Disaster at Stryman Pass
By Blind Faith
Email Address: email@example.com
Disclaimer: All the characters in the following story belong to Universal Studios and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright violations were intended. This story was written purely for entertainment purposes and not for profit of any kind. This is just something Ive been wanting to attempt. Thanks for indulging me.
Note: This story takes place shortly after the events of the episode "One Against An Army."
Violence warning: Yes, theres some violence and some bloodshed, but its a work of fiction and its Xena. If you arent interested in a little blood and violence, you shouldnt read this story. Its got plenty of both.
The golden light from the flickering campfire caressed the surrounding tree trunks and foliage, and the smoke drifted lazily into the night sky. Gabrielle sat down heavily on her bedroll, having completed her third trip to the edge of the clearing looking for Xenas return. As she ran her hand through her hair to swipe it back from her face, she frowned.
Where could she be? This is so unlike her. In fact, Xena had hardly left her side at all since they had left Tripolis after they, mostly Xena herself, had defeated the Persian army. In fact, the closeness between them had even increased if that were at all possible. Gabrielle smiled wistfully as she remembered those first moments after awakening in the loft of the armory.
Her senses returned to her slowly. Lying on the pallet with her eyes still closed, she could hear the birds singing off in the distance, their shrill cries muted by the walls of the loft. An occasional creaking of the wood and rustling in the straw signaled a stillness that certainly had been missing during the attack on the armory. And from close to her right side, she could hear the deep, even breathing that signaled that Xena was not yet awake.
A quick glance showed her the warrior was indeed still asleep, so Gabrielle took a moment to look at the warriors condition to see things she had been too tired and sick to notice before. The exhausted state of her partner was obvious to see. There was a large purple bruise discoloring the left side of her face, covering the area from her cheekbone down to the line of her jaw. Blood had run from a laceration on her forehead above her left eye and tracked to her hairline, causing her bangs and the left side of her head to be caked in blood. The worst injury appeared to be a sword cut on the upper left arm. The wound had bled freely onto the straw around them and was still seeping slowly. That was definitely going to require stitches! With a sardonic quirk of her lips, she remembered Xenas words of reassurance as she had collapsed next to the bard. " No, Im all right." Right. A normal person would be recovering for a week at least after doing all that Xena had done. Of course, a normal person couldnt have defeated a whole army single-handedly.
With a gentle shake of her head, Gabrielles gaze slowly tracked back to her partners face, and she found a concerned pair of blue eyes watching her closely. She smiled tentatively, and in the next moment she was firmly grabbed by strong arms and wrapped in a very comforting hug. There had been no need for words; their emotions had been expressed prior to the attack when neither believed they would survive. The feelings they were experiencing now could be expressed more in the physical embrace they shared, feelings of love, relief, and the joy that both were still alive at the end of this amazing day.
And since that moment, Xena had simply been lavishing her with attention. Gabrielle smiled again as she thought about this really overprotective streak in the warrior that had been showing up more and more these past weeks. It was really endearing, though at times it had become nearly smothering. Oh well, smothering or not, it felt pretty good!
That is what made the missing warriors absence even more troubling tonight. Xena had left well over two hours ago to catch something for their dinner and to take Argo down to the creek for some water. Granted, the walk to the creek was no stroll through a meadow! It was at least a quarter mile to the creek, and the path was nearly vertical and filled with large boulders and loose gravel waiting to trap the unsuspecting traveler.
But Xena certainly didnt qualify as unsuspecting, and she certainly wasnt a novice at traveling through rough terrain. It wouldnt have taken too long to walk Argo to the creek, and there was no way that Xena couldnt have found a rabbit by now or at least caught a fish in the creek. They had seen plenty of wildlife in these woods all day long as they had traveled toward Corinth.
Something was wrong. It had to be. Gabrielle couldnt stand to wait any longer. I know that if I meet Xena on the trail and she is fine, then I will never live this one down. I can see her raised eyebrow now as I explain to her that I was coming to rescue her. Oh well, if this turns out to be something that we can both laugh about later, then its going to be well worth this little embarrassment. With that thought, Gabrielle grabbed her staff and headed down the path in search of the warrior.
The wave of nausea and the bright burst of pain brought her slowly back to consciousness. She registered the hard feel of the soil under her back and the sharp jab of several stones pressing through tears in the leather. Through eyes closed to mere slits against the pain, she could make out the blurry lights of the stars in the night sky. How much time had passed since the fall?
"Oh, boy .Ive really done it this time," she groaned painfully. "I just need to focus a little here so I can move." She then concentrated on compartmentalizing the pain and setting it aside, using skills that she had developed through years of violent warfare and past injuries.
However, the confusion refused to recede. What had happened to Argo? Where was Gabrielle? She remembered leaving Gabrielle at the clearing in the woods where they had made camp earlier in the evening. Gabrielle had been exhausted. Several times along the path the bard had stumbled over rocks that she had been too tired to avoid. Xena had insisted that her friend lie down for a nap while she set up camp and led Argo to the nearby creek for a much-needed drink. She could easily catch something for dinner and have it cooked by the time the bard was awake again. Gabrielle had gladly given in to the exhaustion of the hot days travel, and Xena had started off down the trail toward the water.
A second shaft of excruciating pain drew a groan from her.
"Concentrate focus " Xena struggled with her control. "Its only pain. Ive dealt with this before. Relax into the pain," she reminded herself. She slowly lifted her head to assess her situation. Waves of dizziness caused her to nearly black out again. Not good!
She had fallen over forty feet down the steep embankment near the creek, and she could hear the water cascading over the rocks nearby. However, she wasnt able to see the water from where she had fallen. "If only I had seen that part of the path had been eroded by heavy rainfall before I took Argo across that section," Xena cursed herself. She hadnt done something this careless in quite some time.
The path had essentially crumbled out from under the warrior and her horse as they had headed down to the water. Xena remembered pulling Argos reins hard and pushing her ahead toward solid footing. Then she remembered the sensation of helplessness as the hillside collapsed around her. She had tried to jump to safety, but there had been nothing to push against to gain her balance and momentum. Then the rocks and loose dirt had carried her over the edge of a precipice, and she had smashed onto the rocks below.
