Xena pushed Argo as hard as she could along the road leading east out of the forest. Her mind was racing. Who could have snatched the weapons away like that without Xena even being slightly aware? How could she herself have let this happen? She wondered if it could have been a God. Ares perhaps - a feeble attempt at leveling the playing field for one of his would-be ultimate warriors? She knew the chances of someone actually being able to wield the chakram successfully as a deadly weapon were slim. The only person she could think of that had been able to even catch the thing had been Callisto, and she was no longer a threat as she was floating around on a cloud somewhere in heaven tending to her duties as an Angel - "whatever it is they do".
As Argo's hooves pounded the earth beneath her feet, Xena thought about Gabrielle, and how distracted Xena could become when her feelings towards the bard got the better of her. This is what comes of it, Xena thought to herself. I lose focus. I put us both at risk.
As Argo approached the clearing at the edge of the trees, Xena pulled her up a little and the horse slowed to a canter. She came upon a place where she believed the thief had dismounted due to the disturbance of the soil, so she instructed Argo to stop and she dismounted in the same spot. "Stay girl", she told the horse as she examined the area. First was a cursory glance. Xena could see no one in the immediate area. She quieted her breathing and listened intently. Nothing. Her eyes moved to the ground and once again proceeded to follow the footprints. As she followed them an unsettled feeling started to rise in her. She could see the tracks were leading to a fallen oak tree and as she got closer to it, anxiousness permeated every fibre of her being. Xena's eyes settled upon a slit in the deadwood and immediately she knew what had caused it. Without pause for further investigation Xena quickly turned on her heel and ran back to Argo, one thought on her mind - "Gabrielle".
As Gabrielle ran east along the road, she realized how truly naked she felt without a weapon. During Xena and Gabrielle's travels in India she had decided the Way of Love was for her and at that moment had forsaken weapons and violence for love and peace. Even though that was only recent history, it seemed so long ago. Since their crucifixion Gabrielle had realized she could lay down her arms at the cost of her own life, but not at the cost of Xena's. And so she had taken up arms again, and now being without her sais she felt almost defenseless. And what was Xena riding into without a weapon? Gabrielle knew better than anybody that Xena was a lethal weapon in and of herself, without the need for a sword, a chakram or any other implement. But Gabrielle still didn't like it. And she liked being separated from the warrior princess in moments such as these even less. Unavoidable? Maybe. Desirable? Not on your life. Xena may have been able to take care of herself better than anybody else in the known world, but that didn't stop Gabrielle from wanting to be by her side, fighting the good fight and helping in any way she could.
Gabrielle's mind turned to the thief and ideas raced through her head as to who it could possibly be, when she was pulled from her thoughts by a very familiar sound coming from behind. She recognized it instantly as the whirring of the chakram. Gabrielle stopped running and turned, hoping to see that Xena had reclaimed her trademark weapon. It didn't take her long to realize it was not Xena that was in possession of the chakram, and in that moment Gabrielle knew she was in trouble.
As Najara mounted her horse she could hear the pounding of hooves in the near distance. The speed of the footfalls lead Najara to believe Xena was traveling alone. She was not carrying Gabrielle, which meant Gabrielle was probably in pursuit on foot. Xena and Gabrielle were separated. As the realization hit Najara, she dug her heels into the ribs of her horse and galloped back into the woods under cover of trees. Once in hiding she slowed the horse to a walk. She could hear Argo's hooves pounding past her somewhere out on the road. As the sound of the footfalls faded, Najara quickened the pace of her own horse through the trees in the opposite direction. She steered the steed closer to the road so she could see when she was coming up on Gabrielle. Then, without warning she heard the voices. After what seemed an eternity - this seemingly endless absence - the Jinn had returned to Najara. Two words were spoken.
"STOP NOW". Najara, at once grateful to hear the familiar voices and desiring to obey, pulled on the reins and brought the horse to a full stop. Her breathing had quickened and her heart was pounding in her ears, but that didn't drown out the sound of the footfalls coming towards her. Najara watched through the trees and saw. And there she was. Gabrielle.
