Gabrielle stands in the doorway of the healer’s hut and watches her sister Amazons suffer for her sins. Calida lies on a pallet with her eyes bandaged  but at least  sleeping peacefully thanks to a heavy dose of sleeping draught. Varia kneels by the pallet with her head resting on Calida’s arm. She too sleeps but from anxiety and exhaustion. It pains her to see them like this. Her most vivid memory of these two women is of them fighting for the survival of the Amazon nation against Bellaraphon.

  A hand on her shoulder rouses Gabrielle. She turns her head to meet the eyes of Lunara , the  village healer since Ephiny’s reign. She is an honored elder among their people. She fought the Romans and the centaurs and healed the wounds  of her sisters those many years ago. Despite her age the Amazon fire is still in her eyes. She nods towards the door and Gabrielle follows. The two women leave the hut and Gabrielle asks , “ Calida. Will she…”

  Lunara shakes her head. “ The damage is far too extensive,” she says. “ Her eyes were destroyed, my Queen.”

  Gabrielle mentally winces at the use of her erstwhile title. She forgets that this woman was there when Gabrielle arrived with Terrias’s body and the princess’s rite of caste. She fights back the urge to tell the healer that the queen is in the hut kneeling by the side of her maimed lover.

  “She’ll be blind the rest of her life. It is I think a cruel fate for one who was such a strong warrior.”

  “Is a strong warrior Lunara. She is an Amazon. How can she be any less?”  More spite seeps into her words than she intends but she cannot bear the healer’s words.

  “Apologies , my Queen,”  Lunara mutters bowing her head in a subservient manner.

  Biting back her ire , Gabrielle responds , “ None are needed. I should apologize. This situation may soon spiral out of control. And I don’t know what to do to stop it.”

  “The idea that she is loose,” Lunara shudders. “Who could have done such a thing? And why?”

  “Releasing Velasca has but one purpose.”

  “Someone wants to torment you.”

  “There are few who even know about Velasca and her transformation. Even fewer who knew where she was entombed. But anyone who knows  her knows her desire. She wants me dead. Or worse this time. She wants me to live just long enough to see all my sisters dead.”

  “ I would pray to Artemis for your protection. Were there a goddess to hear me.”

  Gabrielle tries not to think about that particular subject. The Amazons are her people thus Artemis was her patron. But the goddess of the hunt fell like all the rest before Xena and the power bestowed upon her by Michael.

  “ Who is she by the way?” Lunara asks as they enter the village square. Gabrielle shakes from her memories not quite understanding the question. Lunara points to where Brunnhilda walks with Tara deep in conversation. “Your companion I mean. We heard of the death of Xena and thought our queen on her own. Now you travel with this blond warrior who draws the attention of so any of our sisters I hardly think it decent.”

  Brunnhilda sees Gabrielle and the Amazon watching her. She smiles in the direction of her friend in the hopes of eliciting a similar reaction. But she only nods and walks on.

  “Brunnhilda is a valkyrie,” Gabrielle responds turning her eyes from her friend. “ She comes from the far northern regions. She was of great help to Xena and I once. She sacrificed much to help me personally. Recently she came back to aid me again.”

  “I had not thought to see you traveling with another,”  the Amazon healer states. Gabrielle is taken aback by her words. Lunara sees the confusion. “ When you and Xena first came here it was obvious you were close friends and allies. You were but  a girl then. Hardly any idea what it meant to be Amazon. On your subsequent visits I saw a strength of body and soul increasing with time. You and she were inseparable. I could hardly believe it that day when she dragged you from the village like that.”

  Gabrielle remembers well that incident. Being dragged behind Argo for what seemed like miles. Her flesh had been torn. Her bones had been broken. Her body had been mangled almost beyond her ability to comprehend that kind of pain. But she felt she had deserved it. Solan had died because she had not been able to understand what Xena had already known. Hope was evil.

  “ That’s all behind me know,” she says aloud more to herself than to Lunara.

