The Key

Part II

By: Ponyblue


Disclaimers: Xena, Gabrielle, Argo, and any other related characters are the property of MCA, Universal, and their creators. Just borrowing them for a second.

No copyright infringements intended.

This story contains tough love situations/bondage/domination between two women. It also contains violence.

If you are under 18 or would find this subject matter offensive please look elsewhere for your entertainment. Otherwise read at your own risk.

That stung but Gabrielle ignored it.

Avia moved close to the bed slowly. She was aware of the fact Xena could become violent at any moment, but if anyone could get close to her it was Gabrielle's soothing words, and her.

"Xena why are you in pain?" Gabrielle asked softly.

Xena didn't answer.

Avia sat near her head and reached out and pressed her hand to Xena's brow.

"Mom you're burning up. Please go see the healer." She said patting Xena's head as if she was a wounded animal.

"Avia get out of here." Xena said through clinched teeth trying to keep the pain from showing.

"You need a healer mom." Avia said seriously.

"Xena I'd broken my arm earlier I went to see Ranin, but Teris is back. She waved her hand and healed my arm. Even the clothes was mended. Xena she can help you."

Xena just laughed bitterly.

"C'mon Eph let's help her up." Eponin said.

But when Eponin moved towards Xena, she snatched up her sword and pointed it at her.

"I'm staying right where I am poni, if that is her reaction to you whom she likes you. She may run me through if I come any closer." Ephiny said shaking her head.

"I know you don't like her but she may be able to help you!" Gabrielle said tearfully.

"That witch may help you and your Amazons, but believe me when I say she has no love in her heart for me." Xena said narrowing her eyes at Ephiny. "That is if she has a heart!" She said in a pained voice

Ephiny turned away.

"She don't have to like you, she's vowed to do no harm as a healer. Xena please I can't stand to see you like this." Gabrielle said her eyes watering.

"Then go away I didn't tell you to come out here." Xena shouted. Still pointing her sword at Eponin.

Ephiny send for Teris." Gabrielle demanded.

"If that witch comes near me I will kill her." Xena sneered.

"No need to send for me. I'm here." Teris suddenly appeared right behind Ephiny's right shoulder.

Ephiny fought the impulse to turn around.

"You'll kill me huhn." With a wave of her hand Xena's sword went flying.

Xena's battle cry echoed through the hut and before Teris could react, Xena threw her into a wall. Teris resisted the impulse to fight back as Xena threw her onto the floor.

"I only want to ease your pain." Teris spoke the half truth.

"You lying buchae, you started this. You set these events in motion, now you end it." Xena trembled in a murderous rage. Slamming Teris‘s head into the floor.

"Look Xena." She said her patience beginning to falter. Teris may be a half god, but that did not mean she did not feel pain. "I could have killed you and I still can. For now you better take my assistance."

"I'd die first." Xena said through clenched teeth. Another wave of pain shot through her body. She fell forward on top of Teris helplessly.

"If you want to change our relationship there is an easier way to do it." Teris said sarcastically as she flipped Xena off her and got up.

"You want to help your mother child." Teris said to Avia. "All she needs is a hug."

Avia immediately went to hug Xena. Xena looked at Teris suspiciously through her pain. She tried to wave Avia off, but as soon as the girl hugged her a blinding light passed through Xena into Avia. Instantly Xena's pain was gone, but Avia fell into her arms with the pain Xena had been suffering.

"Teris what did you do." Gabrielle shouted.

"Nothing my Queen. I've not touched neither one of them. What fate decides neither mortal or god will be able to stop." Teris said calmly.

This time when Xena came at her she disappeared.

Gabrielle ran to Avia and tried to sooth the girl. Although the pain was excruciating when it first hit her it started fading.

"Accept the blessing of the giving." Teris's voice echoed through the hut.

"Where is the healer?" Xena snapped pulling Avia out of Gabrielle's arms.

"She just left." Ephiny spoke for the first time since Teris appeared.

"Not that witch. The Elder Ranin." Xena sneered.

"Xena I trust Teris, and things are hard for her now. She is trying to do something here. She said accept the blessing of the giving. I do not know what she meant, but I know her heart." Ephiny tried sympathetically

"Oh that is so touching." Xena said her icy stare chilling Ephiny to the bone. "What's in her heart? That she would allow a child to suffer this. A pain I couldn't take."

"Mom, it----." Avia started.

"Don't speak baby, I'm gonna---." Xena cut her off glaring at Ephiny.

"Mom It doesn't hurt anymore." Avia shouted trying to get Xena's attention.

Xena looked at her as Gabrielle ran her hand along the girls brow.

Could you put me down. You two are embarrassing me." She whispered gesturing to her little friend.

The little girl was wringing her hands from just inside the door. Xena put Avia down and watched her carefully as she walked past everyone staring at her. Avia rolled her eyes and when she got to her friend she pulled her outside of the hut.

Ephiny and Eponin exchanged looks.

Gabrielle found herself standing closer to Xena then she'd been in a long while.

"You all can leave." Xena said angrily as she moved away from Gabrielle.

"I'm staying we need to talk--." Gabrielle started.

"No we do not. I am a prisoner here. I accept that. I do not have to flunky for you like the rest of your subjects." Xena said, her eyes hard.

"Look Xe---." Eponin started but Gabrielle cut her off.

"Leave us please ." Gabrielle said.

They both looked at her doubtfully.

Xena please assure them I'll be fine." Gabrielle asked.

Xena looked into her pleading eyes

"She'll be fine. I'll personally escort her to her hut." Xena said in an all to bored tone

"Don't make me regret this." Ephiny retorted.

"You just find your witch and tell her she is on my shit list." Xena smiled evilly at Ephiny.

‘She has no fear of mortal or god, but she may have met her match in Teris. No one knows what she is capable of. Especially with that eerie red glow in her eyes. If she want to tell her that she‘s going to have to do it herself. Why do she keep bothering me about Teris. I know she can't see, Can she?' Ephiny thought.

"Can't you see she's trying to push your buttons. Leave now that is an order." Gabrielle demanded.

Ephiny sucked in her breath slowly, but turned to follow Eponin out.

"Take Avia and her little friend with you." She turned and looked Xena up and down. "Don't want them getting any ideas." She said softly.

‘She don't mean what you're thinking' Xena told herself. The way Gabrielle looked at her made her stomach tense.

Once everyone was gone Gabrielle fixed her with a stubborn look.

"I've had enough of this nonsense Xena. I want you to come home with me." Gabrielle said taking a seat on Xena's bed.

"Hah---home, I have no home. You are in no position to make demands of me. This is my prison, created by my nemesis" Xena sneered.

"I'm in every position. I'm the Queen remember, and we are your home." Gabrielle said huffily.

"Your forgetting who got you there. Your not my Queen, I wonder if you're my nemesis, and Amazonia is not my home." Xena said Narrowing her eyes.

"I am the Queen of a village in which you reside." Gabrielle said watching her closely, "and--- which you can not escape. By the way I remember exactly how I got here, and Avia and I...we are your home. You may deny it but I know we are your heart, as you are ours" Gabrielle didn't know why she had the sudden urge to push Xena. All she knew was that she yearned for the old Xena in a way.

Xena moved, and turned away.

"You are mine, remember. The tables have turned. Talk about poetic justice." Gabrielle laughed.

Xena moved to leave the cabin but Gabrielle stepped in front of her.

"What is wrong with you." She demanded. "Or should I say Who are you." Gabrielle said raising her hand to poke Xena in the chest.

"Understand this Queen. Do not aggravate me." She said feeling the rushing pulse under her fingertips as she grabbed Gabrielle‘s wrist.

"Why not? You have no honorable fight left in you. Just a blind dishonorable rage. I can see the best in you, but it's shrouded in the worst." Gabrielle said softly.

Xena grabbed her and flung her across the room onto the bed.

Gabrielle did not have time to react before Xena was on top of her. Just as she was about to rip the Queens top off the bards words echoed in her head.

‘The best shrouded by the worst.' It was true. The worst in her now completely blocked any kind of good. Her desires was burning like white fire, but she pushed away from the bard and left her where she was.

Gabrielle as always, was shocked by Xena's sheer power when she found herself airborne. She braced herself to hit a hard surface. Instead a bed cushioned her fall. Immediately Xena was on top of her. Her thigh firm against Gabrielle's center.

...And Gabrielle wanted this. Even if it was rough, but Xena stopped. Gabrielle understood the emotions that played across her features, but she hated when Xena pulled away.

Slowly she followed Xena's tracks to the river. Xena‘s clothes were lying on the ground, and she was doing laps in the chilled water.

‘Trying to cool off huh. At least she has not let me go completely.' Gabrielle thought with relief.

‘Why don't she leave? What do they want from me?' Xena fumed.

Still Gabrielle waited.

"What do you want of me?" Xena said as she finally came out. Freezing cold.

Gabrielle didn't answer. She didn't know herself as she stood holding a warm blanket open for her. She walked into it, and rested her head on Gabrielle's shoulder, The bard rubbed the blanket vigorously against her skin to warm her.

She guided Xena back to the cabin. Xena said nothing She just watched Gabrielle, her mind full of unanswered questions.

Gabrielle changed the bed linens, and folded them down for her. She motioned for her to get in and she did. Gabrielle wordlessly covered her, and added more blankets to the bedding. It was not cool enough for a fire. She turned away from Xena, and stripped all her clothes off.

When she turned she could see the tired look in her loves weary deep blue eyes. She got into bed, and pressed her warm body to Xena's cold flesh. With a sigh she ran her hands over Xena's body. Not so much to arouse, but to try to warm and sooth. Soon Xena had fallen asleep.

Gabrielle got up and pulled one of Xena's long tunics over her head.

With a determined purpose she packed Xena's meager belongings, and placed them in the structure that housed Argo.

"This old stable is sturdier then that box she's living in." She said to the Argo. "Why am I not surprised." She made her way back to the hut.

‘I am not leaving her out here. One way or another she is coming home with me.' She thought as she undressed and joined Xena once more.

It was just before dawn when Xena woke. For once in a long time she felt settled. She cuddled closely into the warmth in her arms. She pressed her face into the silky hair, and inhaled slowly. She pulled the warmth atop her. The warmth began to flow over her.

It kissed her lips tenderly; across her cheeks, her brows, her closed eyelids, down to her neck, it stopped brushing over her lips, and became a warm moist touch. That same touch moved down her chest to her breast and sucked.

Xena moaned as she began to wake fully, and realized the warmth was Gabrielle's body. Her lips suckling her breast.

Xena tensed.

"My lady please don't resist." She said between kisses "Let me Lo---."

Gabrielle stopped as she remembered Xena's reactions to the word Love

"---Please you." She said touching the insides of Xena's thighs.

Xena relaxed and closed her eyes.

Gabrielle could not believe it.

"Is Xena giving herself to me." She thought caressing and kissing the Warriors body from head to toe. Trying to convey to the warrior thru touch how much she loved her. Finding that the warrior's neck was highly sensitive, she treated it to lavished kisses and sucked deeply, entering Xena with her fingers, and straddling her thigh unable to deny her own need any longer.

Xena's mind went back to the day Gabrielle took her in her castle so long ago. She could trust no one else with this vulnerable side of herself. The way the girl laid claim to her body without effort. Her hands awakening a need no other could. Her body reacted of it's own accord. as she listened to impassioned moans and suddenly realized they were her own. Her release came suddenly, as she grasped the bard. A desperate moan ripped from her lips as her mind succumbed to the sweetest ecstasy her body ever knew. To Xena it was almost painful and suddenly she pushed Gabrielle off her. She turned onto her stomach and willed the feeling to go away, and at the same time clinging to those last pieces of Elysia. In that moment of clarity she knew she was in love, and was somehow softened from what she once was

Gabrielle also turned away hurt.

Several moments passed. Gabrielle even dozed off. When she woke she looked up to see Xena watching her with a strange look on her face. She held out her hand to her, and Gabrielle took it.

After they bathed in the river that was warmed by the morning sun, they returned to Xena's hut.

Xena immediately noticed something was wrong. She looked around and noticed things were missing. She turned a suspicious eye on Gabrielle.

I packed your things their waiting in the stable." Gabrielle said softly.

"I'm not leaving---." Xena huffed.

"You promised." Gabrielle cut her off.

"I didn't ----. She started.

"While we were making Love you promised." Gabrielle pressed. ‘How could she not remember.' She thought.

"I do not recall making love. I recall fuc---." Xena started once more only to be cut off again.

"Don't you dare try to say this was just physical." Gabrielle snapped turning away unable to hide her pain.