And completely oblivious to Najara's presence as she ran past the trees Najara was hiding behind. Before Gabrielle got any further away, Najara steered the horse out of the woods and onto the road. She took the chakram in her hand and threw it at a tree that was only a few lengths away from Gabrielle. Her eyes focusing solely on the disc, she watched it strike its intended target and an overwhelming sense of confidence flooded her. So far everything had worked in her favor, and now the Jinn had finally returned.
Gabrielle watched, dumbstruck, as Najara plucked the chakram from the air like she'd pick an apple from a tree.
"By the Gods". Gabrielle's voice was barely a whisper, her shock evident. "Najara".
"Hello Gabrielle". By contrast, Najara's voice was pleasant, almost doting. There was a brief silence as Gabrielle seemed to be lost for words. Najara knew she didn't have much time before the warrior princess would come thundering back for the bard, so she approached Gabrielle cautiously in an effort not to alarm her. Gabrielle instinctively took a step back.
"I think you know why I'm here, Gabrielle". Najara spoke with unabashed adoration. Gabrielle's brow furrowed as realization hit home.
"I'm not coming with you, Najara, if that's what you're thinking". Gabrielle's voice emitted a tone of finality, but she had no idea how she was going to stop Najara from taking what she wanted. Where was Xena?
"You have made a commitment to the light, Gabrielle. I'm going to make sure you honor that commitment." Najara held out her hand as if to help Gabrielle into the saddle. To Gabrielle's amazement Najara actually seemed to believe that she would go with her willingly. Her mind raced. She was weaponless and even if she wasn't, she'd seen Najara fight. Najara was a fierce and competent warrior who'd already beaten Xena once. And now she had the chakram and seemed able to wield it. She also had Xena's sword which Gabrielle noticed was sheathed in a scabbard on Najara's back. Gabrielle's only chance, she decided, was to try and talk Najara down, or at least stall her long enough until Xena arrived.
"Are the Jinn telling you to do this?" Gabrielle meant to portray calm and caring, but uncontrollably her voice betrayed anger and frustration. And a little fear. Where are you, Xena?
"I'm doing this for you, Gabrielle." Najara was a little hurt by Gabrielle's tone. "I want to save you".
"You want to save me? Save me from what, Najara?" Gabrielle was already growing impatient, and it was showing. Just then both women heard the thunderous pounding of a horse approaching at full gallop. Gabrielle turned her back on Najara hoping to see her warrior princess arriving, but all she saw was darkness as she slipped into unconsciousness.
Najara's strength was amazing. As Gabrielle had turned at the sound of an approaching rider on horseback - and Najara realizing she'd run out of time - she had smacked Gabrielle in the back of the head with the hilt of Xena's sword. Before Gabrielle had time to drop to the ground Najara grabbed her by her left arm and pulled her up onto the horse. With Gabrielle's body lying limp across the horse, Najara sheathed the sword and grabbed the chakram from the clip at her hip and waited as Xena approached.
As Xena drew nearer to the horse ahead a wave of fear coursed through her as she recognized both the rider and the body slumped in front of her. Najara seemed to be waiting for Xena. At about 20 paces Xena drew Argo to a halt. Warrior eyes met warrior eyes, and for a moment neither spoke. Then, a tiny smile began to tug at the corner of Najara's mouth. Xena's hatred rose in her till she felt like she would explode. But now was not the time to lose control, Xena was well aware of that.
"What have you done to Gabrielle?" Xena's anger was not well concealed.
"I didn't come here to hurt Gabrielle. That's not my job." Najara paused. Xena's expression conveyed utmost disdain, but she did not reply, only waited for Najara to continue.
"But I would rather send her to the light than see her waste one more day with you". Najara's last words betrayed a vicious spite for the warrior princess. "I came to save her, Xena - from you. If you truly cared about her, you'd let me".
Xena's mind was racing. The fact that Najara was holding her chakram was not wasted on the warrior princess. Xena considered the first time they had met. From the beginning it was obvious Najara was not your average warrior. She was skilled. She was fast. She was intelligent and she was hard to defeat. The fact that she was a religious zealot only made her more dangerous. And her evident obsession with Gabrielle made her enemy number one. It also appeared to be the only thing keeping Gabrielle alive at that moment. Xena wanted to attack - in fact she wanted to rip Najara's eyes out and pull out all her teeth just for fun - but she knew that right now Najara held all the cards.
