The Curse of Higuchi
By L. Crystal Michallet-Romero
Copyright © June 2003 L. Crystal Michallet-Romero
All Rights Reserved
Reworked for misspellings, typos and overused words on: Sunday, October 19, 2003.
A big thanks has to first be given to my guru of grammar, Bill the Semi Bard. Hes helped me weed out the glaring grammar mistakes, but his contributions to this body of work are invaluable. Also, a big thanks goes to my best buddy, Hawke. Not only did she utilize her former English major skills to beta read the last few chapters of this tale, but she added some wonderful stuff to the X/G, Argo scene. Thanks buddy! The next thanks go to the rest of my beta reading team; Prof., Sue and of course, my honey, Jessica.
Note to Readers
I first began writing this tale for my best friend Hawke two weeks after FIN aired in the U.S. I wanted to show her that X:WP was not over until we, the fans and fan fiction writers, say it is over. But as time passed, I quickly realized that this tale is not just for Hawke, it is for all of you, the readers. Its for everyone who began this tale with me when it faced great opposition and stuck by me despite the controversial pairings and political climate. Its for every single reader who began to read it since then, and is able to look beyond the surface to see the tale below. To all of you who are reading this, I want to thank you for being able to hold to the possibility that an Islamic character can indeed be a hero and for realizing that Xena isnt dead until we, the fans and writers, say she is dead. I hope that after reading this final chapter that you will feel that the time it took me to complete this story was time well spent.
Disclaimer: Xena Warrior Princess, its characters, and all related materials are the property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. The other characters are mine. Like the show, I am playing around with the historical time lines.
Sexual Violence: Medium
Subtext: Yes (F/F)
All Feedback: CrystalMichallet@charani.org
Crystals X:WP fan fiction web site: http://www.charani.org/XenaFanFicMichallet.html
The never ending pain that was becoming her friend surrounded her heart. As the music from the tavern filtered through the floor, Zara laid quietly in Gabrielles embrace. She watched the images that the flame from the single lantern made against the farthest wall. The feel of the healers soft skin, the heat of her body, warmed the Moroccan in ways that no other could. Yet when she remembered what it had felt like with Xenas soul inside of her, using her body to be with this woman, the captain had to admit that what she felt from the small woman was not nearly as much as what the Warrior Princess felt from her. Xena and Gabrielle were soulmates, spirit twins united throughout all of eternity and Zara well, she knew who she was to the storyteller. She was Gabrielles friend, and once her lover. But anything deeper, anything greater could never again be.
The Moroccan had always known that this day would come. There was never a doubt in her mind that if they were able to bring back the ghost warrior that Gabrielle would be going with Xena, and Zara would once again be left alone. Although she knew that this was always a possibility, the fact that it was happening as planned did not comfort her soul. If anything it tore a wedge through the very fiber of her heart.
Zara did not know what she had done to Allah to be plagued by this life. In her thirty-four summers she could not remember a single moment when she felt true happiness and this disturbed her. Sometimes she wondered if she was bad, and this was why she was destined to never feel the love of her soulmate. Yet just as this thought crossed her mind, she reminded herself that she had made it through the cave of Amenta. The magical powers that were only granted to those of pure heart redeemed her through Xenas touch. Did this mean then that she was not a bad person? But then, where was Alaya? Why wasnt she there in the passage to Paradise, just as her mother and Inaam were? Could it truly be that so much time had passed that her spirit twin abandoned her forever and would not be waiting for her in the after life? These thoughts constantly plagued her mind.
"What are you thinking?" Gabrielles soft voice rose into the room as her fingers continued to brush through the Moroccans hair.
A soft sigh escaped Zaras control as she snuggled deeper into the smaller womans embrace. Not since Xenas return had they made love. The Moroccan could not have explained her aversion to the act, she only knew that now that Xena lived, it did not feel right. She knew that Gabrielles generous heart would not have withheld anything from her, but the captain did not ask it of the blonde. All she desired was to feel this closeness. The human touch that was filled with such love beckoned her, and the healer willingly complied.
Everything had changed when Xena came back. She could no longer view the ghost warrior as a phantom that did not exist. The warrior was solid, flesh and bones. Her features once hidden from the Moroccan were now clear in her mind. What was more important, the warriors darkest fears and desires were firmly embedded in the captains memories in ways that she never expected.
Xena was like a sister to her. Closer than any sister she ever had. They shared their dark pain, fears and desires and Zara knew that there was no other, not even Gabrielle, who knew her as well as the warrior princess. Because of this union, the dusky captain could never covet what was not hers. So instead, she was going to do what she had planned all along. She would leave the Amazon and her warrior, and move on with her life even though the pain of being alone was almost too much to bear at times.