 “ But the two of you grew stronger and stronger. And one can assume closer and closer. Ephiny was always astonished that the two of you never came here to finalize your union.”

  Gabrielle misses a step. “What?”

  “ So you can understand why it is the others are so fascinated with this woman you have taken as a companion after Xena’s death.”

  Gabrielle halts in her tracks to stare dumbfounded at Lunara. She throws a quick glance at Brunnhilda and finds the warrior once more looking in her direction.  “Lunara. I don’t think this is a subject I am willing to discuss with you or any of the others. I hope you understand.”

  “I understand that you are not denying what I have said,” the elder Amazon says with a smile. Gabrielle looks to Brunnhilda once more and shakes her head in exasperation.


  “I thought she was a legend,”  a young Amazon warrior states. “My mother always said that if I wasn’t a good girl that Velasca would come and get me. I never knew she actually existed.”

  “ She is, I’m sorry to say ,very real,” Gabrielle replies.

  “ Indeed,”  Brunnhilda concurs. “And deadly. You would not want to know the things we saw in the Amazon village far to the east.”

  “ What are we do to?” a mere child of twelve asks with a tremble of fear in her voice. “She is a god. What chance do we have? “

  “And she has promised to make us all suffer,”  the child’s mother says placing a protective arm around her shoulder. “ Suffer when we have done nothing.”  When she completes that statement her gaze is on Gabrielle making it clear who she blames for the impending catastrophe.

  The warrior bard has just finished her tale of Velasca and how she became a god. Now she is waiting to see what will be the reaction of her fellow Amazons. She holds the mother’s gaze with one of her own. “ If I thought it would save any of you I would call down Velasca right now and tell her to slowly tear me in half. But I know that will not work. Velasca is mad. She wants her revenge for what I did to her. And she will do whatever she deems appropriate to see it done. If she says she will murder you all before my eyes before she sends me to the afterlife then that is what she will do.”

  “ How do you know?”  a teenage warrior barely out of her early years asks.  “Ask  her! Maybe she will spare us!”

  Brunnhilda jumps to her feet. “ You’d ask Gabrielle to sacrifice herself?”

  For one moment Gabrielle stares in silence at her friend’s reaction. It fills her heart with a sliver of joy to see that she cares about her so deeply. She reaches out and takes Brunnhilda’s wrist in her hand. “Bru. It’s all right.”

  “ No! It isn’t.”  The woman’s eyes are still on the teenager.

  Gabrielle wonders if she may have to hold her friend back when a voice speaks up from behind them.

  “No one is going to sacrifice themselves to stop that bitch. Especially not our queen.”  Varia strides into the meeting hall. In her hands, Gabrielle is distraught to see, she carries the queen’s mask.  Varia leers at the teenager. “You will speak no more this day or I will cut off your head and put it on a pike outside the queen’s hut as a warning to any  who would dare speak such treachery.”  She turns and places that gaze on all those within the hall. “ I will not hear any words against my queen! Calida lies blind and fevered in the healer’s hut! But even with the pain she is feeling she had but one request. She told me to seek out our queen and tell her that she in not to blame for Velasca. That she is not to blame for any suffering we endure.

  “ I am Varia! Amazon born! I have fought  since my childhood for a strong Amazon nation. I will not see it weakened by cowards! “  She turns to Gabrielle and finds herself face to face with Brunnhilda. The valkyrie’s eyes burn with fire and blood and courage.

  Gabrielle stands beside Brunnhilda. This is not why I came, Varia, .she thinks to herself. She did not come here to reclaim the mask. But it see that the Fates have ordained that it must hers mine again.  “ Bru,” she whispers in her friend’s ear. “Stand aside. Please” 

  Brunnhilda turns to face her friend. They are mere inches apart. She can feel Gabrielle’s warm breath upon her face. And not for the first time she wonders why it is she uses that shortened form of her name. And why it makes her feel so happy to hear it. She steps aside.   

  Varia holds out the mask for Gabrielle. Everyone in the hall watches in anticipation for what will happen next. They watch as Gabrielle stares down at the mask as if it were come beast that will bite her if she holds out her hand.

