Disclaimer: All characters are property of Renaissance Pictures MCA/Universal Pictures and Xena: Warrior Pictures. I am not receiving any financial gain from the production of this story. Any characters that are not a part of the television series are my original creations as well as the storyline.
Content Warning: This story may depict intimate relationships. Some of them involving two women. If this offends you or you are under 18 please scoot. There are lots of stories on the net that do not depict any intimacy between our two favorite girls. Perhaps one of these may be more to your liking.
Violence: This is Xena we're talking about.
Comments: This is a continuation of the story Arrival of the Future. You may want to read that one first in order to fully understand this one. As always I appreciate any comments you guys have. I take all your suggestions under careful consideration, so please keep them coming. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Special Thanks: Id like to give special thanks to my friends Mildred, Claudia, Miguel, Marta and Kim for letting me borrow their personalities for the purpose of the story. Thanks guys!
A Lesson in War
Mary stepped out of the healers hut. It felt great to be outside, she felt like itd been forever since shed seen the sunshine. The Amazon village was bigger than she had expected. But she had been right about the view.
"I do love Amazon gear." She chuckled to herself thinking, "Wow, belly buttons as far as eye the can see."
After a good stretch and a well overdue bath it was time for some introductions. The trio headed off to lunch where the newcomer of the group was greeted with an assortment of stares and whispered comments. Mary almost burst out laughing when she glanced over at a group of teenage Amazons. One of them was blushing and her companions were giggling and teasing her. Gabrielle poked Mary in the ribs.
"Looks like you have an admirer." She said with a smirk.
"I know, this place is going to be fun." Answered Mary with a devilish grin.
The bard was about to comment when they arrived at their table and ware interrupted by Solari.
"Good afternoon my Queen."
The look on the bards face was classic and Mary couldnt help but giggle. Xena hit her in the side with her elbow.
"Sorry, my bad. After you my Queen." She said motioning for the bard to take a seat.
It was all Xena could do to keep from laughing. Before taking her seat Gabrielle made the introductions.
"Ephiny, Solari this is Mary."
Solari nodded to Mary and Ephiny said, "Nice to finally meet you."
"The pleasure is mine." Replied Mary keeping her eye contact with the regent.
"This is trouble" she thought to herself and sat down.
After a few moments they heard a crash come from the kitchen and Solari cringed.
Ephiny looked over at her, "I thought we agreed to keep her out of the kitchen."
"We did." Answered Solari.
"Well then "
"Ill take care of it." Replied the Amazon and excused herself.
"What was that all about?" Asked the bard.
"Weve had a few new additions to the tribe, five to be exact. They came to us from one of the Northern tribes. Youve already met Kim. Shes an excellent healer and were lucky to have her." She motioned to her right and continued.
"Claudia is one of the best warriors Ive ever seen. Her skills are very impressive. Theres also Milli and her daughter Nicki and finally Maresdy. Milli is an organizational wizard. She keeps everything squared away. But Maresdy were having a little trouble placing her. Shes a good warrior, but a little on the clumsy side. We thought shed make a good scout on account of her being small and fast."
"So whats the problem?" asked Xena.
Ephiny took a deep breath, "She likes to be helpful."
"Ah" said the bard with a giggle. "How did Solari get stuck with her?" she questioned.
Ephiny smiled, "Simple, they fell in love."
Even Xena laughed at that one.
"So what else have the scouts reported today?" asked the bard.
"They are holding their position. All my warriors are ready in case of hostilities and Milli has been organizing people, supplies, you name it."
Mary sat quietly and listened to the regent relate all the details. She knew nothing of war and battles and had no desire to learn about them now. She would do as she was told. Where ever Xena needed her thats where shed be. She took a deep breath and stood to go. All three women looked at her in question.
"Who are we fighting?" asked Mary.
"A warlord named Regilius." Answered Xena simply.
"And why are we fighting him?"
"Hm, that one is a little more complicated but he wants to wipe the Amazons off the face of the earth." Answered the bard.
Mary thought for a minute then looked at her friends and said very simply, "This is your tribe my Queen. Your fight is my fight. Just tell me where to be and what to do."
Having said that she turned to go. Ephiny followed Mary with her gaze until she had left the dining hall then turned back to her friends.
"Where did you find her?" She asked a little flustered.
"On the way to Cirrah."
"Is she always so " She was at a loss as to which word to use to describe the woman and was surprised when bard and warrior both said, "Yes" at the same time.
Mary walked out of the dining hall and took a long look around. Everyone was occupied with one task or another, probably in preparation for the impending battle. She couldnt remember a warlord named Regilius. But then again there was a new warlord on almost every week and it was hard to keep track of them all. At least with Agathon shed remembered most of the details. But on this one she was going in blind and it made her a little nervous.
"Time to find out what happens between episodes." She thought to herself.
She couldnt decide what direction to head in first but she heard something that drew her attention. The sounds of a struggle. She let her ears lead her to the source of the sound. She was relieved to find it was a young group of amazons practicing their fighting skills. She was immediately impressed with their skills. She noticed a few of the Amazons shed seen earlier in the dining hall. She could feel a devilish inner grin building and took a spot by a nearby tree. She observed as one by one her presence was made known from one Amazon to the next in a "discreet" way finally reaching the young lady whod been teased earlier that day. Unfortunately it was her turn in the practice ring and Marys presence was proving to be a distraction. They were practicing with fighting sticks, or chobos as the Amazons called them. Mary noticed, that though skilled the young girl kept leaving herself open on the left side. Consequently, her opponent never missed the opportunity to press the advantage. She stepped nearer to the practice ring and noticed that the girl was getting frustrated by the blows she kept receiving to her left. She became angry and carelessly swung causing her opponent to duck, sweep and knock her efficiently on her backside. She was so embarrassed she ran out of the practice ring in tears. Several of the other girls taunted and laughed at the girl making Mary angry. She left and went in the direction the girl had gone. A few yards into the woods she found the girl sitting by a stream with her head down, still crying. She looked up when she heard some one approach and was surprised to see Mary. She stood quickly and dried her tears.
"Are you alright?" asked Mary.
The girl was speechless. She tried to answer but the words refused to come out. Mary smiled and the young girl felt her knees go weak. It was only her Amazon stubbornness that kept her upright.
"You had some really nice moves out there." Complimented Mary.
"Yeah right! Thats why I ended up on my ass."
Mary chuckled and replied, "You ended up on your ass for two reasons. One you were distracted and two you kept leaving yourself open on the left."
"I did not!" replied the girl. "And I wasnt distracted." She concluded with a blush coming over her cheeks.
"You were on both counts. Being distracted only you can fix. The other I can help you with if you want."
The girl thought for a minute then finally bit her lower lip and gave in. Mary looked around for some suitable sticks.
"Here you go." She said, handing two sticks to the girl. "Before we start Im Mary."
"Very nice to meet you Rain."
Mary got in position and waited for Rain to do the same. She swung her chobos and waited for Rain to make a mistake. After a few swings Mary tapped her on the ribs to on her left side.
"You see, right there."
Rain bit her lip and pressed on. After a few more parries she received another tap on the ribs. The young girl was getting aggravated.
"Every time you reach you leave yourself open. If you have to reach for it its too far. Let the fight come to you, force your opponent to make the first move then counter and look for weakness. Never rush the fight. If the opening is there take it, if not wait for it. It will come, it always does."
Rain listened carefully to all Mary had to say. She wondered how some one so wise couldve gotten hurt so badly.
"Where did you learn all that?" She asked.
"Its funny cause, I never thought Id ever put any of it into practice. Its amazing how the fates work."
Rain was puzzled, "But surely you must be a great warrior."
Mary laughed heartily, "Im what you see before you. Do I know how to fight? Yes But I follow my own path. I adapt to the situation. If I have to act like a warrior in a given situation then I will."
"But its a great honor to be a warrior."
"I agree, but that isnt my way. My path lies along a different road. I take great honor in the company I keep. Being able to help my friends any way I can."
"You mean Queen Gabrielle and Xena."
Rain was thoughtful for a moment. "Ive never known them to need anyone to help them on their travels. But its clear they do care for you a great deal and you for them."
