"What are you talking about," Xena scowled, "Gabrielle is right here."
Confusion clouded the faces of the three women who stood before their fallen assailant. Questions screamed through their minds. What could this woman possibly be talking about? Why did she look so much like Gabrielle? And why had she attacked them so viciously?
Camrynns eyes widened as if she had just woken up from a horrific dream. The recent events seemed to become evident to her as she lay there on the ground. Her demeanor changed in front of their eyes. A transformation from the hard-core warrior to almost a scared young girl occurred right before their eyes. The once venomous eyes softened. Instead of anger, regret and pain were now in its place.
"By the Gods, what have I done? What have I done?" Tears began to well up in Camrynns eyes as reality crashed in around her. Frantic to make up for her loss of self, she began to plead to her captors. "I am sorry. My mind isnt where it should be, please forgive me. I have forgotten where I am."
"What is that supposed to mean? And what about Gabrielle?" Xena pressed Camrynn for information.
"Please forgive my words, they must sound strange to you." Camrynn paused for a moment; slightly unnerved by the icy glare more than she was of the sword at her throat. She spoke softly slowly. "Let me try to explain them. I dont mean to speak of this Gabrielle. Not the Gabrielle you know, anyway. If you let me up, I will explain everything. I promise you, I wont try anything."
A hand brushed Xenas arm lightly. Breaking the glare she held Camrynn under, Xena turned her head toward the soft touch. Gabrielle stood there looking deeply into her eyes. Without words spoken between the pair, the message was received. Gabrielle was asking Xena to give Camrynn a chance to explain herself. She could tell that Gabrielle believed the words of the young warrior who had attacked them, enough to allow Camrynn to speak. Xenas sapphire eyes softened as she lost herself in the emerald ones staring back at her. Unable to refuse her bard anything, Xena nodded slightly and turned back to Camrynn who instantly noted the love the two shared. Hesitantly removing her sword from their assailants neck, the dark warrior took a step back. Even with softer features and innocent looks, Xena wasnt ready to trust the young lady just yet. But if Gabrielle wanted to hear Camrynn explain herself further, Xena wasnt going to deny it.
Gabrielle flashed a gracious smile to Xena and reached her arm out, helping Camrynn to her feet. Studying her eyes and features; Gabrielle couldnt help but think she knew the young lady. She felt an instant sense of ease with the girl that stood before her. She almost felt a connection with Camrynn; not like the one she shared with Xena, but like a kinship perhaps.
Gabrielle led Camrynn over to the fire where they took a seat next to each other. The bard still had a hold of the young warriors arm. She was unable to tear herself away from the emerald eyes staring back at her that mirrored her own. Gabrielle couldnt shake the strange feeling she knew Camrynn. Judging by the look on the girls face, the feeling was mutual. However there was also a look of recognition, as though she already knew what the feeling was that the two shared.
"I am sorry for all of this; I hope I didnt hurt you." Camrynn said apologetically. Silently hoping she hadnt seriously injured Gabrielle, the young warrior sighed. "Thank you for your help."
A smile spread across Gabrielles face at Camrynns sincerity. "You are very welcome. And dont worry; you didnt hurt me. Its okay really. Ive taken much worse, believe me."
Gabrielle slowly released Camrynn from the hold she had on her arm, but continued to stare at the young woman who seemed so familiar. Why couldnt she place Camrynns face? Gabrielle wished she could understand the strange connection she felt with this warrior. The bard saw the similarities between them and thought that might be why she felt she knew Camrynn, but that didnt seem to be the answer either. Her mind continued to draw nothing but blanks and increasing confusion. Think, Gabrielle said to herself silently.
Xena sat down across from Camrynn and Gabrielle. Through the fire that separated them, she regarded the striking similarities between the women. Eve sat next to her mother, offering support as Xena began to question Camrynns presence here.
"Alright, start talking." Xenas eyes burned into the strangers. "Whats going on?"
Camrynn wrenched her eyes away from Gabrielle and took a deep breath, a little flustered. Struggling to gain her composure, she straightened a bit and began to speak. "I know this is all strange and confusing to you. It is hard to grasp the concept of the whole situation. Its difficult to believe myself, but I will try to help you understand as best I can. First, I must tell you that I am not from your world."
"What are you talking about?" Xena sneered. She caught Gabrielles look through the flames and dejectedly lowered her eyes trying to calm herself.
Eve glanced at her mother, noticing the restrained features. Grimacing slightly to herself, Eve couldnt help thinking how over protective and outwardly harsh her mother could be sometimes. She turned an apologetic eye toward Camrynn, urging the young woman forward. "Please, continue with your story."
"Uh Okay I am from this world and time period, but not this life. What I am trying to say is that I am not from the past or the future, but an entirely different life. Its really confusing. I cant exactly tell you what life I am from as opposed to yours, but it is different."
"You mean like an alternate world that parallels ours? But with paths not taken here?" Gabrielle offered.
"Yes! Like that. Decisions that you choose here are different from the choices made in mine. Therefore they led to a different reality."
Xena tried once again to speak, but with more control over her voice. "What did you mean when you said I let Gabrielle die?"
"Let me first explain a few things. I could tell this place was different when none of you recognized me. In my world, Gabrielle is my sister." Camrynn knew there was some recognition between her and Gabrielle, but she could tell the bard didnt truly know her.
"That would explain the resemblance." Eve added.
"Yes, I am only a year younger than Gabrielle." Camrynn saw Xena lean forward and open her mouth to say something, but she cut her off before anything could escape Xenas lips. "I know you all have a lot of questions, so please be patient with me."
Xena arched an eyebrow, not used to being cut off, but sat back to let Camrynn finish her story.
