Gabrielle, Goddess of Despair


"Xena, do you ever get that feeling that something terrible is about to happen?"

"I used to, whenever Joxer started fixing his turnip and radish stew."

"Yeah, me too. But seriously, I mean a feeling you can't quite put your finger on, but you just know somehow, sometime, something bad, I mean REALLY bad is going to happen."

"I've had that feeling a few times, but mostly it was the vision I had of you being nailed to that cross by Romans."

"Yeah, but you had a vision. I'm talking about a feeling, a bad, bad, dark, horrible feeling."

"No, can't say that I have. But since you're asking me, I assume you have."

"Yes. I've had it for several days now. At first it was like a strange dream you can't remember but still have that leftover feeling about. And every night it seems to be getting stronger, but I still can't pinpoint it."

"So that means if you wait a week, you'll know what it is?" Xena asked, now starting to get a little curious.

"I guess. But I'd hate to think that by the time I figure out what it is, it'll be too late."

"Too late for what?"

"I wish I knew. I just wish I knew."


Later, the two stopped for the night. Argo had been brushed down, fed and watered, as had Milkspot, the mare Gabrielle was now riding.

Since Argo didn't like to be transported from here to there, and since Xena wouldn't leave her behind, the only way for them to be together, not to wear Argo out, and to still be able to get to the villages she wanted to visit, Gabrielle decided that it made more sense to get her own horse. She accepted Milkspot (because of the milk-white spots on her brown coat) for curing a village mayor's son of stuttering.

Gabrielle had produced roast lamb, wheat and barley loaf, cheese, and wine for their supper. As they were finishing up, Xena was watching Gabrielle polish off the last piece of cheese. Then a thought came to her and she asked, "Gabrielle, why are you eating that?"

Taken a little surprised, Gabrielle answered, "Because it's here?"

"No. I mean, why do you eat? You said you don't get hungry or thirsty. So why bother eating at all?"

"Well, for one thing, I like the taste of most foods. Just because I don't need to eat, doesn't mean I don't enjoy it. And for another, it's something we've always done together, and I guess I just like the companionship of us sharing a meal. I like doing everything with you, Xena. Just like yesterday evening when we took that swim after supper. I wasn't dirty, I didn't smell, but I enjoyed the coolness of the water, and the way it felt on my body as we swam. And we were doing something together."

"Well, I just wondered. What about sleeping? You do get tired I've noticed."

"I do. But mostly after I've had a difficult or extended Healing session. I think sleeping is my body's way of restoring my energy. Although, I've noticed that I sleep less now than I did when I first got my powers."

"Getting used to them?"

"I think so. It's like ... well, it's like learning to ride a horse. The first time you're mainly just along for the ride. And after it's over, your back aches, your butt hurts, and you might have a headache from all the bouncing around. But every time you get on the horse, you learn a little more about riding, and you get better. Every time I use my powers, I think I learn a little better way of managing the energy, and I don't get as tired."

"Makes sense. So one day you won't have to sleep at all, huh?"

"Actually, even now a lot of the time I don't really sleep. But I use the time to make myself more aware of the world around me, expanding my consciousness to all the animals and insects and plants. Haven't you noticed that we haven't been bothered by flies or mosquitoes, or wolves?"

"Now that you mention it, I have. But I just thought there just weren't any around."

"Oh, they're around all right, just not around us."

"Well, thanks, I appreciate it. And I'm sure Argo amd Milkspot do too."

"Your welcome. But you really don't have to say thanks, I know how you feel."

"Been reading my mind, have you?"

"No, Xena. That's something I'd never do. I definitely believe everyone deserves the privacy of their own thoughts. That would be like me following you into the bushes while you take care of business."

"You certainly wouldn't want to do THAT."

"I'm sure I wouldn't. But as I was saying, reading someone's thoughts is one thing, but emotions, they're something else!"

"What do you mean?"

"When it comes to emotions, you might as well be standing up and yelling to the world how you feel. They are just so strong there is no way I could ever block them out, unless I really, really tried. But it's not just you, it's everybody."

"So you know what I'm feeling all the time?"

