See part 1 for disclaimer
There is violence, and some sex, and a loving relationship between two consenting adults...oh yeah and they're the same gender. If any of this bothers you, or is illegal where you are, or you're not 18 yet then please delete this now and find something else to read. Angst Warning: Some pretty intense emotions here so I was told a tissue alert was in order.
Dedication: For Niki, my inspiration, and the keeper of my soul, my angel. If not for her belief in me this story wouldn't exist. Thanks chere!
Also, a big thanks to my beta, Diva, you're the best, babe, but you already knew that.
The Keeper of My Soul--Always 18
By: Alex P.
Ever since their arrival, Gabrielle had done her best to follow her wife's instructions, knowing that if she showed total trust in her Champion's leadership then the other Amazons would follow Xena's orders without question.
After their initial troubles had been settled and the entire group saw the complete and total trust in her abilities and the way the two women worked together, everyone else followed suit.
Things went as smoothly as expected until it came time to retreat, then things hit a snag. Xena, whether wishing to protect her wife or trying to do what was expected of her, tried to get Gabrielle to leave with main group while Xena stayed behind to cover their retreat.
Gabrielle wasn't buying it and she wasn't shy about letting anyone that cared to listen know exactly what she thought of the idea.
"Oh no, my dear warrior, you can just put that thought right out of that pretty head of yours," Gabrielle argued angrily. "Uh huh, you remember the deal, where you go I go. We broke it once and look what happened."
The outraged little blonde Amazon crossed her arms over her chest and glared at her wife, her stormy green eyes narrowed and focused on the love of her life.
<>What now Warrior Princess?<> Gabrielle thought fuming <>I suppose now I hear the ultimate argument that if I trust you... Well I got news for you missy, if you think that's going to work, well you're just...<>
Gabrielle stared in to those deep blue eyes and knew she was already lost
when she heard.
"Besides, I have a plan. Trust me, okay?"
In that moment of defeat, Gabrielle knew she would have to leave her beloved and trust her to get away and return to her. That's when she thought of the compromise that she knew Xena couldn't refuse. She used her position as Queen and her reputation as the warrior-bard to get Xena to allow her to stay until the first sign of attack, then she promised her lover she'd leave quickly.
Since her wife had agreed to her terms, Gabrielle had every intention of doing exactly as she'd promised. Who could have guessed the enemy could have gotten archers in there so fast.
Gabrielle had turned as soon as she heard the first soldiers come over the wall. The final group was running for the tunnel entrance when a sharp pain struck her thigh and she fell. She looked back over her shoulder and saw an arrow sticking out of her right thigh. It hurt like all Tartarus but she gritted her teeth and broke off most of the shaft.
"Eeeeyow! By the Gods, how does Xena do that?" the bard yelled as the arrow snapped in two, leaving about six inches of the shaft still sticking out of her leg.
She heard her named called out and looked over to see her beloved running to her. Gabrielle was about to try to stop Xena from leaving her position when a second arrow slammed in to her left shoulder.
"Hera's tits this hurts!" Gabrielle growled through clinched teeth. "How did that Gods be damned archer get here so fast? And can't that son of a Bacchae find something else to shoot at?" "My, my such language, and from a Queen," Xena declared after seeing and hearing that Gabrielle was still functioning well for someone struck by two arrows. "You'll have to get yourself to the tunnel. If I take the time to help you they'll have us."
"Don't worry about me, my Champion," Gabrielle quipped as she began to use her good arm and leg to pull herself toward the tunnel entrance. "You just make sure you watch your back and get there with me. You hear me, warrior?"
"Is that a royal command, my love?" Xena called out, as she fought off on
"If that's what it takes, my heart," the wounded blonde huffed back, winded by the exertion of moving herself.
"Then surely I must obey, my soul." the warrior growled as she pulled her
sword from the quickly dying body of a soldier.
Gabrielle looked up just in time to see Aentia and several of the Amazon scouts come charging from the building that held the concealed tunnel entrance.
Rapa came running to where her Queen was struggling to get to the building and as gently as she could, pulled the wounded royal to the entrance of the building, where Gabrielle stopped her.
"That's far enough, Rapa," Gabrielle ordered. "I don't leave until my Champion is at my side."
"But, your Highness..." the dark Amazon began to protest but stopped when
she saw the fierce determination in her friend's eyes. "As you wish, my Queen."
