The Long Journey Back

David E. Milligan


Gabrielle returns to Amphipolis with Xena's ashes. She finds Eve there waiting for her.


Part One

As Gabrielle watched the sun slowly set in the west, and swayed with the gentle rocking of the small ship as it journeyed closer to Chin, she again  felt the finality of the death of Xena overpowering her as nothing had ever done before.

She held the jar of Xena's ashes even closer to her, afraid it might slip from her grasp and fall into the sea. It was the only thing she had to remind her of her lost Soulmate.  Even the Chakram she had inherited didn't have the intimate closeness of Xena's remains.

As darkness descended over the sea, once again Gabrielle allowed the tears to flow.  "Why did you leave me, Xena? You promised me you'd always be there.  You said we'd always be together. So, why? Why?" So many times she cried over the loss of her dearest friend. How many more times would she weep before Xena's ashes were safely home in Amphipolis?  

"I have to take you home, Xena." Gabrielle said to herself. "You need a peaceful resting place, next to your brothers and your mother.   Eve needs to know what happened. And Hercules; he'll want to know. And the Amazons. They'll all want to mourn."

How long into the night she stood on deck she didn't know. Only when she was afraid she would fall asleep and lose her precious treasure did she go below to her berth to sleep.

Two days later the ship docked at one of the many, nameless sea ports along the coast of Chin.  As she left the boat with her few possessions, common sense began to take over. 

"I have so little money, how will I ever pay for my passage across this great country? I don't even have enough to buy enough food or clothing, much less a horse."

As she walked toward the small village, she could feel eyes upon her -- non-Orientals were rare. And an unaccompanied round-eyed woman was unheard of.  But before she got out of sight of the harbor, a contingent of soldiers stopped before her.   Gabrielle's right hand went to the Chakram and her fingers followed its circumference until she touched the clasp at her belt, ready to launch it if necessary. The captain of the soldiers bowed before her.  Gabrielle bowed back, her eyes watching for the first sign of trouble.

"You are the companion of the Warrior Princess?" He asked.

Fighting back tears, Gabrielle nodded.

"You will follow me." He said.

"Why should I do that?" Gabrielle asked suspiciously.

The captain, unused to his orders being questioned, hesitated then said, "S'uu Ma, the daughter of K'ao Hsin, the daughter of Lao Ma, requests it."

Nodding again, Gabrielle followed the captain, his men following behind.  As they made their way through the village, Gabrielle could sense the people watching them out of the corners of their eyes.  They soon left the village and walked for another half day before they arrived at the home of S'uu Ma.

The captain bowed, backed away, and Gabrielle entered the house.  As she looked around, Gabrielle noticed that even though it was sparsely furnished, there was an air of elegance and luxury.

"You are Gabrielle."  Gabrielle turned to see a small woman entering from another room. Her clothes were simple yet reflected a sense of breeding and nobility.

"Yes. You wanted to see me?"

S'uu Ma nodded slightly.  "We have heard of the destruction of the evil Lord Yodoshi in Japa at the hands of Xena. We have also heard she was slain in the battle."

"There was more to it than that, but yes, Yodoshi was destroyed by Xena.  And yes, Xena died also.  I have her ashes. I am returning to her home in the west."

"Yes. We have also heard this. You have a long and perilous journey ahead of you."

"I am aware of that. When your men found me I was trying to think of some way to pay for the trip."

"There is no need for such concern. On your passage home you will be accompanied by soldiers of the warlords of each of the provinces you will be traveling through."

"I don't understand. Why would they do that for me? I heard many of them are at war with each other."

"Yes, you are correct. But such was their fear of Lord Yodoshi that his demise at the hands of your companion has assured you safe passage."

"I'm sorry, but I still don't understand. How is it that you even know about Yodoshi?"

"Bad news travels on the fastest of ill winds.  Lord Yodoshi's reign of terror is well known to us. And it was said that after his obliteration of Japa, Chin was next along his path of world destruction.  Such was our fear of Lord Yodoshi, that when it was told that the Warrior Princess of the West defeated him, all rejoiced.  We knew of you as her companion on this undertaking, and when it became known you were returning Xena to her final resting place, all agreed to allow you safe passage."

"But how will they know who I am? Couldn't anyone claim to be me?"

"This is true, but only you have the sacred Chakram. And even as we speak, your likeness is being distributed throughout our land. You will have no problems."

"I am overwhelmed at your generosity. I don't know how to thank you."

"It is we who cannot find the means to thank Xena, so we offer safety to you, her companion, hoping it will be sufficient."

"Yes, it is more than enough."

"When would you like to begin your long journey back to Xena's home?" S'uu Ma asked.

"If possible, I'd like to start out tomorrow morning at first light."

"It will be done. My house is yours. You will bathe, then eat, and then sleep."

