Journey of Love & Life
The next moon went by slowly as they grew accustomed to their life with the Amazons. Gabrielle took on an advisory role with the Amazons not wanting to commit herself to being Queen until the baby had been born and they were settled in their new home. Xena for her part tried to relax for she knew that the peace they were experiencing wouldn't last much longer and that they would be in danger again before their child was born. So for that moon they took life easy enjoying long walks around the village, lying in bed till late feeling the baby move, and just relaxing trying to prepare themselves as much as they could mentally for what was to come.
The Amazon midwife had doubled their appointments with her as Xena's pregnancy had advanced and they both still looked forward to them, both needing the assurance that their baby was healthy and developing properly. They were continually assured of the baby's health as she was continually kicking her mother and often had her mother scrambling to the bushes after a particularly harsh kick to her bladder. Xena often grumbled that she spent half her day needing to relieve herself and Gabrielle couldn't help but chuckle a little at her soulmate's predicament. The baby was so large now she continually pressed on her mother's bladder and Xena was definitely developing a waddle as she struggled with the added weight from the baby.
It was on one of these visits to their midwife that they received a visit from someone they never expected to be visited by. Xena was half sitting on the table the Amazon midwife used to examine her patients when they both heard a noise behind them and Xena felt the telltale prickles down her neck that told her that the presence in the room was a God or Goddess. She got off the table as fast as she could being eight moons pregnant and grabbed her sword holding it in the direction of the intruder.
“Xena please I mean you no harm, I need to talk to you” Hera said as she made herself known to them. She saw the shock on their faces and then smiled as Gabrielle got up to stand in front of Xena protecting her from any possible advance the Queen of the Gods could make on them.
“Hera you come any closer and I will use what little I know of my powers to do something to you” Gabrielle glared at the Queen of the Gods, she would not allow this woman to kill another innocent child, she remembered the sadness on Hercules' face as he spoke of the children he'd lost to this woman and how his murdered wife had been pregnant when Hera had killed her and his two children.
“Gabrielle I have no intentions of harming Xena, I'm here to help you” Hera said a little annoyed by the blonde bard's mistrust of her but proud of her willingness to defend the woman she loved even though she was no match for the Queen of the Gods. She looked towards Xena and saw the tall, proud woman standing there, her sword still pointing in her direction, her face showing no emotions as she regarded the Queen of the Gods. I wish I had been able to choose you as my Chosen, I would have been able to teach you so much more than my son Ares did and I have a feeling you would have taught me something as well Hera mused thinking of the tall warrior and then extended her senses to the baby, smiling as she felt its strength and how healthy the baby was, she felt the baby's mind reach out to her and was astonished by how much an unborn child could understand and realised just how special this baby was going to be.
“I'm not sure I believe you Hera but I will give you a chance to explain yourself” Xena spoke up, taking a good look at Hera and decided not to let down her guard until she knew what Hera really wanted. She knew they would not be much of a match for the Queen of the Gods if she did really want to kill them, but she knew she would try to protect the baby and Gabrielle with everything she could.
“I know all about this prophecy and what it will do to the Gods, Xena I don't care I have lived a long and full life and I've done some things in that life that have shamed me, if I am to die I want a chance to try and atone for some of the things that I have done, for the lives I've taken. I came here today to warn you that Zeus is searching for you, he knows you are near the Amazons and I believe he will attack them if it means he could get to you, my daughter Atermis would be saddened if that were to happen and I want to prevent it if I can” Hera said looking into Xena's eyes imploring her to believe her. She knew what Zeus had planned and if she could save Atermis' Amazon's and the two lover's she knew that would do a lot to making up for her past mistakes.
“If you know about the prophecy you know that it spells the death of the Gods, you can't tell me you are going to help save my child at the risk of your own death” Xena said still unable to believe this Goddess, she knew that Hera was probably telling the truth about Zeus but Hera wanting to protect them was beyond her understanding at that moment.
