How was I to live? All
my existence was reduced to the ghost by my side.
I have written about her death. I told all that I met of her heroism but her legend was no comfort to me. She was all the world to me and now that world was one of shadows. I departed for the land of Chin to be with her last living memory. I went to seek out her daughter, Eve.
"Eve?" asked my Ghost. "Good, let's go see Eve!"
"Will Eve be able to see you?" I asked.
"I don't know," my Ghost answered. "Let's see."
I could not fathom how this Ghost existed. She was very like my love, so very reminiscent of my Warrior Princess, yet, not all the same. All the world seemed joyous to her. Where my Warrior could be quiet and sullen this Ghost was ever open and cheerful. When we were among others she stood behind me where I could not see her but I felt her touch at my back. When we were alone she sometimes faded from me until I was nearly asleep. Then the last thing I would see before I closed my eyes was her face, smiling upon me and the last memory was always of her lips upon my forehead. Then came oblivion until I awoke as the sun rose, tears from the lonely night flooding my eyes.
For five weeks I traveled in Chin. I asked everyone I met for news of Eve. At first people smiled when I asked about Eve, the messenger of Eli, but, as I traveled on fewer seemed to recognize my description and I began to wonder how she could have disappeared from everyone's sight so completely. Perhaps I should have feared for her but somehow my heart would not accept despair. Every time I filled my thoughts with Eve a joy entered my heart that dispelled all doubts about her welfare.
However, my confidence was sorely shaken one day as I passed through a village in my search. I asked an old man tending sheep if he had heard of the tall, fair woman who spoke of a prophet called Eli.
"A tall woman, " he asked; "pale like death with eyes the color of an empty sky?"
"Yes, I think," I answered. "She is called Eve!"
"No," answered the shepherd. "She is called the Vandal from the West! A curse! A plague!" He spit upon the ground and called loudly to a young man who also attended the sheep. "Wu Pao!" he yelled, "Bring your staff!"
A lanky boy who had been tending the ram came to him. He gave me little notice despite my foreign visage. "What is it?" he asked indifferently.
"Another fair devil is here! This yellow-haired demon seeks her Vandal sister!" said the old man.
"This one here?" the boy answered. The old man nodded and with no more talk the boy swung his staff and struck me to the ground.
"Get out! Get away or I shall kill you with my next blow!" said the boy.
"No! " I said and I crawled away from him. Both of the men pursued me with hatred in their eyes.
"We want no more of you in this valley!" called the old man.
Iam not a devil! I cried as I regained my stance. Nor is the woman I seek. She is a woman of Peace as am I! I wish no harm But as I spoke the old man grabbed my tunic and the young man swung back to strike me again. I twisted away and my tunic loosened in the old man's hands to reveal a part of my back where I bear the tattoo of a dragon.
The old man released me like I was made of fire. The two of them sank to their knees and wept for me to leave them immediately. "Do not harm us!" they cried, "leave us we pray you, Blue Dragon! All we ask is to be left in peace!"
"Why did you attack me?"
"Because of your demon sister, the Vandal, that lately attacked our village," said the old man with a sneer. "We want no more like her! She gave us one day to gather all our possessions and flee into the hills while she burned our village at our backs!"
"No," I said. "That's impossible! That could not be Eve!"
"Follow the road on the other side of that great Gingko tree," said the old man, "and reunite with the demon you seek! Walk the road until there is nothing but destruction and you will be face to face with your destroyer sister!"
I did not believe that any destroyer would bring me closer to Eve unless she was comforting the victims. In any event I had no better clue to follow than this so I left them, kneeling and wailing, and took to the road they had indicated.
The Land of Chin is hilly, fair and green. There are mountains as there are in my home in Greece. But these mountains seem older and more aloof. I know little of the gods of Chin but I believe them to be more unyielding than those of my home and more alien to the passions that swept through the Mediterranean gods of my acquaintance.
The hillsides had farms sculpted into their side like many braids lovingly combed by handmaidens waiting upon a reclining mountain empress. I had seen nothing like this in my craggy Grecian home, but my land, unlike Chin, was grasped at all its shores by rushing blue fingers of the sea and the inlands had many feathery waterfalls. The land of Chin had tamed its rivers with huge earthworks that dammed the water to create farms in the fertile valleys. It was a remarkable assertion of human will over nature, which, while awesome, left me homesick for my free and sparkling waterfalls of home.