  Varia nods to Gabrielle. “It is now and was always yours. Ephiny and I and all the others were merely guarding it for you until you returned to claim it.”

  Gabrielle holds out trembling hands.  If she take it there can be no turning back. She will be queen. And she will stay. She cannot pass it on again as she have done before.  She looks to Brunnhilda again. The Norse woman with whom she has become such deep friends with seems to read her thought. She nods.  For a strong Amazon nation,  Gabrielle thinks to herself. “ For a strong Amazon nation,” she says aloud for all to hear as she takes the mask from Varia.

  “For a strong Amazon nation!” all in the hall repeat.


  Now wearing Amazon leathers and with the queen’s mask turned up on her head Gabrielle enters the healer’s hut once more. Lunara turns from where she attending  Calida. She nods as she applies a poultice to the warrior’s eyes. For a split second Gabrielle can see the damage that Velasca has done and it  sickens her. But like she has done so often she pushes that grief down into that dark place within. She wonders for a moment when that dark place first came to existence. That part of her that condones violence. That part of her that can justify taking a life. That part of her that can kill. She remembers a gold ring, an arena in Rome and a man begging for his life to be spared not only by Caesar. But by her.  Tell them who I am!

  “I’d like to speak with her,” Gabrielle says. Lunara nods again then moves towards the door.

  But the healer stops as she passes Gabrielle. Before when they had talked Gabrielle had been wearing scarlet leather armor that included a armored collar. Now she wears Amazon leather and her neck is uncovered. And so Lunara is somewhat disturbed to see  a scar on one side of her neck and two pairs of bite marks on either side as well. “ My queen,” she gasps indicating the wounds.

  “Mementos of the past Lunara,”  she replies. “Pay them no mind.”  But if Gabrielle tries hard enough she can  almost feel the Bacchae sinking their fangs into her flesh. A memory that both enthralls and repulses her. She pushes it aside and walks to Calida’s side.

  “Varia will never admit it but she’s missed you,”  Calida says. “ And she often prays to our ancestors that they forgive her for what she did at Helicon.”

  “There is nothing to be forgiven,”  Gabrielle replies. “And I have missed her too. I have missed you all.” She takes Calida’s hand in her and grips it tightly.

  “Careful my queen,” Calida says. “ You will make Varia jealous. Not that the whole village isn’t jealous of your blond companion.”

  Gabrielle feels herself turning red.  Is she wearing a sign that even a blind woman can read?  She laughs to cover her embarrassment. She lays a hand on her sister Amazon’s forehead. Her skin is warm to the touch but not the burning of a high fever.

  “Lunara says the fever has broken and that the infection is almost gone,”  Calida explains so matter-of-factly that one would hardly think she has been maimed for life. “Once I am strong enough to stand I will be there to serve you in whatever way I can , my queen.”

  “You focus on resting,” Gabrielle says patting her friend’s hand. “I’ll be back to check on you later.”

  Calida smiles then her body relaxes as seems to go to sleep.

  Brunnhilda meets Gabrielle as she leaves the hut. “She’s so strong,” Gabrielle states. “It’s no wonder Varia chose her as her champion.”

  “And took her as a lover,” Brunnhilda says. Gabrielle’s forward motion grinds to a halt. Brunnhilda grins. “ Oh I’ve been chatting with some of your fellow Amazons…my queen.” The last words come out with more of an undertone than she has intended.

  “I see,” Gabrielle feels herself going a little red again.

  Somehow sensing she has perhaps said something wrong Brunnhilda changes the subject. “ Exchanged your red leathers for Amazon finery.”

  “It only seems appropriate.”  Gabrielle flexes her right hand to test how the leather covering her palm and wrist feels.

 “Still not sure you can catch it right,” Brunnhilda says indicating the leather on her hand then the chakrum.

  “ I’ll never be as good as Xena was with it.”

 Deciding they have put it off long enough Brunnhilda raises the subject . “ What are we going to do?”

