Champions by Kamouraskan
A sequel to Champion http://www.academyofbards.org/kam_champion.html
Disclaimer: Characters are owned by others, the story is mine. I have been blessed with the help of some the most talented women in the Xenaverse. I am indebted to them all. Unfortunately, I was still the one to write it. But their spirited assistance just proves what a special place this is. I am very grateful to Eve Ng, Maribel Piloto, Barbara Davies, Advocate, Lariel, IseQween, Georgia, Verrath, Mary Morgan, Lawlsfan, and my partner in crime , Archaeobard. Quite a list, because I am very fortunate.
Mail is always appreciated and answered at Kamouraskan@yahoo.com
Part Two go to Part one
Show me a smile then,
Dont be unhappy, cant remember
When I last saw you laughing
If this world makes you crazy
And youve taken all you can bear
You call me up
Because you know Ill be there
Gabrielle lay on the ground; still blinded by the dirt, her eyes tearing furiously, but still not as furious as the woman above her.
"Dammit, Gabrielle. You werent watching. When I threw that earth, I had to take my eyes off yours. Its was the perfect opportunity for you get through my defense. Instead, If I was Velasca, youd be dead right now!"
Xena went to the water skins and returned still glowering, yet she knelt down and ever so gently tilted the princess head back to flush out the grit.
Shielding her eyes from the bright sunlight, Gabrielle mumbled. "Im sorry, Xena..."
The warrior wasnt about to stop venting her frustration. "Sorry wont help. Just Improve. How many times...? The Challenge is tomorrow, and you may be technically good, but you still have no...no fire! This is your life on the line, and the one who cares the most tomorrow is going to win."
"Ill try harder..." she pleaded softly.
Xena shook her head and sighed. Gabrielle began to rise, but the warrior stopped her, saying, "Lets take a break." and with a groan of relief Gabrielle collapsed against Xena, ending up resting her head against her shoulder.
Strangely enough, it was several heartbeats before either of them realized what she had done. Astonished blue eyes met terrified green ones. So frightened was Gabrielle, that she was unable to move, and it was only when she felt the warrior relax did she begin to breath again.
More bewildered than angry, Xena muttered "Its okay, Gabrielle."
"Youre sure?" she asked hesitantly.
"I said it was okay, so relax." After all, rationalized Xena. Look at the pressure shes under. Shes a kid, trying to rule an Amazon village while half the tribe is watching and waiting for her to make a mistake. Coming here everyday to have me shout at her, and push her to her limits, and if this little thing makes her happy, I can bear it. Anyways, it wasnt an unpleasant feeling....
Meanwhile a somewhat round-eyed Gabrielle was trying to adjust to how cozy this particular shoulder was, while attempting to fit this latest facet into the portrait she was forming of this complex woman. Half the time Im frightened shes going to take off my head, and the rest of the time its as though weve been friends all our lives. Im never going to stop learning about her, am I?
Still trying to ignore how comfortable she was, Xena took a long drink from a skin, and then passed it to the semi-prone girl. "I know youre trying. That isnt the question. You couldnt try any harder. You are one of the best staff fighters Ive ever seen, but youre gonna have to find that killing stroke inside of yourself, or Velasca is gonna take your head off. Its you or her, got that?"
Instead of the water skin, Gabrielle seized on the only thing that mattered to her. "You think Im really good?"
The warrior rolled her eyes. "Yes. Youre very good. Did you hear the rest of what I said?"
The princess tilted her head and asked earnestly, "Maybe I need more incentive. I need you to be there."
"Gabrielle..." There was an edge to the voice that had not been there a minute before.
"Xena, Im just no good at doing things for my own sake. Oh dont roll your eyes at me." She stopped, surprised at her own temerity. "Im sorry, I dont have the right..."
"Gabrielle, you are fighting to become the Queen of the Amazons. Stop apologizing to me." A smile played around the corner of her mouth, "And I dont believe this shy act all of a sudden. Im only here because of your pure cussedness.."
Gabrielle returned the growing smile. "I can be selfish and pushy, I know that. But if I didnt know there was reason for all this, Id never have done anything. I believe..."
