A Return To Form
Part III.

By Jay and Silent Dee.

With apologies to John Donne, William Peter Blatty and Steven Moffat.


Dael hoisted yet another barrel onto his shoulders and headed off in the direction of an empty tomb. Since they weren't currently being occupied by the local dead, they were handy for storage. Dael was an honourable man in his late twenties, and the local people had been looking to him for help and advice ever since his father had passed away. He had rallied the anxious villagers after the cattle had keeled over and died, explaining that they could harvest their hides and sell the leather on in local town markets. The meat could be salted and kept for as long as possible, until the next batch of crops was ready. It would be a hard slog, but he wouldn't permit anybody to lose hope if there was anything he could do about it. They would survive.

Lining the barrel up against the tomb wall, he paused to take stock. There was just about enough dried and treated meat, fruit and nuts to ration among them for a fair while. Things were looking up. Of course, he only began to believe it himself the day the missionaries arrived - bringing many more supplies with them.

It had been an unbearably sizzling day. He and a few other men had spent the best part of it dragging the carcasses of dead animals away from the village's fresh water supply. Under any other circumstances, the young maidens in the village would have been spying on the shirtless men slaving away in the fields, giggling among themselves. As it was, they too were working together to help rebuild their lives.

Dael had finally taken a break after hours of exertion, and allowed himself to sit for a few moments, taking a much-needed sip of cooling water. It was then that he had noticed the wagons pulling into town, loaded with barrels and crates laden with greatly needed comestibles. Seated atop the head carriage was an elderly gentleman in a black outfit, thin wisps of snowy hair peeking out from underneath a wide brimmed hat. Several similarly dressed fellows, whom he led in a rousing, yet unfamiliar canticle, accompanied him. The missionaries had been with them for three days now, and so far they had been a great help.

In the distance Dael spotted something. A horse, galloping towards them, trails of dust spiralling skyward in its wake. Several people turned to watch as the rider, a woman, grew closer and brought the steed to a halt nearby. He gathered that she was scanning the stunned faces of the townsfolk now expectantly surrounding her, even though her gaze was not visible.
Dael approached her horse, which she made no move to dismount, and slowed his pace as she turned in his direction. Standing before her, he peered at her from several angles and waved his hand back and forth - watching in wonderment as her head followed its movement. Her expression revealed nothing.

"My brother has sent you to help us." he declared, certain that this unusual woman was the warrior of local prophecy.

Xena released her grasp from around the bard's stomach and dismounted. Gabrielle swung a leg over the horse and gracefully dropped to the ground. Slowly removing her sunglasses, she extended her hand to the man who had presented himself.

"My name is Gabrielle, and yes, Yaseen found me. Is there somewhere we can speak in private?"

"Of course. Please, follow me."

The wizened old preacher soon halted their progress. Stepping into the bard's path he greeted her, "Well hi....", and offered a hand she didn't take.

"Uh, hi..." Gabrielle responded, unsuccessfully attempting to mask her shock at his ghoulish features. With such taut skin and a sickening pallor, she didn't think she'd ever seen anybody quite this ancient before. "Do I know you?" she wondered, as there was something familiar about him that she couldn't place.

"That is possible! I get around! Love...gettin' around and talking to people. Even on a rainy day! Please, allow me to introduce myself. Kane, Reverend Kane. I'm with an organisation that tries to help communities in dire straits. Several of us are here to help the wonderful people of this village get back on their feet, and with the grace of our Lord," eyes blazing, he gestured wildly towards the sky with a delighted grin on his features, "We might just do that!"

His expression reminded her of Leah, the Hestian Priestess the night they had camped together. *What do you think? Fanatic?* Gabrielle directed at the warrior.

"Nah, he's just enthusiastic. He's not hearing voices like Najara. Or you..." Xena grinned. "He is quite old and there's the matter of food shortage which can't help someone obviously as frail as he is."

Gabrielle hesitantly took his hand and grasped it, quickly letting go. "It was nice to meet you." she lied.

The Reverend watched with a smile as the young woman was led away, only just catching the boy's hesitant question, "Aren't you a little short for a warrior princess?"

Kane called to one of his men once she was out of earshot.
"Caleb, I'm glad we had this opportunity to speak with the warrior woman out of the way. I have several things to attend to this evening but there's something I'd like you to take care of for me..." Clasping the young man's shoulders and gazing into the very depths of his soul, Kane announced earnestly, "She is in daaanger!"