Mary had never actually thought about it before. To this point everything had progressed very naturally. She couldnt remember feeling as if she didnt belong. That was odd for her. She couldnt believe that only about a month had passed since her arrival here and meeting up with her companions. Though she missed many of the amenities afforded by the 21st century she wouldnt trade what she had now for anything in the world.
"Mary?" Asked Rain tentatively. "Are you alright?"
Mary blinked a few times, "Yeah Im fine, just went on a little trip for a second. You ready to go back there and show them how its done?"
Rain looked down and was about to say no when Mary continued. "You have the skills, just remember what I said. The first opponent you face will be over confident cause shell think she knows your style and your weakness. But youll catch her completely by surprise. Sure to be a quick match."
Rain smiled and agreed to go back.
When they arrived back at the practice ring one of the young Amazons smirked and called out, "Well look whos back! Ready to land on your ass again." She laughed and some of the other girls joined in.
"Enough Kayla!" Reprimanded the instructor.
Mary lowered her head and whispered in Rains ear. "I think you should kick her ass." Rain looked nervous. "You can do it. I know you can."
Rain nodded and faced the instructor. "Claudia." She called out.
"I challenge Kayla to a match."
Claudia frowned a bit. "Are you sure you want to do that?" she asked the girl.
"Yes." Answered Rain with confidence.
"Very well then, Kayla, Rain, into the practice ring."
Kayla scoffed, "You cant be serious! Shes no match for me I beat her every time."
Several of the girls laughed and Mary could feel her blood start to boil. She didnt notice the arrival of her companions and the regent.
Mary spoke up, "Whats the matter Kayla? Are you afraid?"
"An Amazon is never afraid!" She replied and stepped into the ring.
Mary kept a close eye on the match. Rain was being patient and waited for her opening as Kayla began to get frustrated. She kept looking for an opening but couldnt find one. Mary knew if Rain was patient enough Kayla would make a mistake. Then it happened. Kayla tried to overpower Ran with a blow and she sidestepped catching Kayla right on the behind. Mary smiled her approval as Rain looked over at her. Kayla was livid and spun around to try and catch Rain with a hard blow but missed. It was Rains turn to duck and sweep. She was successful and Kayla landed on the ground. Mary glanced over to Kaylas group of friends and noticed their tone had dramatically changed. Claudia proclaimed Rain the winner of the match to the cheers of her classmates. Mary smiled broadly, the pride apparent on her face. Rain ran over to her and gave her a strong hug.
"Thank you!" She said, still winded from the match.
"I knew you could do it." Said Mary as she mussed the girls hair.
Xena, Gabrielle and Ephiny all looked on with puzzled smiles and were about to join Mary when some one called out.
"Whats going on here?"
Everyone turned in the direction of the voice. The source was a tall Amazon with dark brown hair and dark eyes. She had an arrogant air about her and from the sudden silence and the path being cleared Mary took an instant dislike to her. Kayla finished dusting herself off and walked over to her.
"What happened Kayla?" She asked.
"Rain challenged me to a match."
"And you lost?" she said sternly. "To her of all people? How could you let her beat you? Shes nothing! Shes a disgrace! Her and her sister! She must have cheated thats the only way she could beat you. Is that what you teach our young Claudia?"
"It wasnt her Maya. It was her." Said Kayla pointing at Mary. "Rain lost a match before and went off crying like usual. The she went after her and when they got back thats when Rain challenged me."
Maya looked Mary over with obvious contempt. "Is that so? Youre not an Amazon. What right do you have to go around instructing our young warriors? Even if it is the likes of her."
Mary resented the Amazons tone and stepped towards Maya. "Kayla is nothing but a bully and I can clearly see where she gets it from. The truth is Rain swept the floor with Kayla fair and square, everyone here can attest to it."
"Is that so? Obviously you have something against my sister and I take issue with that. I wont let anyone make her look foolish."
"She doesnt need anyones help for that. She does a great job of it on her own and so do you."
Maya closed the distance between them even more. "Would you care to back up your foolish words? I issue a challenge!"
Everyone turned to see the Regent, Queen and Champion approaching. All except Mary bowed in the presence of the Queen and her two companions.
"What is the meaning of this Maya?" Asked Ephiny.
"Forgive my outburst, but this outsider gave insult to myself and my sister. I issued a challenge to preserve our honor."
"Thats not what it looked like to me." Said Gabrielle. "And have you forgotten that under Amazon law only the Queen can sanction a challenge between an Amazon and one not of the tribe?"
"Forgive me my Queen. It would give me great pleasure to have the opportunity to show this outsider the skills a seasoned Amazon warrior."
Gabrielle looked over at Mary. She hadnt taken her eyes off Maya. She had seen all that had transpired and thought the woman could definitely use a lesson in manners.
"If the outsider accepts, I sanction the challenge."
Ephiny was dumbfounded, "My Queen, a moment if you please."
She led Gabrielle away from the group. "Are you insane!? You cant sanction the challenge. Maya is one of our best warriors, Mary wouldnt stand a chance."
Gabrielle smiled, "Maya needs to be taught a lesson. Just because shes one of the best doesnt give her the right to act that way. She needs to learn some humility."
"It wont be much of a lesson if Mary gets herself killed."
"Its not a fight to the death Eph."
"No but with Maya accidents have been known to happen."
"She can handle it Eph trust me."
The Regent let out a long breath and led the way back to the practice ring. "The Queen has spoken. Does the challenger accept the challenge?"
Mary gave a wide smile, "With pleasure."
"As the one challenged, yours is the right to choose the weapon."
Mary walked over to the weapons table and chose the chobos. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She turned to find her companions standing before her.
"You any good with those?" asked the warrior.
"Were about to find out." She answered.
"Be careful." Offered the bard and kissed her on the cheek. "Good luck." She continued.
"Dont make me have to jump in there and rescue you." Said the warrior jokingly.
"What? And ruin my reputation? No way."
Xena smiled and led the Queen to the sidelines. Claudia moved to stand near Maya and said, "It seems she has the Queens favor, not to mention that of her champion as well. You may have picked a fight with the wrong outsider."
"What do you mean?"
"Oh, didnt you know? This outsider, as you call her, is a personal friend the Queen and Xena. It seems theyve been traveling together for some time now."
She patted Maya on the shoulder and stepped to the center of the practice ring. "A challenge has been issued and accepted. I point out at this time that this is not a fight to the death. The woman who exhibits the greater skill will be declared the winner. Are both women ready?" Both women nodded. "Begin!"
Maya circled Mary like a predator stalking her prey. Mary waited cautiously as she watched her opponent. She wasnt exactly in her comfort zone. Chobos were not her area of expertise. Not that her knowledge was limited but she had never used them in a sparring type of situation before. She knew the mechanical but not the practical. She hoped her "gifts" from the Gods would make up for the experience she lacked. Maya attacked with a set pf blows designed to test her opponent. Mary blocked them cleanly and with out much effort but she didnt return any of the blows. Xena furrowed her brow as she watched this occur twice more. She wondered what she was waiting for to attack.
The bard looked up at her warrior, "Xena"
"Sshh, giver her a chance."
On the next attack Maya barely had a chance to move. She raised her arm to strike and was caught in the ribs by a sharp blow from Mary followed by one to her back. Rain and a few of the other younger Amazons cheered. Mary twisted her head from left to right and heard that crack she loved so much and smiled at Maya.
Xena leaned down to her Queen and whispered, "Its over, shes got her now."
They looked on as Maya went for another attack and ended up on the receiving end instead. The more it happened the angrier Maya became. The angrier she got, the more careless she became. It was a vicious cycle. Finally Maya feigned an attack and caught Mary as she came to counter straight across the jaw. Mary had kept all her blows limited to the body but the sting in her jaw changed the dynamics of the game. Mary stood toe to toe with Maya in the center of the ring. No one landed until Mary made a careless mistake. She hesitated and it gave Maya the advantage. She received two quick shots to the ribs and one to the head that knocked her to the ground. She tried to sit up but everything was a little fuzzy.
Claudia approached her, "Can you go on?"
She shook her head to clear it and indicated she was alright. She stood up, looked at the chobos in her hands and threw them to the ground.
"Do you give up?" asked Claudia.
"Hell no! Just getting comfortable."
