~ Within the realm of Flying ~
by Branwyn of Llewlynn

Disclaimers: What was the first letter, of the third word in the seventh sentence? Mail me and you get an e-card. Anybody paying attention? You can read the complete yodel back at part one, 'Oh Avalon, my Amazon'. http://www.altladies.com/SapphicVoices/Fanohavalon.html
No they do not belong to me, except for Rhiannon, Vivian and Lizzeah.
Yes, there is explicit lesbian sensuality here and violence does tend to happen now and then. (Xena's around!) So now you know.
I used part of the lyrics to the tune, 'Nimue's Lament' by Alcaemy, in this tale. You'll see it if you know it. Now imagine the melody being played by two Irish whistles. Loreena McKennitt's 'Dante's Prayer' is in here to. Also major thanks and smoocheroo's to Sam (Great save Honey!) and Enoon (Partner in grime<G>). Two cyber bards and friends this gal is very lucky to know.
J (The same actually goes to all the bards, artists, poets and readers that have crossed my path/addy) Care to let me in on what you think/feel after reading? bindi@planet.nl
It will be much appreciated and yes, I do answer feedback!

This is part two of the Rhiannon of Avalon saga. It is easier to follow the tale if you read part 1 first. It's set in season 3 after the Dahok arch. You can get stuck into part 2 shortly after these messages.
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¥¥ Yaah man, coolness rules. We'll send em a bunch of wise old souls to help them wake up when Aquarius cruises the night sky again. Old Goddess woman just be slumberin'. She be 'round keepin' an eye close man, just wait and see. Iaweh dude and Allah brother promise to send a son or prophet down soon, that'll delude them for a while, no sweat man. Listen to ya 'mama of Dao'. Go with the flow, bro. Keep them grubby little hands off ya sister 's toys, Yang. Kids? <sigh> Someone mention a spliff?¥¥

                 (Love is itself alone, all else is transitory)

Part two


To take the damp and dust of winter out of the huts and communal buildings, all Amazons gathered to help each other out. Rugs flew round the dusty square and brooms seemed to have been bereft of their private, secluded lives. At least for a day or two.

The sun shone down on scantily clad, dirt and slick, stained limbs. Arms and legs
bare abdomens and backs flashed when rays of light danced over clean patches of skin. All Amazons were hard at it, working up a mean sweat cleaning and rearranging their huts. The village center resembled a dust storm.

Ephiny sat on the edge of her spacious but cluttered porch, one arm leaning on a broomstick and sighed. All those beautiful women right here in front of me. All this time, right here. And I have to go fall for a... stranger? The Regent closed her eyes for a while. When images of the Celt appeared in her mind, she opened her eyes fast, sighed again and stood up. "Now the insides of this stuffy pit. It looks like a mad woman lives here." She stated to herself loud and nodded. But not her room... it still smells like her. Gods how long will I have to wait? Her brain added and heart involuntarily registered a deep sense of loss she could not rationalize.

The Regent entered her quarters and was caught off guard by a pair of hands covering her eyes. Ephiny's heart skipped a beat. She made a spin to find out who it was and instinctively reached for her dagger. "Oh Gabrielle." Be still my heart. "For a moment there I th--"

"Sorry Eph, It's only me." Gabrielle lowered her small hand over that of the Regent and pulled it away from the knife, a little worried about the wide-eyed expression on her friend's face. "They can't be back that soon." The Bard wrapped her arms around her friend's shoulders and pulled the visibly disappointed and embarrassed Regent in for a hug. "I miss them too," she murmured into curly hair. "I haven't been apart from Xe, since we… well, you know." A crimson blush washed over the Bard's face. "Rhiannon was starting to grow on me as well."

Ephiny felt tears burning at the back of her forest brown eyes and let her Queen go abruptly. "I need to keep busy. Will you help me clean up? I don't want to be alone right now." The woman took a deep cleansing breath, gave the Bard a brave smile and walked into her sleeping chamber. How am I going to explain what I don't understand? Be patient with me, my Queen.

"Why of course. I hate not being useful. My hut is being cleaned for me and I'm not allowed to help says Solari." A playful pout appeared as Gabrielle offered her assistance. "I thought you'd never get round to cleaning out this dump, my dear, distracted Regent." The Bard followed her friend into one of the royal big huts. She almost tripped over one of the many stacks of scrolls, lying in and around the door opening of the usually neat study. "It looks like you are using the entire Amazon archive as upholstery. There's a parchment causeway running all the way through the main rooms up to the back door." A chuckle wove its way through Gabrielle's teasing observation. So you don't want to be alone? I'm confused.

Both Queen and Regent got stuck into making the living room smell and look fresh. By the time they were finished, young hibiscus scented the hut with the promise of summer and Ephiny had told the Bard about her confusing, adventurous dreams. She left out the intimate parts though.

The curly blond Amazon was having a hard time keeping her mind at bay, while explaining her problems to Gabrielle and throwing around documents.

"What do you think about this, Gabrielle? Ephiny held up a role of parchment that could easily be mistaken for old cheesecloth. "Keep or chuck out? I wish I could just disappear right now. I know my Queen and she's not going to leave me to my thoughts for long. I shouldn't have asked her for help, but Gods what a mess.

"I'd say toss." The Bard replied and giggled softly. "So you and Rhiannon appear in your dreams as some kind of morphing beings, covered in what… paint?"

"Hmm, and we seem to have known each other forever." Another stack of documents flew out the window, right behind the roll of parchment. "It's as if I'm dreaming our history in some other dimension or something like that, complete with the sounds, smells and feelings. I can't place much of it besides that the other being is Rhiannon." I think, no… hope.

The bard just listened and helped Ephiny sort out the mosaic of parchments, scattered over the table. But what do you do in those dreams Eph? Gabrielle stuck a fingernail between her teeth and started chewing. Patience bard. "Can I do anything to help you figure out what your dreams might mean?"

"No" Came the Regent's short reply. You're not liking this, I know but please leave it for now Gab. Please.

"You know you can tell me anything, when you are ready my friend. Your well being is important to me, you know that by now don't you Eph." Gabrielle reminded her friend with a gentle smile.

Thank you. "Of course I know that." Ephiny returned the smile and sighed.

After the central living area and study room were cleared out and cleaned, they split up and finished doing the smaller quarters.

"Shall I take these sheets to the wash house? You won't be needing them, no? Gabrielle asked her friend, popping her head round the door of the almost empty spare room. Only to notice that the Regent's thoughts were miles away again, like so many times already the past days. You are hurting my Regent and I intend to find out what is really going on in your head before the day is over.

"Hmm, which house?" Sitting on the bed where Rhiannon had slept, only the Regent 's lips moved and automatically replied. Her mind was clearly focussed on that other dimension and here eyes were almost one with the piece of parchment resting in her lap.

Gabrielle smiled at her friend and left for the water springs while thinking to herself. Don't worry Eph, Xena promised to bring her back safe... she 'd better... or I'll give old Britannia a piece of my Amazon mind, and army if needed. No, Xena will come threw for us, she always has. But you need to tell me more about this connection you feel with the Celt soon, my Regent.

        Mirror, mural on the wall

"Hey, Tallie, mom needs you. She's up to the hard part and Rhi is doing an 'emo' flip. She's really going through hell in there." Vivian came skipping towards two figures standing near Eilan's old hut and pointed towards her own new dwellings with a bored face. Why does this place get so desolate whenever Gwydion brings guests? Small town virgins…Avalon is getting as boring as the little monk's village on Inis Withrin. The girlies won't know what's hit them when I take over the show.

"Yes my child. Is it that time already?" Two wrinkly hands pushed back the brown hood of his robe and he smiled knowingly at Vivian. "Boadecia is working harder than I figured she had the courage to do." The old druid said to no one in particular with a smirk on his mousy face.

"Excuse me Xena, I must tend to the matter." The Taliesin stated formally, lifted his robe off the ground and worked himself out of site with frantic, little paces, now and then leaning on his crooked staff.

"Hey there Warrior Princess, need some help drilling priestesses for information?" The new High Priestess-to-be asked with a seductive smile as soon as the druid was out of sight. With swaying hips she walked towards the Warrior, one sensual step at a time.

Xena looked at the young woman closing in on her through her eyelashes and chuckled. "No, stay right there, Vivian. Here we go. If I remember correctly, you are going to be the leader of these women soon." And you better be nicer to these ladies than you were to me. The raven-haired woman locked eyes with the spitting image of Rhiannon, threw a dry grin at her and added. "Let me come to you."

"Oh please do." The redhead batted her eyelids and held out a hand for Xena to kiss.

"It's easy to come to anyone's attention of the physical sort. To come for the soul of the one you love is an entirely different matter." The Warrior voiced in a serious tone, reacting to the decadent, self-absorbed gesture of the young woman. A tone she knew would bore Vivian instantly and she walked over to her. "What do you want, Vivian?"

"Oh pooh, you are no fun. What happened to the Warrior woman that liked to play rough and tumble? I bet she's still in there. She was worth the effort." The priestess moaned, licked her top lip and slid her arms around Xena's waist. "Drill me, I'm game. I will tell you everything you want, and more."