Xena's eyes shifted from Najara's intense stare, to the chakram she held in her hand, to Gabrielle's unmoving body.
"That's mine", Xena hissed through clenched teeth. Najara glanced at Gabrielle, then at the chakram which she held up a little.
"Oh, you mean this? I thought it might come in handy. I heard what it did to you in Rome". Xena raised an eyebrow.
Najara spoke without emotion. "Yes, I heard all about Rome, Xena. It seems your vision of death was not avoidable after all." Then a tone of malice once again crept into the blonde warrior's voice. "It appears to me you were responsible for Gabrielle's death just as surely as if you'd crucified her yourself. The only reason she's still here is because of divine intervention..." Najara's voice escalated in volume and hatred as she spoke, "...and yet you STILL selfishly hold onto her because your dark side will not allow you to act in her best interest and let her go!"
"Do you think forcing her to stay with you is the answer, Najara? What about your selfish desires?" Xena didn't see much point in arguing with a fruitcake, but she had to at least stall. Or maybe she could bait Najara into a one-on-one. Najara's eyes seemed to glaze over for a moment, and then she spoke once more, her tone conveying pity.
"She gave up her child because of you". Xena was taken aback, then she realized the Jinn were at it again, whispering in Najara's ear little tid-bits of information.
"Say what you want Najara. I won't let you leave with Gabrielle". Just then Xena felt a presence nearby and hoped against hope the God of War would stay out of this. Najara seemed aware of it too; someone else was here. Xena suddenly became very frightened for Gabrielle when she saw a grin spread across Najara's face, like she'd just won the battle. What were her voices telling her? At that moment Ares materialized behind Xena. As she spun around to face him he placed a hand on Xena's shoulder and in a flash of light Xena and Ares disappeared, leaving Najara and Gabrielle alone in the forest.
Ares and Xena rematerialized just outside the village of Ephyra. Xena, realizing Ares had taken her about 2 days traveling away from Gabrielle, punched him as hard as she could in the jaw. The force of the blow surprised even Ares, as he was lifted off his feet and fell on his backside. As he pulled himself up he rubbed his jaw. He spoke victoriously.
"There it is, Xena! That fire I admire so much!"
"What do you think you're doing, Ares?!" Xena was shouting. She was so angry she could barely control her desire to pummel the God senseless.
"I was saving you from embarrassing yourself, Xena. I mean really, what were you going to do? Wear her down with harsh words and cold stares?" Ares, even though just put on his rear end, spoke with his usual cool and casual demeanor.
"Granted", he continued, "if looks could kill you'd be the Medusa of the mortal world, but really Xena, it's beneath you". Xena, not wanting to waste any time, grabbed Ares by his black leather vest and demanded:
"Take me back there, now!" Ares enjoyed seeing the warrior princess this fired up. And he loved it when she was this close. He could feel her hot breath on his face.
"Sorry Xena. Can't do that. But don't worry. I don't think Najara is going to hurt Gabrielle. And maybe we can spend some quality time together." Xena stared at Ares in disbelief. Did he actually believe she was going to stand for this? She looked away from him, then once again not being able to control her anger, with a forward thrust of her palm struck Ares under the chin. He was ready for it this time and the force of the blow only caused him to take a step back. He grinned. Xena knew he was enjoying this, and that only made her want to smack him around some more, though she knew it was pointless. She turned away from Ares and headed down the hill towards the village.
"Wait! Where do you think you're going, Xena?"
"To get a horse and find Gabrielle. You could have at least brought Argo with us". Ares smiled at that. He asked:
"What do I want with a horse?" Xena spun around and threw Ares an exasperated look and asked:
"What do you want with me?" Ares looked deep into Xena's entrancing blue eyes.