As I followed the road the old man had sent me upon, I chanced upon a waterfall in Chin. My sense of mission left me for the moment as I permitted myself a few minutes to enjoy the sight. I leaned against a tree, silently captivated by the interplay of the green water, white air and yellow sunlight.
As I stood there I felt the presence of my Ghost and I was swept into the memory of another morning by a waterfall. It was a time with my Warrior when the love between our bodies was new and intensifying with every new morning, every look and heated touch.
I remembered that I had awakened saturated in the essence of my Warrior, for we had given ourselves over deeply to passion the night before. My Warrior, already awake, stood over me.
"Up!" she had said, "Go bathe." I knew there was no point in arguing with her. It was the habit of the stealthy that they should not be easily detected and that habit was gospel to her. She had already bathed and now demanded the same of me.
Reluctantly I emerged from our sleeping covers but willingly I stood naked before her. I searched her eyes and found what I sought -- the love, the remembrance of our enchanted night. The kisses we gave so freely, the sighs we shared together -- I could see them in her eyes and I knew she could see them in mine. I put my hand to her cheek and she bent down to me to kiss and caress me one more time. Her brass breastplate was cold against my skin but I enjoyed it. I enjoyed everything. I could have stayed there forever, which is why, I suppose, that she stood tall again, released me and pointed to the waterfall. "Go on!" she said sternly and I submitted.
I walked to the waterfall as slowly as I could. I took advantage of my every inhalation to smell the acrid sweat from her limbs that brought back to my mind the rapture of her furious embraces. A slight breeze reminded me of the wash of her tongue as she had devoured my neck and shoulders. And I nearly swooned when I detected upon my hands the strong musky scent of her flood upon my thighs which had flowed freely from her dark, mysterious cavern within that pulsed with so much heat.
I had visited it first with my timid fingers, then I became bolder until I was facing within it, convulsing as she trembled upon me. I had sighed by the water's edge in remembrance of it until I felt a shove between my shoulderblades that hurled me into the cold waters. I surfaced and saw her laughing softly to herself and climbing upon a rock to watch over me. I dipped my head to sweep my hair from my face.
"Such a pretty girl," said my Warrior from her rock, "and with such remarkably big ears!"
"Xena," I cried out, "I love you so!" I know it wasn't a clever reply to her teasing -- she often found my magnificent and abundant Grecian ears a source of amusement -- but it was the only thought that had occupied my poor head that whole morning. Xena blushed. I swam into the waterfall, reluctantly to lose my scented journal of my exploration of Xena's shores.
So much time had passed since that day -- so many heavens, so many hells. But that day by the waterfall in Chin, my Ghost reached to me and put her hand to my heart. Instantly I was suffused with such love and longing that I lost all strength in my limbs and slumped to the ground. My feelings of passion returned and rushed over me as mighty and as fresh as they had been on that day long ago. My Ghost smiled gently as I lay motionless with my head propped up against a tree, captured in an enchantment woven of remembered love.
She pointed toward some trees and I saw two youths emerge. Their expressions were mischievous as they approached me, but I was unable to move. As my Ghost watched, the youths, a young man and woman, walked to me and nudged me with their feet.
"Do you think she's dead?" asked the boy.
"Her eyes move," said the girl.
The boy knelt beside me and hollered "Halloo!" into my ear, but I could not respond, just as though I was in a living dream.
The boy rose and said to the girl "Drunk perhaps?"
"She'll find that this is not a very good place to be drunk!" said the girl and she reached down and picked up my bag. They rummaged through it.
"Not much money," said the girl, as she pocketed what she found.
The boy pulled my scrolls from the pack. "Some kind of writings," he said and sniffed my scrolls. "They don't smell very good. It's not rice paper. What is this... some sort of animal hide?" He took them and tucked them into my tunic where they stood like tiny pillars. "There you go," he said, "something to read when you sober up!"
They laughed and shared my bread and cheese between them. "What's this?" asked the girl as she took a black urn from my pack. These were the ashes of my Warrior, my only treasure. I desperately tried to call out, move, or seize the urn but my will over my body was stolen -- I could no more move my arms than I could move the limbs of the tree that supported me. My Ghost watched them casually with no sign of care.
