining was a fantastic affair. Please tell me about it. I'm curious as to the wedding customs of the ice amazons." She continued on seeing the healer's reaction.
"I'm sorry Gabrielle, I don't know who gave you the impression that Kisinda and I are joined but..." The blonde's face fell a little. "We are only friends."
"Oh Tawnie I'm the one who's sorry then." The bard leaned forward in mock embarrassment. "I didn't mean to assume anything, it's just that you are both so comfortable with one another and the way that Kisinda looks at you sometimes. I just..."
"How does she look at me?" Tawnie's question came a little too quick to be a normal reaction.
"Like you hung the moon." Gabrielle smiled brightly. "You haven't noticed?"
"She doesn't." Tawnie shook her head. "She's never looked at me that way."
"Sure she has." The Queen jumped in. "Is it that you don't want her to look at you that way?" She asked quickly suddenly afraid that she'd misread the healer's cues.
"Oh Gabrielle it's so confusing." The healer leaned her arms on the desk and buried her head in her hands.
"I might be Queen but I'm also a great listener if you need one." Gabrielle patted her arm softly. "I promise I won't say a word too anyone if you want. It just pains me to see you walking around with all this bottled up."
"I'm that obvious am I?" The small blonde looked at her with a crooked smile.
"No, I just see a lot more sometimes than others and I've been in the situation myself." She smiled back. "So how long have you been in love with her?"
"Would forever seem like a silly answer?" Tawnie asked softly barely raising her head from her hands.
"Forever is the answer I expected." The bard nodded. "So why haven't you told her?"
"Well I um..." Tawnie stammered, she'd been spending ages trying to figure that out for herself, especially since the close call in the fire. "I have no idea why. It just never seems like the right time and now I've got my pledge over my head."
"Pledge?" Gabrielle raised an eyebrow at her in question.
"While Delara and I were in the forest I pledged after the flood that I would tell her by the next full moon." Tawnie whispered the admission. "At first the repairs and the wounded kept us both too busy and it wasn't an issue. Then the last little while I've spent trying to find a way to tell her but..." She sighed heavily. "But I've failed miserably."
"I know it's hard Tawnie." Gabrielle rested her hand on the healer's shoulder. "But if you feel this strongly about her, you have to tell her."
"But how can I?" Tawnie shook her head. "She's been my best friend for as long as I can remember. I don't want to loose her friendship just because I did something so stupid as fall in love with her."
"Falling in love with someone is never stupid." The bard shook her head.
"It's been so long now, I always figured one day she'd either show an interest in me or find someone else." It hurt the healer to admit this but it was true. She'd waited all the years of their adolescence for Kisinda to make one more or the other but she'd never done either. "But she never did. So it's just been the two of us, inseparable but not together."
"I think that would be a very big sign of how she feels Tawnie." Gabrielle smiled softly. "I mean if she hasn't been with anyone else, maybe she's been waiting for you to make the first move?"
"For me?" Tawnie tried not to laugh. "Too make the first move?"
"Yes." Gabrielle nodded. "You know the big strong warrior types sometimes turn out to be really silly when it comes to things like love. No matter how strongly they feel it sometimes, they get so caught up in doing 'what's right' that they forget to do what's in their heart."
"You sound like you know a lot about this?" The ice healer looked at her with a slightly hopeful smile.
"Well let's just say I am well aware of how frustrating a warrior can be." She laughed lightly to herself. "And if I'd waited for Xena to make the first move, we'd still be 'just friends'. She had this really odd idea that to tell me how she felt meant she wasn't giving me choice."
"What do you think it is with Kisinda?" The blonde caught her words and then stiffened. "I mean if she actually loved me back. Why would she have not told me?"
"It could be a thousand reasons." The bard leaned back again to contemplate. "She could be shy, or maybe she's just nervous."
"Shy and nervous are two things Kissy has never been." Tawnie laughed at the idea.
"Well maybe she's worried like you are?" The Queen gave her a serious look. "Maybe your friendship means so much to her that she's afraid she'll lose it if she tells you how she feels."
"Maybe." Tawnie smiled slightly. "I guess I have a pledge to keep either way."
"Well I would hate to see you break your word Tawnie." Gabrielle got up and went to the small side table to get them both a glass of wine. "But I was serious about why I wanted to speak with you. Kissy adventures." She used the nickname smiling to herself. "I want to hear all the good ones."
"The first one I would tell anyone is what happened at her warrior initiation ceremony." The healer leaned back, easily slipping into the role of storyteller. "It's from that story that you can realize that Kisinda has always been a warrior."
"Go on then." Gabrielle reclaimed her seat eager to listen. "Don't keep a hungry audience waiting."
Sorrow entered the practice field at a slow pace, her attention totally focused on the ice warrior who alone occupied the field as she executed a difficult set of motions with her axe. She was careful not to preach the area of the woman's exercise. A short time later the Shamaness finished her series and turned to her audience.
"What intimidates most people is the weight." Kisinda swung the axe into its harness. "But really the variation between the staff and the blade gives a great amount of variability in the movements."
"I noticed that." Sorrow nodded. "It must feel good to get some practice in. Though I know the fire was a practice all on its own."
"It has wrecked havoc with my form but has improved my strength." She stretched out her arms. "Is there something you require your Highness?"