  “I’ve been thinking. I have a few ideas. One each as implausible as the next.”

  “ What about Eve? She can simply take the godhood from Velasca can’t she?”

  “ She’s gone east again and I can’t waste the time to search for her. We’ve not clue when Velasca will return.”

  “ Still no theories on who released her?”

  “ Most of the enemies Xena and I made over our years together are gone. Thanks to sleeping for thirty years under a mountain we managed to inadvertently out live them all I think.”

  “It’s got to be someone with a grudge against you. Why else release a goddess that has such hatred for you?”

  “This is just making my head hurt, you know?”

  “ Sorry. You can understand that I am a little worried.”

  The concern in her voice is touching. Gabrielle says , “ Thanks for caring.” She reaches out to place a hand on her friend’s shoulder. Instead her hand lays against Brunnhilda’s neck in a much more familiar than is necessary fashion. Their eyes meet for a moment and they don’t speak.

  “ Your majesty,” Tara intones more loudly than needed. She watches with some amusement as Gabrielle rapidly draws her hand back and Brunnhilda finds something extremely interesting on the ground to study.

  “Yes Tara,”  Gabrielle says trying to sound dignified but certain there is no way to hide how mortified she feels.

  “ The feast to start the festival will begin soon. If she is going to join us, your friend…” Tara pauses for a moment to look Brunnhilda over rather appraisingly. “ …should be properly attired. Her metallic garb will hardly be fitting .”

  Shocked Brunnhilda asks , “With the threat of Velasca hanging over your head , you’re going to have a celebration.”

  “It is the Harvest festival,” Tara informs the Norse woman. “ It is celebrated at this time every year. We will not ignore our customs and our identity just because we are threatened.”

  “ I hope you won’t mind trading in your valkyrie armor for Amazon leathers?”  Gabrielle asks.

  “ I would be honored, my queen,”  Brunnhilda says bowing to Gabrielle. She turns to Tara. “ I suppose I’ll follow you.”

  Tara nods and indicates Brunnhilda should follow. As they walk away Gabrielle calls to them. “Tara. Once she’s attired, show Brunnhilda to the temple please.”

  “Temple?”  Brunnhilda inquires.


  Some distance from the village Gabrielle finds the temple to Artemis. Or more precisely she finds what is left of it. It is in worse shape than the last time she saw it. Soon she fears it will be nothing but rubble. A monument to a dead goddess and , though the thought terrifies her,  perhaps one day to a dead people.  Xena had told her once that she had watched the Amazons go from a mightily nation to scattered villages. Now there isn’t much left.  Soon we’ll be gone, she thinks. Will anyone mourn us? Will anyone remember us? We fought at Troy. We battled  mighty nations. Centaurs. Rome. Barbarian hordes. Will there even be legends to tell?

  “Dinar for your thoughts,”  Brunnhilda says seeing her friend staring at the temple with misty eyes.

  “ Fear is gripping my heart , Bru. It’s whispering to me. ‘You will be the last queen of the Amazons. I don’t want that to happen.”

  “ It won’t,” Brunnhilda retorts trying to break the unhealthy melancholy surrounding Gabrielle. She indicates the ruin before them. “What is this place?”

  Gabrielle tries her best to hide her expression when she sees Brunnhilda dressed in Amazon leathers. For a moment she feels something besides sadness. But just as quickly it is gone.

  “Before the Twilight, it was a temple to Artemis. Now like all other temples dedicated to the Olympians it’s falling apart. Returning to the earth. More grave stones than places of worship. Memorials to immortal arrogance.”  She shakes her head. “ If they had just left her alone. Xena didn’t want to be the instrument that brought about their destruction. She simply wanted to protect her daughter. But their pride wouldn’t let them leave well enough alone. Eli was the hammer. Xena was the nail. They closed the coffin on Artemis, Athena, Poseidon, Hephaestus…” Gabrielle trails off as something she had forgotten comes back to her.

  Brunnhilda steps towards the temple ruins. “I want to go in,” she says.