The girl opened the urn and felt the ashes. "Ugh!" she cried, "it's black and greasy!"
"It's death!" said the boy and he took the urn from her hands and, while tears streamed from my eyes, he flung the urn of my love's ashes into the waterfall.
"All gone now," said my Ghost, shrugging her shoulders. She looked one last time at me, saying goodbye as she faded from my sight. My heart was breaking. That was the last time I ever saw my Ghost.
My strength began to return to me slowly as the boy and girl were tugging off my boots and trying to untie the silvery chakram that I wore bound to my side. The great, round, chakram was a weapon like no other. My Warrior could fling it against ten enemies and it would always rebound to her hand. Now it was mine. The youths got the boots but I had managed to hold fast to the chakram when suddenly we heard the thunder of hoofbeats and a dark rider approached uttering a fierce and shrill warcry. "Uh-Oh!" said the boy.
"Get out!" screamed the rider. "I told you to stay away from here!" The rider cracked a whip over the youths' heads and they ran. "Go! Go fast!" the rider called after them.
The rider leaped down from her horse and seized me, tossing me up upon the horse. She mounted behind me and urged her horse to a furious gallop as we ascended from the valley with the waterfall. The very ground beneath us began to shiver violently and the earth began to roar. The horse trembled; the rider wrapped her one arm tighter around my waist and with the other she urged the horse on harder.
"Get up! Gallop on!" she called out as great crashes resounded behind us and deer, rabbits and all the woodland creatures joined us in our flight from the valley. I clutched the rider's arm and put my hand over hers. I knew this hand as well as I knew the face of the rider. It was Eve.
Our panicked horse reared at the fearful sounds, slipping, falling and spilling us onto the ground. We scrambled up and grabbed the horse's reins. I dared not look behind us -- there were rushing sounds like I had heard on the stormy ocean and screams of breaking trees and terrified animals. We got the horse to its feet, climbed upon its back and resumed our flight.
We reached a craggy bluff where there were about twenty ragged young men and women holding staves and long knives, a ragged band of vandals. They were staring into the valley with shock and surprise. With our appearance several cheered and sang out Eve's name. They took the horse's reins while Eve and I dismounted to walk to the edge of the craggy overlook to watch the destruction below.
"An earthquake," said Eve. "It has broken the earthworks and the river has reclaimed this valley." I saw where the wall of water was breaking trees and sweeping them before it as the trembling valley flooded.
"Ah, Aunt Gabrielle," Eve said with a wry smile. "I would be surprised except I have learned that the extraordinary is the ordinary thing for you and my mother!"
I could not be so nonchalant. I had a thousand questions but before I could ask them I had to yield to my joy in seeing her again. I threw myself upon her, embracing her, kissing her chin and rejoicing in saying her name. "Gabrielle!" she said. "You're not usually so demonstrative!"
"Oh Eve," I cried, "They told such terrible things about you! They said you had burned villages!"
"Villages?" asked Eve. "I don't see any villages." I followed her gaze to the valley below as the flood washed away the charred remains of the villages that had bordered the river when it had been small and contained by the dams. They were underwater now and gone. Had the village folk still been there they would have perished.
Eve turned and walked into a tent. I followed her. She knelt inside and I knelt next to her.
"Eve, what has happened," I asked. "Are you no longer a messenger of love?"
"Messenger? Not exactly," she answered. "Gabrielle, I have learned something about the spirit. When you devote yourself to the spirit the spirit will devote itself to you."
"Eve, you knew this flood was coming!"
"Yes," she said, "I knew. I tried to tell the people of this valley but," she smiled, "the people of Chin are a stubborn lot and were not eager to leave their homes on the word of a stranger with odd eyes and peculiar clothes. Some left, most did not.
"I left the village to pray for guidance and came upon my young gang of disaffecteds." She swept her arm to indicate the young people standing at the crag. "They didn't seem to have anything to do so -- I gave them something to do!"
"Did you tell them this earthquake and flood was coming?"
"No, I think that would have taken all the fun out of it for them. They were happy to chase away the people and burn the village as a lark. Well," she sighed, "they follow me now. Let them be surprised where it leads them!"
