See part 1 for disclaimer

There is violence, and some sex,(more than my usual) 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 chér!

Also, a big thanks to my beta, Diva, you're the best, babe, but you already knew that.


The Keeper of My Soul--Always 21

By: Alex P.


It took the large party nearly a week to reach the relative safety of their home village. Many of the women from Ciros had returned to family and friends. It was decided that those that knew where they wanted to go were given an escort of Amazons to assure their safety.

After surviving the ordeal of capture and near slavery, the Queen and the

Regent wanted to be sure the liberated women and children got at least a chance to begin their new life.

Along with that thinking it was also decided that since it was their friends and neighbors that had been slaughtered and robbed, then a portion of the spoils taken from the slavers' caravan was given to each woman to help them get a fresh start without having to rely on others.

The Regent and the Queen were backed up by the senior Amazons there, stating that their actions were in the tradition of generosity and support for women to be equal in whatever society they chose to live.

By the time the party reached their destination, several of the outsider

women had already left to start their new lives.

Their feelings of

safety enhanced when word of Karcax's defeat by the combined forces of Corinth and Athens along with others gathered from the surrounding areas.

There was even a small contingent of Amazon archers sent there to assure the larger allies didn't decide that driving the warlord's army over the Amazon borders was good enough and no longer their problem.

The message from the male-dominated forces was full of flowery words of military prowess and overwhelming victories. The report from the Amazon leaders was a little different, and possibly a little more realistic.

When the commander of the archers joined up with the Queen's party shortly after the messenger from Corinth left, the party was less than two days out from the village. Upon getting her archers set up and comfortable, the tired and war-weary woman reported to her Queen, the Queen's champion, and the Queen's regent.

The woman was a little overwhelmed faced with appearing before the three most powerful women in the nation, but the relaxed atmosphere and the hospitality of the Queen herself serving wine along with some meat, cheese, and a loaf of fresh bread, seemed to calm her nerves. The Queen's


toward the commander and her genuine concern for the comfort of the woman

and her troops not only calmed the commander's fears, but gave the woman's feelings of familial love and protection a jump.

Xena had to smile into her wine glass as she recognized the symptoms of conquest by her Gabrielle. The dark warrior shook her head when that glazed look of absolute devotion came to the commander's eyes. It was nothing that her lover did or said on purpose. It was just a way she had about her, that once everyone got to know her, and saw the caring, compassionate, and genuinely interested side of the young woman, they were hooked for life.

They would walk through the fires of Tartarus for the small blonde with the enchanting sea-green eyes. Xena knew the feeling and she had walked through Tartarus to get her back.

Once Gabrielle was satisfied that her guest was as comfortable as she could be in the back of a moving two-wheeled cart, she was ready to sit down and hear what this woman had to say. She flinched a little as she eased into her favorite spot between her beloved warrior's legs, and wrapped safely in the woman's powerful arms.

Only that flinch gave away her facade and let Xena know that her wounds were troubling her. The whip marks were barely a thought but the arrow wounds in her shoulder and thigh still hurt if she tried to do too much, and by the way Xena's muscles tightened the Warrior Princess hadn't missed the tell-tale clue either.

"When this is over, I want you to lay down and take a nap," the forceful woman growled softly into the Queen's ear as she held the petite blonde tightly against her body. "If you refuse to remember that you've been wounded, then I'll take over and do it for you. Is that clear?"

"Oooo, my big, bad warrior is going to force me to bed?" Gabrielle whispered in Xena's ear, giggling at the finger jab into her ribs. "How can I possibly refuse a proposal so sweetly delivered?"

The two women stared into each other's eyes locked in some kind of erotic tug of war, forgetting they had company. The Regent looked over at the Commander as the poor woman shifted uneasily. It was clearly written on her face that the Amazon was feeling like an intruder and wishing she was elsewhere.

Niki nudged the nervous woman and rolled her eyes while smiling broadly.

"You know it's always good to know all is well in the royal household," Niki quipped loudly. "But maybe the Queen and her royal Consort should stop consorting until we have heard this tired woman's report."

Both women jumped as they were jerked back to reality by the voice of their friend reminding them they weren't alone. The group shared a laugh, then the Commander gave her report.

The news was pretty good. Karcax had been soundly defeated,and the Amazons had suffered few casualties. Karcax's army had been destroyed but when the battle was over the warlord and several of his guards were gone.

The outsider commanders decided that Karcax was dead and his body had been destroyed, but the Amazons weren't buying it. They circled the battlefield several times before they found a sign of the warlord's escape plus they'd discovered the warlord's armor abandoned in the trees.

The tracks had been followed long enough to be sure that the warlord's destination was the steppe-lands beyond the Northern mountains. After gathering the information, the commander of the archers rounded up her troops and headed home.

