Chapter 4

“It’s in an ancient chamber of the Mother Goddess, Gaia.”  Desmonia explained after they had left.

There’s that feeling again, Xena thought. Anticipation, but for what?  What kind of preparation does one have to go through to guide nubile girls across Greece?  Something Hercules and Iolaus didn’t want to undergo?  Hmm. Something that would take away their manhood, Xena thought amused?  Another part of her knew that if that was the case it had to be something big to shake Hercules’ sense of self.

Gaia. Just what does this preparation involve?”  Xena asked interested.

Desmonia smiled. “I’m sure nothing you haven’t done before, but without any blood sacrifice. Shall we?”  She indicated the exit. “We shall go to the site and prepare.”

Xena frowned as she rose to follow the woman. Why would she be making arrangements for Gaia’s priestesses? She wondered again. Does Artemis have a special interest in her grandmother’s business? 

*.*.*.

Xena had been in the small heated shelter sweating and sipping the herbal water that was offered for what she thought was at least a day. She sat huddled in the enclosure that had no corners, acting as a passive receptacle to visions she had no understanding of. They left her dizzy and disorientated.

When the visions had started Xena found herself standing in dark shadows created by tall trees that surrounded her. She felt eyes staring at her and her keen senses picked up the smell of a wolf. Carefully turning around she found the yellow eyes peering out at her from the cover of a fern.

She didn’t attempt to draw a weapon, which if she had she would have noticed she had none. Both wolf and human studied each other for a long moment, each feeling no threat from the other.

Xena felt a chuckle from the owner of the yellow eyes. What is so amusing, you four legged fur bearing curr, she thought.

The wolf lifted its nose into the air and yapped as if laughing. You certainly are one to talk, two legged.

You can hear my thoughts?

Of course! Do you think we cannot understand any other language but our own? 

This is hardly a language.

Exactly. All forms of life on this earth experience thoughts, images, and feelings. Your species spends time learning other languages but with the intention to dominate and take without giving proper reverence to the realm they are taking from.

Realm?

Animal, plant, land, life of others of your species. Each is a realm or kingdom that has a guardian that over sees it. Your gods are also a realm, which is overseen by one who is greater than they.

Xena started to laugh.

Yes. I can see your humor. Eventually their time shall pass and others will take their place but there will always be guardians of the different realms of life forms. It is to these that homage and thank fullness needs to be given when one is sacrificed for your need.

Like the prayer of thanks for the first bread that is baked after the harvest!  Xena thought with a certain amount of smugness that she knew what the wolf was implying.

Yes. But it should not stop there. For taking the life of the stag, the boar or for the herbs that you use for your survival, you must remember to thank spirit of what sacrificed its life for you.

And you do this when you take a sheep or stag?

Yes. Do you think our howling at the moon is just for the sake of listening to ourselves sing? 

Xena could feel the wolf smile.

So, why are you here in my vision? 

Ahh. You want to get down to business. I am your guide.     

Xena felt the sting of the branch as again it was flicked across her bare body invoking a fresh release of visions. Scenes from the lives of many people, whom she didn’t know, kept replaying as if a point was trying to be made but she couldn’t see it. She kept looking for a pattern or a place to fit a piece so a larger picture could emerge. The wolf sat beside her studying the same scenes but offering no thoughts on them.

The branch again was flicked across her back but this brought an interesting sensation of time. She became fascinated with the concept of time her imagination conjured up. A pool of water appeared at her feet with no break in its surface. The wolf jumped down from the chair she had been sitting on next to Xena and poked her nose in the watery vision she had of time. It created a ripple effect across the surface then it disappeared. Another vision appeared in its place. A huge web stretched out before them. The web of life, the wolf informed her. The spider’s web became weighed with glittering diamonds but on closer examination it was merely wet with dew from the early morning and sparkling as if the new sun was turning the dew drops into tiny jewels. She sighed at its beauty.