I guess that Gabrielle wasnt the only one tired from the hot sun today, Xena mused. "When I get out of this mess, Im never going to hear the end of this," she muttered and then took a gasping breath as the pain rocked her again. "Im the one whos always lecturing Gabrielle on safety and responsibility. I know shes going to enjoy feeding me some of my own words once this is over." And Xena chuckled silently at the thought of the bards reprimand and her protective nature. Somehow, just thinking about Gabrielle was reassuring and helped to bring a sense of peace, even though the pain was enough to steal her strength and blur her thoughts.
She tried to assess the damage she had sustained in the fall. She could tell that she had a pretty bad concussion that was causing her thoughts to swim as if through a dense fog, and a quick glance down her body confirmed a compound fracture of her lower right leg. The sharp pain that lanced through her chest with each breath also signaled at least one broken rib and probably more. Oh well, Ive suffered worse than this and survived. If only Gabrielle
Even as her eyes fluttered closed, she heard Gabrielles hesitant call from above her on the hillside. "Xena? Where are you?" She could tell from the tremor in Gabrielles voice that the bard was worried and upset. Somehow she was going to have to let Gabrielle know she was down here and needed help.
Gabrielle, meanwhile, was feeling very unnerved. "Something is just not right, and I dont like it," muttered Gabrielle under her breath as she stepped over a fallen log at the edge of the trail. And then she heard a weak sound off to the left of the trail and hurried in that direction. "Xena?" she called out tentatively. After taking only a couple of steps, she saw the freshly crumbled hillside, the twisted roots of upturned trees, and a twenty-foot section of the trail that had been destroyed. "By the gods ."
"Gabrielle," came a weak voice from down near the creek.
Xena swallowed to try to moisten her mouth and tried again. "Gabrielle," she managed in a stronger voice this time.
"Xena? I can hear you, but I cant see where you are. Are you O.K? Where are you? Its too dark for me to see you." Gabrielle continued to call out in a frantic attempt to locate the warrior. Xena could tell that Gabrielle was close to the edge of the crumbled path above her, and she felt dust and loose pebbles pelt her as Gabrielle moved closer.
"Gabrielle, stand back! The edge is too unstable," Xena struggled.
"Xena, I cant see you. How far down are you? How badly are you hurt?" Gabrielle could feel her heart constricting, and she was having trouble catching her breath as the adrenaline pumped through her. Damn, so much for laughing about all of this later. Please, Artemis, give me the strength to do what I need to do to get both of us out of this alive, Gabrielle prayed as she knelt down near the edge. "Xena, can you still hear me?"
"Gabrielle, Im not going to be able to get . myself out of here without your help. We are going . to need a torch and some rope from the camp." The weak, hoarse voice that was her own was a shock even to Xena. Gods, Ill be scaring Gabrielle half to death unless I can perk up here a little. In a stronger voice, Xena continued. "Gabrielle, youre also going to have to find Argo. Theres no way that you can lift me out of here by yourself, and I I dont think that I will be able to help you much."
Her voice trailed off weakly as another wave of dizziness caused her to clamp her lips closed and to squint her eyes shut against the pounding pain in her head. She could feel the weakness in her arms and legs and knew that the chances of getting out of this situation quickly or easily were rapidly diminishing.
"Hang on! Ill be right back," she heard Gabrielle yell down to her, but she couldnt gather the energy to respond. Please hurry, Gabrielle! She could tell from the receding footsteps that Gabrielle was already gone. Suddenly, the pain and exhaustion were too much. She felt herself going out again, and even though she fought it, her world faded slowly to darkness.
Gabrielles breath was already coming in ragged gasps by the time she climbed back up the path and had collected a torch, some rope, and Xenas medical bag. She then began the search for Argo. "Argo!" How far can she have gone? Gabrielle despaired. And then another terrible thought occurred to her. What if Argo hadnt made it past the landslide? What if the warhorse had also tumbled down into the ravine? Gabrielle, there is no time to dwell on these dark thoughts. Just keep moving! She mentally cursed herself and struggled to focus.
A rustling off to her right stopped her, and she heard the familiar steps of the horse. "Argo," she gasped. "Thank the gods! Come on, girl. We have to go pull Xena back up to the path, and Im going to need your help to do it." Argo tossed her head and snorted in response as she followed Gabrielle back down the path toward the washed out trail.
Gabrielle had not allowed herself to think about Xenas injuries up to this point, but as she ran back up the trail, she couldnt help but wonder what she was going to find when she reached Xena. This is not good. Xena hadnt even sounded like herself earlier; the pain was very evident in her weakened voice. Whatever her injuries are, I just hope that the training she has given me these past three years will be enough. Oh, Xena, please hang in there until I can get to you, she pleaded.
Gabrielle stopped at the edge of the precipice and held the lit torch over the edge and into the depth of darkness below her. Even by leaning over the edge as far as possible, she was not able to see Xena in the blackness below her. "Xena, can you hear me?" She called down the slope. There was no answering response from the warrior. "Xena?" She called out even louder. Still there was no answer from the surrounding blackness in the night, and a cold chill ran up her spine.
Clamping her lips shut in grim determination, she secured the rope to Argo and commanded her to stand still. She then wedged the torch into a crevice in the rock wall because there was no possible way for her to carry the torch with her as she climbed down to Xena. The placement of the torch would allow as much light as possible to shine down over the edge, but she doubted that any of the light would reach down to the bottom. However, it was the best she could do at the moment, and now time was of the essence. She draped the strap of the medical bag over her shoulders and then tied the other end of the rope around her own waist and lowered herself over the side of the cliff.
She could hear the clatter of rocks tumbling from her position to the rocks below, and by the delay of the sound, it was obvious to her that it was a long way down to the bottom. "Damn. This is not a good time to remember that Im afraid of heights," she mumbled. Then taking a deep breath, Gabrielle blocked out everything except the knowledge that Xena was in trouble and needed her. With that renewed focus, she continued her careful descent.
In the inky blackness at the base of the cliff, Xena slowly began to regain some of her senses. With her eyes still closed, she could hear the gurgling of the creek nearby and also the cry of an owl overhead as it hunted for its evening meal. The clatter of small stones and loose dirt signaled to her that Gabrielle was on her way down the hillside. The ringing inside her head from the concussion made it impossible to tell how far away the bard was from her. "Gabrielle?" She murmured.
There was an audible gasp from the darkness above her. "Xena. Hang on. Im almost there." Then with a final crash of dirt and stones, Gabrielle was beside her. "Oh, Xena. What happened? Where are you hurt?" As Gabrielle knelt beside the warrior, she placed a comforting hand on Xenas forehead. The skin was damp with a cold perspiration, a sign that the warrior was in shock. And even in the shadows, she could see a dark stain covering the right side of Xenas head near the temple that had to be blood.