  “You won’t find anything but dust and sorrow,” Gabrielle replies.

  “ All the same,” she holds out a hand to Gabrielle. “Come with me?”

 Gabrielle takes the proffered hand and allows herself to be led inside. The inside looks no better than the outside. What had once been stone benches and altars are now nothing more than heaps of stone. Where once there would have been the smell of incense and perfume now there is only the lingering odor of dust and mold. Flies circle about a heap of grayish sludge that Gabrielle assumes might have been an offering to the goddess of the hunt. The temple’s interior has the feel of a place that has been abandoned for years. And that is not far from the truth. Though only about three years have passed since the Twilight , the temple looks like it has not seen worshippers in decades.

 Brunnhilda is shocked by the decrepitude of the temple.  “Are all the temples to the Olympians like this?”

  Gabrielle nods slowly. “ Worshippers of the gods no doubt felt the lose of their patrons as soon as Xena struck them down. I always find it ironic that the first to fall was Zeus and that the only one left is Ares.”

  “ You mentioned Zeus. He was king of the gods here as Odin is in the north. And that he met his end at the hands of his own son. Perhaps he could help.”

  “ I’ve no idea where to find Hercules or if he’s even still alive. No Bru. I’m afraid we’ll get no outside help.”

  Brunnhilda notes the broken altar. “ I’ve seen some of your fellow Amazons in prayer. To whom do they pray if Artemis is dead?”

  “ The worship of their ancestors is now their religion. They pray to those warriors and queens who have gone before into the land of the dead.”

  “ And do their ancestors answer them?”

  “ I would have to think they do. Ephiny’s spirit came to me years ago to ask for mine and Xena’s help in aiding her son. I don’t think it’s hard to believe that if she could come to me that the great Amazons of the past might not heed the calls of their descendants. I like to hope that Hippolyta and Antiope would listen to the prayers of their children and their children’s children.”

  “ And to whom do you pray Gabrielle?” a voice inquires from the entrance.

  Both Gabrielle and Brunnhilda wheel about, each drawing their swords to face this foe. Expecting to see Velasca they are confused to be faced by an bent , old woman with white hair , parchment-like skin and sunken eyes who leans on a crooked staff that has a black cloth draped over its top.

  “ Who are you? “ Brunnhilda asks. She has no memory of seeing this old woman in the village.

  The stranger pays the taller blonde no attention but rivets her eyes on Gabrielle. She takes in the new look of the protégé of the warrior princess. The long , blond , braided hair. The Amazon leathers. The chakrum hanging at her hip. The Amazon sword in her hand. The mask perched on her head. The  scars on her neck. And most noticeable of all and in direst contrast to the Gabrielle she knew is the coldness behind the green eyes.

  “ You’ve changed.” The statement is meant to rattle Gabrielle. And it does. She can see the bard racking her brain trying to figure out who she is.

  <she has no idea who you are. This is too delicious.> the voice whispers to her. Her eyes glance to the cloth lain across  the top of her staff and she has to suppress a grin.

  “ Do you still pray to Eli and his god when you feel troubled? “  As she speak she steps closer. “ Or do you  ask for guidance from Cyane? Or  maybe your friend Ephiny?”

  “ I asked who you are!” Brunnhilda shouts.

  “ You don’t recognize me do you Gabrielle?”  the crone asks.

  Gabrielle stares at the woman but can find nothing  familiar about her. Her eyes travel to the staff she leans on and to its top. Her gaze lingers on the cloth draped over it.

  A scream shatters the uncomfortable silence. Gabrielle’s blood runs cold.

  “ Those would be the screams of your subjects, Queen Gabrielle,”  the old woman says with a sneer. And though she is certain it is her anxious mind playing tricks on her  Gabrielle is certain that another voice saying the same words overlapped those of this strange old woman.

  The two warriors bolt past the woman and out of the temple.

  Running full tilt down the path that connects the temple ruins to the village , Gabrielle hears it. It has been thirty years since she last heard her name screamed like a curse by this woman.


