Summary: Xena and Gabrielle come across an old friend that neither one can recall. Can they help someone they cannot remember? Love, war, forgetfulness, it’s all in a day for a warrior and a bard.
Disclaimers: I do not own any of the characters of Xena: Warrior Princess. Their paths simply cross with my characters and the following is an account of that meeting.
Warning: This story is about, among other things the love of two (or more) women. If this is not for you please find another story. If this type of story is illegal where you live or your Mom’s going to freak, find another story. There is some mild violence (we’re talking about warriors here) nothing gory. No hot and heavy sex, although it might get a little mushy romantic at times.
Comments are welcome, but please take pity; this is my first time out. I look forward to hearing what you think. Send to email@example.com
The road to Sarapaus cut through a quiet forest and opened out into a gently rolling valley. A small line of hills ran along the western edge then dropped down to the meadows below. It had been a wonderfully quiet day, the scents of wildflowers were beginning to creep into the earthy smells of the forest, and the opening was not far now. Gabrielle allowed her mind to wander to the hot meal and soft bed that would await her at the end of their travels today. She loved sleeping under the stars, but a nice bed without rocks was always welcome. She cast a side-glance at her companion and could see that despite the casual gait to the tall warriors walk, those crystal blue eyes were constantly scanning for any sign of trouble. She was about to take Xena’s hand and coax her into a fun game of who am I when the warriors arm shot out and brought them to a halt. A crashing noise was coming down the hill through the forest just ahead of them.
Both were now on high alert as they watched a body come crashing limply down the hill somehow missing all the trees then hitting a boulder close to the bottom. As the body hit the boulder it pushed off with it’s feet somersaulting through the air and landing on its feet. As the face popped up into view the pair were surprised to see a young woman laugh with a feral grin calling out back up the hill. “Ha! Is that all you’ve got!”
Xena barely had time to dart her eyes back up the hill when a large wolf came crashing down leaping on the woman and tackling her to the ground, pinning her with its great paws. Xena pulled her sword as the wolf growled in the woman’s face showing it’s sharp deadly teeth. As Xena began to run to the young woman’s aid the wolf began licking its victims face lovingly as the girl broke into hysterical laughter.
Xena stopped short nearly causing Gabrielle to run into her. They both watched in shocked amazement as the girl managed to hold the wolf’s face back from her by grabbing its jowls. She had managed to stop laughing enough to screw her face up and rebuke the animal. “Oh! What have you been eating! Your suppose to catch the rabbits not find them rotting somewhere.” She began laughing again as another swipe of the offensive tongue caught her on the chin.
Suddenly the wolf swung its head around to look at Xena and Gabrielle in the middle of the road and gave a fierce growl for real. The young woman looked over to see Xena with her sword drawn and Gabrielle behind her, mouth open. Quickly she was on her feet and placed a restraining hand on the wolf at her side. “Tash, inapoi.” The wolf stopped growling but continued to stare at Xena and her sword. “Du-te acum prietenul meu, ne vom juca mai tarziu.” With a slight whimper the wolf looked up at its friend and did it’s best to give her a smile. Looking back at Xena it gave her a snarl showing all of its sharp teeth then turned and fled into the forest.
Gabrielle took a step forward only to have Xena place a light hand on her elbow causing her to stop. She looked around to see if the wolf had really gone then asked the girl if she was okay. The girl gave her a friendly bright smile and replied of course. Gabrielle asked if the wolf was hers and what language had she spoken to it in.
The young woman looked amused. “Tash is no ones, she’s a wild animal and can easily rip your throat out, but I do call her friend. I told her to go on and we would play later.”
Gabrielle was impressed with the way the girl handled the great animal, she noticed the short swords on her back were similar to her own sais. Quickly looking the girl over she saw there are a number of knives discreetly placed about the small body. Larger knives were in her boots; small throwing knives were tucked into special pockets on her leather pants and belt as well as her wrist guards. Oddly she wore only one leather glove although it was obvious she fought with two swords. She wore a leather vest that seemed to have the possibility of even more knives concealed within.
Xena had not moved but had taken everything in including how heavily armed the young woman was. The girl looked at Xena who still had her sword drawn. “You can put that away, Tash won’t harm you, and I would never hurt a friend. ”
Xena took a cursory look around as she sheathed her sword. Although she could not see the animal she heard it retreat further into the woods. Gabrielle looked at her questioning who this person was as Xena’s suspicions were growing. “Do I know you?” she asked with a hint of threat in her voice.
Taking a step forward to close some of the gap the girl gave them a warm smile. “No, but six moons ago I was in Thasaraus when Loaton attacked. I joined with you against him and his army, not that you needed my help.”
Gabrielle remembered the fight very well. “We fought around eighty men, but I don’t remember you.
The girl smiled and looked at the toe of her boots, she had been through this before. She began telling the tale of the battle, not nearly as eloquently as Gabrielle could have, but all the information was there. Finally she looked up into the emerald green eyes that were enthralled in the story. “Near the end of the battle you got a cut on the back of your left shoulder, when you turned around you saw a man with a sword fall with a knife in his throat. I retrieved my knife, made sure you were all right and continued fighting. That night we all shared a meal at the tavern, it was a very pleasant evening.”
Stepping between the two Xena practically growled at the girl. “Yeah, well I don’t forget battles, especially when someone saves Gabrielle’s life and I don’t remember you.”
The young woman simply smiled. “My name is Anull and we have met, but you wouldn’t remember, just as you will not remember this now.”
“What do you mean?” Xena asked threateningly.
The girl let her head drop back as she took a deep breath. Some days it was truly tiring being her. “I was cursed when I was born, some God wanted to make my mother suffer.”
Moving to Anull’s side Gabrielle looked confused. “I don’t get it, how would that make your mother suffer?”
Anull remember the kindness of the bard and what a good heart she had. “She couldn’t remember she had a child. I was a curiosity for a while. Everyday a baby would be in her home, she would take care of me, start to love me and the next day not remember me. She raised me until I was four then we got separated at a busy market, I guess she figured I went back to where I belonged, I was left behind. No more mommy.” The girl tried to ease the shocked expression on the bards face. “No one remembers me. Tomorrow you will only remember a pleasant walk through the forest and a brief encounter with a wolf.”
Her suspicions were not quelled, but Xena knew how vengeful the Gods could be, she would keep an eye on this one.
Horrified by Anull’s tale of the ultimate unhappy childhood Gabrielle tried desperately to remember the fight in Thasaraus. “Xena I remember exactly what she said, but I can’t remember her, just a blank face.”
Anull laughed, “That’s me!” trying to lighten the mood.
This did not help Gabrielle who was upset by the fact that she could not remember someone who saved her life. Xena could feel the distress of her companion and placed a hand on her shoulder. Sapphire blue met emerald green in a sympathetic understanding.
