Disclaimers: See Chapter 1
Additional Note (Please Read): This story is tied in with, The Conqueror & Ri: A Twist of Destiny. If you have not read the previous chapters preceding this one, you should do so now. I usually have something witty to say here, but my mind is blank right now. I will say/write this though, for the readers that have been reading both tales, it all will pay off in this chapter. If you have not, it's never too late to jump on the band-wagon. Let's begin and enjoy.
Feedback, or comments welcomed at, Martinkendell19@yahoo.com
Xena and Gabrielle,
A Turn of Fate,
Chapter 7: Greater Good
Beads of sweat slowly dribbled off Gabrielle's forehead and neck, onto the sheets of the cot her body slept on. She was having an intense, lucid dream that seemed so real. In it was Xena, who had raven and silver hair tied to the back of her head with only a few wisps hanging around her eyes. Her appearance was aged, but she still looked attractive, dressed in a black tunic covered by armor the color of crimson that had golden chains interlacing from the front chest plate up to her shoulder pads, with a dark cape connected to it. Her legs were concealed in tight-fitting dark leather with intricate, thin embroideries that also were the same red shade as her armor, and black knee-high boots. Equipped on her hips were two swords; one was the original broadsword she always wielded, the other had a gold, ruby-eyed lion headed hilt, and beside it was the dark chakram.
The elder Xena was leaning against the side railings on an average sized ship. She had the expression of being in deep thought about something that clearly made her happy when a huge toothy smile formed on her lips, causing one of her men, whom was wearing purple armor, to stare at her in awe. So she turned her head to hide her visage and concentrated on the darkness.
It was nighttime as the vessel drifted along the sea, a half mile away from the docks of an unknown location. The area she and her small army of soldiers were in was surrounded by a bunch of shadowy trees, as if the body of water resembled a glade.
Something caught her attention in the woods, making her call out words, but the dialogue was muted. A blonde woman, whose long hair was tied in a pony-tail, walked up to the older Xena. It was Glaphyra, and she wore purple armor like the other troops too, except she had an emblem on her right breast plate, deducing rank. A short sword was sheathed on her back and many daggers encircled her waist, which was her custom.
Xena gave her a command, and Glaphyra quickly left to carry it out. Xena's blue orbs focused on whatever it was that made her feel cagey till Glaphyra returned, handing her a bow and several arrows. Xena placed an arrow between her index and middle fingers, drawing it back lightly on the bowstring. She mouthed some more words before closing her left eye and waiting a few seconds. After that, she took aim and fired, hitting someone in the veiled dark. When the figure keeled over and was revealed to be a man styled in Roman armor, Xena shouted out orders.
The scene became terrifyingly un-deaden whilst arrows descended on the ship, causing Xena and her crew to find shelter behind either the thick mast, or below the railings of the vessel. A few men were too slow in finding cover and received the tip of arrows for their sluggish efforts. Xena searched out Glaphyra. Once seeing her unharmed, she conveyed a couple of hand signals. Understanding, the long-haired blonde gathered six troops and went below deck.
Xena was still concealing herself alongside the rails beside the soldier that was watching her in adoration before the raid. He was smiling at her till an arrowhead went through the wooden rail and pierced his neck. The older woman gently eased the shaft out of him. Then, with haste, she tore both sleeves off her tunic to wrap it tightly around his wound to halt the bleeding. The ship started sailing faster towards the pier as Xena closed her eyes in meditation.
Another soldier crawled over to her and the injured man. After he got to them, Xena opened her eyes suddenly to catch a projectile that was seconds from finding its target. The horrified troop gawked at the arrow's tip inches from his head, until Xena dragged him lower to the floorboards of the deck. She pointed to the wounded man in advance of grabbing her bow and a few arrows, whilst the soldier began putting pressure on the torn tunic that was wrapped around his fellow comrade.
Xena moved along the railings of the deck, waiting for split pauses of the barrage to cease before taking quick pop shots with her arrowheads. Every arrow she fired landed on its mark. Finally, Glaphyra, among two of her troops, came back, carrying a bundle of bows and arrows. Xena stood up, catching another arrow out of the air that was about to hit her while looking and yelling at her warriors. The whole army raised their hands in a cheer as the vessel was ten feet from the waterfront.