She looks like Rhi, sounds like Rhi, but oh brother she certainly is not Rhiannon. "I only do Greek royalty these days, sorry kid." Xena took a step backward to break the embrace, gave the young woman a wink and walked away from her. With long strides the Warrior's legs took her to the building where she left Rhiannon before following the Taliesin. All the round thatched buildings of the Avalon village looked the same, beside from the slight variation is size and the variety of the carvings on the doors. Xena focused on the faint arguing voices, coming from the West Side of the desolate square, to find her way back to Rhiannon.

Passing a small pond and some alter stones, half way between the village square and Eilan's hut, Xena saw Vivian following her from the redhead's reflection in the water. She sensed her behind her for some time but waited until Vivian risked getting closer. One, two, three, four… five. The Warrior reached behind herself with one arm while slowing her pace. She grabbed the unsuspecting priestess by her night blue robe and flung the woman in front of her.

"Here, take a long, hard look at yourself, future High Priestess of Avalon." Xena hissed and forced the woman to face her own reflection in the pond.

Vivian struggled in the Warrior's hold for a few moments, but gave up when she saw Xena's expression grow cold. Why in the Morrigan's name did you have to show up Warrior Princes? Oh shit, I know that look.

Xena relaxed her grip on Vivian when she saw the young woman's eyes fade behind thick tears and her shoulders started to jerk.

Vivian felt the ground fall from under her and eventually realized that Xena had picked her up and was walking towards her hut. With a heaving chest she surrendered to the fear she felt growing, ever since the Taliesin summoned her to the Orkneys and relaxed in the familiar hold of the Warrior. If only you knew the half of it, Xena.

Xena kicked the door to the High Priestess' quarters open with a soft nudge of her boot. From a back room she heard muffled voices and gently sat the crying Vivian down on a bench in the hall.

The young woman collapsed on the seat and covered her face with both hands. "Leave me alone." Her voice broke from angst. Go back to poor little Rhi. You always liked her better.

"Don't beat yourself up about it. You are human before being the priestess of any god. Remember that and stay true to your heart." Xena gave the over-dramatically-crying redhead a warm smile and added. "I learned that from a wise soul." She then carefully made her way towards the back room where the arguing was taking place.
On her sort walk through the hall, the Warrior's eyes fell upon the long murals on either side of the walls.

         Shades of emotion

"There goes any decent chance I had left of- of-" Rhiannon dropped her head to avoid looking at herself in Vivian's dress mirror. Tears soaked her face and her hands clenched to fists. Trying to focus on getting information from her mother was a challenge, as usual.

"Any chance of what, Rhi?" Xena entered the exuberantly lit room, dodging huge, copper candleholders on her way over to the young Celt and looked admiringly at what she saw. A young woman of almost six-foot dressed in green leathers, with thick red wavy hair, braided like the murals on the skirts of the hut walls, threaded with silver beads. She owned two bright green eyes with rings around the pupils that sparkled a delicate oker in the candlelight. Her eyes looked burdened with self-doubt and fear. Her face seemed hard and worn, almost older than her age. She was armed to the teeth but still carried the charm of youthful innocence around her. A green light seemed to radiate from her body. Her nervously clenching and unclenching hands suggested she was loosing al grip on her world. Twitching jaw muscles gave away the anger rising.

"Look. I've almost gone black." Rhiannon yelled and pointed a shaky finger at herself in the mirror. Gods, do I have to spell it out to you Warrior?

"Oh, that. Interesting. I just see Rhiannon and you are beautiful." The Warrior gave her reflecting partner a lopsided smile and traced the back of her hand along the frustrated Elfling's cheek. She leaned into the Celt and whispered so her mother would not hear. "Eph won't care what you look like. Don't worry Rhi."

"That's what I said." Boadecia walked over to the gazing women and entered the reflected picture. "My beautiful girl. You get that from you father." The older Celt chuckled with a slight bitter edge to it and walked back to her seat at the rough, oak table. "Would you like some mead, Xena? It takes the chill off the bones." Or aren't you cold after snuggling with my lass?

"Hmm, sounds good. The Warrior walked towards the offered seat and drink. "You too Rhi. Come over here." Xena stepped back to the Celt and dragged her along to the table. "You are just as bad as your sister."

"Why, what's that leach gone and done now?" Rhiannon's face screwed up as she slammed a fist down on her thigh. I'm going to get you Viv.

"She went looking for trouble and found out she was it." The Warrior told her friend with a low timbre and one eyebrow raised. Xena got comfortable and sipped mead from the drinking horn offered to her by Boadecia. Her eyes wandered around the spacey room to cover that she was actually keeping an eye on all company present. Including the Taliesin huddled into a corner of the room, not saying or doing anything at the moment. When did you get here?

"Sounds like our Viv." The Leader of Celts said and lifted her hands up to the heavens. But what did you do to entice such behavior, Xena?

"I think she just woke up to herself." Xena replied and caught Rhiannon change a shade of green in the corner of her eye. Ephiny is certainly not going to be spooked by this. It's the other Amazons I'm worried about. I hope Rhi hurries up and settles for one color.

"Vivian is not stealing my show again, mother. You were about to end my agony.
Now do it." Rhiannon reclaimed the older Celts attention when she took hold of her sword, while still sheathed and threw her mother a dirty look. Her skin shaded to a deep, dark green once again.

        Equinox lullabies

Amazons were getting prepared for the up and coming celebrations of Persephone's release from Hades realm. Lighter clothing and moods filled the village atmosphere. Little witnesses of spring disclosed their beauty all around the countryside to announce the goddess' promise to bring new life.

The Regent had spent the entire day taking care of the offerings for tomorrow evening's ritual, running around the village like a woman possessed. The offerings of herbs and last season's best oil were in place. The guards practiced their special drills until Lizzeah almost ordered the Regent to give it a rest. Two candle marks before the full moon reached its zenith, Ephiny excused herself to rest and eat.

Images of Rhiannon and places that seemed familiar in a vague kind of way controlled her nights and disrupted her daily focus now.

Ephiny took one look at the lump of soft goat's cheese, green olives and bread, stacked on a plate and shoved it off the living room table with her arm. "I can't even eat this." She got up and slantered over to her sleeping quarters and prayed she would fall asleep that night. Laying herself down on her bed, she pulled the parchment she found when cleaning the room Rhiannon slept in. She recognized the Celt's hand and scribbly attempts at writing Greek Ephiny decided to change the bed sheets after all, not needing the excess torture. There it was, under Rhiannon's pillow. The love sick and frustrated Regent went over the words she needed to hear, again and again.

Somewhere in the darkest night
Peace will come, as the spirit flies
As we weave a spell, by another name
Snow falls with the late summer rain

Then I will come to you my love
With the passing of the days
And I will set you free each time
Your heart is bound in chains
Innocents and wiser men
Will somehow be the same
You and I will take our place in time
We'll find a way to fly

Far beyond the crystal sea
I can hear your whispered dreams
And the endless signs of the ones who love
They seem present, like the stars above

Then I will come to you my love
With the passing of the days
I will set you free each time
Your heart is bound in chains
Innocents and wiser men
Are just one and the same
You and I will take our place in time
We'll find a way to fly

Ephiny turned the piece of parchment but could not read on with blurred vision.
She felt tears fall from her chin onto her hands and closed her eyes. "What am I still doing here? Why am I not following her?" The words came flowing from her lips as she exhaled a deep, raged breath.

All other thoughts the Regent might have had were blown away when a new wave of images crashed through her mind. Two bodies entwined-- arms and a leg covered with delicate purple and crimson tattoo's of serpents and snakes- moving to the oldest rhythm of life. The gender and sort of the two beings changed every few heartbeats, which made it hard for Ephiny to actually see who they were. Somehow she just knew they were images of Rhiannon and herself. She definitely heard the Celt's powerful alto voice singing to her in her native tongue, as if Rhiannon were standing next to her bed.

When the dark wood fell before me
And all the paths were overgrown
When the priests of pride say there is no other way
I tilled the sorrows of stone

I did not believe because I could not see
Though you came to me in the night
When the dawn seemed forever lost
You showed me your love in the light of the stars

Cast your eyes on the ocean
Cast you soul to the sea
When the dark nights seem endless
Please remember me

Then the mountain rose before me
By the deep well of desire
From the fountain of forgiveness
Beyond the ice and the fire

Cast you eyes on the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark nights seem endless
Please remember me

Though we share this humble path, alone
How fragile is the heart
Oh give these clay feet wings to fly
To touch the face of the stars

Breathe life into this feeble heart
Lift this mortal veil of fear
Take these crumbled hopes, etched with tears
We'll rise above these earthly cares

When the lonely nights seem endless
Please remember me

At the bottom of the page there was one line Ephiny answered every time she read it.

What am I?

"What you are doesn't matter to me, my love. Just come back home." The Regent laid herself back on the bed face down and cried out, her words muffled by a pillow. "Artemis please, why does this creature affect me right down to the soul. Why do I feel so alone?" She curled up into a ball and hugged the parchment tight, close to her heart. After waiting for her breath to become calm and her muscles relax, she hummed herself to sleep with the tune she remembered all too well. Her Elfling's words echoing soothingly through her mind.

        Powers that want to be

*Silence* A loud voice bellowed, coming from no where and every where, at the same time.

*Odin, what do you think you are doing here? I do not remember requesting your presence* The hollow voice continued.

Odin looked at Zeus, dressed in a long, pristine white; gold trimmed robe for the occasion and sulked. *We never get informed on anything fun. How come glamour guy gets all the attention?* The Viking god scoped the hall, made an angry face at Ares and some of the other gods present. He then blasted from sight, hitting his colleague, god of war with a lightning bolt.