With a slight smile, Zara lifted her head and kissed the side of Gabrielles soft cheek. "I was thinking that I will have to leave soon, make certain that the ship is ready," she schooled her voice as she snuggled back against the softness of the woman.
"I-I wish you would change your mind," Gabrielle whispered as she left a light kiss against Zaras forehead. "I think youd like my sister, Lila. And Potidaea is a nice little town to relax in."
"You and Xena will settle in Potidaea then?" she asked.
"No, but my sister is there. Its been so long since Ive seen her. Shes over fifty now and I want to spend some time with her, get to know her again, then well move on to Amphipolis. Xenas mother used to run a tavern there but since she passed on, its been sitting empty," Gabrielle absently said as her fingers began to trace the zigzag patterns of the scars on Zaras back.
"So you will settle down with Xena and run a tavern," the humor laced Zaras voice.
"Dont laugh, I think Id be a great business owner," Gabrielle giggled.
Rising from her position, Zara gazed down into the smaller womans eyes. The colors of silver and green caused Gabrielles eyes to sparkle from the lanterns light.
"If you, perhaps employed a few working girls, I would visit, and if the mistress of the tavern were to offer herself, I might be tempted to stay on for quite a while." Zara allowed the corners of her lips to turn into a smile as her eyes grew to slits. Gabrielles eyes grew wide with surprise before she playfully slapped at the Moroccans shoulder. Not to be outdone, Zara reached for the womans ribs and began to tickle her soft flesh. With whoops of laughter the smaller woman struggled against the captains attack until she managed to capture the dusky womans hands in hers. Panting and out of breath, they gazed into each others eyes, their smiles mirroring each other. Then, before she realized a change, a tear escaped the storytellers control.
"Oh, Zara! I do love you. Im going to miss you so much!" she wept as she pulled her into an embrace.
The captain closed her eyes tightly against her own tears. As she hugged the blonde close, she inhaled the smaller womans sweet scent. Bathed in her warmth, she placed everything about Gabrielle to memory. When control returned, she pulled away and smiled down at the smaller woman. Her finger gently wiped away the blondes tears.
"I love you as well, but it is meant to be, we both knew this," she said as the amulet around her neck brushed against the Greek womans flesh. "And, we will never truly be apart," Zara added as she took the amulet in her hand and held it up for both to see. "Xena and I will be forever linked. All I need do is remove this amulet, and I will be able to see you through your soulmates eyes."
"And shell see through yours as well?" Gabrielle took the magical stone in hand and examined it as her tears began to dry.
"That is what Chione said. As long as I wear this, Xena and I will be separated. But when I remove it, she will know my thoughts and everything," the captain shrugged by way of explanation.
"Then you promise, that if you ever need me need us, youll remove it so that well know and come to help?" Gabrielle looked deeply into her eyes.
"I promise," Zara cupped her hand around the Amazons smaller hands.
"And maybe, if you just want to say hello?" Gabrielle smiled shyly.
"Yes, Gabrielle. Do you think I would be able to go through life and not make sure that you are all right, that you are well?" she asked as she gazed at the lapis stone that hung by a golden chain around her neck.
"If you ever need me, I will be there as well," she promised as she lowered herself to kiss Gabrielles soft lips. At their single touch, she felt all of the healers love. Although it brought sadness to the blonde, Zara knew that Gabrielle understood. She knew that the separation was meant to be because the Moroccan could never be to the Greek storyteller what Xena was to her.
When they pulled apart from the kiss, Zara smiled softly before lightly touching the tip of Gabrielles nose. "Someday, Gabrielle, we will meet again."
"I know, but Ill miss you until then," the blonde woman whispered.
"And I you, Gabrielle," the captain sighed, then pulled herself from the Greek womans arms and left the comfort of the bed.
By the light of the single candle, she pulled her clothes on. She felt Gabrielle moving quietly behind her. When they were dressed, they faced each other once more. The look of sadness and indecision covered their faces.
"Are you sure you wont change your mind and join us?" Gabrielle asked once more, knowing what the answer would be.
"I should be asking you the same thing. There is still room on the ship for both you and Xena," she offered as she took the shorter womans hands in hers. "We do make an incredible team."
At her words, Gabrielle smiled for a moment, then grew serious. "I know but I want to go home, and besides, you would die if you had to live on the land." The Greek womans voice was firm as she bolstered her courage.