  Gabrielle missteps and stumbles to the ground. Brunnhilda is there to help her up but for a moment she doesn’t want to move. She doesn’t want to face this specter from her past. The fear of  a young , naïve girl comes rushing into her as she remembers the ivory white eyes that held nothing but hate and death for her.


   “Gabrielle,” Brunnhilda says trying to pull the queen to her feet. “Come on.”

  “ I…I can’t…I’m scared…” Gabrielle stutters. In her minds eyes she sees her own dismembered body lying next to that of Cyane. She murdered an entire village. What is she supposed to do?!

  “GABRIELLE!”  This time the screaming of her name is punctuated by the scream of a woman in hellish agony.  Her people. She’ll kill them all. She has to try something. She closes her eyes for an instant to pray.  “Ephiny give me strength,” she says in a hushed tone.  She is on her feet and running down the path an instant later. Brunnhilda follows.


 Tara draws back and an arrow and looses it. The arrow thuds into the back of the woman who has just impaled a sixteen year old Amazon through the chest with her hand. She takes no notice of the shaft sticking from her back as she tosses the bloody corpse away.  Spear in hand , a tall dark haired warrior runs full charge into Velasca. She blocks the thrust of the spear and back hands the warrior. Blood is flung from her mouth and she staggers back. Velasca pulls the spear from her grasp and swings the weapon at another approaching Amazon. The warrior blocks the attack but is unbalanced . The goddess swings the spear at the warrior’s feet and she falls onto her back. Velasca rams the spear into her gut impaling the warrior to the ground. She writhes on the ground , vainly trying to remove the weapon.

  “GABRIELLE!”  Velasca screams.  Two Amazons rush her with swords and daggers. As if bored she casually tosses a pair of fireballs at the approaching warrior women. They are ablaze and screaming , knowing the torments of hell on earth.

  Tara draws back another arrow and lets it fly. This time  Velasca snatches the arrow in mid-flight. Then she hurls it back at her foe with incredible force. The arrow hammers into Tara’s shoulder , shattering her collar bone, tearing muscles and severing nerves. She stands stunned for a moment. Her bow drops from her limp and useless hand. Velasca in standing before her before she can even comprehend it. She seizes Tara by the throat and lifts her into the air.  Her sword is drawn from her scabbard by the goddess.

 “ Pathetic,”  Velasca says. “ And you call yourselves Amazons.”   She draws back the blade preparing to impale the woman with it. The sword is knocked aside and she is kicked in the gut. The attack surprises Velasca  and she stumbles back.

  Tara slumps to the ground and manages to see Varia advancing towards the homicidal god before she passes out from the pain. “ And who are you?” Velasca asks sneering at the dark haired warrior before her.

  “ Varia,” she replies simply. The rage simmering below the surface since Calida was brought back into the village explodes. “ You’ll pay for what you did to her!” She screams a war cry then rushes forward.

 Gabrielle and Brunnhilda run into the village in time to see Varia surging towards Velasca. They watch as Varia screams madly while hammering at the sword Velasca  wields. Gripping her sword with both hands she throws all her weight into each attack while Velasca parries each blow one handed.

  “ You have more back bone than most of these children,”  Velasca remarks. The words only serve to incense  Varia who doubles her efforts to get her blade into the mad woman before her. The goddess seems merely amused. From the corner of her eyes she sees Gabrielle moving closer to them. She smiles at the fact that Gabrielle is having to step over and around the bodies of several of her fellow Amazons.

  Varia takes advantage of her opponent’s lull in attention and slides close and in between her defenses. Her blade slides with ease into the other woman’s stomach. She pushes the blade up to the hilt all the while driven by her rage at Calida’s maiming.

  She looks up to see Velasca  just smiling down at her. “ Stupid girl,” she says as she slams the pommel of her sword into Varia’s face. Knocked nearly unconscious Varia wobbles on her feet. Blood seeps from her mouth, nose and eyes. Velasca seizes her by the hair to hold her up.