Ares patted at some flames emerging from the groin of his black leather pants and howled. *Is that the best you can do, farm boy?* He laughed, throwing his head back.

*Finished? * The voice asked in a flat tone and sighed. He continued when all was silent again. *Listen closely, She will only say this once.*

A gentle, patient female voice took over. To the gathered gods, the voice seemed to originate from their own minds and they looked at each other like lost children.

*My dear Artemis and Ceridwen.* The caramel coated voice started. *You two seem to understand what needs to be done. I trust you will set matters right in Avalon and Amazonia. Take down the mortals that do not respect the Powers that Be a peg or two. They need a lesson in humility and compassion. Aphrodite, bless you child, the two women are all yours after that, although I don't sense they need much help in your department. The Celt's resistance will break eventually. The rest of you please let this come to pass without interfering. May this universal event be treated with respect by all of you. Blessed be my children.*

The white marble hall became silent.

Ares leaned over to Zeus and mumbled in his father's ear. *Don't know about you but that bitch pisses me off. But uh, I'll let the girlies have their fun and games. I was planning to have some fun with the Persians anyhow. I hate what the pesky lot is trying to do with my army. I'll see this out for a while. It just might be a laugh.* The god of war growled, flashed his teeth at Ceridwen and vanished leaving behind the space that he had occupied crackling.

Zeus stood still for a moment with his eyes closed and sighed, dropping his shoulders with relief.

Epona scraped a hoof over the marble floor to attract the old god's attention and let Zeus know her mind in a statement of fact kind of way. *We will be calling in a favor at a later time, colleague. I will see you later, Olympus man.* The goddess of horses galloped from the hall with a clapping echo rumbling into the distance.

*Yes I realize that. If need be, you know how to find me.* Zeus replied in a serious tone, not interested if the horsewoman had heard him and then directed his attention to the female deities to his right. *Ladies, my children. Make sure this is over as soon as possible. I have never known the High Powers to give in to a mortal's affairs like this before. Oblige the Ancient Mother or be damned hey? She must realize sooner or later that her influence in the cosmic realm is at it's best in demise. Helping her does not mean ways will become as they once were over here before the Titans, children.* Zeus shook a finger at his offspring and frowned. Just imagine what would happen if women were in charge again. By Cronous, chaos would sweep the known world and leave me… nowhere. *Remember that.* As the ruler of Olympus disappeared his last words echoed through the hall. *And remember that you and yours are guests here, Ceridwen.*

*I guess that's a wrap babes.* Aphrodite concluded and smiled at the remaining goddesses. I'm outa here. The Atlantis twist is way cool, moon sisters. Even Dad is like, so clueless on that part.* Mischievous laughter filled the hall. * He's the guest if there are any. Toedels.* The barely clothed, bombshell blond giggled, wriggled her fingers while waving at the two remaining deities and left.

        The offer

Standing straight in front of Boadecia, restraining herself from attacking the older woman with all her might, Rhiannon yelled, "So that's it?" Rhiannon turned around and resumed pacing in front of the mirror, glancing at her reflection now and then. "That's all you can tell me. I'm Eanfled's and Viv is Prasutagus' child... conceived when you got lost on the Dream Stone, with da-" Metal rang against the soft limestone wall as the red head struck it with her sword. " Step dad. My father is an elf. You had it on with an elf? No wonder Vivian got all the attention. The mean bastard always spoke of elves with such venom in his voice. He hated me and I'm not his child. You must know more about Eanfled or at least about El-" The redhead froze as she saw her skin turn bright emerald and the rage of questions that had overloaded her mind dissolved.

Turning to the Taliesin, who had been sitting at the table in the left corner of the room in silence for a long time now she panted, "Help me druid. What's happening to me? Mother is clearly not in a hurry to tell me the truth." The desperate Celt collapsed to her knees before she reached her alchemist mentor.

The bony druid took to his feet slowly. He seemed to glide across the room towards Rhiannon. Not a candle flickered when he passed. Without taking his eyes of the Elfling he stated. "Boadecia, Xena, I need some time alone with Rhiannon." His eyes shifted to the women he addressed via the mirror. "Rest assure, her skin changes shade, parallel to her emotional state. She's all right, my Queen. I will teach her all she needs to know… soon." The Taliesin slid his hand around the young woman's upper arm, pulled her to her feet and led her towards the door.

Rhiannon sheathed her blade and glanced over her shoulder at Xena with little trace of relief on her face before she left the room, but could not bring herself to look at her mother.

Xena's jaw muscles were doing overtime as she watched her friend leave with the druid. So you want her alone? Well, can't be done old man. But you don't have to know that yet. The Warrior thought to herself and planned her next move.

The Taliesin patted Vivian's head gently as they passed her sleeping form in the cold bare hall. "Yes child, rest now." He whispered. "The ceremony is only tree days away."

Rhiannon looked down at her sister, feeling both contempt and pity. What's your role in all this besides becoming the new leader, sis? The thought of her twin in charge of the countries spiritual matters gave her heartburn. Whose pawn have you become, now Daddy's pride and joy is unprotected?

Druid and Elfling set off across the Avalon settlement. As they passed the square and made a turn to the East Side of the island, Rhiannon sensed that her mentor wanted to walk along The Lake and wondered how long he would remain quiet. Oh great. Another one who can block the mind.

Before they cleared the last cottages of the village, the Taliesin had silenced his former student several times.

Reaching the Lake banks, the red head sank down on the damp grass and refused to move. "I can't stand this anymore. Out with it." Rhiannon said to the old man with demanding tone.

The druid stood still and remained standing; rising over his prodigal made him feel more in control. He smiled down on the Elfling and asked. "Do you wish to know everything my child?"

"No more questions old man... answers. You give me answers before I go insane." The Celt ordered and placed a hand over her sword.

"I can tell you who you are, but I have a better offer." The druid turned his back to the anxious woman and continued. "I can lead you to Eanfled and he will show you."

Rhiannon jumped up, grabbed the Taliesin by his bony frame and shook franticly, as if the information she needed would fall out of his body by doing so.
"Take me to him, please Taliesin, please. She pleaded.

"On one condition, young Elfling." The old man said in a serious tone and straitened his robe before he continued. "We go now. Boadecia and Xena would only stop you.
I am willing to help you though." He held his hands up, palms opened to the heavens and asked. "Do you trust me, Elfling?"

"Do I have a choice?" Rhiannon ran her hands through her hair and asked. "Why would mother stop me?"

"Because she isn't an elf and doesn't understand what you are becoming. She is afraid of you." The Taliesin placed an arm around Rhiannon's shoulders and spoke softly. "Why do you think she never spoke of your ancient heritage before and even now denies knowing what an elf or elfling can be like? Keeping silent, about which your father is now, would be like trying to hide her tattoos. She is truly afraid you will want revenge or leave her for good."

The red head shook the arm of her mother's confidant off her shoulders and walked a few paces away from him.

With a slightly raised voice the Taliesin continued. " She knows elves all right. Boadecia is an Ancient One herself. Just a human one that chose to stray but educated by Fawns and High Elves, none the less. Hence the wings on her face." The druid giggled under his breath and stared at the young woman, rapidly showing obvious elf like qualities during her impatient pacing.

Rhiannon covered her face with both hands and let her head fall back as the Taliesin's words fell into place. Her mother's reluctance to answer her questions over the years. Why she never did anything about Prasutagus' violent tempers repeatedly directed on her ears and face, once she was old enough to hit back. Why she had to become High Priestess of Avalon instead of Vivian, who actually wanted to be called. The dreams of elves and other beings and the tattoos she woke up with, long ago. With a gasp she looked at the druid, walked over to him and lowered her hands into his. "Take me to Eanfled." Her voice was dark and broken from anger.

The Taliesin closed his hands around those of the trembling Celt for a moment and watched the Elfling's skin grow as dark as the night. That's a good girl. Let the rage grow. Yes that's right, now I have you. The druid smiled, sprinkled some violet dust over his pupil and disappeared from the Lake bank. Rhiannon was left lying there as the mist from the Lake gradually closed in on her.

        The deal

"You here... old man?" A creature that would normally have integrated from sight in his lush forest environment, had it not been his intention to be noticed, spoke.
The pending twilight gave the elf a dusty, mystic appearance. Age-old fauna around him seemed to dance in circles, holding branches, swaying on the warm breeze.

"Elusive as always." The Taliesin spun round on the spot and tried to focus on the dark elf that hovered and closed in on him in a spiraling motion.

"No, just better equipped for amazing stunts." The five feet of sinewy elf grinned and then gave a demonstration of loops and twirls in the air above the druid. His silvery wings caught the last rays of sun as he decorated the sky. His high, boyish voice rang through the air. "State your request Taliesin. Find out if the Gate Keeper will grant you a favor and bless you with the wisdom of the Powers th-"

"Yes and so on. Can we get to the point and will you keep still for even a blink?" The old man interrupted; impatiently shook a fist at the air borne ancient and bellowed in frustration. "You are making me dizzy, arrogant son of a Troll."