"Then, you will be going home tomorrow," Zara nodded as she moved to her weapons and wrapped the scimitar belt around her waist.
"Once we bail out Xenas horse from the stables, yes, first thing in the morning," Gabrielle added as she moved to the Moroccan and helped her with the belt, and various weapons. "I just wish Im afraid what I earned in telling stories today will only bail Argo. Were going to have to leave the tack behind."
The captain saw the concern in the womans eyes. Her immediate guilt settled in. "Im sorry, Gabrielle. Had I know about this before Alexandria I would have set some aside to help you and Xena retrieve your property."
"Its not your fault, Zara. I didnt really think about it until I saw the shores of Athens. Then I remembered how we had left Argo at the stable to be cared for until we returned." She waved away the Moroccans concerns. "Dont worry, Ive ridden bare back before. It wont kill me."
The tall woman examined Gabrielles eyes closely. When she felt assured of the blondes words, she nodded as she lightly touched her cheek with the back of her fingers. "Then, I will wish you a safe journey to your home, Healer Gabrielle."
"And to yours as well," the warrior bard smiled up at her as she took Zaras hand and kissed her palm.
As if nothing more needed to be said, she grew silent as she pulled her Moroccan cape over her shoulders. When they left the room, they walked down the stairs hand in hand, but as they entered the crowded tavern, they moved apart as they made their way past the patrons. In the corner of the tavern, Xena saw them and nodded solemnly, then rose from her table and followed them from the inn.
The moon over Athens cast a slight glow over the city. The buildings around the tavern hung lanterns to light the way. In nervous silence the three women stood in the darkness as the milling people moved around them.
"Zara, if you change you mind, well be leaving at sunrise," Xenas voice was level.
"And if you two should change your minds, we cast off with the first waves," she told the warrior princess.
Xena only nodded, then reached out and clasped Zaras hand. After the initial contact, the Moroccan closed her eyes for only a moment and felt the transitory link that would remain with them for the rest of their lives. With a smile, the dusky woman pulled away and looked at Xena. She noticed the warriors eyes flutter open, knowing that the Warrior Princess felt the same spark of energy between them. The captain sighed then nodded at Xena before turning to look down at Gabrielle.
"Xena, please do not ever do anything foolish anymore," she warned the warrior while keeping her gaze on Gabrielle. "This woman here, she deserves to have her soulmate with her for the rest of her days."
The warrior princess smiled as she looked down at her lover. She gulped at the impact of Zaras words, then nodded understanding. "I know, Zara. Its been a hard lesson to learn, but I think Ive finally got it."
"I hope so, my friend," was all the captain said as she took a step back and nodded. Bowing slightly to both women, she touched her thumb and forefinger to her chest, lips and then forehead in the traditional salutation of her people before turning and leaving them in the shadows of the tavern. Her cape swept out, billowing around her body.
Zara heard the crunching of the rocks under her boots. As the cool breeze of the sea brushed past her, she pulled the hood of her cape over her head. All around her the signs of life filled the streets. At one point, she felt the urge to turn around and wave to the healer and warrior. But she fought this urge, afraid that if she did, she would go to them and beg to be allowed to travel with them. So instead, she made her way through the busy streets of Athens toward the port district.
Alone, she thought to herself. The seafarer had spent the better part of her days alone, yet she was still unaccustomed to the feelings. The pain and loneliness returned to bore a hole in her heart that could not be filled. The Moroccan had been too young to clearly remember what it felt like to be with Alaya, her soulmate. But she remembered clearly how Xena felt to be in Gabrielles arms, and it was something that Zara began to long for, but she knew that it was not meant for her.
At this thought, she bowed her head in thought as her feet carried her back to her ship. Over and over, she remembered the images of her mother and Inaam, yet Alaya was nowhere to be seen. No, Zara had come to the realization that Alaya was an illusive image that was never meant for her. For one reason or another, she would never feel the love of a soulmate.
When she turned into a dark alley, she sighed deeply as she tried to keep the melancholy thoughts at bay. If she had been paying attention, she would have heard the slight sounds in the darkness. The Moroccan captain would have been alert to any troubles that lay in her path. But she was taken by surprise when a figure darted out from the darkness and stopped her in her path.
By the light of the moon that filtered into the alley, she noticed the smaller figure as the hand reached out to touch her. Taken back, the seafarer grew alert as she stood frozen in front of the figure. When the short intruder pulled away her touch and removed the hood that concealed her features, the youthful face of a young Gypsy woman greeted Zara. At this open disclosure, the Moroccan reached up, her cape and sleeve of her shirt fell back to reveal the markings on the back of her hand before she pushed the hood of her cape down.