Gabrielle was very much aware of Kane's presence as she departed for Dael's home. She could feel the hairs on the back of her neck prickle as the preacher hummed to himself behind her. She shuddered involuntarily at the haunting melody and turned her attention to more pressing matters.

"Right. Dael, I need you to tell me everything that's happened so far, and I'll tell you what I know. I'd like you to show me your father's tomb. Yaseen mentioned a stone had been taken from it."

Dael made no response, and continued to stare into the depths of the blonde's green eyes.

"I think you've hooked another one." Xena chuckled. "Look at the poor boy. He's drowning. Whatever you do – don't kiss him! We need this one alive."

Gabrielle scowled at the ghostly warrior, and the young man followed her gaze to the patch of empty space on his left. Replacing her sunglasses, she tried again. "Dael? Your father's tomb?"

"Yes, of course. I will take you there, but later. Nothing unnatural happens while Ra protects us. First, we should eat. My home is nearby – please, come."

"I bet he says that to all the girls." Xena whispered, until she remembered she didn't have to.

*Shut up!*

Dael grabbed a large sack of vegetables from a nearby stack and hoisted it over his shoulder before marching off along a dusty path, beckoning behind him.

"He can be quite masterful at times, can't he?"

*Xena – I'm warning you…*

The house was compact, but welcoming enough. Small windows and doors helped to keep the rooms cool and dark during the hot days, and warm at night. The walls were adorned with images – pictures of farmers and their cattle, of strange looking gods and goddesses – each wall had a different tale to tell. Large cushions covered with beautiful silks and fabrics littered the floor, and Gabrielle sat amongst them, trying to read the stories in the dim light.

A fire burned in the corner of the room, heating a large pot bubbling with fragrant aromas. Dael busied himself chopping vegetables and slicing meat. The food he was preparing would have fed him for a week, but he was grateful to have someone to cook for – especially someone so radiant with beauty. A shadow crossed his face for an instant, but he quickly dismissed the thought, crushing some more herbs and tossing them in to the mix.

He was happily oblivious to the fact that he was sharing his house with two women. While one sat cross-legged, deep in ponderous thought, the other paced up and down the room like a caged animal.

Gabrielle's concentration broke for the hundredth time in as many seconds, as Xena strode by in front of her yet again.

*Xena, what's the matter?*


*Then come and sit down. Some of these stories are fascinating.*

"I don't feel like reading." The dark woman snapped, her fingertips returning to her mouth, where she gnawed on her short nails.

*Are you nervous about something?*

"No, of course I'm not nervous! I'm just…I'm just…so…"


"Hungry!! Okay?! I'm hungry. I haven't had anything to eat in months! My stomach feels like my throat's been cut…which isn't that far from the truth, but you know what I mean."

As if on cue, Xena's stomach let out an almighty gurgle.

Dael glanced up from his chopping board. "Did you hear something?" He asked.

"Erm, I think…I think it was the wind." Gabrielle stuttered.

"No it wasn't – it was me." Xena continued. "And I know I'm dead, I know I don't need food anymore, and even if I did I wouldn't be able to touch it, but I still feel the cravings. I can still smell the sweet, sweet smells…." With that, Xena breathed in deeply.

*I'm sorry, I didn't realise – you've never mentioned anything about this before.*

As the warrior's hooded eyes glowered in response; Dael motioned toward the small bowl on the table. "Pistachio?" he offered. "No? Then dinner is served." He grinned widely, placing two huge platters between the women. He was about to take his usual place at the table, which was currently occupied by a towering, if a little undead, warrior, when he was stopped by an uncontrollable urge to move further to the right.

A half smile crossed Xena's lips, and she strode purposefully into the table, her knees skimming through the glistening delights on offer. She glanced down, aware that green eyes were boring into the back of her head. "Amazing the amount of steam that comes off hot peas isn't it?"

"Will you sit down!!" Gabrielle shouted out, much to everyone's surprise. Xena immediately moved to the back of the room, feeling slightly embarrassed. Before Dael could protest his innocence, the blonde pointed at one of the tiny windows behind him.

"Dael, I see there are some ruins outside, what were they?"

The young man flinched at the reminder, his head bowed. "That is all that remains of my father's house. Our family lived there for many years…until the accident."

Gabrielle knew she had touched a raw nerve, and cursed herself under her breath. "I'm sorry. I understand if you don't want to talk about it." She said softly, her hand reaching across the table. As it brushed his arm, he instantly brightened, like a flower responding to the first rays of morning.

