The attack was unexpected and brutal. The Amazon village had not quite awakened when the armed slayers charged through the village, lighting homes afire and cutting down anyone who stood in their path.
Someone shouted, “Amazons! To arms!”
But the cry was too little, too late. As women and children raced out of the inferno that had become their village, all of their possessions were left behind. Including most of the weapons.
A handful had managed to obtain swords and were bravely defending the retreat of their sisters, but it became obvious that the battle was lost as one after another of the Amazon women fell victim to the raised blades pursuing them.
Knowing that they must flee in order to escape death, a mere dozen Amazons, mostly children, fled into the hills, the only survivors from what had been a group of over 100 villagers strong.
Xena & Gabrielle walked into the tavern with a weary stride. The journey from Rome had been a long one, and both women felt the need for a good cup of ale, a bath and a bed, in that order.
As they lowered their aching bodies into one of the few chairs remaining, Gabrielle groaned and asked, “Xena, you don’t think we’re getting too old for this stuff, do you?”
Xena, who was also feeling the impact of the long, bruising ride, replied, “Naa, we’re not getting too old. I think someone moved Rome further away from Greece.”
Both women smiled wryly and ordered a drink from the busy barmaid. The tavern was packed with people, chattering anxiously with one another. There seemed to be an air of celebration about the place as if a great battle had been won. Xena knew the feeling from prior experience, and tensed at what that could mean.
“Xena, what’s going on here? Did you hear that man over there?” She gestured with her head. “He said something about ‘They’ll never bother us again.’ or something like that. What are they talking about?”
Xena, who was already on guard, answered, “They’re celebrating a victory of some sort. But I haven’t heard about any trouble in this part of Greece.”
Xena began surveying the room as she leaned closer. “That’s what bothers me.”
She was reaching for their saddlebags to leave, when a drunk reveler stumbled and fell across their table. Xena and Gabrielle jumped back, but not before being drenched with the brew in the mans cup.
Xena cursed and pushed the drunkard off their table, but instead of falling to the floor, the man gained his feet and stood smiling idiotically at them. Xena growled and started to rise, but the man laughed and tried pushing her back down into her seat. Of course, it didn’t work. Xena was ready to knock the grin off his face when the drunkard flung his arms out.
“Come now ladies! Don’t be so cross. It’s time to celebrate!”
The crowd roared their agreement.
Gabrielle couldn’t stand not knowing what they were talking about, so she asked. “What are you celebrating?”
The revelers behind them interjected their happiness with more cheers and the clanking of mugs. The drunk man, more than happy to play storyteller, began describing the source of revelry.
“It was a decisive battle! We swept down on them when they least expected it! Burned the whole lot, let me tell you. They’ll never be bothering us again, let me tell you!”
Another cheer went up, and Gabrielle looked around, still confused, but getting a really bad feeling in her gut.
Xena felt the same, and asked, “Who? Who was it that was bothering you? A warlord maybe?”
The crowd laughed. It seemed the attention of the whole room was now turned on the 3 people at it’s center.
“Oh, no! We haven’t been bothered by a warlord in ages. I’m talking about those whores on the other side of the mountain. Haughty little tramps were over here all the time, trying to trade decent goods for their tainted offerings. But lookie here!” he grinned and pulled something out of his shirt. “What I’ve got didn’t cost me a thing!”
Dangling from his neck was a delicately wrought necklace. It’s cord was stained dark brown with blood and the pendant dangling from the bottom bespoke of a young amazon princess. Gabrielle recognized it instantly and with a quick hand, snapped it clean off his neck.
“Hey, that’s mine! Give it back!”
The drunk hollered and Gabrielle was ready to beat the man within an inch of his miserable life. But Xena saw the crowd becoming disturbed by her friends actions, and grabbed Gabrielle by the arm.
“Let’s get out of here. Now.” Xena commanded as she herded Gabrielle to the door.
“But Xena, that pig had an amazon necklace! He KILLED her for it!”
“I know. But now is not the time.” Xena carefully watched their backs as they mounted up and headed across the mountains.
The destruction of the once prosperous amazon village was heartrending. The burned out shell of the meeting hall stood in blackened agony, a testament to the brutality and suffering human hands have given. Bodies of slain amazons littered the landscape, many still clutching a child or a sword to their lifeless chest.
Gabrielle walked in a daze from one victim to another. Tears poured from her anguished eyes as she spotted a small baby, lying trampled in the street. Xena stood beside her, surveying the desolation as one used to atrocities would. The scene still had the power to sicken her, though.