The sun was getting low in the early evening sky and the shadows around the three where growing deeper. There were a great many things to get done yet and Anull had to get moving. She decided to lay everything out and get these two on their way. “I suppose you heard Matthiaus is planning an attack on Sarapaus. I’ve been scouting it for a few days; he has about fifty or so men. They will attack in the morning, coming in from the north. There’s a field there and if we can catch them there before they reach the town we’ll have the element of surprise on our side. He’s pretty confident he can just walk through this town. He won’t be expecting us.” Gabrielle and Xena gave each other a confused look. “Don’t worry you will remember the information, just not how you got it. I know you’ll be there.”
Gabrielle looked again into violet eyes that she had never seen the likes of. “I can’t imagine not remembering you.”
Anull smiled at her and recalled again the kind heart of this amazing small warrior. She had the greatest respect for Xena who had conquered her dark side and was a constant torment to the Gods. Reaching into her vest she pulled out a small intricately designed throwing knife and handed it to Gabrielle. The design matched the ones on her wrist guards. “Take this so you will know when you see the design again I mean you no harm. I’ll be on the south edge of the field before sunrise.” Smiling at both of them Anull turned to go.
Before she could take a step Gabrielle stopped her. “Wait, are you saying I won’t know you tomorrow?” She looked up at her stoic warrior. “Xena we have to do something.”
Indicating the knife in Gabrielle’s hand Xena placed a reassuring hand on her bards back. “I think she just did.” Against her nature Xena was beginning to like this small friendly warrior. She sensed a greater story behind her. “Why don’t you join us tonight, we can discuss strategy.”
The girl smiled again and took a step back. “I’m more of an instincts fighter, but what ever you come up with I’ll fall in. I’m pretty good at picking up on these things. I have some things to take care of first.” With that she turned and began down the road deeper into the forest.
Gabrielle laid a hand on her companions arm. “Xena.”
As they watched her go Anull’s gloved right fist shot up in the air, she never looked back. They looked at each other and wondered what it meant. Suddenly a loud cry over their heads caused them to duck as the largest most beautiful white owl sailed over them and landed on Anull’s raised fist. They watched in amazement as Anull lowered her arm and nuzzled the large creature. Gabrielle gasped, “Xena, I don’t think I’m going to forget this.”
Xena’s eyebrow shot up as she let out a speculative grunt. She put her arm around her beloved companion knowing Gabrielle would not let this go. “Let’s get a room and see what we can find out.”
Wrapping an arm around her warrior’s waist Gabrielle began recounting everything she could remember about her first encounter with Anull only with out remembering the girl at all. Xena just smiled down at her bard following her story with interest. They stepped out of the trees to see the sun make it’s way across the lower part of the horizon. Below them was the town of Sarapaus and the hot meal and soft bed they both desired.
A little further into the woods Anull veered off onto an almost hidden path that cut through the trees until it opened into a clearing where a stream ran near by. The clearing was larger than a campsite and surrounded by tall green trees that gave it the illusion of an amphitheatre. Along the bank of the stream stood a beautiful array of spinning bits of metal, wood and leather. It loomed almost twenty feet high and had a complicated system of ropes, paddles, buckets and pulleys attached to it. The paddles were arranged in the water so the current would turn them; some were connected to ropes that operated strikers, playing out a primal beat on the wood and metal. A paddle wheel would fill the small buckets and raise them to the upper heights where the water would then cascade down a gentle waterfall of delicate twisted metal to create a lighter fanciful sound.
Upon entering the clearing Anull tossed her arm up a little and the owl flew over to a perch in the center of the clearing. She proceeded a little further down the bank to where her campsite was and retrieved her waterskin. Taking a long pull of water she walked back to the owl and poured some into her hand allowing the owl to drink from it. When she was sure the bird had enough she removed her swords and placed them next to the perch then turned to the task of finishing her musical sculpture. As she worked at adjusting the ropes and pulleys she talked to the owl about running into Xena and Gabrielle again, she knew the bird remembered them and the battle at Thasaraus and for the moment she felt normal. The light was fading quickly and she worked with a fevered determination, she had to finish tonight and the unexpected meeting had cost her more time than she had. Barely able to see what she was doing and the constant admonishments of her companion finally brought all work to a stop. She laughed at the big bird that was hopping over to the campsite and fussing at her the entire time.
Retrieving her swords and waterskin she rushed to catch up. The bird settled its self on another perch near the single bedroll and watched as Anull went about the task of getting a fire started then moving to the water and stripping down for a quick bath. A few moments later she stepped out of the cool water holding two fish. She handed one over to the bird with a warning about getting fish bits all over her bedroll. Then she quickly went about cleaning the other and putting it over the fire. Running back to the stream she dove in to wash all the fish smell off and enjoy a few more splashes just for fun. The owl watched with contentment as the small warrior laughed and splashed around. She was very careful not to fling any fish parts onto the blankets a few feet away, instead she gently picked at her fish while watching Anull emerge from the water all glistening and shinny. The small body shook itself dry then donned a night shift she retrieved from her pack. The night settled around them as they ate in companionable silence. When the meal was finished Anull settled into her bedroll and began humming until the great bird fell asleep and she soon followed.
The town of Sarapaus was like a lot of small towns they had been to, quiet peaceful and friendly, too bad someone always wanted to destroy that. Xena and Gabrielle had made their way to an inn and were settling down to their greatly anticipated meal. Xena sipped at her ale as she watched Gabrielle writing down all the events of the day. Knowing she would capture every detail and nuance. She loved watching the bard at work, the concentration on beautiful face and the spark in those luscious green eyes never failed to create a warm spot in Xena’s chest. The food came and Gabrielle was so caught up in her writing that Xena had to remind her to eat, a rare occurrence to be sure.
Gabrielle knew Anull was right, but she held out hope that she would not forget the incredible events of the day or the fascinating woman. But just in case she wanted to get everything down, how the girl easily and charmingly spoke to defuse the tense warrior princess, something not many could do. And her easy and loving manner with wild animals had impressed Gabrielle greatly. The fact that she had once saved Gabrielle’s life was once again haunting her memory with no success.
A scowl had clouded the bards beautiful features and Xena knew she was trying to remember again a girl who was a ghost of the past. She gently brushed a strand of hair from the furrowed brow then allowed her fingers to caress the soft cheek. Gabrielle was quickly drawn out of her thoughts and looked lovingly up into the smiling blue eyes that were her greatest comfort. She rolled up her parchment and gathered her quill and ink then allowed Xena to lead her upstairs to their room and the soft bed she had dreamed of all day.
That night as Xena lay in bed holding Gabrielle’s naked body wrapped tightly around her she began focusing on the battle ahead and the fact that there would be another fighter with them. She didn’t think about who the fighter would be; just that there would be help and that help would wear an intricate design that she had already committed to memory.
Long before the first rays of light were to grace the sky a large white owl could just be made out flying over a field and heading north. High in a tree on the southern edge of the field Anull watched as the beautiful bird disappeared into the darkness. As she awaited the return of her companion she relaxed into a crook of a large limb remembering the last time she fought along side the warrior princesses and battling bard.