"All the time. But getting back to reading your mind. When I sense how angry you get sometimes, I think I'd just as soon not know what you're thinking."

"You're right, it's pretty bad stuff sometimes."


As Gabrielle and Milkspot were riding along the narrow trail of the forest they were traveling through, Gabrielle noticed that Xena wasn't with her. "Did she say she was going on ahead? Or is she going to catch up later?" she thought to herself. "I wish I could remember."

As Gabrielle rode on, once in a  while she'd call ahead, then behind, but there was no answer from Xena.  After perhaps half a day's riding, the trail widened into a clearing. Across from the clearing was the opening of a cave. "I wonder if Xena went inside," Gabrielle thought. "She must have let Argo run loose while she's browsing."

Dismounting from Milkspot, Gabrielle walked to the entrance of the cave. As she stepped inside, she saw that there was enough light coming in for her to see a good ways down the passageway. Slowly she made her way deeper into the cave. Eventually she came to a large room with passages leading off in several directions. As she crossed the room, she thought she heard a noise behind her. "Xena! Is that you!" she asked, a little too loud. Then there was another noise to the right of her. "Xena?"  Then a noise to the left. Then behind her again. As she spun around, the noises seemed to be coming from behind her. Then they became louder, as if they were coming closer.

The more she spun, trying to see who, or what was making the indescribable noises, the more disoriented and frightened she became. In desperation, she hurled a fire ball down one passageway. Then hearing something in another one, she threw one down it. Then as she turned, and turned again, trying to catch whatever was making the noises, she released more and more fireballs, one after another.

As they traveled across the great room and down the tunnels, the fireballs lit up the area, allowing Gabrielle to see the details of the contents of the room. And as frightened as she was, when she recognized what was there, pure terror gripped her. She began screaming, and fell to the floor, paralyzed with fear. 

From somewhere, she heard Xena's voice, calling to her. "Gabrielle! Wake up! Come on! You've got to wake up!" Xena was shaking her by the shoulders, yelling into her face. 

As Gabrielle realized she was with Xena, the terror seemed to lessen. But it was then that she understood what Xena was yelling about. She suddenly saw that flames were devouring the woods all around them; they were surrounded and trapped.

"Water!" Xena was saying. "You've got to get some water to put out the fire!"

Gabrielle pulled away from Xena, stood up, put her arms out to the sides and turned in circles. As she did a blue mist streamed out from her hands, turning into a torrential outward rain that expanded wider and higher until the entire area of the conflagration had been saturated. As the rain turned back into a mist and then into nothingness, Gabrielle collapsed into Xena's arms. Slowly Xena lower her to the ground, holding her close.

Looking up at Xena, with panic in her eyes she squealed. "Oh, Xena. I was there again! I was THERE!"

"Where, Gabrielle? Where were you?"

"At the altar, The Altar of Dahak!"

"Gabrielle, that was all destroyed long ago. It's all gone."

"No, it's still there," she answered. "And so was I!"

Xena held Gabrielle tighter, rocking her, and making comforting and calming noises. Eventually, Gabrielle's breathing became regular as the terror slowly left her face; she was asleep.

Xena continued to hold her until long after the sun had come up, not wanting to wake her. But when she started moving, stretching her legs and arching her back, Xena relaxed her grip. As she caressed the side of Gabrielle's face, her eyes opened wide, then seeing Xena, she closed them momentarily, then opened them again.

As she sat up, Gabrielle said, "Oh, Xena, last night, I had the most horrible...."

Gabrielle's mouth slowly dropped open as she became aware of the carnage and charred destruction her nightmare fireballs had caused.  She turned completely around, looking at the burned remains of the majestic trees that had been there the day before.

"By - the - gods." Gabrielle slowly said as she began to understand what she had destroyed. "Xena, what have I done? What have I DONE?"

"It wasn't your fault. You were having a nightmare. It could have happened to any -- one."

"Xena, I could have killed you, or Argo or Milkspot. The horses! They aren`t...?"

"No. They're fine. They broke loose right after you started throwing the fire. They came back a little while ago. Right now they're probably out looking for some green grass."