The elf abruptly dropped height, arms folded across his dusky green chest. Dark emerald eyes locked mockingly with the watery gray ones of the druid. "Zero points for politeness. Sticks and stones, old man." He told the alchemist off with a serious tone and continued. "You've come to tell me… that Rhiannon and her jummy warrior friend are on their way to the Dream Stone." Eanfled rubbed his chin, flung back a few strands of his long, jet-black hair and took a deep breath. Taking his time, the elf also readjusted the leather arrow case, hanging from his belt; retied his boot laces and arm braces. "You want the Elfling to learn and the Warrior lost... Hmm?" The elf guessed, grinned and waited for the Taliesin to react.

"The Warrior? That paranoid woman followed me, didn't she Eanfled." The druid hissed through his teeth as his eyes narrowed. "Not a bad development, well assuming she would want to know about and ruin everything." He closed his eyes to enjoy this unexpected addition to his up coming victory. "I know Boadecia will eventually break when Xena backs her into a corner. She'll even beg for help, if I'm right."

"The Powers that be, grant thee, with the force of Three." Eanfled stated in a formal tone and raised his arms gracefully. "But are you awake to see?" The elf gently pushed off the ground and floated over the Taliesin. "Now leave and let me work, old man." He then let himself become cloaked from sight by the majestic trees of his domain, like a watercolor fading in the rain.

"That's a deal, overgrown fly." The druid mumbled as he watched the creature disappear, oblivious to Eanfled's final words. So blinded he was, by a momentary lapse of interest in anything beyond his all-consuming lust for power.

        Anti-spells... and... Aphrodite?

*Aaauwh, please, please, pretty please.* Cupid begged his mother on all fours.
*Can I come? I wanna help do the Gabster. She's like a real cutie pie.* The muscular god pouted his lips and a slight frown accented his kicked puppy dog eyes. Can't she get some nice, thick rugs in her temples or something? My knees are killing me.

*I heard that. Sorry kiddo, this is all Magick jive. Can't let you screw up an anti-spell now, can we. Tooddels pretty. * The goddess of love replied, shimmied her shoulders and blew her clueless son a kiss. She left the winged bundle of brawn with an array of sparkles flying in front of him

The goddess reappeared by Ephiny's bed. The Amazon lay restless, trapped in the eye of a nightmare. The deity watched the Amazon for a while, sighing with the pity she felt. *You have been like so totally too deprived of love, Amazon.* Aphrodite could not resist and bent down to caress the Regent gently on the cheek. In anticipation if what she was about to see, the deity closed her eyes.

Flashes of Ephiny with a stranger, from a strange land appeared in between scenes of Amazons battling with each other over the throne.

A little surprised, but not shocked, Aphrodite broke the connection and took a few steps back. *Remember whom you love. Why is so not the point, babe. Your little green honey will be back, I promise.* The deity blew softly and caused the air in front of her to ripple towards the sleeping woman.

*Hey, airhead. She said you could do your thing after... remember. * Artemis appeared in front of her spouse, just in time to stop Aphrodite's premature meddling.

*Hey yourself, bush brat. Look at her. This is breaking my precious heart, even though she's usually your problem child.* The love goddess giggled and winked at the frowning archer. *By the by... why in Dad's name did you ever let this beauty's blood boil for that, iiieuwh, Centaur?* Aphrodite shuddered the revolting thought from her mind and unscrewed her face.

*Bulls eye, 'Ditie. Dad's orders. Now, you want to get on his wrong side or are you going to let me get on with things?* Artemis asked her half sister in a stern voice. *And leave my Chosen one alone too. She's doing fine with Xena.* She added in an agitated tone and waved a hand to communicate the blond goddesses' cue to exit.

Artemis turned to the sleeping Regent and sighed. *She's right you know. You could do with warm soul next to you by now. *

Rhiannon speaks...

I crossed another threshold that day. Doing so left me feeling... empty. Not the nothing there kind of emptiness, more like oblivion saturating my mind with total awareness of that 'nothing'. My skin turned a pale white, ears had gone to normal and my back ached as if I'd been hanging from a tree by the shoulder blades for a moon.

The Taliesin drugged me and led me to the Dream Stone, which floated somewhere in The Lake since the beginnings of time. I once heard a tale of this place. Humans that got lost were usually never seen again. The few that did come back were changed forever. The total reverse of Faerie, the other natural wall around Avalon, hidden deep within the marsh bogs.

After spending gods know how long in this dream realm-- surviving on a warrior's instincts that were the only thing left, familiar to me- the thick Dream Stone forest finally came to life.

        Torn and twisted

"Eanfled. Gate Keeper of the Dream Stone. Please, where are you?" Rhiannon whispered to herself. "Why won't you help me, find me at least? It's me, Rhiannon." The Celt added with a whimper and balled up underneath a huge willow tree, close to a small, muddy stream.

Miserable, hungry and sore all over. That is how she felt after roaming the vast forest, in search of her father. Green hills and endless meandering streams were all she found. "I can't believe the Taliesin left me here at the mercy of and elf. Even if he's my father." And how long have I been talking to myself for now? Two days… a moon?

All sense of time was lost to Rhiannon. Even by using the Sight, she could not trace the presence of a living soul. The energy feedback of the trees, animals and what ever was out there was very loud, but the Elfling failed to see anything besides the trees. The never ending, dancing trees. Everything seemed to move. Nothing was in the same place by the new sunrise.

"Why... why do you forsake me Ceridwen? Surely you are the creator of this realm."
The Celt cried for the Goddess into her dirt smudged arms, not improving the mud mask around her hollow, red eyes.

"Why do you think Ceridwen would even know you, human?" A familiar yet bitter voice replied from somewhere amongst the foliage. "Yes you have the Sight and are an initiate of the Mysteries, but more humans have leaned those tricks."

Rhiannon startled, scrambled to her feet and searched the greens around her for proof of life. She rested her trembling hand on the pommel of her sword and cocked her head to the left.

"Show yourself." The Celt forced her voice to sound calm. She circled on the spot once, straining her eyes to pick up any kind of movement and listened for audible clues.

Coming from somewhere in the sky, a boyish voice spoke to her. "Granted is your wish, by the power of three. Sweet girl, open your heart and truly see."

Again twirling on the spot, head raised to face the heavens, Rhiannon saw what reminded her of a rainbow fade in between the arched branches of the willow tree, against a clear blue sky.

Slowly she dropped her head and let the sword go. "So he's not going to make it easy for me. This far, elves are proving to be a pain in the neck, but much lower. Maybe that wasn't even him?" With a deep breath the Celt dropped to her knees and closed her eyes to think.

"And why should he be fun, human?"

Discovering that the voice belonged to an elf, standing one arm length away in front of her, Rhiannon opened her eyes wider with a shock and froze.
Before her stood a tall, almost muscular, dark elf, peering at her with bright green eyes through wild, red curls. Her exuberantly, silver braced arms were folded across her chest and she only just touched the ground. She wore a short skirt and top of the most delicate fabric the Celt had ever seen. Her clothing and skin color were identical. Two majestic, silvery, see-through wings rose above her proud shoulders. The rays of sunlight that filtered through the greens bounced off them like fireflies.

"You are tuff enough on yourself. Eanfled's job is a breeze, lassie. I'm here to do his dirty work." The elf snarled at her and took a step closer to the still kneeling, baffled woman.

"Well, cat got your tongue?" The elf spat and slapped her in the face.

Rhiannon's head snapped to one side as the elf's hand forcefully chafed it with a crimson blush. She rolled over on her side, flowing with the motion already caused by the blow. Taking her sword from its scabbard, she got up fast and gave the female elf the once over. Oh great, she's violent. Like I need this?

"As if I have to tell you anything." Rhiannon grinned at the elf, planted her sword beside her and mirrored the elf's stance. "How productive. And I was told elves were smart, as well as sadistic." A low growl escaped the red head's mouth as she took in the female elf before her. Green. Wings. Reddish hair and a very dark skin. My height. Darker skin tone than I have seen in my dreams as a kid. Would she be a da- no a dark elf would have killed me instantly, I think? Why is she here instead of Eanfled? Figure out the clue, Rhi. This must be a test or something.


"So what? You tell me, elf." Rhiannon's face had gone pale again and she swallowed hard. "You make it quite clear, I'm the insignificant human." She want me to grovel or what?

The two stood in a dead lock, staring each other in the eyes. Faces a hand length apart. The air between them vibrating. The trees forever dancing around them.

"Even now you won't dare recognize me?" The elf broke the silence, keeping her voice low, attempting to hide anger. "Even now I am standing here, in front of you. You won't recognize me?" She yelled and slammed a knee into Rhiannon's abdomen, while pulling the Celt's head over her shoulder.

The red head collapsed onto the ground and grabbed her stomach, coughing and panting.

"I don't want to hurt you. I don't want to get you into trouble all the time but you leave me no choice, human. You have become just like those who hate them… us." A light gush of wind blew across Rhiannon's face as the elf elevated and hovered over her, while she spoke.

Rhiannon recollected her warrior edge, lunged at the elf, before she flew out of reach and pulled her back down to ground level. The startled and angry elf tried to fight the Celt off, without success. The grounded elf was helpless.

The winged creature ended up under the Celt. She gave up the struggle and started to laugh when she saw the human was fighting back tears as well as her frustration and desire to lash out.

"Well, well. A sensitive Celt. And you always claim to be a warrior?" The elf sneered at Rhiannon. "Don't let step Dad see those big clumsy tears, girl. He'll knock you around, won't he." She demonstrated what she meant by slapping at Rhiannon's ears. "Oh, don't cry now lass. Mommy can't hear you and she won't come to help you this time."