The young woman took one look at her. Her mouth hung open as she quickly spoke a language the Moroccan did not understand. Frozen in time, they stared at one another, their eyes locked on each other as if held mesmerized by an unseen force. And then it was gone. Remembering something, the woman fell to her knees, her head bent as she raised her hands to Zara, the palms pressed together in subservience.
"Please, I beg of you," the young voice spoke quickly in Arabic.
"Do not bow down to me, girl," Zara felt her impatience reign as she glanced around the alley. When she was certain there was no danger, she turned to the girl and helped her to her feet.
"You are a captain, yes?" the young Gypsy asked. By the slight glow from the moon, Zara noticed her youthful appearance. Her exotic features, no longer hidden by the cape, peered back at her with dark eyes. Rather than answering her, the captain only tilted her head, waiting to hear what the child had to say.
"Please you are the first Captain to walk through this alley, please, I beg of you I-I we need passage," the girl reached out to take Zaras arm, then pulled away quickly.
After a moment, the Gypsy turned to the shadows and beckoned for someone to join them. As the figure moved from the darkness, the tall Moroccan looked at the aged Gypsy woman. Her wrinkled face surrounded dark, penetrating eyes. When a movement was seen in the folds of the old womans garments, Zara looked down and saw a tiny head poking free from the old womans shawl.
"Please, kind Captain, I beg of you we seek passage for my grandmother, sister and myself," the girls pleading eyes held Zaras captive as the child ran and hugged the young womans side. "P-Please we seek safe passage," the young womans eyes begged. As an afterthought, the young Gypsy woman reached into her cape, "We have money, we can pay!"
When the girl held out a purse that jingled with coins, Zaras mind began to churn. Through the diffused light, she noticed the thick cape around the womans shoulders. The little girl clinging to her had hair that was disheveled, and the old woman, although bent with age, seemed filled with life. In a matter of moments, the ship captain assessed their situation and reasoned that these people, for whatever reason, were seeking safe passage from something that hunted them.
In silence, Zara reached out cautiously and took the purse from the young woman. Without counting the coins, she gave a wordless nod, then brushed past them. With long strides she made her way toward the transport boat that would take them to her ship. Behind her, she heard their soft mutterings as they spoke to each in their mother tongue while following closely.
Zara remained silent as the small boat carried them to her ship. The Moroccan noticed the way that the Greek oarsman cast a distasteful glance at the Gypsies. Ignoring his petty bigotry, the imposing woman remained silent, her glare warning him that she would not tolerate any misconduct from him. Seeing her silent warning, he lowered his eyes as he continued to row them out to the bay where her ship had laid anchor.
As the waves crashed against the small boat, she noticed the way the Gypsies huddled close together, their eyes scanning the shores as if seeking a ghost. When they reached her ship, she heard Abu call down to them, his voice welcoming her as the torches on her ship sent his shadow looming over the waters. With a wave at her first mate, she nodded to the oarsman, her silent command only brought a nod of acknowledgment, and then she turned to the passengers in the boat. Comfortable in her presence, the little gypsy girl scampered in the rocking boat until Zara took her and lifted her up to Abu. Once the child was safely on deck, she motioned for the young woman to come near.
"But my grandmother, how will she ?" the Gypsy woman began to protest.
"Abu, we have a grandmother here, please get me the harness," she called even as the burly man disappeared from view.
"You grandmother will be taken up shortly, now if you please," she held her hand out for the young woman.
With a cautious glance, the girl looked back at the old woman, then reached out and took Zaras hand. As a wave crashed into the small boat, the girl lost her footing and landed in the Moroccans arms. At her closeness, the captain smelled a familiar scent but as quickly as she noticed it, it was gone.
"I will lift you and my first mate will pull you up the rest of the way," the Moroccan explained as she supported the lithe body, then turned and looked up at Abu who was looking down at her. With a nod, she moved behind the Gypsy woman and lifted her above her head and felt Abu taking her hand to pull her the rest of the way. Once the young woman was on deck, Abu looked down at her.
"Captain, I can bring "
"It is all right, my friend," she reached up and took the items that he passed down to her.
As the boat rocked under her feet, she removed her cape and tossed it up to Abu, then handed him her sword before fastening the harness to her body. When it was secure, she reached out for the old woman. As the frail Gypsy climbed on unsteady legs, Zara smiled, trying to give reassurance to the aged matriarch, then helped her into the cloth seat before fastening it to her back.