"I've got to fix all this. I can't let it stay like this." 

Closing her eyes, Gabrielle extended her arms out to the side. As she slowly turned in a circle, a grass-green circular curtain expanded outward, much like the fire-drenching water had done. And as it passed the still smoldering trees, they were restored to their full growth and color.

After she had finished, Gabrielle sat down, her head in her hands, still not quite recovered from her nightmare. Xena sat down beside her. "Anything I can do?"

"No. But thanks for asking. If I think of anything, I'll let you know."

Xena was quiet for a few seconds, then said, "I'll tell you what, you remember that lake we swam in a couple of days ago? Why don't you pop us on over there. I think we could use a relaxing swim."

"You're actually suggesting I transport us instead of walking?"

"Sure. Why not?"

Gabrielle started to decline, but seeing that Xena really wanted to do something to help, she agreed and took Xena's hand. A blink of an eye later they were on the sandy beach of a small blue-green, spring-fed lake. As she raced toward the water, throwing her clothes off, Xena yelled back at Gabrielle, "Last one in has to marry Ares!"

Gabrielle laughed, but instead of running to the water, she waited until Xena was two steps from the edge of the water, then leaving her clothes to fall in a neat pile, she sent herself to the middle of the lake and dropped in.

"Hey!" Xena yelled out. "No fair using godly powers!"

As Xena swam out to Gabrielle, she started a water fight, splashing Gabrielle mercilessly. But unknown to Xena, Gabrielle caused a large wave to come up behind Xena and hover over her. But before it got too large Xena glimpsed it out of the corner of her eye and said, "Remember - no powers."

"Okay," Gabrielle said, releasing the wave, letting the water drop over Xena.

After playing and swimming a while longer, they both headed to the beach. Gabrielle let herself fall on her back, closed her eyes and enjoyed the warmth of the sun on her skin.

"Turn over," Xena commanded. "Let me give the old back a little rub down."

Gabrielle did as she was told and Xena started massaging her shoulders.

"You know," she said to Gabrielle, "If I had some oil, this could be a bit more relaxing." 

Gabrielle reached back to Xena with a small bottle of oil. Xena uncorked it and smelled it as she poured some in her hand.

"Sandalwood, huh? I'd forgotten about that. But it seems like I've forgotten a lot about our trip to India."

Xena proceeded to rub the oil into Gabrielle's skin as she gradually worked her way down from her shoulders to her back and sides, then to her waist, her buttocks, thighs, calves, and feet. By the time she finished both feet, Gabrielle was asleep, but Xena worked her way back up anyway, enjoying it as much as Gabrielle.

When she got back to her shoulders, Xena stopped, and studied her cherished friend. "I may not have the powers of the gods," she whispered, "But I'll fight with my dying breath to protect you."

And from somewhere inside, Xena could feel the sleeping Gabrielle return the feeling.  Xena lay down next to Gabrielle and put her arm over her shoulders. Slowly Xena let her eyes close, feeling the sun on her back, and Gabrielle's hip and leg touching hers.


"Xena, I cannot believe you got sunburned so bad," Gabrielle said looking at Xena's back, butt and legs. "I would have thought that you, of all people, would know better than to lay out in the sun half the day like that."

"What can I say? I fell asleep.  It happens to the best of us. Besides, if you weren't there asleep, I wouldn't have been either."

"Oh. So now it's MY fault, is it?" Gabrielle said with a twinkle in her eye.

"Well," Xena answered with false innocence. "It's certainly not MINE!"

"And now I guess you want me to take away the pain?"

"You`re the Healer, aren`t you?"

"That's my job. Stand still."

Gabrielle gently placed her hands on Xena's shoulders and a faint violet glow appeared. Slowly she ran her hands over and down the back of Xena's body and legs erasing the sunburn, and in its place appeared the golden brown tan Xena had on her face, arms and upper shoulders.

"That feels much better. Thanks," Xena said. But as she looked down at herself, she saw that she was completely tanned. "Hey, what's the idea of the all-over tan?"

"That's just in case you decide to do any more sun bathing. And besides, I think the tan brings out the blue in your eyes."