"Many years ago, a warlord and his army attacked Poteidaia. He wanted to capture the whole village and sell us into slavery. Gabrielle and I tried to persuade the warlord to take the two of us instead, but he wanted everyone. Then, out of the blue, Xena appeared and saved us by finishing off the entire army by herself. I was in awe at someone with such power. But none more so than Gabrielle. I saw the gleam in her eye and knew she was up to something. That night, Gabrielle woke me from my sleep. She told me that she was going to join up with Xena. She explained that she didnt belong here in the village; she was dying for some excitement and wanted to travel the world with Xena. I tried to stop her, but she wouldnt listen. Gabrielles leaving devastated mother and father. They took their aggressions out on me. I never blamed Gabrielle for leaving, I completely understood her ambition. Thats why when I saw my opportunity, I left as well. I was so sick of mother and father blaming me for Gabrielle leaving and for everything that went wrong around the house. I too, was bored with Poteidaia and knew I didnt belong either. So, about a month after Gabrielle left with Xena, I ran."
"Wait, you left mother and father by themselves?"
"Yes, Gabrielle. I had to. Mother and father could be so closed minded when it came to change. I needed to live my own life, but I knew they wouldnt understand. If you are anything like my sister, you know how insufferable Poteidaia was. Nothing but a little village life, arranged marriages with people you didnt love, and never any excitement."
Gabrielle nodded her head in agreement. "Yes, I remember. Please continue."
"I decided that I would join any army or anyone I came across that could teach me how to fight. I didnt want to be helpless; I wanted to be able to take care of myself. And when I say any army or anyone that is exactly what I mean. I joined up with some of the lowest, nastiest, scum I have seen in my entire existence. I would use them to teach me what I needed to learn and then I moved on. Sometimes I had to sacrifice myself so that I could get what I wanted. That was the biggest drawback to it all."
A noticeable shudder spread across the young warriors body as a flash of hatred clouded her emerald eyes, suggesting the pain the memory caused. "I can remember the final time I endured this treatment. It was right after a combat lesson with Traxion, the head trainer.
"What in the name of Ares is that??!! Would you focus Camrynn!" Traxion screamed.
"Alright!" Annoyance was evident in her tone.
"You dont strike forward like that, you have to put your weight into it! You are small and are gonna have to move your entire body if you expect to have any power. We have gone over this a million times!"
Straightening herself, Camrynn wiped sweat from her forehead and scowled at her trainer. "I am tired for the Love of Zeus. We have been working for over 4 hours now!"
Traxion was on Camrynn in an instant. He grabbed her arm and yanked her toward him, holding his young pupil tightly against his chest. She could smell the stench of the repulsive mans breath and sweaty form. "And we will be here, little girl, until you get it right. Do you understand me?" He growled.
Fear flashed across Camrynns eyes momentarily as she winced at Traxions fingers digging into her arm. The man was at least a foot taller than she and abnormally muscular. Which boded well for him due to his love of intimidation. He cared little for life and would take hers in a second if he grew tired of her. As Camrynn cowered slightly under her trainers eyes, she noticed his rage change to that of lust as his eyes slithered over her body, turning her blood cold.
"However there are better things we could be doing instead of training." He drawled.
Forcefully he started to drag Camrynn toward his tent. She resisted mildly only to receive a tighter grip and look of pure hatred at her resilience. She hesitantly gave into Traxions pull, as much as she dreaded what she knew would come next. She had learned long ago not to oppose him when he wanted something. After the first time she defied him, Camrynn had spent nearly a week in the infirmary recovering from his beating.
Throwing the flaps of the tent back, Traxion flung Camrynn onto his bedroll and removed his shirt in one smooth movement. Lying on top of her, a repulsive grin spread across his face and he began ripping the clothes from his prize.
"Mmmm, Im gonna enjoy this." He never noticed, nor cared if he did, the look of disgust and loathing that Camrynns features refused to hide.
Less than an hour later, after Traxion had fallen asleep, Camrynn emerged from his tent. Tears filled her eyes are she started running for her own refuge. Bursting through the entrance, she grabbed everything she could get and packed it away in her bags. Gathering all her belongings and her staff, she raced out of her tent and down the dirt pathway that led to the nearest lake. She dropped her bags on the bank and retrieved a bar of soap from them as she dove into the water. The cool liquid cascaded over her body and she began removing each piece of clothing one by one. She viciously scrubbed the soap along her skin, desperately trying to remove the retched mans scent.
Over and over again she washed her body, but nothing could remove the filth that she felt. She betrayed herself, for the filth was from within. She was appalled at what she allowed to happen to her continuously by Traxion. The wounds from her own choices cut deep, causing her to bleed out the innocence she once possessed. There had to be a different way than this to learn the skills she so much desired.
Dragging herself from the water, feeling no more cleansed than before, she pulled new clothes out and dressed. Tears were now streaming from her eyes at her self-hatred. She started toward the dirt road once again with her bags in tow; she stared hard down the road at the camp she had just come from. Glancing back over her shoulder, she made her decision. Turning around she headed down the road, never again to return to the hell she had lived with the past months.
"I suppose I could have found a better way, but I felt I had no choice. That was the only option I saw for learning the skills I wished to obtain." Camrynn hung her head in shame as a single tear rolled down her cheek from the memory. She knew it was what had to be done at the time, but she was disgusted with herself. Angrily wiping the tear away, she resumed her story.
Unsure of Camrynns boundaries, Gabrielle hesitated before responding to the weeping figure next to her. She brushed off her uncertainty and slowly eased her arm around the young ladys waist, smiling her reassurance and support. The pain in Camrynns eyes faded as she met the bards own emerald gaze. With a conveyance of appreciation, the young warrior returned the smile and nodded mildly before continuing.