She remembered watching with unabashed awe the agility and prowess the warrior princess had with a sword. She had heard rumors of the great warrior, but they could not compare with witnessing first hand the abilities of the woman. Her tall frame was as agile and fluid as Anull’s own smaller one. But it was the bard that had captured Anull’s attention the moment she saw her. Instantly she was reminded of someone else and a tightness caught at her chest. No more than a hands width taller than herself the blonde’s determination and loyalty to Xena was obvious from the first moment. And her skill with her sais was poetry in motion. Anull felt honored to fight along side these two even if only she would know of it. She had fought at Xena’s back then worked her way over to Gabrielle when the numbers started mounting against her. It had almost been too late when she saw the dirty villain sneak up behind Gabrielle and raise his sword. Her instincts were faster than her mind and watched as the man went down with one of her knives in his throat. As the life flowed out of him he lost his hold on his sword and it grazed a long cut into Gabrielle’s shoulder. She had rushed over to make sure no serious damage had been done and was instantly caught in those emerald green eyes, so much like the ones she knew all too well. The adrenalin of the fight was coursing through Gabrielle and she had seemed shocked to see the man fall behind her. Anull quickly retrieved her knife and gave the Amazon queen a wink and a smile then took off like a shot to sort out a grizzly lot who were recovering and just getting to their feet, but they wouldn’t stay there for long.
A light thread of purple was creeping into the sky and Anull sighed as she watched it increase its hold and push it way forward for lighter more brilliant colors to follow. Her memories were all she had and she held them very dear to her. Her smiled almost split her face as she watched a gliding white image make it’s way to her. The large white owl landed on her hand and blinked saucer like emerald green eyes at her. “There’s my sweet, what news do you bring? Are those nasty fellas on the move yet?” The owl moved its head from side to side. “Then we have time for some breakfast.” She pulled out a small bundle of berries and popped one into her mouth savoring the sweet juices. Reaching over she gently caressed the bird’s head. “I want you to wait here for me until it’s all over, these guys are not too bright and I don’t want you getting hurt.” The big owl blinked its eyes at her then settled down next to her to be hand fed the berries.
The light was slowly making its way into the sky when Xena and Gabrielle approached the field. Xena was scanning the area for any activity while Gabrielle was still curiously looking at the small knife she found next to her sais this morning wondering where it came from. The field was sprinkled with a few trees here and there, Xena decided that would be the best place to intercept Matthiaus and his men, it would give her lots of areas to work off of. As they moved across the field to the small stand of trees Gabrielle noticed a large white owl high in a tree on the edge of the field. “Xena, look, it’s beautiful.”
Xena looked up to see green eyes watching them. “Isn’t that the same owl we saw yesterday?”
Gabrielle considered it for a moment and then smiled. “I think you’re right, maybe we picked up a friend.”
Xena gave her a raised eyebrow then smiled back at the small blonde’s enthusiasm. Suddenly she froze alerted to a sound coming from the south edge of the field. She drew her sword and waited, then heard her name whispered on the wind as a small figure came into view.
Anull approached as quickly as she dared, not wanting to meet the end of Xena’s sword. She started to explain her presents before reaching the pair knowing Xena would hear her. “Xena, Matthiaus is on the move, he’ll be here in about half a candle mark. I’ve been watching them, there’s maybe 50 men.” By the time she had finished speaking she was standing a respectful distance in front of them.
Sword still in hand, Xena regarded the small warrior in front of her with suspicion. She did notice she wasn’t getting that bad feeling she usually got at approaching danger. “And just who are you?” she asked in her most intimidating voice.
Anull smiled having had to do this thousands of times in her life. “I am Anull. I heard Matthiaus was planning on attacking the town and have been tracking them.” She placed an arm across her chest as a sign of earnestness. “I would be honored to fight with you against this scum.”
Gabrielle noticed the design on the wrist guard Anull wore. “Xena, it’s the same design as on the knife I found with my sais this morning.” She held up the knife still in her hand and compared the two designs. Anull indicated the knives at her belt and the same design could be seen on all of them.
Xena had recognized the design immediately but wasn’t sure why she knew it, only that it meant help and friendship to her. She lowered her sword.
“I can’t explain it right now, but we have met before and I am a friend, you can trust me. I will explain everything later.” With a gentle smile on her face Anull raised her gloved hand and the white owl descended to its favorite perch. Gabrielle gasped, her eyes wide with wonder. Xena took a half step back and started to raise her sword again not knowing what was going on. Anull gave the bird a quick nuzzle “We need a progress report Taz.”
Gabrielle’s eyes sparkled at the great bird, easily a third the size of the person it rested on. “She’s so beautiful, is she yours?”
“Tazzlan belongs to herself, but she is my best friend.” Anull could see Gabrielle wanted to touch the beautiful animal. “It’s not a good idea to just reach out to her, but you can ask.”
Gabrielle asked excitedly “May I touch her?”
Stroking the birds’ chest Anull shook her head. “Not me, ask her.”
Gabrielle looked at the bird and shyly asked, “May I touch you?”
Tazzlan looked at Anull then back to Xena and then to Gabrielle. She blinked her eyes and jutted her head out. Anull smiled “That’s a yes.” She took Gabrielle’s hand a guided it to the soft plumage where she knew Taz would not mind being touched by a stranger.
A delighted sigh escaped Gabrielle’s throat. “Oh, Xena you’ve got to feel this, it’s so amazing.”
Xena just smiled and ran a hand down Gabrielle’s hair. “Amazing.”
Anull gave her another moment then sent Tazzlan on her way. “She’ll let us know when they are coming.” Before Xena could interrogate Anull Tazzlan came swooping back in and Anull motioned her to the trees.
Soon the sound of an approaching army could be heard. Xena motioned Gabrielle to her right and Anull to her left, they spread out. Xena sheathed her sword and stood with hands on hips waiting to meet the threat head on. Gabrielle pulled her sais and moved behind a tree. Anull did the same with her short swords.
Matthiaus led his men into the field then stopped short when he saw Xena. He growled in disgust. Xena cocked one eyebrow and gave him a feral grin. “Matthiaus, where do you think you’re going?”
Matthiaus growled at her again showing his rotting teeth. “You are not enough for me this time Xena.” Looking at his men he yelled for them to attack her. Swords were drawn and the mass swarmed forward.
The first five went down without the need of her sword. Then Gabrielle and Anull rushed out and joined in the fray surprising several men and taking them out easily. Xena was sending bodies flying left and right as Gabrielle worked her way through a group of her own. Anull kept anymore from advancing on Xena’s left and was easily dropping the ones advancing from the rear with her unseen little flying knives. It was not long before the numbers began to dwindle. Matthiaus realized he was about to be defeated again and started to work his way around the battle. He knew he could not defeat Xena, but he could cause her pain. Anull saw him sneaking around behind Gabrielle, his intent clear. She sent two knives flying, one imbedding itself in his ankle, slicing the tendon in the heel, the other behind his knee releasing all that held his kneecap in place. He went down like a tree. She quickly turned disarming the two at her back and knocking them out.