‘Just who in hades do she think she's talking to.' Xena snapped as she grabbed Gabrielle from behind.

"You really think you can play My emotions against me. Are you so good you can turn me out." Xena said forcing Gabrielle over to the bed. Once more angry at the feelings the bard brought out in her, and fighting against them.

"Xena please..." She said scared she'd pushed too far.

"The difference between me and you is I know the act for what it is. It seems I need to teach you what a good fuck is. I never gave you any illusions as to us making love, but you've seemed to get it from somewhere." Xena said forcing Gabrielle's legs apart.

Gabrielle's heart was breaking. She wanted to come up here to be with Xena, but not this. She did not think her heart could take it. Not after this morning. She did recognize Xena‘s mood. The Conqueror and to her utter amazement she knew this Xena could truly destroy what she‘d become. She closed her eyes, cleared her mind, and forced herself to relax.

Xena felt the change in Gabrielle. The rush she used to get at this submission when she forced someone as The Conqueror was not there anymore. Xena backed away once more. Her confusion was complete.

"Get up Queen." She said in the same tone as she would have used if Gabrielle was still her slave, and Gabrielle did.

"Fine I'll go to your home with you. Since you can't stand me being out here. Just remember you made the bed your going to have to lie in." Xena said Grabbing up the rest of her things and heading to the stable.

Gabrielle followed quietly. New doubts forming in her head. Xena pulled her onto the saddle behind her. She decided to try to calm Xena somehow when they made it half way there.

"Xena we need you. I know you don't need anyone, but it seems to me as if your not doing all that great by yourself. Maybe we can help you." Xena stiffened so Gabrielle decided to change directions. "I know you can help me with Avia."

"What's wrong with Avia?" Xena asked stiffly unable to hide her concerns for the child.

"She's restless and stubborn. When she does not want to behave she falls back on what she think you would do. If I can't control her I can't care for her." Gabrielle said obviously upset.

"She's just trying to grow up." Xena said gently despite herself.

"No disrespect intended, but that is easy for you to say. She loves and respects you." Gabrielle said under her breath. She did not want to push Xena now that she seemed to have calmed herself. So she talked the rest of the way back. She talked about the Village, ceremonies Xena had missed, babies being born, and other things Xena would have thought she had no interest in.

Finally, they were standing in front of the Queens hut. When they entered they found Avia sprawled out on of the furs, on the floor sleep. Her little friend was curled up on one of the throne like chairs her feet propped up on it's footstool. They'd successfully spread food and clothes all over the floor, and it even looked like they'd been sparring.

"You see why I need you here. For the past Two seasons we have been living separately Avia has become spoiled. Everyone gives her what she want. When she's not with me or Eponin she runs wild. If I try to punish her she goes to a friends house. or....."

Gabrielle's voice broke up, and when Xena looked at her she turned away a red tinge to her cheeks.

"Or....." Xena asked moving to stand over Avia. She'd been worried when her pain passed into the girl, but from the looks of things she was okay.

"Nothing." Gabrielle said starting to clean the huge mess.

"What are you doing." Xena asked irritated.

"I----." Gabrielle started, but Xena cut her off.

"She made the mess and she will clean it, and what is the "or". I'm not going to ask again." She stated catching Gabrielle's eyes.

Gabrielle looked to the side. After what just happened in the hut this morning she knew Xena could still be the Conqueror. The only reason why she had not dealt with physical confrontations was because Xena stayed away from her. She had no doubt in her mind Xena was still capable of it. So she answered the question.

"She talks down to me like you, or when she really gets mad she gives me this hard look just like you. It's weird when she gets like that, It's just like looking into your eyes when your angry with me." Gabrielle said deep in thought. "Which is most of the time." She said under her breath.

"Why should I change everyone expects me to be ruthless. Why should I disappoint them." She snapped.

"Xena don't....." Gabrielle started.

"That is the most ridiculous thing I've heard. She has green eyes more like yours. How could they look like mine?" She muttered "You say she tries to act like me. Before we came here I know she saw me strike you before. Has she tried to fight with you?" Xena asked quietly as she turned away from Gabrielle.

"No, She told me once she didn't like that about you." Gabrielle told Xena frankly.

"Avia." Xena Bellowed.

Both girls jerked awake, sitting up with their eyes wide open.

"Mom, What are you doing here." The girl said lying back down.

"What is your name little girl?" Xena asked Avia's friend.

"Melosa, Descendant from the great Queen of the Northern tribes, and future heir. I am here to be trained by the most honorable Weapon Masters first training crew led by Eponin and her training specialist of the royal Descendant's and their Royal Guard. I assure you I have not befriended Avia just because of her exceptional legacy and her family ties. We became friends before I knew who she was. As recruits we were not to speak of our personal family lives. Upon completing training I found out who she was, and----." The little girl said snapping to full attention, obviously very intimidated by Xena.

"Ok.....I am sure your intentions are nothing short of honorable. For now I want you to go back to the training barracks. Let Eponin know that Avia is on punishment and will not be in today. Also that the Conqueror do not intend to have a spoiled child and that she is not to give Avia any kind of special attention as I am sure she has not, but I would appreciate if she stepped her training up a season or two." Xena said.

"Xena ... that is not-----" Gabrielle started but Xena ignored her and sent the girl on her way.

Avia sat there shocked staring at Xena. Xena took a seat in the spot the Young Melosa just left.

"Mom, how could you embarrass me like that." The girl whined.

"I embarrassed you, I think it is the other way around." Xena said. Motioning for the girl to come to her.

Avia's temper flared. She stood defiantly and slipped her feet in her sandals.

"I said come here." Xena said a little to calm for Gabrielle's liking. In the last two seasons she kept an eye on Avia and spent much time with her. The girl seemed to be doing fine. She never really tried to discipline the girl because she lived with Gabrielle. She was used to disciplining men and women not children. She saw now that was a mistake, but she did not know how she should proceed. As she looked back on the way she was raised she had to admit her mother instilled a healthy dose of fear in her children. Xena decided it was time Avia got hers Conqueror style (She didn‘t know any other way.) Xena locked eyes with the girl using her fiercest look of disapproval.

.....And Avia did what any other normal girl of 12 seasons would do who was faced by an angry Conqueror. She turned and ran out the hut like a harpee out of hades.

Xena would have ran after her if not for being so shocked by the girls reaction. She felt her heart break just a little.

"What did you expect Xena. I've seen seasoned, fully armed soldiers nearly wet their pants by the look you just gave her. She is a child Xena, One you claim. How could you do that to her." Gabrielle snapped noticing the pained look go over her face.

"You wanted help....well I'm trying. Give me a break I've never been anyone's mother before." Xena snapped. They both looked up to see Eponin enter the hut with a struggling Avia under her arm.

"When Melosa gave me the message that you were back and Avia was on punishment I decided to come and see the show. I guess for all intents and purposes I missed it. I also have reports from within the Amazon borders, of the arrival of the Sacred Athenian Priestess's personal messengers. They have a sealed scroll to be delivered and read in the presence of The child us and the elders." Eponin gave a little shake to Avia and a sharp smack to her bottom. Avia was in a panic, and still trying to get away from her. "Be still girl, it's not like I didn't warn you." She said dumping the girl in Xena's lap.

Avia froze her eyes wide.

Xena did something that shocked them all. She pulled the girl to her in a hug until she relaxed and her breathing calmed.

"I want you to sit here." She told the girl indicating the foot stool next to her chair. This time Avia did as she was told her face smeared with tears. "You see how you worked your self up and it wasn't even called for?" She asked the girl not waiting for an answer. "You have been running around spoiled to long. I'm not only angry with you but, your mother too. She should have told me of your disobedience." Xena said giving the girl the impression Gabrielle had not told her of her behavior.

"Why have you not told me." She snapped loudly at Gabrielle, but before she could answer she continued. "I'm here now and things are going to change. I want this mess cleaned by midday and you will spend the remainder of the day in your chambers. Am I clear." The girl nodded and Xena motioned for them to follow her outside. She continued on to the dining hut.

Once they were seated in the dining hut eating Eponin sat staring at Xena shaking her head.

"You big softie. Here I warmed her tail up for you. Telling her that if she did not change her ways she was going to get the spanking of a lifetime, and what do you do. You talk to her. Huhh." She said disapprovingly.

"Then it would seem I owe you a wealth of gratitude. You have spared me having to spank her." Xena laughed.

They laughed together while Gabrielle watched them shaking her head.

"Ok, spit it out bard." Xena said noting Gabrielle did not look all that happy.

"Avia is very sensitive where you are concerned. Granted you did not have to spank her because Eponin's threat scared her enough, but you should have been a little more sensitive Xena. She idolize you." Gabrielle snapped.

"I guess I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't." Xena said coldly, starting at her breakfast.

"No your just Damned period." Solari said sitting on the other side of Gabrielle.

Xena Concentrated on her meal, trying to ignore her.

"Solari c'mon we are sitting over there." Ephiny said in an attempt to get Solari away from Xena.

"Why we normally sit with the Queen. This day is no different." Solari snapped. She was up and coming. She could beat Eponin in hand to hand competition, and was a pretty good match for her with weapons. She felt that all Xena had was a reputation for these superhuman powers and nothing else. Yes when she first met her she was scared, but having been around her somewhat she felt all Xena had was attitude.

"This day is different---." Ephiny insisted, but Xena cut them off.

"By all means join us. Don't let me be the reason you change your daily routine." She said emotionlessly. Watching Solari under lowered lashes.

"It just seems to me ....and I don't mean to overstep my bounds but--hey--." She said as Eponin pulled her out of her seat and hauled her out the door. "What‘s wrong with you." Solari snapped.

"I want to ask you the same thing." Eponin snapped back.

"I don't think she is any good for the queen, and I mean to take her from that murderer." Solari stated proudly.

Eponin just looked at her in disbelief.

"You doubt me?" She asked with an air of Pride.

"A queen is a very good catch, and Queen Gabrielle is very beautiful as well as smart." Eponin said turning a crate over and sitting on it. "You‘re talking about taking someone from the Conqueror. That women is insanely possessive. She‘d kill you for taking something she has no use, just because it is hers. You‘re talking about taking the woman who has been raising her child. The Woman she gave her nations away for. The woman who kept her from destroying our nation. On top of that she has not had a chance to vent all that battle lust that's always just below her skin in years. I'm telling you Solari for your own good back off. If you care for the Queen BACK OFF. These little episodes will only serve to make things hard on her. For now I am ordering you to go keep watch on the messengers that are on their way here that should keep you off Xena's back." She said waving Solari off.

Solari glared at her, but since Eponin outranked her she turned to carry out her orders. Eponin watch her till she was no longer in sight. ‘I have a feeling things are about to get really bad.' She thought as she went to finish her breakfast.

Xena watched Gabrielle closely after Solari was pulled from the table. She leaned back in her seat, turned towards the girl, and stared openly. This only made Gabrielle extremely nervous so she concentrated on eating.

"So you're back, and you're staying with Gabrielle." Eponin asked. Trying to break the tension between them.

"She insisted." Xena said nodding towards Gabrielle.

Eponin glanced towards Ephiny. No doubt she noticed that Xena obviously blamed Gabrielle for Solari's actions.

'That idiot.' Ephiny thought. She noticed Teris enter the hut. 'Maybe if Teris sat here it would take some of the heat off Gabrielle. After all she is a demigod and seems to be the only one here who can hold her own with Xena.'

"Teris" She called from across the room and waved her over.

Xena shook her head, but did not stop staring at Gabrielle.

"You know with the coming of age ceremony for our young Amazons. Many young ladies and chaperones from their tribes will be arriving. Their Queens and Royal Reagents will be presenting them." Eponin said.

"Why are you telling me this?" Xena snapped losing a bit of her patience as Teris sat on the other side of Eponin.

"Well... Melosa said you want Avia's training stepped up a couple of seasons." She said gently. Now was not the time to deal with an angry Xena.

"That's what I said." Xena said stubbornly."

"You may want to change your--." Gabrielle started, but when she looked at Xena.... her jaw was set...and she knew there was no changing her mind... even if she was wrong.

"Fine, if you won't listen to her. Then listen to me. You are her parent, and you have the right to insist, but that may be to hard even for the Conquerors child!!!" Eponin said slamming her cup onto the table.

"Oh, but she don't care. Everything has to be her way. That is if she has anything to say about it."Teris said. Fixing Xena with a stare of her own.