"My life continued on like this for about a year. I hopped from one army to another to another, learning a lot about life outside that of a village existence. I had taken up the staff as my first weapon. I found that it was the weapon of choice for me because I could defend myself without spilling anyones blood. But, I soon grew tired of the ignorance and blood lust of the armies I encountered and what I had to do as payment for my lessons, so I left.
I traveled by myself for a long while, scrounging for food and teaching myself how to hunt. I had gotten to the point of hopelessness. The only thing that kept me going was my sheer determination, but I had begun to feel myself slipping away. I felt lost and believed myself to be close to death emotionally and physically. Then, one day I happened upon an army led by a woman named Najara.
Camrynn bowed her head and sighed heavily. That had been the third time she had missed when trying to spear a rabbit for dinner. Her heart wasnt in this anymore, too much time had past since leaving the last army and she hadnt found another one to join. Her hunting skills werent exactly mastered yet and she was hungry.
Retrieving her spear, she ambled through the trees as she searched for yet another rabbit. Camrynn doubted she would find one and she would be spending the night hungry for what seemed like the hundredth time. It was getting dark and she needed to set up a shelter, so she gave up her search and began building her sanctuary.
Off in the distance, hooves pounded the ground and Camrynns head perked up immediately at the sounds. Perhaps it was an army approaching her position. Heading in the direction of the noise, Camrynn hoped for a better army than the last. Out of the dark night the horses that had caused her curiosity, emerged. In the pale light of the moon, Camrynn could barely make out the riders, but something told Camrynn that this wasnt a normal army for a woman seemed to be in the lead. It was uncommon for a woman to head an army, so this intrigued her to no end.
Stepping in front of the lead horse, Camrynn raised her staff. Almost immediately a figure was in front of her, swinging their weapon. Camrynn quickly defended herself as the assailant attacked her without mercy. The fight didnt last long as she was knocked off her feet and the moons light glinted off the steel that was raised high to impale her. Camrynn closed her eyes as she prepared herself for imminent death. When seconds past and nothing happened, Camrynn opened her eyes to see what had happened. For the first time, she noted that her attacker was the woman who had been in the lead. The woman who almost took Camrynns life was now looking toward the heavens with a radiance gracing her features. Dropping the sword, the woman took a step back, raising her hands up to shoulder height with her palms toward the sky. As Camrynn looked on, the woman closed her eyes and nodded her head repeatedly as though speaking to an unseen entity
"Yes. I hear you. I am sorry." Pausing briefly, she nodded her head once again. "I understand."
Camrynn raised an eyebrow at the mysterious woman before her. The woman is crazy! She thought to herself.
Opening her eyes and letting her arms drop back down, the woman regarded Camrynn with a loving look. The seemingly crazed woman reached out a hand and offered her assistance. Camrynn pulled back from the outstretched hand, unsure if she should trust the woman before her. Her attacker stayed still with her arm still extended, waiting patiently for the young warrior to accept the help. Staring deeply into the leaders eyes, Camrynn found no trace of deception or insanity. Deciding she could trust the woman, Camrynn acknowledged the help. She grasped the hand in front of her and rose to her feet.
"I am sorry for the attack. I didnt realize the purity of your heart until just now. My name is Najara. Please forgive me."
Camrynns brow creased in confusion. "Um thats okay. I shouldnt have presented myself in such an offensive manner. Im Camrynn."
"It is nice to meet you Camrynn. You are very strong and agile." Tilting her head to the side, Najara continued in a respectful tone. "You have suffered much, but have retained your good heart."
Camrynn shook her head in disbelief, amazed at the womans words. "How do you know that?"
"The Djinn told me." Najara said matter of factly.
"Yes, they are my guides through life."
"Well, who are they?" Camrynn inquired still confused.
A slight smile spread across Najaras face. "They are The Djinn, that is all I know."
Camrynn shrugged her shoulders as she accepted the simplistic answer, conceding that it was probably the only explanation she would receive. Camrynn regarded the woman before her with profound interest She seemed quite wise and well centered, a refreshing change from what the warrior had known before.
"You seem lost, Camrynn. What could it be that has taken you so far from yourself, I wonder." Noticing reservation coming from her young friend, Najara continued. "You must be hungry. I offer you a warm place to stay, food for your belly, and a purpose. All you have to do is accept it and join our mission."
Camrynn stepped forward, finding the offer quite appealing. She was eager to accept but wanted to know more. "What is your mission?"
"To fight evil wherever we find it."
Amused and astounded by the general nature of the statement, Camrynn chuckled. Confirming the simplistic words, she questioned Najara once again. "So you kinda just travel around and fight evil. Nothing more?"
"Nothing more, nothing less."
"Well how do you know what battles to fight and which to bypass?"
"The Djinn tell me. Like I said, they guide me through life."
"How long have you heard The Djinn?" Camrynn was slightly confused as to how someone could listen to voices and follow them without question.
"Ive been hearing The Djinn since I was a little girl. I was frightened at first, but I soon began to trust them. I see them as my best friends."
Camrynn paused momentarily as she soaked in Najaras explanation and proposal. "Well, that is an amazing gift you have Najara. And I accept your offer. If you promise to teach me all the knowledge you possess so that I might expand my own, I will fight at your side."
A slight look of triumph and a smile lightened Najaras features. "Agreed. I am happy that you wish to join us. Come Camrynn."
Najara headed back to her horse and mounted. Camrynn followed behind Najara to the horse and hooked her belonging onto the saddle. Looking down at the newest member in her fight against darkness, Najara reached out a hand that was eagerly accepted. With a quick pull, Camrynn joined her on the horse as they continued on the journey they had set before this young warrior had entered their lives.