She lifted her t-shirt over her head and tossed it aside. Leaving the chobos on the ground she assumed her fighting stance.
Maya laughed, "You cant be serious."
Mary smiled, "Come on, lets go, I have people waiting."
Maya moved in to attack and was caught by a sidekick to the stomach followed by a spinning kick to the face that sent her stumbling backwards.
Mary lost her smile, "Come on!"
Maya rushed forward again. She sidestepped a kick from Mary and attempted to counter but Mary blocked the blow and gave her a hard backhand to the face that sent her to the ground with a split lip. She spat out the blood and got up, furious. She charged and was stopped by a front kick to the stomach and punch to the jaw that sent her once again to the ground. Claudia stepped in to end the match. Maya was spent. All the on lookers knew it. Claudia raised Marys hand in victory to the cheers of the crowd.
Rain rushed over to Mary, "That was great!"
"Thanks I think I need some chobo practice though."
They laughed as Xena and Gabrielle made their way over to their friend.
"Nice moves." Complimented the warrior.
"Yeah right!" scoffed Mary. "Your highness, Id like to sign up for some chobo drills."
Gabrielle laughed, "Ill see what I can do."
They walked away from the practice area with Rain in tow.
Mary looked at Rain, "Hey, dont you have to finish your lessons?"
"Yeah, I guess I do."
"Ill be around later. Go on get going before you get in trouble."
Rain ran off to join her classmates leaving Mary with her companions and Ephiny.
"Do I even wanna know how that got started?" asked the bard.
Mary pulled her shirt on and told them what happened. "I just couldnt let them do that to her. It was mean and completely unnecessary."
"Dont you think you were taking it all a little too personally?" asked Xena.
"Probably When I was kid I used to get teased all the time. I still remember how it made me feel. I hate to see kids being cruel to another kid."
Gabrielle could see the pain of the memory in Marys eyes.
Ephiny looked on and thought to herself, "all that and sensitive too." She was shaken from her thoughts by Mary.
"So, whats the story with Rain? Shes a great kid. A little insecure maybe but a great kid none the less."
Ephiny took a deep breath, "Rain is a special case."
"Why?" asked the bard.
"Her mother died a several years ago. She has no other family, so we all sort of look out for her."
"But Maya mentioned a sister," said Mary
"Yes, and thats even more complicated. Her sister was banished four years ago."
"Banished, but why?" asked the bard.
"It was almost a summer before you first came to us. Wed sent out a hunting party consisting of Maya, Tereis, another of our sisters, Belkis and Rains sister. There was some sort of accident and Belkis was killed. Tereis was injured and didnt see what happened. Maya claimed Rains sister was to blame. Rains sister claimed that when she returned to camp the accident had already occurred. She carried Tereis all the way back to the village, probably saved her life. Help wouldnt have arrived in time."
"So why was she banished? Sounds like she did the heroic thing." Stated Mary.
"I never believed she should have been banished. But Maya wouldnt let it go. Sometimes things happen, its always sad to lose one of your numbers but its a fact weve all learned to accept. Maya just kept taunting and pushing until finally a challenge was issued. Maya won the challenge and Rains sister was so humiliated that she left."
"Leaving and being banished are two different things." Said the warrior.
"True, but Mayas mother had the ear of the Queen at the time. She convinced Queen Melosa to make an example of her. So other young Amazons wouldnt get the idea of running away into their heads. They claimed that for the good of the nation, to preserve its strength, that Lilith be banished and never allowed to return."
"Lilith?" asked Mary.
"Yes, Rains sister. Its a shame, we grew up together. We were good friends." remarked the regent sadly.
"Um by any chance, would she be about this tall, with your color eyes and an incredible figure?" Asked Mary.
The regent stopped and regarded Mary for a moment, "Why do you ask?"
Bard and warrior looked at one another sensing something from the regent. Gabrielle spoke up. "We may have seen her."
The regents eyes lit up and Mary understood. "Where?" asked Ephiny.
"In Cirrah." Answered the Bard. "She works at the inn." She concluded.
"Thank Artemis shes safe. Ive often wondered if she was doing well or if shed found a place to call home. Does she, I mean, is she happy?" Asked the regent with a hint of sadness.
All three were at a loss for words when they were interrupted by Solari.
"What is it?" asked Xena.
"Regilius is mobilizing his army. Our scouts report they are in formation and ready to move out."
Ephiny went into action, "Send a message to Kaliepus, he needs to be ready."
Solari ran off to carry out the Regents orders.
"We have to get the children to the caves." Said Gabrielle.
"Milli will have taken care of that and Kim should be ready in case of wounded." Replied the regent.
"We need all available archers to the trees. Well attack from above and defend from below. Well try and use the Centaurs to flank them on both sides. With any luck we can end this quickly." Said the warrior.
She thought for a moment then continued. "Ephiny organize the ground troops, Im going to head out with the archers. "Gabrielle make sure everyone is squared away here. Secure the village. Mary, if they get passed us and it looks like the village cant be saved, make sure you get everyone else out of here."
Mary nodded and watched as the warrior approached her Queen. "Be careful." Said the Bard softly.
Xena smiled, "Hey you know me."
"I know, thats what worries me."
Xena bent and kissed Gabrielle softly. "I love you." She said as blue eyes met green.
"I love you too Xena."
Then the warrior turned her attention to Mary. They embraced strongly and Mary whispered in the warriors ear. "Dont worry Ill protect her with my life."
"I know you will." Replied the warrior. "Lets go!" With that they were off.
Mary was at a loss as to what she should do so she stuck close to the bard. When they reached the center of the village the bard turned to Mary.
"Go to the healers hut and make sure everything is ready. Ill go make sure Eponin has her warriors in place to defend the village if necessary."
Mary nodded and took off. When she arrived at the healers hut she was met with a lot of activity.
"Line up those pallets over there, then bring those around here. We have to clear the central area to ensure easy access."
Mary stood in awe of the organizational skills of this woman. In no more than ten minutes she had the healers hut set up like a working hospital of sorts.
"This must be Milli." She thought to herself.
She approached the woman, "Excuse me."
"Yes." Said Milli still concentrating on her task.
"Queen Gabrielle sent me to make sure all was secure over here."
Milli looked Mary over. "So youre the mystery guest. Nice to meet you finally. Tell the Queen everything is under control. Ive had supplies gather in the center of the village and we have emergency supplies stored in the caves. All the children and older Amazons are already at the caves and are being guarded. Im almost done here if the Queen requires my presence."
"No, no I dont think that will be necessary. Youve obviously got everything under control." Mary looked around quickly. "Um, by any chance have you seen "
She was silenced by Milli tossing something at her. "My pack! Thanks."
"No problem." Answered Milli and Mary took her leave.
She looked around and saw no sign of Gabrielle but she did Ephiny in the distance arranging her Amazons. She decided to head in that direction.
"Anything I can do?" She asked the regent.
"No were ok here. Ready to head out as a matter of fact."
"Good luck." She said and they headed out.
Mary found her wrist guards and nun-chucks in her bag. She geared up and set out in search of the Queen. She found her over on the other side of the village getting a report from Eponin. For now, all looked to be secure. They waited for reports to come in from the scouts. Mary quickly realized that the waiting was the hard part. She had her hands in her back pockets and was pacing.
Gabrielle watched her and finally said, "You know, that drives me crazy when Xena does it and its no less annoying when you do it."
Mary stopped, looked at the bard and chuckled. "Come here and sit down." Mary complied.
"This is a first for you." Stated the Queen simply. Mary just nodded. "Are you afraid?"
Mary thought about it for a moment, "Yes but not for myself. Things like this make no sense to me. Why are we fighting this Regilius guy anyway?"
"He has a personal reason for wanting this fight." Began the bard. "Hes a warlord yes, but he likes to keep his hand in everything and hes used to getting his way. The Amazons have great hunting grounds; they also command high prices at slave auctions. Combine that with this being a great tactical location and youve got yourself the makings of a big payday."
Mary thought for a minute, "Ok true, but all that sounds like business, not personal. You said he had a personal reason."
"Kim? The healer?"