"You know what I want". Knowing full well but without acknowledging it, Xena responded:
"If Gabrielle d...", Xena couldn't bring herself to say the "D" word; the thought of losing Gabrielle again was too much, "If anything happens to her, because of you - I don't care what it takes - I will kill you as dead as any mortal". Ares smiled. Even after all these years, Xena still left him breathless. His response was filled with erotic suggestion:
"Don't tease me". Disgusted, Xena left him standing there and continued on down to the village. Ares fell in behind her like a shadow; a very annoying shadow.
"I should have killed you when I killed Cal", she said as she walked. She didn't bother turning around to face him.
"But you couldn't, could you Xena? You act like I'm the bane of your existence, but the truth is you didn't want to kill me".
"The only reason you're not dead now is because you took my understanding of "Bad" away from me".
"Come now, Xena. You don't believe that".
"You need me. I'm a part of you". Xena stopped in her tracks and spun around to face the God of War.
"You're the worst part of me, Ares. I despise you". Till now Ares had been engaged in what he considered playful rivalry, but now Xena had crossed a line.
"Is that so? Well if you despise me, then despise yourself. I made you who you are".
"You didn't make me, Ares. I became who I am now in spite of you, not because of you".
"Oh really?" Ares suddenly became very angry. He grabbed Xena by the throat and pushed her backwards with an effortless shove. She flew back several paces and hit the ground with a thud. He casually walked over to where she landed and looked down at her with dark eyes.
"You're always blaming me, Xena. Well, who was it that let Najara get the upper hand in the first place? If you'd have been focused, like I taught you, and not been distracted by...", Ares paused trying to think of an appropriate phrase, "...your weaker emotions, Gabrielle wouldn't be in danger right now. Not to mention the fact that if you'd killed Najara when she first became a threat this wouldn't even be happening. If Gabrielle dies, Xena, it'll be because you ignored things I've taught you. If she dies..." and this time Ares paused to reinforce his final words, "it won't be me that's to blame. It'll be you". Ares gave Xena a callous smile, and then he disappeared. And just like that he was gone, but not without leaving Xena with a sense of foreboding, and guilt. Was he actually right? She didn't have time to think about it. She had to find Gabrielle before Najara did something crazy.
When Gabrielle came to, she found herself lying on a bed in a room with no openings except for a door which was closed. The floor was dirt. In one corner was a chair and a table on which sat a candelabra. The candles adorning it were the only source of light in the room. Gabrielle had no idea if it was day or night. As she sat up her head started to ache. Gabrielle felt the back of her head and came across a rather large bump. Najara had hit her from behind. Gabrielle didn't suppose Xena would be very impressed with her, turning her back on a threat like Najara. Gods knew she wasn't very impressed with it herself. She knew better than that. Gabrielle stood, moved to the door and tried the handle. It was locked. The door itself had a small window-like opening in it at about head height with 4 bars running vertically through it. She peered through the bars and called out:
"Hello?" She couldn't see anything out there. It seemed extremely dark. Maybe it was night. Gabrielle swallowed and realized how dry her mouth was. She needed water. She called out again. "Hello? Is anybody there?" When she heard no response, she walked back over to the table in the corner. To her surprise she found a fresh scroll, an ink well and a quill. Gabrielle picked up the quill and studied it to find it was her quill. It had been in one of the saddle bags Argo was carrying. Suddenly Gabrielle became very frightened. If Najara had been the one to leave the quill here, then Najara had gotten to Argo, and if she'd gotten to Argo, where did that leave Xena? Gabrielle dropped the quill back onto the table and hurried back to the door. Her hands gripped two of the bars so tightly her knuckles turned white. She looked out into the darkness and as she called out her voice was full of anguish:
Xena sat on a log and stared into the fire. She had left Ephyra on a stolen horse and rode till the sun went down, and she'd kept riding until the horse could no longer continue. She felt bad about stealing the horse, but she'd had no money, no goods to trade and no time to argue. She decided she'd return the horse after she found Gabrielle.