"Actually Kisinda, I wanted to talk to you." The Protector kicked at the dirt slightly. "I wanted to apologize for my behaviour in the forest. It was completely callous and unnecessary of me to remind you of the wall when Tawnie was missing."
"There is no need for an apology." The ice warrior shook her head. "You were right in your reminder. I was negligent to my duty."
"No, that's the whole point." Sorrow's voice was serious. "I wasn't thinking, because your true duty was too Tawnie. If it had been Danu that was missing, it would be my duty to find her far beyond any other." She watched the warrior staring at her blank faced and realized she'd have to just make a leap in the conversation. "Why haven't you told her?"
"It's complicated." Kisinda moved her arms awkwardly behind her back.
"Look I know this is really none of my business." Sorrow shrugged her intrusion off. "It's just, I've been here Kisinda and the longer you wait the more the chance that something can come up to separate you from her. Like the fire."
"Then if you have been here, you might also understand that despite my own desires it would be wrong to risk ruining our friendship just so that I can reveal my feelings to her?" The warrior countered the point.
"But how much does it hurt the both of you if you go on hiding what you feel from her, only to find out she feels the same way?" Sorrow knew they'd never meet common ground.
"Princess, I know you want to help." Kisinda really did believe what the Protector was saying. "But I just can't tell her, I can't explain why. If she wants us to be more than friends, I'm afraid it will have to be her that makes the first move." She looked down at the ground. "I took something from her once as a result of an error, I can't risk hurting her again."
"Just think about it at least." Sorrow reached out and patted her shoulder.
'Think about it is all I ever do.' Kisinda thought to herself as she smiled at the Princess.
"I thought you'd already be in bed." Tawnie came in trying to be quiet as not to wake Kisinda only to find the warrior sitting up sharpening her axe.
"No, just doing the usual." The warrior smiled at her briefly. "Though I could ask where you have been."
"Oh, sorry." She knew that it was late and had realized Kisinda would be worried. "Gabrielle asked me to come and tell her some stories of our tribe. She's creating an Amazon anthology to describe the lifestyles of all the varied groups within the nation."
"Well that would explain why you're in so late." Kisinda nodded at her. "And why you have a blush that says you've had three..." She paused putting her axe aside to stand and take a closer look. "No four glasses of very strong Amazon wine."
"I was good." Tawnie laughed. The walk home had cleared her head a little and she felt much more in control. Though she swore that the night's temperature had risen again. "I didn't tell the story about you running around in your shift at spring solstice on a dare."
"I should hope not." Kisinda laughed. "I want to retain some respect with the Queen."
"Oh don't worry, Gabrielle adores you." The healer laughed as she sat down and clumsily tried to take off her boots.
"Here let me get those." Kisinda rolled her eyes at the blonde's mismanaged attempt. She knelt down in front of the petite figure and moved her hands away from the laces.
"Kissy, can I ask you a question?" Tawnie looked down as her sais were taken out of their holsters.
"Of course you can." The warrior looked up at her. "Though I can't even guess what you'd need to question me on." The words came to her with a sharp strike of fear. She'd spent most of the evening after her meeting with the Protector thinking. 'Thinking can often lead to one seeing things that are not there.' She reminded herself as she waited for the question.
"Why haven't you joined with anyone?" The healer knew somehow she was in dangerous territory but the wine was beginning to bubble into her head again and she couldn't resist the urge to ask the question.
"Why I haven't joined with anyone?" Kisinda's hands froze on the laces to Tawnie's left boot. "There is the obvious fact that no one has ever asked me." She sidestepped the question bringing life back into her hands.
"Okay true." Tawnie studied the woman before her. "And anyway I thought Lyia asked you to marry her?" A picture of the tall brown haired girl came into her mind and made her frown.
"Yes and if memory serves me she was falling down drunk at the time and moments later her and I were in a fist fight." Kisinda smiled tightly. "Besides Lyia is not my type."
"Who is your type then?" Tawnie pressed on.
"I don't know what my type is." The ice warrior finished with the last of the woman's lacing and pulled off her boots. "I've been a little too busy protecting our tribe to worry about that."
"Oh." Tawnie's face fell as she realized what Kisinda was telling her. "Does that mean you never want to get married?"
"Of course I do." She stood up and sat down next to the healer on the bed. "Do you?" She asked carefully.
"Only if it's with the right person." Tawnie felt herself getting a bit dizzy and she leaned sideways into the taller woman. "Only if it's love." As she felt a muscled arm come around her she snuggled into the warrior's body. Somewhere her mind knew exactly what it was doing. In the morning she'd be able to explain this all away as wine induced but for tonight at least she would fall asleep in Kisinda's arms.
"Come on sleepyhead." Kisinda smiled and eased the small figure that clung to her around so that they could lie down. She tried not to let herself rejoice too much when Tawnie refused to let go of her and instead snuggled right in close to use her shoulder as a pillow.
She watched the blonde that laid against her for some time. Trying to weight all the pros and cons that Sorrow had outlined for her.
"You deserve to be given the purest love." She resisted the urge to bend down and kiss the blonde's forehead. "And you should never settle for anything less.
Continued in Part Three...
alt fic index <> homepage