The Keeper of My Soul--Always 10

by: Alex P.


Xena let out a sigh of resignation as she began trying to think of a way to escape what she knew was going to happen soon.

"What's going to happen?" The Amazon asked so she could better herself and her people. "And how do we fight it?"

The troop leader's confidence in the warrior's abilities was evident in her willingness to follow the tall intense woman, despite her error.

"The trap is simple," Xena began. "Lull your pursuers with an obvious splitting of forces, then when they follow the slave caravan to save their people, fall on them from behind, catching them between the two groups and destroy them."

Aentia let out a low whistle of understanding of their precarious position, and how devastatingly simple it was. Even a fool could carry it off, and they'd seen Karcax was no fool.

"You have a plan?" She asked hoping the warrior princess was worth her reputation.

"Yes I do, but it's desperate and I can't ask you to risk it," Xena said truthfully. "It appeals to me because it gets my bard out of their hands quicker. You and your warriors can get off the trail, and hide in the trees until Karcax's army passes and find your way to the reinforcements I hope will be coming soon."

Aentia looked at Xena her eyes hard at first, but when she saw the champion was only trying to spare her Amazons, she softened her retort.

"No way, Xena," the determined and loyal Amazon stated flatly. "That's our Queen and our sisters in danger up there. It is a matter of honor that we help bring them out safely. With you or without you, that's exactly what we will do."

Xena nodded, understanding the demands of honor, and filled Aentia in on her plan. It was basic. Following in the finest Amazon tradition of guerrilla warfare, Aentia and the twelve remaining Amazons would, under cover of darkness, enter the rear guards' camp and as quietly and as efficiently as possible, kill every breathing human they found there that

wasn't a prisoner.

Xena stressed the quickly part of her plan, because she hoped to still have enough night to move on to the main caravan and repeat the action.

If everything went as planed, and Artemis and Athena were with them, the Queen, her two remaining escorts, and any other prisoners would be freed before any real resistance could be mounted.

Xena's too was a

devastatingly simple plan, and by many it would be considered cold-blooded

murder, but considering the odds and the fact that it was her Brie that was being held, Xena didn't give a damn what anyone thought.

Aentia agreed, and after setting up a few necessary signals that not only

the Amazons but also Gabrielle would immediately understand, they were ready.

In less than one and a half candlemarks, the deadly group was in position around the sloppily erected rear guard camp.

"If these had been my men their, sergeant would have been executed, and the senior men whipped for a camp like this," Xena whispered to Aentia as they waited for the signal that the perimeter guards were taken care of. It came shortly. "This is it. Good hunting."

With that, the warrior let out a night bird call that every Amazon knew, and dark sinister figures slipped silently into the camp and began moving among the sleeping men.

Stopping at each lump, the women moved quickly, only a minor grunt or groan marked their passage.

Soon the signal was heard, and Xena knew every man in the small camp was dead; either their throats were slit or a razor sharp blade shoved into the brain through the eye or ear.

None of the enemy had been aware of the attack until it was too late, and as Xena ordered, they left no wounded, and took no prisoners. When the phantoms slipped once more into the shadows, only the dead remained.

Only one Amazon was injured. One of younger scouts was stabbed in the arm

while struggling with a guard whose throat was already slit. Her wound was

quickly bound, and the deadly group moved on to their next target less than a

league down the road.

Two of the scouts had gone on ahead and mapped out the lay of the larger camp. One of them brought back the information while the other kept an eye on the camp from nearby shadowed tree tops to see any changes in the camp's status.

Xena stressed to them that she expected no surprises once they entered the camp. Her plan was to take out the perimeter guards then, as in the last

camp, slip in quietly and take out as many as they could before the camp was

alerted to their presence.

This was a larger camp, and Xena knew there was no way they'd be able to pull off taking out the entire camp without someone raising the alarm.

However, once the alarm sounded, they were to split into three groups. The one

led by Aentia would go directly to where Gabrielle was being held, and free her and any others with her. Each of the scouts in that group was carrying an extra sword to arm any of the freed prisoners that wanted it. The

wounded youngster was also carrying the queen's staff that Xena had found in

Ciros, not far from where she'd found the area where the children had been

taken under a stone that was marked by a circle with an X in the center.

A sign Xena and Gabrielle had used many times, it had been her symbol back when Xena had been the most feared warlord in Greece. Tauria had told them how Gabrielle had been defending the children, and other non-combatants when she'd been forced to surrender to save the lives she was protecting.

Tauria had heard it all but because of her wounds, the weight of the bodies, and other debris piled on top of her, was unable to help Gabrielle.

When Xena checked, she found Gabrielle's and her escorts' Amazon weapons and other markings hidden so their captors wouldn't know who or what they were.

She had collected and cleaned each item carefully so she could return them to her bard once they were back together.

It gave the warrior a good feeling to be returning her lover's belongings to her, especially items that meant as much to Gabrielle as her Amazon things. The bard was very proud of her adopted people, and Xena intended to see that no warlord took that away from the brave little bard-- no matter what.

It was easy for the warrior see why her partner held the Amazons so precious in her heart. They were the first people, after Xena, to accept the young blonde from Poteidaia as herself and not judge her by her size or background. The Amazons were as much a part of what Gabrielle had become over the years as her travels with Xena was.

The young bard had weathered through some very bad times with the Amazon nation since becoming part of the Amazon royalty. She grieved the bad times and the loss of many old and valued friends and the little blonde had rejoiced in the good times.

This had also played a large part of

Xena and the nation coming to terms with the Warrior Princess' past crimes and transgressions against the Amazons.

With that in mind, Xena and Aentia regrouped their troops and headed them

toward the slavers' main camp. Both anxious to free their Queen and to prepare to defend themselves from the attack that both women knew was inevitable.


END 10



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