Xena spun on her boots, doing an amazing frontward flip onto the dock and her soldiers begun returning fire with their projectiles. With the enemy's arrow clutched in her hand, she shot it at the first Roman who charged her. Dropping the bow, she withdrew both her blades, decapitating the second one, slashing the chest of the third, and engaging the fourth.
Glaphyra jumped on the dock when the ship got closer, running past the men that the crimson armored woman had killed. She joined Xena, throwing two daggers into both eyes of an enemy. She tried to take down another man with them, but the Roman soldier dodged it, so she unsheathed the short sword from her back and connected it with his blade. The man was bigger than her and apparently stronger, using brute strength with every swing. Bringing a downward stroke with his gladius, he brought Glaphyra to her knees when she blocked it. The smug grin on his features melted away into a look of pain as a dagger was lodged into his gut, then sliced across his midsection. He fell to the ground and Glaphyra arose, saying some retort with a grin of her own.
By time the rest of Xena's army disembarked the ship and began to fight, forty Romans were already dead, most by Xena's hand. Once she severed the arm of her opponent and thrust her lion handle blade into him, more bombardments of arrows showered her, plus her troops again, after all the Roman soldiers that tried to keep them from advancing beyond the pier were defeated. Her men formed a aegis, shielding themselves as well as the two women. With the assault of projectiles ended, the second wave of Romans came from the woods, branding gladius', spears, and shields of their own. Forming a line of defense, the shield and spear bearers were in the front while the other soldiers stayed behind them to seize their opportunity to get strikes in if Xena, along with her army, got pushed back.
As the Roman phalanx moved forward, Xena stated something that made her troops' facial expressions show laughter. Next, she sheathed her two bloody swords and gripped the dark chakram. Breathing in deeply, she threw it with such force that the razor, circular disc tore asunder every shield the Romans had, killing some of them, too. The chakram didn't ricochet back, but it appeared Xena hadn't expected it to and she called out a command, coaxing the hoplites to pick up where the Romans were cut off; creating their own phalanx. Xena only unsheathed her lion sword, directing it at the opposition, exclaiming one word.
The hoplites proceeded forward, causing the Roman soldiers to take steps backwards, some falling over top of each other in fear. Their retreat foiled by their own cowardice, the hoplites made short work of the second wave. Xena and Glaphyra glanced at one another momentarily before they both decided to join the combat. Xena flipped over the hoplites and Glaphyra sprinted around them.
Xena's blade slashed through flesh and bone, killing one soldier after the other, splashing blood that camouflaged with her armor. When the purple armored woman got into the action, there were just four men still standing. Sheathing her sword, she pulled out two daggers, throwing one in the chest of her enemy, and the second found its way in the leg of an unfortunate other. Trekking up to him, she took the embedded dagger out, then slit his throat with it.
Xena held her hand out, giving the sign for her forces to stop whilst she glared at the two remaining Romans. The first man tried shaking off his nerves and practically leapt right onto the sharpness of her sword. At the sight of the lifeblood leaving his companion's body, the last Roman dropped his weapon. The elder Xena spoke something to him, but when the soldier shook his head in the negative, she rushed over and put the pinch on him. Falling on the bloody soaked grass, Xena kicked him in his chest, forcing the man to land on his back. Next, she positioned her sword over his heart when someone grasped her attention.
Walking out from the obscured shadows that the many trees provided for him and his contingent of Roman troops, moonlight shined on him. It was Brutus, and alongside him was another man with short-cropped brownish hair. Brutus raised both of his hands skywards, appearing to be explaining or offering her something. Locking eyes with him, Xena made no reply, however, she smiled savagely, plunging her lion blade into the dying Roman's body beneath her.
Gabrielle roused from her slumber with a jolt, her upper frame lifting from the cot.
'God, what was that?' She mused, shutting her eyes and wiping the droplets of sweat off her face.
The bard laid down on the cot again, placing the back of her left hand over her closed aqua irises. The dream felt like reality, as if she was really there. She couldn't differentiate whether it was a prophetic vision of the future; remembering the older appearance of Xena, or the past; recalling Glaphyra, Brutus, and the dark chakram.
'It can't possibly be the past. None of those events took place in our lives. Of that, I am certain.' Gabrielle thought. 'It cannot be the future either. Brutus is deceased. I've done the deed myself during the Battle of Actium, and Glaphyra would at least be old like Xena also.'