"No, no, my father's death was very painful for me, but talking about it helps. It helps me to understand that these things happen for a reason."

"What things?"

"My father was killed by a block of frozen water."

The sentence hung in the air, unsure of where to go or what to do next, as was Gabrielle. "You mean, he was crushed by some sort of…glacier?" The statement seemed stupid now she had said it, considering she was sitting in the middle of a desert.

"I don't think so, I don't know what a glacier is." Dael continued. "What I do know is that five months, three weeks and two days ago, a vast block of frozen water fell from the clear blue sky and killed my father. And his pet cow, who he was milking at the time. Her name was Sarah, after my mother…"

Gabrielle sat in shocked disbelief. "Dael that's so terrible" were the only words she could think of to say. She took his hand in her own and squeezed it tightly.

Dael smiled cheerfully at the gesture. "But on the bright side, the ice kept our meat fresh for weeks afterwards – we were able to outsell all the other traders, and the pure water made our crops grow very well. In a way, it saved us. Everything happens for a reason." He concluded the story by shovelling a spoonful of peas into his mouth.

Xena tapped her perturbed girlfriend on the shoulder. "Okay, I've lost my appetite – can we go to the tomb now?"


Turning back to her host Gabrielle asked, "What do you make of Kane?"

"He's...kind of devout I suppose. He hasn't tried to push his beliefs on us like some people have which is good. So far the missionaries have been a tremendous help here."

Gabrielle nodded and with a sigh announced, "I think we should get down to business."
Dael listened intently as she explained how the morning's events had unfolded - less like a blooming rose and more like a wilting cabbage. In turn Dael answered her questions about the small details she's come about so far. The "blood of the guardian" obviously referred to Yaseen - his family had been guardians of the Zythum stone for decades and Yaseen's blood was pure. He was undoubtedly intended to be a virgin sacrifice. The question was why?

"What excuse does any two bit bunch of loonies need to sacrifice a virgin? You have first hand knowledge of this kind of situation..." the warrior's voice was incredulous.

*Yes, thank you for reminding me!*

"There has been a desecration every night since this began and there are only two tombs that remain untouched."

"We're going to get Yaseen back okay?" Gabrielle assured her host. Give me a quick look around your father's tomb, then we'll find a place to keep watch. We don't have much time."


Having found nothing noteworthy at the tomb other than a hole where a large carved stone had once sat, they began their stakeout in earnest. A steep hill to the north overlooked the section of town designated for the burial chambers. Gabrielle took in the uncomfortable looking ground before her, searching for a reasonable place to perch for the next few hours. Her indecision was short lived as Xena strode past and picked the perfect spot. Dropping to the ground, she spread her legs and beckoned to Gabrielle to join her.

*You know, that's not terribly ladylike!* the bard jibed, settling between Xena's spread-eagled legs and leaning back against the warrior's chest.

"Ah, c'mon Gabrielle, you've seen me in far less ladylike positions than this..."

"What's with all the torches?" Gabrielle directed her attention towards Dael, determined to concentrate on the task at hand.

"Most of the villagers believe the burning torches will ward off evil spirits." he explained.

"So that's why I keep getting twinges!" Xena muttered a little too closely to the bard's ear, snaking a hand across her stomach. Gabrielle snickered, before catching herself and launching into an unceremonious sneezing fit. Quite a performance. It wouldn't do if Dael thought she was mocking his people's beliefs.

"Are you okay?" he asked, somewhat puzzled at her sudden attack of sniffles.

"Fine. I'm fine - just a little...er, hayfever - I think" the bard bluffed.

"With everything that's been happening lately we can't just attribute the desecrations of these tombs to a bunch of common thieves. There has to be something more to it..." he continued, gazing thoughtfully down towards the village. They had a clear view from up here and so far there had been no signs of any activity, sinister or otherwise.

Dael stole a glance at the beautiful blonde woman and sighed. She was obviously quite young, but there was something about her that suggested she had been through enough to fill several lifetimes.

"Why don't you tell me about yourself?" the warrior suggested. "We're obviously going to be here a while, how about swapping a few stories? Tell me about yourself. Do you have a wife? Kids?"

"No. There's not much to tell really...I could tell you a story about my uncle Crazy Eddie though. Dramatically clearing his throat, Dael began. "One day, Crazy Eddie is riding through town when he realises he needs some new shoes for his horse. So he calls in at the blacksmith's shop. The blacksmith says "Hi Crazy Eddie! I'm sorry, but we've only got camel shoes and some really small goat slippers at the moment, but if you like I can knock you a pair up. Come back next Monday." So my uncle thanks him and says, "Why does everybody keep calling me Crazy Eddie? My name's Ahmed!" So the next week Crazy Eddie goes back to the blacksmith's shop and picks up the right kind of shoes for his horse."