“Xena, why would they do this?” Gabrielle knelt next to another slain warrior and looked up at her friend. She felt the anguish rush through her in waves, churning her stomach and making her want to strike out any way she could.
“I don’t know. this careless slaughter..., Gabrielle,” Xena reached out with a sigh, “Even I don’t understand this.”
Resting a gentle hand on her dejected friends shoulder, Xena tried to offer what consolation she could. But Gabrielle’s blood was hot with the need for justice.
“They must pay for this, Xena. We can’t just let them get away with murder.”
“They won’t. I promise you.” Releasing her friend, Xena started walking into the forest. “But right now, we need to give them a proper burial.”
The funeral pyre was immense. The inferno seemed to kiss the sky with it’s hypnotic dance, releasing billowing smoke from it’s raging heat. The fire became the final ending, returning the daughters of the earth back to their mother.
Above the roar of the flames, a voice sang sweet and pure, lifting the departed souls on their way to eternity. Another voice whispered the words of the twilight chant, ensuring her sisters would again find happiness in the next lifetime. And then, all was silent save the crackling of the embers as the blaze began to die.
Xena and Gabrielle fought the tears as they bid their friends goodbye. They turned, and in wordless communication, drew one another to their arms and held each other tight.
“So much death.” Gabrielle whispered, and Xena stroked her cropped, blonde hair.
“They deserve peace now, Gabrielle. Not our regrets.”She nudged her sorrowful friend in the chin, and Gabrielle mournfully looked up. Xena’s eyes sparkled with her conviction. “They are at peace. Trust in that.”
Gabrielle was nodding her agreement when both women were startled by the sound of a charred stick snapping, as if stepped on by a careless foot. Back in the village, Xena spotted a small figure, racing anxiously for the shadows.
Xena and Gabrielle both gave chase, anxious to learn if this individual knew anything about this terrible tragedy. The small, indistinguishable figure was fast, racing well ahead of Xena and Gabrielle. Occasionally, they lost sight of the runner, but following close behind, they managed to keep the person in sight, irregardless of the many hills and curves the figure used.
Just as Xena was sure she would have the person in her grasp, the fleet foot of the small spy carried it around a curve and behind a large pile of boulders. Xena and Gabrielle circled around on a well worn path, expecting to see the diminishing back of their quarry racing up the steep hill. But instead, they found themselves within inches of the deadly blades pointed right at them.
The three tribeswomen never flinched. They had faced the trial of hell, and knew themselves to be forged as strong as their blades.
Xena and Gabrielle raised their hands in surrender. Not because they were outnumbered, but because these were some of the Amazons who had escaped their fate. The women didn’t expect their surrender, and made no move in advance.
“Who are you? Why were you in the village?” The tall, blonde warrior in the middle asked her questions rapidly, obviously the chosen leader of the group.
“We mean you no harm. Please, put down your sword. We are friends to the Amazons. You can trust us.” Gabrielle wanted to reassure them that they wouldn’t fight. But her request had the opposite effect.
“Do you think we’re stupid? If we put our weapons down, we’ll be ambushed in seconds. Your cohorts will see to that.”
Xena understood the fear living inside them. the loss of their world had scarred them deeply, and mere words wouldn’t help. Slowly she lowered her hand and while they watched, grasped her chakram. the women tensed and nearly withdrew altogether, but Xena only offered over the only weapon she had with her.
“She didn’t lie to you. My name is Xena. This is Gabrielle. If you wish, you can take our weapons. We will not fight you.”
Another amazon, a brunette with a short, powerful build, commented, “Gabrielle? that was the name of one of our great queens. We still sing tales of her heroism around the campfire.”
“We used to.” The third amazon muttered.
And in that instant, they looked defeated. Gabrielle’s heart cried out at so much pain. She had to do something to help.
“You may not believe this, but I am the same Gabrielle you’ve been told about.”
“Impossible! Queen Gabrielle has been dead for years! You speak blasphemy!”
Bristling with anger, the amazons regained a bit of their spirit. Gabrielle knew she could convince them. Slowly, like Xena did, she reached into a small pouch tucked at the waistline of her skirt. From inside, she withdrew the beaded necklace of her Queenship.
The amazons gasped audibly, knowing the necklace was one of a kind and always destroyed upon the death of their queen.
“How do we know you didn’t steal it?”