Xena recognized a story coming and rolling her eyes again, fell dramatically back onto the grass beside the girl, who giggled and shook her fist in mock anger. Xena grinned and waited for her to continue. Gabrielle rolled on her side with her chin resting on her hand, propped up on her elbow. It still took a moment before she became serious and resumed.
"I left my home village because I knew that I didnt fit in there. I knew I was destined for something else. It felt like I was spending my whole childhood waiting, until I couldnt wait anymore. So I ran away and found the Amazons. When I received the rite of caste, I thought this is it. This is why I left. But it wasnt. I was still...waiting. But Ive used this time to try to learn, to work to be whatever I was supposed to be."
Gabrielle felt the warrior tense beside her. "Becoming what youre supposed to be, isnt all that great." Xena muttered sadly.
Gabrielle turned those verdant eyes to her. "How would you know?"
Xena tried to ignore the affect, but that gaze was hard to shake off. "How would I know? You know what Ive done."
"Nothing that really matters. Nothing like what you could do. I think youve been waiting too."
The warrior laughed. "For you?"
Offended, Gabrielle retorted "Yes! Were together for a reason. There are things that I know were supposed to do together. Important things. Things that will change the world. Maybe I dont know what they are. Yet. But Ive always known that I was different, that there was someone who would...complete me, ever since I was a child, Xena. I need you to believe that."
The warrior was nearly overwhelmed by the intensity with which the girl spoke. "Gabrielle, I want to believe. to just believe in something, but Im not sure that I can anymore."
"I dont believe that." They both smiled at her quip. Then the young Princess became cautious. "Will you, can you trust me?"
Xena sighed, and looked away. Finally she returned her gaze to the resolute girl beside her. "Yes."
Sounding like a mother speaking to reluctant child, Gabrielle affirmed "Then you have to give yourself up."
Xena startled her by leaping up, with clenched fists. "Why does it always come down to that? Have you ever seen an animal trapped in a corner? Or tried to force one into a cage? Thats what I am. Not this noble creature that youre imagined, Gabrielle." she spat out.
Somehow managing not to be frightened by this metamorphosis, the girl reached up to hold one hand, opening it until she was holding the callused palm with her fingers. "Youre not an animal." Gabrielle stated with conviction. "Even at your worst you were never that. You took your skills and your body and you shaped it and drove it, and created the warrior you became. If you were just a collection of killing skills you would never have commanded an army, you would have always been someones hired thug."
Xena couldnt look at her. "But thats exactly what I was! Ares hired thug."
"It was all for a reason, Xena so that you would be here, at this moment. I know that. What can I say or do thatll make you believe it? Xena, for once in your life, you have to surrender, and trust. You have to trust in this Destiny. Please, Xena. Thats your Challenge. Can you meet it?"
Xena seemed to be listening, but not to the princess. She had become completely still and her hand went automatically to her chakram.
The Princess stood as well, and her eyes began to search the horizon. "Theyre coming?"
There was no acknowledgment.
Gabrielle grasped the warriors arm. "The swords, Xena, we have to begin the drill."
Xena was still frozen, staring at the trees. Now that the moment was here, her mind was racing in near panic. At least ten of them, but theyre not covering the breach by the rocks, I could still...
"Xena? Xena, please?" Gabrielle entreated.
Xena turned to face her. Her face showed none of the inner turmoil, but she looked down to the firm hand that was still holding hers. "This is what it comes down to?" she asked.
Gabrielle held her breath before speaking. "Yes."
There was only one thing left, the last secret, the last part of herself to entrust with this girl. "Gabrielle. I have a son..."
Gabrielle dropped her eyes. "I know, Xena. Solon."
The warriors eyes widened and she stared, shocked, at the young girl. "How?"
She haltingly offered her explanation. "I go to the Centaur village often. I always wondered...He has your eyes. Theyre unmistakable, and I asked some questions...".
Pressed for time, Xena swallowed that revelation, and continued. "If theres a war, hes so young...Velasca doesnt take slaves or prisoners..."