"G Gabrielle." The whispered word was spoken softly but with great relief. "I I tried to but I .I couldnt ."
"Shhh. Xena, dont try to talk too much now. You can tell me about this later. Right now, I need to see the injuries so I can treat them and get you back to the camp." As she spoke, she swung the medical bag off her shoulders and began running her hands down Xenas body to find other injuries.
Though the warrior didnt cry out, the tensing of her muscles as the bard lightly touched her torso signaled broken ribs and maybe even some internal injuries. And there was no need to feel down the right leg for damage because it was obvious from the angle of the lower leg that it was broken. A quick check of the other leg and the arms failed to show any serious injuries other than bruises and bloody abrasions, and Gabrielle moved back up to kneel at the warriors head.
"Xena, Im going to have to splint your leg with your sword before we can move you, and Im going to need to bandage your head to stop the bleeding." When the warrior failed to answer, Gabrielle reached out and placed her hands on Xenas shoulders, her brows drawn together with worry. "Xena? Are you still with me?" At the slight nod from the warrior, Gabrielle took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.
This nightmare couldnt end soon enough to suit her. She left the sword in the scabbard to prevent further injury to Xena and then began securing it with strips of bandages to the broken leg. She straightened out the leg as much as possible, but couldnt get enough leverage to set the bones. That would have to wait until they were back at camp. Gabrielle then carefully lifted Xenas head and slipped a bandage under it, bringing it up and tying it around the forehead, securing a compress in place over the laceration. Though it was going to be painful, the ribs would have to remain unwrapped until the leathers and armor could be removed later. Gabrielle hoped that the tight laces of the leathers would provide some support for the damaged area.
The bard took a deep breath and looked down at Xenas pale face. She could see that Xenas eyes were open and her eyebrows were drawn together by the pain. "Its time. Are you ready?"
Xenas lips quirked and formed a wry smile. "Oh yeah. Im ready for this." Then with a look of sympathy for the young bard, she continued. "You are going to have to tie the rope around both of us and then command Argo to back up. As as we are pulled up, Ill try to help you work our way over the rocks." The effort it took to just speak those words drained the warrior, and as she gasped in short breaths to regain her air, her head rolled to the side and her eyes closed.
"Hey, take it easy here, Xena. E easy. We can make it through this together. Im going to get you out of here. Dont you worry," Gabrielle comforted. "I just wish that I could somehow reduce the pain for you. This is NOT going to be a fun trip. Hey! What if I gave you some of the powder out of your bag here for the pain?"
Even before the question was out of her mouth, Xena was shaking her head. "No, Gabrielle, I need to be as alert as possible for this climb." After a couple of short breaths, Xena winked. "Piece of cake ."
With a sad little smile and a grunt of disbelief, Gabrielle worked the rope around their shoulders and under their arms and tied it off, using one of the knots that Xena had taught her. Once she had again checked the rope and the knot, she yelled up to Argo and the rope became taut. Then slowly she and Xena were pulled to their feet and the climb was underway.
Though an agonized cry had been forced from the warrior as she had been pulled to her feet, most of the trip up the side of the cliff was completed in a stoic silence, punctuated by heavy breathing and painful gasps. Gabrielle struggled to keep them out and away from the rocks as much as possible, and at some of the most difficult places, Xena was able to help with her arms and left leg. However, for most of the climb Xenas head hung forward limply and the painful gasps for air stole much of her reserved strength. The effort to remain conscious was as intense as any battle she had ever fought out in the field. Gabrielle continued to murmur words of comfort and encouragement, even as she panted from extreme demands being made on her own muscles.
Finally, the top edge of the precipice was within reach, and as Gabrielle struggled for those last few inches, Argo pulled until both women were laying in a collapsed heap on the rugged surface of the path, gasping for breath. The torch was still burning, and its golden glow illuminated their sweat-soaked bodies with a soft light.
As her surroundings slowly came back into focus, Gabrielle rolled over to check on Xena. The warrior was face down and was turned slightly onto her right side, her arms wrapped tightly around her ribcage. Her breathing was shallow and labored, and her eyes were clamped tightly shut as she struggled to regain control of the pain. As Gabrielle reached out a hand to clasp the warriors shoulder, Xena managed to open one eye and briefly smile in reassurance. "Piece of cake " she whispered and then passed out.
Gabrielle quickly scrambled to her knees and checked Xenas pulse. It was rapid but strong, wonderfully strong under the bards trembling fingers. Amazing . However, Gabrielle knew that she had to get Xena back to the camp quickly and get the wounds treated and the healing herbs and pain killers into the warriors ravaged body.
After untying the rope from their shoulders and standing up on her still trembling legs, Gabrielle contemplated her next move. She briefly thought about making camp here on the trail so that she wouldnt have to move Xena any further; however, the instability of this area had already cost them both dearly. So, Gabrielle began planning the best way to get Xena back to camp. She was not strong enough to lift the unconscious warrior into the saddle by herself, so that option was out. She was going to need a couple of sturdy poles for a litter, and a blanket would be needed to cushion the poles. Then Argo was going to have to drag Xena back to the campfire. It would be a rough, painful trip, but there simply was no other way to get Xena back to camp.
With those plans determined, Gabrielle checked the warrior once more, but she was still unconscious. A tear slipped down the bards cheek as she gently stroked the warriors face. She thought of moving Xena off to the side of the path, but she knew that it was dangerous to move her more than was necessary. Right, Gabrielle. You just drug her up forty feet of a cliff face, tied to the end of a rope. Youre lucky you havent killed her yet! That particular thought caused a sharp pain in her chest. The memories of Xenas death in Niklios cabin came vividly to mind, and she clamped down on those thoughts before they could overwhelm her and steal her resolve. Its O.K., she reassured herself. I have to move her to safety. It has to be done. Xena taught me these things. I can do this.
Though leaving Xena alone and unconscious on this lonely path was one of the hardest things the bard had ever had to do, the necessity of taking some quick action spurred her on at a full run up the path and into the woods. She slid to a stop at the edge of the camp and doubled over with her hands on her knees, gasping to catch her breath. By the gods, I am so tired, but Ive got to keep going. Please, Artemis, help me
Clamping down on the agony of her screaming muscles, she grabbed their bedroll and set off into the woods to find two sturdy poles for the litter. The forest was an old one, and Gabrielle soon found some branches on a fallen tree that would support Xenas weight. She groaned aloud when she realized that she had forgotten to get a needle and some twine so that she could secure the blanket to the poles. With the bedroll thrown over her shoulders, she dragged the poles through the dense forest to the campsite, not even noticing the brambles and thorns that ripped through the skin on her exposed legs and arms. Only when a vicious branch struck her across the cheekbone did she realize the painful scratches and bruises she was accumulating.
