Forbidden C3

A soft knock upon the door roused David from a contented sleep. He gently extricated himself from Gabrielle and wrapped one of the fine linen sheets about his waist.

When he answered the door, three servants stood, waiting patiently.

One of them bore a tray laden with food, while the second carried another tray upon which rested two golden cups and a flagon of drink. The third bore a large bundle of pale white fabric.

David pressed a finger to his lips, requesting that they remain as silent as possible and he ushered them inside.

The food was set on the table resting out on the balcony along with the cups and flagon of drink. Then the two quickly went and changed over the bath water while the third of them stepped over and draped two sets of garments over a small couch.

She indicated the clothing expectantly. David gave a friendly nod of approval and the woman bowed quickly and withdrew.

The other two soon followed, once their preparations in the bath chamber were completed. They also bowed and quietly excused themselves.

David went out to the balcony, still wrapped in only the bed sheet. He seated himself on at the table and looked over the food curiously.

Several thing brown cakes and an assortment of fruits and dates were laid out decoratively on the large platter. He filled his cup from the flagon and was surprised to discover it was another blend of squeezed citrus juices. The taste was unique. Fragrant and slightly sweet. He relished it for a moment and tried, without success to identify the ingredients.

The sun was already growing hot when Gabrielle emerged from the suite, also wrapped in a sheet. She smiled when she found David sipping from the cup and reading the small book with an air of absolute contentment.

"I think this kind of life suits you," she said as she slid into the chair opposite him and filled her own cup.

David closed the book and smiled.

"Find me a box of stogies, and I'll be set," he said, reaching for another date. He flexed his shoulder experimentally and winced at the soreness.

"How is it?" Gabriele asked when she saw his pained expression.

"Better than it was," David replied. "I'll be sore for a few days at least, though. How about you?"

"Much better," She said. "But I didn't get half the punishment you did."

David shrugged and reached for the flagon.

"So," she asked casually. "What do you think?"

"About what?"

Gabrielle gestured out towards the Sphinx and the nearby pyramids.

"Oh," David nodded. A wistful smile crept across his face. "I could get used to this land, very, very quickly."

He gestured about them. "Even after two thousand years, when most of this is in ruins, I was still enchanted by this place. You might even say that I was drawn here against my will. The ancient knowledge and energies of these places will be just as palpable in two millennia, as they are right now. I have to watch myself, otherwise they could make me pretty light headed."

"You can actually feel it?" Gabrielle asked in surprise.

"More here, than in any place we've seen since I got back to you." David admitted. "It isn't surprising, though. This kingdom has already been around for more than three thousand years. It's only natural that the energies would be stronger here."

"Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to experience the world the way you do,' Gabrielle said thoughtfully. "It must be amazing to see the energies around things."

"Sometimes," David nodded. "Other times, in places where horrible things happened, it can be pretty nasty. There are places in Germany that I will never go to again. Too many people butchered in one place can create a vortex that makes me nauseous. It's like being surrounded by thousands of ghosts, all screaming in agony."

Gabrielle sat thoughtfully for a moment. Then she leaned forward. "Do you remember the first time you felt it?"

David nodded. "Like it was yesterday."

"Tell me about it," Gabrielle pressed. "What was it like?"

David set his cup down and held his hands apart, facing each other.

"I was twelve." He began. "My parents took us on a trip along the east coast. One of our stops was at Gettysburg. It was the sight of one of the bigger battles in the American Civil War."

He leaned forward, his eyes alight with memory.

"We were standing at one of the lines, where the troops had assembled before they charged across the field. Now, this battle was one of the bloodiest of the entire war. Tens of thousands died in a matter of a few hours!"

Gabrielle suppressed a shudder.

"Anyway," David continued. "We were all standing there, listening to the tour guide rattle off the numbers and troop placements and all that nonsense. Then everything began to change. I could hear the tour guide's voice, but it seemed to fade away as if he were walking away from us, but he never moved.