The next morning, Gabrielle was up as the eastern sky began to brighten. S'uu Ma provided Gabrielle with extra clothing, food, and gold coins.

"Before you leave," S'uu Ma said, "There is one favor I would ask of you."

"Certainly. What can I do?"

"I would like a small amount of the ashes of  Xena for the shrine I have created in her memory. I will guard them with my life."

Although she didn't want to part with any of them, Gabrielle allowed S'uu Ma to dip a small spoon into the jar and withdraw a measured amount.  S'uu Ma placed the ashes in a small glazed jar and set it between two candles in the shrine.

"My prayers go with you. May you find peace and tranquility throughout your life's journey."

Gabrielle nodded in thanks, and turned to go.  When she got outside she saw that the soldiers were back. All were on horses, and the captain was holding one for her. As she mounted, she nodded again at S'uu Ma, and they turned to the west, away from the rising sun.

They rode all day until there was barely enough light to make camp, and were up and gone again at dawn. This became a regular pattern. At Gabrielle's request, stops for meals were short, she knew there was a very long way to go, and the sooner it was over, the sooner Xena could be at rest. 

After three days travel, they were at the edge of S'uu Ma's province, and were met by soldiers of the adjacent one.  There was a brief conversation between the two captains and once again Gabrielle and soldiers were heading west.

When Gabrielle was handed off to the next troop of soldiers, the captain of the previous one made the same request of Gabrielle for Xena's ashes, so his warlord could also dedicate a shrine.  And the same happened with every changing of the guard. Everyone wanted to make offerings to the Slayer of Lord Yodoshi.

As Gabrielle sat by the campfire she opened the jar containing Xena's remains.  It was less than half full. When she started her journey from Japa it had been full. "At this rate, there won't be any left by the time I get to Amphipolis." She thought to herself.

From her saddlebag, Gabrielle got out a piece of leather, and cut it to twice the size of her two hands.  Folding it in half, she carefully stitched and then double stitched three sides.  Slowly and carefully she poured the ashes into the pouch, and without letting the ashes blow out, she sewed up the last side. This she placed safely inside her shirt.

Gabrielle then put ashes from the campfire into the jar, making sure there were no sticks or other foreign objects. "I really hate to do this to them," She thought, "But I have no choice. What they don't know can't hurt them."

For more than a month they traveled across the kingdom of Chin until at last Gabrielle was entering the subcontinent of India.  Here she was handed off to the soldiers of a nomadic tribe. 

Although they had no knowledge of Japa, stories of a Great Evil in the east that was slain before he was able to destroy the world was spreading. And the pale-skinned woman with straw-colored hair carrying the magic Chakram was to be revered and protected.

It took another month to cross India and Asia Minor.  At last Gabrielle was looking out over the western arm of the Mediterranean Sea. All that was left was a short sea voyage to the west, and then a turn to the north, and on to Thrace, and Amphipolis.


The last part of the journey Gabrielle took  alone. It was less than a two-day walk from the coast to Amphipolis.  She arrived in late afternoon, and walking through the village she couldn't help but notice how little it had changed. 

Soon she was at the tavern that Cyrene,  Xena's mother, had once owned. Taking a deep breath, Gabrielle walked through the front door.  It was too late in the afternoon for the midday meal, and still too early for supper, so the tavern was mostly empty. But still Gabrielle could feel the eyes of the few who were in there.  As she approached the bar someone spoke.


Gabrielle turned toward the voice, and for the space of a heartbeat she thought she saw - No it couldn't be! A tall, slender woman with long dark hair and piercing blue eyes.  For the space of a heartbeat - then she recognized her.


The two women rushed together and embraced.  For the fiftieth, or was it the one hundredth time, Gabrielle's tears began, and she had no control over them. But for the first time she had a shoulder, a familiar, supportive shoulder to cry on. 

And for Eve, the rumors she had heard, and had so vehemently denied, were true; her mother was dead, slain on the field of battle in a land too far away.   She was not able to control her tears any more than Gabrielle.  For a long time they clung to each other in their mutual anguish and sorrow.

When the tears ran out, and Gabrielle and Eve found a table.  Slowly and haltingly Gabrielle told Eve the story of Lord Yodoshi and Xena's death. Before it was over, both women were crying again.

". . . So I made a vow to Xena and to myself that I would bring her ashes back here to be placed in the family burial vault so she could be with Cyrene, Lyceus and Toris. And here I am."

As she spoke, Gabrielle brought out the leather pouch with the ashes of her dear friend. Seeing the curious look on Eve's face, Gabrielle explained why she had to conceal them in the pouch.

"Tomorrow we will buy an urn and then we will have a memorial ceremony." Eve told her. "But now I think we should get some sleep. I rented us a room here."

"How did you know I would come?" Gabrielle asked her.