"Yes, he wants her. But she obviously doesnt want him. Some of his me came down with a fever a few moons ago. Kim was down by the river when she found one of them unconscious. She helped him and when he was sufficiently recovered he asked her if she could help the others that were sick. Regilius apparently took a fancy to her. When his charm didnt work he threatened to attack the amazons. Those who survive will be sold as slaves."
Mary took in all the bard said. "So we all have to risk our lives because of some horny warlord. Jesus Christ! Well, Ill do my part but I have to tell you Gabrielle I dont really agree with it."
"I know neither do I, but we have to protect the village and preserve the Amazon nation. As queen I have to make sure I do my duty. Its my obligation."
Mary considered this. She knew they couldnt allow some one like this warlord kill innocent people. They had to do what was right despite their personal feelings.
"The greater good." she said softly.
Gabrielle looked over at Mary. "What did you say?" she asked a little in disbelief.
Mary was about to answer when a scout came running towards them. It was Maresdy.
"My Queen!" She yelled as she stopped breathless.
"What is it?!" asked Gabrielle the urgency apparent on her voice.
"The Centaurs, theyre under attack by Regilius men."
"What? But how could they "
Mary knew the situation was bad. Xena was counting on their support.
"Eponin!" She yelled.
"Weve got trouble." Said the queen. "The Centaur village is under attack."
"Sweet Artemis." She exclaimed.
Marys mind was racing and she could tell the bards was too. "How many troops is Xena expected to come up against?" asked Mary.
"At least 200 answered the weapons master.
Mary knew that there were barely 100 Amazons and not all of them were with Xena. She turned to Maresdy. "Are you sure theyre Regilius men?"
"Positive, theyre being led by Duranus."
"Whos that?" asked Mary.
"Regilius Lieutenant." Answered Eponin.
"How could they I mean, why would they attack the centaurs?" asked the bard.
"They knew." Said Mary.
"How could they have known?" asked Eponin.
"Thats the only thing that makes sense. They knew somehow. If they defeat the centaurs theres nothing to stop them from taking the village and Xena will be caught with men in front and the rear."
"Your majesty, what do we do?" Asked Eponin.
Gabrielle paced while she considered the options. Suddenly she turned, "Eponin, send word to Xena and Ephiny about the situation. I want every available Amazon to report here. Ephiny and Xena can hold them off for a while; the rest of us will go help the centaurs. If we can beat Duranus men "
"That would leave the village unprotected." Interjected Eponin.
"What choice do we have? If we do nothing or retreat the village will fall and our sisters will be killed or sold to some slave trader. I wont see that happen. Now do as I say!" Eponin and Maresdy left to carry out the Queens orders.
"Ill be back." Said Mary and headed in the direction of the healers hut.
"Milli!" she called out. "Where is the weapons hold?"
She looked at Mary in surprise and skepticism.
"All available Amazons are to report to the Queen. The Centaur village is under attack and were going to go help them."
Milli could easily see the urgency with which Mary was speaking. She motioned to the three Amazons with her and all headed for the weapons hold. With the greatest efficiency Milli had the weapons removed and sent to the reporting area. Many of the Amazons were already assembled and weapons distribution began immediately. Mary watched as twenty Amazons stood in formation and waited for orders. Among them were Maresdy, Claudia, Kim, Milli and Eponin. Mary walked over and picked up a bow and quiver of arrows.
"And here I thought the archery lessons were only good for gym credit." She thought to herself.
She secured the quiver and slung the bow on her shoulder.
"Is this everyone?" asked the Queen.
"Yes." Replied Eponin.
"Everyone knows why they are here!"
"Yes my Queen!" they all replied in unison.
"For the preservation of our people and our nation!" Mary felt goose bumps break out on her arms as she heard them cheer. "Lets move out!"
Their pace was fast and they were within reach of the Centaur village within half an hour by Marys standards. The scouts reported skirmishes but the village itself was intact. Mary and Gabrielle went ahead with Eponin and Claudia to judge and formulate a plan. Even with the Amazons and Centaurs combined they were still out numbered. The village wasnt completely surrounded but they were flanked on both sides and faced considerable numbers in front. They were at the rear and had not yet been detected.
"Eponin," began Gabrielle, "Can we place archers in the trees on either side? We could draw them away so the Centaurs could concentrate on the soldiers in front. Theyll be surprised and confused. That could be the advantage we need."
"Once they disperse the rest can move in. The front numbers will thin because theyll be trying to protect their positions on the left and right of the village." Said Claudia.
"Well need about half a dozen archers on each side." Added Eponin.
"Alright Eponin get the archers in place. Claudia, split our remaining forces into 2 groups. Eponin, you take the right and Claudia the left. Go on my signal."
The orders were carried out quickly and efficiently. Gabrielle gave the signal and the archers let their arrows fly. Once the first volley of arrows was away she gave the signal for the rest to advance. They headed towards the unsuspecting and very confused soldiers. The Centaurs used the opportunity to launch an attack of their own. Mary fought using her nun-chucks throwing many of her foes into unconsciousness. The bard did the same with her staff. They rallied forward pushing the enemy back. More than once Mary was saved by an archers arrow. As she dispatched a foe she saw a soldier headed for Eponin. She was engaged with a soldier and didnt see him coming from behind. Mary grabbed her bow and cocked an arrow, letting it fly it caught the soldier in the leg causing him to fall to the ground howling in pain.
As they continued to press forward Gabrielle caught sight of three Amazons trying to take down a foe. He was tall, dark and deadly. His skill was admirable and he was holding his own against the three he was facing. When one of the Amazons fell to his blade Gabrielle ran over to join the melee. She knew this must be Duranus. Mary tried to reach the Queen but was engaged by two soldiers. For a moment the thought shed met her match, but the each made a costly mistake that allowed her to send them into the arms of Morpheus. As she began to run towards Gabrielle she saw another Amazon fall to Duranus skill, leaving Gabrielle and Claudia to face him.
"Run my Queen!" yelled Claudia trying to protect her sovereign.
Mary tried in vain but couldnt get a clear shot with her bow. Claudia was attacked from behind and her attention was focused away from Duranus, leaving Gabrielle to fight him alone. Mary ran but Duranus came down hard with a blow that broke the Queens staff in two. Mary stopped, pulled her bow, and let the arrow fly in time to hit Duranus in the arm as he about to strike Gabrielle. He yelled in pain and dropped his sword. He recovered quickly and reached for the Queen when suddenly he froze. His eyes opening wide and an expression of disbelief on his face. He fell to his knees showing Maresdy standing behind him with blood on her sword. A wave of relief washed over Mary. With Duranus dead what was left of his troops retreated to the woods.
The Amazons regrouped and Gabrielle sought out Kaliepus.
"We came as soon as we got word." Began the bard.
"Its a good thing you did. The way they had us flanked we were in trouble."
He looked over at Mary who was standing next to the bard.
"This is Mary, shes a friend."
He nodded his acknowledgement to Mary and she did the same. "Good we can use all the friends we can get right now."
"We need to get to Xena." Added Gabrielle.
"Hop on your highness well need everyone who can still fight."
Gabrielle took his arm and mounted.
"Come on!" she yelled and everyone else followed suite.
They rode hard and fast. When they arrived they found the battle in full swing. They rode right into the middle of the battle. Regilius men were stunned by the arrival of the Centaurs. Not to mention almost twenty additional irate Amazons. They split up and ran to where they would be the most use. Gabrielle saw Xena right in the heart of Regilius men. She ran to join her soul mate in the thick of the fighting. Mary was about to head in the same direction when she caught sight of two Amazons struggling with five opponents. She drew her bow and began her assault. Every arrow hit its mark. She dropped ten soldiers. All were wounded in strategic locations effectively taking them out of the battle. Somehow shed managed to avoid killing any of them. She reached for another but found her quiver empty. She ran into the middle of about ten soldiers and realized very quickly that she was in trouble. As they moved in to attack three fell from the arrows of unseen Amazons. Then Eponin and Claudia were at Marys side with swords drawn. The three women took on the remaining seven men.