Gabrielle smiled. “Have you ever heard the story of how Queen Gabrielle united the Amazons in a fight against Rome?”
The group reluctantly nodded.
“The one thing that only another Amazon would know is that I agreed to end the battle if Rome would leave the Amazon nation alone. But Rome broke our treaty. The roman armies, nor anyone outside the amazon nation, had ever heard about our agreement.”
The three women believed then. Slowly, they resheathed their swords and allowed the tension to drain away.
“You really are the Queen?”
“In the flesh.” Gabrielle smiled and her sincerity won them over.
Xena stood back and watched her friend work her magic. When the tension had passed, she smiled and offered her hand in friendship. With only a moments hesitation, the leader took it, grasping her wrist in the universal show of friendship.
“The fires killed many. They were trapped in their homes and couldn’t escape. Most of those that did manage to get out were weaponless and didn’t stand a chance against the marauders.”
Valica, the tall blonde leader, tossed another log on the fir as Xena and Gabrielle listened to their tale The small cookfire caused shifting patterns of light and shadows over the assembled group, hollowing cheeks and eyes so they looked otherworldly, in a strange way.
Surrounding the five adults were female children of many ages. Including the shadow Xena and Gabrielle had chased. Her name was Skye, and at 14 years old, was the eldest of the younger survivors. Napping peacefully in her lap was Elicia, a bright 3 year old with the disposition of an angel. The other seven all ranged in age between 5 and 12. But the common thread that had them all clinging to one another was the fear that nothing could keep at bay.
“Were they after something? What could have caused the townsmen to turn so violent?”
Gabrielle understood warlords, thieves, and conquering armies. But the needless destruction of her sisters lives was beyond comprehension.
“It’s actually been building up for months. We started getting immigrant amazons, just a few at a time. Before long, we had over 100 of us in the village. They told stories of other villages destroyed and how they were chased away with little more than what they had on their backs.”
Valica looked around at the homeless group of girls. “We’ve always survived by keeping to ourselves. Rarely have Amazons disturbed the lives of the townsfolk. Until recently, we grew our own crops and were totally self sufficient. Yet when our supplies ran low and we decided to go to Messene, we didn’t fear to walk within that realm. Can you imagine our shock when we were turned away? Suddenly our dinars weren’t good enough. The indignity of dealing with an Amazon was more than they could bear.”
“They must have had some reason. These are simple people. They are usually content with raising their families and working their jobs.”
Gabrielle frowned thoughtfully. “I haven’t heard of any disturbances with the Amazons lately. That’s why we were so surprised by the attitude in Messene.”
Xena knew the answer to Gabrielle’s question. She had seen this problem in varying degrees her whole life. but never to the extent she saw here.
“It’s fear. What they don’t understand, they must fear. And what they fear, they must therefore destroy. Ignorance breeds contempt, and this situation has been growing for a long time.”
“But Xena, the Followers of Eli would never condone this. they must have voiced some objection to this evil plot.” Gabrielle was shocked when the third Amazon, a silent figure with coal black hair, spat violently at her.
“The Followers of Eli! Those misbegotten curs were the ones that started all this!”
“That’s impossible! The Followers of Eli believe in the way of love. That leaves no room for the intolerance you’re talking about.”
“Then explain to me why those all-loving Followers met us at the city gate with rotten tomatoes and damnation upon our souls for not forsaking our gods? Why did they call us sinners and whores, for not being subservient to men and marrying our mates? Why Gabrielle?”
Turning to Xena, she asked, “Do you know? If they love peace so much, then why did they turn the town against us?”
As Gabrielle tried to reason with Mellina, Xena struggled with the knowledge she had purposely withheld from her friend. Knowing she had to tell her, Xena lightly clasped Gabrielle’s arm, drawing her attention away from the quarrel.
“There’s something I need to tell you.”
Xena steeled herself for the moment to come.
“Gabrielle, I found out that a lot has happened to the Followers of Eli, more than we’ve learned about since we’ve been back. Mostly we have met the wonderful people who follow Eli’s teachings to the letter. But somehow, some way, the followers have split into two separate factions. The original group, founded by our friend, has been terribly persecuted. But the other...” she sighed, “They call themselves Zealots of Eli. They’ve managed to twist the truth around to suit their own ends. Instead of preaching love, they cry how women are lower than men and how the beliefs of any other god other than their own is evil and must be destroyed. And there’s much more.”