Xena dispatched the last of the approaching men who did not have the good sense to run away. She sauntered over to Matthiaus who was writhing on the ground in pain unable to stand. She looked at him with disgust. Gabrielle stood by Xena’s side after knocking out the man who had distracted her so Matthiaus could make his move.
The man was raving and screaming in pain. “Look what you’ve done to me Xena, if it’s the last thing I do I’ll get you for this.”
Anull walked pass Xena and Gabrielle stopping before the crippled warlord. “That would be me actually.” She reached down and pulled out her knives, which sent the man into even greater spasms of pain. “These are mine.”
He looked at the petite brunette with pure hatred and growled. “You’re dead.”
Cleaning her blades then replacing them on her belt Anull smiled mincingly down at him. She reached out so fast and pulled his face closer that he had no time to react. “That’s right remember me, study my face, I did this to you. Xena had nothing to do with it; your fight is not with her. So remember me, remember Anull.” She threw him back to the ground, gave Xena a wink then went off to retrieve her other missing knives.
Xena looked down at Matthiaus. “I wouldn’t mess with her if I were you, she might not be in such a playful mood next time. I’d crawl out of here while you still can.” She turned and gave Gabrielle a small smile. They left Matthiaus doing his best to get as far away from them as possible. They headed for the small figure that was jumping from body to body reclaiming her knives. As they walked the great white bird circled overhead.
Anull was replacing the last of her knives in her pants, she finished and reached up as Tazzlan landed on her hand. Xena walked up giving her a fair appraisal. “Your pretty good with those things.” Anull just smiled at Tazzlan as if they shared a secret.
Suddenly remembering she had one of the knives tucked in her boot, Gabrielle bent to retrieve it. “That reminds me I still have your knife, but I still don’t know how I got it.” She held the small weapon out to its owner.
Anull shook her head and smiled. “Why don’t you keep it, it could come in handy someday.”
Gabrielle started to protest when her stomach gave a loud rumble. It was midday and Xena tried to hold back a small laugh knowing her bards undeniable hunger. Anull looked surprised as Gabrielle protested she had not had enough of a breakfast. She looked at the stranger who had saved her life, unknowing to her, again. “Why can’t I remember how I got your knife?”
Looking at Taz, Anull let out a sigh bracing herself to tell the story once again. Xena could have sworn the bird was laughing at the tiny warrior. “Why don’t I buy you two a meal and I can fill you in on all the details.”
Never one to pass up a free meal Gabrielle looked at her partner enthusiastically. Xena grinned and wrapped an arm around her shoulder. “Sounds like a plan.”
Tazzlan was sent on her way to meet up with Anull later at their camp and the three made their way into town, stopping just long enough to clean any blood off their bodies and leathers at a water trough just outside the inn. Inside they enjoyed a hot meal and laughed when Gabrielle ordered another helping. The friendship grew a little stronger as Anull recounted their two previous encounters. Xena knew what Anull had done for Gabrielle today, that made two times she owed the girl. She began contemplating how to break the curse on Anull, if only she had more information on who had done this to her. But Anull no longer gave any thought to such matters. She had spent the better part of a season trying to figure out how to break another curse. Xena was grumbling about the Gods and their interfering into peoples lives when Gabrielle noticed Anull had grown very quiet and introspective. She laid a hand on the small arm that was no bigger than her own and asked what was wrong. Xena immediately picked up on the concern in her partner’s voice. Anull tried to smile the question away but Xena and Gabrielle knew that something else was troubling their friend. Anull needed to get back to her work at the stream and was preparing to say good-bye to her friends for the last time. As she left the tavern Gabrielle was over come with a sense of dread. She looked at Xena who was thinking the same thing. They left the tavern and decided to follow a discreet distance behind to their friend’s campsite to perhaps find a clue to what was troubling her so.
They followed the path Anull had taken off the main road without making a sound. Keeping well back from the clearing they watched as Anull greeted Tazzlan and began adjusting the ropes and pulleys that controlled the musical sounds and rhythm of her great sculpture. She tested each line and adjusted the rhythm. Finally the whole thing was ready for a test run. Walking over to Taz on her perch she gave the bird a kiss on the top of her head and picked up two wonderfully carved sticks. She returned to the stream and released a series of levers, which put the entire sculpture in motion. It created the most beautiful music Gabrielle had ever heard.
Anull began dancing in and around the moving pieces drumming out a rhythm on the wooden pieces that would pass by and dodging the sharp metal blades that would swing down. The wind picked up and so did the speed of the machine, changing the music and the rhythm. Anull placed her sticks in a slot and the whole sculpture began to change position. She now danced in the center of the fiercely moving pieces with her swords. The entire thing was an incredible sight to behold, but the dancer at its center was heartbreaking. She was combining a beautiful dance with defensive sword moves all while avoiding the occasional drop of a section of moving missiles.
The wind changed again and brought the dance to an end. Tazzlan was fluttering her wings and moving about. Expertly removing herself from the machine Anull left it to continue on, she had put it in motion never to be stopped as long as there was water and wind. She went to Tazzlan and fell to her knees, her violet eyes shinning. “You recognize that don’t you. I’m not as good as you were, but this is for you, to always have a place to dance.”
Xena had seen enough and was getting that prickly feeling on her neck again. She marched from the woods with a confused Gabrielle behind her. Tazzlan’s head spun around as they stepped from the woods. Anull jumped to her feet embarrassed she had been found and wondered just how much the warrior princess had seen when she saw the dark look on the face now towering over her. Xena stood threateningly close and looked over at the music machine. “That’s quite a contraption you’ve got there.”
Gabrielle was not sure what had set off her companion, and she wanted to relieve the tension that was building. “It’s a musical instrument?”
Anull looked at her a little shy and searched around for something else to look at. “Something like that.”
“So,” Xena said placing an intense glare on Anull then glancing at the owl, “who’s your little friend here?”
Gabrielle looked at her friend and gave a small chuckle. “Xena, that’s Tazzlan.”
Xena just nodded her head never taking her eyes off Anull, who was shrinking by the second. “Who is she really?”
Feeling like she had missed something Gabrielle looked from Xena to Tazzlan and back, then finally to Anull. Something was beginning to sink in. “Anull?”
Unable to take the look in Gabrielle’s eyes, was it betrayal or just hurt, she looked at Tazzlan. Her eyes filled with tears she could never shed. “I didn’t lie to you Xena, I would never do that to you Gabrielle. Her name is Tazzlan and she’s my best friend.” She closed her eyes for a painful moment. “Now.” Xena raised an eyebrow at her and gave her the ‘look’. She stepped back and sat down in the grass looking up at her best friend. “I’ve know Taz for almost two seasons now. We first met outside her village. She and some others were rehearsing for a dance they were going to perform at a festival the next day. Some guys started harassing them so I stepped in, busted a few heads and sent the rest on their way.” She smiled at the memory. “So we became friends. Each day I would find her and find some way of helping her out: chores, playing music for her to dance to, anything. I had never had someone take to me so quickly, each day she met a stranger and left a friend.”