The tall, thin woman turned and, standing guard over her Queen, pulled her
dirks preparing to defend the small bard with her life. By this time, Mallika had joined Gabrielle and her lover at the entrance of the building. Seeing that Rapa had things well in hand, the larger blonde turned and focused her hazel eyes on the Queen's wounds.
"I don't want to try to remove the arrow heads until we find a real healer," she explained to her Queen. "But I'm going to break off the shaft so you can be moved a little easier, okay?"
Gabrielle nodded her approval then clinched her teeth knowing that she was about to feel some serious pain. She was right. As gently as she could, the big Amazon took the shaft in her large hands, and with precision born from experience, Mallika snapped off the wooden shaft, leaving just enough to get a grip on when it came time to remove the arrow head.
Gabrielle let out a small cry of agony and nearly passed out, but she was able to will herself to remain awake.
Beaming with pride for her
small but strong Queen, Mallika began using the rolled cloth bandages she'd gotten from the women at the far end of the tunnel to pack around the arrow shafts in Gabrielle's shoulder and thigh in an effort to stop the bleeding before the blood loss became significant.
When Mallika was finished tending the fresh wounds of the Queen, she rose
to stand next to her partner to face any attack together.
"You know, Mallika," Gabrielle joked, her voice tight from the strain of the day. "If you keep this up I'm going to have to make you the royal medic."
"An honor I'm sure, your Highness." the big, blonde warrior quipped. "But I
couldn't give up the glamour of my present station."
They all three laughed knowing that the scouts always got the dirtiest jobs and the least respect of the Amazon military. A notion that Gabrielle intended to handle as soon as they returned to the Nation.
Doing her best to try to analyse the ongoing battle, Gabrielle couldn't see any real advantage going to either side in the close in fighting. Both side's warriors were top grade fighters and, for the most part, evenly matched in skill.
The only difference in the Amazon's favor was Xena and her unquestioned and almost miraculous combat skills. In this kind of battle the warrior was almost un-beatable.
The problem was that they had underestimated the size of the force they were facing;
partially because the commander of the mercenaries had split his force into two parts when they left the road to close the trap. When that failed
he'd kept them separated until they and located the escaped prisoners and
found out the true size of enemy force he faced. Once the group was all inside the fortress, he'd brought up the second half of his force.
This also explained how he'd come up with siege ladders and a catapult in such a short time. Now, although they had made a large dent in his force, there were still too many of the enemy for the Amazons to face, even with Xena's expertise.
Gabrielle was just about to call for an all out retreat hoping that they could slow the enemy enough in the tunnels to get away. She raised her hand to signal Rapa and Mallika to help her get to the tunnel when the sky darkened with a flight of arrows that fell amongst the enemy with devastating results.
Then a shrill Amazon war cry filled the air and a company of Amazon cavalry fell on the enemy's camp, taking out the catapult and all the enemy's reserves, while another company of both mounted and foot units attacked the flanks of the enemy force attacking the fortress. The ensuing
battle was short and bloody, leaving very few Amazon wounded and only four
dead. And the enemy-- well Amazons didn't take prisoners.
Just as the battle was ending, Gabrielle saw Nikippa ride in on her black
stallion and cut a wide swath to reach Xena. As the two women were about to greet each other, it happened.
No one was ever sure how it happened. Whether Xena was too distracted by Nikippa's timely arrival or she was simply too exhausted for her normally razor sharp instincts to warn her, somehow, a huge, determined mercenary had gotten by the Amazons and got behind Xena.
Gabrielle didn't even see him until he raised his massive war hammer.
"XENA!" the small bard screamed, too late, as the hammer struck her beloved wife, partner, and Champion in the back of the head.
The power of the blow was deflected somewhat as Xena started to turn to see why her lover was screaming, but not enough. The limp body of the instantly unconscious warrior flew through the air to land face first in the mud that was made up of the blood of the battle just fought and lay there still and unmoving like a child's abandoned rag doll.
Her assailant was dead before Xena hit the ground; two sai and two long dirks stuck to the hilt in his body. The sai in his head and the dirks through his heart.
It was like time stopped in the fortress. As if they were waiting for Xena to stand up and brush herself off like she had so many other times. The quivering distraught voice of a heartbroken lover broke the silence.
"Xena. R-Rapa, help me to her." Gabrielle's voice was very small, like that of a frightened child. "Please hurry. P-please."