"Oh, this is just great," she grumbled. "Isnt anything ever easy?"
With a quirk of one eyebrow and a small upward curve of her lips, she admitted to herself that things were rarely easy, or boring, with Xena. She entered the now nearly dark campsite and rushed to build up the fire. She quickly stacked some rocks near the flame and placed one of the water skins on the rocks for hot water. Then she rummaged through Xenas pack for the twine and a needle and sprinted back down the path to where Xena lay.
The warrior didnt appear to have moved in the time that Gabrielle had been gone. She was still turned on her side with her arms wrapped loosely around her ribs. Her face was shockingly pale against the dark of her leathers. The bruise over her temple had spread to cover half of her face, and her breathing was much more labored than it had been earlier.
As Gabrielle knelt down in the sharp gravel beside her fallen warrior, it was impossible to keep the despair at bay. "Xena, can you hear me?" She softly touched the warriors forehead, her own tears dropping onto the dusty path. Xenas skin was icy to the touch. Once again Gabrielle was reminded of the time last year when she had reached into the sarcophagus to place the ambrosia between Xenas lips. The warriors skin had been icy against the pads of her fingertips. Gabrielle shook herself out of these painful memories, angrily wiped away her tears, and refocused on the task at hand.
It took nearly a candlemark for Gabrielle to complete the task, but finally she had Xena and Argo back to the camp and the fire blazing up to provide both light and warmth. Fortunately, Xena was still unconscious and couldnt feel the pain as Gabrielle shifted her off of the litter and onto her bedroll. The bleeding from the head wound seemed to have stopped, though the bandage was soaked with blood and the dried blood had matted Xenas hair to the side of her head.
Once the bard had arranged Xena as comfortably as she could, she moved to the end of Xenas right leg, and after another quick glance at the warriors still face, she grasped the foot and ankle. Gods, how I hate to do this. Forgive me Xena. Then with her teeth tightly clamped together and her body braced, she began to pull on the leg bones to get them aligned and set into place.
The first pull moved the bones apart, but didnt snap them back into place. With a determined grunt, Gabrielle pulled again, and this time the sound of the bones fitting back together signaled her success. Thank the gods, she murmured and then moaned as a small wave of nausea rocked her back on her heels. She quickly sat down on the hard-packed ground and pulled her knees up to her chest. As she rested her warm forehead on her knees, she took a deep breath to steady her shattered nerves.
A soft groan from Xena drew her attention back to the tasks at hand, and she crawled tiredly up to sit beside the warriors shoulders. "Xena, can you hear me? Its going to be all right. We are back at camp, and Im going to take care of everything. Xena?" When the warrior didnt respond, Gabrielle reached over and carefully removed the bandage and bloodied compress from Xenas head and turned her so that she could see the wound more clearly. Her lips compressed into a straight line, and lines of worry marked her forehead as she saw the jagged laceration on the right temple. The injury was surrounded by angry red skin and the whole area was swollen from the force of the collision with the rocks.
First Ive got to clean out these wounds, and then I need to find some way of reducing the swelling, Gabrielle thought with a worried frown.
With a determined sigh, the bard rose to her feet and retrieved the water skin from the rocks near the fire and poured some into one of the cooking bowls. A quick dip of her hand into the water confirmed that the water was warm enough to use for cleaning Xenas wounds. Grabbing a cloth out of their supplies, she quickly knelt by the warrior and began to wipe the blood and dirt out of the head wound. Once that was cleaned out, she quickly ran the cloth over the other abrasions that covered the warriors arms and legs, grimacing in empathy for the pain Xena would be experiencing when she awoke.
Once the worst of the dirt had been cleaned out of the wounds, Gabrielle picked up the needle and thread and focused her attention on the head laceration. Stitches were definitely required, but she wasnt anxious to begin. Xena was much better at this specific healing skill, though Gabrielle had had quite a bit of practice stitching up this particular Warrior Princess who tended to court trouble on a regular basis. However, necessity overruled any other considerations at the moment because Gabrielle wanted to finish the treatment before Xena regained consciousness. The warrior had already made it through several hours of torture this night, and Gabrielle hoped to not cause any more pain if at all possible.
Taking a deep breath, she pinched the wound together and began to carefully pull the thread through the edges of the wound, pulling it together with tiny, neat stitches. She made sure that the knots of each stitch were securely tied. If I know Xena, and by the gods I do, she will be up and doing something shes not supposed to - like practicing with her sword- long before these stitches will be taken out, so they have got to hold together through all the abuse shell put them through. Just the thought of Xena being healthy and active once again brought a brief smile to the bards face.
With that work completed, Gabrielle began to carefully remove the armor and leathers from the battered body. Xena still was showing no signs of consciousness. Though a part of Gabrielle was grateful that Xena was being spared this extra pain during the treatment, another part of her was very concerned that the warrior hadnt regained consciousness yet. Id feel a little better if Xena were awake to give me a raised eyebrow or a quirk of those expressive lips. Just a little reassurance would go a long way right now, the bard worried.
As Gabrielle pulled the leather down off of the warriors shoulders and down to her waist, she gasped in dismay at the purple tapestry of damage to Xenas torso. The armor had protected the chest and shoulder area somewhat, but the lower right ribs were obviously broken. The skin was purple and stretched tight over the injury. The left ribs were bruised, but Gabrielle didnt think that they were broken.
A tear slowly tracked down the bards face as she gazed at the damage to her best friend. Damn! Why did this have to happen now? Weve been through so much lately. Shes been through so much - and now this! Gabrielle reached up to angrily wipe away her tears, and her hand was grasped firmly by strong fingers. As her eyes jerked upward to the face of the warrior, her hand was pulled gently to the warriors lips. The startling blue of Xenas eyes was barely visible under the drooping lids, and the weak smile on Xenas face was quickly hidden as she pressed her lips to the soft skin of the bards hand. Her eyes closed briefly and then fluttered open again to peer closely at the bard. "Hey, you."