The last remarks of the elf made the red head snap and see red. She smashed a fist into the elf's face, rolled off the now limp figure towards her sword and got to her feet.

Rhiannon quickly ran back, placed her feet on the wings of the elf at the height of her waste, where they got thicker and pressed the tip of her sword on the creatures' neck. "You sadistic piece of work." She screamed at the elf. "Who are you?"


"Sit down now, Warrior Princes." Boadecia told the pacing woman and pointed at a bench, near the window.

"No, I'd rather not, if you don't mind. Where do you think the old man is taking her?" Xena turned to face the Leader of Celts with a stoic expression.

"Relax Xena. The Taliesin is on her side. Gwydion knows more about elves than any mortal should. I trust him like family." She sat herself down and took another mouth full of mead, avoiding the Warrior's penetrating stare.

"But you don't trust me enough to believe me when I say the man is up to something nasty?" The raven-haired woman asked, while she walked over to Boadecia with an eyebrow raised.

"You know nothing about my people and come to mention trust; No, I don't.
Need I remind you of most of our former encounters?" The Queen of Celts rose from her seat and looked Xena in the eyes with a frown. "I have already thanked you for your help, defeating Caesar. That is all I have to offer."

"So why the cozy scene on The Lake shore when we arrived?" The Warrior hissed, returning the look, closing in on the older woman some more and holding her hands up in question.

"I do not need to complicate my daughter's life even more, by acting on any miss feelings I might have towards you. Not even while you may well be the reason she leaves Britannia for good." Boadecia took a deep breath, got closer to the Warrior and relaxed her face into a small grin. I know my Rhi. She's into warrior women real bad and would follow a specimen like you blindly. But you Xena, what's in all this for you? Wasn't Vivian enough of a kick?

"What?" Xena breathed through closed teeth, examining the older woman's grinning yet pensive expression. Oh boy.

"You. I'm still outraged by your breech of loyalty in Gaul, not to mention your affair with Vivian, but can't stop feeling thankful once again for your help bringing Rhiannon home to me. Be wise Xena. The family can take care of Rhiannon from here. Show me you have changed and do as I ask." The frown was on the Celt's face again as she waited for Xena to react.

The raven-haired woman broke her stare and paced in front of Boadecia for a while, her mind almost in chaos. Every fiber of her body "screamed danger", but for who? Her self, Rhiannon, both, man kind? Her emotions were telling her to let the Elfling's destiny take it's coarse and go home to her love, sweet Gabrielle. Gods, I wish my thoughts were as logic as the paintings on these walls. Everything connects; all lines come together and form a pattern, hmm.

"Xena. Talk to me." The Celt blocked the Warrior mid pace and held on to an elbow.

"Why am I here?" Xena asked herself out loud, looking past rather than at the older woman, studying the knots and circular patterns of the mural by the window.

"I don't understand?" Boadecia let go of the Warrior and looked surprised.

"I'm not seeing the bigger picture yet." Xena mumbled, with a thumb stuck between her lips, no longer taking note of present company. She resumed her pacing, glancing at one segment of the mural each time she passed it. Three horses running after one and other, mains and tails entwined. By the power of three. That's what Rhi kept talking about. What am I missing here?

Oh but I do see your bigger picture, warrior woman. You are thinking with a lower part of your anatomy. Had enough of the young Bard already? The Celt shook her head and continued thinking but this time out loud. "The bigger picture is for Rhiannon to find out. Let her be, please." The now worried Celt voiced seriously and blocked her guest's path with her body again.

Xena snapped out of her vacant stare and took a step back, hands on hips.

"Now you listen to me woman. To show you I have changed by betraying the promise I made to your daughter would not be my first choice. So far this whole situation has reeked of spells and interfering gods. That old druid is close to the source of it all, I can feel my skin crawl when he's around." Xena almost shivered at the thought of the Taliesin and continued.

"I don't see a worried mother and brave warrior acting on her love for her daughter and there for protecting her the best she can. Are you afraid of her because she almost challenged you into a fight or are you torn by a deeper guilt?" Ending in a hoarse whisper. Blue eyes wandered over the red head's features. Hades, how do I get through to her?

"You do not know what you are talking about, woman," the Celt flung at Xena angrily and turned away to pour herself another drink. Don't you dare go there.

"Why is it that you can't say that and look me in the eyes, at the same time?"
By the Celt's ridged body language, Xena knew she was onto something and pursued, reminding herself to take it easy on the widow in pain. Who was she to judge? Focus warrior, focus. "Guess what that amounts to, from my side Boadecia?"

Do you really presume I wish to guess at what goes on in your mind, at a time such as this?" Doing her best to keep the growing concern out of her voice the Celt spoke slowly and over articulated every word.

"Have it your way." Xena said with a shrug of her shoulders and walked towards the exit.

"Xena, wait."

The Warrior halted and did exactly that. She waited where she stood, within reach of the door timing her next move with her back to the Celt.

"I think you mean to help but-"

A dragged out, alto "Yes?" from the Warrior coaxed the Celt to continue.

"You... you'll risk your own life, if you interfere now." Shaking hands ran through braided, red hair as the Celt warned the Warrior.

"So what's new?" With a tug the door was open and Xena was outside, pressed against a wall just to the side of the entrance.

Boadecia strode after the Warrior yelling at the top of her voice, not caring if she alarmed any of the other priestesses in the small Avalon village.

"You can't do this Xena. You can not get off the Dream Stone. No mortal can.
Rhiannon is destined to serve the greater good. Nothing you, nor I would want to do, can change that." Pale, teary eyes searched around to find the Warrior Princess.

"Then tell me how you got off this Dream Stone." The Warriors teeth flashed when she grimaced. "Your story is getting more inconsistent by the word."

Startled, the Celt turned and felt the urge to start hacking into the younger woman that was invading her most secret thoughts and influencing her child, with a Morningstar.

"I think you are as unhappy about the old bat taking Rhiannon away to that place, as I am, but try to keep your focus on why I am here." The Warrior's legs started pacing of their own accord. "You know what else I think. You hurt for choosing Prasutagus over your daughter and not telling her about who she is, to his twisted delight. Now she has reclaimed her will from under a thick layer of denial and Avalon ways, she scares the Tartarus out of you."

"All right. You know more than I thought". Boadecia's face went pale as the shell of a goose egg. She waited for Xena to face her again and stop moving. "I can never return to the Dream Stone and yes, I have always known what Rhiannon is. I just don't know exactly what she will become."

The Warrior turned her head and said as respectfully as possible. "Everybody makes choices in life they regret. That is between you and Rhiannon. Do you want me to help your daughter, or not?"

If the Celt could have grown any whiter, she would have. "You can't, Xena. You can't change her destiny. Don't you think I would be trying to get her off that damned rock, if there was a way? There isn't."

Xena stared at the normally so in control Queen of Celts that was holding on to her sanity as hard as she could by selectively denying certain facts and implored. "Come on Boadecia, impossible situations never stopped me before. Please tell me how to get to the Dream Stone." The Warrior 's voice grew gentle and a slight smile graced her face. "You wouldn't want to hurt her even more by making me break my promise to help her now would you? Try to remember, please?"

        Power of three

"So the priestess can fight." The elf snickered. "What are you going to do? Kill me."

"Who are you, damned it?" Rhiannon screamed.

"Here's a clue. I am half and waiting to become whole." Another evil laugh echoed under the ark of willow branches.

Rhiannon inhaled deeply and felt her impatient anger grow.

"Look at me human. And I mean really take a good look." The elf advised and wormed her hand between neck and blade, gently pushing the Celt's sword away.

Rhiannon felt all torn up as to weather she would stick to talking or not. So far she says she doesn't want to hurt me all the time or get me into trouble. What's she doing now then? Being a gracious hostess.

Up till now, Rhiannon had not killed a living soul. Yes, she had fought in combat but managed to wound, rather than kill. A trait her stepfather loathed and her mother held sacred.

So why start here. She's an elf, a dark elf, seeing my luck is going completely soar. She would have killed me all ready, if that were her plan. Who in Ceridwen's name is she? I can't get into her mind. "By what name are you known, elf?" The Celt decided to keep the conversation going.

"I have no name. I have as of yet, no home." A soft, sad reply came from trembling green lips.

"Do you have anything to tell me about my father Eanfled, the Gate Keeper?"
A second question came to the confused Celt.

If she were going to kill, it would have happened already. She really doesn't know who I am. I can't get into her mind? Okay human, we talk, but I don't know if you want to hear what I have to say, so to speak. "Yes, and no."

A long silence fell and both Rhiannon and the elf took the time to actually look at each other, recognizing how vulnerable they both were in this strange, secluded place and time.

"Get up." Pale and green arms entwined as the Celt helped the elf back to her feet, not letting go of the creature for dear life.

"Please stay here, talk to me elf. Plea-"

The elf held both of Rhiannon's hands in one of hers. The other found it's way to the Celt's lips and stopped the flood of questions from coming.

"Shh, no talking just yet. You will come to know all in good time. Look at me real close, Rhiannon." The elf's face had a softer expression now and she spoke with a low, sleepy voice.