“Yes I know that and I should die for what I have done in my lifetime, what I did to Hercules and the other products of my husbands affairs, I allowed my jealousy to lead to vengeance and I was wrong, I can't apologise for my deeds but I can try to make up for them, Xena the child you are carrying is very special, she will lead humanity to a new way of life, a new belief in a new God, and I want to ensure that she fulfills her destiny” Hera said taking a step forward and then smiling as Gabrielle moved further in front of Xena, she knew that Gabrielle had quite a lot of power for such a new immortal but she was still no match for her.
“It's okay Gabrielle, Hera you said that Zeus knew we were near the Amazons, do you know how far away he is from us?” Xena said unable to say why she felt she could trust Hera but she did. She looked at the Queen of the Gods and saw the sadness on her face and knew that somehow against all odds this Goddess had experienced humanity and really was trying to help save them.
“He hasn't reached Thrace yet, but he will he has an army of his proxidacae with him and he will be difficult to defeat. I don't think he will attack any of the surrounding towns but he is determined that he will find you and kill the child, I'm pretty sure he will ask Ares for his help” Hera said looking at Xena and admiring how she was handling this. She could see that Xena was calm despite the anxiety she must be feeling and with the hormones battling for dominance in her body she was sure Xena would have expressed some sort of irrational emotion by now, but she seemed to be holding together pretty well for the moment.
“What do you plan to do to protect the Amazon's and us?” Gabrielle asked relaxing a little as she sensed Xena's trust in Hera, she was still wary of the Queen of the Gods and decided she would base her opinions on Hera's actions not her words.
“I have a castle, its hidden in the mountains, Zeus knows of it but he also knows it is protected by my personal proxidacae which are almost as difficult to defeat as his. I want to take you and Xena there, I will allow Zeus to find out that you have left the Amazon's but he will not know where you have gone, hopefully by the time he realises where you are you will be near giving birth or will have given birth” Hera told them knowing that Zeus would probably find them but she vowed she would protect them with her life and put as many obstacles in Zeus' path as she could. Something inside her wanted Xena to be able to have this baby without having to worry about any fighting going on or having to fight herself. She knew the warrior was quite capable of fighting if needed even if she were in labour at the time. She smiled thinking of how much she admired the warrior's strength, and she hoped she would be able to give Xena the safety to have her baby without the stress of worrying about Zeus.
“We still have a moon until the baby is due, and she could come late are you sure Zeus will not find us before then?” Xena asked a little skeptical of the Goddess' plan. She knew they would be safe in that castle for a while but Zeus was a God, and not just any God he was King of the Gods, surely he would be able to find them before the baby was due.
“As I said my proxidacae are almost as difficult to defeat as Zeus', I also have a lot of protection around the castle grounds, and I will also protect you, try to remember that the baby has Athena's protection as well until it is born, I am not sure if Zeus will be able to lift the protection spell Athena placed on the baby so that may buy us some more time, you will be safer in the castle than you are here” Hera said not fazed by the fact that Xena and Gabrielle looked skeptical, she expected that and knew they would need all the information available to them to make a decision, it was something she admired of both of them.
“Do you really believe Zeus will attack the Amazon's to get to us?” Xena asked knowing if Hera believed that her decision would be made. She would not put their friends in danger and if they had a chance to hide somewhere in safety and not risk her friends lives then she would take it.
“Yes Xena I do, I've never seen him this determined, he has vowed to kill you and the baby and I believe he will do whatever it takes to accomplish that task, even betraying his daughter by harming her Amazon's” Hera said softly wishing she'd been able to get through to her husband, but fear was a disabling emotion and right now her husband was more afraid than he had ever been and she'd been unable to get him to see reason. She loved him but she also knew that killing Xena and the baby wasn't right. Zeus had once told her that all things must come to an end and she was ready to accept that the God's reign was coming to and end, but knew her husband would never accept it.
“Okay then we will go with you, when do you want us to leave?” Xena asked noticing for the first time that the midwife wasn't in the room and that they hadn't even begun their appointment. She looked over at Gabrielle and tried to convey her feelings through her look. She saw Gabrielle smile in return and knew that no matter what they would do their best to make sure the baby arrived safely.