"Xena." The word was spoken with such love and absolute relief that Xenas lips curved into a brief smile despite the pounding ache in her head.
"Gabrielle, its going to be all right. You know that Ive been in worse situations than this." Then the warrior tried to sit up and immediately had to change her mind. With a groan she collapsed back onto the pallet. "Gods .," she grimaced and released a hissing breath through clinched teeth. Whoa I thought Id be able to do that
"Xena, hold still until Ive had a chance to wrap your ribs. You are in no shape to get up and do anything. Promise me that you will stay down at least for tonight." Though Gabrielle had not phrased it as a question, Xena could clearly hear the pleading in the bards tone.
"O.K. I promise. I certainly dont feel like going anywhere at this moment, so you dont have to worry about me running off to scout the perimeter or anything." Though this was spoken in a breathless whisper, the sarcastic humor of the warrior didnt go unnoticed by the bard, and she grinned back at the reclining warrior.
"Xena, I wouldnt put anything past you. You are the worlds worst patient! But, since you are promising " She smiled warmly down at the warrior. "Im holding you to that! No fights with any rock slides for the rest of the evening."
Xena answered by raising her eyebrow and narrowing her eyes until she had established her most intimidating warlord stare. Then she grinned and shrugged her shoulders, which she immediately regretted. The wince that crossed her features was quickly hidden, but not before the bard noticed it.
Damn it! Here I am standing and chatting with her when I should be treating her wounds. Come on, bard. Focus! Gabrielle mumbled to herself as she hurried over to the saddlebags and pulled out some strips of cloth they carried for first-aid purposes and brought them back over to the warrior. "Xena, Im sorry, but this is going to hurt. Ill try to be as gentle as I can. Do you want a piece of wood or leather to bite down on?"
The bards worried tone was like a healing balm to the warriors soul. "No, Gabrielle. Lets just get this done. Here, help me to sit up." Then Xena ground her teeth together, took a tentative breath, and pulled against Gabrielles arm to lever her body into an upright position. The camp spun wildly around her as she struggled to remain upright. She clamped her eyes shut in a vain attempt to reduce the dizziness and nausea that assailed her battered body. A ragged moan escaped her lips, but she hardly noticed.
The fire in her ribs was pure agony, and rational thoughts were impossible. It took every ounce of strength and all her concentration to clasp onto Gabrielles shoulders and hang on as the bard wrapped the cloth strips around her injured ribs, but she hung on determinedly for what seemed like an eternity.
Finally, she felt the bards cool hands on the sides of her face, and she dazedly opened her eyes. The tear-filled, green pools of Gabrielles eyes filled her vision, replacing the darkness and disorientation. Then the bard spoke. "Hey, are you still with me?" After receiving a small nod from the dazed warrior, she continued very gently. "Xena, Im going to lay you back down on the pallet and fix you some healing tea to help you get some sleep. O.K.?" She waited again for the small nod of assent, and then slowly lowered the warrior back to the pallet.
Once Xena was again settled on the blankets, Gabrielle put some water in the cooking pot and placed it over the fire. She then went back over to Xena, and in a few moments had a clean shift on the warrior, replacing the torn, dirty leathers. Next, the bard went over to the saddlebags and pulled out a pouch, took out some dried leaves, and placed them into a cup. With the tips of her fingers, she ground the leaves into a fine consistency. By this time the water was boiling over the fire, and she poured some over the leaves, swirling the contents so that the leaves thoroughly mixed with the water to make a fragrant and tasty drink. Then she took some white powder out of Xenas medical pouch and mixed it completely into the hot drink.
Xena watched this whole process quietly, her eyes already half closed with exhaustion. "Thanks, Gabrielle. Youre doing a great job," she murmured. Gabrielle smiled gently and came closer, holding out the mug. Xena tried to sit up under her own power in order to sip a little of the drink, but it was quickly obvious to both of them that this was not going to be possible. So, Gabrielle positioned herself beside the warrior so that she could lift up Xenas head with one hand and hold the mug to her lips with the other. The process was a slow one, but Xena finally drank the last of the healing mixture.
As the warrior relaxed back down on the pallet and closed her eyes, Gabrielle rested her hand lovingly on Xenas forehead and smoothed the tangled black hair back from her face. What would I ever do if I lost you? The bard chewed on the inside of her lower lip as she continued to rub her hand gently across the warriors bandaged brow. Once again, death has been close by but denied, she thought to herself. Xenas eyes fluttered open briefly, as she acknowledged the bards caring touch, and then her lashes descended and her breathing evened out into a regular pattern as the sleeping mixture took effect.
Gabrielle pulled a blanket up to cover her sleeping friend, and then decided that she too had reached the last of her endurance for this day. She banked up the fire, quickly straightened up the camp, and then walked over to the pallet and looked down at the most important person in her life. Xena was sleeping peacefully. Thank the gods that as this day ends, I have Xena back here safely tucked in and resting. Gods, what a day this had been!
Then because she felt a desperate need to be near the warrior and to be assured that she was going to be all right, Gabrielle lifted the edge of the blanket and crawled under to snuggle up against Xenas side. With a contented sigh, she closed her eyes and was asleep almost immediately. Her face was snuggled up against Xenas left shoulder, and her hands were loosely wrapped around the warriors left arm, unconsciously hanging on to the warrior even in her sleep.
It was the dull throbbing of her whole body that slowly brought Xena back to consciousness. With her eyes still closed, she took a quick inventory of her surroundings. She could smell the faint smoke of the campfire, which indicated that the fire had burnt down to smoldering ashes. The lack of noise from the wildlife in the nearby forest signaled that it was not yet dawn. The warm presence beside her was obviously Gabrielle, and from the sound of her even breathing, she was sleeping very soundly. Slowly, the warrior opened her eyes and took in the details of their campsite.
She slowly turned her head to the left and let a slow smile touch her lips. Gabrielle was curled up beside her with her face pillowed on the warriors shoulder. The bards face was relaxed and peaceful. Because the lighting was so poor, the warrior wasnt sure, but it looked as if Gabrielles face and arms were covered with scratches and some dried blood. Xena frowned. Damn, now how did she get those? Then she realized that Gabrielle had probably been through all kinds of hell trying to get her out of that ravine. It looks as if she has been so concerned about me that she didnt bother to take care of her own injuries. She was probably too tired to even care, Xena thought tenderly. She started to reach across her body with her right hand to brush the bards hair back from her face, but a sharp jolt of pain reminded her that her ribs were not healthy. Yeah, not healthy, she smirked to herself. Try broken, Xena. A soft snort of frustration escaped through her open lips as she stared pensively at her sleeping friend.