"Please rethink this. I will ask you one more time. Then I will be bonded to accept your request." Eponin said almost begging. She saw Teris about to say something. She quickly put a finger to her lip as a silent request for Teris to be silent. A request Teris ignored.

"If you do not heed the warnings, your child may not--." Teris started.

"I see they will not listen to me, so you tell them." Xena said to Gabrielle.

"Now that's not fair. If your going to damn the child, then you have the guts to do it yourself." Teris leaned forward and challenged Xena.

"Gabrielle." Xena said dangerously low. If she was not so intent on seeing if Gabrielle would back her up. She would have heeded the warning and asked why everyone was so concerned. The fact that she felt she was being challenged clouded her mind.

Gabrielle turned to her. She placed her small hand just above Xena's knee in an act of submission. Then she looked deep into the ice blue eyes for some sign of warmth. Xena only raised a brow as a sign to obey her.

"My La--." Gabrielle started.

"Don't." Xena's eyes narrowed. She knew Gabrielle was about to call her 'My Lady', but she didn't want them to here her do it. She didn't want Gabrielle to plead to that part of her. Because deep down she felt she had no power over anyone anymore not even Gabrielle.

Gabrielle turned to Ephiny. She bit her lip and dropped her gaze to her hand that still rested on Xena's thigh. She could feel every eye at that table on her.

'If I say "No" My orders will override Xena's. If I go against Xena there is no telling how it will affect her, but this ceremony is serious, and very dangerous, and Avia is just a child. She isn't ready.

"I can't." Gabrielle whispered. "I will not go against you, but I can't say the word. If this is what you wish you have to say it."

"Then it is said." Xena said turning away from Gabrielle and glaring at Eponin. "Understood."

Eponin glared back angrily, but nodded "yes", and moved to leave the table.

"Hold Eponin, I don't want you disappearing. We have some things to discuss before Athena's messengers get here. No one will blame you for doing your duty." Ephiny said turning to look at Teris.

Eponin sat back down miserably and played with her food.

Xena took in Eponin's defeated state and began to regret her decision.

'It have to be something serious for Eponin to be acting like this.' She thought.

Suddenly she felt another presence in her head. It forced her to turn and lock eyes with Teris.

'It is a wonder you stay sane at all with all these demons and darkness in here.' Teris said, but Xena was the only one who heard.

Her mouth did not move. Her face remained the same. The eyes burned into hers with the red glint of what Xena had thought was hatred now she was not so sure. Because it seemed as if she was in Teris mind too.

'Then you should feel welcomed one more demon won't hurt me.' Xena said noticing how easy it was to send a retort back at Teris without even opening her mouth, but what surprised her even more was that she felt a small tinge of hurt from her own comment and wondered where it came from.

'Believe me this is not my idea of fun. So I will leave you a small gift. Not for you, but so you can prepare the child you claim to love for the huge task you're forcing her to take on too early. Now let me see where shall I leave it.' Teris rummaged around inside Xena's head. Through memories, past pains. The last thing she expected to discover was the past loves.... 'Wow, warrior now this is nice. If I was not on a mission I would stay here for a while.' Teris said as she reluctantly left that sweet place, and immediately tripped over some carnage and landed in a puddle of battle lust, and was filled with it's irresistible urges.

In the outside world Gabrielle, Ephiny, and Eponin were trying to figure out what was going on between the two. All they knew was they noticed Teris was in an trance, then Xena. They did not want to harm them so they decided to wait and see what was going to happen.----As they watched suddenly a look of sweet love went over Xena's features, and a dreamy look went over Teris.-----they both jerked at the same time and a fierce enraged look flashed over both faces----then suddenly an rapture filled intense look-----an evil smile curved Xena's lips----Teris gripped the table her eyes widened. Her breath caught----then suddenly both faces went blank.

Back inside the two minds.

'Geeze Xena you need to mop that up.' Teris complained wiping the lust off."

'I know you liked it, and by the way it's seems for me once you trip into it you can't really ignore it like it never happened. Wonder how Ephiny is going to handle you now.' Xena gasped as a shocked feeling of a secret being ripped open filled her mind.

'I'll just leave this here in the front where you can not miss it.' Teris hurried out of the doors of Xena's mind.


On the outside. They continued to watch. A crowd formed around the table. As more Amazons noticed something was not right. ---An irritated look flowed over Teris's features-----a teasing look over Xena's-----then a panicked from Teris went directly into a rushed look. Suddenly they both jerked forward apparently back from wherever they went.

Xena immediately stood grabbing her chakram. Ready to finally get rid of Teris once and for all.

"Witch this time you went to far." Xena snapped but just as she was about to unleash her Chakram on Teris the package Teris left in her head opened. Instant knowledge of the coming of age ceremony was suddenly known to her. She sat as she start devising methods of getting the girl through it. The sudden knowledge that maybe the child would not make it filled her. Instead of killing Teris she left the table to take a walk. She did not hear Ephiny call out to her. She did not notice that Gabrielle was silently following her.

"Would you mind letting us lowly mortals know what just happened." Ephiny stated flatly. Teris constantly rejecting and pushing her away was taking it's toll on her.

"It was nothing." Teris said standing.

"It didn't look like nothing to me." Ephiny said a sarcastic drawl to her voice.

"Drop it Reagent. I know exactly what happened." Teris said not wanting to argue with Ephiny after what just happened.

"----but we don't." Ephiny snapped.

"This doesn't concern you." Teris snapped back. Xena's battle lust was pumping fresh in her blood. Just the sound of Ephiny's voice made it heat.

"---and why is that." Ephiny said slapping her hand against the table."

‘Just walk away.' Teris thought.

"Why are you so high and mighty. So gods be damned untouchable, and uncaring." Ephiny hissed.

Teris turned to leave. Ephiny caught her by her shoulder.

"Eph please don't ---." Teris pleaded. Ephiny's touch fueling her flame of desire.

"Or what...what will you do to me....can't be any worse then what you already have." Ephiny sneered releasing Teris with a shove and, stalking out the door.

"Your Reagent and her Warrior." Eponin said quietly.

"I would not compare them." Teris snapped.

"I wouldn't dare. You're more like the Queen's warrior then Ephiny." Eponin pointed out.

"Why don't you insult me." Teris said flatly.

"Xena's scared to love. Why I don't know, You don't feel worthy. How could you not like who you are." Eponin asked shaking her head.

"Don't try to figure me out weapons master, and I don't need your sympathy---."

"You don't have it. You do however have my pity." Eponin called out to Teris retreating back.

Teris body was tingling her blood simmering and she had no idea how to put out the flames. She started walking, and was surprised when she found herself in front of Ephiny's door. She tried to resist but couldn't. She walked right in with no regards for the reagent's privacy.

Ephiny was laying on a fur on the floor in front of her fire pit. It looked like she had been trying to read a scroll, but she was staring into the flames. Teris eased in behind her, and sat crossed legged. Ephiny sighed and gave up on reading her scroll. She turned with another heavy sigh, and fell over Teris's lap. She let out a short scream not expecting some one to be there, and jumped to her feet.

"What have I done to you?" Teris asked laying back on the fur, and looking up at Ephiny.

"What." Ephiny asked trying to calm herself down.

"In the dining hut you said---." Teris started, but Ephiny cut her off.

"I know what I said." Ephiny snapped glaring down at her. "Can't you make some noise when you enter a room. Stop sneaking up on me."

"Then what did you mean?" Teris spoke gently, completely ignoring Ephiny's last comment.

"Why?" Ephiny demanded as she turned away from Teris. The glowing red tint to her eyes bothered her. She missed how warm they used to be.

"Because you have no right to judge me." Teris said her words flowing smoothly.

"All this time I thought we were friends, and you call me a fool for thinking it. I tried to be here for you. You don't care. You're only remaining in the village out of obligation to you mo... I mean Elder Ranin, but you act like we're nothing." Ephiny choked out.

While Ephiny was talking Teris stood. She took in how Ephiny's hair naturally curled and fell wildly to her shoulders. She was strong but her body did not hint as to how strong. Teris remembered every curve for she'd watched Ephiny from the time she was a child.

‘I've always loved her, and she always just tolerated me.' Teris thought.

" I'm not judging you, and if you've changed that's fine too. I just want to know...well... that you're okay. Are you?" Ephiny said dropping her head and playing with the silver band on her fingers. All Amazons had one. It was placed on their finger soon after their birth or upon joining the village, and was quite thick. It was let out as they grew. It was given to her mates when she joined. Upon her death it was melted down and reformed into a band for one of her children‘s first born girl, or one she'd adopted.

"What If I said I'm not...What could you do for me? Can you give me what I need? How can you? My grand father is the king of the gods. My aunts, uncles, my father, Cousins. They are those gods. What can you possibly give me that they can't. You don't even look at me like you used to." Ephiny started to say something, but Teris continued. "Not that you all saw me any better before. I was just trying to be normal, but I was different from the start." She fought the tears.

"I heard the whispering even as a child. I've heard you say things under your breath, but don't feel bad you all did. ...but as long as you all didn't know I was a was okay. Then the Queen came along, and changed that... You know she never treated me different, but what can I expect from Xena's mate." Teris huffed.

"Why don't you stop blaming others. I can't help you unless you want me to. As for why people are treating you differently. It is because you are different. We don't love you any less. For me finding out explained a lot." Ephiny said turning to face Teris who was standing directly behind her. Ephiny moved back a step.

"I can't see love Eph...towards me. Do you love me." Teris asked bluntly, Her eyes still watering from unshed tears. She took a step closer to her true love.

"Sure I love you. I thought gods didn't ask silly questions." Ephiny said jokingly punching Teris in the stomach. Trying to lighten the mood. That small question from Teris reminded her that her friend was still in there.

‘She don't see you as you do her.' Teris felt chilled to the bone as she turned for the door, but it did nothing to ease that battle lust. She dropped her eyes to the ground.

"Fine I'll try to be more like I was. I'll start by going to see my Mom tomorrow. I‘m going out to meet the priestesses I suggest you get Everyone together" She said not bothering to look back at Ephiny. Her blood was sill boiling, but she refused to involve Ephiny if she had no feelings for her.

Before Ephiny could say anything more Teris disappeared form sight.

'I don't think I'll ever get used to her blinking out like that." Ephiny thought as she stared at the spot Teris had stood on. ‘What in hades happened. I could of sworn I saw raw desire in her eyes. Huhh at least she‘s coming back to herself, and maybe in time she‘ll come back to me. Seeing Ranin will do her wonders.' Ephiny smiled as she went to find everyone.

It wasn't until midday that she caught up with Gabrielle, and Xena was a good twenty paces away from her.

"She's hurting Eph. Imprisoned here for all these years." Gabrielle said turning to look at the Reagent .... and by what. She has no place here....nothing to do. No purpose." Gabrielle said as if Ephiny had an answer.

Ephiny could not hold her tongue any longer.

"Well...I can't say I'm sorry that she's hurting ..only that it's hurting you. Because her being trapped here keeps her from hurting others. You know what Artimess said. It is her doing.

"I don't believe that is all she can say...and if it is Xena's doing Artimess is getting what she wants. This nation is stronger then it's been in ages. Merely because they know she is here. It seems to me you could sympathize for that alone. Should take a lot off weight of both yours and my shoulders." Gabrielle snapped glaring at Ephiny.

"...And her nations...her lands remain safe simply because others fear the moment they try to overthrow it she'll reappear to take vengeance. Her land are benefiting too, and they need not worry about her dark presence any longer, but we do." Ephiny said scowling at Xena's back.

"Everyone is prospering from her demise, Everyone but her. I know she's dangerous. No one knows that better than I. It is not fair that she be used as a threat...yet no one cares about her." Gabrielle said turning to watch Xena again.

"I wouldn't say no one. Eponin cares that's why she's so angry with her. I even think Teris care, but Teris needs to learn to care about herself before she can care about someone else. Our youngsters are completely taken with her, and I don't know if that's a good thing. Avia idolize her, again I don't know if that's good. love her, and you know how ruthless she is....why?" Ephiny asked touching Gabrielle's shoulder.

Gabrielle never got the chance to answer. Xena heard every word of the conversation, and didn‘t want to hear Gabrielle's answer. Even though the bard taking up for her warmed her heart.

"If I go to relieve myself. Will I be followed and watched too...." Xena said loudly turning to face them.

"You're not being watched. I just wanted to make sure your okay." Gabrielle said dropping her gaze to study her boots.

"Only in your dreams warrior." Ephiny refrained from calling her a murderer for Gabrielle's sake. "We need to get to the Elder's meeting hut. The messengers have arrived, and are settling into their hut. We don't have much time."