“As soon as we can, the Amazon's will want you to take an escort, don't argue with them just accept it and leave, you can still have your appointment, I've arranged for a midwife to come to the castle and stay until the baby's birth-” Hera said but was cut off by Xena.
“No! I don't want anyone else put in danger, the Amazon's can come but there will be no midwife, I am a healer I'll know if anything is going wrong with the baby, and Gabrielle will deliver the baby when the time comes” Xena said calmly but forcefully. She knew a lot of people weren't going to be happy about this but there was no way she was going to have anyone else put in danger. The Amazon midwife was needed here as there were quite a few pregnant women in the village at the moment and a village midwife would have no battle skills and could be easily killed if they had to fight.
“As you wish Xena, I'm sure you know the Amazon's wont be happy about that” Hera said not happy about Xena's wish but knew that Xena would not be swayed in it. The Amazon's were likely to have a fit about Xena going off to her castle without a midwife and would make sure they protested loudly to it.
“I'm aware of that Hera, they'll just have to deal with this, Gabrielle and I will go and let them know and then we'll pack some things and we'll head off after that” Xena said sternly hoping the Goddess knew she meant business about the midwife. She rubbed her temple knowing that it was not going to be easy to tell the Amazon's they were leaving to hole up in a place without a midwife.
As Xena predicted the Amazons were very unhappy about their decision to go off with Hera without the healer, they'd all come to love Xena as much as they loved their Queen and wanted her to deliver the baby safely. It was only after they realised Xena was not going to change her mind on this that they gave in, they could see the stress the warrior was under was beginning to get to her and they didn't want to make it any worse.
So a day after their appointment they set off for Hera's castle, Hera had explained the need to travel by foot to her castle saying that if she used her powers to get them there Zeus would be able to find them easier. Xena took that explanation well, but was unhappy about the need to travel so late in her pregnancy. She was tired and heavy and they didn't make a lot of progress the first day of travelling due to her needing naps and her frequent toilet breaks. Her back started to ache not long after they began their travelling and by the time they camped that night she was in agony even though she stubbornly refused to admit it.
Gabrielle did what she could, massaging Xena's back, her sore feet and trying to relax her wife, but she knew this was not good for her lover, travelling this distance so late in her pregnancy, Xena had already begun to experience contractions and she was afraid the travel would make the baby come early, but fortunately they made it to the castle before the baby made its appearance.
Both of them were surprised and a little unpleased to be greeted by Eli when they arrived at the castle. Xena was worried that Eli's presence would put him in danger, knowing Zeus would destroy anyone that dared to get in the way of him killing her and the baby. She looked at the man she admired more than any other, save Joxer and when he smiled at her she knew that there was no way she was going to be able to get him to change his mind about his presence at the castle.
“Xena, Gabrielle its so good to see you both again, I can't wait to meet this little one” Eli said placing his hand on Xena's stomach and smiling at the warmth he felt coming from the child's spirit. He knew how important this baby was and that's why he had come, to protect Xena and also to fulfill his destiny. He was glad he was going to be able to spend this time with them. The love these two shared was the kind of love his message was all about and he knew that he would be honoured to be able to see them bring into the world their child. Thats if my time isn't up before then, how do I help them with that, it could cause them so much pain, but it's necessary for the greater good Eli thought sadly and then looked up at Xena and saw that she'd been watching him an unreadable expression on her face.
“I'm too tired to go into why you shouldn't be here Eli, so I won't, it's good to see you friend” Xena said taking her friend into a hug, glad to see him but afraid his presence would put him in danger. She truly was too tired to even think, the only thing she could think about was a nice comfortable bed and her bard wrapped around her. She had a headache from the travelling and her back was beginning to really bother her again. The small contractions she was experiencing were not exactly painful but made her feel even more uncomfortable. She felt ugly, fat and exhausted beyond belief, her emotions coming to the surface easily and it wasn't long before she was softly crying in Eli's arms. She felt him strengthen his hold on her and this made her cry even more unable to stop the outpouring of emotions she seemed to go through daily. She felt him softly rubbing her back in circles, his soft voice trying to soothe her and she concentrated on that voice hoping it would help her relax. Finally when she felt she was in control of her emotions again she broke free of his embrace gently, silently thanking him for the comfort he'd given her.