"Anyway, Najara took excellent care of me, protected me, and taught me of a life I had only dreamed of. We grew very close. She taught me many other fighting skills as well, some hand to hand combat, some that introduced me to new weapons. But the staff was my favorite, so I would always return to it. Najara also taught me skills of my weapon that I could never have imagined were possible. I learned a lot and at a rapid rate. I was soon replacing her second in command so that I could be at her side at all times. I felt so at home with her. We were inseparable for about 3 years, but then I started to grow anxious and unsettled. I wanted to find Gabrielle more than anything in the world. I loved being where I was, but I wanted some sort of kinship with my sister. So, I spoke to Najara about my emptiness at not having my sister in my life. Najara was reluctant to let me go at first, but together we consulted The Djinn and they all felt that it would be in my best interest to seek out Gabrielle. Even though I wished to find my sister and establish our relationship again, I vowed to return to Najara as soon as it was possible. Which, to my dismay, I returned with nothing to show for my time spent."
"Excuse me maam?"
An elderly village woman turned in the direction of the summon. I quick look of perplexity disappeared as a smile took its place. "Yes, deary?"
"Hi. Um I was wondering if you have seen a tall, dark haired warrior woman with icy blue eyes with a shorter companion with blondish hair?"
"Why yes deary, I have. Xena and Gabrielle."
"Yes. Have you seen them around?"
"Not for some time deary. They left a few weeks ago. Such nice women."
Disappointment darkened Camrynns face as yet once more she had missed the two people she had been searching for. "What direction did they head?"
"Oh, deary let me think. I am a bit old." A smiled creased the womans face again as she found humor in her words. Turning to her left, she pointed a finger. "I believe they went north deary. Yes, I am sure of it."
Looking north, Camrynn nodded. She turned back to the old woman and smiled her appreciation. "Thank you very much maam."
"No problem deary. They did this village a great favor. They saved all of Egypt as a matter of fact. Our poor queen was murdered and Xena took her place to discover who the killer was. Oh and that sweet young lady, Gabrielle, was by her side the whole time. The two of them prevented Rome from taking over. What a day that would have been if Rome ever ruled Egypt. Thank the Gods for Xena and Gabrielle."
Camrynn beamed slightly at her sisters involvement in such a tremendous victory. "Yes, that would have been terrible. I am happy that they could help you. Well, maam, I better be on my way."
"Okay deary. If you see them, please let them know how grateful Egypt is for the two of them."
"I will. Thank you for the information." At that, Camrynn made her retreat.
She headed north at the elderly ladys direction. Gloom and hopelessness filled her soul. For nearly two years, she had tracked Xena and Gabrielle and never once was able to find them. The closest she had ever gotten was missing them by a day. Every time she thought she was close, something deterred her from her path. It seemed as though Xena and Gabrielle were avoiding her on purpose. But they couldnt know Camrynn was following them. Could they? She thought to herself.
Perhaps it was time to give up the search. Perhaps she was not meant to find her sister even though her heart ached for Gabrielle. Sighing inwardly, Camrynns shoulders dropped in defeat as she changed direction back toward Greece. She had to admit her failure even though it agitated her to believe she couldnt accomplish her goal. She missed Najara terribly, it was time to give this dream up and return to the home she had established in her old army. Tears fell as she gave up all her hope that remained and accepted defeat. Mounting her horse, Camrynn took off in a gallop toward home, to her mentor.
Gabrielle watched as Camrynn struggled with her memories. Sitting next to her, the bard tightened her hold on the young warriors waist to reinforce her presence. So lost in her thoughts, it took Camrynn a moment to realize the support she had been given again. Looking up, she lost herself in the eyes of the sister she had spent years searching for. With the added comfort, Camrynn continued with her story.
"When I was with Najara once again, it was like we had never parted ways. We began to fall back into our old habits of meditation and combat skills training together. I assumed my old position as second in command of the army. However, one day after a meditation sequence, Najara had bad news for me. At first I was shocked to hear her words because I figured I would have picked up on something like this sooner.
Coming to the end of a long meditation cycle, Camrynn remained with her eyes closed as she absorbed the intensity of the sun and reveled in the peace she had attained. Lost in the enjoyment of the moment, it took her a minute to realize that Najara had placed her hand over her own. The young warriors eyes fluttered open, noticing a disturbed sadness in the blue orbs of her mentor.
"What? Whats wrong Najara?"
Najara smiled slightly and sighed. "Camrynn, I have something to tell you. It will be hard for you to hear, but remember I am here for you okay?"
Intense worry filled Camrynn at Najaras words. She nodded as she acknowledged her friend.
Unsure exactly at how to begin, Najara decided the most direct root was best. "The Djinn have told me that Xena and Gabrielle along with their baby have vanished."
"What do you mean vanished and why didnt they tell me this?" Camrynn had learned before ever leaving Najara on her search for her sister how to hear and communicate with The Djinn.
"They felt it would be best for me to tell you so that I could be here to comfort you. From what The Djinn can gather from those they have listened to, Xena and Gabrielle are feared dead by the wrath of the Olympian Gods." Sympathy filled Najaras voice as she delivered the heart wrenching news.
"But why? Why would the Gods kill my sister and Xena? Not to mention a baby."
"Apparently, Xenas baby was the Bringer of the Twilight. The end of the Gods."
"Are you sure they are " Camrynn trailed off.
Najara nodded. "Yes, I am afraid they are dead."
