This is fan fiction and the characters don't belong to me. Rating PG-13
Two dozen angry villagers chased after Xena and Gabrielle ,shooting arrows and yelling loudly.
Xena headed for the river knowing the men wouldn't cross it . Gabrielle clung tightly to Xena's waist and gritted her teeth as the icy water rose around them. Just as Argo climbed up the steep bank,Xena felt a jolt against her back and heard a cry from the girl behind her. Fear clutched at her heart and she put one hand over both of Gabrielle's to hold her on the horse. "Hang on," she told her friend and urged Argo up and on into the forest.She dared not stop until she made it to the cave that had been their campsite.Cold rain lashed her face and branches whipped them on their dash to safety. She could tell the woman behind her was only half conscious now so she rode Argo right into the cave entrance even though it was overhung with vines and flowers. She half turned and pulled Gabrielle off with her onto the floor of the cavern. Gabrielle's lips were already blue with cold and blood dripped from a wound in her side.
Lying the girl down gently,Xena pulled a bed roll off the horse and unfurled it near their fire pit. She put her friend down on the soft furs and proceeded to examine the arrow wound. It had entered at an angle and the arrow head was all the way through her side. Xena broke off the end and sent it the rest of the way through. Gabrielle moaned but did not regain consciousness and Xena was glad. Taking her healer's pack out of the saddle bags, the warrior wiped away her own tears and then cleaned and dressed the wound.She undressed the girl down to her under shift and hung the wet clothes on rocks to dry. Then she took out the other fur coverlet and wrapped Gabrielle in it. Only after a fire had been kindled did she change her own clothes and then start a pot of water for broth. The girl would need that to keep her strength up. A wolf howled in the distance adding to the dark mood the warrior was feeling ,knowing this young woman had no business being there in the first place. Xena felt the girl's forehead for fever and drank deeply from a wine skin,appreciating the warmth it brought to her insides. After seeing to Argo, she crawled under the furs with the Gabrielle and lay there trying to decide what to do next. They had come out to this wilderness to help a village plagued by bandits.
When the people heard her name they immediately turned on them and would not listen to reason. Part of her wanted to go back there and exact vengeance for what they did but Gabrielle would not tolerate that and anyway she couldn't leave her injured companion. Companion, how strange that word sounded to her own ears. She had not really had a companion since her brother's death. Gabrielle was so much like him with her fair looks and her optimism. She watched the young face beside her in the flickering firelight. Young and innocent. Xena knew she should take her home but what good would it do. Gabrielle already told her she wouldn't stay there. Still she could easily evade the girl and let it all be on someone else's conscience as to what befell her.
Outside the icy rain turned to snow and Xena built up the fire again. When she went to curl up under the furs once again, misty green eyes tracked her movements. Xena reached out to touch the gentle features and smiled,"How are you doing," she asked softly.
Gabrielle reached down to touch her side and winced,"Ow," she groaned," I thought we made it out of there in one piece," she mumbled.
Xena reached for the wine skin and said," Here drink some of this for now. I don't have the things I need to mix up a pain killer here. I'll get them at the next town when we can travel again but by then you may not need them."
"How bad is it ?," the girl asked ,trying to move around to see it better."
Xena put a hand on her shoulder,"Be still," she cautioned,"You'll break it open again and start it bleeding. It will be alright but we have to rest here for a few days. Besides there is a snow storm going on out there right now."
Gabrielle's stomach growled just then and Xena smiled,"I made some pretty bad broth. Do you want to try it?"
Gabrielle grimaced saying,"Well if it kills me I will be better off than I feel now, so bring it on.
Outside in the snow storm, a lone rider pulled up near the cave entrance and watched intently for movement. The tracker knew this to be one of the Warrior Princesses old haunts. It was an ammunition reserve and a hide out that Xena used years ago. Dismounting,the hunter crept closer to the hidden opening knowing a boulder would be sealing it off from the inclement weather. The village elders who chased Xena were waiting to hear that she had been killed by this stealthy assassin . Morgan decided the best approach was a direct one. Making lots of noise, the would be bounty hunter headed for the cave .
"Xena, let me in. It's your old friend Morgan," yelled the interloper.