“Are you okay my love?” Gabrielle asked worriedly, Xena's emotions were all over the place at the moment, and she could see from the look on Xena's face that they needed to get her to bed. She looked over at Hera and saw her nod towards a set of stairs and groaned silently not knowing if she would be able to get Xena up all of those stairs and to a room. Her lover was exhausted and she knew her back had to be killing her, and the thought of Xena going up all of those stairs at the moment was not something she relished.
“Hera do you have somewhere else Xena could rest, she's too tired to go up all those stairs right now” Gabrielle asked quietly knowing that if she said the last part too loudly her stubborn lover would make sure she got up those stairs no matter how tired or how much in pain she was in. She looked over at Xena with her hand resting on her lower back and knew that her lover was in a good amount of pain, before they had left the Amazons the midwife had told them the baby had moved down with its head moving down towards the birth canal. The midwife had assured them the baby could stay in that position for a few seven days and that it didn't mean the baby was going to come early but both Xena and Gabrielle had a feeling the baby might, in fact in some small way they both hoped the baby would come early so it would give Zeus less time to find them.
“Sure there's a comfortable fireplace over in a hall across from us, I can get some sleeping furs to make it more comfortable for her, sleeping on the hard ground wouldn't be very good in her stage of pregnancy” Hera said as she motioned for them to join her and led them to the hall with the fireplace. Gabrielle looked at the space and was pleased, if they could get some cushions and a few sleeping furs it would be quite comfortable. She would definitely have enough space to give Xena a massage, if she didn't fall asleep before she got a chance and they could snuggle up for a while and try and rest. She knew in a few candlemarks Xena would get hungry and wake up but she wanted her warrior princess to get a couple of candlemarks of uninterrupted sleep. She was going to lie next to her, and try and coax their daughter into sleeping with her mother so Xena would be awakened by the babies movements.
They got Xena all settled on the furs and watched as she fell asleep within moments, Gabrielle not even getting a chance to lay one hand on her. She smiled and saw Eli smile as Xena's face softened in sleep, she always looked ten seasons younger when she slept and with the soft fullness of her face from the pregnancy she looked even more beautiful.
“I'll leave you two alone for a while I want Xena to get a good rest, she's got a lot on her plate at the moment” Eli said as he gave Gabrielle a quick hug, and looked over at the woman he had once been almost in love with. He would never have admitted it to Gabrielle or Xena, but there was always something about Xena that had struck a cord with him, he'd known of their bond immediately when they'd met in India but that hadn't been able to stop the feelings he'd developed for the warrior princess. As a man of peace most people would suspect him of having feelings for Gabrielle and he did respect the little bard, but it was Xena that had truly captured his attention, her fight to stop the darkness that existed inside her intrigued him and he had so much respect for her because she had won that fight, the darkness still existed but she was in complete control of it and it would never take over her again. He looked down at her sadly wondering if she knew how he felt, knew how hard it was going to be for him to leave her, he wanted so much to be able to see her become the mother he knew she could be and see her blossom in her relationship with Gabrielle.
Gabrielle watched him go, very aware of his feelings for her love, she'd known for quite some time that Eli had been infatuated with Xena, it was one of the reasons she had been so adamant about following the way of love, and she was ashamed to admit her jealousy over Eli's love for her warrior princess had almost caused her to make the biggest mistake of her life. She knew Xena didn't return his feelings but in some way it had bothered her that a man who was supposed to live for peace had strong romantic feelings for a woman who fought on a daily basis.
She looked down at the woman she loved and the baby her love carried and knew that Eli's feelings didn't matter anymore, she had made the right choice finally and they were together bonded for ever through their love. She ran a hand over Xena's stomach and felt the baby shift at her touch, still in awe of the miracle her lover carried within her. She loved seeing Xena like this, so vulnerable, but yet so strong, even though her face had softened with sleep and there was no doubt her love was out for the count, she knew if they were in danger Xena would be awake within seconds. She continued her stroking of Xena's stomach letting her touch soothe the baby and smiled when the baby settled and she felt Xena relax even deeper into sleep.