The events of the past few hours had certainly been disastrous, but the light of the coming day would bring about some changes. For one thing, the bard was going to get cleaned up and her injuries treated .even if the warrior had to do it herself! That determined thought made Xena feel a little better, and she shifted her head so that she could look around at the rest of the campsite.
From where she was laying, she could see the saddlebags and Argos blankets stacked near the edge of the clearing, and from the sounds of heavy breathing and the occasional swishing noise, she was sure that Argo was just past the edge of the line of trees. An empty, makeshift litter was discarded over to the right of the clearing, and she could see the drag marks in the soil where Gabrielle had maneuvered it earlier.
A slight noise near the edge of the woods drew her attention, and then she heard Argo snort and stamp her hooves against the hard-packed earth. Her senses went on high alert as she heard a slight growl. Her whole body tensed, and a surge of adrenaline shot through her body so fast that it left her light-headed. A light sheen of sweat broke out across her skin, and she shivered as the cool night air made contact with that moisture.
"Gabrielle," she whispered urgently. When the bard didnt respond, she shifted her left shoulder and jarred the bards body. "Gabrielle," she tried again. This time the sleepy blinking of Gabrielles green eyes rewarded her.
"Xena?" Gabrielle mumbled, only partially awake. She lifted her left hand and rubbed tiredly at her stinging eyes. "What is it? Are "
"Shhh .," Xena silenced her with a touch. "Quiet." After a soft exhale, Xena continued. "There is something in the woods over there at the edge of the clearing. Get ready ."
Gabrielle could feel the steel of Xenas coiled muscles under her hands, and she quickly gathered her scattered senses and shook off the effects of her deep sleep. Without moving her body, she carefully reached behind her and felt for her staff. She released a quiet sigh of relief when she felt her fingers curl around the shaft of wood.
Xena slowly shifted her shoulders and started to pull away from Gabrielle.
"Xena! Wait!" whispered Gabrielle fiercely. "Where do you think you are going? You cant "
Xenas fingers over her mouth effectively silenced her protests. "Gabrielle, not now!" Xena continued to scan the clearing with her eyes, even though her voice was directed to the bard. "Where is my sword and chakram?" When she saw that Gabrielle was about to protest again, she raised her eyebrow menacingly. "Gabrielle, please! Theres no time," she growled.
Realizing that arguing was pointless, Gabrielle quickly responded by pointing to the pile of gear over near the saddlebags. "Everything is over there by Argos things." She grabbed Xenas arm as the warrior started to sit up. "Stay here, Xena. Let me get them. You shouldnt even be considering whatever it is youre planning!"
Xena considered arguing the point, but she realized that the slight movements she had already attempted had left her slightly dizzy and with a throbbing headache. "O.K., but help me to sit up a little first," she commanded as she struggled to lift her body into a sitting position.
With Gabrielles arm lifting behind her shoulders, she was finally able to sit up and lean back against the log behind her. Her vision tunneled down to a small circle of light surrounded by impenetrable blackness, and a loud roaring in her ears briefly drowned out the sounds from the brush. Damn. Ive got to pull it together here and fast! "Gabrielle, hurry!" she urged the bard away from her and toward their gear and her weapons.
Gabrielle tore her concerned gaze away from Xena and started crawling quietly across the camp. Half way to the gear, she realized she had left her staff on the ground by Xena. Oh well, too late to go back now, she thought. She could feel the trembling in her arm and leg muscles as adrenaline nearly overwhelmed her senses. The snapping of twigs and the explosion of sound from the left nearly stopped the beating of her heart. Her head snapped around, and her arms came up in a protective gesture, even as she pushed up with her legs and levered herself to her feet.
She only had a brief moment to focus on the danger they faced. Circling around the edge of the camp just inside the ring of light from the fire, six large and very angry-looking wolves stalked them. The light from the dying fire caressed their dark fur, causing it to gleam in luxuriant, deadly splendor. The flickering flames and shifting shadows emphasized their grace and feral beauty. Their charge had been briefly stopped by Gabrielles sudden shift to a standing position; however, she was sure that the reprieve was only temporary because the wolves were staring directly at her, drooling and snarling as they paced.
She could see Xena struggling to a standing position on one leg, resting the foot of her broken leg lightly on the ground beside her left foot. The warriors look was fierce, and her chest was heaving with the effort she had already expended just standing up to face the wolf pack. The warriors jaw was clenched tight, and her hands were balled into fists as she shifted her weight to find a position that would give her the most balance when the attack began.
Xena could see Gabrielle crouched in a defensive, alert position not more than twenty feet from the nearest wolf. The bard had a wide-eyed gaze fixed firmly on the wolves. Xena knew that the wolves were going to attack at any moment, and there was nothing they could do to prevent it. In desperation she yelled to Gabrielle, "Get the weapons! Now!" And even as her shout jerked Gabrielle into motion, the wolf closest to Gabrielle led the charge towards the bard.
The next few moments were a blur of action. One moment Gabrielle had been staring into the foaming jaws of the attacking wolves, and the next moment a large body had knocked her to the ground with a vicious shove and she was sprawled face-down near the gear. Without looking, she knew that somehow Xena had managed to cross the clearing to meet the wolves. Though she wanted desperately to look back to see what was happening, she knew that her first responsibility was to get to the weapons.
As her hands frantically ripped through the gear and her hand closed over the handle of Xenas sword, she felt the sharp tear of skin in her lower right leg. With a shout of pain and anger, she whirled and sliced down at the wolf that had fastened onto her limb. The sickening crunch of the wolfs shattered skull signaled her accuracy, and she swung around to meet the next attacker.
She hoped that as long as she lived that she would never again see a sight like the one she faced now. Xena, still unarmed, was fending off the lunging wolves with her bare hands. She struggled to stay balanced on her good leg as the wolves lunged and tore at the exposed skin of the warrior. The wolves somehow sensed that the warrior was able to defeat them if they attacked one at a time, so they attacked in twos and threes. With every charge, a fresh spray of blood erupted from the frenzy. Some of the blood was Xenas, but most of it was from the ravaging wolves. The warriors blows were strong enough to split the skin of the wolves hides and slow the successive attacks. However, the odds were overwhelmingly against her, especially in her weakened state.