I heard a low whistling sound and then an explosion as if it had gone off just over the hill by where we were all standing. Then I heard the voices!"

"Voices?" Gabrielle asked, suppressing another shiver in spite of the warm air. "What were they saying?"

David sat back, his expression grim and sobering. "It was the sound of thousands of souls, crying out in pain. I crept up the hill and looked out at the field. All I could see where the ghostly shapes of bodies lying across the field, so close that many of them were overlapping where they had fallen. I smelled the scorched flesh and earth. I saw the shocked, dying men stumbling among the others before they fell. It was as if a black and white image had superimposed itself over the real world and I saw everything as it was and is at the same moment." He sighed. "I've seen that kind of horror three times in my life. Believe me, that's three times too many."

Gabrielle shivered again at the possibility. "You were only twelve?" she said sympathetically. "What did your parents do?"

David smiled. "They couldn't understand why I was so upset, so they did what any decent parents would do. They got me out of there."

Gabrielle smiled.

She was about to say something else when there was a timid knock on the door.

"Come in!" David called automatically.

A young boy in tan robes opened the door and stepped in nervously.

"Good Morrow, Honored Guests." He greeted them. "I have been sent by Master Utanhk. He requests that you join him at the temple, if you are rested?"

David looked at Gabrielle questioningly. Gabrielle shrugged.

"If you would give us a few minutes to dress, then we will accompany you."

"As you wish," the boy replied. He stepped back out the door, closing it behind him.

David shrugged. "Well, our host awaits?"

When they emerged from the room a few minutes later, Gabrielle was dressed in a white linen dress of Egyptian fashion. It was a simple garment, and yet elegant. Loose fitting and comfortable in spite of the heat.

David's wardrobe was much plainer. A simple series of loose fitting traveler's robes made for the desert. About his neck and on his fingers, he wore the contents of his thin covered box. A five pointed pentagram of silver hung about his neck, and silver rings adorned six of his eight fingers. Each of them were of slightly different design while at the same time complimentary, showing his journey down the path that Shilah had taken him before he came to this era. The combination of simple adornment and robes made him look like a wandering priest.

His long brown hair was tied back neatly in a tail that fell over the cowl hanging at the back of his neck.

He nodded to the boy cordially and gestured for him to lead the way.

Gabrielle walked next to him, watching the change in David's demeanor with great interest. He strode down the hall with long, slow strides, his back straight, hands tented within the oversized sleeves of the robes. Gabrielle secretly wondered what other facets of his personality had yet to emerge in their life together. She was used to the arrogant, sometimes cocky, over confident David. She had even seen the cold and brutally calculating side of him. This change was something entirely new to her, and a part of her did not like it. He seemed colder, more detached from the world at large. Even more detached from her. She forced that bit of uneasiness down.

"Where does this come from?" she thought to herself.

David looked at her and smiled slightly. "Am I freaking you out?" he asked sincerely.

"Frankly, yes," Gabrielle confessed. "I don't like this side of you."

David shrugged slightly. "This is the frame of mind I get into when I'm about to do ritual. Even a cocky bastard like me needs to show some reverence?"

At that familiar cadence and wording, Gabrielle relaxed and smiled. No matter what guise he wore for this meeting, he was still her David, and that was what really mattered.

Their young guide led them through the complex to the entrance arch of a massive courtyard. Beyond that, they could see a second gate and still another inner court, followed by the dark opening of the temple proper.

"It's a site for a Hepshet festival," David whispered in awe. When he saw Gabrielle frown, David leaned closer.

"It was an annual festival of renewal, preformed each year to ensure the continued prosperity of the land. Amazing."

The courtyards were lined in lush trees and shrubs, quite a difference from the barren wastes that he and his fellow undergraduate students would unearth in the future. The walls were brightly painted and richly decorated in hieroglyphic images.

Several other lesser priests bustled about the complex, tending to various duties. Occasionally, one of them would pause to contemplate the two strangers and then turn his gaze back to his appointed task. An air of eternal watchfulness permeated every stone.