Xena looked around at the assembled group and contemplated the possibilities. “If that’s who we’re really fighting, we are going to have a lot of problems. The Zealots are gaining followers fast. Men who are unhappy and dissatisfied respond to the need to lay blame. They have at least one group in every town in Greece, from what I’ve heard.”
Xena hated the pain that filled her friend once again. but it was time Gabrielle heard the truth, she reasoned. Besides, I hated to keep that secret from her anyway.
“What we need to do now is come up with a plan. You’re not safe here any longer, that’s for sure. Above all else, we must protect the children.”
Nine youthful, but solemn eyes stared back at the warrior princess as she and the other adults Amazons tried to plan their next step.
The next day, Xena, Gabrielle and the twelve Amazons set out for the seaport of Pylos. They had talked long into the night about the options open to them, and had come to the conclusion that Greece simply wasn’t safe for them any longer.
As they walked, they silently bid farewell to the land they had known their whole lives. They found comfort in consistency, focusing on the mountain to the side of them, knowing it will always be there should they return. A spring breeze kissed their cheeks as if in farewell.
Xena, riding sedately on Argo, felt the breeze toss her raven black hair in a flurry. She silently reveled in it, but never forgot the danger they still faced.
“Gabrielle, when we reach the next village, I need to ride in and try sending word to Eve. She may be able to temper the damage these zealots are causing.”
“Are you going to tell her where we’re going?” Gabrielle asked quietly.
“No. Not in the message. If someone intercepts it, it would put ourselves, these girls, and not to mention, Eve, in danger. But I’ll give her enough clues that she’ll be able to figure out where we are.”
“Maybe I should write it then. Discretion has never been your strong suit.”
Xena caught the twinkle in Gabrielle’s eyes, and replied, “Hey, you’re not the only one around here that can write a line or two if the need arises.”
“Oh really? Then why is it that in all our years together, I’ve never, and I mean, NEVER, seen you pick up a quill for anything other than as a weapon? You have as much use for parchment as a blind man would. Except for time when you needed something to wipe your...”
“HEY!” Xena grimaced, but still looked amused.
Gabrielle smirked, but conceded, “Ok, you can write it. But I’ll stay close by in case you need a few pointers. Who knows, your hand may cramp up from the unexpected use and I’ll have to finish up for you.”
“Don’t even think about it.” After all, there was only so much a warrior princess can stand, Xena silently mused.
Not far away on a concealed hillside, a man crouched in the bushes, watching the band of women walking away from the mountains. His feet itched as he pinpointed the direction they were headed, then silently, he crawled over the rise and took off running for town. His task completed, the sentry looked forward to a hot meal and the praise of his brethren.
“Something is not right.” Mellina told Xena some time later.
The morning breeze had stilled, and the air felt heavy with the noon day sun. Xena agreed. Something was watching them. Or someone.
“Mellina, Skye. Take the children into the forest. You’ll be able to find better cover there and have the element of surprise if they should come in after you. Gabrielle, you go too.”
“The children need your protection more than I need you to fight off whoever it is that’s following us. And if something happens, you can lead them to Pylos.”
Gabrielle, knowing it’s pointless to argue, reluctantly agreed.
“We should split just inside the shadows at the treeline. That way, anyone watching won’t see us move into two groups.” Valica’s plan was agreed upon by all.
“Go. If all is well, we’ll catch up with you. But whatever happens, don’t look back.”
Xena locked eyes with Gabrielle, then watched as she disappeared into the trees.
The attack came without warning. Riding out of the dark woods and blinded by the sun, Xena Valica and the second Amazon, Aulenon, were struck instantly with the onslaught of a dozen blades.
Xena had drawn her sword and now slashed and kicked those surrounding her. the sound of her battle cry rang in the ears of the men falling beneath her fury. Next to her, Valica and Aulenon stood back to back as they fought their challengers. Five men circled around them, darting in to inflict what wounds they could. Valica saw them feint to the left, and deftly slipped her blade into the ribs of a marauder. This cry was ignored as the others moved to fill his place.
Xena had taken down two of her opponents before she agiley flipped off the back of Argo. Her feet squarely landed on the shoulders of the man behind her, dropping him to the ground like a sack of laundry. The remaining two fighters charged in without thought. Xena met their attack stroke for stroke, spinning out of reach of one to block the blade of the other.
Xena saw from the corner of her eye the man who was going to attack from the blind side of Aulenon and Valica, who had broken away from one another to fight individually. Never one to let a back stabber fill his purpose, Xena grabbed the chakram and sent it flying in the direction of the approaching enemy. It rapped sharply against his helmuted skull, dropping him to the ground along with his other fallen counterparts.