"Oh, so now I'm supposed to walk around naked just so my eyes will be brought out? I don't think so."

"You'll get used to it," Gabrielle answered, and on an impulse, kissed Xena between the shoulder blades. Then she slapped her on the butt. "Get dressed! Have you no shame?"

Xena chuckled a little as she began to dress. As she did, Gabrielle laid out supper - Ham, oysters, grapes, bread, cheese and ale. As they ate, Xena noticed that Gabrielle was getting deeper and deeper in thought.

"Anything you'd like to talk about?" Xena asked her.

"I was just thinking about that nightmare. I was in a cave, and I KNOW the Altar of Dahak was there. I saw it."  Xena just let her talk. "It had blood all over it, just like before. And there were all these things, just out of sight,  making really odd, scary noises. That's what I was throwing the fireballs at. What I can't figure out is what it means. Is Dahak trying to kill me? Or is it a warning  to stay away, assuming he knows I have these powers?"

"There may be a third possibility, you  know. He could want you to join him."

"You're right. Or there may be something else we haven't thought of."

"I wonder if Ares knows anything about it?" Xena speculated. "Should we ask him?"

"I suppose it wouldn't hurt, providing he tells us the truth."

"How would we know?"

"I would know. I don't think he's aware that I can read thoughts and emotions. You can talk to him, and I'll sit back and sense if he is lying or not."

As soon as they finished eating, Xena yelled out for Ares. He appeared on the second call.

"Xena! Hello Gabrielle. Something I can do for you?"

"Nothing for me," Gabrielle said as she walked away from them to sit by the fire.

"What's with the wannabe goddess?" He asked Xena.

Xena just shrugged her shoulders. "Who knows," she answered.

"So did you call me here for anything in particular?"

"Yes I did. Here lately, I've been having this feeling that something bad is about to happen, but I can't quite figure out what it is. Sound familiar to you?"

"No, can't say that it does."

"You're sure about that? This is a REALLY strong feeling."

"What about Gabrielle? Does she feel anything?"

"Her? All she feels is people needing help. Tell you the truth," Xena said, leaning in toward Ares and lowering her voice said, "she's starting to be a real drag, if you know what I mean."

Ares glanced over to Gabrielle, who was sitting with her eyes closed, and biting the inside of her lip to keep from laughing. Ares looked closer at her then said, "What's she doing, meditating?"

"Yeah, she does THAT a lot, too. Something to do with flies and mosquitoes."

Ares shook his head sadly, "What a waste of potential."

"Well," Xena continued in a normal voice. "If you don't think there is anything going on, you're probably right, but maybe I'll check with Aphrodite, she might know something."

"Don't bother. I love my sister, but I think we both know she's not the brightest star in the heavens. To her, a tragedy is when one of her love spells goes wrong."

"Even so, I think I'll ask anyway. Just to make sure."

Taking Xena's arm, and leading her farther away from Gabrielle, Ares lower his voice and said, "Okay, you're right, there is something. But I don't know what it is. There is an ominous presence, and it's getting stronger."

"And you have no idea at all what it is?"

"I have a theory, but if it's what I think it is, I'd just as soon not know."

"Isn't that kind of like burying your head in the sand? That doesn't sound like the fearless God of War I know."

"Xena, I'm telling you, let it go. If it's what I think it is -- Let It Go, Xena, just leave it alone."  And without another word, Ares flashed out.

"Well?" Xena asked Gabrielle.

"He told the truth, mostly. But he's still holding back. He knows more than he's saying."

"Do you think he may already be involved with Dahak?"

"I don't know, Xena. I was afraid to probe too much. I didn't want him to know I was there. But I wouldn't trust him, not after he tried to sell out the other gods."

"But he did give up his godhood to save you and Eve."

"Yes, there's that. But you know as well as I do, Dahak can be very persuasive when he wants to be. Or very threatening, whatever it takes."

Neither talked much as the campfire died down. As they laid out their bedrolls, Gabrielle suggested she sleep next to Xena, "...Just in case you need to restrain me. I don't want to burn everything down again."