"I don't know. No, that's not true.  We've been hearing tales and rumors for months about Mother's death. I didn't want to believe them. But when stories started about a woman with straw-colored hair carrying the Chakram was coming this way,  in my heart I knew it must be true. I thought, hoped, you might come here first."

"S'uu Ma, the granddaughter of Lao Ma, told me that bad news travels on the fastest of ill winds. I guess it's so."   Gabrielle said.


The next day they found a small urn for Xena's remains, and took it to the family vault. Before the ceremony Gabrielle poured all but the tiniest amount into the urn. She kept this for herself, in a small vial, to carry next to her heart forever.  When they had finished and left Xena with her family, Eve asked Gabrielle what was next.

"I still have to find Hercules.  Even if he's heard the rumors, he still should know the truth.  And I want to find the Amazons as well. They'll want to know what happened."

"Maybe you can find Hercules, but I don't know about the Amazons. No one has heard anything about them for years. They say the local tribes disbanded, split up, and went to live with tribes in other lands. But I don't know for sure. They may still be around, just keeping to themselves.'

"Well, I still have to try to find them. What will you do?"

"I don't have any real plans. I thought maybe I would travel with you, if you don't mind."

"Mind? Why would I mind? I've been alone for too long, ever since . . .  ever since I left Japa." Again Gabrielle's eyes brimmed with tears.  "I would really like it if you came. I have a enough dinars left to buy a couple of horses."

"Then I guess we should get started. It's good to have you back. I missed you."  For the first time in many months, Gabrielle smiled, and gave Eve a warm hug, wetting her shoulders with tears.


As Gabrielle and Eve rode past the foothills of Mt Olympus, Gabrielle looked up at it curiously. "I wonder if Ares knows. I would have thought he'd be the first one I'd run into."

"With him, there's no telling. Maybe he didn't care that much about Mother after all." Eve answered. "Maybe he doesn't know."

"Maybe, maybe not. But I can't worry about Ares. I've got other things to be concerned with right now.'"

As they made their way to the Amazon camp, neither had much to say. They really didn't have that much in common. But at least neither was alone.  

Eventually they came to the Amazon camp, and the stories Eve had heard were true  -
–  the camp had long been abandoned. If it weren't for Gabrielle's sharp eyes, they would have missed it, it was almost completely overgrown.  After a short exploration to see if they could find some clue as to where they had gone, Gabrielle concluded they had departed for good and there was no way to tell to which other tribes they had gone.

"So now we do what?" Eve asked.

"I guess we try to find Hercules."

"Do you know where to look?"

"No, I don't. Maybe we can spread the word we're looking for him and he'll find us." Gabrielle suggested.

Before Eve could speak again, she saw Gabrielle tense up as she unclipped the Chakram.  Gabrielle slowly turned in a circle, eyes and ears alert for any movement or sound. Then as Eve began to look for something to use for a weapon, Gabrielle returned the Chakram to its hook.

"Okay, I know you're there. Show yourself!"

And as soon as the words were out of her mouth, Ares appeared in a flash of light. "Don't tell me that now YOU can sense when I'm here." Ares said to Gabrielle. "I thought Xena was the only one who could do that."

"Maybe it's the Chakram." Gabrielle replied. "So what do you want?"

"I thought you MIGHT want to know that I've been to your Japa looking for Xena's spirit."

"Did you find her! What did she say? How is she? Tell me something!"

"Oh, I found her, but I didn't."

"And what is THAT supposed to mean?  Either you did or you didn't."

"You know, they have some really strange demons there. I mean STRANGE!"

"I don't care about the demons. What about Xena?"

"She's there, and she knew I was there, but she wouldn't let me near her."

"What do you mean? You're not making any sense!"

"Xena knew I was there. And she knew, somehow, that if I got close enough to her I would have captured her and brought her back here.  I even tried using your name, but whenever I got close enough to see her, she would just -- fly away."

"But you're a god! How could she get away from you?"

"Look, Gabrielle, when Xena was alive she was unique, very special."

"You're telling me THAT? Of course she was!"

"What I'm trying to say is that as a mortal she was, well, you know. But as a spirit, she's -- I don't know, something WAY past unique. I couldn't get near her.  But there was something else I discovered."

"Okay, what?"

"I found the residue of that Lord Yoshi, or whatever his name was."

"Yodoshi." Gabrielle corrected him.

"Yoshi, Yodoshi, whatever.  I don't know how Xena ever managed to defeat him. The only pure evil I have ever experienced was Dahak.  And this Yoshi character was almost as evil.  I shudder to think what would have happened if they had joined together."

"But what about Xena?" Gabrielle asked impatiently. "Didn't you get to talk to her or anything?"

"Gabrielle, Xena knew why I was there. I could sense she wanted to come back to you. But she couldn't, or wouldn't.  After a while I knew I was wasting my time there, so I came back here."

Gabrielle bowed her head, sobbing, then she looked up at Ares. "Maybe if we went back together she would let us bring her back."


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