All Mary could hear were shouts and screams of agony all around her. She had no idea who was winning. Her goal was to reach Xena and Gabrielle. Anyone who got in her way went down. She had no idea how many shed faced so far. The three women pressed on in the quest to reach their friends. Mary looked around and caught sight of her companions. They were surrounded. They were fighting furiously but were in serious trouble. All three women ran in their direction. Mary ran across a fallen Amazon and took what was left of her arrows. Eponin and Claudia began to literally cut a path through the soldiers to reach Xena and Gabrielle. Mary tried to help their advance by wounding as many as she could with her arrows. She had one arrow left and saw Xena fighting three of the soldiers. Gabrielle was on the ground and Xena was trying desperately to protect her. One of the soldiers was making his way to Gabrielle. The only clear shot Mary had would kill the man. She struggled with herself for a moment but it was too late.
He stood over Gabrielles body and called out. "Hold!"
All the men in the vicinity stopped fighting. Xena turned to see the man standing over her soul mate with his sword poised to strike.
"Drop your sword or she dies!"
Eponin and Claudia held their breath. Xena looked from her soul mate to the man.
"If she dies, you die." She said and she threw down her sword.
He looked over at Claudia and Eponin. "Tell your regent we have your Queen and the Warrior Princess. Unless I have your complete surrender they will die!"
Claudia stopped Eponin from advancing. This wasnt open for discussion; he retreated with his prisoners in tow. Mary ran towards them. Claudia grabbed Mary but couldnt hold her. Eponin tackled Mary to the ground and Claudia helped pin her down.
"He will kill them and you too if you go in there!" yelled Claudia.
Mary struggled against their hold and almost made it to her feet when Milli joined them. She helped them restrain Mary long enough for Claudia to calm her down.
"What good will you be to them if youre dead? Think! This isnt what they would want!"
Marys reason began to take over and she began to calm down. The women released their hold on her.
"Lets go we have to tell Ephiny what happened." Said Eponin.
The four women took off running towards the tree line.
Once there, they regrouped. Mary was breathing hard and was very close to having and anxiety attack. She stood up straight and concentrated on taking deep breaths. She began to calm herself down and was able to focus on the situation. Many of the Amazons were injured and there were bodies still out on the field that need to be recovered. She sat on a rock with her elbows on her knees. Her leg was shaking up and down, a sure sign that she was very upset. She kept silent and listened. Ephiny sent out a few Amazons to recover the bodies of their sisters. Kim was tending the wounded and Milli tried to keep order as best she could.
"What are we going to do?" Asked Solari.
"I dont know." Answered the regent.
"We gave them more than a bloody nose, thats for sure." Said Eponin.
Kaliepus joined the group. "We could attack. They wont be expecting it." He said.
"No, we cant risk it. Gabrielle and Xenas lives are at stake." Replied Ephiny.
Then everyone turned in the direction of a voice behind Ephiny. It was Maya.
"We should retreat."
"Retreat?" said Solari shocked.
"And abandon the Queen?" Asked Eponin.
"Thats not an option." Said Ephiny in a definite tone. "Gabrielle is my Queen and my friend; I wont abandon her or Xena. Theyve risked their lives for us on many occasions. No, we wont abandon them."
"But shes not even of Amazon blood." Protested Maya.
"She is Artemis chosen. She would surely abandon us if we leave the Queen to her death at the hands of Regilius." Stated Eponin.
Mary had kept her glance on the forest floor but raised her head to look at Maya. "Regilius knew we had joined forces with the Centaurs." Said Mary angrily.
"How could they know that?" asked Ephiny.
"Some one told them." She answered.
Ephiny was angry at the insinuation. "Are you accusing an Amazon of betraying the tribe?" she asked angrily approaching Mary.
"No, Im not making any accusations. Im stating it as a fact."
Solari was angered and went for Mary. She was stopped by Kaliepus.
"Wait! Before you do something rash, let her speak." He requested.
Maya stepped forward. "Why should any of us listen to what she has to say? Shes not an Amazon. Neither are Xena and Gabrielle for that matter. Why are we sitting here considering suicide when we should retreat? Some of us have family in the caves. What will become of them if we all die? And for what?"
Some actually listened to Maya and Mary heard some whispers from the other Amazons. Mary went for Maya, grabbing hold of her throat and they were quickly pulled apart.
"How much did he pay you?!" Mary yelled. "What did he promise you?!" She continued.
"What are you talking about?" demanded Ephiny. Mary shook off the Amazons holding her. She extended her hand to Ephiny. She took what Mary was offering. It was Mayas necklace. It was a simple leather tie with a bronze charm of unique design.
"What does that prove? Its my necklace, so what?!" yelled Maya.
Mary put her hand in her pocket and took something out.
"Your right, your necklace doesnt prove anything. But maybe you can tell us why it matches Duranus ring."
She opened her hand and there lay a ring. It had a gold band and bore the same design as Mayas necklace. Ephiny took it.
"Where did you get this?" she asked. "I took it off him after he was killed. There was something about it that kept bothering me. It wasnt until I saw Maya just now that it hit me." Mary explained.
Maya tried to run but was stopped by two Centaurs who quickly brought her back.
"How could you betray us like that? I should kill you right now but youll stand trial for this Maya I promise you."
Ephinys words were slow and precise and one could see the fear in Mayas eyes. Ephiny walked off and Mary took the opportunity to approach Maya.
"Youd better pray that nothing happens to Xena or Gabrielle because I swear to you on everything I hold sacred that I will kill you."
Maya smiled, "By Amazon law I have to stand trial."
Mary got even closer to Maya, "Yes but as you so astutely pointed out, Im not an Amazon. Make no mistake Maya, if they die, you die."
Mary raised her hand to Mayas forehead and pushed her head back in a badass type of way only Mary could pull off.
She walked off and waited patiently as the discussion ensued as to what the best course of action would be. Every plan she heard would only serve to get many of them killed. Mary looked at her hands. They were badly swollen and the knuckles were raw. She could barely make a fist and was exhausted. How could she hope to save her friends if she could barely walk straight?
"If I had just taken the shot Eponin and Claudia would have had time to clear a path."
The guilt was unbearable. She was disturbed from her thoughts by Maresdy, Claudia and Eponin. She looked up curiously.
"I found Xenas sword in the field." Said Maresdy. "I dont know why they didnt just take it." She continued.
"If Id captured Xena, I wouldnt want her anywhere near her sword." Said Eponin.
Mary smiled thinking how true a statement that really was. She extended her hand and Maresdy handed her the sword. She forced her hand to wrap around the hilt. It was heavier than she thought it would be. She stared at it and knew what she had to do.
"We have to get them out of there. They wont kill them. An Amazon Queen would bring a hefty price at a slave auction. And Xena is worth a fortune dead or alive to a lot of people. If we face them head on, we will die." Said Mary grimly.
"We held our own last time." Said Eponin defensively.
"Yes but we surprised them. They werent expecting the Centaurs to show up. They were overconfident. Thats how we escaped with our lives." Stated Claudia.
They all knew she was right. Mary needed time to think and turned to the trio.
"Ill be back." She said and turned to go.
She found a small clearing in the woods and knelt down. She laid Xenas sword in front of her and tried to clear her mind.
In Regilius camp preparations were being made. Hed learned of Duranus death and cursed the day hed ever laid eyes on an Amazon. He wanted to annihilate them all. He no longer cared if they would fetch a good price at auction. He wanted them all dead. He did have the Amazon Queen and the Warrior Princess. They would also die, but not before he had some fun. He would take great pleasure in hearing their screams before they died. He walked into his tent and saw his captives safely secured, chained to the support beams. They were unconscious and he ordered two of his men to wake them. They threw buckets of water at the women and they awoke. Xena struggled to free herself but she was chained tightly to the beam making it difficult for her to get any type of leverage.
"Dont waste your energy, youre not going anywhere." Said Regilius.
He walked over to Gabrielle and regarded her for a moment.
"You are beautiful. Its a shame youll be dead soon."
He placed a hand on her cheek and she shook it off. He drew back his hand and slapped her hard.
"Aaarrrr!" yelled Xena as she struggled against her chains.
"I wonder what would hurt more." He said to Xena. "You watching her be tortured or her watching you."
He slapped Xena hard across the face with the back of his hand.
"Xena!" yelled Gabrielle.
Regilius smiled, "Oh, this is going to be fun." A sadistical smile crossing his face.