David blinked as he realized that the glowing sensation he perceived was more than just the reflection of the sun on the brightly painted stone. It was an afterglow of energy.

"Someone's been working some serious magic recently," he whispered. "I can see it soaking into every crevice of the place."

"Is that good or bad?" Gabrielle asked.

David only shook his head. "I don't know."

They passed into the temple building itself and they all felt the air cool dramatically as they passed the threshold.

Gabrielle shivered at the sudden change and flexed her shoulders automatically.

Torches burned in recesses along the deeper walls, filling the interior with deep orange illumination. Thousands of painted panoramic scenes covered the walls all about them. The pillars were washed white and augmented in reds and golds. The floor beneath their feet was polished to a smooth, dustless shine.

The powerful mix of energies surrounding this place threatened in that moment to overwhelm David. He paused in mid step and took a deep breath, shielding himself from the sudden onslaught. Their guide paused and looked back at him questioningly.

"Are you not well, Master?" he asked.

David held up a hand. "I'm fine, good sir," he replied after a few breaths. "Just the change in temperature. Please, lead on."

They reached the opposite end of the large chamber and paused before a pair of ornate double doors, guilded in precious metals.

The boy pulled one of the doors open and gestured for David to enter. Then he barred the way as Gabrielle moved to follow.

"Forgive me, Mistress," he apologized. "Our faith decrees that no woman may enter the inner shrine to Osirus. You must wait here."

David paused within the doorway and turned back. He looked at Gabrielle and subtly shook his head when he saw her ready to argue the point.

"Then," David said amicably. "If you would be so kind as to invite the Lord Utanhk to join us in the outer chamber?"

This request seemed to startle the young boy. He stepped aside as David backed out of the room, bowing his head once before he passed the threshold.

He turned and faced the boy, his expression calm and neutral.

"I keep no secrets from my wife, nor she from me. Any words spoken between your Master and I are as much for her ears as mine."

The boy hesitated for only a moment before bowing respectfully and turning to disappear down a side corridor.

"Sorry about that," David apologized. "I was forgetting. The religions of Egypt were either Patriarchal or Matriarchal. They were rarely mixed. I should have seen that one coming."

Gabrielle shrugged indifferently. The two of them began strolling casually about the chamber, studying the hieroglyphics covering the walls. They were pausing before a large detailed image of Osirus seated upon his throne in the Hall of Judgment when a gentle voice greeted them.

"I bid you good morning," Utanhk said as he stepped into view. He strode to them and smiled warmly. "I trust that your accommodations met with approval?"

"Very much," David replied, snapping into that formal air that set Gabrielle's teeth on edge. He also raised his arms slightly, indicating the gift of clothes. "I am in your debt."

"I am told that you would have us confer in the presence of your companion," Utanhk said cordially. There was no hint of affront in the statement.

"My wife," David corrected gently.

"Indeed?" Utanhk's eyebrows rose in mild surprise. David merely nodded and smiled.

There was a moment of awkward silence before Utanhk gestured towards a side passage.

"Our laws forbid women within the inner sanctum of our God. Shall we have our talk on the veranda, then?"

Again, David nodded and the trio moved through another passage into a lavish interior garden of thick green plants and bright flowers.

Several small tables rested in the corners of the room, each with two chairs beside them.

Their host took one and set it before a table, gesturing for Gabrielle to sit.

"Some of our customs, doubtless, seem strange to you," he offered. He seated himself and looked at the two of them. "For instance, a priest of Osirus is forbidden to take a wife. Not one." He looked at David. "How many wives does your God allow?"

David smiled. "My Goddess allows for only one," he answered evenly. "And only after a series of rather interesting prerequisites." He smiled.

Gabrielle also smiled as she understood that he was referring to the adventure that had brought them together.

Utanhk held a hand up to Gabrielle. "Again, through ignorance, I have created offense. Forgive me?"

"Oh," Gabrielle replied quickly. "No offense taken."

"Any who seek knowledge cannot be called ignorant, Master," David offered. "They are considered wise."