"Do not worry, all will be well, grandmother," she said as she began to carry the weight of the woman on her back. With steady feet, the Moroccan bounded up the rope ladder in easy, steady strides. Behind her, the occasional grunts and inhaled breaths came from the old woman until they were on the deck, and Abu was unfastening the harness. As soon as she was free, the aged Gypsy hugged the young woman she was traveling with, then watched as Zara and Abu spoke softly.
"More unscheduled passengers, Captain?" the humor laced his voice.
"It would appear so, Abu," she turned away from the Gypsy travelers. "Are you going to shore again?"
"If you grant permission, Captain." A slight blush crossed his cheeks, indicating that he was about to partake of some of Athens finest women.
"Of course, Abu but please, if it is not too much trouble, make certain that Gabrielle and Xena receive this," a tired sigh escaped her control as she tossed the purse of coins to the burly man, then retrieved her cape and weapon from him.
"Of course, Captain. As soon as I see to our guests, I will deliver this to Gabrielle and her mate," his promise followed her as she made her way to her cabin.
Zara did not answer her friend, knowing that he would understand. When she entered her cabin, she lighted a single candle and glanced around. Out of habit, she stowed her weapon away, and hung her cape in the wooden closet. For the first time, she heard the slight echo in her quarters as she walked to the center of the room. When she glanced down at the small, empty bed, she stood over it, wondering what Nadrah was doing at this moment. Gulping down her sadness, she lightly touched the pillow that was once the little girls, then moved to her bed. With a tired sigh, she set the candle on the nightstand as she lowered her head in thought.
In the shadows, she noticed a garment lying on the floor. She reached down and pulled it into the light and examined the piece of cloth. Zara had an urge to take it to Abu so that he could return to Gabrielle the top that she had forgotten to pack. But as she thought about it, the Moroccan captain remained frozen in place.
Zara lifted the shirt to her face and she closed her eyes inhaling Greek womans scent. In that instant, she saw the blonde womans face clearly. She remembered the sound of Gabrielles laughter and her voice as she told a tale. As the sadness of their parting settled in her soul, the captain lay on her side as she held the cloth close, then, as an afterthought, she placed the shirt on her pillow and closed her eyes. As her tears slowly fell, she felt herself drifting into a peaceful dream as the fragrance of the blonde floated around her.
Xena was beginning to feel as if things were getting back to normal. Now that she was back in Greece, she donned the familiar leather armor. With the unexpected funds from Zara, they were able to get both Argo and her gear from the stables. Once one of their bags was secured behind Argo's saddle, the warrior princess brushed the honey colored mare as she spoke softly to the horse.
When Gabrielle left the tavern, she was dressed in the familiar red bra and skirt that she had worn when they first started this trip. With a bag in one hand, the storyteller made her way to the horse as a smile crossed her lips. As she looked at Argo, she lightly patted the horse's rear, then looked at Xena.
"So, it looks like we're ready to go," Gabrielle smiled.
"Ummm, Gabrielle, I've been meaning to ask you, I think its time that I wear my chakram again," Xena moved in front of her soulmate.
"What? Your chakram?" the warrior bard smiled wide, then wagged her finger. "No, Xena, where do you get that 'your chakram' stuff? This is my chakram," she patted the round disc that was hooked to her waist.
"Wha ?" Xena was amazed at her lover's words. "B-But Gabrielle, it was always mine."
"Yeah, well, that was before deciding to not let me bring you back at the Fountain of Strength on Mount Fuji." Gabrielle sighed as she shook her head, then looked at Xena, a serious expression on her face. "But, tell ya what, warrior princess, I'll let you carry my sword," the smaller woman knelt down and rummaged through her pack, removing the Greek sword that once belonged to Xena, then tossed it to her, scabbard and all.
"You're letting me wear your sword? Gabrielle, this was mine, remember?" Xena looked at her soulmate with disbelief.
"Yeah, well, was is the operative word. Warrior Princess, it was your sword, but when you wouldn't let me bring you back " Gabrielle frowned as she shrugged her shoulders. "What can I say, Xena. It became mine by right of inheritance. But just to show you that I don't want you left defenseless, I'll let you carry it for me," the storyteller nodded solemnly, a smile tugging at her lips as she patted Xena's shoulder, then turned to Argo, readjusted the stirrups and began to mount her.
"Hey!" Xena looked up at her, shocked. "Argo's ."
" mine, Xena. Remember? Once you died and wouldn't let me bring you back, all of your property became mine. But tell you what, you can carry our bag, ok," Gabrielle nodded.
"You wouldn't!" Xena stared up at her with an incredulous look. "Argo was mine!"