Deciding it was all a dream, the petite, short-haired blonde cast it aside for now. Opening her eyes, she saw the jade gemstone on her ring was emitting a bright green glow. Gabrielle sat up and studied the strange glowing stone. In the two weeks she has worn it, the jade never done anything like that before. She rubbed her eyes free from the sleep, thinking maybe she remained under the effects of tiredness; her and Xena have been extremely sexually active a lot lately, disrupting their normal sleeping pattern.
She opened her eyes once more to espy that the jade gem on her silver band had gone back to its dull color. Positive it could be the aftereffects of what she had dreamt, Gabrielle started to shake her head to dispel the crazy dream and climbed out from underneath the furs of the cot. Gabrielle determined the sun was rising as she noted its rays crept through the wooden boards of the cabin room's interior.
Scooping up her scarlet top and slipping it on, she seen a basin of water lying on the small table. She doubted her lover was the reason for it being there and wasn't too comfortable about Kenji, or any other person coming in while she was sleeping, but was grateful, nevertheless. Dipping the clean cloth into the water and rinsing the access liquid, Gabrielle washed her face, including all of her hotspots. Feeling refreshed, she put on her boots before exiting the room to ascertain the whereabouts of her future spouse.
Xena was brushing Argo II down whilst having a one-sided conversation with her. "I want to tell Gabrielle everything, but I know how she can be. She'll blow up on me. I should have more confidence in her than that. It's just, Gabrielle doesn't know Akemi personally the way I do. She won't understand. Akemi's a good person who got the short end of the stick in life."
Argo snorted in disagreement.
"Heck, you don't know her either. Neither did your mother. Helping Akemi is the only consolation I'm getting out of stopping her soul-sucking father. And let me tell you, Yodoshi deserves to be sent to wherever it is that the damned go." Xena avowed with malice intent. "The things he'd done to Akemi and her family was cruel. Akemi ended his life and I'd failed in restoring her honor for that action. So, it is my duty to bring peace to her and Japa by obliterating his absolute existence."
The Palomino softly nudged her collarbone, offering support of empathy.
"I knew you would be understandable, girl. I wish Gabrielle could be more perceptive."
Argo began nudging her harshly.
"Okay, you're right, Argo. I will talk with her." She assented, patting and brushing the toffee-colored mare.
Doubts remained about the choice to converse with Gabrielle, anent to Akemi and her own feelings. Xena knew that the Amazon had a huge amount of compassion, but after Xena's sudden departure from their cabin, she became wary. Gabrielle already wasn't contented with going to Japa and she didn't want to chance upsetting her more.
'All I want to do is repair a failing act on my part. Nonetheless, I should be doing this for the Greater Good, not for selfish purposes. I need to place my affections for Akemi back where I had it. I will restore her honor though.' Xena cogitated, declaring aloud, "I owe Akemi that much."
"Who's Akemi?" A familiar voice inquired.
Xena kept her back to the young woman, continuing the ministrations on her mare. "Hello, Tanya. How did you get acceptance to come aboard this ship?"
Taking Xena's question as an open invitation, the auburn-haired warrior walked into the stall.
"When I arrived at the port of Scione, I commenced asking around for captains who wouldn't mind me travelling along as a passenger on their vessel. I didn't want to go back to Larissa, so any destination was alright with me." She paused and blew air out of her mouth in irritation. "I realized I'd left my dinars with Timon. He was the money holder of the squad that I was poorly leading up till now. Anyway, all deals fell through. No money, no fare, unless I was willing to abase myself, which I wasn't. I'm not giving head to get ahead."
Tanya laughed at her own joke, but after seeing that Xena found no humor in it, she nervously coughed.
"I was going to call it a day, till a monk asked me about you. I was skeptical because of the armored warriors he had with him, but he told me they needed your help for an important matter. Once he swore no harm would come to you, we made a trade; my information concerning your location, for a free ride on this gigantic ship. Well, not fully free. I do have to work the galley. Still-"
"The galley?" Tanya finally averred intel that piqued Xena's interest. "Do you know when we set sail?"
"When the sun shines past dawn. It's twilight now, so it won't be long."
'Gods!' Xena was aghast. 'I spent the whole night away from Gabrielle? She's going to be furious.'