"Why do you need me." Xena asked.

"Xe---." Ephiny started.

"Fine let's go through all the Amazon mumbo jumbo." Xena said angrily stomping off to the elder's hut followed by a very annoyed Ephiny.

Gabrielle went to get Avia, and Teris was supposed to escort the visitors of the Nation. Meaning The Athenian messengers to the Elder's hut. Once there she would leave to join the other Elders for the pre ceremony preparations.

This meeting was different. Xena thought she was going to just sit, but she was wrong. The royal advisors robes was placed in her hands. She put it on. She was placed behind Gabrielle's right shoulder. Avia was placed in front of Gabrielle to her left. If Xena was Gabrielle's consort. She would be placed at Gabrielle's right side, and Avia would be directly in front of them. This would be to signify she was their child.

The Elder's lined up and entered behind them.

As they walked in Xena could see Avia carefully staying in her spot. Gabrielle took her place in the Queens seat that was set slightly off the head of the Elder's table. Avia sat on one of the cushions place to the direct left of Gabrielle. Xena took a spot just slightly behind the chair to the right. Since no one bothered her she felt she must have been right. She leaned against the wall directly behind her. The messengers were already seated at the left of the meeting table. The elder's took their place at the right of the table. Ephiny took the head of the table next to Gabrielle.

The Amazon drummers entered fast. The royal scribe bringing up the rear and sealing the doors. The room became still.

Xena watched as the Elder Meitos gestured the scribe over, and whispered in her ear.

The scribe walked up to the Queen's throne and bowed keeping her eyes on the Queen. When Gabrielle nodded she moved to stand in front of Xena.

Xena had been enjoying watching Gabrielle act Queenly, and wondered if there was something she was supposed to do at this point. Since she didn't know she settled for staring the scribe down icily, but the scribe stood her ground. She was much shorter than Xena so she motioned for her to lean forward.

Xena let out an impatient sigh, and leaned forward.

"I must take my spot before the ceremonial drums can sound." She said leaning forward more and whispering in Xena's ear.

"Then I suggest you get your behind moving." Xena snapped.

"Your in my spot." The scribe hissed angrily. "Your place is heading up the other side of the ceremonial table. Across from Ephiny." She gestured to the empty seat.

Xena stood tall. Then roughly brushed pass the scribe. When she took her seat the scribe stood proud and straight behind Gabrielle in the place Xena just vacated. Avia tried smiling down at Xena to reassure her from the other side of the table, but Xena ignored her.

The ceremonial drums rang in the meeting. The royal scribe announced the people present in the meeting.

Xena noticed Meitos watching her closely. She'd made the point to ask Xena what she thought when she felt her input was important.

Gabrielle as Queen said nothing as Ephiny responded for her.

Xena watched Gabrielle. At the moment she was lightly running her fingers through Avia's hair. Avia had fallen asleep leaning against Gabrielle's leg. No doubt tired from her and her little friends all nighter.

‘Smart Kid. Why are we here. This has nothing to do with us.' Xena thought as she felt her own eyelids begin to droop.

"With that said I now defer to our high priestess's messenger." The Athenian said. "Warrior." She said loudly noting Xena was close to dozing off.

"This concerns you and your child." She said taking note that the child had been startled out of her sleep. She nodded to the sacred messenger who stood and turned her attention to Gabrielle.

"You know none of your are Amazons. I could kill you all where you stand!" Xena threatened quietly. The Athenian rubbed her the wrong way.

"The child is not of your blood, and nay is she Xena's. Yet the bond between you is just as strong if not stronger. So be it she is your child. So be it as Ares chosen you are The Conqueror of many lands and The Warrior Princess." She said choosing to ignore Xena's threat with a small pause for effect.

"We are familiar with our titles now and then--" Xena huffed, but the sacred messenger cut her off.

"So be it Xena chose Gabrielle and so it is written - So be it the child was chosen by both but will nay be heir for neither-." She was cut off."

"You don't know that." Xena snapped standing.

"Please just hear the sacred one out and your questions will be answered." One of the messengers gently told Xena. She'd seen the Conqueror's anger turn into a blood bath first hand a while back. She had to make sure that did not happen here.

"I fear you Conqueror." The sacred messenger admitted. "But I speak the Goddess Athena's wishes and will not be silent." She looked into Xena's eyes that seemed to warm over a little.

"Your honesty is refreshing continue." Xena said arrogantly sitting back down. She was impressed by the priestess.

"So be it the Goddess Athena will take a chosen of the innocent who was marked with her past by Morpheus, and it is so written." The sacred messenger watched Xena carefully. She could see Xena was beginning to understand already.

"The Goddess will personally groom her chosen to rule all of Athens. As the chosen will benefit from her false lineage. So be it the illegitimate heir to Amazonia and the Conquers land will be well versed and trained by both and the chosen rightful ruler to Athens and mentored by Athena herself. Upon her first cycle she is to take her place as the true Athenian Sovereignty. It is her path. Though her upbringing was within the Conquerors lands. Both her parents were Athens born, but the man she knew as her father was nay her father. A forced unity was made to replace a most honorable man. That man was her father.

Avia stared at the sacred messenger, and was forever changed. A weight was lifted off her small shoulders. She realized the horrors that was done to her was not by her father. Her father had been an honorable man. The sacred messenger paused yet again.

Xena watched the girl as the messengers message freed the child somehow. It was at that point that she knew the child was already Athena's.

‘No, they can't force me to leave my mother's. I'll run away before I go anywhere with them. I will forever be loyal to Xena.' Avia thought fiercely. She faced the sacred messenger and slowly shook her head "No".

"Anywhere you go, you will be found." The sacred messenger said firmly looking at the child. "You can not change such a strong destiny. It will always be so." The sacred messenger finished taking her seat once more.

‘How could...she couldn't possibly know what I was thinking.' Avia thought. a shiver running through her small frame. She turned fearful eyes to Xena.

Xena motioned for the child to come to her. The girl ran quickly to her and buried her face in Xena's shoulder.

"Never let anyone see your fear little one. If you are mine you will act like it. Stand here at my side. Feel the fear and become enraged at those who caused it. That's how you conquer it, and become as the Conqueror. " Xena whispered fiercely in the girls ear and pushed her away.

Avia looked deep into Xena's eyes as she made herself draw on her strength.

Just before the girl turned to stand at her side Xena saw something that shook her up. Right there as the girl composed herself. Her eyes that was normally a misty shade of green turned a sparkling crystal blue, then the blues turned icy and hard just as the girl turned away. As Xena stared down the table at Gabrielle she knew she saw the icy blue. ‘Gabrielle was telling the truth, but how.' Xena thought. She composed herself and stared the messenger down.

‘There, that is the sign. The chosen's eyes remain the color of the Queen's as long as she is calm or scared. If she is alarmed, stressed or angry they will become the color of the Conquers. This is deeply disturbing.' She thought as she looked to one of her fellow messengers. Then all around the table as everyone set in shock at the two sets of ice blue angry eyes of Avia and Xena. ‘She is so...harsh instead of hugging the child and calming her. She scolded her and pushed her away.' The sacred messenger thought. Not knowing that Xena had just shared with the child a piece of what was her.

"So through all your so be it's - here's what I understand. You want me and the Amazons to train Avia fully. When she grows older she will be taken to Athens to be trained by Athena." Xena stated.

"So--." The sacred messenger started.

"Be it. I know." Xena finished for the women. "The plan is sound. Avia they intend to overthrow us with you."

Avia shook her head.

"Who better to overthrow then someone who has inside knowledge of both nations."

"That is not so." Said the sacred messenger. She was appalled that Xena could think that. "Can't you see the clarity of it." She asked.

Xena cocked her head to the side.

"Not everyone is cursed with the scheming ways that you proudly hold in your possession. Your power hungry conquest are exclusive only to you." Teris said breaking her silence.

Meitos shot her a dirty look. She was one that treated Teris if not the same as before, then she raised the standard she expected Teris to live by. For this reason Teris lowered her head in compliance.

"My apologies to my sister elders, My nation, and My Queen." Teris fell back on the customary apology. Amazons did not feel the need to apologize to anyone outside of the nation.

Ranin beamed with the knowledge that Teris was brought up right.

"So be it." The Athenian said choosing to accept an apology that was not at all aimed at her.

"The clarity is simple. As it goes it is written. Though the writing preordained. Your denial is therefore denied. It will be and so it is. This will not be changed. The Conqueror is the key, and through her united three strong nations will be." The sacred one finished then looked to Xena.

Xena was about to protest, but the look on Gabrielle's face caught her eye. The bard looked at the sacred messenger with such admiration, and awe.

Immediately, Xena's jealousy peaked. The attack was so quick and fierce not even Teris could respond in time. Xena beat the sacred messenger savagely, and she suffered silently. She knew this might happen. That's why she insisted she go in the place of the high priestess.

Finally, Teris snapped out of her haze and flew into action.

She rushed Xena with such force Xena was raised off her feet, as she was slammed into a wall.

The other Athenians rushed to protect the sacred messenger.

Xena bucked Teris off her wildly, and aimed a savage blow to her chest.

"Amazons defend the Athenians." Ephiny commanded.

"Xena please." Gabrielle cried out. As an Athenian archer drop to her knees ready to shoot if Xena broke through the Amazons.

"No" the sacred messenger called out to the archer.

Teris was caught off guard by the blow from Xena. She was hurt as she crumpled to the floor.

Eponin stood her ground in front of the Amazon's, that was protecting the Athenians, that was protecting the sacred messenger.

"Move." Xena commanded not wanting to hurt Eponin, but not quite able to control her rage.

"Let's have at it." Eponin said drawing her sword.

"You can't take me." Xena warned as much for herself as for Eponin.

"That may be so seeing what you did to Teris, and she's a demigod, but I've been commanded to act." Eponin said proudly. "So either stand down or we come to blows and one of us may die."

"You'd let someone else command you to die, then so be it." Xena smiled evilly.

Suddenly her senses went haywire, and she was secretly glad for the distraction from Eponin. She grabbed her chakram as she zeroed in on Teris sending a solid force her way. She deflected it with her chakram. It went sailing through the air and crashed through the solid oak doors leaving a gaping hole.

"If I didn't know any better I'd think you were trying to kill me, and this is not the first time." Xena shouted at Teris.

Gabrielle commanded Ephiny to control Teris.

"Xena, please stop...what happened." She asked coming to stand in front of Eponin. She heard Poni release a sigh of relief.

"Someone should have killed you long--" Teris started to send another force at Xena, but Ephiny caught her arm.

She tried to pull away, but Ephiny kept a hold on her. She grabbed Ephiny lifting her bodily and slamming her into the same wall she'd slammed Xena into earlier.

Her eyes hungrily devoured Ephiny with pent up longing, as she tried to resist with all her will from taking Ephiny on the spot.

Ephiny's eyes widened as she recognized unbridled wild desire in Teris eyes.

"This isn't over." Teris huffed quietly. "I know you heard me." She finished blinking out yet again.

Xena heard her, but did not know whether she was talking to Ephiny or her.

"Xena, please." Gabrielle said quietly. If you must...I'm the one to punish. I forgot myself." She said quietly

Xena's eyes settled on her. She walked out the door holding what was left of it opened for Gabrielle.

Gabrielle walked towards the door, and Avia fell in step behind her.

"No baby, I want you to stay with Eponin until Xena send for you." Gabrielle said pushing her towards Eponin.

"I don't like this My Queen." Ephiny said worried.

"You just worry about yourself. Looks like Teris got some demons she can't control. Maybe you might have a late night disfigurement of your own." Xena stated a little to calmly for Ephiny's liking.

Gabrielle brushed past her, but Xena caught her arm.

"Avia, Go home. We'll be there after we've had a Get some sleep, but pack your camping gear first. We‘re going to live off the land for your coming of age training" Xena said glaring at Ephiny. With that she motioned Gabrielle to follow her.

"Xena." Meitos called out clearly.

Xena huffed as she turned to her.

"I will speak to you about your lack of control, and compassion on the morrow before you leave. Is this understood." Meitos stated firmly.

"I don't owe you a thing old lady. Not even control." Xena snapped angry at herself for feeling a small touch of shame.

"No, that's something you can only owe yourself." Meitos retorted. "Think before you act. I'll see you on the morrow." Meitos said motioning her fellow elders to leave.

Xena endured them passing by. Meitos shaking her head as she passed. She closed her eyes and counted then motioned Gabrielle to follow her. They walked to the stables. Xena saddled Argo in silence. Then mounted, she held her hand out for Gabrielle.