"And I thought it was because that after the fabulous back rub you got this morning, you just couldn't stay away," Xena said, smiling.

"Of course it is. What was I thinking?" Gabrielle answered as she lay down next to Xena.  She eventually dozed off to a peaceful, nightmare-free sleep.


The next two days were quiet. Gabrielle had no more dreams, even though the feeling of the approaching catastrophe was becoming stronger. They decided to relocate their camp to the lake where Xena had gotten her sunburn. It was a better location, and since they had no idea of where to go, it would do for now.

"We have to find that cave," Gabrielle had concluded. "That's where we'll find Dahak."

"You're sure it's Dahak?"

"I'm sure. The stronger this - I hate to keep saying 'this feeling,' but that's what it is. Anyway, the stronger it gets the more it FEELS like Dahak."

"But wasn't the cave just part of your dream? How do you know it really exists?"

"I just know. It has to exist. Dahak has to emerge from somewhere, and that's the perfect place. It's secluded and it's dead, unliving rock."

"But you can't locate it?"

"No. I've tried, time and again. But his presence has spread out everywhere. If it was just at the cave I could find it with no problem."

Gabrielle was silent for a while, mulling over the limited options. A couple of times Xena started to interrupt her concentration, but thought better of it; she had no new ideas to contribute.


The next morning, Xena was up with the sun. After waiting for Gabrielle longer than she thought she should, she nudged Gabrielle's shoulder with the toe of her boot. "Hey! Are you going to sleep all day? How about some breakfast?"

Gabrielle blinked open her eyes. "You have to eat right now? You can't even wait until I get my eyes open?"

"Your eyes should have been open when the sun came up. I thought you had a lot of thinking to do. Not that it's doing us any good," Xena added sarcastically.

"You want breakfast? Fine! Here's breakfast!" And with a wave of her hand, Gabrielle caused several large fish to come flying out of the lake and slap up against Xena's face and chest.

"Fish? Is that all you can manage? I could do better than that by myself!"

With another wave of Gabrielle's hand, Xena was pelted with the bloody carcasses of a half dozen rabbits, covering Xena with blood and entrails.

"Is that the best you can do?" Xena yelled at her. "I thought you were a god? You're nothing but a joke!"

"Then laugh THIS off!" Gabrielle yelled back as she threw out one hand at Xena, and a black cloud drove her to the edge of the lake, where it was especially muddy.

Xena jumped up from the mud, hollering as she did, "So now you want to throw your powers around! Well just remember, I've been taking care of gods WAY before you ever thought about being one."

Gabrielle threw out a ball of fire toward Xena, yelling back, "Take care of this!"

Xena leapt and rolled to the side, avoiding the flaming orb. She rolled twice more and came up with her chakram in hand. And without missing a beat sailed it at Gabrielle.  Gabrielle hurled a fireball at the chakram, but when it hit, the chakram split into two, each circling away and then back at Gabrielle.

Gabrielle sent a fireball to one half of the chakram, knocking it off course and into the ground. She then sent a second one at Xena. 

Just as the second half of the chakram was about to hit Gabrielle on her blind side, and just before the fireball was about to blast into Xena's face, Ares appeared, and with twin blue energy orbs of his own deflected away both the half-chakram and the ball of fire.  And before either Gabrielle or Xena could react, he hit them both with two more spheres, but with only enough energy to knock both women off their feet.

"Don't move! Either one of you! I've got plenty more where those came from!"

"Ares!" Xena and Gabrielle yelled together.

"What in Hades do you think you two are doing?"

"Have you lost your mind?" Xena exclaimed.

"Have  * I *  lost  * MY *  mind? Look at you two. Just look at what you're doing! You're giving Dahak exactly what he wants! You're both trying to KILL each other!"

As they slowly got to their feet, Xena and Gabrielle suspiciously eyed the other. "What are you talking about?" Gabrielle asked.

"Can't you see what's happening? This evil energy Dahak has been spreading around is starting to affect both of you. Xena, you said had a feeling that something bad was going to happen. And even though you said Gabrielle didn't feel it, I knew she had to.  Well, now you know what it is. Dahak has been spreading his evil presence slowly and relentlessly. And it has affected everyone! My followers are fighting among themselves, and even I can't control them. Poor Aphrodite is beside herself. Every couple she's made fall in love is fighting."

