See part 1 for disclaimers.
The Keeper of My Soul--Always 13
By: Alex P.
Gabrielle spent almost the entire night telling Mallika about her warrior and their adventures together. How they had fallen in love but had spent years fearing to tell each other for fear of driving away the other.
She smiled through her tears as she told of the day that the bard and her warrior had finally declared their love for each other. Gabrielle told her willing audience of one all about the way Xena had been so romantic and had spent months courting her before asking to marry her.
Then Gabrielle told of all the trials and tribulations they had survived before they were finally joined in a formal Amazon royal ceremony. By the time the bard had related the entire story to Mallika, the sky was getting lighter and both women were yawning from sleep deprivation.
The blonde Amazon warrior felt compassion for her Queen when she went over the apparent misunderstanding that had led to the sudden exit of the Warrior Princess the night before and promised to help the devastated Queen find a way to mend the break between the lovers.
"Your highness, it seems to me that your warrior still loves you very much," Mallika said thoughtfully. "But when she learned what you had been
subjected to during our captivity, it hurt her that she wasn't there to protect you. Her pride was wounded and she feels she has failed you by not being there."
"How could that bother her?" Gabrielle asked, confused by the tall well-built woman's explanation. "She was still on the road to Ciros when all that happened."
"That is true, my Queen, but..." Mallika began.
"Mallika please," the Queen interrupted. "After all we've been through together, I think it is okay to just call me Gabrielle."
"As you wish, my Que...I mean, Gabrielle," her new-found friend answered then continued. "I know it's hard to understand believe me, you should have heard Rapa after the floggings. She almost did away with herself for not defending us. She felt she had failed not only her lover but the nation also by not defending you."
"That's just crazy," the small bard returned. "She was in no way responsible for what happened."
"I know that and you know that," Mallika tried to explain. "You must remember we are dealing with warriors here not just anyone. They feel they must be stronger, wiser, and more capable than the rest of us. They think they must be infallible at all times."
"Tell me about it," Gabrielle snorted. "I've been dealing with Miss "I have many skills" for years now."
"Exactly and not among those skills is the ability to accept defeat gracefully," the older woman laughed at Gabrielle's name for her infamous
companion. "So when they are not able to protect us from the bad things that happen to us, they feel they have let us down because we should expect them to always be able to stop that kind of thing before it happens."
"Oh I get it," Gabrielle exclaimed as the meaning became clear. "You're saying
that Xena thinks I have to be angry at her because she wasn't there to stop those pigs from flogging us and their friends from groping me."
"That's right, and if she's anything like my beloved warrior, you have your work cut out for you," Mallika said smiling sympatheticly. "Because this is the famous Xena Warrior Princess you have to deal with. Rapa at least was there when each thing happened and we were able to deal with each thing as it happened, but your Xena, has had to face everything that happened to you all at once. That, and to be honest Gabrielle, with all
her famous skills her ego is larger but far more fragile than my Rapa's. I don't envy you your task. She has already convinced herself that you are
better off without her, and that you feel the same way. That will put quite a
hole in her ego, you will have your work cut out for you just convincing her
that you still want her.
I would offer to help but I just don't see anything I can do, however if there is let me know, I'd be more than happy to help you
Gabrielle stared at the woman that had shared the humiliation of capture with her as if she was seeing this remarkably wise person for the first time. She was about to ask her friend another question when she heard a commotion coming from the main camp.
Fearing the attack Xena had predicted, Gabrielle grabbed her weapons and ran toward the disturbance. The Queen's fears were put to rest when she found a young Amazon named Aria at the center of attention. Gabrielle recognised her immediately as one of the three scouts Xena had sent ahead to access the old fortress she wanted to take the group to to await the arrival of reinforcements.
Upon seeing the Queen in their midst, the crowd became quiet and the Amazons in the group went to one knee and placed their right fists over their hearts in salute to their Queen.
"Alright enough of this formality," Gabrielle announced. "Get up and Aria
give me your report."
Having learned many things from her years with an ex-warlord, Gabrielle knew it would be better to get the scout's report away from the others in case it was bad news.
Getting Aentia's attention, she called the scout commander over to her campsite where the troop leader joined her to receive the report, it was good news for a change.
"Alright Aria," Gabrielle asked her voice calm and all business. "Tell us
what you've found."
"It was everything your Champion hoped for, your highness," the tired woman began. "The outer walls are intact and strong. The gates are in good enough condition to close and bar anyone's entrance and there a few buildings that are still habitable.
When I left, Kasta and Fila were cleaning up the buildings for the civilians and there is abundant game. Before I left, we managed to take two large deer and dressed them out so that upon your arrival there will be a good meal awaiting everyone."
Sensing the scout was finished, Gabrielle turned to Aentia and looked the
battle scared woman, that was waiting her orders.
"Well I guess since nearly the entire camp is already awake and buzzing with rumors," Gabrielle began, "I suppose we should finish waking the rest of the camp and head out."
"As you command, your Highness," the older Amazon answered. "Will we take
the time for them to eat before we leave? "How much longer before we get there?" the bard asked.
"We should reach the fortress walls shortly after sundown," Aentia replied simply. "Barring any complications."
"Well then, I guess we'd better feed them," Gabrielle said trying to consider the needs of the group. "They can snack during rests so we can push straight through, no stops long enough to have a full meal until we get to the fortress."
Both scouts bowed to their Queen, and without comment, hurried away to carry out her wishes.
The group of refugees moved as quickly as they could throughout the day, taking as few rest stops as they could. Xena seemed to be everywhere at once.
Anytime someone fell down or lagged behind, the warrior was there helping
them up and encouraging them to keep up with the column. She was everywhere that is, except where Gabrielle was. The Warrior Princess was doing everything in her power to avoid the woman that held her soul. She feared looking into those bright, brave, green eyes and seeing the disappointment she knew must be there.
Every time she saw her bard approaching, Xena would spur Argo in the opposite direction saying she was keeping an eye out for Karcax's army.
Gabrielle knew better and after a while, gave up trying to talk to her deluded lover, vowing to trap the elusive warrior once they were at the fortress.
It was a full three candlemarks after dark when the exhausted group finally reached the freshly repaired gates of the old fortress. Later that night after everyone was fed and bedded down for the night and a schedule of guard shifts was set,
Gabrielle was finally freed from her
duties as Amazon Queen and was at last able to go in search of her missing lover to deliver a piece of her mind and get her stubborn wife back in her bed where she belonged.
"We will get through this, Xena my love," the bard whispered to herself. "You will be back at my side where you belong and no one will stand in my way...Not even you."
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