"I'd rather walk." Gabrielle tried to decline.

Xena continued to hold her hand out. Gabrielle took her hand and was effortlessly pulled into the saddle behind her. Xena took off. She felt Gabrielle's hands tighten around her waist and her small body press more firmly into her.

Gabrielle held on to Xena for dear life. A touch of Deja Vu hit her as she remembered once before riding behind Xena when she was angry. She tightened her hold, and pressed her face into Xena's strong right shoulder, as she breathed in her scent deeply.

What are you doing." Xena called over her shoulder.

Gabrielle didn't answer. She feared what may be to come.

Finally, Xena stopped Argo.

"I love you." Gabrielle whispered in her ear.

They were deep in the forest by now. Xena hopped off Argo, and held her hands out to help Gabrielle down.

‘Why help me on and off Argo if she's only going to hurt me like she did the messenger.' Gabrielle thought. She looked down at her fearfully, but accepted the offered hands.

"Why?" Gabrielle asked softly backing up into Argo. She knew Xena would know what she meant.

"You already know." Xena answered turning away from the bard.

"Jealousy." Gabrielle asked.

"Humph..." Xena huffed. "Do you want to fuck her." She asked quietly.

"What..." Gabrielle stammered.

"You heard me." Xena said turning and grabbing her arms savagely. "Do you want to do her." are--.." Gabrielle said confused, her eyes tearing from Xena's painful grip on her arms.

"You know very well how and who. Well....there were two that I saw. I let Solari go, and the other want be able to ...okay listen... that's fine you go do what you want. We have no obligations to each other. Just .... just don‘t play games with me." She shouted, her voice trembling, as she pushed Gabrielle away. "I can play games too" Xena said stalking off and leaving her there with Argo.

"No Xena please." She said reaching out for her to no avail. ‘I know you can play games. I just don't think I can take them.' She thought as she got the sinking feeling that bad just got worse.

Gabrielle waited and waited for her to return. She even fell asleep under a tree. Finally just before dawn she and Argo made there way back to the village. She even thought she felt Xena's presence like she was following them, but she decided that was silly. Gabrielle didn't quite feel like going home so she went to Ephiny's hut, and knocked lightly. She was just about to turn around, and walk away when Ephiny opened the door. She looked as if she expected someone else. She poked her head out the door and looked in both directions.

"I'm sorry.." Gabrielle started, but Ephiny pulled her in by her top before she could finish.

Gabrielle stood by the door and waited as Ephiny paced back and forth. She looked upset.

"Please Gabrielle sit down. I want to tell you a story...." Ephiny said leading Gabrielle to a seat. "....but first you answer me some questions?" She demanded.

"Ephiny I just came here because I didn't want to face Xena yet. She didn't touch me last night. Just accused me of wanting to with the sacred messenger. Then she just left me out there alone." Gabrielle said starting to get up.

"It seems like she can't bring herself to hurt you anymore, you think." Ephiny asked.

"I hope your right." Gabrielle sighed.

"Gabrielle when she first came to own you. How did she treat you?" Ephiny asked sitting across from her.

"She treated me like she treated her other slaves." Gabrielle's said her face heating with embarrassment as she remembered the degradation.

"Was she....I don't ....Gabrielle....Teris was here just before you knocked. She....She was not herself." Ephiny said apparently having a hard time saying what she wanted to.

"She hasn't been herself for a long time." Gabrielle stated.

She...She." Ephiny took a deep breath. "She did things I would never have thought Teris would do."

"Like what." Gabrielle said leaning forward her interest peaked.

Ephiny stood and paced the floor nervously. Then just as quickly sat back down ringing her hands together."

"You got to understand. Teris has always been my friend. I just didn't think of her in certain ways, or if I did they were ways I would never admit to her. After all hades broke loose last night she warned it wasn't over. Well....I guess it wasn't....I don't know how to explain what happened.....It was so.....good...I mean she made me feel.....things after so long....The fact it was her made it even better. But, it wasn't her, and afterwards it seemed like she snapped out of whatever she was in. She apologized over and over, and wouldn't let me talk....She was horrified at the thought she'd forced me. I know Teris. She's going to avoid me. I....I don't want that....I felt such a connection even despite the fact she was so rough. So....that's why I asked, because I know you dealt with Xena when she' that." Ephiny said not daring to look up. "What am I going to do?" She asked of the small bard.

Teris appeared in her room in Ranins hut. She always felt secure here. She burrowed into the furs of her bedding. If only she had stayed out of Xena's head, but she did not know if she should hate her , or thank her. Her mind played out the best thing that ever happened to her. Even though it was the worst thing she would have to face up to.

After a whole day of dealing with battle lust her resistance was low. She had watched Ephiny and Eponin enter Ephiny's hut. By the raised voices she could tell they were arguing. Teris flashed in just as Eponin was slamming the door shut behind her.

"What do you want?" Ephiny snapped as she noticed her.

Teris walked towards her.

"Teris I don't feel like dealing with you, after the way you behaved on top of everything else. I repeat what-do-you-want?" Ephiny said narrowing her eyes at Teris and backing up.

"What if I said you." She reached out quickly to get a hold on Ephiny, and pulled her roughly against her body.

Ephiny jerked away a little panicked.

"What has gotten into you. You go from one extreme to another." She said finding herself backed against a wall.

"You---and not just now. You've always got to me." Teris said running her hands through Ephiny's tightly curled tresses, and marveling at how silky and soft it was. Ephiny jerked her head away, but Teris caught her by the chin.

"What are you doing Teris. You can't just--uhh." Ephiny moaned.

Before she could finish her line of thinking Teris lowered her head and ran her lips across Ephiny's neck.

Ephiny's breath caught. Teris's lips was so soft. Her tongue so warm as she ran it along her neck. Ephiny grabbed her by her shoulders intending to push her away, but found herself holding on tight.

"I want you so badly. Don't deny me." Teris pleaded hotly into her ear. Her longing for this woman was so intense. Her breathing ragged.

"Why now?" Ephiny demanded angrily pushing Teris away. "Whatever game your playing. I'm not amused." She shouted at Teris moving away. To her horror the red tinge to Teris eyes blazed brighter. She felt a surge of fear.

Teris stepped back to give Ephiny room and motioned her to pass. She had her cornered by her emotions. There was no reason to corner her physically.

Ephiny took the bait.

Teris caught her scent of arousal just as she was passing. With a moan as her battle lust raised a notch she grabbed Ephiny from behind.

Suddenly they were in Ephiny's bed chambers. They both were naked, and Teris still held her from behind. Ephiny was shocked defenseless as she slipped into the sensation of the feel of Teris‘s skin warm against hers. Teris used that moment to press Ephiny into the bedding, but Ephiny recovered. Turning to face Teris

"Teris." She breathed. "We're like sisters don't..." She pleaded knowing she wanted Teris probably as much as Teris eyes told her she wanted her.

"I don't want to be like your sister." She said her mouth watering as she took in Ephiny's erect nipple. At the same time keeping her under control by pressing her wrists into the bedding. "Well maybe a very naughty sister. After all isn't that what the Amazon sisterhood is all about. Don't think of me as you blood sister. I don't want that." She said.

She took Ephiny's right nipple between her lips, and crossed her wrist above her head. So she could hold them with one hand. Ephiny let out a strangled cry as she felt her other hand run over her nether lips. She turned away from Teris her face burned with embarrassment.

Teris chuckled lightly dipping her fingers into her wetness. She released Ephiny's wrist and turned her face roughly to her.

Ephiny glared up at her and caught her breath as Teris sucked Ephiny's arousal from her fingers.

‘She's taking pleasure in taunting me.' Ephiny thought as she surged up against Teris, and slapped her with all the anguish she was feeling.

Teris pushed her back down just as hard. Not at all fazed by the slap. Her vision tinted red and her lust was taking over her mind. She pinned Ephiny down with her forearm to her neck, as she forced her legs opened with her knees.

Ephiny grabbed Teris arm with both her hands in fear that Teris would strangle her. She knew that if that was her intention she would not be able to breathe.

"Teris....okay listen please .. if this is going to happen. I'll stop fighting, but please not like this." Ephiny tried to reason with her.

Teris stopped and looked up at her.

"Let me go." She said tugging at Teris forearm. "Please baby, I don't want you to fuck me. If it has to be, I want it to be making love. Let me show you." She said feeling Teris ease up a little. "If you force me you‘ll hurt me, and later you won‘t be able to live with that."

Teris swallowed hard as she watched Ephiny lick her lips seductively. She let Ephiny up.

‘She looks like she's in a daze.' Ephiny said pushing Teris back. She kissed her lips gently, barely touching them.

"Please....Eph don't stop. I need you." She moaned scared Ephiny was going to run away.

The plea spoke to her heart and she touched Teris inner thigh, feeling the wetness there. She pressed her own thigh into Teris heat.

Teris cried out as Ephiny pressed into her tightly, kissing her passionately.

"Eph I want to love you too...tell me what to do." She said her lust making her a prisoner to Ephiny's love making.

It was Teris words that caught Ephiny by surprise. Despite how strongly Teris came on at first. Those words told Ephiny she may still be a Virgin. Ephiny licked one of her fingers and moved her thigh, and press her moist finger lightly into Teris. Just as she suspected her hymen was still intact.

"Take it----take me" Teris pleaded. Her whole body aflame. Her sexual experience was limited, but she was a healer and she knew exactly what Ephiny was checking.

Ephiny eased out of Teris gently and licked her way down her body. She did not hesitate but went right for Teris's clit.

The moment Teris felt Ephiny's tongue she exploded.

She continued to ravish Teris. As the women climaxed again. It was her turn to chuckle as she climbed back up Teris body and cradled her in her arms. She smoothed her sweat soaked hair from her eyes.

Teris tightened her hold on Ephiny and pressed her face into her breast.

"Teris am I that good. I barely touched you and you popped like Greek fire."

"You know now. It may be that I just needed that badly. Tell me what make your toes curl. I have not forgotten my question." Teris said pulling Ephiny's left nipple into her mouth.

"I think you can figure that out." She breathed as she felt Teris fingers working her clit.

Teris came up and kissed her fiercely. She pulled away breathlessly.

"Inside Teris now." She moaned opening her legs wider as an invitation.

"Are you sure." Teris said looking deep into Ephiny's eyes. Now that the battle lust was wearing off she wasn‘t quite that sure of herself.

"Teris you got me here please...Huuuhh." She cried out, as she felt Teris slide two fingers into her.

The innocent healer pumped into her with a steady stroke. Her mouth covering Ephiny's clit. She felt her own need heighten again. She positioned herself over Ephiny's mouth, as she concentrated once more on given her pleasure. She moaned as she felt Ephiny‘s tongue once more.

Ephiny was so very close when Teris lowered herself to her lips. She called on all the control she had in her body to hold off her orgasm. She wanted to come with Teris, but her control was melting away to utter oblivion. Just as her control crumbled and her release washed over her she heard Teris cry out her own release, and she let herself fade into the sweetest ecstasy she ever known.

Teris remembered how she'd woke in the same lovers embrace she'd had her last climax in. But the battle lust was gone. She sat up quickly as dread racked her body. She ran a gentle finger across Ephiny's cheek. Her eyes took in the evidence of what she‘d done, and she choked on a sob.

Ephiny opened her eyes sleepily. She didn't want to wake from the most satisfied sleep she'd ever had, but the look on Teris face woke her quickly.

Teris shook her head "No" as tears sprang to her eyes. She grabbed one of the furs and hopped off the bed.

"Teris what's wrong?" Ephiny had said.

But no matter how Ephiny tried to assure her she knew she'd forced her. She'd taken her so roughly, and the fact that through it all Ephiny refused to take her Virginity. Showed how much better Ephiny was than her.

She'd ran from Ephiny's hut wrapped in nothing but a fur. She'd forgot she could just blink out, and it wasn't until she found herself outside of her mother Ranin's hut that she used that power to get to her room without facing Ranin.

She burrowed further into her bedding, Balling up tight as the hot tears started to flow yet once more.

Xena in a fit of worry trained Avia morning noon and night. The information Teris embedded into her head helped her to prepare the child.

Sometimes Gabrielle would watch. At times she would get jealous, but she couldn't help but feel sorry for the child. Xena showed her no mercy in her training.

Once Eponin tried to intervene. Both her and Xena came to harsh words. The confrontation ended with Xena becoming even harder on the girl, and Eponin leaving angrily. From then on she made a point to stay away from Xena‘s training drills.

But the other girls begged Xena to train them, but she ignored them. They watched her drills then went off in groups and practiced what they saw.