Numbness possessed Camrynns mind. She was shocked at the news she had just been given, but didnt know what to do. Her sister her only sister was dead. Involuntarily, the young warriors body began to shake as tears poured from her eyes. Najara was at her side quickly, wrapping her student in a hug. Camrynn remained still, unable to comprehend the news. Suddenly anger flashed through Camrynn and she broke free from a stunned Najara.
"LET GO OF ME. ITS NOT TRUE." Camrynn sprang to her feet and ran to her tent.
Falling to her knees, she called to The Djinn. She begged them for their help, but they would offer none. "Why wont you help me!?"
She heard The Djinn merely tell her that they were unable to bring anyone back from the dead. "You are supposed to know everything and be all powerful. And you cant even let me know where my sister is so I can see her. You cant bring her back! Damn you! CURSE YOU!!! I renounce you Djinn, I RENOUNCE YOU!"
Outside her tent, Najaras eyes filled as she heard her beloved apprentice renounce her best friends. She felt the deep pain in Camrynns heart and wished for anything that she could take it away.
Speaking through the skin of the tent, Najara tried to reach her young warrior. "Please Camrynn, let me help you."
Stung by those words, Najara pressed on. "I want nothing more than to help you. Please let me and The Djinn help you."
"You cant help me. I have given up on The Djinn; they are of no assistance. Go away Najara, I want to be alone."
Najara bowed her head at the pain the young warrior must be feeling and her helplessness in taking that pain away. The woman decided it was probably best to leave, but wanted Camrynn to know she was there if ever needed. "Okay Camrynn I will leave. But listen for just a moment. I am sorry for your loss, I really am. But please do not lose faith in The Djinn as well. You must have confidence that they love you as I do. There is so much good that needs to be done with your help, and so little time in which to do it. Please have faith. I will leave you now, but know that I am here if you need me."
"Najara would come to my tent frequently to try to comfort me, but I turned her away every time. I wanted to be left alone. I would scream for her to leave and soon after she would, always telling me that she loved me dearly and not to lose faith. I was too grief stricken to hear her words anymore. Weeks past with no help from The Djinn, I assumed they had taken their gift from me once I renounced them. Or perhaps I was just so upset that I could no longer hear them through my misery. Whatever the case, I felt alone."
Camrynns voice broke at her confession. Eve rose quietly and retrieved the water skin, offering it to the young warrior. Taking a long drink, Camrynn returned it to Eve with an appreciative smile. Breathing deeply, she returned to her story.
"I began to pray to any ethereal being that would listen. This took some time, but then one day a divine entity visited me. He didnt speak, but I could still hear his words in my head as if they were my own thoughts. His name was Eli."
"My dear child."
Camrynns head snapped up and looked around her tent for the intruder. She found no one there and figured the voice must have been in her dreams, for she had dozed during her prayers.
"You are not dreaming."
Once again the words filled Camrynns head. Being used to The Djinn speaking to her in the same manner, the warrior wasnt phased by this strange voice she heard now. She recognized The Djinn every time, so she knew that it wasnt them who spoke to her.
"Who are you?" Camrynn inquired through her thoughts.
"My name is Eli and I am here to help you, child."
"How are you going to help me? No one else can or will help me, how will you be any different."
"Because I know that Xena and Gabrielle are not dead."
Stunned, Camrynns eyes widened as she heard these words. "What do you mean they are not dead?"
"Just what I said, my child. Please listen to me for a moment. They are not dead. However they are missing to the world. I know not where they are, but they live." Something like regret filled Elis voice then. As though he were ashamed that he didnt know where they were. "You will not be able to reach Xena and Gabrielle directly, but I can connect you with them. I can bring you back when they return to the world."
"Wait a minute. What do you mean by bring me back?"
Camrynn could feel Eli smile. "What I mean child is simple. I am going to take you away so that you are with me. When once again I feel the presence of Xena and Gabrielle, I will return you to this world."
Unable to fully understand what Eli was telling her, Camrynn probed for more information. "But what will I do with you until that time?"
"Well, child. I will teach you of love. I will let you know what my purpose is and why that must be spread. Love is the way, child. There is one thing that I must tell you; once you are returned to your world, you will not remember the time with me, but you will have all the knowledge that I teach you. It will be as though it was there all the time. Is this something you want, my child?"
Contemplating Elis words for a moment, Camrynn nodded her head. "Yes Eli, I am interested in learning what you have to teach me. I am willing to spread your word as it should be for the favor of seeing my sister again."
"I am glad to see you are eager for this information. I am willing to bring you and your sister together. The best place for you to wait for her when you return is in Poteidaia. Do you understand?"
"I do, Eli. And I am anxious to help you as payment for your kindness."
"So you wish to spread my teachings. That is very noble of you Camrynn. You would make a great asset to Xena and Gabrielles pursuit of the Greater Good. And this is what you desire?"
"Yes, Eli." Not a hint of hesitation possessed her voice.
"Then so it shall be."
The next thing I knew, I was in a village not too far from my home. I was amazed that I remembered all of Elis words before he took me away, but I didnt remember anything about being with him. He was right though; I did have the knowledge of his teachings and the desire to spread his word, just as he said I would. Anyway, I did as Eli had told me and went to Poteidaia.
Approaching her village, Camrynn was horrified to find her home was run down. She had hoped for so long that Poteidaia would continue to thrive, but was heartbroken to find everything pointing to the contrary. Tears began to fill her emerald eyes as she meandered through the village. She spotted a resident of the beat up town and approached him hoping for some answers.
"Excuse me. Sir?"
A middle aged man looked up from the work he had been doing on his barn that seemed as though it would collapse at any moment. A huge sigh escaped his lips as he focused on Camrynn with tired eyes. "Yeah."
"What happened? Last time I was here, Poteidaia was thriving.
"Yeah well, that must have been quite a long time ago. At least Twenty-five years."