Tanya was unaware of Xena's dilemma, so she went on, "I'm up because the other galley workers woke me. I think they're slaves, and all of them are men. Also, all of them are foreigners like the monk who let me come aboard. I surmised they couldn't speak not one bit of greek 'cause I had no idea what they were talking about, until some of them got the message that I was ignorant of their language and started pointing at the oars."
The nineteen-year-old dwelled on the rude awakening the assumed slaves welcomed her to. Next, she released a light chuckle.
"They thought I was insane when I grabbed the oar and tried rowing. That's when one of them directed my attention to the rising sun we could see through the aperture of where the oars were inserted. He pantomined with his hands to vainly show me it represented sunrise. Then, he imitated propelling the oar. I remained at a loss till another guy announced in broken greek what the demonstrator was trying to say. Thank the gods for him." Tanya halted for a moment, considering the Godslayer in front of her, she corrected her statement, "I mean, thank whatever gods remain. That's why I'm here now to check on Brownie before we row. I don't know when we'll get a break and I don't want him to miss me. He can become edgy."
"You named your horse Brownie?" Xena smirked.
"You named your mare Argo Jr?" She retorted back.
"It's Argo II." Xena clarified.
"Same difference. My horse was a going away present to me from my father. He is brown and I happen to like brownies. There you have it." Tanya explained.
"To each its own." The Warrior Princess conceded, putting the brush into the saddle-bags and discovering something amiss.
"Guess I was right, huh?" Tanya smiled.
"What?" Xena remained digging around.
"I told you our paths will meet again. I'm more than assured our destinies are connected." She answered.
"Don't get coincidence confused with destiny, Tanya." Gabrielle pronounced, coming up behind her.
Tanya became surprised by the Amazon's sudden appearance. "Gabrielle, glad to see you again."
"Likewise." The bard responded, passing her to stand near Xena.
The dark-haired woman pretended to keep searching for the other currency she already knew was gone. Xena could sense the displeasure for her pouring off of Gabrielle and was not ready to face it.
"Tanya, I want to be alone with Xena."
It wasn't a request, but an order, and Tanya abided by it. "I'm going to check on my horse in the next-"
"No." Gabrielle interjected. "I need for you to leave the stables. You can see to your horse later. This won't be long."
"Yup." Tanya reluctantly agreed, spinning on her heels and leaving the stall to go back to the galley.
Xena stood onto her feet and walked to the side of Argo, creating a false barrier, while squinted greenish blue eyes leered at her. "Purple Samurai told you where I was?"
The blonde head nodded once.
"I'm sorry, Gabrielle. I didn't mean to stay here in the stables all night."
"Save it, Xena. I knew you weren't coming back to me. You were too absorbed by what's happening in Japa and everything that happened in your past there."
"You're angry with me?" Xena asked.
"Not totally." Gabrielle replied, her disgruntled countenance became somber.
Xena wasn't falling for the trap. There were many of times Gabrielle would appear to be forgivable, only to snare her in for the bite.
"I had a dream whilst I slept. It felt more like a vision than anything else. Identical to the ones I use to have all those years ago. You remember?"
"Yes." Xena was reminiscent of one in particular when she held off the Persian troops.
Before she went one against an army, Gabrielle warned her about the Persian with the double edged sword.
"I'd awaken feeling slightly discontented. I needed you. I'm trying to get it out of my head, but I can't." The Amazon looked down and Xena moved towards her as she professed, "The jade gem of my ring is usually darkened, but when I woke, it was glowing very brightly. Then, it stopped after I closed my eyes."
"It probably was your imagination running away from you." Xena insisted, pulling her lover into her arms. "I should have been there."
"Why did you leave me?" The muffled voice questioned against her chest.
'Damn it.' Xena fell for the ploy and began feeling the entrapment.
If she gave a half-truthful response, Gabrielle would see through it and fuss. Answering wholeheartedly, Xena could risk the bard not caring for what she's hearing and fuss. The tall warrior could deny a reply altogether, and Gabrielle would fuss. Expelling a sigh, she prepared herself mentally, hoping that her beautiful future wife wouldn't make her regret her decision.
Disengaging from the embrace, Xena started to expound, "This mission is causing mixed emotions in me. I want to help Harukata for the right reasons, but I find myself wanting to fulfill my own selfish desires."