"So why haven't YOU TWO been affected?" Xena asked him.

"Because we've been smart. Aphrodite and I have been watching things from Mt. Olympus where this evil energy can't get to us, or just hasn't gotten there yet."

"A likely story. I think you've sided with Dahak and you're just trying to recruit one of us," Gabrielle said.

"If that's what I wanted to do, then why didn't I just let one of you be killed and take the other?"

Neither woman spoke, not knowing what to believe.

"I think the best thing right now is for both of you to come back to Mt. Olympus with me until you are back to normal, and then we can figure out some kind of battle plan."

Gabrielle laughed a mean, humorless laugh. "Oh, yes, you'd like that, wouldn't you? Then you and Dahak would have us exactly where you'd want us. Not ME. I'm not going anywhere."

Ares looked at Xena. "Are you coming, then?"

"I don't think so. I like my chances better here than up on your dungeon mountain."

"Stubborn, stubborn, STUPID women! Dahak knows you two are the only ones who can defeat him, and you're following his plan right to the end. You'll kill each other, or one of you will die, and he wins. But you're both too stupid to see it!"

"I'm staying here," Gabrielle stated.

"Me, too," Xena added.

"Great! Then if you two are staying here, then I'M going to have to stay just to keep you two apart. So -- a few rules. NO ONE talks to the other!  NO ONE looks at the other! And NO FIGHTING!"

Xena and Gabrielle gave each other and then Ares a dirty look, then walked in separate directions. Xena went to see about Argo, and Gabrielle did the same for Milkspot. The rest of the day Ares made sure he was always between them, just in case.  As the sun began to set, Ares managed to talk them into at least sharing the campfire, even though Xena was the only one who needed its warmth, or ate anything.

"You keep her away from me!" Xena warned Ares as she lay down on her bedroll for the night.


As Gabrielle and Milkspot were riding along the narrow trail of the forest they were traveling through, Gabrielle noticed that Xena wasn't with her. "Did she say she was going on ahead? Or is she going to catch up later?" she thought to herself. "I wish I could remember."

As Gabrielle rode on, once in a  while she'd call ahead, then behind, but there was no answer from Xena.  After perhaps half a day's riding, the trail widened into a clearing. Across from the clearing was the opening of a cave. "I wonder if Xena went inside," Gabrielle thought. "She must have let Argo run loose while she's browsing."

Dismounting from Milkspot, Gabrielle walked to the entrance of the cave. As she stepped inside, she saw that there was enough light coming in for her to see a good ways down the passageway. Slowly she made her way deeper into the cave. Eventually she came to a large room with passages leading off in several directions. As she crossed the room, she thought she heard a noise behind her. "Xena! Is that you!" she asked, a little too loud. Then there was another noise to the right of her. "Xena?"

"Gabrielle! Over here!"

Gabrielle waved her hand and the ceiling of the cave began to glow, lighting up the large room. And off to one side, was Xena. As she got to her, Gabrielle saw that she was trapped in the wall of the cave, with only her hands and head showing."

Without a word, Gabrielle started running her hands down both sides of where Xena's body should be. As she did, the rock began to fall away gradually freeing her. But before Gabrielle had completely released her, Xena yelled for Gabrielle to look behind her.

Gabrielle spun around to see the large slab of boulder that was the altar rising to the top of the cave, and out of the floor of the cave came the Fire That Was Dahak, twisting and dancing, smelling of sulphur and death. And charging toward them.

Gabrielle immediately thrust her hands out in front of her, and the black repelling column of energy was driven into the inferno. At first the fires of Dahak were driven back, but with resurging strength, the energy of Gabrielle's was forced back, closer and closer to her.

When it looked as if she might be slowing down the advance, a finger of flame snaked its way around the pillar of blackness and just before it reached her, there was a blue flash, and then an orb of blue devoured the flame.

Ares turned his attention to Xena and finished freeing her from the rock wall. Then tossing her the chakram he commanded. "Watch her back! Watch those flames!"