On their way, one of her scouts spotted the party that it was flying the royal banner. The commander decided to join this group for the remainder of the journey home and add her forces to the escort of the royal, whoever that may be, and as duty dictated provide further protection to the group.

Before any of the others could speak, Xena spoke up. As the Queen's Champion, she was also the leader of the Amazon fighting forces and she felt it was her duty the accept the commander's report for Gabrielle.

"Excellent report, commander," Xena told the obviously exhausted Amazon. "You and your warriors should take a well deserved rest and let us worry about camp guards. You and your people have done a fine job and are a credit both to the nation and your Queen. Well done."

"Quite right, Xena." Gabrielle added. "As your Queen, I am honored to have

women such as you and your troops representing me."

"T-thank you, your Highness," the somewhat flustered commander answered as she blushed slightly under the praise of the two women she admired so greatly. "We are honored to serve you and the nation."

Gabrielle saw the poor woman's predicament and tried to ease her embarrassment and poured the woman a second cup of wine. Before long, the

woman had relaxed and the three of them were laughing and joking like old friends, while Xena sat back with a slight smile, watching them. =========================

Finally, the party reached home. Runners had been sent ahead to inform the village of their arrival and to begin the preparations for a hero's funeral for the ones that hadn't made it home. It was a bittersweet homecoming,

Xena and Gabrielle were happy that the escort bringing the wounded Tauria

and the body of her mate Kala had already arrived. They were also overjoyed to hear that despite her grief, Tauria was recovering quickly.

The other Amazons had turned out to welcome their warriors and their Queen and her Champion home. Gabrielle was overwhelmed by the show of affection the Amazons displayed for their queen.

Once the excitement settled down and the returning warriors were properly welcomed home, the wounded were taken from the wagons and taken into the infirmary to be tended to by the Amazon healers.

Xena made sure special attention was paid to the two scouts that had fought with her at the slavers' camp.

The one with the stab wound in the abdomen was healing nicely and was already making noises about getting released so she could go home. The scout's name was Lamia, and the only way she agreed to stay until the healer released her was the promise that Xena herself would work with her to regain her fighting skills, but only after the healer said it was okay and not a minute before.

The other scout, Larisa, was another story, she had been steadily recuperating while the party was on the way home but in the two days since their arrival back in the village and under the care of the healers her condition was getting worse.

The spear in her thigh had

pierced the bone and an infection had developed that the healer had never seen before.

When questioned, the other scouts told Xena and the healers that on the way home Larisa had been cared for only by the outsider women called Portia, and when they had reached the village the woman had for all intents and purposes, disappeared.

When the healer had first begun treating the wounded scout, she found a kind

of poultice on her wound, and since her condition had begun deteriorating she had attempted to analyze the ingredients but they were things the healer didn't recognise.

Thetis and the other healers tried to duplicate the poultice but so far had been unsuccessful.

The Amazon healers were doing everything they knew how, and for most of the wounded warriors it was enough, but for Larisa nothing seemed to work.

Even Xena pitched in and tried to help the badly wounded woman, but to no avail. Pain and fever raged on through her small body, ravaging her system and destroying her ability to heal herself.

The healers the Amazons had were great women of medicine that had learned everything they possibly could in order to care for their tribe.

They could easily handle illness, disease, even most injuries, but this one was beyond them. Even the Warrior Princess had never seen someone suffer as badly as Larisa was.

For the third time in a week, Xena left her sick bed (over Gabrielle's strenuous objections) and did what she could, but in the end, even the highly-skilled warrior was forced to agree with them-- that if something didn't break soon, even taking her leg might not save the young scout's life.

Xena was in a dark mood when she returned to Queen's hut where Gabrielle was waiting. The minute the tall woman swept through the door, her bard knew the treatments on the woman's leg hadn't gone well.

Without a word, Xena went across the room and looked out at the night sky

with it's bejeweled beauty and sighed heavily. Her hands gripped the window sill so hard the impressions of her fingers were left in the wood.

She was at a loss to explain why the brave young scout wasn't responding to the treatments she was getting. What was even more frustrating, Xena was still unable to locate the woman whose skills were so far above her own and far above the skills of the Amazon healers' as well.

It seemed like the woman was trying to disappear and was avoiding their search on purpose. No matter how many pleas Xena sent out in the name of the Queen with promises of great reward and guarantees of amnesty for any and all crimes that would drive a woman into hiding, still no one came forward with the identity or location of the unknown miracle worker.

The warrior was at the end of her rope and was on the verge of breaking her own vow and ask for divine intervention. Even with the revelation of who her other parent was, Xena still didn't trust the gods or their motives when it came to aiding mortals.