It wasn’t much longer before the four remaining attackers were taken out. Xena stood back to survey the damage, and that’s when she saw him.
Standing on a hill, not too far away, a black-caped man seated on a equally black horse watched with dispassion. He saw the fall of his eleven men, and rod away without a backwards glance.
“Who is he, Xena?” Aulenon asked as she stepped closer to see the retreating man.
“I don’t know. But I’m going to find out.” Xena dragged the only concious man she could find to his knees and rapidly lashed her fingers against the side of his neck. The mans face contorted visibly as Xena leaned close.
“I’ve just shut off the flow of blood to your brain. Tell me what I want to know or you’re a deadman.”
The sun was casting it’s final rays when Xena and the Amazons caught up with Gabrielle and her group. They took shelter in a grove of fruit trees just outside a small village.
Gabrielle was relieved to see Xena ride in without a single scratch. Although she knew that Xena could take care of herself, she worried none the less. “How did it go?” she asked as Xena dismounted.
“We fought eleven of them not too far from where we split up. We also found out they have a leader with them. His name is Charaxus, and he claims to be the prophet of Eli.”
“What?!!!” Gabrielle asked incredulously.
“It’s true.” Valica verified. “He said the prophet had been sent visions from Eli directly, telling him how the path of the original followers was a false one. And that it was his destiny to correct the errors of their way.”
Heartsick at such deception, Gabrielle sad down amidst the children. It suddenly seemed to her that struggling against evil was a hopeless battle. For surely anyone who could twist the love Eli had for everyone into this cruel manifestation was well beyond redemption.
Xena watched the emotions cross her dearest friends’ face as she unsaddled Argo. She’s endured so much, so fast, Xena thought. Xena was going to walk over and offer comfort when someone else beat her to it.
Gabrielle’s bowed head was aching with the pressure and suppressed tears, when she felt a blissfully small hand rest against her cheek. Looking up, Gabrielle found little Elicia standing silently in front of her. Her little eyes were sparkling, her strawberry red hair caught the final ray of light in it’s fuzzy mass. Looking at the child, Gabrielle felt hope fill her again, and knew that Eli was responsible.
“Don’t cy, my keen. Pees?” The sweet little voice made Gabrielle smile as she pulled the child into her arms.
“No, I won’t cry anymore. Come here and keep me company.”
The child went gratefully, and snuggled into Gabrielle’s warm embrace. Xena smiled as she watched the child charm her friend out of her melancholy. Looking away, she focused on the lights coming from the village, and remembered she needed to send a message to Eve. Tired of riding all day, Xena decided to walk the short distance. She slipped away from the group with only a murmured comment to Mellina of where she was going.
Xena never reached the village. The man she had seen earlier now intercepted her path, standing as a lone road block before her. Xena was startled, but unconcerned. A lone man usually represented little trouble, or at least nothing she couldn’t handle.
“What do you want, Charaxus?”
The man sneered as he looked down on Xena. “You woman, should not speak until you have been spoken to.”
“Oh? I’ll have to work on that along with my curtsey.” Xena sarcastically replied. “And speaking of manners, it’s rude to begin a conversation by criticizing a person you’ve never met. Didn’t your mother teach you any manners?” The face of the tow-headed man turned a furious shade of red, but he leashed his anger long enough to demand, “Leave the Amazons at once. You have no business butting into affairs that don’t concern you.”
“Oh, but that’s where you’re wrong. Any time one man takes it upon himself to slaughter a whole village, I make it my affair.”
“If you do not leave, you shall suffer the consequences, just like anyone else that stands in my way.”
“Am I supposed to be scared now?” Xena’s lip curled. “Now you listen to me, you sick bastard. You’re not going to lay a finger on any of those Amazons ever again. Whether you think you’re right or wrong doesn’t make a damn bit of difference to me. I’ll stop you if it takes my last breath.”
“And so it shall!” The black caped man screamed as he came at a full charge at Xena.
Xena leapt into the air as Charaxus tried to run her down. Her feet flashed as a powerful kick threw the angry man off his horse. The animal squealed, bucking and snorting frantically as it ran off into the woods.
“It’s just you and me now.” Xena taunted as she drew her sword.
Charaxus picked himself up off the ground and did likewise. “An unfair advantage, woman. In MY favor!”