Xena was tired but she couldn't rest. Her mind turned over constantly. Where would Najara have taken her? Xena could only travel back to where she last saw Najara and follow the tracks from there. Was Gabrielle safe? Xena hoped Najara's feelings for the bard would prevent her from harming Gabrielle. Xena wondered what Najara's plans were and those thoughts lead her to the Jinn; Najara's spiritual guides. Were they good or evil? Initially they had seemed benevolent. Najara was fighting the bad guys, apparently at the behest of the Jinn and Xena and Gabrielle had fought by her side. But something about the blonde warrior unsettled Xena, and from the beginning she hadn't trusted Najara. On the other hand Gabrielle had trusted her almost completely. It wasn't that Gabrielle had been naïve. Najara had seemed so convincingly good because she believed she wasn't doing anything wrong. She hadn't been trying to deceive them necessarily. But now...
Xena decided if the Jinn were benevolent, Najara must have been acting alone, without her voices to guide her. If that were the case it would be easier to deal with her. Basic human desires would be at the root of her actions. But if the Jinn were coercing Najara, who knows what their ultimate goal might be.
Xena decided to lie down and try to rest. She had no blanket and no bedroll. The ground was hard and cold. But what Xena noticed was the emptiness inside her, and the feeling scared her. She longed for the bard's presence. Gabrielle was her home, and without her Xena was lost. Xena thought back to the moment in the river when she had not been aware of anything but Gabrielle's fingers running through her hair, and her own desire to show her soul mate the depths of her feelings. Ares was right. That moment of weakness was all Najara needed. Guilt washed over Xena like a breaking wave and she cried out into the night. A helplessness rose inside her until she could do nothing but let the tears flow freely. The fire burned on.
Gabrielle stared out into the blackness and still she saw nothing; heard nothing. In a fit of frustration she angrily called out "Najara!" As she waited, she noticed a small glow of light. She watched through the bars on the door as the glow slowly grew and she was grateful that someone was finally answering her calls. Gabrielle couldn't make out who it was approaching her cell until Najara was only a few paces away from the door. She was holding a jug of what Gabrielle hoped was water. Someone was standing behind her and they were holding a torch. Gabrielle and Najara eyed each other for a moment, and then Najara spoke to the person behind her. "Wait here", was all she said. Then to Gabrielle she directed, "Stand back". Gabrielle, without taking her eyes off Najara, took three steps back away from the door. Najara slid the bolt across and opened the door. She stepped into the room and immediately closed the door, instructing the person outside to lock it behind her. She turned to Gabrielle and her expression was one of apprehension. She was concerned at what Gabrielle must be thinking at this stage. But if she'd had any doubts, looking into Gabrielle's face now wiped all that doubt away. She was mad as Tartarus.
"I brought you some water", she said tentatively, holding out the jug. Gabrielle took it without words and drank. Half the jug was empty in moments.
"I'm sorry I had no water in here for you. We've not long arrived. I came back as soon as I could. I'll bring you some food if you're hungry." Gabrielle wiped some spilled water from her chin and just glared at Najara. What was going on here? Najara was talking so casually. Like this might have been a sleepover or something. Najara spoke again. "I'll grab you some more blankets. It gets cold down here". At those words Gabrielle responded:
"Where is 'here', Najara? And where is Xena?" Najara thought for a moment, and then looked away.
"I think you should rest, Gabrielle. I'm sorry I had to..." before Najara could apologize for the knock on the head, Gabrielle angrily interrupted:
"Where is she, Najara?!" When Najara didn't answer straight away, Gabrielle threw the jug of water against the wall. It shattered to pieces. As the shards fell to the floor Najara answered:
"She's with Ares". Gabrielle was taken aback. Her face went from angry to shocked, to disbelieving.
"I don't believe you. Why would she be with Ares?"
"I don't know, Gabrielle. I'm just telling you what I saw." Gabrielle gave Najara a suspicious look, then for the first time since she came through the door Gabrielle broke eye contact with the blonde warrior. Well, Gabrielle thought, At least she's not telling meXena's dead. Then turning back to Najara she asked:
"So what? You're just going to keep me down here? Am I your prisoner, Najara?"
"That's not what I want, Gabrielle. But I can't let you go just yet. You'll only go running back to Xena. I'm keeping you here for your own good".
"My own good?" Gabrielle gave a half laugh at that. "You kidnapped me, you knocked me unconscious. You're holding me captive like I'm some kind of criminal. What good is there in any of this!?" Najara's voice did not change from its patronizing tone:
"I know it seems harsh now. But trust me. I'm going to help you. I'm going to free you."