Teris was missing for a couple days. Ranin found her after she heard a noise in her old room and went in to discover her there.

"So are you pushing your duties off on me again." Ranin said grudgingly.

"There has been no injuries in the last couple of days, no meetings for the Elders. I‘ve not been needed." Teris said sitting crossed legged, her body rigid and her eyes closed.

"Ephiny has been looking for you. Or have you forgot that it is your duty to report to her when she request? Have you been eating?" Ranin scolded.

"First off Mom Ephiny has no official reason for seeing me. Second I am a demigod that happens to be wretchedly immortal. I don't have to eat.

"Listen here Miss demigod if your going to take that tone with me you can take you demigod behind out of my hut. Secondly you lost weight take your but to the dining hut and eat. Lastly I was not aware that a friend needed an official reason to see you. Look at me. " Ranin demanded of the woman she called her child. "....and finally after how you treated me------."

"I'm sorry mom." Teris rushed into Ranin. Not wanting to loose the only home she'd ever had.

"...and that's all I have to say." Ranin said wrapping her arms around Teris. ‘Welcome back baby.' Ranin thought smiling.

As time went on Teris was seen more, but never anywhere close to Ephiny. It drove Ephiny crazy. She'd never seen Teris so stubborn about something before, and she cursed the fact that she was a demigod. Before when she was passing as a mortal she could not get away with just disappearing. She had to face her. Ephiny was told she continued her regular duties . Ephiny did not want to be the cause of her vanishing completely so she let her have her space. It did not stop the pain she was feeling though.


Xena was having one of her recurring dreams of Gabrielle and her traveling together, and battling for the greater good. She felt eyes on her as she forced herself to wake. Avia and Xena had been living off the land, and training. Gabrielle didn't like it, but Xena just stared thru her when she tried to reason with her.

Xena blamed herself because she was very disappointed in Avia at first. She had to remind herself the girl was young, but she came a long way from when they started.

She opened her eyes to see the girl staring down at her.

"It's less then two moons away. I may die, but I won't to prove myself worthy of you." The girl said cryptically.

"You're not going to die. Go back to sleep. The sun has yet to rise." Xena told the girl knowing how important it was to have someone who believed in you. As Lyceus had believed in her.

"I may die and I accept it" Avia said still looking down at Xena.

"You're not going to die go back to sleep." Xena said turning over.

"I never told you, but Thank You." Avia said kissing Xena on the cheek..

"Avia look we have a long day--." Xena started as she turned back over.

"That night ..I remember all the blood after I ran him through---."

"Avia ...don't." Xena said sitting up.

"No I have to tell you now while I can." The girl snapped.

Xena looked at her. She'd never spoke of that night, at least not in Xena's presence.

I sat in our quarters all night with the sword in my hands, and even though he was laying there dead. I didn't dare run because I just knew he'd come after me. When they came looking for him, and saw him they were mad. I didn't even try to explain. They hauled me away, and the crowd got bigger and bigger. They all were shouting out how I was going to be whipped, and tortured, and killed by the Conqueror. Even though I'd seen you before.....I'd conjured up an image of a she demon who would not care what my reasons was for killing my father. Who would not care about the fact that I loved him as my father. Even though he hurt me. He was the only father----The only family I had. I stood there waiting my judgment. I knew I had nothing left. I kind of went into this fog. I was aware of when Gabrielle came in, and that she was standing with me. Then you stepped out. You didn't look like that monster----but I wanted to die. My mother was dead...I'd killed my father, and now I was awaiting judgment of the Conqueror. Yet when you came out something happened---." She said still staring at the spot where Xena had been sleeping.

"Like you wanted to go to sleep." Xena said with a smirk trying to lighten the mood the girl was in.

Avia continued on ignoring her.

"Still I couldn't allow myself that. Then you told me to come to you, and that's when I felt true fear. I didn't mind dying for my crime. I just didn't want to die by your hand, and you do have a reputation for horrible torture." The girl threw a side glance Xena's way. Xena's expression was unreadable. "You hugged me." The girl said in wonder. "All the torturous deaths they told me you would heap on me, and you hugged me. I wasn't ready for that. You weren't supposed to do that." The girl said caught up in the past. Tears falling. "That's why I fought you, but you just held on. For someone who felt like I did...Something broke down in me----." She said confused.

‘Those walls that should have never been.' Xena thought.

"Then you pulled me into your world and suddenly I felt I belonged. Until you my life was.... I can't even explain....." Avia looked at Xena strangely.

"What...." Xena said offensively.

"Will you care if I don't make it....Is that why your not worried." She accused.

"Why would you say that." Xena snapped

"Other peoples mother's are worried." She said wringing her hands.

"Let's go to sleep." Xena said pulling the girl into her arms, and pulling the fur skins over them. "Your mom and I care. If not I would not be training you so intensely. I'm not worried because I know beyond a doubt you'll make it. Because Hades know if you don't I'll be coming to get you." Xena whispered softly in the girls ear.

Time passed all to swiftly it seemed to Xena. She sat watching Gabrielle help Avia into her Amazon Garb. In preparation for her coming of age ceremony. It was a very solemn feeling in the air so thick it could have been cut with a knife. Xena and the child returned to the village the day before. Xena was confident in the child's abilities. She'd learned her lessons and drills and mastered them and there was simply nothing else to teach. So she brought her back to spend her last day before the ceremony with the people she came to know as her family and friends.

The day was finally here and it was literally that the girl had to do or die.

‘How do I feel about that.' Xena thought. ‘It is not like the Amazon's forced the issue it was I, and for what to prove that my child is more advanced then the others. Is that fair she is not of my blood, and so not really my child. If she dies I have condemned someone else's child to death. ‘She thought as she looked up to see that the girl was dressed, and Gabrielle was looking at her with an expectant look on her face.

"What." Xena snapped at her. Gabrielle had been throwing angry looks at her every since they got back.

"Don't you have some words of....I don't know......just......say something." Gabrielle said her eyes watering.

"Fine, calm yourself---." Xena stopped as Gabrielle's eyes turned icy.

"I mean to her." She waved to Avia.

"You know what you have to do. Do it well. Prepare yourself. " Xena said standing she towered over the small girl.

Her coming of age band was not regal to signify her as the Queens child, rather it symbolized her as the chosen of Athena. Her garb designed for a young Amazon much older then she was. So it did not look quite right on her. Yet the girl wore it proudly with her sword scrapped to her back. A dagger at her waist and in her boot, her hair tied back with leather strips. Her greaves and gauntlets thicker then regular to add more protection.

"Concentrate, find your center, and don‘t let go until you come back to us. Do it now." Xena instructed the girl.

Gabrielle watched as Avia nodded, closed her eyes and took deep measured breaths. Xena placed her hand on the girls head and the girl went down to her knee's.

"Don't let go until you come back to us." Xena repeated quietly stepping away from the girl. "Do not disturb her." She hissed at Gabrielle. As she left out the hut to wait for the procession.

‘How could she be so utterly cold at a time like this.' She thought biting her lip to keep herself from cursing the very day Xena was born.

In the distance drums sounded to announce the start of the march. The last hut it would pass would be the Queens. Avia would take her place at the end of the line as the youngest women who would go through the rite of passage. The procession would continue with Xena and Gabrielle as the last parents in the line to signify the parents of the youngest. From there the royal guard would head up the line following the procession. If not for Avia being in the ceremony Gabrielle would be at the head of the Royal Guard to see over the ceremonies. Since Avia was one in the procession she was to fulfill her duty as the youngsters mother along with Xena. Ephiny was to see over the ceremonies. Teris at her side as the healer, to show the healer was to be honored. For she would care for the Amazons that made it through. The ones that did not, would perish in the Sacred mount of Artemis, so there was no need for a healer for them. The only requirement to this rite of passage was the young recruit enter the entrance, and exit from the exit. To refuse to enter meant immediate death, and complete dishonor of her parents and their exile. Some Amazons passed from the entrance to the exit swiftly without any problems. Some was dragged out clinging to their horses reigns, or passed out across the horses back. The horses were never harmed. They always exited. If the horse exited without the rider that went in with it. The Amazons immediately knew that particular Amazon perished.

Xena looked up immediately as Eponin turned the corner followed by the many young Amazons hoping to get past this day. They sang a song of uncertainty and sorrow, and the faith that they would make it through to honor the elders and their tribes. They all wore the same design of Amazon garb the only marks distinguishing their tribes was on the Arm bands on their right arm.

Xena zeroed in on the first girl that would enter the mountain. The girl was from another tribe.

'She is the average build of a girl her age, or should I say Amazon girl of her age. It is unsure if she will have the strength and cunning to make it out of that damn mountain. Avia has just start growing into a woman and is not half the size of that girl. What have I done.' She thought.

Eponin passed her without a word. and knocked on the queens door.

Avia opened the door.

Eponin pulled the girl forward until their foreheads lightly touched, and spoke what Xena recognized as a prayer. She then straightened and turned sharply to allow the girl to pass her. Avia took her place at the end of the line. Eponin then took her place at the head, and the procession started to move again.

Gabrielle came to stand next to her as they watched the other Amazon mates from all the different tribes pass by sharing a horse. One cradling the other. In some cases one would be crying. Some so confident in their child they sat proudly. Some of the Amazons did not have a mate to share a horse. Maybe their mate died in battle, but for whatever reason she by herself was there to support her child. The horses were led one behind the other by one of the younger Amazons not participating in the ritual. Xena was not surprised to see a young solemn Melosa leading Argo. Xena mounted her strong palomino, and pulled Gabrielle effortlessly onto the horse in front of her.

Gabrielle's resolve broke right away as she felt herself enveloped in Xena's strong arms.

"Don't worry Gabrielle just think of it like this. If she should die in that mountain Athena's efforts toward her would have been in vain. If you let the girl see you like this she will doubt herself." She said trying to sooth her. She felt enough shame for not listening. She could not take the bards tears on top of that.

The coming of age rite of passage did not start off on a good note. The first Amazon youth perished. Her horse came out without a rider. Her parents were distraught right away, and did not take it well. It was only by the Orders of first their Regent and finally their Queen that brought them under control.

Of course the other girls did not know they were far up the path awaiting there turn.

The second girl crawled out of the exit. Her horse following slowly.

They sent a signal to Eponin to send the next girl through. It went that way much through the night and into the next day

The crowd thinned out as the people who supported a particular girl left when she came out. Or left to mourn her lost.

Three girls perished before the final signal was sent. One of those three actually making it out only to die in her mother's arms.

The signal to send Avia through was sent.

Just before they sent the signal Gabrielle grabbed a hold of Xena's hand. Xena pulled in a breath..

"Hey you might want to ease up. I have enough to worry about without having to tend to her broken hand." Teris said smiling at Gabrielle.

"Yeah like keeping an eye on Ephiny to make sure you are not caught alone with her." Xena said smiling sweetly.

"I'm going to ignore that long enough to accept your Thank you." Teris said even more deceptively sweet.

"Thank you for what..." Xena queried.

"For giving you the knowledge to train that girl properly." Teris said simply staring Xena down. "Come on you can do it." Teris prompted her.

Gabrielle looked back at her, and nodded towards the healer.

"....Fine, not that I thought that Athena would let this get in the way of her chosen---." she was cut off.

"Wait just one moment warrior. This is real Athena is not helping her, and neither is Artemis. If she makes it. It is on her own merit. That is why the Sacred Guard of Athena is present. To bring the news back to Athens. I'm sorry. " Teris said sincerely noting the color drain from both their faces.

Eponin came and sprawled out on the blanket Xena and Gabrielle were sitting on, her head resting on Gabrielle's lap.

"Umm do you mind." Xena started feeling a little jealous.

"You know what? Fuck you warrior. Leave me be. It is because of you that I may have sent a child to her death." Eponin said dejectedly. Not even bothering to look up at Xena.

"You sent many children to their death today mine is not one of them. Blame your patron goddess for putting you all through this. I‘ve done many things in my time but I don‘t test the young." Xena said refusing to believe that Avia would not make it.

"No you don't. You just kill or rape them when they come of age." Eponin said not noticing Xena lunge for her, or Teris move to restrain her. " I mourn for the one's I was told did not make it through. Out of the one hundred forty that went this year, but this one would not have even been able to enjoy the few years she had left thanks to you ." Eponin huffed.

"Okay." Xena said pushing Teris away. "Look Eponin---.

"We don't have time for this." Ephiny said not noticing Teris was there until the healer jumped slightly at the sound of her voice. She placed a firm hand on her shoulder. "You two should be at the exit. I'm sure you would like to be the first to know when she get through." She said trying to reassure them. The last thing she needed after all these stress filled days was to have Xena blow up.