Ares then added his balls of blue fire to Gabrielle's black column, coming out so fast to almost be a solid blue stream of energy.  Slowly the firestorm of Dahak was being pushed backward. And as the fingers of flame tried to flank and ambush Gabrielle, Xena used her chakram to cut into and dissolve them.

For a long, agonizing  time the battle of wills continued. But the longer it lasted, the weaker all became. The fire of Dahak was not as energetic or as large. Ares was only sending individual balls from each hand. And Gabrielle's black column was fading into gray. When the flaming fingers stopped coming, Xena tried throwing her chakram through the conflagration. But if it made a difference, she couldn't tell, but she had to be doing something.

As Dahak was gradually forced back the toll was beginning to tell. Gabrielle was soaked with sweat from both the heat of the flames and from the exertion. At one point she fell to her knees. As she did, her aim momentarily was off, and Dahak pushed forward. Xena's arms encircled Gabrielle, holding her arms and steadying them, and Dahak was forced back again.

Then Ares had no more to give. His strength and will were gone. Only Gabrielle, supported by Xena continued to fight. And as the last of her strength and energy was spent, Dahak's last flicker was crushed by the falling boulder that was the altar. But as it crashed to the floor of the cave, the ceiling began to collapse and rocks and boulders began to rain down on them.
With the last bit of energy he could find, Ares put both arms around the women and transported them back to the lake.

All three collapsed to the ground. But as she held Gabrielle's limp and seemingly lifeless body, Xena began to shake her, calling for her to wake up. But Gabrielle's lips and fingernails had turned blue. Her skin was a deathly white. Her eyes were open but saw nothing.

"ARES!" Xena yelled at him. "ARES! You've got to get up. You've got to bring Gabrielle back to life."

Ares slowly moved to look at Gabrielle. "I don't know if I can do anything. It took all I had just to get us out of the cave."

"Don't tell me THAT! You're a god. You can do anything! Save her. You did it before. You can do it again!"

"Xena, I'm trying to tell you...."

"Anything!" Xena cried in desperation. "I'll do anything you want. Just save her life and it's yours."

"Xena, you don't understand."

"A Child. You want a child, I'll give you a child. Just save Gabrielle."

"You say that now, but...."

"My word is good. You save Gabrielle and I'll have your son, and you can take him to Mt. Olympus. No questions asked."

For a few moments Ares looked into Xena's eyes.  Then he turned to Gabrielle and laid his hand on her forehead. There was a weak blue glow, and then he stopped.

"What are you doing?" Xena asked frantically. "Why did you stop? What's the matter?"

"Gabrielle doesn't need me. She's not dead. Not entirely. There's still a spark of life. But it's not my magic she needs, it's yours."

"My magic? I can't do magic. I'm not a god."

"Xena, the magic between you and Gabrielle is stronger than any magic any god could possess. It took both of you to defeat Dahak. Now Gabrielle needs you to take care of her, let her know you're here. There's nothing I can do. It's up to you now, and her. But I think I need to get back to Mt. Olympus. I have some recuperating to do myself."

"Ares, before you go - you could have told me you saved her and held me to my promise. Why didn't you?"

Ares tried to meet Xena's eyes, but couldn't. After a few seconds, shrugged his shoulders and answered, "I don't know why. I guess I figured somehow you'd know I was lying. Look, I really have to go."

"Just one more thing. What happened? How did I get into the cave and trapped in the wall? How did Gabrielle find me? How did you find us?"

"Dahak has some really sneaky powers. Once he stopped concentrating on spreading his ill will and focused on you and Gabrielle he was able to get you into the cave without me or Gabrielle knowing about it. I don't know how Gabrielle found you, I guess by concentrating on Dahak's energy. The same way I did. Now, if there are no more questions...."

"No more questions. Just --  thank you."  Seconds later Xena and Gabrielle were alone.

Xena picked up Gabrielle and carried her to the edge of the lake, where a shallow pool was. She stripped the sweaty, dirty clothes from her and gently washed her, taking care not to get soap in her eyes as she shampooed her hair.