Xena jumped up and grabbed her sword , putting a finger to her lips to quiet Gabrielle.
"Who is it?" whispered the bard.
"If it's who I think it is, we may be in luck",Xena answered .
"Are you alone?" Xena called out.
"Yes,you old bear, come out of hibernation and let me in out of the cold,"Morgan said. Xena sneaked a look out through a slight crack by the makeshift door and saw the shivering person waiting there alone.
She rolled the boulder away and let the warrior enter leading a black stallion.
"Morgan," Xena exclaimed ,grabbing the forearm offered in a fighter's hand shake.
Gabrielle stared up from her bed of furs at one of the most amazing women she had ever seen.
Morgan glanced down at the supine girl knowing exactly who she was but pretending ignorance.
Morgan wrapped her hands around a hot cup of broth and laughed. She and Xena were trading stories of their old fighting adventures. Gabrielle enjoyed learning more about her quiet companion but she was beginning to feel the burn of a fever that was escalating. She just feigned exhaustion and closed her eyes to leave the two old friends to enjoy the time together.
"So what are you doing way out here in this kind of weather?" Xena inquired.
Morgan pushed bright red curls back from her face and sighed. She turned golden eyes toward the Warrior Princess and said "I came to kill you."
Xena stopped stoking the fire and got very still. Morgan was the most beautiful woman she had ever known and she was a good friend. She didn't want to have to kill her but she would if it came to that.
"Why are you telling me this?," Xena asked as she reached for her sword.
"Because I can't do it," Morgan replied. You mean too much to me Xena. I thought I could forget about the past and just think of it as another job but I can't. Seeing you again has brought it all back.
Gabrielle moaned in her sleep . Xena was torn between trusting Morgan and laying down her sword or tying the warrior up. She decided to take a chance and with a stern look at Morgan she knelt beside her sleeping friend. One touch told her of the fever.
"She needs medicine," Xena said," What are you going to do?
If it's a fight you want then let's get it over with. My friend is burning up with a fever and I don't want to waste time with you."
Morgan tossed her cup aside and stood up,standing an inch above the Warrior Princess.
Morgan looked down at the warrior saying,"Look Xena , I hate to tell you this but she's not going to get better. The only cure for what was on that arrow is back in the village. Come with me peacefully and I'll send the healer back here to save her."
Xena grabbed the woman by the collar of her shirt and yelled in her face,"You're lying. I know what poison is like and this isn't it. So shut up and sit down. I'm not leaving her and she's too sick to travel."
"Xena,I'm not forgetting how you saved my life more than once but you're in trouble here. There are people in that village who have a death grudge against you for your past deeds. They set this up to lure you here and they don't care who has to die to get you." Xena went to get a wet cloth to lay across Gabrielle's brow and said, "But you are the only one who knows where we are now."
She gave Morgan an icy stare that chilled the hunter to the bone. Gabrielle had been listening though they had not realized it. She tried to raise herself on one elbow but Xena quickly put a saddle bag behind her to prop her up."Take it easy," she told her. Gabrielle ignored that and motioned for Morgan to approach.
Gabrielle reached out her hand to Morgan and said," You love Xena don't you? She was a true friend to you and even saved your life in battle. Now is the time to start a new life for yourself just as she has done. Just come away from here with us when we leave . You don't have to go back to the village at all. They will just think Xena won."
This speech exhausted the bard and she fell back in a coughing fit.
Xena sat beside her and pulled her into her lap offering her a water skin.
Morgan slumped down to sit in front of the fire with a distant look on her face.
The horses stomped nervously because of the howling wind and the cave grew colder. Xena set up another fire pit and Morgan helped start the blaze. Gabrielle sat up and sipped a cup of the awful concoction Xena created and watched the women work as a team.
She could see their connection and had to admit to being a tad jealous of it. She had only been with Xena for a few months and wasn't always sure of her place in the scheme of things.
Knowing she was being silly,Gabrielle lay back and thought about how to write down this latest adventure . How should she describe the amazing red headed warrior ? Tall and yet with an air of grace and fragility so different from the Warrior Princess. She wondered why the two of them had not remained together in their travels. Was it because the red head still felt the blood lust and Xena was done with that? At least for the most part. Xena and Morgan went to the back of the cavern to a trickling water source to refill the water skins. Xena never took her eyes off the woman but seemed casual as she said," Morgan,I never told you how sad I was about Trevor's death.He was a good man and a great soldier."