  “ No,” Gabrielle mutters as she runs forward nearly tripping over a pair of charred corpses.

   Velasca drops the sword she is holding and draws the one from her own body. “ Did you honestly believe you could kill me, little girl? I’m a god.”  She throws the sword into the ground with such force that it disappears beneath the surface. She shifts her grip from Varia’s hair to her neck. Lifting her off the ground she turns so that they both face Gabrielle. She notices with interest the proximity of the blonde woman to Gabrielle.  Who would’ve thought she’d find someone after Xena was gone. She may kill her last. Make Gabrielle watch as she flays her skin off inch by inch.  She holds Varia up off the ground. The Amazon hangs limp like a rag doll in the goddess’s grip.

  “ No,” Gabrielle says aloud as she rushes forward with all the speed she can muster.

  For the first time , Velasca sees the queen’s mask Gabrielle wears . The same mask the arrogant bard took from her so long ago. She takes Varia by the thigh in her other hand and raises the woman over her head. “ BEAR WITNESS QUEEN OF THE AMAZONS!”  she screams as she brings Varia down with all the force her godhood can create.

  “NO!”  Gabrielle screams in horror.

  When Varia’s body impacts with Velasca’s raised knee the sound of bone shattering makes the Amazons who watch helplessly sick to their stomachs. The scream from Varia that follows in no less heart wrenching. Velasca drops the Amazon’s body to the ground like it is garbage. She smiles and then laughs when she sees Gabrielle drop to her knees and weep like a child. All the other Amazons are too stunned by what they have witnessed to even move. Varia is among the mightiest of their warriors in decades. And yet  she has been broken like a child’s toy. Velasca looks around at them all. “ I think the Harvest festival is officially cancelled.”  Laughing maniacally she points to Gabrielle. The blonde one who arrived with her is on her knees next to Gabrielle and holding her crying companion in a manner that seems very familiar in Velasca’s estimation. Familiar bordering on the intimate.  “ Once I gave you the chance to give up that mask Gabrielle. You chose instead to humiliate me. This is the price of your folly. This is the retribution you are reaping for your pride and arrogance. It has only begun.”  She points to the one next to Gabrielle.  “What is your name?”

  Brunnhilda begins to rise to her feet to draw her sword but hears the sobbing coming from Gabrielle and realizes she cannot leave the queen’s side. Gabrielle’s tear filled eyes are set on Varia’s still form. Though it may see futile , she wraps her arms around her dear friend to lend her what strength she has. With defiance in her voice she answers the goddess. “ Brunnhilda.” Her eyes go wide when she sees lightning coursing up and down Velasca’s arm.

  “ It seems you have taken Xena’s place at her side.”  Velasca lowers her arm. “ Do you take the warrior princess’s place in other ways I wonder..”

  Brunnhilda cannot hide the surge of blood to her face at what Velasca implies. She does not give the woman the satisfaction of a response.

  Velasca chuckles. “ Then you shall be the last to die before her eyes, Brunnhilda. I will rip you into tiny pieces and feed them to Gabrielle.”  She turns her full attention to Gabrielle. “ In the end this is all your own doing. All this blood…”  she indicates the carnage around her. “ …is on your hands.”

  But Gabrielle isn’t even paying attention to Velasca anymore. She is trying to break free of Brunnhilda’s grip and get to Varia whom she sees is somehow still breathing.

  “ I’ll return soon Gabrielle. Watch for me.”  Velasca vanishes  in a blur of light and sound. 

  A labored breath escapes Varia’s lips and Gabrielle throws Brunnhilda off her. “Let me go!”  She crawls the remaining distance to her friend. Several other Amazons race to them. Brunnhilda is not far behind.  “Varia,“ Gabrielle says in a pleading voice. “Varia. Please. Answer me.”

  In a voice so faint it can barely be heard Varia replies , “Gabrielle. I’m sorry my queen. I failed you.”

  “ Lunara!” Gabrielle screams.

 “Can’t feel my legs…I can’t…” Varia manages before slipping into unconsciousness.


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