"Let me guess: Xena, right?" Gabrielle took a step closer to Najara so that they were standing toe to toe. She spoke softly: "Xena never had to lock me in a dark room before, or hold me against my will."
"Maybe not", Najara replied just as quietly, "But she did cause you to sacrifice your child, your blood innocence and yes, even your life; more than once. And while you're here she's frolicking around somewhere with the God of War. Maybe she's not the friend you think she is, Gabrielle". Najara had an air of triumph about her as those words left her lips. Gabrielle leaned in until their noses were nearly touching.
"Don't you even dare to think that you understand my friendship with Xena". She held Najara's eyes with her own for another moment, then she stepped down, turned away and stood facing the wall. Najara stood there for a moment, not knowing quite how to respond to that. She figured that was enough talk for now.
"I'll have some food brought down to you", was all she said. Then she requested the door be unlocked so she could exit. Gabrielle turned as Najara closed the door behind her. She heard the bolt slide across as the door was locked behind them, and once again Gabrielle was alone.
As soon as dawn broke, Xena mounted the horse and took to the road once more. She had made extremely good time since leaving Ephyra and hoped to be coming up on the place where she and Gabrielle had been separated by the time the sun was high. Her traveling was interrupted by some thugs she happened upon. It seemed they were harassing a cart driver for his money and the chattels he was carrying. As she approached she noticed there were three of them. Two of the men saw her approaching and proceeded towards her, side by side, as if to cut her off. They were carrying swords. As her horse galloped to within range of the two men, Xena gave her customary "Yiyiyiyiyi" war cry and forward-flipped off the horse, somersaulted once through the air and landed on both men's heads, feet first. The two men went down like Gods in a lava pit, and before they could get up Xena had put the pinch on both of them, taken their swords and asked the third man who was now looking at her in shock, "Do you want some of this?" He took off on a nearby horse and never looked back. As the man on the cart gazed in awe, Xena weighted up each of the swords she'd taken from the thugs and decided on one that suited her best.
"Well, it's not Excalibur, but it'll do", she quipped, and added the other sword to the cart driver's collection of goods. Xena sheathed the chosen sword in her scabbard (just about the only thing left in her possession besides her leather and boots) and suggested the cart driver be on his way.
"Thank you, Miss", was all he could think of to say, and off he trotted. The two men on the ground had rather bloody noses by this stage, so Xena decided they'd had enough and took the pinch off both of them.
"You", she said to the dark haired ruffian of the two (he appeared to have few teeth and even less hygiene sense), "Is that your horse?" She pointed to a strong looking beast with apparently loaded saddle bags.
"Yes", he spluttered in between coughs. The pinch was still wearing off.
"Good. Now this is what we're gonna do. You see that horse there?" Xena pointed to her own stolen steed.
"Yes", the ruffian stammered. He seemed unsure.
"You're gonna ride that horse to a village called Ephyra and you're gonna find a man who works in the stables there and you're gonna tell him to return that horse to its rightful owner. Okey dokey?"
"And why would I do that?" the ruffian queried. He was trying to sound strong, but his voice warbled and it was quite possible he'd soiled himself.
"Yeah. We'll do it. We don't want no trouble", his fair headed friend complied.
"Well good. And I'll just be taking your horse for a little ride if that's okay".
"Fine fine. Anything". The fair headed man seemed just as frightened as the dark haired man. He obviously recognized the warrior princess.
"Now, I'll be passing through Ephyra again soon and I'll be checking up on that horse. So don't disappoint me boys". Xena didn't wait for a response. She ran up to the back of the horse, leapt onto the saddle and dug her heels in and was once again on her way. She was glad to have a sword strapped to her back once more. It wasn't hers, but it would do until she got a chance to reclaim her own.