Mary struggled with herself. She knew she had to go in to save her friends. Even if it meant dying, she couldnt stand by and do nothing. Neither could she let the Amazons go to their deaths at the hands of Regilius men. "If I had just taken the shot." She looked up at the sky. It was filled with stars.
"I dont remember when was the last time I prayed. But please give me the strength to do what I need to do. The world needs them. They have too much to do still. Dont let all the good theyre capable of end here. Ive never done anything in my life worthy of praise or recognition, but please, even if it means my life "
Tears ran down her face and she lowered her head.
"ARES!!" she shouted into the night.
There was a flash of lightning and she was thrown. She stood quickly and looked around. There was no one around but she felt different. Her energy had returned. She looked at her hands and realized the pain and swelling were gone. She ran over to Xenas sword and grabbed it. She looked around cautiously.
"I wonder what price Im gonna pay for this little favor."
Suddenly she was frozen by a scream that pierced the silence of the night. She took off running full speed towards camp. She ran to Ephiny who was busy organizing Amazons.
"What are you doing?" asked Mary.
"Didnt you hear that?! We have to go in there."
"No, thats what he wants. Hes expecting that. Youll be leading them all to their deaths." Said Mary emphatically.
"We have to do something!" shouted the regent.
"Let me go in! Ill get them out!"
The regent regarded Mary; she was about to speak when Mary interrupted her.
"Ill get them out Ephiny. I swear on my life, I will get them out."
"Go! But if youre not back by sunrise Im going in."
"Deal." Said Mary and the regent walked off.
She looked down at Xenas sword and regarded the blood on it. She stuck it in her belt and headed towards the trees. She hadnt gotten far when she was stopped by Claudia, Maresdy and Eponin.
"Where ya goin?" asked Eponin.
"To get my friends." Answered Mary.
"Want some company?" Asked Maresdy.
"Wait." Said Claudia. "Your courage is admirable but youre going to need help."
She continued. Mary was quiet for a moment then agreed.
"Ok, come on, lets go."
"Why do men seldom look up?" Mary wondered to herself. It was one of the reasons Amazons developed such extraordinary tree skills. They could easily catch some one off guard with those skills. "Not many climbable trees in New York City." She reflected silently. There were lots of trees in Central Park but none were really good for climbing. Her skills were honed on the many rock formations that littered the park. Give her a rock formation and she could climb the hell out of it. Give her a clump of trees and all she could do was look up and wonder how high it was. Which was precisely what she was doing now. Her companions had disappeared up into the trees and their fearless leader was stuck on the ground. She eyed one of the branches and wondered if she would be able to jump high enough to reach it. It wasnt that high but the high jump had never been her event. She stood under it and jumped. To her surprise she reached it easily. She was further surprised by the fact that she pulled herself up rather effortlessly. "Rock on." She thought to herself. She looked up and chose her path. Within a few minutes she had reached her companions. The height gave them a great view of Regilius camp. They didnt look like they were waiting for an answer from the Amazons. They all took note of the heavily guarded tent.
"Maresdy," began Mary "Do you think you can scout around a bit? Find out what theyre up to."
Maresdy smiled, "You got it."
She was about to descend when Mary stopped her.
"Hey, be careful."
"I will," replied the small Amazon.
The rest of the group kept to their perch as they waited for Maresdy to return. Mary looked up at the sky then at Eponin.
"Dont worry we have plenty of time before sunrise."
Hearing that eased Marys nerves a bit.
When Maresdy returned she had much to report.
"Ok, heres the situation. Frist, Regilius is gearing up for an attack."
"Ephiny is attacking?" asked Mary.
"No, hes doing the attacking. According to what I could find out he just wants us all dead. Hes not taking any prisoners, and that includes Xena and Queen Gabrielle."
"Gods, what the hell are we gonna do? We have to get them out of there." Said Mary.
Claudia stood to look out over the camp.
"What if he attacks and theres no one there?" she asked of her companions.
Mary looked at her puzzled.
"What if we split our forces? Place plenty of archers in the trees and split the ground forces to attack his flanks. If we move everyone out theyll be walking onto nothing. Hell think hes moving in for the kill but instead hell get a nice surprise."
Mary looked at Eponin and Maresdy. "I like it." She said.
"But we still have to get Xena and Gabrielle out of there."
"I have an idea." Said Maresdy and she scrambled down the tree.
After a few minute it became clear what she was doing. Gods forbid any army should travel without alcoholic beverages. After giving it careful consideration Maresdy decided that port would work better than wine to produce the effect she wanted. She placed the bait in strategic locations then returned to her friends.
"Now lets see if they take the bait." She whispered.
Men could be so predictable sometimes. They discovered the port and true to form none of them questioned where it came from.
"See, give them a bit before they start looking for a bush to relieve themselves. The three of you should have no problem. Two guards a piece, that great odds."
She began to descend the tree when Mary stopped her.
"Hey, where are you going?"
"To tell Ephiny whats going on and relate Claudias plan. Milli should be able to get everyone up and in position in time. Just make sure to get the Queen and her champion to safety."
Then she disappeared.
"Lets get into position." Said Eponin.
They took positions aligned with the back and sides of the tent. Marys position was at the back of the tent. The tent was well lit and from where she sat she saw the silhouettes of those inside. She could also hear Regilius taunting his captives.
"Wake up!" He shouted to the bard.
He grabbed her chin to force her face up.
"How does it feel to know your people will soon be wiped off the face of the earth? Your Amazons will soon be nothing but a memory!"
The bard had a split lip and a nasty bruise on her cheek. He ribs were painfully bruised and yet she still fared better than her warrior. Xena also had a split lip but she also had a bad cut over her left eye and her right eye was almost swollen shut. Her wrists were almost raw from struggling against the chains. Add to that cracked ribs and youve got one mess of a warrior on your hands. Seeing one another be hurt and not be able to help was killing both of them and Regilius knew it. He was taking great pleasure in inflicting emotional, psychological and physical pain on these two women. He paused for a moment trying to think what form of punishment he should use next.
From her hiding place Mary could hear the moans of her friends and her sense of urgency sky-rocketed. Finally her patience was rewarded when one of the guards went looking for a bush to relieve himself. She waited until he positioned himself then came up behind him and put him in a choke hold. After a couple of minutes he went limp. Mary quickly and quietly tucked him safely out of the way. She hoped it wouldnt take too long for his partner to wonder what happened to him. Sure enough, after a few minutes he came in search of his friend. Once again she found the patience to wait until he was in position before sending him into the arms of Morpheus to join his friend.
Now that the back of the tent was clear she went for it. It wasnt long before she was joined by Eponin and Claudia.
"Alright." Thought Mary. "Now that were here, what do we do?"
She thought for a minute then pulled her dagger out of her boot. She hoped it was sharp enough to cut through the tent without making noise. Xena had sharpened the blade herself and it was razor sharp. She touched the tip to the tent and thats all it needed. She cut a small slit in the tent just big enough for her to see inside. She saw Xena and Gabrielle, they were unconscious. There were two guards in the tent but she could see no one else. How would they be able to get in without causing a commotion and getting themselves killed? She looked over at Claudia and caught sight of her bow, then looked at Eponin and saw that she also had her bow. She looked through the opening again and stood. She cut two slits at about shoulder height into the tent. She motioned for the women to look inside. After doing so they looked at Mary no sure what the plan was. She motioned for them to use their arrows to take out the guards. They nodded in agreement. They readied themselves and in perfect unison released their arrows. Mary peered through the slit and saw the arrows hit at the same time. They hit the guards in the throat effectively cutting off any sounds they could have made. As soon as they hit Mary slit open the tent and the three women entered. Claudia and Eponin immediately flanked the tent entrance. Mary saw Xenas chakram and grabbed it running over to her friends. Their condition shocked her. Her anger rose as she took note of the damage.
"Im gonna kill that son of a bitch personally." She said to herself as she moved behind Xena.
She brought the chakram down on the chains and easily cut through them. Then she did the same for the bard. Eponin slung her bow and grabbed Xena. Mary grabbed Gabrielle and headed for the back door. Claudia brought up the rear ensuring that they all made it out safely.
Once outside they moved as quickly as possible. They needed to put as much distance between themselves and Regilius before he discovered his prisoners were gone. To add to the pressure they werent even sure the rest of the Amazons would still be at camp. After about fifteen minutes they paused. Claudia assured they were clear but it would be wise to keep moving.