The madman swung viciously, striking sharp blows against Xena’s own parrying sword. What skill he lacked, he made up in ferocity as he slashed again and again. Xena tired of his attack.
“IiiiiiiiiiEeeeeeee!” she chanted loudly as she backflipped away. She landed, sword ready, and smiled evilly. With her free hand, she gestured for him. “You want some of this? Then come and get it!”
Charaxus, infuriated beyond all rational thought, raced to her bidding, never realizing that they were on Xena’s terms now. She went on the offensive, batting away his pitiful strikes like she would a bothersome fly. Her arm flew as the sword in her hand vibrated.
She remembered the fallen Amazons and the agony of their death masks, the funeral fire that seemed larger than life and nine children, torn from their homes and all that was familiar to them. Children waiting only a short distance away.
Her eyes sought and found the flaw in his defense, and after ducking under a deadly swipe of his blade, Xena thrust upwards, sinking her sword deep into Charaxus’ chest. His eyes went wide as he dropped to his knees, clutching the fatal would now leaking his lifeblood on the ground. Xena impassively watched as he faced his final judgment in this life.
Charaxus gasped, and blood dripped from between his lips. “You still haven’t won, Xena. I am everywhere. Death is just another beginning.”
With those dire words, the self proclaimed prophet of Eli passed from this world with Xena as his only witness.
The next day, Xena stood on the docks at the port of Pylos, watching Gabrielle help the smallest children on board the boat headed North. The women and girls needed to start a new life, virtually impossible in the silent battle the people of Greece were waging.
As the Amazon group traveled to the busy seaport, they saw the evidence of the zealots handiwork around every turn. None were so destructive as what they had experienced, but when added up, created terrible chaos within the families of each town.
Charaxus had been right. His death did not stop the wave that was rolling over their civilization. In fact, word of Charaxus’ death had spread quuickly, elevating him to a status almost equal to Eli. Nobody knew who killed the false prophet, and no one was stepping forward to take the blame.
Suffering for the loss of a leader since the death of the gods, the Grecians were turning on one another. Every small difference was questioned or reviled. for the first time, Greeks were more fearful of their neighbor than of warlords, monsters or divine wrath.
Most fearful of all, as far as Xena and Gabrielle were concerned, is the focus on making women worth less than livestock, a fact brutally brought home to them on their journey when they found a man beating his wife for letting the cow go unmilked. Xena had stopped it, but not before it made an impression on the accompanying children in her charge.
The women had all planned to find another Amazon group, perhaps one farther east, who wouldn’t be persecuted by the zealots yet. But after watching their world fall apart and be rebuilt on unsteady footings, they changed their minds. The children had to be raised in the most stable environment possible, and it looked like the decline of the Amazon nation was emminent. So Xena found a boat that would take them far away, where they could lead peaceful lives for the foreseeable future.
Gabrielle stood on deck with Elicia wrapped around her like a little monkey. The child had become precious to her, and she was loathe to let her go. But she knew that for her to stay would only put her in peril.
“Come, little one. Time to get down and help Skye put your things below.”
The little girls face wrinkled up as she held on tighter. “Don wan to. Wanna stay wid Keen Gabille. Don maka me go.”
Gabrielle gently untangled her arms from her neck and set her on the deck. Large tears bubbled from her brown eyes as she watched Gabrielle kneel before her.
“Elicia, Skye needs you. all of your sisters need you. You don’t want to leave them now, when they need your help, now do you?”
The child sadly shook her head. Every Amazon, from the time they were in the cradle, learns that her individual duty is to her fellow Amazons. While only three years of age, Elicia understood her obligations. Which is why Gabrielle had used words that any other toddler would have ignored. Elicia softly kissed Gabrielle’s cheek goodbye, then took Skye’s hand as they walked away. Gabrielle stifled the sobs choking her, walking off the boat to stand at Xena’s side.
“We will always be grateful to you both for what you have done.” Valica called to them as she leaned over the rail. “Our children’s children will tell stories of our Amazon Queen and Xena, the Warrior Princess.”
Xena and Gabrielle smiled solemnly. “Safe journey, Valica.” Xena bid her.
Gabrielle added, “And take care of those girls. All right?”
Valica bowed her head respectively. “As you command, my Queen.”
They watched as the boat weighed anchor, bearing away the decendants of a dying era.
“Will they be all right, Xena?”
“I honestly don’t know.” she replied.
The fading sun cast a golden halo around the billowing sails on the horizon, and Xena and Gabrielle hoped it was an omen of better days ahead.