"Twenty-five years? Im sorry, I dont understand."
Furrowing his brow, the man portrayed inpatients at girl before him, but answered her inquiry anyway. "Yeah, Twenty-five years. That was how long ago Xena and Gabrielle died. Not long after, warlord upon warlord attacked this village because they knew they were safe from The Destroyer of Nations and The Battling Bard of Poteidaia. The village soon lost all its crops and cattle. There is hardly anything left now. So no one bothers us."
Amazement and surprise flooded through Camrynn. "Um thank you. I will be on my way."
The man merely grunted as the young warrior departed, headed toward her old house. She was stunned. Twenty-five years how could that many years have passed since Eli had taken her? And how could Xena and Gabrielle only now be returning to the world? So many questions, and no one to answer them. Continuing forward, she noted how empty the entire village felt. Hardly a person remained and there was barely anything to keep them here. It must have been the love and determination of these few individuals that kept them around.
Camrynn reached her house only to have her heart sink even more. Without even the need to search the house, she could tell it had been abandoned. The windows were breaking away, the door was off its hinges, and no lights warmed the interior, there was nothing. Heaving a huge sigh, she headed inside. Well, if she were going to have to wait for Gabrielle, not knowing how long that would take, she was going to have to make the house livable.
Months flew by as Camrynn fixed her house up to comfortable conditions. With the village being nearly abandoned as it was, Camrynn had no trouble finding replacement parts for all the broken elements. One afternoon, while sweeping the floor of all the dust that had accumulated while she had worked, a knock sounded at the door. Turning toward the rapping, Camrynns eyes narrowed as she wondered who could be bothering her. Reaching the door in four strides, Camrynn flung open the door prepared to turn whoever it was away. To her shock and disbelief, a short blonde with emerald eyes stared back at her. Unable to move for a second, she instantly recognized her sister. The shock was mirrored in the woman that stood before her. Without any words, the two wrapped each other in a hug and cried together.
I barely recognized my sister; she had changed so much. She certainly wasnt the young girl who left Poteidaia so many years prior. I am sure she thought the same of me. What amazed me the most was, other than a few minute differences from the day Xena had saved my village, the two of them hadnt aged a day. Neither had I, for that matter.
It had been a warm and tearful reunion. We shared our stories and regrets of the years after we had parted ways. We shared laughs and tears at what the other had been through. The most heartbreaking story she told me was when she had a baby. Oh she had loved her daughter so much and it broke her heart when she had to kill Hope. At first I didnt understand, but Gabrielle explained how evil Hope had been and how much it had killed her inside to have to take her childs life. I can only imagine the pain. She had quickly changed the subject though, asking me how I was here and just as young as before. That is when I told them what had happened with Eli and about searching for them, never being able to find them. I explained how Eli had come to me after they had disappeared and offered his assistance. Then, my curiosity sparked, I asked where they had been the last Twenty-five years.
They began to tell me about how the Olympian Gods had attacked them because Eve was thought to be the Bringer of the Twilight. Xenas plan to deceive the Gods into leaving the three of them alone was to fake their deaths, but it had backfired on them when Ares, believing they were truly dead, placed them in ice coffins at the top of Mount Edna. There they had stayed until a freak avalanche had opened up that cave and allowed sunlight to melt the coffins enough so they could break free. Twenty-five years later and not a day older, they set out to find Eve and their families. They told me about their first encounter with Eve and how Ares had made her the Champion of Rome known as Livia. I was surprised to find out that Eli had a hand in saving Eve, making her understand what had happened to her when she was a child."
A brief glance at the mother and daughter revealed their memory of that day. Both shared the same look of remembrance and smiled together. Pausing at the sight, Camrynn allowed the moment to last a bit before she pressed on.
"With the love of Xena and Gabrielle, they prevented Eve from continuing on the path of evil. With the addition of Eve, they traveled to their homes to find their families. I guess Xenas reunion wasnt as pleasant as she had hoped. Her house had been haunted on top of being nearly taken over by the devil. Plus she had found out that her mother had been burned at the stake because the villagers believed her to be a witch. But as you have seen, Gabrielles reunion was much happier. Finally, we were back together. We were so happy to have found each other.
That was short lived though, because only months after finding Gabrielle, I lost her again. I had been welcomed into their mission with open arms, so we set out to complete that which had been started so long ago. One day, we had stumbled into a village where a battle waged led by the warlord Laterian. We fought him and his army with all we had. But we paid the price for our involvement. Laterian " Camrynn paused as she fought the tears and tried to force the pain out of her voice.
Gabrielle grimaced at the crack of emotion in Camrynns voice. Squeezing once again on the young womans waist, the bard urged her friend to continue. "Its okay, sweetie. What did Laterian do?"
Camrynn lost the battle against her emotions as tears flooded from her eyes. "Laterian shot Gabrielle in the heart with an arrow. I tried, but I wasnt able to stop him, yet I thought that Xena should have been able to stop the arrow. Xena was closer to Gabrielle at the time than I was, plus I knew of the amazing abilities she had. However she was too busy trying to protect her daughter from an attack that wasnt nearly as threatening. I blamed Xena for my sisters death. Gabrielle died in my arms that day."
Across the fire, Xena cringed as she listened to Camrynn explain Gabrielles death. She couldnt imagine what it would be like to lose her soul mate and was pained by that thought. I will never let anything happen to you Gabrielle, I promise you that. Xena, so deep in her thoughts, nearly missed part of the story as Camrynn continued speaking.
"I was so distraught that I ran and ran until I couldnt go any farther. I fell to my knees crying and, once again, prayed for help. A few weeks later, after I had nearly lost all hope, Eli visited me again
"I am here, my child."