Gabrielle knew that she had won. This arrangements had already been made. "Xena, I promise. I will make sure that he lives, even if Im defeated tomorrow, Ill make sure that someone has him taken from the battle zone, I swear it."
Ignoring the alarms that were going off inside of her, Xena unsheathed her sword. She gave a quick shake to settle her armor and then the two faced one another and began their choreographed dance. Each movement had been planned, built upon Gabrielles surprisingly natural talent with the sword. The sounds of the approaching Amazons were soon blocked out as they concentrated on their roles.
Valesca drew her mount to a halt a few lengths away and watched in astonishment as the despised little girl seemed to be fighting the great warrior on equal terms. When she had gotten word of this supposed confrontation she had hoped to use it to prove Gabrielles treason, and instead it appeared that the weakling was actually attempting to capture the warrior on her own. And whether it was true or not, she only had to see the admiring expressions on the faces of the warriors accompanying her that her swordmanship was having an effect. Perhaps humiliating the princess with the sword would not be possible. It looked like some bargaining might be necessary.
But Dammit, how could she be this good?
At the last moment, Xena relaxed her grip on the pommel, and the sword was swiftly removed from her hand by Gabrielle on an upstroke. There was shocked silence from the now gathered Amazons as Gabrielle put the tip of her blade to the Warrior Princess throat. "Ephiny" she called back. "Are the archers in position?"
Ephiny came out of the trees and called out. "Yes, your Highness."
Still holding the swords point to her throat, Gabrielle spoke for the crowd. "Then Xena, there is no escape. I charge you with crimes against the Amazon Nation. To be tried and convicted by the Queen of our Nation. Yield your weapons, NOW!"
The warrior was cautiously surrounded. Velasca noted with curiosity the very real anguish that flitted across the face of the warrior for a moment before her weapons were removed. She looked at no one, simply stared straight ahead, and allowed herself to be escorted off with head high, surrounded by a dozen very nervous Amazons.
Velasca rode over to the Princess, who stood quietly, still holding the sword, as the warrior was led away . There with almost no expression that the challenger could read. How much HAD she underestimated this girl? Almost as an after thought she called to the guards. "Make sure she is chained. Heavy chains. Find ones strong enough to hold a fully grown Cyclops, and then double them." For once the guards looked to Gabrielle for confirmation. The Princess nodded.
Velasca mused on that as well. She had grown used to them automatically obeying her. She dismounted and spoke to Gabrielle. "That was very impressive, but how real was it?"
Gabrielle raised her sword defensively. "As real as it needed to be."
Velasca laughed at that. "I could almost like you, Gabrielle, and actually, I dont want to kill you. Not that it wouldnt be enjoyable for me. But you have your followers. Quite a few of them. The question is, how long would they fight me after you were gone? I dont need that. The Nation doesnt need that. So, lets talk about the facts for a moment. All right?"
Gabrielle didnt lower her sword. "Im listening."
"I know that you were never planning to rule as Queen, you were going to continue on with your little journeys. So I suggest that you do that. Walk away. Now. Then your followers would fall in line. That way you save the lives of your friends and stop a civil war. Youll save their lives and your own, and the Amazons will be united. It wont help anyone if youre stupid or selfish, Gabrielle."
"United in war, united in killing until theyre all dead."
"Were warriors, little girl, you never seem to grasp that. Ill fight and we will win. The Nation will be stronger, greater, under my leadership."
"I dont think so."
"Then try this. I can have Ephiny made a member of council, and with Eponin already there, you will leave a strong core supporting your ideals. The war will still take place, but there will be a, shall we say, a tempering influence. You cant ask for any more."
Gabrielle considered. Ephiny had powerful support. She could influence the other members. The war and Velasca might be moderated. This was a major concession. But...."What about Xena?"
Velasca just snorted. "What about her? I dont know how you did it, but now shes ours. So Xena dies either way for her crime. If I choked to death right now and you became Queen, no one would allow you to free her. And Im not going to die, today or tomorrow. Youre a smart girl, Gabrielle. You have other people to consider. Walk away. Go home or start a new life. Because your time here is over."
But I see your true colors
I see your true colors
And thats why I love you
So dont be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful,
Like a rainbow
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