After Gabrielle was clean and dry, Xena wrapped her in a blanket and laid her by the campfire. She then washed herself, and then her and Gabrielle's clothes and laid them on a rock to dry.

"Looks like I'll be hunting and fishing for food again," she said to herself.

For the next four days her routine was the same. At daybreak she would fix herself breakfast. And when it was warm enough she'd take Gabrielle back to the pool to bathe her, dress her and lay her by the fire. Then she'd feed and groom Argo and Milkspot, who had returned the second day.

After every meal, she would make a broth to feed to Gabrielle, who would drink whenever it was poured into her mouth.  Xena made sure to give her water several times a day.  By the third day, Gabrielle's color had returned, her nails and lips were back to pink and her skin was no longer pale.

When she wasn't otherwise busy, she would hold Gabrielle like a small child, talking to her, recalling all the good times they'd had together, and telling her about all the good times yet to come.

The fourth afternoon Gabrielle's eyes opened and she tried to speak. Xena lifted her up to sit and gave her water. After coughing a little Gabrielle croaked, "Dahak? Is he...?"

"Shhh. Don't try to talk. Dahak is gone. You did it. You defeated him. Everything is fine."


"You almost died, Gabrielle. It took almost everything out of you. But you're getting better every day. You just need to rest. Go back to sleep. I'm here. You're going to be all right."

Xena laid Gabrielle back down and she immediately fell back to sleep. Two days later she woke up again. Xena fed her more broth and she ate a little bread and cheese. After eating, she insisted that Xena help her to relieve herself, and then fell back asleep for another two days.

Xena had just fried up several fish when she heard someone say, "That smells delicious. I could go for a little something to eat."

"Gabrielle! Well, it's about time. Are you sure you're up to eating?"

"Xena I am famished. I can't remember the last time I was so hungry."

Overjoyed at Gabrielle's recovery, Xena assured her she could eat all she wanted; the lake was full of fish.

As Gabrielle ate, Xena told her about Ares' explanation of how Dahak had gotten her into the cave, and how Gabrielle must have found her, and how Ares found both of them. How he saved them from the cave-in. And how Xena had taken care of her as she recovered.

"I didn't realize you could cook so good," Gabrielle joked as she looked at the pile of fish bones she had left. But as she continued to look at the bones, and then to stare at them, Xena saw a cloud of concern come over her features. Then the concern changed to alarm.

"Xena, why did I eat this? Why was I so hungry? I'm not supposed to get hungry, or thirsty. What's going on here?"

"Gabrielle, you almost died. You told me yourself you had to sleep to renew your energy. Maybe this is the same thing. You need food and water to -  to come back from the dead."

"No. No, Xena. Something's wrong. Something's terribly wrong."

Gabrielle closed her eyes in concentration. Harder and harder she concentrated, the strain showing on her face. When she opened her eyes they were filling with tears.

"My powers are gone. There's nothing there. XENA! My Powers Are Gone!"

"Maybe not. Maybe you just need more rest. Maybe ... are you sure?"

Gabrielle put her hand out, palm up. "See, no fire. It's not even warm. The first thing I learned to do. Nothing. NOTHING!"

By now tears were pouring down Gabrielle's cheeks. "I've lost them. I'm not a god anymore. Oh Xena...."

Xena was there, cradling her as she had done for so many days.

"I can't believe they're really gone," Gabrielle said between the sobs. "There was so much I wanted to do. So many people needing my help. Now, I'm so useless."

Hearing that, Xena got angry and pushed Gabrielle out of her arms. "Useless? How can you say that? Look at everything you've done. You saved the world from Dahak! Doesn't that count for anything?"

"You don't understand."

"You're right, I don't understand. You've done more good in this world this past year than I could have ever hoped to do in my entire life. You've cured diseases, you've saved soldiers' lives from wounds they should have died from, you gave hope to those who had none. How can you say you're useless."

"So what do I do now? What do I tell all those people who still need me?"

Before Xena could answer, Gabrielle started crying again, and again wrapped herself in Xena's arms.

Laying her cheek on the top of Gabrielle's head, Xena softly said, "You'll think of something."



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