Utanhk smiled gratefully. "I thank you for your patience, friend."

Utanhk called for food and drink, and the trio exchanged a few more pleasantries before the High Priest moved to the matter at hand.

"Word has begun to arrive from the outlying districts," He said as he refilled Gabrielle's cup. "Something disastrous has struck our northern region."

"We saw it," David said gently. "I fear that most of the city of Alexandria now lies at the bottom of the sea."

"Then the library? The Lighthouse? Palaces?" Utanhk asked, his eyes widening in disbelief.

David merely shook his head.

"The wave created by the disaster washed our ship over the delta and into the river," Gabrielle offered.

"Which is how we came to be in your care," David finished.

David was struck at the lack of astonishment in the priests eyes. He leaned forward slightly.

"Forgive me," he asked. "But you knew of this before we arrived?"

Utanhk looked up at him in shock and then nodded. "I fear that I may have caused the disaster."

"How?" Gabrielle asked in surprise.

David looked knowingly at Utanhk.

"I can still see the energies surrounding this place," he admitted, much to the High Priests surprise. "You were performing a powerful ritual in the past few days, were you not?"

Utanhk set his cup down and nodded. "We were."

David leaned back and smiled grimly. "Was it the Ritual of Ka-Ma'at?"

Utanhk shot to his feet in astonishment.

"What do you know of the Ritual?" he demanded.

David held up his hands in supplication. "Precious little, Master. I only ask because I have certain concerns."

Gabrielle could feel David tensing beneath the robes.

"On our voyage, I had a vision of Alexandria falling into the sea, and I felt the presence of powerful magic at the time it happened. The rest is purely speculative."

David could see the energy pouring off the High Priest and also felt him gazing into his soul. He did not resist, but allowed Utanhk to truly see him.

Utanhk's eyes went wide in realization as he beheld David. The aura of energy shining from him.

"Onobis Illuminotis?" Utanhk asked.

David nodded. "As you now perceive, I see?"

"Indeed," Utanhk settled back into his seat. "Yet I also perceive an underlying darkness?"

David nodded. "Though I serve the light, the majority of my energy is of a darker nature. Why that is, I cannot say?"

Gabrielle looked at David in mild surprise. This was a subject that they had never discussed, though it made sense to her in the instant that he said it. That subtle aura that she had always felt when she was near him, warm and soft, but somehow darker. How shadows would seem to follow him in the night, or wrap closer to him as he sat beside their campfires. How his religion worshiped the night and the moon over the daylight and the sun. How he could descend in an instant into that dark rage that sometimes frightened her, and then return again in a moment. Everything they had endured together in their travels took on a new level of clarity.

His religion taught respect for life, but trained him in the arts of death as a means to defend himself.

Utanhk's eyes narrowed. "What laws does your order follow?"

"Simply," David said. "Do as you will, but harm none, including thy own self."

"It seems somewhat vague to me," Utanhk pressed.

"It allows the followers of my order to be receptive to many points of view." David folded his hands in the sleeves of his robes again and smiled. "It also allows us to maintain an open mind when dealing with our counterparts from distant lands and cultures; hence you need not worry about offending us accidentally? You understand?"

"I begin to," Utanhk replied, relaxing again.

He took a drink from his cup and sighed. "Your suspicions are quite correct, my friend. I and my Acolytes attempted to perform the Ritual three days ago, to our shame."

"What went wrong?" David asked.

"Of that, I am forbidden to speak," Utanhk said evenly. His eyes flicked uneasily in Gabrielle's direction.

David nodded. "I understand." He decided that a change in topic would be for the best.

"There is another matter," he offered. "That of the boat tied at your dock?"

Utanhk relaxed completely and smiled, nodding in appreciation.

"Yes," he said. "Of that, we can speak openly. I had a scribe and several acolytes do a complete inventory of the contents of your ship last night. I trust you are not offended?"

David shook his head.

"It appears that the ship carried various cargos. Casks of wine and bolts of cloth from numerous places?"