“She asleep?” Aphrodite asked as she popped into the room making Gabrielle jump, she looked over at Xena cautiously hoping her jump hadn't awoken her and breathed a sigh of relief when it hadn't, annoyed she looked over at Aphrodite wondering what the blonde Goddess wanted.
“Aphrodite! Don't scare me like that again, you almost made me wake her” Gabrielle whispered and then untangled herself gently from Xena's hold. Almost holding her breath hoping her movements wouldn't wake her love she finally extracted herself from Xena's embrace and led Aphrodite out of the room.
“I'm sorry Gabby I wanted to come and see how she was doing, and also to let you know somethings Mum wasn't aware of” Aphrodite told Gabrielle seeing the look of irritation on Gabrielle's face soften after her explanation. She knew that Xena was very close to giving birth, knew that better than Xena and Gabrielle did, but she also knew her father was closing in and she didn't want anything to happen to any of them.
“That's okay, she's doing better, the baby has moved down so the midwife doesn't think it will be long, another couple of seven days or so and she's pretty tired the baby's been keeping her up at night with it's kicking” Gabrielle said wondering what Aphrodite had to tell her and whether she would like it, she knew that it was likely Zeus was closer than Hera knew, and she had hoped that no-one had been able to follow them when they'd travelled to Hera's castle.
“It certainly won't be long now, I can't believe how big she's gotten, going to be a good sized baby, and she looks so cute like she's hiding a ball under her clothing” Aphrodite giggled and then remembered that she was here on important and serious business too. She was glad she hadn't mentioned the “cute” part around Xena, with her hormone's she probably would have torn her head off.
“I didn't come here just to say how cute Xena was, Zeus is really close, I've been following him, he should reach the castle in a few days and I'm not sure how long it will take him to fight his way in here, I'm not sure it's a good idea you both being here, I know the baby is due really soon but if Zeus attacks while Xena's in labour we could be in big trouble” Aphrodite told Gabrielle seeing the bard's face pale at the information she'd just been given. She hoped Hera's confidence in her proxidacae was well justified because she knew for a fact how well trained her father's were. As she looked over at Gabrielle she felt the presence of a few more Gods and Goddesses enter the room and looked over in joy at seeing Athena, Atermis, Apollo and her Hephaestus entering the room.
“We've come to protect Xena, we've also sent for Hercules we know that the birth of this child may mean our death, but if that's the best thing for the mortals we care about then we will protect this child with our lives” Hephaestus said looking over at his wife and sending a silent apology to her. They had been fighting for days over her involvement with Xena and Gabrielle and her wanting to protect them, he'd almost let his fear come in between his love for his wife, when he'd finally come to his senses he'd realised she was right, the mortals they were supposed to protect deserved a God who would care for them not the selfishness of him and the other Gods and Goddesses.
“Thank you all for coming, if we are to protect Xena and the baby we will need to be willing to give our lives for them, Zeus won't care about killing any of you, even if you are his own children, his fear is too great” Eli said as he walked into the room smiling at each of the God's he wished that the way of Love would not mean these God's deaths but he also knew that in order for his God to be able to teach mankind the way of love the order of the Gods had to fall.
“We understand this Eli and we are willing to die to protect Xena and the child she carries, she is an Amazon and I will protect her with my life” Atermis said looking over at Aphrodite her sister and then at Gabrielle, she knew that this battle could mean her death, could mean the death of all the Gods in this room but she wanted her Amazon's to remember that she fought to protect them and to give them the chance to love and live freely.