"Eli, she is dead. My beloved sister is dead!"
"Yes, I know."
"WHY ELI?" Camrynn screamed.
"I do not know. The world works in unknown and mysterious ways. I didnt know she was going to die."
"I just found her, Eli. And she was taken from me. Please, I beg you, help me."
"My dear sweet Camrynn, I can not do what you are going to ask. I can not bring Gabrielle back from the dead."
"Isnt there anything you can do, please Eli, I beg you."
Pausing momentarily before speaking, Eli was willing to offer something that normally was forbidden. "Camrynn, there is something I can do, but it is dangerous and requires a high price from you."
Hope filled Camrynn once again at Elis words. "What what can you do? I am willing to pay anything, just name it."
"Well my child, I am not able to name it. The price is something you will have to discover for yourself. But this is what I can do you for you. As I said before, I am not able to bring Gabrielle back. But what I can do is take you to a place where the same fate awaits an alternate version of your sister. You can save her and her loved ones from that pain you feel within you."
"I am confused, Eli. What do you mean by an alternate version of my sister?"
"Another world, my child. One that parallels this life, one where different choices were made that caused different events to take place. You need not understand how it is possible, you must only wish to pursue this opportunity. Do you wish this, my child?"
Camrynn hesitated for a moment as she tried hard to understand Elis words. Giving up on fully comprehending, she nodded her head in acceptance. "Yes, please. If I can save anyone from this anguish I will take it."
"And so it shall be."
With that, a bright, swirling porthole opened in front of Camrynn. Pausing, she stood before the vortex in awe of its beauty. Without another moment burned, she stepped through and was whisked away.
Camrynn sighed as a look of regret washed over her lovely face. "When I saw Xena, I couldnt control my anger. It was so recently that I had lost my sister. I didnt stop to think that this was not the Xena I had grown to hate."
Tears began to well up in her eyes again. "I am sorry that I attacked you. I hope you can accept my apology." Camrynn finished the last sentence with her head bowed in shame.
There was long moment of silence among the group. No one knew quite what to say. Xena, Gabrielle, and Eve sat there, absorbing everything that they had just heard. So many questions had been answered only to bring up a whole new set left unanswered. Was it possible that Camrynn was from an alternate world? Could she really be here to save Gabrielle from some horrible death? Eve broke the silence with the first words to be heard for what seemed like forever.
"Its an incredible story. I dont believe Eli would have sent Camrynn here if he werent absolutely sure that she could somehow help Gabrielle. I think that he wants only to help us avoid the same fate."
Xena nodded her head in agreement. But after everything Camrynn had said, there was only one thing that didnt click in Xenas mind. She hadnt heard of this warlord Camrynn had designated as Gabrielles assassin.
"Explain to me about this Warlord Laterian. Who is he, what does he want, and why was he attacking the village you spoke of?"
"Laterian is the son of Draco."
Taken aback for a moment; Xena shook her head in disbelief. "Wait a second, Draco didnt have a son."
"Xena, it has been a long time since we ran into Draco, it is possible that he had a son in the time we were gone." Gabrielle reminded the warrior.
"Right. I keep forgetting that whole Twenty-five year thing."
"Well, there isnt much to tell about Laterian." Camrynn continued. "He had just recently shown himself. He had huge ambition to take over the land by conquering all the villages he came across. When we happened on to him, he was attacking a village thats not too far from here. He had killed so many people, including women and children. He was about to burn the village."
"Well, if he is anything like his father, he wont be easy to stop." Xena paused for a minute deep in thought, and then stood up. "Evie, do me a favor, take care of Camrynn for a while. See if she needs anything. Gabrielle, will you come with me."
A quick nod from her bard acknowledged the request and Xena and Gabrielle started away from the camp. She wanted to hear what Gabrielle had on her mind about the story they had just heard. "What do you think of all this?"
Gabrielle sighed deeply. "Well, she seems to be telling the truth. Her world seems to parallel ours very closely. I mean a lot of what she said has happened here. Like the raid on my village, you saving us, Najara, Eli, being gone for Twenty-five years. Its hitting very close to home, yet has its own twist to it. She doesnt appear to be lying. Why? Do you think somethings up?"
"I dont know. I dont think shes lying either. Its strange how things are the same in her world, yet so different at the same time. Najara certainly wasnt sane, but it appears in Camrynns world she was a genuine article. Its certainly an interesting concept. I dont know, I figured that, in a way, you are her sister. Maybe you might have a little insight or connection to her."
"I did feel a sort of recognition when I saw her, I cant really explain it. Its definitely strong, I feel as if I know her. Maybe its because she and I are sisters in her world. But I dont know if I can tell you for sure that she is telling the truth. I believe her though."
Xena looked deeply into the emerald abyss and lost herself for a second. "If what she is saying is true, we need to be careful. We need to look for this Laterian and stop him before he destroys that village and " her words trailed off.
Gabrielle knew what Xena was thinking and reached out to grasp the warriors large hands. "Dont worry, Xena. Now that we know he is out there and what happened in the other world, we should be able to avoid any harm."
Xena smiled and squeezed the petite hands, "Youre right."
"But youre still worried, arent you?" Gabrielle said, unconvinced her friends mind was at ease.
"I just cant imagine what I could have been doing that I would miss an arrow heading straight for you."
Gabrielles grip tightened as she pulled Xena closer to her, trying to comfort her warrior. Making sure she had her undivided attention, Gabrielle locked her emerald eyes with denim blue. "Xena, it wasnt you, okay. It was the Xena of Camrynns world. Just because there were similarities between our two worlds doesnt mean that you are exactly the same as her. She is probably different in some ways than you are. Maybe she couldnt get to the other Gabrielle, but you arent her. You have always been there for me, Xena. I know you wouldnt let that happen to me."