Gabrielle looked at Dael expectantly.

He shrugged uncomfortably and muttered, "I said I'd tell you a story, I didn't say it was interesting..."

Xena piped up "This guy will never make a bard. Maybe you should give him a few lessons..."

The embarrassed young man cleared his throat and hastily shifted gears. "What about you, do you er, do you have a boyfriend?"


Dael tentatively began to reach for her, until his advances were cut short by a severe discomfort in his wrist. Gabrielle didn't miss the jerking movement behind her, and out of the corner of her eye spotted her partner batting Dael's arm away. *Xena...* she warned. He decided to delve a little further - had he overstepped the mark?

"Are you married?"

"Not...in the traditional sense." Gabrielle responded, trying desperately to ignore the fingers that were playing "Incy Wincy Spider" up her thigh. *Xena, KNOCK IT OFF!"*

A deep voice sounded close to her ear causing the blonde to shudder. "I'm sorry, it's just...this is all so new. Usually guys run screaming from you if I so much as raise an eyebrow at them."

*Brunhilda was a bit of a challenge*

"I'll say..." Xena agreed, brushing her lips lightly down her partner's neck and laying her palms flat against the blonde's abdomen. Her aforementioned hunger had switched it's attentions and was hurtling towards fever pitch.

Gabrielle turned to Dael while trying to ignore the increasing ache in her loins, and with a sigh he mistook as melancholic, stated, "My partner was killed several months ago. I won’t be looking for anybody new."

Put firmly in his place, he searched for something which he hoped would be safer ground, when his gaze fell upon the chakram hanging at Gabrielle's side.

"Where did you get such an intriguing weapon? I've never seen anything like it."

"It belonged to a great warrior named Xena..."

Dael sat back and looked at her expectantly, prepared to listen to whatever tale she had to tell.
Xena's hands stilled on the bard's stomach. It seemed like aeons since she had heard Gabrielle spin a good yarn. In the old days it had been parables meant to invoke some manner of cheer in the curmudgeonly warrior. This quickly evolved into public accounts of their adventures together - usually in return for a warm bed, bath and meal. Battle and ill fortune had taken its toll, and before long the bard's penchant for storytelling evaporated. Aphrodite had rekindled Gabrielle's creative urges with the help of a few home truths and chocolate therapy, and she'd embraced the practice once again. But this story...this one would be hard to listen to.

"A long time ago, she fought alongside her brothers to safeguard her village from the warlord Cortese. When her younger brother was struck down in battle, her mother blamed her for bringing about his death and she was outcast. She was betrayed by everyone she trusted and watched as her friends were murdered."

Xena rested her chin on Gabrielle's shoulder and waited for her to gather her thoughts enough to continue.

"For years she shut herself down. She became a ruthless and manipulative warlord, riding at the head of a great army who sacked towns and villages, seizing whatever they desired. She was on her way to conquering the world..."

Gabrielle paused as she felt a tear land on her upper arm and glide down to her elbow.

"What happened?" Dael prompted.

"She found her tree in the forest...Xena took up with an innocent young poet. They travelled together for many years, fighting side by side for good and eventually Xena redeemed herself. She was set free. Now she has no need for weapons."

"Xena was your partner." Dael stated in barely more than a whisper.

Gabrielle stared absently ahead of her. She'd never disclosed this much to anybody up until now. By rights she should have been feeling utterly lost. Instead she was filled with a confidence she couldn't explain, and no matter what happened it seemed that she and the warrior really were inseparable. In the end she had forfeit her life with Xena in return for a life with Xena. Things weren't that different. Out of Dael's sight, a hand brushed her unkempt hair over her right ear; the other hand clasped her even tighter.

"I love you Gabrielle."

*I love you*

"Dael, if you don't mind, I'm going to head back to camp. There's nothing happening here. You should get some sleep too if we're going to do this all over again tomorrow."


"What is this?" Gabrielle enquired, rifling through her bag and pulling out a blue scroll. She hadn't written anything herself in recent months and certainly hadn't stocked up on blank parchment lately.