“Zeus is about two to three days travel from here, unfortunately one of his seeker's was able to follow you to Hera's castle so he knows where you are, we aren't sure how easily he will get through Hera's defences but it is vital we hold him off until the baby is born, once the baby is born he can do no harm to it, the baby will be under the God of Love's protection” Eli said looking over at Gabrielle worriedly, he wasn't sure how long it would be until Xena went into labour, and he didn't want to give her anything to bring it on, fearful that it may endanger the child. He knew they would probably be able to hold off Zeus for at least a seven day maybe more but if Zeus got through the Gods as he surely would eventually and Xena hadn't given birth by then or was in labour she would be in grave danger.
“Is there anything we can do to bring on labour?” Gabrielle asked not knowing if this would be a safe option, but she knew what Eli was trying to say, the sooner the baby was born, the sooner it would be safe from Zeus and then Zeus wouldn't be able to stop the fall of the Gods. She looked over at Hera and Aphrodite knowing they would know and hoped to see some sort of idea forming in their heads.
“Gabrielle it's too dangerous to try and bring on Xena's labour early, the child needs as much time in the womb as possible to be strong and healthy, bringing on labour could harm the child and that is who we are trying to protect, the only thing we can do is wait” Hera said, knowing it was possible to bring on Xena's labour but as she knew the baby wasn't due for another three seven days it could be dangerous to try and bring on labour now. She knew in her heart of hearts that the baby would come early, and would be healthy but she couldn't be sure when the baby would come and how much time they had.
“It will be okay Gabrielle, we will protect her I promise, I will not let her or the baby die” Eli said fiercely his love for the warrior shining through his statement. He looked into her eyes and knew she understood that they would all die to protect the warrior princess and her child. He saw the tears shining in her eyes and then took her into his arms allowing her to cry for a moment. He knew she needed to get her emotions out so she could be strong for Xena, the next seven days were going to be hard for them all but especially tough on Xena as she prepared to give birth to her child.
“This is not what I imagined for her, when we found out she was pregnant, I wanted her to be able to have a trouble free birth, with no Gods after her, no stress, just her and me bringing our child into the world, I wanted to give her that and I can't, she deserves so much better than this” Gabrielle said tears still running down her face as she thought of what Xena would have to go through in the next few days. She felt an overwhelming urge to go to Xena and looked up at Eli and saw understanding in his eyes as he beckoned her to go to the woman she loved.
After Gabrielle left the room the four Gods and Eli began to work on their plans to keep Xena safe and away from Zeus. Hera had made sure all of the security she had in place was in good condition and that her proxidacae were on alert for Zeus' presence. Hephaestus went to the boiler room to begin making them some weapons that would make it harder for Zeus to defeat them and armour to protect them from Zeus' lightning bolts. Athena went to go and gather some armies to help defend the castle walls and both Aphrodite and Atermis decided to try and create some protection spells to place around the area's Xena and Gabrielle would inhabit in the castle. They wouldn't last for long against Zeus' power but they needed every advantage they could get. Eli knew what he had to do, who he would be fighting against, knew that his sacrifice would ensure the survival of his message and went off to pray to his Abba for strength for the coming days.
Gabrielle walked into the room where she'd left Xena, tears still shining in her eyes as she looked at the woman she loved. It was all happening too fast, she'd hoped they would get to enjoy Xena's last moon of pregnancy and that when Xena had gone into labour that they would be with the amazon's and it would go normally and easily for her warrior princess. She knew the stress of Zeus and the battles that were going to be fought were going to make it harder on her warrior and that the birth she had imagined for her warrior princess was not going to happen this time around.
Feeling the danger all around them she lay down with the woman she loved, hoping beyond hope that they would win this battle and that her lover would not lose another child. Sighing she wrapped herself around Xena, placing her hand on her lover's very round stomach, wishing she were strong enough to keep Xena safe from Zeus, knowing she wasn't.
“I love you my warrior princess and I am going to do my best to protect you both, I will not let you lose another child” Gabrielle whispered fiercely, as she nestled her face into her lover's hair taking in a deep breath of Xena's scent and allowed it to relax her. Within moments she was asleep all thoughts of battles and Gods going out of her mind as she relaxed completely into sleep, a feeling of contentment washing over her as she nestled into the place she belonged, in her warrior's arms.
Continued in Part 20
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