"Of course, Gabrielle," Rapa said softly and, without hesitation, she scooped up the small, trembling woman and carried her quickly to the still-quiet body of her soulmate.
"Put me down next to her, Rapa," the bard requested, starting to sob just
"Anything, Gabrielle," the dark woman said simply. The assembled Amazons gasped at the use of the Queen's name by a common scout as Rapa.
She bent and gently placed her precious burden next to her lover. When Rapa straightened, Mallika was instantly at her side holding the tall, thin, dark warrior to reassure her of her lover's presence.
"Xena, honey come on," Gabrielle said softly as she pulled her lover's unmoving body to her. "Please, baby, it's time for you to get up now. Please, sweetheart, please open those gorgeous baby blues and look at me.
Please, honey, baby, pleeeease."
Tears fell unnoticed from Gabrielle's eyes as she cradled her everything in her arms, ignoring her own painful wounds. As she began trying to wipe
the mud and grime from her lover's beautiful face, someone handed her a clean damp cloth making the clean up easier.
"She breathes!" someone said loudly.
"Where's a damn healer?" another voice shouted.
"The Queen and her Champion are wounded," an Amazon infantry officer announced like that made it official.
Gabrielle was unable to speak, she just looked up into Nikippa's eyes. The pain, fear, and the plea for help held in those shining green orbs prompted the Regent into action. She hoped she'd never see that look in anyone's eyes ever again.
"Alright people find some place to be," the regent roared and grabbed the Amazon closest to her. "You find that Gods be damned healer and tell her if she values her old hide, she had best get it here yesterday. Is that clear?!"
"Perfectly, your Highness," the young woman declared and ran off in search
of the healer that had come with them.
The regent looked over at the two obvious scouts still standing by their Queen.
"You two can go find a place to rest," the regent said not noticing the hard look in the dark woman's eyes. "I can handle it from here."
"With all due respect *Regent*" Mallika said forcefully, trying to intervene before her mate lost her almost legendary temper (only Xena's was more infamous) "My partner and I promised both the Queen and her champion we would see them safely back to the nation and we will not leave their side until then."
Nikippa heard the steel in the big blonde's words, not to mention the feral growl coming from her dark, dangerous-looking mate and held up her hands as a gesture of peace.
"Never let it be said that the regent kept an Amazon from keeping her word to a fellow Amazon," Nikippa said calmly. "Your mate there reminds me alot of another tall, dark, and dangerous one I'll not mention. It would seem that Xena and Gabrielle trust you, and I always trust them, so how about we all stand guard over them till we get them home? By the way, since we need to work closely, the name's Niki. All that formal stuff is fine back at the Nation but in the outside it just gets on my nerves, K?"
"Gladly your High...er Niki" Mallika said somewhat embarrassed by her slip of the tongue "My name's Mallika please, call me Mal, everybody does, and my partner here, tall, dark, and stoic, is called Rapa."
"Glad to meet you," Niki stated as she sat down on a pallet brought over for her."So tell me what in the name of Tartarus is going on."
Mallika told the regent all that had happened to the Queen and themselves since leaving the Amazon village as other Amazons brought the small group blankets and food.
All the while, Gabrielle heard none of what was going on around her. Every fiber of her being was focused on the beautiful woman laying in her arms.
Every so often she would lean down and kiss the soft unresponsive lips and whisper words of love and future passions hoping for a response, but got none.
The healer came and examined Xena, and found nothing actually broken, but there was a huge knot on the back of her head where the hammer had struck. The healer also examined Gabrielle after much argument, finally it was Rapa that convinced her to allow the examination.
The healer wanted to take the arrows out of Gabrielle right then but the Queen refused, once again it was Rapa that came up with a reasonable answer.
"Come on, Gabrielle," the dark woman whispered into the ear of her friend
and Queen. "Just let them take the one out of your shoulder. Mallika says
it won't take long and they can do it right here. You won't even have to let your beloved go. You're just hurting yourself and you know Xena wouldn't want to be the cause of that now would she? Huh? No she wouldn't."
Gabrielle turned and looked into Rapa's nearly black eyes and saw nothing but caring and sincerity, and nodded. She gave her friend a sad smile then turned back to holding her raven-haired wife.
Gabrielle sent silent prayers to any of the gods that would listen to help heal her beloved.
Unknown to her or any one else, her prayers were heard and the Amazon Queen would soon learn that sometimes help comes from the most unexpected people and places.