Morgan's hand clenched into a fist on the water skin she was filling but she answered quietly," If he had chosen me instead of you he would be alive today."
You sent him to his death."
"He was a free man,he chose his own path," Xena growled. "You liar,I saw you kissing him the night of the Solstice celebration."
"He kissed me but it didn't matter Morgan. He didn't love you and even if I had not been there he would never have touched you."
Morgan screamed and threw herself at Xena,knocking her back into the pool of water where she struck her head on a stone outcropping.
Morgan went to get her sword to finish off the warrior when she heard a loud cry and saw a little banshee running at her with a staff in her hands.
The bard hit her a powerful blow across the knees taking her down. She followed her advantage with a severe shot to the temple which put the toughened warrior out like a light. Gabrielle dropped her staff and fell down into darkness.
The cave was silent save for the sound of the horses and the wind. Three souls lay unconscious and the fate of them all hung in the balance. Who would wake up first?
Xena lay half in and half out of the icy spring and so by virtue of that shock was first to awaken to chaos.
She sat up and held her head in her hands. Blinking her eyes,she glanced around and cried out at the sight of her companion bleeding on the ground before her.
Staggering across to where Gabrielle lay she slumped to her knees and tried to lift the girl in her arms.Suddenly she spotted Morgan passed out and starting to move around. She could guess what happened on seeing the staff beside Gabrielle.
Leaving the girl briefly,she went to her saddlebags and got a length of rope to tie the rambunctious red head.
The two fires crackled cheerfully but the three faces staring into the flames were anything but cheerful.Morgan sat sullenly thinking what a fool she had been to discount the little bard. Xena sat with her back to the wall with Gabrielle leaning against her for warmth and comfort. She was glad the bard could not see the fury focused in her eyes toward the bound hunter. Gabrielle sat munching on a trail bar thinking how glad she was to be inside out of the storm even if the company left something to be desired.
Xena drank from the wine skin and threw it to Morgan who caught it with her bound hands."That will help the pain in your legs," she told her."
"I'm going to kill her with my bare hands so you can see how it feels to lose someone like I lost Trevor," Morgan growled.
Xena had never told Gabrielle about Trevor but there were still so many things she hadn't shared in the short time they had been together.
Gabrielle didn't care about any of that. She just wanted to leave this place and the dangerous red head behind them
The night slipped by and eventually Gabrielle slept fitfully. Morgan raised her head and stared into Xena's blazing eyes,"She won't let you leave me here or kill me you know. What will you do with me then? Let me go with you and I'll help you build a travois for her . I know you won't just let me go .There really was something on that arrow and she is only going to get worse.
"I know how you work Morgan," Xena said,"You are still playing games with my head. I think you were the only one stirring up those villagers against me. Nobody hired you. Why have you just now decided to come after me?"
Morgan sighed and dropped her head. "I guess it doesn't matter anymore.Take the scroll out of my boot and you'll see why."
Xena cautiously reached in and pulled a small rolled piece of parchment out of the side of the woman's boot. Unrolling it she found herself looking into the eyes of a boy who was the spitting image of Trevor. The only difference being the shock of red hair hanging in his eyes. "Trevor's son," Xena said as she watched the reaction on Morgan's face.
"He died last month," Morgan whispered as Xena put the drawing away once again. "He wanted to be like you and his father so he ran away with a band of raiders who came through and was killed in his first battle.
"After that I had nothing to live for except revenge. If not for you, Trevor would have stayed with me and the boy would have had a father to save him."
Xena stood up and walked around the cave, then it was her fault. Trevor did indeed feel something for Morgan. The battle lust had blinded her to everything but creating a more powerful fighting machine . She needed Trevor because he was the best and she hadn't cared about the cost.
"What did you want me to do?" Xena asked as she came to stand in front of the hunter.
"I want you to come back to the village where I raised my son Galen and stand trial before the elders there. "Before this goes any further, you must tell me the truth. Was there poison on that arrow?"
Morgan smirked and shook her head,"No but I wanted you to be afraid and suffer like I did when my son left in the night."