"Well, Xena," the Amazon tsked as she leaned in the saddle, "You should have thought of that before you wouldn't let me bring you back."
"B-But how am I going to get home?" Xena shot the blonde a hurt filled look.
"I dunno, why don't you try walking. That's how I got around our first years together," Gabrielle stated, then reined Argo around and gently kicked her sides before galloping away.
"She wouldn't!" Xena stared at her lover as she disappeared down the road. A bright ray of the early morning sun glinted off of the katana strapped to the blondes waist, and from the sais that were in her boots.
"Why, I oughta " Xena growled as she quickly fastened her scabbard to her back, lifted the second bag, and began to run after her disappearing bard.
Gabrielle couldn't conceal her smile as she waited for her lover at the top of the hill. Red faced, sweat falling down her forehead, Xena slowly ran up the dirt road, the bag in her arms seemingly heavy. When she reached the top, the warrior dropped the bag at her feet as she bent over panting and out of breath.
"Gee, Xena, you seem a bit out of shape. Maybe you've been lying around too much this past year?" The storyteller smiled. When the warrior shot her a dark glare, Gabrielle whipped the smile from her face as best as possible as she looked away, trying not to laugh at her lover's discomfort.
"Ga brielle " Xena panted as she stood up and clutched her side, the pain of the jog up the hill proving too great. "I-I can't believe you're going to hold this against me."
"Aw, Xena I'm sorry," she smiled. "You know, you've got to expect this from time to time. After all, how else will I be able to remind you not to do anything foolish if I can't tease you occasionally? Besides, I wouldn't make you run all the way home. Come on, warrior. Hop on the back. I'm sure we'll be able to buy another horse in the next village," she held her hand down. At the offer, Xena nodded as she grabbed their bag, took Gabrielle's hand, then hopped up behind the saddle.
"So what would you like, Xena? A bay or a black?" Gabrielle asked over her shoulder.
"Gabrielle! Argo's my horse," the warrior whined plaintively. "Gabrielle, it's always been this way. Her mother was mine, and now Argo's daughter is mine "
"Are you sure about that? Have you even apologized to Argo for not wanting to come back to her?" She addressed the horse, "She can't just assume that you're ready to take her back with open ... um, hooves " She wrinkled her brow trying to adjust her words, but then shrugged her shoulders and went with it, " can she?"
Argo snorted and shook her head vigorously, making the tack jingle.
Xena's eyes went wide as her jaw dropped, "B-Bu ! Argoooo!"
"I'll tell you what, Xena," Gabrielle offered, swinging her leg over the saddle horn and dropping to the ground. "Get down and we'll let Argo choose for herself." Xena frowned, but slid to the ground.
They stood side by side as Argo looked between them, blinking slowly. She stamped a hoof once. "I think she's waiting to hear why she should consider taking you back," the smaller warrior suggested.
Xena looked at the ground, scuffing the dirt with her toe. Her eyebrows knit and she looked up, biting her lower lip. Glancing at Gabrielle, she saw the Amazon nod towards Argo. Xena took a deep breath to order her thoughts, and looked at the horse solemnly; sadly. She spoke with true remorse coloring her words, "Look, Argo, I'm really sorry I left you like I did ... and didn't let Gabrielle pour my ashes into the fountain when she had the chance. I shouldn't have run off to Japa like that and shouldn't have decided what to do all on my own. I never thought about what it would do to you," she glanced over her shoulder, "or to Gabrielle." She heard Gabrielle sniff back a tear. Xena took a step forward, and reached out a hesitant hand to stroke the palomino between the eyes. "I swear to you, girl, that I'll never pull a stunt like that again. I love you and don't ever want to hurt you as badly as I did. Can you ... can you ever forgive me?"
Argo looked at Xena long and hard. After a long moment, she blew out a soft breath and nodded her head. Xena's face broke out in a happy expression as she hugged the horse's neck tightly, "Thank you, girl!"
When she pulled away, Xena looked at Gabrielle who smiled and motioned her assent to the warrior. Xena lowered the stirrup a notch to its usual position. Gathering the reins, she placed her left foot into the stirrup. She bounced twice on the ball of her right foot and pushed up into the saddle. Just as her foot left the ground, Argo swung away from Xena and bucked slightly, sending her flying onto her butt with an unceremonious thump.
Argo whickered and shook her head once more. Then she moved to Gabrielle and nudged her in the chest. The storyteller smirked and looked at Xena sitting on the ground with a stunned look on her face.