Without thought to her own safety, Gabrielle waded into the battle. She swung the sword towards the closest of the wolves and managed to graze its shoulder. It was with a sense of satisfaction and then trepidation that she realized that the wolves had turned to face her. Her eyes lifted for the briefest of seconds to bore into Xenas. The shared look was so open it was almost painful in its intensity. Though brief, it was an acknowledgment of partnership and a confirmation of their undying friendship.
And then, there was simply no more time to think, or breathe, or even blink. The four remaining wolves directed their attack at the bard and rushed her. The shoulders of the lead wolves crashed into the bard and drove her into the hard ground, and just before her head impacted with the hard earth and she lost consciousness, Gabrielles brain registered two things. One was the ear-splitting yell of the warrior princess, and the second was the inhuman screams of the wolves.
As she struggled through the fog and disorientation that enveloped her, she began to register her surroundings. She felt the hard ground beneath her, and she could hear her own labored breathing as her body struggled to draw air into lungs that had been deflated by the impact of the wolves against her torso. Other than the sound of her own breathing, she couldnt hear any other noise around her. This was so surprising that she blinked open her eyes and found herself staring up at the brilliant stars in the night sky. Whats happening? The wolves .Oh gods .Xena .
This thought was left unfinished as full consciousness returned. Gabrielle jerked into a sitting position, and frantically searched the clearing for any sign of Xena. Her eyes quickly tracked to the body of the warrior, laying a few feet away from her. Xena was flat on her back with her left knee bent and her hands resting lightly on her stomach. Her head was turned towards the bard, and her eyes were focused on Gabrielles face. When she saw the bard sit up and look at her, she smiled.
"Xena? Whats going on? Are you O.K.? Where are the wolves? What happened?" These questions poured out of Gabrielle in quick succession as she anxiously watched the warrior. Much to her surprise, Xena laughed out loud, but whether it was in relief or with real humor Gabrielle wasnt sure.
The laughter brought tears to the warriors eyes, and she wrapped her arms around her abused ribs to help relieve the pain. Damn! I know better than to laugh like this with broken ribs, but I cant help it. This whole evening has been such a disaster. Gods, if I dont laugh, the only other alternative is to cry, and Im NOT going there. The relief she felt from knowing that both she and Gabrielle had survived the attack was making her giddy and light-headed. Of course, it could have been the head wound or any of a wide range of other injuries that was causing this burst of emotion. Whatever it was, she had no control over the feelings raging inside her. Though she didnt attempt to move her battered body, she grinned over at Gabrielle. "Well, we took care of that little problem. Whats next?"
All right, Warrior of Understatement, thats how you want to play it, huh? Gabrielle gazed back at Xena with wide, disbelieving eyes, but the warriors grin was infectious. The bards own grin slowly worked its way across her face as she quietly acknowledged the warriors warm regard. She tore her gaze away from the blue depths of Xenas eyes and let her eyes drink in the sight of the slaughtered wolves that littered the clearing. She put a hand to her throbbing head and pressed her fingertips to her forehead.
"Xena, now tell me. What happened?"
Xena looked back at Gabrielle at first sheepishly and then with a ferocious look that allowed "the wolf" inside of her to show. "I happened!" she snarled. And then she smirked as both of Gabrielles eyebrows lifted and disappeared under her bangs, and the bard stared at her with wide-eyed wonder.
And that is the only encouragement that Gabrielle needed to cross the short distance and wrap herself in Xenas embrace. She knew that she shouldnt be hugging the warrior because of her injuries, but there was something so right about being in Xenas arms. It was the safest place on earth.
"Xena, we need to get you back over to the pallet. Youre wounded," she mumbled the obvious fact into the muscled expanse of Xenas shoulder.
"Only if you join me there," the warrior responded, looking pointedly at Gabrielles own bleeding leg. Xenas look was serious, but Gabrielle thought she detected a twinkle in Xenas eyes. How does she do all of this? It has to be magic because there is simply no other way to describe it. She has fallen off a cliff and now has fought off a pack of wolves, and she still is making jokes and taking care of me. Amazing!
Gabrielle was well aware that Xena was using humor to help mask the pain she was feeling from the injuries, and she could see the pleading look in the warriors eyes, asking her to accept and go along with the effort. Gabrielle couldnt resist that look.
"O.K., Xena. I suppose there is room for both of us over there," she stated slyly, acknowledging her own injuries finally. "However, once we get cleaned up, you are going to go back to sleep until morning! No more wolf wrestling or sword drills until morning. Besides, we are either going to have to go back to sleep or fix an early breakfast because all of this fighting has made me hungry!"
Xena fastened an affectionate look on the bard, realizing that Gabrielle knew she was hurting and knew that she was trying hard not to show it. She appreciated her friends attempt at keeping things light. Now if she could just manage to get back to the bedroll without passing out, she would consider the evening at least a partial success.
I know how I am feeling right now like a piece of Centaur poop. Gabrielle has to be feeling pretty rotten too. Her eyes were drawn to the bloody gash on the bards lower leg where the fangs of the wolf had ripped the flesh. Blood was still flowing freely out of the wound. Gotta get that cleaned out and stitched, she mused.
Gabrielle followed Xenas gaze with her own, and she winced when she saw the damage the wolf had inflicted. "Looks like we are going to be doing lots of sewing tonight," she quipped.
Xenas eyes jerked back up to meet hers, and a surprised laugh was forced from the warrior. "I think that you are right about that, my bard," she grinned. "Lets get moving!"
The intentions were good, but the bodies were not so easily moved. Gabrielle helped Xena to sit up, but a wave of dizziness and nausea caused the warrior to collapse into the bards embrace. "Gabrielle, I cant .," she whispered weakly as her body once again reminded her that it had been severely abused over the past few hours.
"Shhhh Xena. Its O.K.," the bard murmured gently as she cradled the warriors upper body in her arms. "Im just going to move the bedrolls over here and rebuild the fire over on this side of the clearing. You just lay back and try to relax for a few minutes."
The task of rearranging the camp only took a few minutes since there wasnt very much to move, and since the original fire was still hot, the task of building another fire was quickly completed. However, the hard part was moving Xena from the hard ground to her waiting bedroll.
The process was a slow one, punctuated with several bouts of colorful language from the warrior. A couple of times the language was strong enough to make Gabrielle wince. She was sure that the gods would be appearing at any moment to respond to Xenas curses. However, this task was finally accomplished, and the sweat-soaked warrior and bard simply collapsed back onto the furs to rest a moment before beginning the medical treatment of their injuries.