"Teris my back is killing me." Eponin said sitting up as Gabrielle went to follow Xena.

Teris stole a look at Ephiny as she took a place on the blanket and looked up at her expectantly.

"I'm not leaving. I'm going to have my say right here and now. To leave Eponin in pain will be to deny your responsibilities and we'll have to send for Ranin. You know how she hate this ritual. Are you going to make her come up here. Or will you wave your hand and make the pain go away." Ephiny said glaring up at Teris.

"Fine I'll tend to Eponin as a healer." She said sighing heavily. "...but please Ephiny. We can talk later. I know I've been avoiding you, but this is not the place to go into this."

Eponin looked around the young cadets that had followed the girls up with their gear was still waiting quietly for any orders she might give them. She'd completely forgot about them.

"You kids go back to the village to your parents. You did well." She said. None of them knew if the girl they followed up had made it through, and the girls were clearly exhausted." The only one that remained behind was young Melosa, Avia's friend.

"Did you not here...." Ephiny snapped at the child earning her a cold stare from Eponin.

"I....I promised her I would be waiting there when she gets out." The girl said simply to Eponin.

Eponin touched the girls shoulder and nodded for her to join Xena and Gabrielle. Teris motioned for Eponin to lie down. She was painfully aware of Ephiny's presence, and the fact that anything the angry reagent said would be heard by Eponin. She wished she could be anywhere but here, as she unlaced the back binding to Eponin's top and pushed the top forward so that she had access to her bare skin.

"Is this how you solve your problems now?" Ephiny started in on her.

‘Teris is going to get it now. I knew something was going on between them. Now I have a front row seat. Ephiny's so mad she don't care who here‘s. Luckily I'm the only one close enough.' Eponin thought closing her eyes and turning to the sound of Ephiny‘s voice.

Teris said nothing. She was all to familiar with the mood Ephiny was in. She wasn't going to do anything to fan her already raging flames.

"You have nothing to say--." Ephiny stared at Teris's hands as they pressed into certain parts of Eponin's back. She remembered all to well how they felt when they flowed over her own body, but that did nothing to ease her temper.

"Who are you?" Ephiny questioned softly. "You've turned into this spineless coward that runs from her own shadow. Where's you spirit T...?" Ephiny asked.

Teris winced when she heard Ephiny call her "T" because whenever she called her that in the past it was because Teris had done or said something that really hurt Ephiny's feelings or she'd truly wrong her somehow, and hadn‘t she. She‘d forced her best friend. You couldn‘t get much worse then that.

'That's right Ephiny you tell her.' Eponin thought agreeing that Teris needed to snap back.

"... and when you're not moving through here like a ghost of what you used to be. Your raging and forcing--." Ephiny started but was cut off

"Ephiny I told you I'll own up to whatever, but this is not the time to bring it up. I will not say anything now because with the mood you're in it will only cause a scene." Teris said accidentally leaning into a knot she felt in Eponin's muscles.

‘Forcing what.‘ Eponin was thinking, but the thought was driven out of her mind as she felt an shooting pain go through her back.. She cried out, but the pain eased up quickly. She moaned in relief.

"--issues." Ephiny continued her sentence after Teris cut her off. She knew what Teris thought she was going to say, but she didn't care. If the women was going to continually run from her she was going to have her say while she had her here now.

"You never been worried about scenes before. You definitely was not worried about them the other night in my hut." Ephiny said moving directly behind Teris.

‘What......' Eponin thought as her eyes popped open.

Teris closed her eyes as she forced another knot from Eponin's muscles. Easing up when she heard another cry of pain. She tried to ignore Ephiny, but Ephiny was in one of her moods that was hard to control.

"Gabrielle advised me to be honest with you and myself. I need to say this T, and I've been trying to. You will not see me, and since this may be the only chance I have without you running. I don't care if you kill Eponin. I'm going to say this love." Ephiny said wrapping her arms around Teris shoulder‘s and feeling her tense up. She knew Teris wanted to blink out, but her feelings overwhelmed her when she didn‘t.

"The other night was a revelation for me. I'd been holding on to this illusion concerning you. We've been so close for as long as I can remember and I've had strong feelings towards you. Even dreamed about you, but I still could not see it. It wasn't until I'd convinced you to make love to me and not just fuck me that I realized. Teris I love you. Please don't run away from me. Unless you don't love me." Ephiny said running her finger along Teris lips when she turned to her in disbelief. She pulled Teris to her and kissed her with all the passion she'd been holding in since that night.

Teris leaned into her Eponin all but forgotten.

"It took you two long enough. It seems everyone knew you were the perfect match but you." Eponin said as she sat up watching the two as she struggled to tie her top back together.

Suddenly, there was a commotion towards the mouth of the exit. Eponin hopped to her feet and grab Teris out of Ephiny's embrace as she barely made out a figure falling into Xena's arms.

They sat at the immense opening to the exit of the cave of Artimess. Xena, Gabrielle, and young Melosa.

"Now will you listen to me more." Gabrielle suddenly turned on Xena and demanded. "I know you don't see me as a person but here we are because you would not listen to me. This child we've grown to love may never come through. Will you listen to me now." The bard broke down crying.

Xena just looked past her into the dark opening. She'd thought she saw something, but it disappeared.

‘It is apparent she does not even care to respond to me.' Gabrielle turned away from her and stared into the dark opening as well, but she did see something. She caught her breath and turned back to Xena. To see that Xena was staring at her.

"OK----. " Xena started off but Gabrielle. Turned back sharply squinting her eyes to see better, as she rushed forward only to be restrained by the royal guard. They made it clear no one else could past them.

By then Xena saw it too. It was two forms suddenly one disappeared and the other soon followed.

"No..." Xena whispered. As she felt Gabrielle take her arm. "I know you can make it."

They waited. A form unexpectedly crashed into the ground from what seemed like out of nowhere. It was Avia. Her small body writhing in pain.

"Get up." Xena shouted to her. The girl turned wild crazed ice blue eyes towards her. Xena's breath caught as she recognized the look.

The girl seemed to focus on her as she struggled to her feet. She stretched her arms out to them. The way she moved could only be explained as a stumbling forward.

"You can make it." Xena called out encouragement to her. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Argo.

Avia moved one foot in front of the other. Out of sheer necessity to keep her body upright, as she leaned forward to keep from crashing to the ground. Her last step that propelled her into Xena's arms took the last piece of energy she had, as she passed out.

" she --." Gabrielle asked not able to finish the sentence. Her mind going back to the child that died in her mothers arms.

"Noo....She just seem to be exhausted." She said watching as Teris pulled the girl from her arms and laid her on the ground.

"You seem to be correct Warrior. There is no need to---." Teris stopped as Argo caught her eye.

Xena turned to see what caused Teris to act so strangely. Across Argo's back was another girl. She was unconscious too. Teris rushed forward followed by Xena.

Xena eased the girl off Argo and laid her on the ground. She immediately recognized the girl as the first to enter the Mountain. The first girl everyone thought perished. She still breathed. She was very much alive. Xena‘s mind went to the first time she saw movement in the cave. It had been two forms.

"I thought you said that if they did not exit with their horse they had already perished." She said helping Teris as they worked hard to stabilize the girl.

"There have been times when One Amazon brought another out, or an Amazon made her way out and back to the village. The last time was in the time of the Ancient Amazons. This is truly an honor. If she survives her family will have much to be proud of. Avia will have one who's life will be hers. Girl..." Teris called out to young Melosa that never left Avia's side since she came out of the cave.

"Melosa." Xena called out capturing the girls attention, she motioned to Teris.

"Go find her parents. No doubt they will be in Artimess Temple. Tell them to meet me at my hut. Tell them of the news that Avia brought their daughter out of the caves." She ordered smiling.

"Yes ma'am. " Young Melosa said getting to her feet and heading off.

After the girl was stabilized and safely on her way back to the village on a wide litter along with Avia. Gabrielle herself closed out the ceremonies. She made sure to allow moments to mourn for the girls that were lost, and a hopeful wish that more would come back to them. She reminded them that these girls were now their new blood. Their huts were already built and their belongings that had been packed and moved from the house of their youth would now be placed in their new huts. The Amazons from the other village would follow suit once they return home with their Queens. The girls would be allowed a day of rest. With the blessing of Artimess if they made it through the night she would heal any wounds they received during the ritual. The next night they would partake In their coming of age festival. As women they will drink wine, dance, and even be intimate with another if they decided. It was their right as the women they are now. And with that she closed out the ceremonies. Everyone left this sacred area. It was to be closed off as forbidden for yet another year.

Two moons later the coming of age festival was in full bloom. Earlier that day Xena helped Avia settle into her new hut. They both endured Gabrielle's complaint that she was 4to young to be on her own. Finally, Ephiny stepped in and told Gabrielle there was no other way the child was now a woman.

The children of the village were taken out of the village for this night. Xena watched as the girl sat to her right. She was very uncomfortable and did not seem to fit in. Not even with the girls she went through her rites of passage with. Xena had not planned on being a part of the festival at all. She was going to stay in her hut, but Avia showed up and stated she was going to stay with her as well. So Xena got up and went to the festival. She knew that even though the girl was young she needed to bond with these other women.

"May I have this dance." Gabrielle said walking up to Xena and extending her hand.

"I don't dance." Xena told her. Her eyes ran over the very revealing leathers the queen was wearing. "Where‘s the rest of that." She huffed.

"Xena this is what I'm supposed to wear tonight. Ephiny has on the same thing. My champion would have had to wear the same thing." She said taking in the silk robes Xena wore. In the time they were in Amazonia Xena either wore battle leathers, or fine silks. 'She doesn't wear those silks hardly enough.' She thought as her mind told her of the luscious body under the silks.

"Thank goodness I'm not your champion. If you hurry and ask Solari..." Xena said letting her statement hang in the air.

"Xena---." Gabrielle started.

"My Queen." Avia said standing in her fine silks mimicking Xena. "I would be more then honored if you would grace this "New Blood" with a dance." She said bowing deeply and winking back at Xena.

"Lead on New Blood." Gabrielle could not help but smile.

"That's how you charm a women." Avia told Xena smiling deviously.

"Don't get yourself into trouble New Blood." Xena said with a smirk.

She watched the girl dance with Gabrielle. Xena had drank pretty heavy up until this point.

‘She's not that bad. Oh, I hate these silly festivals.' Xena thought as the Amazon Queen of Gaul winked at her while licking her lips. She'd been flirting with Xena every since she arrived. ‘She's quite beautiful, and she's one of those wild Amazons. I've always liked Amazons from Gaul.' Xena thought as she happen to see Solari watching Gabrielle with what could only be explained as lust. Xena sat up quickly, and looked back to Gabrielle. Her and Avia had settled into a fast paced dance. Xena looked back to see Solari move onto the dance floor. She expertly cut in and Avia moved away to come and stand in front of Xena.

"C'mon mom let's dance." She asked.

"Avia, I never got a chance to say thank you, I know we're not supposed to speak of what happened the other day, and well your friend Melosa is going to be sent home on the morrow. Not to mention since the fact you are now new blood, she is not on your level any longer. I just wanted you to know I am to be your shadow. It is time we started." The young girl who was brought out on Argo with Avia held out a mug of wine to Avia.

"What do you mean her shadow, and by the way what is your name?" Xena asked watching Avia take her first sip of the wine. "Avia your still quite young. I will not stop you, but I will warn you not to over do it.

Avia smiled back apparently glad Xena did not challenge her new station.

"My name is Panu. My station being determined in the Mount of Artimess to be Avia's mirror and future Guard Master. It is forbidden to go into it further. I will join this tribe and where she goes I go. Do not worry we are not to be mates." She said as she pulled Avia along with her.

‘That's just what she needs. Someone to help her into what she's supposed to be.' Xena watched the two join the rest of the girls. Panu seemed to be the element Avia needed for the other much older girls to accept her. ‘As well as even protect her a little.‘ She thought as she watched Panu push away a girl that ran her hand down Avia‘s arm.

She looked back to see that the dance floor had turned from a couples only to a free for all. Even though Gabrielle did not seem to be dancing with anyone in particular. Xena saw that Solari seemed to be singling her out. Xena watched carefully and when the song ended and Solari laughed and hugged the Queen tightly Xena decided she had enough. She marched on the dance floor and pushed Solari away from Gabrielle.

"I'm ready to go now." Xena told her. Smelling the wine she consumed on her breath.