She bit back a laugh, somewhat. "She said she could forgive you, honey. But I think she's a lot like her mom and she's not going to forgive you so easily. I think you're gonna have to work at it a little longer before she does." Argo stamped her hoof and nodded. Adjusting the stirrup back, Gabrielle mounted and extended her hand once more. Xena shook her head and climbed behind her lover.
Gabrielle whispered over her shoulder, "You might want to consider adding apples to your apologies in the future." Xena sighed forlornly. "Don't worry honey, we'll get you a horse in the next village so that you don't have to walk no telling how long it will take Argo to forgive you." The blonde felt a smile tugging at her lips, then grew solemn. "We have Zara to thank for the extra coins. We wouldn't be able to afford another horse if it wasn't for the delivery that Abu made at the last minute."
"Yeah, I know," Xena answered softly, as Gabrielle looked out over the city of Athens.
Off in the distance, she saw the speckle of sails from the ships in the harbor. At the sight of the sleek, Moroccan merchant ship cutting through the waves in the distance, Gabrielle released a sad sigh. She remained silent while watching its sails flapping in the wind as is it carried the ship away from Greece.
"Will she be ok, Xena?" Gabrielle's voice broke through their silence. The warrior princess remained silent for a few moments, then wrapped her arms tightly around the blonde's waist, her breath felt close to her cheek.
"I think so, Gabrielle," was all that Xena said before the smaller warrior turned Argo around as they headed toward home.
Tshaya of the Kaldeshari clan moved over the deck. Her dark, full-length skirt was pinned up on one side, leaving a leg exposed. The colorful red blouse that was cut low showed off her bosoms. Although not ample, Tshaya knew that what she had, combined with the cinched bodice and revealing top, was enough to make any man her unwitting servant. With each slight step, she felt her hips gently swaying, capturing the glances of the sailors nearby.
The young Gypsy woman cast forth her most beguiling smile when she noticed the various glances of the men. With each step she took, she was aware of the sexuality that exuded from her being. On bare feet, she crossed the smooth wood, the jingling of the ankle bracelet making a soft noise that was only outdone by the bracelets around her wrist and her necklaces. As the wind brushed past her long, dark, raven hair, the tinkle of her golden earrings sang on the wind.
With only a tilt of her head, the young Gypsy smiled at the men as she looked at them with hooded eyes. She acknowledged their attention without encouraging their advances. In silence, Tshaya moved to the rail and looked out at the distant land that passed by. As she watched the unfamiliar landscape change before her eyes, she released a sigh of relief as she remembered the perilous journey that led them here.
It had all happened so fast. One day the Kaldeshari clan was living a peaceful life. Their wagon caravan moved through the countryside not at all worried that trouble would cross their path. Although her grandmother had predicted a darkness ahead, no one knew what to make of her dire warnings. It was not until that fateful night that it all became clear to Tshaya.
As her clan lay asleep, the Horajah people, a rival clan jealous that her grandmother
held the power and title of the Gypsy Queen moved in to slaughter them as they
slept. If it was not for little Mari who had to relieve herself in the middle
of the night, Tshaya never would have known that men were approaching their caravan.
Once she noticed the danger, she had only enough time to spirit little Mari and
her grandmother away. Their parents perished before their eyes. Even as they hid
in the nearby brush, they watched in horror as their people were slaughtered and
the bodies laid out and identified. It was then that she realized that the Horajah
clan would not rest until her grandmother was found, and they were all dead.
With this thought, they fled from the scene. Together, they ran as fast and as far as they could, but no matter how far they went, the Horajah's were always close behind them. When she entered Athens, she knew that the large port city would be the place for them to find their escape. Although her people were not accustomed to the sea, only by sea would they save their lives, she reasoned as she waited for the right time to find the one who would be their salvation. With her grandmother's prediction, they waited in the darkness of the alley knowing that the one who would accept their meager coins would walk through their path.
As a noise caught her attention, Tshaya turned and watched as the tall female captain exited her cabin. With a curious glance, she watched as the mysterious woman made her way to the bow of the ship. As if the weight of the world pressed down upon her shoulders, the strange woman stood at the front of her ship, her back straight as she stared ahead.
Tshaya could not have explained it, but when she first saw the figure in the night, she felt a familiarity in her soul. So strong it was, that the dark Gypsy felt all control leave her. When the tall stranger lowered her hood it was then that Tshaya realized that the captain who was their salvation was a woman. In that single moment within the alley, the Gypsy girl thought she saw a glow within the tall captain's eyes. Upon seeing a familiar flash, the young girl felt her breath catch as her heart skipped a beat.