"As efficient as Milli is they probably moved out. Where would they position themselves?" Asked Mary.
Without a moments thought Claudia took the Queen from Marys arms.
"Take Xena, Eponin guard the rear."
Mary did as she was told and followed Claudia. They changed direction and within thirty minutes they stopped again. Eponin gave a birdcall and waited. She heard a response and Claudia took off again followed by Mary and Eponin. She was relieved when they were greeted by a group of Amazons. They went further into the forest and found where the wounded were being tended. Within a few minutes Ephiny appeared.
"Thank Artemis." She said softly.
Kim looked them over as Mary watched. She chewed a thumbnail nervously as Kim went about her work. She felt a hand on her shoulder and saw it was Eponin; next to her was Claudia.
"I owe you two, and Maresdy too. Thank you, you have no idea how grateful I am."
Her eyes grew moist, a combination of relief and gratitude.
"No thanks necessary." Replied Eponin.
"Its our duty to protect the Queen." Continued Claudia.
"As Amazons its our obligation to ensure the safety of the Queen. More so because Queen Gabrielle is Artemis chosen. But you have no such obligation. You did what you did out of your love for them and no other reason. Yours was the real heroic deed."
Mary turned and realized it was Ephiny speaking.
"On behalf of my sisters and the Amazon nation I thank you. On behalf of myself " she walked over and hugger Mary.
"Thank you. I love them too."
Mary felt so strange at that moment. She realized she was proud of herself. For the first time in her life she was proud of something shed done, and she found that she liked it.
She turned back towards Kim, "How are they?"
Kim stood, "Theyll be alright, just unconscious. Theyll mend."
Relief washed over her and she went to her friends. She knelt between them and looked from one to the other. She laid her right hand on Xena and her left on Gabrielle. She bowed her head and silently vowed to make Regilius pay for what hed done to them. She carefully took Xenas sword out of her belt and laid it by the warrior. Then she took out her nun-chucks and smiled a bit. She looked at Gabrielle and laid them by her.
She stood and approached Ephiny, "I need a sword."
Gabrielle began to stir. As her consciousness returned, her first realization was that she was no longer chained. Her second was that she hurt. She opened her eyes slowly and saw that she was no longer in the tent. She looked to her left and saw Xena lying next to her still unconscious.
"Xena " She tried to sit up but was stopped by Kim.
"Wait my Queen, you have badly bruised ribs. You should rest."
Against Kims wishes she sat up. Her ribs were definitely bruised but she had to check on her soul mate. Ignoring the pain she knelt at Xenas side. Her face was badly bruised and she had a bad cut over her eyebrow and on her cheekbone. Kim quickly reported on Xenas condition.
"Shell be fine your highness. It looks worse than it is. She probably has some cracked ribs but none are broken. Youll both be fine in a few days."
Gabrielle was relieved. She motioned to Kim to help her stand.
"Your friend, along with Claudia, Eponin and Maresdy were able to rescue you."
"What of the battle?" Asked Gabrielle.
"They have a plan they hope will end in victory."
She went on to fill the bard in on the entire situation.
"Is everyone in position?" She asked.
"Should be by now I imagine. The battle hasnt begun yet though."
Gabrielle was pensive. She looked over at Xena and saw she was beginning to wake up. Gabrielle went to her.
"Xena " She opened her eyes and attempted to smile.
"Fates still arent done with us huh."
Gabrielle smiled warmly, "Not by a long shot."
Xena looked around a bit.
"Where are we?"
"Were safe; they got us out somehow."
Gabrielle knelt and placed her hands on ground for support. She was about to sit when she noticed Marys nun-chucks. She reached over to grab them. She looked them over carefully then looked at Xena. The warrior struggled to sit up.
"Dont get up." Said the bard firmly. "Kim said you have some cracked ribs."
"I know, feels like it."
She sat up and took the nun-chucks from the bard. She looked around and caught sight of Kim.
"Kim! Wheres Mary?"
"She went with Ephiny and the rest to the battle."
Xena stood slowly. She kept herself from wincing but the set of her jaw let Gabrielle know she was in pain. Xena approached Kim.
"I need you to bind my ribs nice and tight."
She was about to protest but thought better of it. Xena would do whatever she set her mind to regardless of her objection. Once Kim was done with Xena she moved on to the Queen. She bound her ribs knowing full well that wherever Xena went the Queen would follow. Xena sheathed her sword and the bard grabbed a staff. They were ready for round two.
Mary waited for the signal. Regilius men still hadnt moved. The sky was beginning to show signs of the coming dawn. She looked up as she caught the faint sounds rumbling in the distance. The sound grew louder and was soon accompanied by tremors. Mary soon realized what the source was. The rumbling grew louder still and she could actually see the ground shake as the horse came over the hill. All she could think was, "This is it." She swallowed hard and tried to steady her breathing. She was reminded of a quote shed heard once and mumbled it to herself, "Those of you who are about to die, we salute you." Suddenly there was a volley of arrows. Ephiny had given the signal to begin the attack. They had positioned fifteen amazons on each side of the tree line. Regilius men were riding hard. Many didnt even notice they were under attack. A second volley followed taking out more of his numbers. Ephiny gave the command to charge. "Amazons!" She yelled and they took the field. They flanked Regilius men and fanned back to cut off their retreat back to camp. He was caught completely by surprise. In his rage hed focused his strength into reaching the Amazon camp and catching them unaware. Hed underestimated them and it infuriated him. His arrogance would not allow him to consider the possibility of surrender or defeat.
Xena and Gabrielle reached the clearing just as the fighting started. "Just in time for the party." Said Xena sarcastically. They ran out to join the Amazons and Centaurs in the battle for the preservation of their people. Adversary after adversary fell to Xenas sword. Gabrielle stuck close to her warrior and did her part with her staff. Even with the surprise attack they were severely out numbered but they held their own. Mary moved her way through the fighting, always on the look out for Regilius. She wanted his head and she wanted it bad. She lifted her head and caught sight of her companions in the distance and smiled to herself. She worked her way over to them. "Nice of you two to drop by." She joked as she fought off an opponent. "We were in the neighborhood." Said Xena doing the same.
As the fighting wore on Mary was beginning to tire. She looked around and noticed the numbers had thinned but not enough. They continued to press on and Mary caught sight of Regilius. She heard herself growl as she tried to make her way to him. Just then, above all the noise of battle she heard voices call out. "Riders!" The battle almost came to a stand still as all looked to the horizon. It was a large group of no fewer than forty on horseback. They were riding fast towards the battle. The funny thing was, no one knew whose side they were on or if they even had a side. The overwhelming noise of the battle had given way to dead silence. They halted about twenty yards away and the leader removed his helmet.
"Oh shit!" said Mary out loud. "Miguelius!" she yelled, saluting with her sword.
He raised his sword to salute her then gave the command to charge. He and his troops rode into the battle and the tide quickly turned in favor of the allies. Soon what was left of Regilius army had either fled or lay wounded. The only one left was Regilius. Enraged by his defeat he would not accept the idea of being taken prisoner. He was facing off against three opponents and holding his own, well. Miguelius stopped the fight and faced him alone. Regilius regarded his opponent for a moment.
"Its been a long time." He said.
"Yes it has. This has been too long in coming."
Regilius smiled, "So its like that is it?"
Miguelius drew his sword. "Its always been like that."
With that said the duel began. Mary held her breath as she watched the two warriors do battle. They both had exceptional skill and she prayed her friend would be the victor. They worked each other like old pros. It was like a well-choreographed dance. Every parry, thrust and block perfectly executed. Regilius lunged and Miguelius side stepped and parried. Then a fatal mistake, Regilius miss-stepped. It was slight, almost imperceptible, but it was enough to change the angle of his swing. He left himself open and Miguelius took advantage. He blocked upwards then gave a quick downward arc. It connected catching the warlord across the chest. He stumbled back and looked down. The slash went from shoulder to mid abdomen diagonally. Had it not been for his armor hed be dead and he knew it. He looked at Miguelius intently. Miguelius returned the stare.