Gabrielle paced back and forth in her room. She was getting a little claustrophobic being locked away in this relatively dark little space. She'd been thinking about Xena and Ares and decided Xena was obviously trying to use Ares to find her. Either that or Ares was aware of Xena and Gabrielle's current situation and was trying to manipulate it to his own end. After all, that's what he did best. Not that Gabrielle trusted Najara at her word, but it seemed if Xena were dead, Najara would have been boasting about it. And truth be told, as twisted as Najara seemed to be, Gabrielle wasn't aware of any lies that she had told. So she accepted Xena being with Ares as truth.
Gabrielle considered Najara's statement: "It gets cold down here". Where exactly was 'here'? Was she in a room that had been built in a cave? It appeared to Gabrielle that she must have been in a room that was at the end of some kind of tunnel. That would certainly explain the darkness that seemed unrelenting. Gabrielle flopped down on the bed. How was she going to get out of here? She considered just beating Najara to a pulp since words were probably not going to get her anywhere, but she decided that was unlikely going to happen. Najara was a much better fighter than she, though Gabrielle had become quite competent in her own right. Gabrielle considered trying to reach out through the bars to unlock the bolt on the other side of the door, but there was no way, and she couldn't see anything in the room that would help her to achieve that task. She thought about Xena, and decided if the Warrior Princess was here she'd just kick the door down. So Gabrielle rose off the bed and looked to the door. She closed her eyes for a moment and took a couple of deep breaths, then with all her might and a little war cry of her own she thrust all her weight forward and threw her shoulder against the solid timber. The door didn't budge. "Ow! For Zeus sake!" she cried allowed as she rubbed her shoulder better. That was a little painful, she thought. How does Xena do these things? Okay, that was a bad idea. "But worth a try", Gabrielle reasoned. Gabrielle then tried to imagine what Autolycus would do in this situation. He was a little more subtle than the warrior princess, and could get out of just about anything. Granted, he usually carried the tools of the trade with him, but when he didn't he never failed to compromise.
Gabrielle wondered if she could slide the bolt across from this side. Maybe she could stick something through the gap between the door and the wall. Gabrielle looked around and studied the room: A table; a chair; a quill; an ink well; a scroll; a candelabra; five candles; a broken water jug; a blanket; a bed. She looked under the bed and saw a chamber pot. Gabrielle considered the items at her disposal and suddenly more than one idea sprang to mind. Maybe she wasn't as helpless as Najara thought.
Xena finally made it to the place where Ares had abducted her, and decided to give the horse a rest, check out the tracks and search the saddle bags for something to eat. Just as she dismounted, a familiar feeling of crawling skin alerted her to the presence of an unwelcome guest. She called him out before he showed himself.
"I wish you'd leave me alone, Ares". Ares showed himself then. He was smiling.
"Hey! How are things going? Did you find your little friend yet?"
"I don't have time for you, Ares". Xena continued to check through the saddle bags. She wasn't going to waste any time by playing games with the war God.
"You know, Xena, that Najara - she's a pretty tough girl. She might be just what I'm looking for".
"Are you trying to make me jealous, Ares? Because I really don't care". Xena found a nice looking apple and removed it from the bag. Ares continued to speak as if he hadn't heard her:
"She may even be more dangerous than Callisto. And that's saying something, wouldn't you agree? I mean, Najara's crazy, but I think she has a little more control."
"Do you have a point?"
"Yes, actually. What I'm trying to say is, I think she might actually be able to..."
"Take my place? Is that what this is? You're still looking for my replacement? What, Gabrielle not on your list anymore?"
"Actually, what I was going to say was 'I think she might actually be able to kill you'". Xena looked at Ares for the first time since he'd appeared.
"What if she does, Ares?" Before Xena could continue, Ares vanished. She yelled out after him, "Najara won't follow you, Ares! She doesn't answer to the Greek Gods! She does whatever the Jinn tell her to do!" There was no answer. Only silence. Xena took a bite out of the apple she'd found. It wasn't that her hunger was foremost in her mind, but she did have to keep her strength up. Indeed Najara was a tough girl. Before Xena continued on she took the horse down to the river for a drink. It was going to be a long time between stops.
are Without -
Without Voice -
A smile in the night
becomes a Scream
in the Dark -
Everything that I
leaves me Empty and Alone -
The Heart's Desire
The Soul's Defiler
Lost and searching long -
Return to the Academy