David looked at Gabrielle, who nodded.

"Take it," He offered. "As payment for your hospitality. I only ask that you grant us two bolts of cloth and a single cask of wine?"

"Of course," Utanhk smiled in amazement. The generosity of his guests was astonishing. "If you wish, I could summon a seamstress to you, so that the clothing could be made for you while to stay here, as our guests?"

David nodded. "As well, the ship is yours to do with as you wish. I know that workable wood is difficult to acquire, and the timbers of the ship would serve you well."

"You are indeed generous, Honored Guest," Utanhk smiled. "But in this, I cannot accept. I shall order that the ship be refitted to traverse the river, that it may carry you where you wish. Those materials removed from the ship I shall take gladly. But no more."

David stretched out his hands and nodded in acquiescence.

"It shall be done." Utanhk also rose and gave him a courteous bow. Then, much to Gabrielle's astonishment, he repeated the gesture towards her. She acknowledged it graciously and the trio left the veranda and headed back towards the open courtyard.

They took their leave of Utanhk and strolled easily across the courtyard. Once they were out of earshot of the High Priest, Gabrielle sighed.

"I don't know how much more of this 'courtesy' I can take."

"I know," David replied, smiling. "It's so not like me, but?" He shrugged. "Better safe than sorry." Then he leaned in closer. "He wants to discuss the Ritual, though," he added.

"He seemed upset when you mentioned it?" Gabriele replied.

David shrugged. "I think it was because I mentioned it while you were there?"

Gabrielle looked up at him in surprise.

"That whole 'No Girls Allowed' thing," he finished quickly. "Sorry."

"Oh, no problem," Gabrielle shot back sarcastically.

"I think he needs a way to speak of it with an 'outsider' that will allow him to, I don't know, save face?" David thought out loud. Then that mischievous smile began to creep across his face again. "And I think I know a way to do it."

Gabrielle looked at him skeptically. "You've got that look again."

Instantly, David's smile vanished and he looked at her innocently.

"What look?"

A soft groan escaped Gabrielle's lips. "That's what I was afraid of."

She looked up at him and smiled. "And where did you pick up this little idea?"

David wrapped an arm about her shoulder.

"I'll tell you about it over lunch," he offered. "After we've looked around the place a bit. What do you say?"

They spent the rest of the day exploring the area surrounding the temple and even ventured to the pyramids. The entire time, Gabrielle watched David's face with amusement.

His expression continuously alternated somewhere between awe, joy, and wonder.

After a while, it also became clear that David was looking for something in particular. As they moved around the Pyramid of Cheops, his eyes began following the intricate lines in the smooth stone.

Finally, he paused at the corner of the pyramid and looked back out over the Sphinx to their quarters.

His fingers traced a line from the balcony, across the shoulders of the Sphinx and then he turned and ran his hand back out and smiled knowingly.

"What are you doing?" Gabrielle asked.

"Marking the dig sites I remember," David explained. "I was positioned here when we conducted the initial survey. I want to get an idea of what we missed."

Gabrielle looked up at the falling sun and sighed. Next to the massive monument of stone, the heat was intense. She squinted and wiped some perspiration from her brow.

"How can you bear this heat?" she asked.

David smiled. "What heat?" Then he is hand dropped and he smiled.

"Right there, about nine feet beneath the water," he grinned.

"What?" Gabrielle burst out.

"The entrance to the Tomb of Osirus," David replied quietly. "No one is supposed to know about it."

Gabrielle looked at him and then at the edge of the river. "But you do because your expedition found it?"

"Not mine," David replied. "Another geologist, looking to prove that the river had indeed run this way in the past, stumbled across the entrance by accident. He told old Arlan about it, and the Professor had me and two other guys begin the job of excavating the entrance."

He gestured towards their lodging. "Come on. I'll explain as we go."

"Go where?" Gabrielle asked.

"I thought you didn't like the heat?" David asked, smiling.

Without thinking, she slapped his back. He gasped in pain as she hit the mass of bruises on his back.