Xena glanced at the scroll, mentally slapping herself for not mentioning it to her partner before now. So Gabrielle was no longer the only thing she could touch - it still wouldn't be any use to the diminutive warrior. "Ah, that would be mine. Appeasement gift from Elsewhere. You're not the only one with creative urges you know."

*I'll say.* thought the blonde, determined to waste a little more time. "It's a strange colour - wouldn't you say? What would you call this? Cornflower blue? Come on - read it to me". she insisted, handing it to Xena and settling down across the camp from her.

The warrior unravelled the scroll in a grand gesture and leaning against a tree, loudly cleared her throat. Nervously peering around the side of the parchment she eyed the bard and then turned her gaze back to the writing before her. "You're sure you want to hear this right now?" she ventured, knowing precisely what state her partner was quickly building up to.

"Read it..." Gabrielle practically growled.

"Death be not proud,
though some hath called thee mighty and dreadful,
thou art not so.
And soonest our best men with thee do go - Rest of their bones and souls' delivery...
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow Die not poor death -
Nor canst thou kill me."

"I know it's a little dark, but I'm still trying to define my style. I'm only a novice at this poetry thing right? I could maybe use a few tips from someone as proficient as yourself..." Xena began, not entirely surprised to see her partner stalking towards her with a look of hunger in her eyes that would have made even Meg blush. "Perhaps I should take this opportunity to work on it some more. You could scrub the frying pan, or...do some whittling while I'm concentrating on my art.. what do you think?"

"You know what I think?" Gabrielle rumbled. "I think the dead should shut up unless there's something to say."

She pulled Xena down into an urgent kiss, driving her tongue relentlessly into the warrior's mouth while pushing her hand under Xena's leathers and up her thigh. Unceremoniously dumping their clothes, they tumbled to the ground. Gabrielle spread the warrior's legs and lay between them, settling into a slow, almost maddening grind. Xena's head lolled like a limp rag as she clawed at her partner's back. The blonde shifted positions and began to thrust against her, a hot tongue gliding up her throat and small fingers dancing between them.
Xena's delirium was interrupted as a soft voice commanded, "Open your eyes...look at me". A brief struggle later, her eyelids fluttered open to see a breathless Gabrielle grinning down at her from merely an inch away.
"Not so tough now huh, Warrior Princess?"
Determined to wipe the smug look off Gabrielle's face, Xena's hand travelled over the muscled planes of the bard's back, venturing ever lower until a slender finger slipped between her buttocks. Hearing her partner's sharp intake of breath at the delicious pressure, a smirk crept over Xena's face. "You were saying?"
"That's - unghhhhhh... cheating..." Gabrielle managed to breathe.
"Did I mention I want to have your babies?"
"Did I mention you're a pain in the ass?"
"Don't you know it..." the warrior countered, pushing in a bit further.
As they picked up the pace, Xena concentrated her gaze on her lover. The sweat breaking out on her body, the tendons in her neck straining with every grunt, the widening of her mouth as she tensed and froze seconds before their bodies wracked with spasms...


Caleb and Yousef scampered excitedly towards the warrior's encampment. He hoped he would get the opportunity to ask her about her adventures now that he was out of Kane's earshot. Upon cresting the hill, they came to an abrupt halt as they were confronted with the proceedings below. The warrior was crouched on all fours...well, on all threes to be precise. The fourth was making foul gestures - seemingly at thin air. Her clothes had clearly been mercilessly torn from her and were cast asunder. After giving some consideration to her obscene rocking motions, the curious tilting of her hips and the bone shattering roar that bellowed from somewhere deep in her gut, Caleb gaped in horror and quickly proclaimed, "A demon has her! This defilement will not go unpunished!", beckoning Yousef to follow him before racing down the hill.

Upon reaching the hapless woman, Caleb lifted the stunned blonde to her feet noting the raw scratch marks adorning her back. A feeling of dread washed over him as he quickly wrapped a sheet around her struggling, naked body. "Wounds!" he gestured to his friend. "You poor sweet angel! Don't despair! We're here to help!"

"What the FUCK do you think you're doing?! Get the fuck off me!!" Gabrielle spat, absolutely mortified that her intimate moment with Xena had been interrupted.

"Dear Lord, she's possessed! Quickly! Tie her up!" As Yousef tackled the seething virago, Caleb brandished his crucifix at her - it was sure to expel or expose the demon within...

"Oh, you sick bastard!" Gabrielle recoiled in horror, and then swung her elbow into Yousef's jaw, rapidly knocking him to the ground. Caleb, who bound her wrists and grappled her to the floor, instantly overpowered her until she was propped against a tree. The same tree against which she'd been busy ravishing Xena not half an hour ago. Said warrior was now fully dressed and laughing her arse off safely out of Gabrielle's reach.