Gabrielle came to sit by Anull’s side. She looked at the great bird trying to see something. “Your saying Tazzlan is a girl.”
“An extraordinary girl.” Anull admitted defeated.
“What happened?” Xena asked only a bit less harsh this time. Which garnered a disapproving look form Gabrielle.
“I hung around for almost a season, something I’d never done before, being in one place. I just couldn’t leave.” Anull offered feebly to Xena as way of an excuse. Then continued on needing to finally tell someone their story. “Anyway Athena, who is suppose to be all about wisdom right? Well, she had set up these riddles and puzzles and no one could solve them, but they really were not that hard, and I blew right through them. She didn’t like that.” She looked up at Xena who gave her that ‘you pissed off a Goddess’ look. “So she laid down some challenges and I solved them. She really didn’t like that.” She looked at Xena again and got a ‘you can’t be that stupid look’. “Okay, so I got a little cocky, you get to be pretty smart at surviving when your on your own since the age of four, you learn or perish. I gave her a riddle.” A low groan escaped Xena’s throat. “She couldn’t solve it. And that’s when she decided to punish me. She took the one thing I loved. She turned Taz into an owl.” Gabrielle laid a comforting hand on the small strongly muscled arm. “I was devastated, I tried everything to get her to change her back.”
Gabrielle could see the absolute sorrow on her friends face, she looked at Taz and realized what it was about the eyes that were different, they were the eyes of a girl. “Why would she do that to an innocent girl?”
Xena rested a hand on the golden tresses of her lover with the kind heart and looked at the great bird. “Because Gods can be vengeful and they don’t care who they hurt.”
Green eyes bore into violet ones trying to convey forgiveness. Anull could lose herself in those green eyes. “The crazy thing is as a girl Taz could not remember me, but as an owl she never forgets who I am. She has never left my side even though I’m responsible for her being this way.”
Gabrielle stood up looking to Xena, anger rising up inside her. “That’s not right.” Xena wrapped an arm around her small friend knowing that getting a Goddess to change her mind was not going to be easy, especially when the were going to forget half the story in the morning. A thought occurred to Xena, “Anull, people forget you each morning when they wake. What if we don’t sleep and break the cycle.”
“It doesn’t matter, eventually when you sleep you will forget. Taz did that once, she stayed up for two nights straight. The only thing that happened was she got very tired and very cranky.” Taz fluttered her wings at the last remark. “Well you did.”
Gabrielle was thinking through everything as quickly as she could. “She can understand you?” Anull nodded. “She understands everything, her body was effected but not her mind. That must be horrible.” Taz gave an indignant squawk then looked at Anull. “Oh, right sorry.” She began to pace, a true sign that she would not let this go until they had a solution. “So if we can find a way to reverse Athena’s actions, Tazzlan will become human again, but will no longer remember you.”
A crushing blow showed across Anull’s face. “I have never had anyone remember me and I have to admit it has been an amazing experience, but the price for that is too high and I would trade every moment of it to give Taz her life back.” She angrily launched herself off the ground to gain some breathing room.
The great owl began screeching and flapping her wings. Xena looked at the upset bird then to the distraught fighter. “I think she doesn’t want to forget you.” She said with a smile.
Anull grew tired of the conversation she had gone through a million times in her own mind. “I won’t do that to her, she’s getting her life back.”
Cautiously approaching the woman Gabrielle put a hand on her arm. “We will work this out.”
Anull could not help feeling uplifted by Gabrielle’s sincerity. It was getting late and as much as she hated saying good-bye again, she needed them to leave, to go away and forget. She smiled at Gabrielle and turned to walk away as she whispered. “I already have.”
The two partners looked at each other, Gabrielle was bewildered and Xena was suspicious. “What do you mean?” Xena asked, that prickly feeling coming back again.
Following Anull further down the stream to where her camp was setup Gabrielle wanted to know what was going on. “You figured it out? It was another of Athena’s challenges and you solved it.”
Anull started building a fire but looking only at Taz who had flown over and landed near her bedroll. “Something like that. I don’t know why I didn’t see it a ling time ago. The answer was in her words. I guess I was just looking for the more complicated answer.”
Watching the owl Xena was becoming agitated. “What words?”
“It’s getting late, you should head back to the inn before nightfall. That path can be a little treacherous in the dark.” Anull gave Gabrielle a small smile then went back to her fire.
Watching Anull carefully, Xena decided she didn’t like the situation, something didn’t feel right. “I thought we might stay out here with you tonight if you don’t mind. I could use some fresh air.”
Anull walked over and gave Xena a weak smile. “It’s okay Xena, we don’t need a babysitter, and I would kind of like to have this night with Taz alone. I just need one more day then everything will be as it should.” She could see the argument brewing in Xena’s face. “Go get a good nights sleep. But remember this: tomorrow afternoon make your way through the forest to the hidden path that will take you to a stream that plays music. There will be a girl there you are going to meet. You won’t remember me so concentrate on Tazzlan. You are going to meet Tazzlan.”
Frustration was overtaking Gabrielle again. “Of course we will remember Tazzlan, but I don’t want to forget you. Xena there has to be something we can do.”
Xena was still watching Anull carefully. “I’m working on it Gabrielle.” She knew the girl was up to something, but figured it would be best to just play along for now. Putting an arm around Gabrielle’s shoulder they said their good-byes and headed back to town.
It would have been a nice night for a walk under the stars with her lover holding her tight if it were not for all the possibilities that were running through Gabrielle’s mind. Xena listened to every plausible scenario the bard could come up with, right up to the point where their dinner was served. After dinner it was apparent that food was the great inspiration of Gabrielle’s life. She was devising a plan to free Anull and the more she worked out her plan the more animated she became. Xena had been staring at the small bard for a while when Gabrielle became aware of the dreamy look on her love’s face. She smiled and crinkled her nose in that cute way she has and asked Xena what she was staring at. Xena arched an eyebrow as desire washed over her. She grabbed the small hand in the middle of a gesture and practically dragged the woman from the table. “We need to go to bed, now!”
The cute grin on Gabrielle turned to a seductive smile. “Right behind you.” She loved when Xena would suddenly change moods and whisk her away someplace private. They were upstairs and undressed so quickly Xena hoped they had made it to the room fully clothed. Arms, legs and bodies entwined on the soft bed and with the first searing kiss all thoughts that did not have to do with pleasuring Xena’s body were gone from Gabrielle’s mind. The only thing that remained was the desire to give herself completely to her warrior princess. Following her down every path she would lead and then leading the mighty warrior down a few paths of her own.
Several candle marks later Xena could not remember why she had wanted to stay up all night. Her bard had completely sated her to the point of exhaustion. Her last thought as she slipped into the realm of Morpheus was that of a naked happy Gabrielle and a white owl.