That familiar manner of speaking reminded Rhiannon of her mother's voice. Of when Boadecia would come to check if her daughter was asleep when she was little girl. The red head shivered when the elf spoke her name for the first time. Slowly, she took hold of both sinewy green hands and stepped back for a better view. Eyes traveled up the elf's arms and rested on the left one. A small scar-- just above the crease where arm goes over into the shoulder- was a slightly darker tone than the rest of her complexion. Instinctively the Celt let one hand go and brought it up to her own left arm.

There, it's right there too. I don't understand... and another one. I got that dent in my chin from catching the broken mug Vivian threw at me ages ago. How? Gods, I bet the elf can hear my thoughts. It's been so long since I thought of the stories about the elves and ancient creatures. I can't even remember much of the family visits to Erie. Who are you? Rhiannon shook her head and looked down at her feet. Completely puzzled by what she was seeing and remembering. Not at all sure of what it should mean.

The elf didn't let the Celt's hand go and waited with great patience for the human to let the details sink in. You are getting very close, human. Let me in, that's it, remember.

The red head took another step backwards and swallowed hard. Her breath went ragged and shallow. Beads of sweat broke out on her forehead and back. The trees around her swayed and circled in on them.

She has told me nothing and everything. The scars... the same height and build.
The voice, it's like... mother's. No mine... and she has no name. An elf without a name does not exist. She's homeless. Her eyes are... my eyes.

Rhiannon fainted.

        With a little help from a Celt

"Xena wait". Boadecia called out to the dark Warrior that was disappearing from sight fast and in the wrong direction.

Slightly out of breath, the Leader of Celts caught up with Xena and stood in front of her, hands resting on the Warriors shoulders.

Xena stopped walking, turned to Boadecia, eyed the older woman's hands on her and just listened.

"I'll take you to the Dream Stone. After that, you are on your own. I can not return to the place. Eanfled would not let me go a second time." Pausing for a moment Boadecia stepped back and turned away from the Warrior. She ran her hands through her hair. Gods, I wish she would keep that bored but in control look off her face.

The Queen continued offering information with shaky hands and a lump in her throat. "He will put you through one of his mind games, before you have any chance of getting to Rhiannon. Indulge him Xena, what ever happens. He is a dark elf, which means he has a mean streak. He won't hurt you physically, because he can't... not that type of species you see. Oh, and time... forget trying to keep track of time. It does not exist in that wretched place."

"The mind game thing. Can't be as bad as Ares, can he? What is he... into?" Xena asked, sounding as calm as she could. The feeling of danger was still getting stronger, even without the added obstacles ahead; this elf would entertain himself with at her expense.

"That depends on what's on your mind, when you get there." The grass under Boadecia's feet was undergoing a transformation from all the shuffling and kicking, while she informed Xena of what she was up for. "He can read humans minds and has the ability to tap into your memories. Not at all a comforting idea, I know."

"I take it he flies too." The raven-haired woman remembered the little she knew about elves. Rhiannon had told her that in Celtic history stories, dark elves more or less spend their energy on playing emotional games with who ever caught their attention and showing off how good they are at flying. She also believed they killed humans for fun. I hope you are right Bo.

Nodding the Celt started off towards The Lake and motioned Xena to follow her, heading east. The Warrior was not satisfied with the little information Boadicea had let loose and kept firing away questions.

"What hold does this Eanfled still have on you, that you can't help your own child?" The Warrior asked, being careful with every chosen word.

"Eanfled plays a small part. He seduced my husband and I. The rest you can figure out yourself." Once again the Queen of Celts turned her face away from Xena. "He is also the only one who can help my little girl understand herself. Rhiannon has a destiny that is interwoven with many other Ancient peoples and the future of Britannia, among other things. If I interfere, it will lead to her death, and mine. The Taliesin, Arch-Druid and Vivian and Rhiannon, High Priestesses of the Goddess are mortal representatives of the Initiator behind all gods and goddesses. They are helping the Lady to bring forth a new era of kings and queens. Britannia will finally be united, as the prophecy tells us."

"So the Celts answer to a goddess, act on her commands brought to you by devious middle men and women, freely interpreting prophecies?" Xena asked, not liking what she was hearing.

Boadecia faced the Warrior again and replied. "For centuries the Goddess was worshipped all over the known world Xena. She is loosing ground to the growing ego and fear of man. New religions from the east are taking over the minds of humans, without leaving room for the heart and intuition. Dogma's, or rather the clergymen that enforce them are enslaving people's freedom to choose and think for themselves. The Goddess is that freedom, Xena. Don't you know that we mortals create our own gods? Personal experience with them is a reflection of what you collectively expected of a god at some point and tolerated as the truth.

Boadecia started walking and placed a hand on the Warrior's arm. "This is not some concept that helps externalize our responsibilities to hold all life sacred. Unfortunately, most people do not resist the new ways because these religions are being introduced very slowly and with subtle differences. Hunger and perpetual invasions don't help moral either. The Goddess knows her demise is inevitable and part of the pattern of life. She will play a smaller part in the future. Right now she is securing the future of her closest children and her essence." Boadicea noticed that the Warrior had growled at a few of her beliefs but she continued bravely.

"I would have to tell you the entire history of Avalon, all the way back to Atlantis to help you understand everything and then you might not comprehend it all. I know I don't. Even the Amazons are remnants of the Goddess' Ancients. Ares and Artemis were created much later in linear time. We are all children of The Dana or call Her what you like, one way or an other." The Celt swallowed hard.

"What I am trying to say is... You are part of the bigger picture too, Warrior Princess.
I just can't tell you exactly how, because I don't know. This is all I can offer." Tears were fighting to be set free, behind the eyes of a scared mother. "It will be dark soon. We'd better keep moving." She pointed towards the misty banks of The Lake.

The two women were busy with their own thoughts while they walked to the East Side of the island. Twilight was closing in. So was the mist. Soft green hills turned a shade of gray and The Lake reflected them as silvery domes, floating on clouds against a dark blue sky.

The hairs on the back of Xena's neck rose as they neared the edge of the water.
Boadecia stood still by a neat pile of smooth, round rocks and started to explain what to do.

"Wait here until the mist closes you in completely. If by then you still want to continue, place one hand on top of this pile of rocks and say out loud, Gate Keeper find me, by the power of three. The Dream Stone will find you and you will know when you are on it, Xena. Trust me, you will know. After that it all goes beyond my ability to explain."

Xena looked from the pile of too perfectly eroded rocks to Boadecia.
She unfastened her Chakram, kissed it and held it out in front of the older woman.

"If- If I- " The Warrior did not want to think or speak of defeat right now and knew Boadecia understood what she was implying. "Please send this to Gabrielle, the Greek Amazon Queen, with my love. I expect to come back together with Rhiannon and get it back though, so for the time being keep it safe. Oh, one more thing. Elves, how many kinds are there?"

The Celt sighed. "We don't have any more time for a thorough lesson on elves. You have all the information on Eanfled that you will need. He's a dark elf, which makes Rhiannon half-dark elf. You never know how an elfling will turn out. Elfling is another word used for a half elf." A deep giggle escaped the Celt's mouth. "You must have noticed us Brittans are rather fond of naming everything twice, three times or more. It's driving the Romans to drink."

"So what do I do now?" A broad smile made the Warrior's face light up for a moment as she pictured some frustrated and drunk Roman soldiers.

"Wait for the mist to enclose you and say the words while you touch the stones." Boadecia squeezed the longer woman's shoulder and said her good-bye's. She started to walk away but halted abruptly. "I all most forgot. Rhiannon has the Sight. She'll find out you are on the Stone if she still has use of it there. Rhi hasn't told you about that, judging by your expression."

"I know what the Sight is." Xena reacted. "You don't need to be a priestess to figure that out. As you said, the Goddess has a wide range." Her eyes traveled upward as did the corners of her mouth in a smirk. Can't believe I just said that.

Xena watched Boadecia disappear in the mist after she took the Chakram for safe keeping with a some what confused grin and wished the Warrior good luck.

        Something different

"Where do you want me to put all these flowers for now, Eph?" Gabrielle entered the conference hall, pushing the door open with her behind. Her arms were filled with freshly gathered blooms.

Solari was right behind her with the rest of the decorations.

"Scatter them across the tables, my Queen." The Regent stopped what she was doing and inhaled the sweet scent of hibiscus, lavender and bay leaf that wafted her way. "Better still, use them as you see fit. This is after all, your first spring celebration. I presume Persephone trusts you to make the place look the part." A wide smile accompanied her words but to the Bard, her eyes seemed over shadowed with loneliness.

"How about hanging some bunches from the support beams?" Solari suggested, pointing upward and trying to hold on to her cargo at the same time.

The Amazon woman did not succeed in doing the latter and fragile petals cascaded to the floor, before the whole load of flowers ended on top of them.

Much at the same time, Eponin came clambering into the hall and bumped Solari over onto the multi colored bed.

Eponin crashed on top of the now cursing Amazon and yelped when a sharp little twig poked her in the thigh.

Gabrielle broke out into a laughing fit and dumped the remainder of the flowers she was holding over Eponin and Solari.

"I guess we aren't all together in the most festive of moods just yet, judging by the lack of creativity and concentration today." The Regent remarked, having a hard time trying to laugh.

The giggling Bard helped her guards to their feet. "Okay people. Let's leave this for now. I need to talk to Ephiny about some details of the ritual anyway." Placing her arms around the women's waists, she walked them to the door and asked the slightly embarrassed Amazons to get plenty of Port out of the supply shed.