"Dont make me kill you. Lay down your sword." Regilius laid down his sword and was taken into custody.
Mary exhaled for the first time in a long time. Then she walked over to Miguelius.
"Your timing is still impeccable."
He turned and greeted her with a smile.
"I see you found your friends." He said motioning to her waiting companions.
"Yeah, I found them alright."
"And more than you bargained for Ill expect."
He took in her appearance, she looked tired and definitely battle worn. There was blood on her sword and on her clothes. He smiled and tussled her hair.
"Consider this a lesson in war."
She smiled sheepishly, "Hey! Cut that out! Come on, Ill introduce you to my friends."
She made the introductions as pleasantly as she could under the circumstances.
"Wait before I forget, what are you doing here?"
"After we parted company I went to join my men. Thered been lots of talk of Regilius and the Amazons. I thought Id check out the situation, maybe try and talk some sense into him. But we arrived too late. Once I saw you in the battle I knew what I had to do."
Gabrielle furrowed her eyebrows, "What do you mean?"
He looked over at Gabrielle, "Regilius is my brother."
Mary blinked several times as her brain processed the information. "Your brother?"
"Weve been riding together for years, but lately there was a change in him. Hed become much more aggressive and was no longer satisfied with just going up against other warlords or pilfering a shipment here or there. Hed begun hassling villages and drawing too much attention to himself. It would only have been a matter of time before every magistrate in Greece was out looking for us. Then there was this business with the Amazons. I spoke with him about his actions on many occasions but he wouldnt listen. He insisted it was all part of greater plan. Though he never revealed the details of it to me. I had to intervene, for all our sakes."
"Well, on behalf of the Amazon nation, I thank you." Said Gabrielle seriously.
"And on behalf of the Centaurs, we welcome you as a friend." Added Kaliepus.
"What will you do now?" asked Xena.
He looked around and said, "I have to look after my men. Make sure the wounded are tended. Then well move on." He answered.
"What about Regilius?" asked the bard.
"He chose his own path. The Regilius I knew died a long time ago. Thats how I choose to remember him. The man you have in custody has to deal with the consequences of his actions. There will be no pleas for leniency from my part on his behalf."
His answer seemed to satisfy all concerned and set them at ease. Xena was relieved that they wouldnt have to go up against Miguelius and his men. She would if she had to but it had been a hard few days and going up against a fresh army was not high on her to do list. The amazons had seen enough of battle as well and they were all looking forward to some rest.
Mary and Miguelius embraced. When they parted she thanked him again for all his help.
He smiled down at her and said, "This wont be the last time you see me. Well see one another again, probably when you least expect it."
He mounted his horse and waved good-bye to the others. Mary watched as he rode in the direction of his army. She let out a long breath and for the first time realized how tired she really was. She turned to her friends and could tell they were just as spent. As they made their way back to the Amazon village they walked in silence. All three lost in her own thoughts. Mary looked down at her sword. It was blood stained and suddenly heavy in her hand. She was startled when she heard Xenas voice.
"It always feels heavier after a battle."
Mary didnt respond she just reflected on the battle. She hadnt killed a single person but the reality of it all was a little numbing.
"If wars were like this in the modern world, people would be less likely to start them." She thought to herself.
She was interrupted from her thoughts by Gabrielle. "When was the last time you slept.?"
She thought for a minute. "I dont remember. Since I came to in the healers hut I think."
"I was afraid youd say that."
"There was so much going on, lots to do, people to rescue I just didnt get around to it." She said jokingly.
Her companions smiled. "I expect well all get some sleep when we get in." commented the warrior.
Gabrielle was grateful Kim let her and Xena retire to their quarters instead of insisting they stay in the healers hut. She had no idea how long shed been sleeping but when she did wake she wasnt surprised to see Xena gone. She looked out her window to see the camp full of activity. She caught sight of her warrior deep in conversation with Milli.
"Plotting some grand organizational maneuver no doubt." She chuckled to herself.
She walked over to the door and opened it. She told one of the sentries to have Ephiny plan a debriefing meeting. The sentry nodded and left in search of the regent.
"Might as well take care of all that requires my attention." She thought to herself.
She decided to freshen up a bit and walked over to the basin. After filling it with water she caught sight of her reflection. She had some bruising a split lip but it wasnt too bad. Even her ribs were bearable as long as she didnt move too fast. There was a soft knock at the door and she bid the person enter. She was pleasantly surprised to see Mary.
She smiled broadly upon seeing Gabrielle. "Hey, nice to see you up and about. I saw Xena outside working so I figured you must be Ok."
Gabrielle smiled warmly; she reached up and turned Marys face slightly. "Ouch, that looks painful." She was referred to the nasty bruise under Marys right eye.
"Na, not really. To be honest I dont even remember how I got it." She flicked Gabrielles chin lightly. "What about that lip?"
The bard ran her tongue along the cut lightly. "Ive had worse. Listen, I dont know all the details but Kim said you and a few others got us out and "
Mary stopped her, "Please..I I couldnt leave you guys there. We could hear your screams " A shiver ran up her spine at the memory. "I just we had to save the Queen and her champion right."
"Thank you." Said the bard softly.
There was so much Mary wanted to tell her and Xena too but she couldnt. They had agreed that whatever was meant to happen would happen regardless. "Things happen for a reason." Xena had said. The experience had left her with a desire to see them at peace. No more blood, violence and death. They deserved better than what awaited them.
"Hey! Whered you go?"
Mary blinked and smiled.
"You know I have a million questions to ask you." Continued the bard.
Mary was puzzled but curious. "A million questions?"
"Of course, how often do you meet someone from 2000 summers in the future?"
"Not very often Id expect."
"Exactly! So "
"Wait, Ill answer anything I can to the best of my ability but first I have one question for you." Gabrielle looked at Mary warily. "Its more of a favor actually."
"What ever it is the answer is yes."
Mary pinched the bridge of her nose and smirked. "Ill leave that one alone. What I wanted to ask you was "
Xena walked through the village and surveyed the progress. In all twelve Amazons had lost their lives. The funeral pyres were being prepared and that meant that unpleasant duties had to be designated. She didnt want her bard to have to do it and she was grateful when Milli took the task upon herself. But there were other tasks that Xena knew were solely the Queens responsibility. Maya and Regilius would have to stand trial for their crimes against the Amazon nation. Gabrielle would have to sentence them. Death was the only sentence that would satisfy all affected parties. Gabrielle knew that as well as Xena. She didnt want her bard to have to make that decision. Gabrielle would never in good conscience be able to decide the time of some ones death. Though hers would not be the hand that carried out the sentence, hers would be the voice that gave the order. In Gabrielles mind it would be the same thing. Xena was lost in her thoughts when she heard her name called. "Xena!" She turned to see Eponin approaching.
"Whats up Ep?"
"Gabrielle called for a debriefing. Everyone is meeting in the council chamber."
When they arrived at the council chamber the elders had already arrived as well as Gabrielle and Ephiny. Xena took her place at Gabrielles side and gave her bard a knowing smile.
"Everything all right?" she asked casually.
"Yeah, just wanted to get this out of the way. I want to try and dispense of the unpleasant stuff as quickly as possible."
Xena squeezed her hand reassuringly. "I know."
Ephiny gave Gabrielle a full account of what happened. Xena contributed her portion to the group also.
"I had scouted ahead and placed the archers in position. I took a position east of the clearing and awaited the arrival of the ground troops. Regilius men moved in and we engaged them. When it became clear that the Centaurs were delayed I gave the command to hold firm. Then the Centaurs arrived with additional Amazon support and we began to push the enemy back. Had the Queen and I not been captured I feel we had a good chance of driving him back completely."
Once she was done with her report she took her seat once again. Irena, one of the council elders spoke up.
"How was it that the Queen and Xena escaped?" she asked.
"Eponin was with the rescue and can give you a full account of what transpired." Said Ephiny motioning to her left.
Eponin stood, "If I may be permitted to relay the events."
Irena nodded her approval as well as the Queen. Gabrielle was actually very curious to know how they had gotten them out. Mary was less than forthcoming about the matter and the bard knew that meant shed probably risked her life in pursuit of their freedom. She sat back and listened as Eponin conveyed the events that had led to their rescue.
Continued in Part 2
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