"Is it you?" Tshaya asked the stranger in the native tongue of the Gypsy people. When the figure looked at her confused, the young woman shook the feelings away as she regained her senses and begged to be allowed passage. She didn't care where the destination was, as long as it took what was left of her family as far away as possible.
Now that the fear of escape was gone, Tshaya found herself spellbound by this single thought. Is it you? She asked herself again as her gaze remained on the woman's back. Her instincts came into play as she tried to grasp what was happening to her.
Tshaya Kaldeshari had seen nineteen summers and still she was not romi, she was not a wife. No matter how many men tried to sway her to marry them, she did not consent. Although many felt that she saw herself above the men, only her grandmother understood her reasons. Tshaya knew that somewhere in the world was the one soul who was meant for her. Somewhere out there, was the person who would make her complete and only in their arms would her life be given meaning. So rather than marry a man who was not her other half, Tshaya chose to remain alone until the day would come that she found the other part of her soul.
When she looked up at the tall woman, she cocked her head in confusion. Although she knew of couplings between the same genders, this was not something that Tshaya openly sought out. But if truth was told, she never considered that the one meant for her would be a woman. Confused by this, the Gypsy woman was deep in thought as she turned away from the female captain. As she watched the waves crashing against the side of the ship, she remembered the night before.
While the big man named Abu readied their room, Tshaya moved toward the cabin where the tall captain disappeared. On the tips of her toes, she glanced into the window and watched as the mysterious woman put her cape and weapon away. When she turned away from the large wooden closet, her dark, wavy hair cascaded over her shoulders. Tshaya watched as the captain moved to stand near a child's bed. When the tall woman lightly touched the pillow, the Gypsy wondered if this woman had lost a child. Before she could ponder this, the Moroccan moved to the larger bed and turned around. Afraid of being seen, the young Gypsy ducked down low for a moment, then carefully rose and peered into the window. Tshaya could see the devastating pain of the woman. When the captain held a green colored cloth to her face and inhaled deeply, it was all the Gypsy could do to keep herself at bay. As the woman laid on the bed submerged in shadows, the young woman turned away, her brow cocked as she thought over all that she had seen.
With a slight smile, Tshaya turned away from the rail and slowly walked over the deck, her eyes occasionally glancing toward the back of the captain. Is it you? She found the silent question rolling through her thoughts. Once she was out of sight, she ran the remaining steps, entered the cabin closing the doors quickly behind her. She smiled at her little sister as she deposited a scarf of bread and fruit on the bed. Not needing an invitation, the little girl began to greedily devour the food as their grandmother sat hunched on the floor.
"Grandmother, tell me true, is it her? Is she the one?" Tshaya excitedly asked as she pulled her skirt up and joined the wizen figure on the floor.
Her grandmother's brows were knitted in concentration as she examined the bones on the floor. At her insistence, the clan matriarch had taken the fortune telling bones and cast them upon the ground after Tshaya had spit on them. While the young woman retrieved their morning meal, the old woman was free to examine the bones in peace. Now that her granddaughter returned, the wizened face concentrated while Tshaya anxiously waited. The young woman wondered if what she felt was the sign that she had been waiting for all of her life.
"Please, grandmother, don't torture me!" she begged. At her words, her little sister giggled as she ate the bread.
"Oh, you! Just wait until you are seeking your other soul!" Tshaya waved at the child, then smiled as she winked at her. When she turned her attention to the Gypsy Queen, she felt her heart catch as the clan matriarch gave a toothless smile as she nodded her head.
"Yes, child," the wizen voice spoke low. "This one is meant for you! This is the other half of your soul!"
"Oh, grandmother! At last!" Tshaya jumped up and twirled around in a circle, scooping her little sister up in the process as they danced in the small room. When she saw her grandmother's pleased smile, she gave a sheepish grin as she deposited her little sister to the bed, then helped the old woman to her feet.
"However, there is this that you should know, my child," the old woman tsked. "She is filled with so much sorrow and pain."
"Then I shall take her sorrow away! With me, the captain will never feel pain again!" the young Gypsy was filled with confidence.
"Beware, Tshaya, lest you scare this one away. Her heart is as fragile as a morning dove," the old woman advised.
"I will grandmother, I will take care, I promise," she smiled as she knelt at the old woman's feet.
Even as she contemplated her grandmother's words, her heart was jumping for joy. Tshaya was not certain how she was going to go about wooing the strange female captain. She only knew that of all the souls on the earth, this one was meant for her. No matter how long it took, or how hard the endeavor was, Tshaya of the Kaldeshari clan had no intentions of losing the other half of her soul now that she had found her in this life.
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