Looking over her shoulder quickly, Solari made sure that her Queen stepped out side with them for a moment and asked. "My Queen, Gabrielle. May I speak to you about a rather urgent matter, when you have time?" She let go of the blonde woman and waited for a reply, throwing her head to the side, hoping Eponin would catch her drift and give them some privacy.

Also noticing Solari's gesture, Gabrielle took her by the arm and started walking towards the food hut. Eponin left the two women to their own devices, reminding herself out loud to ease up on the Port during the celebrational feast and dance this time round.

"Of course. Come to the library, two candle marks past the noon. I will have
ample time for you then." The Queen plucked some lavender out of the guard's hair and smiled her million-dinar smile. "New love on the horizon?"

"I wish." The dark haired Amazon shook her head. "I'd rather tell you what's on my mind this afternoon, if that's all right." She sighed and ran after Eponin, leaving a puzzled Queen behind.

Rubbing her chin, Gabrielle reentered the conference hall in time to help Ephiny down from the halfway support beam she was hanging from. The Bard saw tears in her friend's eyes and held on to the woman.

The curly haired Amazon did not resist the soothing arms of the Bard and completed the transaction by embracing her.

"Let it out Ephiny." Gabrielle whispered against the trembling woman's ear. "Let it out, what ever way it comes."

All Ephiny could do was cry. Her legs gave way to the waves of emotion that crashed upon her heart and dragged the Queen down with her.

Gabrielle let it all happen and cradled the shaking Regent until the tears had given witness to the women's pain. When Ephiny's body stopped trembling and her breath appeared calmer, the Bard placed a finger under a wet chin and lifted the Amazon's face to hers.

"Does that feel better?" The blonde asked her friend softly, gently brushing the back of her hand over Ephiny's cheek.

All the Regent could do was sniff and nod.

"Do you want to talk about it?" The Bards arms tightened around the Amazon's body instinctively. To let her go now would give her time to push what ever was hurting back down, out of reach.

"Ephiny, let me in. You don't have to do this alone, you know that don't you."
A soft, almost child like voice asked tenderly.

"Yes." Came a hoarse reply.

"Is it the elf jokes, the dreams of Rhiannon and remembering how you had to struggle for your right to love Phantes and Xenon?" A warm, shaking hand reached up to Gabrielle's shoulder as she spoke to her friend.

"Yes." Another raspy, angrier answer came from the curly blonde.

"Is there anything I can do to make things easier for you around here, my friend?" Green eyes searched hazy brown ones.

Ephiny sat up and took a deep breath.

"I would like to be relieved of my duties as Regent until Rhiannon comes back." Was all the woman said before she looked away from her Queen and cried once more.

Gabrielle locked the Regent into her arms again and couldn't help letting go of her own tears. She also missed the Elfling and was feeling out of sink, the love of her life being gone so long. Almost two moons had past and not a word or sign of her. Did they make it across land to a seaport by now? Don't think that way bard, of course they've made it.

Had she made a mistake of not going with her Warrior? Before Xena left, they almost argued about who was going and who was staying. Finally Gabrielle gave into her fears and confessed to her love, that setting foot on Britannia's soil for a second time terrified her. Risking the slim chance of facing Velasca as a god made her stomach turn. There was no way Xena would let the Bard beat herself up by coming with her. No matter how high the stakes. Then they argued about Xena going or not. Gabrielle managed to persuade the Warrior to go by commanding her to go for the safety of the Amazons. Serving the greater good always got to Xena. The adrenaline produced by the decision got put to good use afterwards. Making up was Gabrielle's favorite part of arguing.

Keeping her mind off her lover's absents with everyday village events and the coming part of spring celebration was getting harder each day. Somehow it all seemed so trivial. Four different rituals and feasts spread out over four moons. It wasn't a fun time for her friend either and that upset the blonde even more. Something different was happening in the world and was having its effect. Gabrielle and Ephiny could feel it but didn't know what it meant, both were afraid to say it.

Leap of blind faith

Hera's tits, it's freezing out here. Xena tried to scope her surrounding but was obstructed by the growing mist. To kill time and keep her mind off the cold, she thought about anything that came to mind. What warm-blooded creature would come all the way out here to live? Rain, mist, cold, more mist. I must be missing something. A damp black boot kicked aimlessly at the pile of stones. Okay, elf, find me already. Come on... chicken. To think I could be lying in my cozy, warm bedroll, next to Gabrielle right now, instead of getting a runaway out of trouble. Oh well, what's done is done. I promised.

The Warrior decided to repeat the request to be found but hesitated when she heard shuffling, coming from in front of her.

"This way warrior woman." A whisper came from somewhere in the fog.

Xena tried to make sense of the direction that was called 'this way' and noticed that straight in front of her a tiny purple light shone.

"That's it, follow the light." The voice was a little stronger this time and Xena followed the dot of light deeper into the mist.

So far I can't see a bloody thing except for that light thingie... now it's gone?
"Eanfled. Show yourself. You have somebody I'm looking for." The Warrior yelled into the mist while stumbling over a rock.

This is no good. I have nothing to go on besides Boadecia's story of goddesses and a load of mumbo jumbo. Oh, not to forget this mist, rusting up my armor. Just great. Yep, having fun already. I can't wait to find out what comes next. A red light perhaps? Flying sheep, ha. I'm going to... trip over an elfling... yeah, that's it. I'm gonna be eaten alive by a gang of those dark elves. No, Xena: Warrior Princes gets lost in a veil of mist... fuck, I am lost.

        Learning is remembering, all over again

From the depths of the delta region of her consciousness, Rhiannon could barely register a soft, warm sensation on her cheeks. Her eyes refused to cooperate and she slipped away again.

"Eanfled... father, please help me." A small voice cried out to the trees of the Dream Stone. She stroked the human's face and felt her heart pound a painful ever-slowing beat. "I can't wake her. I can't do this alone. I'm growing weaker very fast... please."

The Gate Keeper decided to intervene when he heard his child call in desperation.
With elegance and supple ease he descended from the grand old willow where he perched himself for a good view. Eanfled flew over his guests and landed close to the females. Arms folded over his chest, the dark elf studied the appearance of the rather similar creatures up close. "I could have guessed this would happen."

"Well, you also thought she'd be less stubborn when I told you otherwise." A snappy elf threw back at the Gate Keeper. What's going on inside this human? I can't find out from here, can I."

"No. You loose points for being obvious dear." Eanfled took flight again and swirled closely around the females beneath him. "Leave her to sleep for now. Rhiannon is entering the chronicles of her ancestral history. Don't worry. She's a tuff lass, as you know so well."

The elf looked up at her father with contempt. "And what if she doesn't let me back in? Father... I'm scared."

"She will. Believe me my heart, she will." Twitching lids covered the almost black irises of Eanfled's eyes. "I have a warrior to entertain now." The dark elf was gone from sight after looping across the small clearing under the green canopy of drooping branches.

Rhiannon's face became flushed like she had a fever and the elf decided it was time to wakeup the human, despite Eanfled's instructions. In a short time the elf had learned that the Gate Keeper spoke in demands and was less than kindly tempered if they were not met to his satisfaction. The elf was used to being on the receiving end of tantrums and anger. Risking his rage was not her biggest worry. The rest of what he had said on the other hand, she could knowingly neglect. "You don't have to tell me about those damned chronicles, dad." Her voice didn't travel far, drained of it's power.

Rhiannon speaks…

I feel the need to enter this part of the story in a more personal way. I, Rhiannon forced myself to learn the hard way. I learned to deny whom I was for so long. I forgot how to listen to my real inner voice. Eilan and mother's voice had taken its place. Now was the time to put those voices to the test of further necessity. Eanfled knew this, for he also had the gift of the Sight. He helped me face myself the only way he knew how.

Ancient beings; the aristocratic and elegant fawns, the various elf tribes, the traitorous banshees, fairies and other species of Britannia all had some form of access to these gifts or powers of the Goddess. By this and under the divine moon, they were united. The Gate Keeper was compelled to grant my deepest wish. Eanfled was a dark elf, son of a high placed clan. When the elf showed his love to a human, the clan expelled him.

The Taliesin made good use of his sad, wandering soul and lured Eanfled to the Dream Stone. There he could be with any human he could lure and serve as the Gate Keeper, far from his judgmental family. Eanfled was bound to help me find out who I really am. The fact that he was my father motivated him to interpret the Taliesin's request creatively. Breaking through the barrier of my self- denial proved to be a challenge he hadn't for seen though. The Warrior on the other hand, was like river clay in his hands…eventually.

        Judge, Jury and the Gate Keeper

"By Hades in Tartarus, how long is this going to take. Find me elf, find me now."
Xena stopped wandering aimlessly through the mist and realized that the strong sense of fear had subsided. She tried to focus. Okay, so the danger was not connected to the Dream Stone? Focus now woman. What ever it was, will have to wait till I get back. Stop willing, stop hating, stop desiring wasn't it. While I'm at it, stop shaking, stop being bored stop getting paranoid, stop being… stop.

After stretching her senses as far as they would go for, the gods knew how long, the Warrior grew restless and tired. The absolute silence was deafening. What am I going to do? If this is the elf's way to torture me I'm truly disappointed. Boredom is all he'll get out of me. I stopped going nuts about and in the dark way back. If he's looking for guilty feelings, ha, plenty there. He won't be the first to toy with my past. Okay Bo. I'm playing along here, like a good little warrior. Where is Eanfled?