Xena nodded feeling a little better after Gabrielles reassurance. She gave the Amazon Queen a loving smile. "I know. Youre right as always." Clearing her suddenly choked up throat, Xena motioned over her shoulder. "Hey, maybe we should head back to camp."
"Are you sure everythings all right?"
"Yeah, its fine." Xena could still see the concern in Gabrielles eyes. "I promise, really. Lets go."
The pair released their grip on each other slowly as they started back to camp in silence. Xenas mind screamed with the thoughts of losing Gabrielle despite her reassurances that everything was okay. She knew that she would have to be extra careful when looking for Laterian. She couldnt let her soulmate be killed by some two bit, wanna be warlord. The warrior hid her thoughts the best she could, not allowing Gabrielle to see that she was still concerned even though the feelings lingered.
When they got back to camp, Eve was finishing up on a wound above Camrynns brow. Apparently the hit that she had taken from Xenas hilt had split the skin wide open. It had gone unnoticed during all the commotion.
"Everything okay?" Eve asked her mother after she left Camrynns side to join Xena.
"Yeah, everythings fine. Just had to talk with Gabrielle. Hows Camrynns head?"
"A little bruised, but okay. The cut should heal soon enough." Eve faced her mother and spoke softly but with great conviction in her voice. "I think we can trust her, mother. If Eli believes in her, we should too."
"If you believe that what she is saying is the truth, then I will trust your instincts."
"Thank you, mother." Eve smiled and gave her mother a big hug. As they pulled away from each other, their identical eyes locked together. Simultaneously, they looked across the fire to the two petite women. They watched for a brief second as the events played out in front of them, but soon left the two alone to their privacy and began laying out their bedrolls.
Gabrielle sat next to Camrynn to check on her condition. "How are you feeling?"
"Im a little tired and sore, but okay. Ive been through worse." Camrynn chuckled. Her demeanor quickly changed as she noticed the purplish bruise she had inflicted on Gabrielles temple. "I hope you understand why reacted the way I did earlier. I feel so bad for hurting you." Camrynn gently brushed the bards temple with her finger.
Gabrielle remained still as Camrynn touched her face, but then took a hold of her hand. A caring smile brightened her face as she spoke. "Its okay. Sometimes we cant control our anger and it gets the best of us. Youve had a pretty hard time lately. Its completely understandable."
Camrynn returned the smile, relieved that everything was forgiven. "I am glad you dont harbor any ill feelings toward me, Gabrielle. I was hoping we could well, I know you arent the Gabrielle I know, but I was hoping we could at least be friends."
"Of course we can, Camrynn. I know that in your world, I am your sister and in a way I still am. Things are just a tad different here. My sisters name is Lila; she and I are completely different, though." A chuckle escaped her lips. "I find it amazing that you and I seem to be so much alike."
"Lila? Oh ."
"Whats wrong? Gabrielle noticed the melancholy look in Camrynns eyes.
After a second of hesitation, Camrynn decided she could tell Gabrielle a secret that had been in her family for years. After all, Gabrielle was sort of like family. "Lila is the name of the baby mother lost at child birth a few years after I was born. We were too young to really understand, but we knew what mother had named her."
"By the Gods. I am so sorry." Horror filled Gabrielles voice.
"Its okay. It has been a long time since I had thought of Lila. I didnt know her, like I said, but the thought of her is what upsets me every now and then. We didnt really speak of the loss, it was only kept between our family."
Tears began to stream harder down Camrynns face. Gabrielle leaned over and wrapped her arms around Camrynn. How hard this must be for her. She has no family left, Gabrielle thought. Her mother and father were gone, she has lost both sisters, and now she is in a strange world that she doesnt belong to. The two sat there for a while as Camrynn cried on Gabrielles shoulder.
Gabrielle held her "sister" tightly, whispering to her, "Itll be okay; you arent alone any more. Were your family." And Gabrielle meant it; she would accept Camrynn into her family with out question or reservation.
Gabrielle glanced up to see Xena and Eve looking at the two of them with concern in their eyes. Gabrielle gave them a reassuring smile and a slight nod to let them know it was okay, and then returned to consoling the new addition to their family. After several minutes, Camrynn cried her last tears for the night and looked up at Gabrielles affectionate gaze.
"Thank you." She whispered, too exhausted to do anything else. Gabrielle answered only with a smile. She laid Camrynn down on her bedroll that she had set out earlier and covered her with the blanket. Camrynn smiled briefly before she fell into a deep sleep. Gabrielle kissed her on the forehead, glanced one more time at the now peaceful face, and then walked over to Xena and Eve.
"Shes been through so much."
Gabrielle explained what had just transpired between the two of them. They felt a certain sympathy for their new friend. Eve seemed the most touched, but this didnt surprise Xena or Gabrielle much at all. Eve loved very deeply, that is why she had devoted her life to spreading the word of Eli. His first lesson she held very dear to her heart: Love is the way. If he had sent Camrynn here, it was for a reason. Eve was sure of that and would make it her mission to see that it was done.
Conversation of recent events rose and fell, but the three were no closer to answers than they were before. What they all knew though was that Camrynn wasnt sent here on a whim. She had a purpose, a message. It must be filled if Xena, Gabrielle and Eve were to prevent any harm that could come to their loved ones and the world. Each was lost in their own thoughts as, across the fire, the young warrior slept. But for now, it was late and nothing more could be done.
"We had all better get some sleep. Its been an eventful night and its going to be an interesting day tomorrow." Xena was determined to find Laterian soon and stop him from hurting anyone . especially Gabrielle.
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