"I see. The Vandal is a prophet!"
"Shh, let this be between you and me," said Eve. She seemed easier, happier than she had in the past. "The spirit finds a use for our ... many skills."
"Oh Eve," I cried as my greatest sorrow returned to my mind. "Xena, your mother -- she is gone. She is dead."
"Dead?" asked Eve. She became quiet, closed her eyes and breathed slowly. After a while she opened her eyes and looked at me. "No, I don't think so. Trapped, perhaps. Betrayed. But I don't feel that she is dead."
"Alas, she is!" I said and I told her the story of how Xena had entered death to combat the evil demon Yodoshi in the land of Japa. I told her how Xena prevented me from spreading her ashes in the Fountain of Strength on Mt. Fuji to bring her back to life. I told how Xena had said she had to stay in death to redeem the lost souls of the town of Higuchi. Eve listened quietly and thoughtfully.
When I finished the story Eve said What you told her was correct her remaining in the land of shades was not right. I wonder who made her believe it was. Eve asked me to leave her alone for a while and I left the tent. Eve's words left me crushed, confirming as they did that my loss was unnecessary.
I distracted myself by looking over the camp of Eve's rag-tag gang. The tents were fabricated from cloths of many different and foreign fabrics. Possessions were hung around them -- pots, furs, decorations of divergent sorts. The faces of the gang were also varied -- outcasts of many different peoples.
I heard more cheering at the overlook and saw the mischievous boy and girl climbing safely to the camp. I went to the edge and stood over them. "Boots," I said. Surprised and sheepish they handed me my boots and bag, shrugged their shoulders and turned to marvel at the deluge they had escaped.
We were all in awe and I sat silently with them overlooking the changed landscape until the sun set. They wandered off to eat and sing with the cheerful resignation to the forces of fate that blesses youth. These outcasts were a family of souls that their homes had disowned. Now they were in Eve's hands, just as I, a voluntary exile from my family, had given my destiny over to Eve's mother. The gang left me alone, lost in my memories but someone threw a blanket across my shoulders and shoved a roasted rabbit's leg in my hand. I ate and slept.
I awoke at the dawn. The flooded valley had a mist rising, a peaceful cloud over a valley restored to its primitive, wild glories. I felt someone sitting near me and a soft hand stroking my neck. For a moment my heart raced, until I recalled that the blue eyes I looked into were Eve's. "Good morning, Aunt Gabrielle," she said. Eve tugged on my collar and looked down at my back. "Hm, a dragon," she said, "Gabrielle, you have changed."
"As have you, Eve."
"Yes, I suppose that's true. But now I understand some of the signs in my meditations last night."
"What did you see?" I asked eagerly.
"Well, first I must ask you a few things. Gabrielle, what troubles you?"
I sat up amazed. "You need ask? Xena is gone and I am lonely and lost!"
"Lonely I understand -- you no longer have your lover. But why lost?"
"Xena was my path!"
"No, Gabrielle. Xena was your friend. Your path was friendship." Eve put her arm around me. Her warmth soothed me but I felt uneasy. "Gabrielle -- a Hebrew name for a Greek? Have you ever wondered about that?"
"My parents named me after a story that a traveling bard told them. They liked the name but couldn't remember the story."
"Perhaps it was the Hebrew story about Gabriel, the companion of the hero Tobias. Do you know this story?" I said I did not.
"For Romans 'companion' means the one with whom you share bread. In the Hebrew story Gabriel was Tobias' companion. Do you know how Tobias recognized that Gabriel would be the friend that would make his heroic journey possible?" I said I didn't. Eve stroked my hair. "Because when Gabriel shared the loaf of bread he gave the greater part to Tobias. It meant that Gabriel was the sort of friend that could give something extra for the sustenance of a hero. They say we are in times where no hero can walk alone. No hero can complete a quest for humanity unless that hero also brings another, a friend, to the goal as well. There is no longer heroism without the love of others.
"In my meditation, I saw the Blue Dragon, the friend of humanity, sleeping. Gabrielle, with or without Xena, you must wake up!" Eve rose and walked to the edge of the cliff. Was this the child I had cradled? Grown beautiful and elegant even as a vandal -- but still carrying the haughty arrogance of her Roman foster parents. The path of Eli had brought her some wisdom perhaps, but there was still something cold about her, something that seemed to blind her to the comfort that I longed for. I stood up and walked to her side.