"Dance with me." The bard said grabbing a hold of her arm and turning to grind against her.

"You're drunk." Xena told her.

"This is a festival Xena." She said turning to look at her. "I am your Queen and I order you to dance with me." She demanded.

"I'm not one of your Amazons you can just order around as you please." Xena said a touch amused at the audacity of the bard.

"This is a festival. Can you two try to reach a happy medium just for tonight. Gees." Eponin said as she danced with one of the members of another tribe.

"Fine." Gabrielle said flinging Xena's arm away from her. "I have a lot to offer someone and if you refuse to acknowledge me. Their are people here who will." Gabrielle said angrily as she grabbed a hold of Solari's hand and started moving seductively against her.

"Uhh Xena...." Eponin said after she recovered from the shock.. She turned to look at Xena.

Xena's eyes darkened. A feral grin curved her lips. She stepped back and watched as Gabrielle and Solari continued their erotic display for everyone to see. Even as her jealousy was slowly building. The lust cursing through her body dulled it somewhat.

Gabrielle tuned a heated gaze towards her as she ran her hands down Solari's back. To rest firmly on her ass.

Xena cocked her head to the side as if she was questioning the bard.

‘What am I doing?' Gabrielle asked herself as she realized the dangerous game she was playing, but it was to late Xena had already turned on her heels. She craned her neck to see what she was doing.

The Queen of Gaul's Amazons was sitting in the section reserved for the rest of the Queens and Reagents that were not joining in the festivities elsewhere.

"We've all but wiped out the barbarians to the north of our lands." She was saying as Xena came to stand over her.

"Speaking of Barbarians. Do you need something Xena." Ephiny asked. She was lounging across Teris lap. They'd decided they would take their new relationship slow.

Xena locked eyes with the Gaul Amazon and mouthed the word "You."

Ephiny's mouth fell opened as she watched Xena pull the women to her feet and lead her out of the square. She looked at Teris who‘s mouth was hanging opened too.

Teris looked to see Gabrielle standing in the midst of people dancing.

Solari caught her and tried to get her to dance again, but she pulled away, and left the square too.

Ephiny nodded in her direction to Teris and they both got up to follow Gabrielle.

As they turned the corner they saw Xena in the far distance enter the Gaul's Princess hut.

Gabrielle was not to far behind them, but she went inside her own hut.

"Oh hades Teris. That Gaul harlot's hut is right next to Gabrielle's. She doesn't deserve that." Ephiny said.

"Maybe we can get her to go back to the Festival. C'mon." Teris said rushing to Gabrielle's door, Ephiny close behind her. She knocked on Gabrielle's door.

Gabrielle opened the door, her face sort of a blank mask..

They rushed in and shut the door in an attempt to cover any sounds that may come from the hut next to them.

As Xena shut the door she grabbed a hold of the Gaul Amazon Princess.

"Hold up lord Conqueror this is business not pleasure. I've been trying to get your attention since I got here. Since Queen Gabrielle has tamed your heart and domesticated you, it has been next to impossible." She said pulling away from Xena and easing her tall frame into a chair.

"I'm not domesticated just trapped here. I have a deal with Artimess I can't harm any of her precious Amazon's. Since no one dare challenge not only this tribe, but the entirety of the Amazon Nation as long as I am here, I've no bloodbaths to host. Sorry. By the way it is good to see you Xala old friend " She said laying across the Amazon's bed.

"You can thank the healer Teris for that. As I was told she went to the Goddess Aphrodite to create a spell. Well the ditsy love goddess botched it and could not reverse her spell. The spell goes like this. {As long as the conqueror lands and the Amazon Nations is at peace she will remain with her heart. If either of the lands peace is disturbed and disarrayed that is where her heart will lay.}, I think I messed it up somehow it was all supposed to rhyme, you know spell type of stuff---." Xena cut her off.

"Since the Amazon nation is fine. That means my lands are in distress, but I would have been alerted." Xena said sitting up. Her heart skipping a beat.

"I suggest Lord Conqueror that you go to your Queen tonight Samuels has been overthrown by your femme Royal Guard---. Lindy has been captured and placed in the upper tower. It seems they are holding her as an honored hostage. The worse is they are going after your mother. In the case that you come back they will have leverage to hold you off until they have explained themselves. They have made this public knowledge. They feel they are acting for you. So you see, you are free to go. For your lands are in turmoil. As Samuels himself told my Amazon scout that was imprisoned for a couple days with him. {The Conqueror must Awaken}" She said watching Xena. closely.

"If anything happens to Lindy, My mother, or Samuels The femmes will suffer as sure as I am The Conqueror." Xena vowed to no one in particular.

"Go to your princess. You can become The Conqueror on the Morrow. As always remember I am and have always been your ally. Don't forget that when you turn. I'd wondered if you would come after my tribe when you was plotting against the Amazons. Leave our nation be Xena. I won't say you owe us that much, but I will say we've meant you no harm." She said moving to lay on top of Xena.

"Fine you have my word as long as I have no reason. No harm will come to the Amazons." She said looking up at Xala.

"From you that means next to nothing." Xala said drifting back to a past moment. "Of all the virgins I've had you was the sweetest." She said kissing Xena deeply before pulling away and letting her up.

"I'd been with a man before you." She said amused by Xala's comment.

"I'm speaking of the only love worth having. I was your first woman." She said heatedly.

"....That you were." Xena said over her shoulder as she left Xala's hut. She walked the short distance to her own hut prepared to wait for Gabrielle. She was surprised to see the three sets of eyes that stared back up at her.

"Don't tell me you couldn't get it up." Teris snapped at Xena. Ephiny slapped her arm and nodded towards Gabrielle who had turned away from everyone.

"Maybe I couldn't." Xena said only telling the half truth. ‘Should I tell Teris Lindy her mother is in trouble.' She thought looking over at Teris. ‘I've needed no one's help up until now. I will handle it on my own' She decided. "Maybe I was with the wrong woman." She said moving to stand in front of Gabrielle.

Gabrielle was angry that much was clear to her. She did not want to spend her last night for what would be a while with the Queen dominating her. She did not want to spend it begging either. So she decided seduction was the best way. For after tonight she knew she was going to loose herself to The Conqueror, and a strange excitement filled her. She was not going to take Gabrielle but she would be sending back for her when all was well.

She dropped to her knees and tried to pull Gabrielle forward to kiss her. Gabrielle resisted but stared down at her. The hurt and the pain was all there.

"How could you challenge me like that? What did you expect?" She asked the golden haired bard.

"I expected" The Queen said defiantly. In all honesty she expected Xena to buck. She had whenever she brought up the word love before. Instead she found herself drawn into the deepest set of blues she'd ever seen.

"For tonight." Xena said her eyes slightly watering. "On the Morrow The Conqueror must awaken and take back her lands." She said jerking the queens leathers and loincloth down her legs and off. Just as she was about to bury her face in the Queens wetness, Gabrielle caught her chin.

"No, what has happened My Lady." She asked completely oblivious to Ephiny and Teris who stood rooted in their spots transfixed.

"Tomorrow Love, Tomorrow." Xena said pushing the Queens legs opened and claiming what she needed at this moment so badly.

"Ahhhh." Gabrielle cried out. Her grief, her pain, her arousal all mixed together.

"Ephiny." Teris whispered fiercely as she grabbed the reagent out of the Queens hut and shut the door firmly.

Xena flickered her tongue over Gabrielle's clit with passion, as she pushed two fingers inside her.

Everything that led up to this point all but forgotten. Gabrielle tangled her hands in Xena's raven hair.

Xena in a mad attempt to have more pushed Gabrielle's legs opened wider and raised them up and over her shoulders. The bards wild moans fueling her passions.

"Please Xena......Stop.....I can't' much." Gabrielle cried out wildly trying to push her away, but at the same time wrapping her legs around Xena's neck. Her breath was coming so fast and her head was spinning. ‘She's killing me.' She thought as her body jerked forward in a short spasm.

Xena's body reacted hotly to Gabrielle's passionate plea. She needed this so bad, as she ripped her own breeches off from under her silks, and yanked Gabrielle's left leg from her shoulder. She pressed her own quivering need to it. Crying out into the bards moist folds as she rode her leg viciously, she sucked the bards swollen nub hungrily.

Gabrielle begged for release above her. Her hands gripping the silky mass of Xena's hair as if it were a life line, as Xena ravaged her very soul. The feel of Xena's heated center pressing into her leg overwhelming her senses.

She felt herself tip over the edge, as she screamed out wildly. Her hands flying out to be caught in Xena's strong and painful grip.

Xena's own release came when she heard the wild almost inhuman scream that came from above her. She pulled away from Gabrielle's center and stared at her love as her own cry was ripped from her lips. All her strength fleeing her body as she slumped against the bards leg her head falling into her lap.

"Since when have you become a voyeur." Teris snapped once they were outside.

"Oh, don't tell me you weren't watching." Ephiny said as Xala walked out of her hut.

She noticed the harsh stare directed towards her from Ephiny and Teris.

"Oh, don't start with me." She said. She realized an explanation was in order. So, she explained the whole thing to them. Noting the look of concern that went through Teris eye's at the mention of Lindy, and the way Ephiny pulled her into an embrace.

"I take it you know Xena's God mother." She said curiously.

"Thank you for telling me. She should have. She stood right there and said nothing. So help me Ephiny if something happens to my mother I'll kill her." She said her eyes blazing such a bright red there was no other colors to it.

"Teris, your eyes." Ephiny said drawing back.

Teris shut them. She knew they scared Ephiny. She reached out and caught her by the shoulders and pulled her to her.

"I'm sorry Eph. I don't know how to control it. I have to go see to my mother, even though I'm sure she'd rather it be Xena then me." She kissed Ephiny softly, and blink out of sight.

"Since when has Teris become Super Amazon....I though Elder Ranin was Teris mother. How do Lindy fit it to that." She said noticing two youngsters coming there way.

"Give it a break Xala. You could have just told us when you got here. Lindy is Teris birth mother. Without going into it Ranin raised Teris as her child from the time she was only a day old." She said stopping Avia and Panu as they were about to enter Queen Gabrielle's hut.

"I was sworn not to tell anyone until first I told Xena. In order for it to not look suspicious I had to lure her away. The order came directly from the Goddess Artimess. As for Teris, my heart goes out to her. It must have been hard on her. Even so I could not break my oath to our Goddess." Xala said simply.

"Understood, I just wish---." Ephiny started but was cut off by the wild passionate scream of Gabrielle, shortly followed by Xena's feverish cry out.

Avia pulled her sword ready to storm into the hut. Panu ready to follow.

"That's my girl, she's still got it." Xala said beaming. A wide smile on her beautiful face.

"Whoa......wait." Ephiny said sparing Xala a confused look.

"Ephiny your supposed to protect the Queen. We need to go in there and help Xena. There must be more people then she can handle." Avia said panicked.

"Avia dear.....I know my station...They're not in danger.....umm there is only Xena and Gabrielle in there. Well honey I don't think they'd appreciate us going in there now." Ephiny said her cheeks blazing red as she tried to remember that Avia was only twelve seasons, but that she was to be seen as a women.

"They could be dying in there." She said. Panu agreeing with her.

"Listen kid. You are Xena's kid aren't you. Xena has many skills in the art of making love. You know what that is don't you. Apparently Queen Gabrielle has had the pleasure of her skills. If you go in there Xena will probably turn you over her knee. Young woman or not." Xala said honestly.

Both Avia and Panu turned deep red.

"Gees, you think she'll teach me." Panu said dreamily.

Avia's lip curled in a frown. She sheathed her sword and turned to walk away.

"Hey kid your mother is leaving Amazonia tomorrow. You may want to see her off. Come back in the morning." She called after her as Panu ran off to catch up. Avia just turned at her with a icy blue stare.

"Hey is it just me or did that kids eyes change colors." Xala asked Ephiny

"Something you said made her mad. C‘mon let‘s go back to the square I feel like tying one on." Ephiny said gesturing her.

"What's up with you Amazons in this village. Do all your eyes do that." She said looking deeply into Ephiny's eyes.

"Stop it. It's just those two. Enough said. C'mon. By the way what did you mean by ‘That‘s my girl'." She said dragging Xala back to the square.

Xena and Gabrielle fell asleep laying in each others arms, exhausted and basking in the afterglow of love. No more then a candle mark later Xena's body started to glow. A blazing light spread from her to Gabrielle, as two life forms passed into the bard. There bodies joined. The blazing light faded and all was normal again.

To be continued in The Key Part III

©2001 Ponyblue

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