The intensity of the visions begin to lessen and with it the feeling of her guides presence. She asked Xena to review what she had seen. Xena sighed. Mother Earth offered immortality to her followers, but she wasn’t really just Mother of the Earth, she was a teacher and initiator into the secrets of the multitude of life forms in her domain. She was the mentor to the ancient Shamans. It was through the wheel of reincarnation she granted this immortality and from what Xena could follow she had in another life been a follower of this Mother of the Earth, Gaia. So, why did I spend time in Tartarus, she challenged the wolf? 

What appeared to be a grin appeared on her guide’s face. No explanation was given but another vision appeared. Before her were spinning tiny lights of various colors. She saw people moving through these bits of lights and knew that they were traveling from one temple to another. She watched as supplies and animals moved through these portals. The wolf stepped through one asking Xena to follow. For a while they visited places that were foreign even to Xena whose wanderings were far and wide. As the last vision left she became aware of a hand resting on her shoulder.

“You are ready.”  A disembodied voice above her announced.

The vision of the wolf left with a quiet thought to her that she would be available should Xena need her again.

Xena was helped to her feet and led out of the hot shelter. The air outside was cooling bringing her into the more solid world. She straightened up and drew away from those that had assisted her. Xena stood naked and silent before a figure dressed in ceremonial robes trying to see past the colors that were emanating from the person. The women who had sat with her in the hot enclosure also had become surrounded in a cloud of colors hiding their physical bodies. Taking a deep breath and releasing it, solid faces appeared out of the soft cloud of colors.

Desmonia was wearing the traditional long ceremonial robe of a seer. She pointed to the pool of water for Xena to immerse herself in. This was the sacred pool. The pool’s water was from the run-off of the snowcapped mountain that the underground cavern nestled in. The cold brought clarity to Xena’s mind as she plunged down to the bottom of the cavern’s pool, picking up a small stone that captured her eye. Something for Gabrielle, she thought. It would fit nicely in the small box she had bought her.

As Xena walked out of the pool the two young women that accompanied her from the sweat shelter assisted her in drying off and robing. They had also rinsed off in the pool and were dressed in similar robe they dressed her in. In the muted light that the torches gave off, her dark hair and tanned skin contrasted sharply with the white robe. Her bright blue eyes caught sharply in the torch light sending off glints of their own.

The sound of cymbals and drums started the moment the robe touched her skin. Xena watched and listened with senses that were muted on one level, yet heightened on another. She could see the glow of colors around everyone. Holding her own hands out she could see colors of light shooting out from her fingertips and out from her palms. In her left hand nestled the small stone giving off different colors than her right hand that held nothing. It felt as if the stone were alive. She became captivated by the sensations the stone gave her and wanted to sit somewhere and understand what she was sensing, but Desmonia pulled her attention back to her surroundings.

Xena took her place behind the two women admiring the whiteness of their robes and the contrasting beautiful colors that surrounded them. Desmonia led them to the dark opening of a tunnel.

The tunnel was shrouded in utter darkness. She could hear the muted sounds of the footsteps of those before her. The sounds of the music were eerie and seemed to vibrate against her skin as if it were a silky touch. She was still aware of the stone that she held safely in her palm, which seemed to pick up on the drums and throbbed to their beat. The women in front of her walked with firm footsteps, confidant of their foot placement in the dark. Xena was amused that she didn’t feel the usual trepidation of closed spaces nor have any hesitation in following blindly. She had been in darkness before and knew how to walk in it.

The smell of incense was starting to get stronger and before her was a tiny light where she was able to see the dark outline of the figures of the three women ahead of her through the glow of colors that almost shrouded them.

The feeling of anticipation quickened her heartbeat. The visions from a few moments ago in the sweat shelter came back to her with emotional feelings. She didn’t try to put them into anything understandable. She knew visions were not for the realm of thought but rather for the realm of feeling. Where did I hear that?  The chants were getting louder. The underground chamber vibrated from the energy of the chants bringing back a familiarity that Xena struggled to place. Where had she been where this was as familiar to her as breathing?