Gabrielle walked silently up behind her frustrated warrior and wrapped her arms around the taller woman's waist, gently kissing her back until she felt her lover relax and lean back into her embrace.

"Is she really bad, honey?" Gabrielle asked softly so as not to break the

mood. "Couldn't any of them do anything for her."

"No," Xena said, that one word conveying all the frustration and anger her

inability to help the woman caused the warrior. "And if something isn't done soon, she's going to lose her leg or die. As a warrior, I can't be sure I wouldn't rather die than be a cripple. What do I do, Brie? How can

I make this right? She's laying in there because of me. I owe her better than this. I know I'd rather die than be some helpless cripple the rest of my


Gabrielle gasped and turned her soulmate around to face her, the truth of Xena's statement written in her sky-blue eyes. The Amazon Queen reached up with both hands and cupped Xena's face and pulled the warrior into a long, wet, demanding kiss. When they separated, they were both gasping for air. Gabrielle got her breath back first.

"You listen to me, Xena," the younger woman's emerald-green eyes looked intensely deep into her lover's equally intense azure ones and spoke quietly, yet forcefully, leaving no doubt that she meant each and every word that came out of her mouth. "Don't you ever choose to die and leave me simply because you've lost an appendage. I love all of you and I will always want my living, breathing Champion at my side, limbless, mute, deaf, blind, paralyzed, no matter what. Do I make myself clear?"

Xena nodded tears slowly clouding her vision as she heard the declaration of love. Sometimes the depths of her bard's love almost frightened the mighty Warrior Princess.

"We have sworn to be together no matter what, I meant every part of that vow," the small blonde continued. "You will not break your vow to me just because something has happened to you. You will always come home to me somehow, or by the gods woman I will hunt you down and you will never live it down. That is the one vow you've made me that I expect you to keep.

If you think my phase of the moon is bad now, just you try to leave me simply because you lost a limb. We are going to grow old together and when

the time comes we will meet Hades together. I fell in love with you the day I

met you, I have grown to love you more everyday since. Now<kiss>my<kiss>brave <kiss>beautiful<kiss>warrior<kiss>what <kiss>do<kiss>you<kiss>have<kiss>to <kiss>say?<kiss>"

The highly aroused bard ended her tirade with a long, hot, deep, wet kiss

that seemed to last an eternity. Xena felt her knees go weak and if she hadn't been leaning against the wall with her bard's thigh between hers holding her up, they would have both landed on the floor.

Due to a

serious lack of oxygen, the warrior reluctantly pulled back from this remarkable woman that held her heart and kept her soul safe, and looked deep into the sparkling green eyes seeing everlasting love, devotion, and commitment there, along with a raging inferno of lust.

The emotion of the moment soon gave way to her own arousal. She smiled with relief, seeing an emotion she knew how to deal with for sure. With a

growl of desire, Xena took her little bard into her arms and swept the petite woman off her feet, cradling her close to her chest.


marvelled in everything about this woman, her feel, her smell, the way her muscles shifted as Xena held her, the way she got that impish gleam in her eye just before they went to bed.

The distracted warrior looked

deep into the lust-darkened green pools, and realized she saw that special impish gleam right now.

A lecherous grin spread across the Champion's face as she carried her Queen across the room to the bed. Gently laying her precious cargo on the soft cushy sleeping furs piled deeply on a goose down mattress, the warrior stood up and began slowly removing her leathers, giving her beloved a show as she went.

"Gods,Xena, you are so beautiful," Gabrielle moaned as she watched her lover's clothes disappear. "My world would stop without you."

Xena knelt next to the center of her universe and with gentle feather- light touches, removed each article of the formal attire the small seductress was wearing and threw the offending garments to the floor.

The aroused warrior let her lust-darkened blue eyes roam freely over the truly beautiful body of her lover. The ex-warlord let her hands and fingers explore the already squirming woman beneath her. Gabrielle was panting and gasping for air as each touch that grazed her flesh sent waves of

heat through her entire body.

"Oh gods, Xena, please take me...now!" the over-aroused bard cried out. "Oh...oh...yes paleeese ma-ke love to m-m-me! I-I c-c-can't take this any-more. Take me, my warrior...now!"

"Now, my lovely Queen, please allow this humble peasant to worship your perfect body," Xena said, her voice barely above a whisper, a dark feral smile of victory flickered briefly across her face then it was just as quickly. "Let my lips<kiss>teeth<kiss>and tongue<kiss>prove their devotion

to you."

Unable to speak, Gabrielle nodded her approval, clearly begging with her eyes because of the urgent need consuming the small bard's body. With a smile,

the dark warrior began the slow and gentle ravaging of the woman she loved

more than life.

Once again, silently repeating the vows she had given on the day of their

joining, and adding a vow to never cause her bard to doubt her love and devotion...not now...not ever.


END 21



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