Xena forced her eyes open and glanced over at Gabrielle, who was lying beside her with her eyes closed. What a night, Xena thought. One disaster was plenty for the evening. Now weve been lucky enough to make it through two. Why is it that after all this has happened, I still feel lucky? She knew the answer even before she had completed her thought. They had both survived tonights ordeal, and that was enough to feel lucky about. A quick glance at the exhausted bard lying beside her was all the motivation she needed to force her body into action for just a little bit longer.
"Come on, Gabrielle. Its time to do some sewing."
Gabrielle slowly blinked opened her eyes. "What?" she mumbled sleepily. Then her eyes focused on Xenas face, and she came fully awake. "Wow! I was out already," she admitted sheepishly. "Youre right. Lets get cleaned up before we collapse!" She looked down at their bloodied bodies and then glanced wryly at her companion. "Gods, were quite a pair arent we!"
Xenas raised eyebrows were her only response.
When Xena awoke the next morning, Gabrielle was already awake and stirring something that was boiling in the cooking pot over the fire. The campsite was quiet and peaceful, and the shafts of early morning sunshine were lancing through the leaves of the surrounding trees. Tiny bits of dust and pollen were drifting lazily through the light, gleaming and casting an almost magical aura over the area. There was no sign of last nights battle; the bodies of the wolves had been removed and most of the blood had been cleaned up. If it werent for the aching new scratches and bruises on her arms and legs, Xena might have believed that she had dreamed the whole scenario.
"I see you are awake." Gabrielles warm voice drew her attention back to the campfire. The bard had stopped her breakfast preparations and was now approaching with a steaming mug of tea in each hand. Xenas eyes met hers for a long moment, neither saying a word. Then a smile tugged at Xenas lips, and Gabrielle responded with a large grin.
"I see that youve been busy already this morning," Xena drawled, her left eyebrow quirking upwards. "You didnt have to .." Gabrielles fingertips pressing gently on her lips silenced her protest.
"Shhh .." the bard spoke quietly. "Its all right. I didnt want any reminders of last night to ruin our morning breakfast." And then she smiled slightly as she looked down at their injuries. "Well, I didnt want any more reminders than these to ruin the morning," she conceded. "Speaking of which, how are you feeling this morning?" She asked this last question as she helped prop Xenas shoulders up with a blanket and handed her a cup of tea.
"Well, " Xena began as she sipped her tea, " all things considered, Im feeling pretty good. I dont think that the attack last night caused any further damage to my other injuries, and the cuts from the attack arent really bothering me too much."
Of course, I would not like a repeat of yesterdays events. I think falling off a cliff and fighting off wolves is enough adventure for me, at least for a couple of days - enough adventure for both of us, Xena thought wryly.
"How about you? How are you feeling?" she asked the bard tenderly.
Gabrielle responded by sinking down to sit on the pallet beside Xena, resting her hand on the warriors thigh. "Well, other than my leg which hurts some, Im just a little sore. I think I strained a few muscles that I havent used in awhile. You know, rock climbing and wolf wrestling are not activities I practice a lot," she added with a grin and a pat on Xenas leg.
"Well, we could certainly add them to our daily workouts if you really want to, Gabrielle," Xena quipped with a gleam of humor showing in her blue eyes.
"Xena!" the bard feigned outrage and then burst into a fit of giggles that had them both laughing for several moments.
After several deep breaths to calm herself, Gabrielle asked the question she had been holding back. "How long do you think we will be camping here?" She was worried because their water supply was running low and the closest water access was down the path where Xena had fallen the night before.
Xena knew what was worrying her friend. " Dont worry, Gabrielle. There is another way to get down to that stream without taking that eroded path. This other route takes longer, but it isnt quite as steep or as rugged." Xena reached down and wrapped her hand around the bards hand still resting on her thigh. "Thank you, Gabrielle," she murmured warmly.
"For what," the bard asked in surprised. She stared into Xenas eyes for a long moment and time seemed to stop.
"Thank you for saving me, thank you for protecting me, and thank you for being the very best friend Ive ever had," Xena stated tenderly.
So, just that simple, Gabrielle thought lovingly as she drug her gaze away from Xenas and wrapped her arms warmly around the warrior in fierce hug. With just those few words, she has made it all worthwhile. All the struggles of getting to know Xena in their early travels together and all the work to get into shape to even keep up with the warrior princess .all of the pain and frustration faded away to nothing, as if they had never existed. She could feel Xenas heartbeat pounding strongly and steadily under her ear. It was one of the sweetest sounds she had ever heard.
"The same goes for me too," she murmured softly, her words muffled slightly by the soft cotton under her face.
Then she pulled back from Xenas arms and placed a gentle hand on the warriors cheek. "I think its time to get you some breakfast," she said gently, her eyes misting up as she noted the tears in Xenas eyes. " I love you, Xena." She leaned over and placed a gentle kiss on the warriors forehead and then rose to her feet.
Xena watched Gabrielle dip some steaming broth into the waiting bowls. Gods, how did I get so lucky to find someone like Gabrielle. The Fates must have been guiding us the day we met. I dont think that I deserve this happiness after all that I have done, but I know that I cant resist this loving warmth we share. Her thoughts were interrupted as Gabrielle nestled into the furs beside her and handed her the broth.
"Dinar for your thoughts, " Gabrielle spoke softly as she lifted her spoon to her mouth and took her fist taste of breakfast.
Xenas lips quirked up at the corners, "Naw, they arent worth that much, Gabrielle. I was just letting my mind drift," she stated as she raised her own spoon to her lips. Her eyes met Gabrielles over the steam rising from the bowls. She smiled and found an answering smile on the bards lips.
"Tell me a story, Gabrielle ..one with a happy ending," Xena coaxed. She noted the surprised, but pleased, look on the bards face.
"Sure, Xena," she responded enthusiastically, setting aside their bowls and nestling into the arms of the warrior. "O.K., lets see ..oh yeah! Ive got a good one," she stated happily.
As the story began, Xena felt her body relax as she was wrapped in the warmth and happy glow of the story. Oh yeah, I think Im going to like this , she thought happily. Maybe some convalescing time is just what I need.
The gentle murmurs of the forest blended with the animated voice of the young bard as the sun worked its way across the sky. It was going to be a good day!
Note: I hope you enjoyed my first attempt at fan fiction. I would love to hear some constructive feedback! I can be reached at