The night sky was brilliant with a million stars and a sliver of a moon. The light sound of gentle music filled the air as Anull sat by the fire staring at the jumping flames. She was completely at peace, at last. She would be able to give Tazzlan her life back. A tear slipped down her cheek and landed on her gloved right hand. She watched it as it soaked in leaving a dark stain. It was the first time she had actually shed a tear. She felt her companion fly in and land on a log next to her and she smiled. “Good hunting tonight my friend?” Anull looked into the green orbs that were her greatest comfort. She gave a small chuckle at the satin on the side of the strong beak. “I see you had blueberries for dinner.” The mighty owl just blinked at her. The owl could not stand mice or snakes, Taz had never liked them so the owl would not hunt or eat them. The glow of the campfire softened the great birds features and made it look majestic and mysterious. But Anull saw the young woman she had fallen in love with nearly two seasons ago. Every night when they were alone and quiet settled over her, she would see the face that was her reason for living. Another tear slipped down her cheek. She would give anything to return to the days when she was a stranger to the girl. To have never been the reason for her life having been taken away. The guilt of that weighed heavily on Anull, but could not compare to the guilt she bore waking up each day with Taz by her side fully aware of exactly who she was. Her resolve for what had to be done was only held in place in the knowledge that in human form Taz would not remember her and therefore not be affected by what had to be.
Tazzlan had hopped to Anull’s side and nudged her arm with her head. Anull ran a gentle finger down the side of the owl’s head, still seeing the girls face. “Tazzlan, you are the greatest joy my life has ever known. I love you more than I ever dreamed myself capable of, more than life itself. I’m so sorry. I am responsible for the loss of a season of your life. I hope you can forgive me. I promise tomorrow you will walk out of this clearing.” The tears silently flowed and she let Taz comfort her with a soothing coo and gentle nudges of her head. Lost in her memories, sleep finally took her so that she could better see and talk and dance with her love.
The soft morning rays found its way through the window of their room and woke Xena. As her senses became alert she took a deep breath taking in the intoxicating aroma of her bard still asleep in her arms. She smiled at the sleeping form wrapped around her body. The golden head nestled snuggly against her breasts. She placed a gentle kiss on top of Gabrielle’s head, which made the bard increase her grip on the warrior. Xena had thought about getting up and doing some drills, but another deep intake of the sweet scent of her lover gave her body other ideas. She began kissing the back of Gabrielle’s neck until she could move around to the cool temple and then on to her loves most sensitive area, her earlobe.
A smile spread across Gabrielle’s face as she tilted it up to gain the full prize. After several moments of an impassioned kiss, green eyes met blue and smiled lovingly. “You sure woke up in a frisky mood.”
Xena looked the entire face over. “And you are beautiful.” She captured the soft lips again as she rolled on top of the small body.
“Xena, what about breakfast?”
Xena began kissing her way down the soft alabaster neck. “Thought I would have breakfast in bed.”
Gabrielle let out a soft giggle, which quickly turned deep and throaty. “I always love breakfast in bed.”
The morning slowly slipped by as the two lovers enjoyed their carnal breakfast. Several candle marks later they emerged from their room. Gabrielle’s stomach announcing in no uncertain terms that a bit more sustainable breakfast was required. Xena smiled down at her bards protesting tummy. “We better feed that thing before it does damage to someone.”
Gabrielle started to protest but her stomach beat her to it. Instead she shrugged her shoulders and gave Xena the most innocent smile. Laughing, Xena took the smaller hand in hers and walked them to the main room.
The room was almost empty of costumers. So they did not have to wait long to get a small mountain of food delivered to their table. Gabrielle gazed lovingly at her warrior while attacking the obstacle in front of her. “Don’t suppose today you would just like to find a nice little stream somewhere and relax. Maybe have a picnic?”
Xena raised an eyebrow and looked at the plate of food that was quickly disappearing. “How can you even think about another meal right now?”
A scrunched nose and grin met her reply. “Lets say I’m not as interested in the food as the company.”
“Right, well we are suppose to go meet Tazzlan today and I believe that’s by a stream.” Xena replied hopefully.
Surprised, Gabrielle stopped eating. “Tazzlan?”
Stealing a berry form Gabrielle’s plate Xena tried to be covert about popping it into her mouth. “Yeah, you know the girl we met.” Thinking about what she just said Xena got the feeling something wasn’t right.
A strange feeling came over Gabrielle. “Xena, Tazzlan’s an owl not a girl.”
The prickly feeling was coming back to Xena’s neck. She looked at Gabrielle, their eyes got big and both said at the same time, “A girl.” Gabrielle jumped up from the table without a second look at her food and rushed out the door. Xena grabbed their things and quickly rushed after her.
Long strides caught up to the fast paced smaller ones. “Gabrielle, what is it, what’s wrong?”
Slowing just a bit Gabrielle concentrated trying to put feelings into words. “I’m not sure yet, but Xena what do you remember about Tazzlan?” She watched the tall dark woman brood for a moment. She too was having trouble putting the pieces together. Voicing the thoughts as they came to her Gabrielle spelled out all she knew. “She’s a beautiful white owl, but she’s not, she’s really a girl who was changed into an owl by, by… Athena? A punishment for something that was not her fault.”
Xena remembered that much as well, and something about music. They both remembered something about music but could not figure out why. “Come on Gabrielle, we have to find Tazzlan, I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”
“I’ve got the same feeling.” Gabrielle said as she picked up the pace again.
Soon they were turning off onto the hidden path that cut through to the stream. As they neared the clearing they could hear soft music and a woman’s voice. They stopped to listen, remembering the beautiful musical sculpture.
Anull was changing the setting of her device, which changed the music. She explained that the music could be changed to anything she wanted just by readjusting the settings. And that now she was setting it to something new she had created special just for Tazzlan. And the bird would have to sit still while she performed it and not fly around. When she finished her adjustments she went over to the owl and gazed lovingly into its eyes, gently caressing her face. She leaned in nuzzling the face and whispered something that Xena and Gabrielle could not hear, but made the great bird stretch her wings and touch Anull’s arms as if she were giving her a hug. This brought a pained smile to Anull’s face; she kissed the top of the snowy white head then went to stand in front of her greatest gift. She raised her arms and face to the clear blue sky. “I am here to declare my love for Tazzlan and to celebrate the person she is. I dedicate this monument to the only God worthy of praise, Aphrodite. Because love is the only answer, it is the only way. Thank you Aphrodite for this gift.” Anull dropped her arms and looked at Tazzlan with all the love in the world. Arching one eyebrow, the likes Xena could be proud of, she looked up again as a wicked gleam shone from her eyes. “And for the Goddess Athena” a feral grin crept across her face, “GET STUFFED!”