The chanting stopped when the four women entered another underground chamber. Clusters of crystals in varying colors hung from the ceiling and were covering the walls. Some were wider than her arm. Xena couldn’t figure out where the light source was but the crystals magnified the one small light, and their reflections sent out rainbows in all directions. She could hear the soft sound of water trickling and the rhythmic movement of the water as if on a shore. Did the ocean feed into this underground chamber?  She could actually sense their surroundings as if it were alive. She gave her head a brief shake to stay focused on what she could see with her eyes, an uncharacteristic choice on her part. What are you frightened of?  Stay awake!  Xena’s eyes opened wide from the thought that she knew came from herself.

Desmonia faced Xena with twelve other women surrounding her dressed in the same white robe of an initiate.

“You are the Named, the one who came before and left with an unfinished quest.”  Desmonia intoned to Xena. “You and these others had asked for the opportunity to complete the journey, to complete the task of the covenant you had at one time taken in behalf of the Mother Gaia.”  

Though Xena didn’t recall any such request a part of her knew this to be true. The butterflies in her stomach ceased and she could feel the tension in her shoulders ease.

A light brighter than any she had seen, including Ares dramatic displays started as a small ball of light then grew to the size of a large person. There was no pain to the brightness, in fact it was quite warm and inviting, -- and familiar. The figure of a woman appeared to take shape in the light. It wasn’t something that surprised Xena; it was as if she, at some level, was familiar with this person and method of appearing.

When the face was clear she automatically kneeled with a heavy heart. I failed you. I am so sorry!  Please, give me the chance again to guide these pilgrims on their quest. I am better prepared. Xena’s conscious mind was struggling with these thoughts that were coming from a very deep part of her. She was kneeling willingly in front of the great Mother Gaia. This person was so much a part of her she felt enflamed and sad at the same time.

“Arise child of her own destiny. In this life you have no obligation to me.”  The voice was caressing against Xena’s heavy heart. It seemed all the hardness from self-guilt that had a grip around her heart was gone. She felt very different. Lighter. Her energy level rose but not the nervous type that had her vibrating like a nervous stallion needing physical action to release the energy. It was expansive and made her even more aware of her environment on the various levels of her senses.

“You have all asked for another chance to fulfill your covenant of long ago. As members of the original circle, you are all here as is the necessity for this request to be granted. There are others who had also been a part of the original journey and who had the similar desire. I will honor your collective wish to fulfill what you perceive as a covenant with me.”

Her soft dark eyes searched deeply into the eyes of each woman before moving to the next. Finally she came to Xena.

“You were the leader of that group. You, willingly took the burden of guilt for the group’s inability to complete the journey. For that, you are again to be the leader, but you must shed your image of who you are now. You must take on the name of the Named and her mantle.”  She paused, studying the impassive face. “You shall not be recognized as Xena for as long as you stay with the journey. If you answer to any other name than that of the Named the recompense shall be voided in this life for all. Do you understand this?”

Xena took a deep breath and let it out slowly. A part of her that was not conscious understood this perfectly. It felt right. But her conscious mind didn’t understand what this was all about, and that was driving her to distraction. Who and what was the Named?

“I take up the mantle of the Named willingly and abide by the rules set down to complete the journey of the faithful to the sacred site in the mountain lands.”  Xena couldn’t believe what was coming out of her mouth. Gods, what is happening?

The dark warm eyes gazed at her for a moment longer then looked at the others. “You have heard the oath of the Named, do the rest of you also honor this acceptance, and for her to once again lead you?” 

“Yes, Mother Gaia.”  They all answered in unison.

Xena felt as if there were two of her, one moving into the forefront while what she knew as Xena moved to the side. Oh, oh, she thought.   

The warm dark eyes looked back at Xena. “You are the Named and the journey shall resume. You must all think of what this decision means to you and what your responsibilities are. My blessings go with you.”  The form was suddenly gone and the warmth and calming energy with it.

Chapter 5

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