"Eve, when are you going to fall in love?" I asked. This made Eve laugh.
"Ha! That's what mother said last night too!"
"What?" I asked.
She looked sidelong at me. "Ah, I see I have your attention at last!"
"What else did she say?" I asked.
"There were some things that some others in my meditation said first about her. Gabrielle, you must know that the life of a Warrior is a short one and that is Xena's destiny as well. But, they said, Xena left too early, that there remained important quests for her. It wasn't her time yet to die."
"Well, I couldn't say myself, Gabrielle. Where is she?"
I looked into the valley with the wild river racing through it. "The last of her is there," I pointed down, "her ashes were flung into the pool that was there before the flood!"
Eve gazed off into the valley. "That pool was overtaken by the flood. Now I suppose her ashes are racing with the river, flowing westward. Through the ravines, through lakes, through seas. Ashes making their way to the Mare Nostrum, Our Sea, the blue Mediterranean."
I sighed. "Perhaps that is for the best. There was nowhere that Xena loved so much as the sea," I said.
"Yes, I recall that she did," said Eve. "It was her fountain of strength!"
"So it was," I mumbled as a light slowly ignited within my mind.
"So, you see, there never was anything in Japa that could bring her back to life. Well, enough of that," said Eve. "I see that you have Xena's chakram. Can I see it?"
I fumbled with the leather thong that lashed it to my belt as my mind began to race. I handed the chakram to Eve. She tossed it into the air and caught it a few times. "Do you want to know what Xena said to me last night?"
"Yes! Of course! Tell me!"
Eve rubbed her thumb along the chakram. "She said that there is a secret to the chakram. Do you know why it returns when you throw it?"
Why? I answered inmpatiently. Because it bounces off of things, that's why!
"Oh, lots of things bounce off of things. But not like this does. Xena said that the chakram returns because one wills its return. If the bearer of the chakram wills it enough, it returns." With that Eve, to my shock, turned her back to the rising sun and flung the chakram far into the sky, disappearing from our sight.
"There," said Eve. "The chakram has gone west. So should you. That is your land," she pointed. "West. And that, Gabrielle, is all that my mother told me!"
I immediately turned from her and fetched up my bag. I found it already packed with my scrolls, my quill and provisions for a journey. Nearby stood a horse with a bedroll coiled behind the saddle.
"Take the horse," said Eve. "We'll scare up another I'm sure."
I embraced Eve to my heart and then mounted to go forthwith. I shouted down to her "Eve! Fall in love! It makes all the difference!"
"Yes, yes so I see," said Eve. "I'll see you again before long, Aunt Gabrielle. And if by some strange chance you meet my mother again, tell her to stay out of Japa!" Eve waved and I turned my dragon to the east and the horse to a fast gallop to the west.
There is so much I could tell about my return journey. I saw and did many things and I learned something about the dragon that slept. At one point it became necessary for me to find a way to tell something to Xena in the land of shades, but I will save that for another time. Now I must tell you what occurred when I again saw the shores of my homeland. To tell you that I flung myself joyously into the sea and danced on the shore is to tell you little more than that I'm a Greek. I camped by the shore and for two days I looked off into the blue sea and in the night I dreamed of a blue dragon, waking.
I thought of paths, I thought of philosophies, I thought of legends. I thought of gods and their whims and mysteries. Perhaps there are things I should do and be, some fate that awaits my sense of duty. But just as all the world heeds the cycle of the sun, so the governance of this small woman is my heart. All friendship, all quests, all meanings are emanations of our hearts. The mystery of all mysteries is that we love and care. It's what rounds out life. Some wear their lover's ring as the sign. I wore my lover's weapon and I wanted it back.
On the second day, just before the sunset, I saw a light glinting from metal a little way off shore, round and red with the sunset's rays. It came closer as the tide came in and I saw a hand holding the chakram. Then emerged the graceful arm, the swirling black hairs, the glowing smile and gleaming body of my Xena, returning to me from our sea.
This is the story of my reunion with Xena. No hopes were harmed in the telling of this tale.
Read Xena's Story: How I Got Over
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