Xena heaved a great sigh of relief and went over to cover the bard more fully against the chill. In the morning the weather had cleared and Xena went out to hunt for breakfast. Gabrielle woke with a groan of pain and turned to see Morgan watching her intently. The fires had burned down and it was cold but the hunter sat stoic and silent.
Gabrielle bent to stoke the fires and add a few smaller pieces of wood but her side began to bleed through the bandage ."Untie me and let me help you," Morgan suggested" Xena and I came to an agreement last night. She won't mind if you let me go."
Gabrielle clutched her side and winced ,"We'll ask her about that when she returns." she grimaced.
"She's going back to face the elders of my village," the red head added, "She has admitted her part in the death of my beloved Trevor and our son. She must be punished."Gabrielle looked at her and sneered, "Been there, done that," she said and it doesn't work. " Xena needs to be free to make a difference in this world. Locking her up or hurting her doesn't do anyone any good." "Why don't you see what she really is?" Morgan asked.
"Why don't you see what you really are?" Gabrielle retorted.
You are sullying the memory of your son and his father by seeking blood revenge instead of doing something good in their honor. You can change that right now. If Xena can do it so can you."
Tears began to run down Morgan's cheeks and she turned her head away in sorrow. "I'm so tired," she whispered," I just want to die and be done with it all."
Gabrielle moved over to the woman's side and put her blood stained hands on the strong shoulders. Morgan flinched at the gentle touch but felt a jolt of something pure and sweet flow through her at the same time. It was as though she woke from a dark place and came into the light. The bard's sea green eyes stared into hers and she felt her soul begin to heal. "What have I done," she cried,"Oh,what have I done?"
"Nothing that can't be changed ," the bard whispered as she untied the woman's hands. Morgan untied her feet with shaking hands and jumped up to pull the smaller woman gently to her being careful of her wound."I'm so sorry Gabrielle,I never meant to hurt you but I was not sorry for what happened."
"It's alright ," the girl said,"Just go before Xena gets back. I will explain everything to her. "Morgan limped over to her horse and led him out into the shimmering white morning."Sorry about your legs," Gabrielle said as she waved goodbye with a relieved sigh.Xena came back with two rabbits and immediately saw the horse tracks in the snow. "Gabrielle," she screamed,"Gabrielle where are you?" "I'm here," called the bard and hurried as fast as she could to the frightened warrior."I let her go home Xena," she said. "Xena picked her up in her arms when she saw the blood on her side and carried her back into the cavern. Her face was set in stone. Silently the warrior untied the bandage and began to care for the wound."It's alright Xena, she's changing. She wept and said she was sorry for what she did.""She's only headed back to get the others to come for us since you injured her. She knows she can't take me alone. She made a good case for me going back there but I guess she wanted to be sure I wouldn't change my mind."
Gabrielle put her hand on Xena's cheek and said,"Xena, you are paying for your mistakes everyday that we help those who can't help themselves. Please believe me,she isn't coming back."
Xena rose abruptly and started packing their gear. "If I'm not going back we have to get out of here." she said.Gabrielle stood on shaky legs and started packing."Xena,I don't know if I can..." she began and Xena looked at her . She quickly helped the girl sit down and stood there biting her lip when a gust of cold wind surged through the cave. Morgan rounded the barrier and stood there looking at the Warrior Princess. "You came back",Gabrielle said,"Why?"
"I knew she wouldn't believe that I had changed my mind about getting revenge. I came back to tell her myself."
Sitting around the fire eating the rabbits Xena caught was very strange for the three women. They were each lost in their own thoughts but when the meal was done,Xena asked the bard to tell one of her stories. Morgan smiled at the animated young face even though the bard was hampered by her wound. "Wonderful," said Morgan."You are a great storyteller."
"Maybe someday I will be telling stories about you Morgan," she laughed."As you do things in honor of your sweet son." Morgan left again after that and Xena pulled Gabrielle into a gentle hug."Thank you for everything Gabrielle," she said,"Now go curl up in front of the fire , We are staying here until you are well enough to ride Argo again."
Gabrielle was soon fast asleep . Xena sat long by the fire marveling over the beautiful gift she had been given in the form of a little golden bard.
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