"Stop all that internal self-mutilation, Warrior. It does not become you at all."

"Eanfled?" Xena unsheathed her sword. The voice came from within her head so there was no telling where the elf might be. A grin full of teeth flashed and the raven-haired Warrior circled on the spot. "Show yourself, Gate Keeper." She hissed between her teeth.


Xena heard two stones being struck against each other. The damp cloak gobbled the echo up immediately but slightly to her left, a tiny green light appeared. It hovered closer and in a reflex, the Warrior pointed her blade towards the traveling light.
The green ball made a faint movement to the right. Xena followed it with her eyes and sword but ended up looking into space with the glowing ball wavering above her left shoulder.

"Put it down, Hero."

The green, glowing ball gently landed on one of the brass curls of Xena's left shoulder plate. Again the sound of rocks slamming penetrated the air and the glow died down to an even smaller ball, held by a tiny winged being.


"Are we talking or what?" The Warrior relaxed slightly and took in the odd little creature from the corner of her eye. He measured up to be as big as her thumb.

"Yes Hero. Now be a good warrior and put away your toy and tell me what it is you think you want?" The little green man waved a hand nonchalantly and took a seat in between the brass curls, juggling two firestones. His minute wings folded back to resting position and he smiled at his comfortably chosen seat.

"Who are you?" The tiny creature caught his little rocks just in time to fly up
in front of the Warrior's face when Xena sheathed her sword and teasingly nicked her shoulder plate to startle the elf.

"That was totally unnecessary. I was quite comfortable there, Hero." Eanfled readjusted his leather leggings and arrow case.

"The name's Xena. I didn't quite catch yours though." Arms folded and an eyebrow went missing behind silky black bangs.

"Eanfled, Gate Keeper. Enchanted to meet you, I'm sure." The elf made a few loops and axle's in front of his guest and ended the show with a bow and the suggestion of kissing Xena's hand.

"Show over yet? Where's Rhiannon?" Xena started with the most pressing matter on her mind; finding the young Celt and getting off the Dream Stone.

"No. First you amuse me, then I will…" A huge sigh escaped the tiny creature's mouth. "I will show you what you think you are looking for."

Xena watched Eanfled flutter around her head for a moment and chuckled. "Strange. A creature that has the power to fly, among other skills, needs to be amused?"

"Amused is a wide concept lassie. A lot like your ego." Eanfled stretched his arms out as wide as possible and floated past Xena's nose to illustrate.

"Is that why you had to show up as a fly? Yours can't fit in the same space as mine huh?" Warrior and elf laughed in unison.

"Touché, Hero. You measure up to be an intelligent and skilled creature so here's the catch. I want you to forgive yourself." Eanfled flew back a little to get a better look at the woman's expression and juggled his firestones some more.

Xena stood nailed to the spot, staring into misty oblivion. She knew exactly where the Gate Keeper wanted her and didn't like it.

"It's very simple, Warrior. Forgive yourself for not being a perfect human and you will find Rhiannon. No sooner." Two stones cracked together, causing a tiny spark and a ball of green light surrounded Eanfled. "This will get you started, Hero. There can be no light, without the dark, yet neither exist at all. By the Power of Three, open your eyes and see."

        Teardrops wasted on the fire inside

"Please don't go away on some retreat, Ephiny. I am in no way fit to run this village like a Queen yet and you know it." Gabrielle stopped to catch her breath. A slight panic hit her when the Regent expressed her wish for the second time. "You leaving would prove my point. My authority is growing but is not strong enough to stop even you. I can see it in your eyes."

"But a moment ago you understood why I need to leave for a while. I will still be on Amazon land. Why not now?" Ephiny held her breath, realizing how out of character she was acting since Rhiannon left that even she would be confused, standing in her Queen's shoe's.

"I still do understand. Its just- The Bard couldn't finish speaking her mind because her emotions clouded everything. Gods, life would be so much simpler if the Celt had never found the Amazons. Velasca, you have much to answer for. Once again the Amazons are being divided by fear of the unknown. Only they see it as losing identity.

A pertinent knock on the conference hall door startled both women.

"Enter" Gabrielle replied in an annoyed tone.

Eponin gently opened the door and stuck her nose around the corner cautiously.
"It's only me."

"Is it that late already." The Bard paced, rubbed her forehead and rested a hand in her hip. "You wanted to see me about something urgent. I remember."

"Which means I will excuse you two. Talk to you later, sisters." Ephiny made her way out the door past Eponin and ran straight into Solari and Lizzeah.

"Not so fast girlfriend." Lizzeah grabbed hold of the Regent playfully and pushed her back inside. Puffy eyes on my Regent?

Ephiny looked back at her oldest friend in the world with a confused face and almost yelled. "I thought this was Eponin's private chat with Gabrielle. I can walk on my own just fine Lizz. What is going on?"

Once the troops were all back in the hall, Eponin asked for their attention by scraping her sword over the floor boards first and then throwing it at a pillar, when the women didn't seem in a rush to be quiet. Gabrielle was arguing with Solari and Lizzeah was ducking swats from Ephiny, while yelling at Solari. The blade just missed their heads and buried its point deep into the pillar closest to them. The hall became silent at once.

"Thank you Amazons. That's better." Eponin took a seat and sugested the others do the same by pointing at the surrounding benches. "I call the Council of Five on an urgent matter. With all due respect my Queen and Regent, while you two are wrapped up in personal feelings, the Amazon Nation is stirred once again by divided loyalty. It is of course every Amazon's duty to report this kind of communal restlessness. The resurfacing of Velasca has reopened old wounds on some and made others over cautious in the dealings with non-Amazons. Specifically Rhiannon-

"Stop right there, Amazon." Ephiny stood up and knocked her chair over in her haste to interrupt. "Before this council discusses anything, I would like to know how you all stand on the matter, personally. You are also my best friends" Gods, I just want to disappear. The Regent covered her eyes with her palms for a moment, took a deep breath and continued. "Yes, Rhiannon and I are, how shall I put it, involved. Just exactly how is not clear to either of us. What the future beholds is even to me, a mystery, sisters. Keep that in mind. Stick to the facts as I give them to you, not the rumors."

"I think it's all developing a bit beyond you and the Celt by now." Solari broke her pensive stare and spoke her mind. "Whom you chose as a lover is no concern of anybody, as long as it does not hurt the Nation. So far the trouble has to do with the old followers of Velasca. They used the gossip on your uh, taste in lovers as a smoke screen to hide their making plans to unsettle the throne"

Gabrielle got up and wandered over to the still standing Regent and put an arm around her. "She's right, Eph. Don't take Velasca's part on your shoulders as well. We need to deal with this before it gets out of control" Gods this is all we need.

"I don't know what to do and I can't help it. Only few Amazons dare speak of what other less candid Amazon's are thinking. Even you sisters already speak of Rhiannon and I as lovers before, before- Ephiny could not finish her words when a big lump formed in her throat and constricted her breathing. After regaining some control over her emotions she wiped across her eyes with the back of a hand and looked straight at Solari. "I am the Regent, for Artemis' sake. If I were considering taking a consort, the council is the first to know. I'm not a total wreck."

Solari stood up and paced the length of the hall and back before she halted in front of her Regent. "I'm sorry Eph. I wasn't thinking. I shouldn't have presumed you-

"It's alright, Sis. I know how it must have looked when I offered her my spare room."
Ephiny patted her sister on the shoulder and smiled through teary eyes. "Can't say I would mind if we were lovers though. Does that really surprise you?"

Solari relaxed and smiled back at Ephiny. "After Phantes? Are you kidding?"

"Good. Now remember; first ask before you conclude, next time. What about you Lizz?" The Regent turned to face her pale looking and much too quiet a friend. You do not like this one bit do you? Here we go again. The same thing every time I get close to somebody different.

"The Celt, is she coming back with Xena?" Came a forced, stoic question from Lizzeah. The Amazon avoided eye contact with the Regent. If you think I'm letting her have you, think again Eph.

"I think so. That is what she wants, but who knows what she'll find in Avalon.
How that will effect her life and choices, only Rhiannon knows." Ephiny sat down next to her friend, leaned her chin in her palm and an elbow on the table with a thump. She looked at Lizzeah with warm, knowing eyes. "So what gives, Chief?"

"I trust you Eph, believe me. It's the Celt I'm not sure about. That's all." With one swipe of her hand, Lizzeah knocked the arm from under her friend's head and tried to make a run for the far end of the hall when Gabrielle grabbed hold of her arm. The two women crashed into each other as the dark haired chief of drills flung backwards.

"Stay here you. This is no time for fun and games." Gabrielle panted and helped the Amazon up and Ephiny lent her a hand. "Now will everybody sit down and get serious."

The women resettled at the bottom end of the conference hall. Eponin posted an extra guard at the door and lit a few candles.

The Bard started the council meeting by answering Ephiny's initial question first. "I'm okay with Ephiny's freedom of choice on personal matters, like whom she loves. Heck, I made sure you ladies took that up as a law in your archives during my first visit after becoming Queen. I also trust Rhiannon." Her voice grew softer and trembled a little. "What concerns me is that Velasca seems to have power beyond her temporal graves and some of my Amazons believe it, hook, line and sinker."

Part three, In light of what has gone before, is in the make!


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