Moving quickly to the center of the moving arms Anull looked back to Taz. “This is you love, I call it, For the Love of Tazzlan.” She released a lever shifting the great device and a cascade of rhythm began. She danced using the machine as a partner. It was beautiful and frightening all at once. Anull danced like a woman in love, a woman in pain, a woman desperate. She was grace and beauty, speed and strength, as the tempo increased the arms around her spun faster and more unpredictable. Anull drew her swords and once again danced the dance of a warrior, spinning rolling and flipping along with the machine. She was fighting an invisible foe and the beauty of the two moving together as one mesmerized Gabrielle. Xena was impressed by the speed and precision of the small woman’s movements, but the feeling of disaster would not leave her.
As she moved Anull tripped another lever sending the machine into a dizzying speed. She became almost a blur of action, placing first one then the other of her swords into the moving parts around her. She paused only briefly to look back at Tazzlan and smile before launching herself to a pole high in the monument. There she stopped, closed her eyes and opened herself up to the deadly accurate swords that were rapidly approaching.
Taz became hysterical as Anull moved into position, beating her wings and screeching loudly. Gabrielle saw what she had planed and desperately called to Xena who had already picked up on what the girl was doing. The whirring sound of the chakram added to the symphony, knocking the swords form their perch to fall harmlessly to the ground as Gabrielle screamed out Anull’s name. For a moment the bard was not sure why she had said that, then she remembered. The girl who had saved her life in Thasaraus. She looked down and was holding the knife Anull had given her. She remembered Anull, her story and friendship.
Anull heard her name called as she saw her swords fall to the ground missing their mark. Briefly she lost her balance then regained it just as easily as she flipped down to the ground. Everything had happened at once and in the blink of an eye her well laid plans had been thwarted. She emerged from the spinning arms at a full run in the direction of the one who had stopped her from completing her task. To die at her own hands or those of Xena’s did not matter to her.
Before she could reach her target Tazzlan flew over and began beating her about the head with her wings. Claws dug into her shoulder ripping leather and flesh as the owl secured her perch to better attack. She screeched in Anull’s ear and pecked at her head until droplets of blood dripped from her hair. “Taz, what’s wrong with you? Stop it!” She cried out as she tried to protect herself without hurting the bird.
Xena strode over, “I think maybe she doesn’t like seeing the person she loves try and kill herself.” Tazzlan gave a final loud yell and flew over to the arm Xena offered. Taking care to land on Xena’s wrist guard, she glared back at the stunned woman.
Anull stared at the owl with great sorrow. “Taz?”
Gabrielle was about to speak when a familiar bright light and pink sparkles appeared, leaving in its wake Aphrodite. “Whoa warrior babes, you are running the best tribute to me ever!” The Goddess of Love said as she stepped into the middle of the action.
Xena and Tazzlan glared at Aphrodite as Anull stared at the beautiful Goddess in awe. She could barely whisper “Aphrodite?”
The Goddess beamed in the bloodied warriors direction. “In the flesh.”
She was about to continue on when Gabrielle decided to try and bring some calm to the situation. “Aphrodite, please this is serious.” She walked over to Anull and stuffed a piece of fabric she kept tucked into her top into the torn shoulder of the warrior’s shirt. “Anull, why would you do this?”
Recalling what she had heard Anull stared at Gabrielle, she had called her by name. No one had ever spoken her name with out her telling it to them first. She felt light headed but could not break herself away from the concern in those familiar emerald eyes. “You just called me by name.” Gabrielle nodded trying to ease the panic in the cracking voice. “But that’s not possible.”
“I know you Anull, you are my friend, you saved my life twice now. How could I ever forget that?” Gabrielle smiled at her.
Aphrodite stepped over and wrapped an arm around her favorite mortals shoulders. “Gabrielle has the most loving heart of any mortal, she could never truly forget you. Spells broken babe, you just joined the friends and family program.”
Anull looked over at the great white bird on Xena’s arm and her heart broke. Taz was still not human and from the look of it she was pretty angry right now, in fact the angriest Anull had ever seen her. She couldn’t take it anymore; the world was starting to spin around her. “I don’t care, nothing matters except Taz getting her life back.”
The pain coursed off the young woman like shock waves. Aphrodite had felt the ripping inside Anull and she could never deny love. “Is that what you truly want, you would give your life for hers?”
Anull looked into the swirling green orbs that were becoming frantic again. “Without question.”
Aphrodite smiled “Then so be it.” And with a flick of her wrist Anull collapsed to the ground in a dead heap.
Rushing to the girl’s side, Xena did not realize Tazzlan had left her arm. She felt for a breath or heartbeat, but could find none. Turning to Aphrodite she growled. “What have you done?” Gabrielle was cradling Anull’s head and looking at the Goddess with disbelief.
“I just gave her what she wanted.” She beamed down at them and gestured to a very beautiful, very naked young blonde woman with green eyes that were streaming with tears.
“Tazzlan?” Gabrielle whispered as Taz knelt down and took Anull in her arms.
Taz cradled the only person she had ever loved in her arms, rocking her gently, tears spilling onto the dead woman’s face. “Anull, no.” She cried out in a very scratchy voice.
Xena whipped around grabbing the Love Goddess by the arms, nearly lifting her off the ground. “Aphrodite you killed her, how could you?”
Taken completely off guard the Goddess could only stare with huge frightened eyes at a very angry warrior princess. She tried to regain some composure and breathlessly managed some of her old sarcasm. “Would you just chill tall dark and deadly, and let them have a moment.”
Xena looked back to where Aphrodite had motioned with her eyes. Gabrielle was still kneeling beside Anull’s body, tears streaming as she watched Taz hugging Anull’s face to her own. She barely heard when Tazzlan whispered, “Anull don’t leave me, I love you.” Everyone watched her place a tender and loving kiss on the still warm lips. Tazzlan looked into the face of the woman who had become her life, she stroked her cheek. Two heartbeats later Anull took a shallow breath and opened her eyes to look into the green eyes she knew so well. “Taz?”
Gabrielle gasped as Tazzlan let out a screech of shock and joy. Xena looked at Aphrodite who just smirked and shrugged. She released her grip on the Goddess and quickly went to her own lovers’ side taking her in her arms and holding her tightly.
Anull was being smothered in a soft shoulder and held in a vice grip by the woman she gave her life for. Her shoulder started bleeding again where the owl’s talons had ripped it open and her head hurt all over from the rents in her scalp, nothing had ever felt so good. She pulled back to look into the tear streaked face and was overcome with happiness. “Taz, it’s really you, and you’re here.” She looked over the body that held her. “And you’re naked.” A blush rose up her neck and engulfed her face, but Taz didn’t care, in fact she enjoyed seeing the first ever blush on her warrior’s face. Trying to regain her composure Anull looked up at Aphrodite. The Goddess gave her a giggle and a wink, delighted in her own handy work.
Seeing the exchange Gabrielle had to ask, “Aphrodite, what happened?”