Gabrielle queried, "Are you upset our wedding will be put off?"
"No." Xena affirmed too vehemently for Gabrielle's pleasure. "If it were only that, this would be a piece of cake. I'd just decline aiding the Samurai and we would be heading to Egypt this instant."
"So why aren't we?" Gabrielle posed a different query, smothering the flame within her.
"Akemi is much more important than all of that." Xena proclaimed.
"Akemi's more imperative than our marriage!" Gabrielle felt the fire become an inferno.
"It isn't a comparison contest. Do not twist my words before I can finish them." Xena was halting her ire.
"I'm not twisting anything, Xena. You are the person who said it. I'm not blind, I can see."
Exasperated, Xena prompted, "What do you see, hmm?"
"You promised we would settle... We're not, and you don't seem nonplussed by it at all. I don't even know why I have the audacity to think you'd care!" Gabrielle exclaimed.
"Things happen sometimes and it alter plans. Don't misconstrue my caring for wanting to restore Akemi's honor as apathy for our love."
"You have done a terrific job of that yourself, Xena. You didn't even..." Gabrielle breathed in to find a sense of calmness, but didn't. "You haven't bother to ask me if I wanted to take this trip to Japa. You made that sole decision and I accepted it. You've treated me like shit since you'd heard the name Akemi and I'd tolerated it. You leave me last night on the brink of copulating and I was accepting that, until now, when you try to stand here feeding me garbage about how you feel torn between helping Harukata for moral reasons or egoism. It all adds up to the same outcome anyway; going to Japa. I don't care about none of that, just honestly tell me why you left me last night?"
"This is the main purpose I didn't want to talk with you on this matter. I had expressed to you how my time in Japa affected me. I didn't elucidate on a grand scale, but that's what I am trying to do now, and you blatantly call me a liar while I'm telling you how I feel." Xena was offended. "How dare you!"
"You are a liar!" Gabrielle blared, getting it off her chest and out in the open. "Whilst we were in King Thoas' kingdom in Thebes, when you proposed, you confided to me that you'd never fell in love with another person after Caesar. Clearly that isn't true... Far from it. You're so caught up with Akemi, the only time I can get a reaction out of you is by mentioning her name. She's the basis of why you've forsook me last night. Admit it!"
Xena turned away from the blonde Amazon in rage. She took umbrage with Gabrielle's accusation of falseness.
'I did not lie. I simply pushed the memory of Akemi to the far recesses of my mind, to the extent of casting her out. I allowed myself to forget about her. I declared nothing but truths that night in bed with Gabrielle. I'd confessed my love, my soul. I had bared my all to the woman I'll marry... Would have married.'
Xena kept silent, keeping her ruminations where she felt they belong; in her head, safe and guarded, for it served no benefit to expose them to Gabrielle, because she would continue to do exactly what Xena feared.
The dark woman's facial features were twisted in anger before she replaced it with a stoic facade that she had perfected. Stepping over to the saddle-bags to retrieve the brush once more, Xena began grooming Argo again with her back still to her lover.
"Don't ignore this and act like I'm not here. Say something." The bard demanded.
Xena continued on what she was doing, so Gabrielle's hand touched her arm to spin her around, but the dark-haired woman yanked her off forcefully. Gabrielle sucked her teeth and tried to do it a second time. Xena complied, then shoved her a few steps backwards, shocking the cropped blonde.
"It would be wise if you refrain from touching me, little girl." Xena warned in an acerbic tone.
"Or what?" Gabrielle refused to cower. "You'll hit me... Again. With what this time, I wonder. Your fist or chakram?"
Another blow to Xena's heart, but she didn't let her apathetic mask falter. "Touch me and find out."
The velvet-clad Amazon was hiding her discomposure. She had no idea what her soul mate would do, however, she wasn't backing down due to stubborn pride.
"Xena Sama, and, Gabrielle San." Kenji came in the nick of time. "Good morning. Forgive the intrusion, but the Shogun awaits both your presences before breakfast."
The Warrior Princess tossed the brush into the open saddle-bag, departing the stall behind the monk.
Gabrielle's orbs watched her disappear, pondering, 'Perhaps I've pushed her to the edge prematurely. Xena hadn't ever gotten this mad at me when she was wrong. Indifferent, but never violent.'
With a heavy conscious, Gabrielle followed as well.
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