"Oh come on, settle down Gabrielle - look at it from his point of view!" Xena snorted, wishing she'd at least had the good sense to steer proceedings inside their tent. Now she was certain she'd never hear the end of this.

"The missal please..." instructed Caleb, trying desperately not to sound panicked. Leafing through the pages of the small book Yousef had passed him, a toothy grin lit up his face when he found what he was after. Laying his hand across a frothing Gabrielle's head, he began: "Save your servant Lord who trusts in you, and let her find in you a fortified tower..."

With barely concealed rage Gabrielle slowly commanded "Get your hands off me you filthy fucking pervert or I swear by any god you care to name I'll beat you so badly your own mother won't recognise you..."


"Gabrielle come on - it's not like we weren't asking for it..." Xena attempted. This was going to get out of hand if her partner didn't calm down, and there was nothing she could do about it.

"Be gone foul spirit!!" Caleb hollered, prompting the now less than amused warrior to frown before surreptitiously sniffing under her arm.

Alarmed by the blonde's thrashing, Caleb instructed "Holy water, now!" to his friend, who looked quite at a loss as to what they should be doing next.

"Er, we don't have any holy water..."

Caleb thought quickly. Gabrielle was their only hope and it was imperative she be freed from the demon's grasp if any of them were to survive. "Help me carry her over to the river! We can bless the water..." Gabrielle found herself being carried with great urgency through the reed banks towards the Nile. Arms bound, legs flailing and kicking uselessly at her "rescuers", her mind screamed, * XENA - THIS IS NOT FUNNY!!! *

Hands on her hips and a calm expression on her face, the warrior replied "Gabrielle come on now. Don't lose your head." and was rewarded with the foulest of glares from her partner, perfectly visible and yet illuminated only by the moonlight. "Okay so I might have phrased that differently...I'm just asking you to settle down. These fine young men will think they've expelled your evil spirit and you can find out what's going on here."

Before the bard could begin to formulate a response she found herself dumped into the cold, viscid glop of the Nile. * Xena? *

"What is it?"

* This doesn't feel like... *

Caleb wasted no time in scooping his hand into the river, then drizzling the contents over the woman's head. A sense of relief began to wash over him. She had ceased thrashing - it was working! "The power of Christ compels you!"

"Uh, Caleb?" The missionary turned and regarded his friend, who seemed to be frozen in shock. Glancing downwards, he noted the dark streaks covering his hand and noted the coppery tang wafting towards him. Taking a reluctant peek at the river he saw that it was now a churning crimson.

"DAMNIT!!" Xena growled, somersaulting over the missionaries and into the Nile.

As the realisation slowly dawned on Caleb, a large splash caused him to scramble backwards. He blinked, unsure as to whether or not he had really just seen the blood displaced by some unseen force, until Gabrielle was promptly hoisted up out of the Nile. As he watched, the blonde's hair was smoothed backwards and the blood wiped away from her face. Taken aback by the tenderness of these gestures, he didn't hesitate when the fuming woman sat in front of him quietly demanded, "Untie me."

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, can you ever forgive me?"

"How about we start with: what the hell are you doing here?!"

Caleb and Yousef paced nervously, avoiding the warrior's glare and hopefully, her wrath while they explained themselves.
"Kane was just exercising particular caution. He knows you are young, perhaps impressionable and easily mislead by unsavoury sources. There is obviously evil at work here. He just wanted us to give you a blessing to boost your spiritual strength while...er, sussing out whether or not you were in cahoots with any bad guys." The missionaries stared glumly at the ground, thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

"I cahoot with no-one." Gabrielle asserted.

"Apart from me." Xena directed towards the oblivious young men. "We cahoot regularly. Not bad going for thirty one years, huh?"

"What about when we arrived?" Yousef enquired.

"See Gabrielle, they're not as dumb as they look..."

"And then when you were lifted out of the river..." Caleb continued.

"Careful sweetheart, if you try and explain they're going to think you're crazy for sure." Xena was not feeling very helpful. This dead thing wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

The blonde steeled her gaze at the missionaries and took a deep breath. "Let me ask you one thing. Did it look evil to you?"

Caleb blushed and scratched his nose self-consciously while Yousef shuffled about behind him.

"Well now - that's all you need to know isn't it?" Gabrielle huffed indignantly.

Part 4

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