Smiling at the bard who would understand better than anyone, she chirped. “Love Little One, Love happened.” Gabrielle raised an eyebrow at her but with a twinkle in her eye. The love Goddess continued, “Little miss Forget Me here worked out the answer to Athena’s great challenge. She really is a sucker for love. Anyway, in order for Taz to live as a babe again little one there would have to die. So she built this great shrine to me and was going to off herself, all in the name of love. Just gets you choked up doesn’t’ it.” She paused for a moment looking starry eyed. Xena cleared her throat to get the Goddess back on track. “Right, so gorgeous and deadly here had to go and interfere.”
“Well somebody had to.” Xena shot a deadly glare at the bubbly blonde.
“As if I would have actually let her become skewered! I’m not into the blood thing you know.” Aphrodite was only offended for a moment then giddily went on with her heroic tale. “That’s when I popped in to grant Anull her greatest wish.”
Still a little angry and even more shocked by what the love Goddess had done, Xena shot up nearly throwing Gabrielle to the ground. “You killed her.”
“Oh pahleese. I put her in a death sleep.” Seeing the confused look on her audience’s faces she went on as if explaining to three year olds. “It’s like being dead only you’re asleep.”
Gabrielle looked at Taz. “And that broke the curse.”
“Exactly! I knew my bard babe would understand.”
“But Aphrodite, she didn’t wake up.” Gabrielle cautioned.
Exasperated the deity started to use hand signals. “Agh, follow along would you. If Taz loved Anull as much as Anull loved her then true loves kiss would awaken her.”
Xena moved a step closer to the Love terror. “And what if she hadn’t loved Anull that much.” Aphrodite fidgeted and looked away. “Aphrodite!”
Aphrodite tried to shoot the menacing force beside her a dirty look, but it didn’t work. “Oh, she would have remained asleep forever.” She looked Xena in the eye finally. “Look sister, if there’s one thing I know, it’s true love. So no worries okay?”
Gabrielle jumped up and flung herself at her annoying friend, wrapping her in a tight hug. “You are such a romantic. I knew you wouldn’t kill someone.” Aphrodite smiled at the bard’s enthusiasm and was about to return the hug when she caught sight of Xena’s raised eyebrow and thought better of it. No sense in angering the warrior princess anymore today.
The impact of Aphrodite’s words hit Anull as she followed the thread of conversation. Could it be true, she looked at the beautiful naked woman who still held her in her arms. “Taz?” Serene green eyes focused on her and the intensity of them took her breath away. “Do you, is it, do you really..” She could not bring herself to ask it in case it had all been a dream.
Brushing the stray hairs away that always fell over Anull’s eyes, Taz savored the feeling the strands had on her fingers. A simple act she had wanted to do for so long. “I love you Anull, I always have. I fell in love with you every time we met for a whole season. Thankfully you kept coming back for me. When I was turned into an owl I could remember everything, only I couldn’t tell you.”
All the energy of the world flowed back into Anull’s body, she moved so quickly that Taz had not realized she had been picked up and pulled into Anull’s lap. “I am so sorry Taz.”
“Don’t’ say that. For the last season I have felt more protected, cared for, dotted upon and loved than I ever have in my whole life. You are the best thing that’s ever happened to me and I wouldn’t change a thing.” Taz cupped Anull’s face with her hands and gave her the most passionate kiss either of them had ever dreamed of.
Aphrodite sighed then beamed a radiant smile at the two lovers. “Awah, they sound just like you two.” She glanced at Xena who shot her the look. “Oh, don’t give me that warrior babe, I know all about you.”
Before Xena could strangle the Goddess of Annoyance Gabrielle walked up and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “She’s right you know, you are the most loving person I know.” She gave Xena a pat on the bottom then crossed to Tazzlan with a blanket she had retrieved form the bedroll on her pack. She wrapped it around the girl who gratefully accepted it.
Flustered, Anull jumped to her feet muttering something about clothes and ran back to their campsite. Xena tried to contain a laugh watching the normally calm and collected warrior acting like a school child with a treat for the teacher. Excited and breathless Anull returned to hand over a midnight blue skirt with white owls embroidered around it in a pattern of ascending flight and a soft light green top with her own design embroidered around the neck.
Taz had never seen anything so beautiful. She dropped the blanket and slipped the skirt on first, then the top. They fit perfectly; she spun around enjoying the feel of fabric on her skin. Laughing and spreading her arms wide she threw herself into Anull who wrapped her in loving arms. Taz was a good head taller than the petit warrior, but at that moment no one could tell.
Anull kept an arm around her beautiful girl and asked Aphrodite if it was all right to keep the musical sculpture as a monument to the Goddess and to love. The bubbly blonde grinned and scrunched up her nose. “It’s the most beautiful temple anyone has ever built me.” She turned to Xena in a playful mood and reached up to pinch her cheek. “I think my work here is done.” Gabrielle cringed and threw herself around Xena from behind pinning her arms to her sides as the warrior shot daggers from her eyes to the Goddess who quickly realized what she had done. “Oops, got to go.” And she was gone in a flash of pink sparkles.
The tall warrior looked down behind her. “You can let go now.”
The impish bard looked up and placed her chin on the strong back. “I kind of like it here.”
Taz laughed at their playful banter, which was just enough of a distraction for Xena to reverse her position with the bard. She looked down on the surprised blonde in her arms. Gabrielle gave her a satisfied look. “I like it here too.” Xena smiled and placed a kiss on top of her lover’s head.
Reluctantly she let go of the muscular small body and walked over to Anull. “So, you got anymore bright ideas in that head of yours?”
Anull looked at Taz, a slight blush rising up her neck. “Well none that involve life and death.”
Xena tried to suppress a grin. “Oh brother.” She said under her breath. “I imagine you two would like some time alone. Gabrielle and I have to be heading out, but anytime you want to fight by my side I’d be honored.”
Anull grasped the arm Xena extended. “I owe you, I don’t know how to ever thank you.”
Xena looked at Gabrielle standing by her side. “You already have, twice.”
Gabrielle wrapped the small warrior in a crushing hug. “We will see each other again. You have friends out there now that are going to be looking for you.” She released Anull to take Tazzlan into gentler arms. “Take care of each other.” She looked back at Anull. “And try not to piss of anymore Gods.”
Anull’s eyes got big as saucers as she remembered the last thing she directed at Athena. Xena gave her a friendly slap on the back and smiled. “I don’t think she’s going to bother you anymore. Something tells me she’s getting an earful from her sister right now.”
They all laughed at the thought of Aphrodite reaming out Athena. Taz gave Xena a big hug and thanked her for saving the most important person in the world to her. Good-byes were said and Xena retrieved their pack, she wrapped an arm around Gabrielle’s shoulder as the bard slipped an arm around her waist. Heading for the path to take them back to the road they looked over their shoulders to see Anull and Taz embraced in a passionate kiss.
Gabrielle looked up at her warrior and grinned. “So how do you think they are going to spend their evening?”
Xena leaned down a bit to whisper hotly in the delicate ear. “I think the same way we’re going to spend ours.” She nipped the ear to make her point.
Gabrielle let out a small groan and picked up the pace, eager to find their own stream and private clearing.
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