"Oh my!" Gabrielle put her hands over her mouth. "I'm sorry! I forgot about your back!"

"Sure, babe," David winced as he straightened. "No problem." He fixed her with a dark stare. "You're not sunburned yet, are you?"

"Hey!" Gabrielle countered. "Be nice!"

It was past sundown as they trudged across the sands towards the temple. The stars were shining in the heavens and the moon glistened pale above them, bathing the land in silvery light.

The last red glimmer of the setting sun vanished beneath the western horizon and the temperature dropped sharply.

The two of them were speaking casually as they traveled when suddenly, a noise caught their attention.

They turned and climbed a short dune. As they reached the top, the desert stretched out before them, silver and shadow stretching out into the distance. It was not the view that caused them to stop.

A short way down the opposite side of the dune a figure could be seen crouching on the ground. The sound of soft sucking reached their ears.

They stared in horror when they realized they were looking at a figure, crouching over another body. The latter lying limp in the formers arms.

"Hey!" Gabrielle cried out in rage. She ran down the dune towards the figures.

Startled, the figure jumped to its feet and bolted towards the deeper desert.

David followed Gabrielle and caught up to her as she knelt over the stricken body. It was a young man, lean and short, with dark eyes that stared up towards the moon, lifeless.

"What the hell was that?" David asked, looking down at the corpse. Then he looked sternly at Gabrielle. "And you said my stunt on the boat was reckless?"

Gabrielle was breathing hard, her eyes filled with predatory light.

"I think I recognized him," she said angrily.

"You recognized him?" David replied. "From a hundred yards out, in the dark? Yeah, right!"

Gabrielle fixed him with an angry glance. "His name is Arijani," she hissed. "He was one of the creatures that Xena and I faced a while back!"

Her gaze shifted back to the moonlit sands as she searched in vain for the fleeing figure.

David looked closely at Gabrielle. "Would I be correct in assuming that this little tirade is because this particular situation is more personal than most?"

Gabrielle looked up at him angrily. Then her expression changed for a moment as if she truly were recognizing something for the first time.

David arched an inquisitive eyebrow. "Well?"

… Gabrielle walked next to Nickoli for a few minutes, waiting for him to begin. She looked up at him expectantly and studied the line of his jaw, the details of his cheek bones, the perfectly trimmed whiskers of the goatee framing his mouth, and the intense, unwavering gaze of his eyes as he walked. He was a handsome man, or had been when he was alive. His thick dark hair flowed like waves down past his shoulders, and she felt herself gravitating to him, even without his piercing gaze. She forced herself to resume breathing, not even realizing that she had stopped.

"What did you want to ask me?" she finally asked when she could stand the silence no longer.

"Wrong question," Nickoli replied in a soft baritone. "The correct question is: What do you wish to ask me?" His eyes turned to her and she immediately felt that irresistible pull. She tore her gaze away from the statuesque way he walked, with his hands clasped comfortably at the small of his back, like a nobleman, strolling the halls of his castle, not a wandering rogue in the wilderness.

Nickoli smiled and fixed his eyes back on the path ahead.

"You have an inquisitive air about you, Gabrielle," he said.

Gabrielle tried to ignore the shiver that shot up her spine when he said her name in that smooth voice.

"Call it curiosity, naiveté, desire, or simply a thirst for knowledge," Nickoli shrugged. "It all comes to the same thing. You wish to know and by knowing, to understand."

"Understand what?" Gabriele asked, wrestling with the desire to look in his direction again.

"Everything," Nickoli nodded. "What makes the sun rise in the morning and set at night, why the sky is blue, what the stars are, how birds fly, How some thing like me can be both alive and dead?" he raised an eyebrow and looked sidelong at her.

"Okay," Gabrielle nodded. "Then explain it. How can you be both alive and dead?"

"I don't know," Nickoli responded easily. He smiled.

Gabrielle looked up at him with an angry expression. It faded to something closer to longing as soon as she looked at him.

"Okay," she stammered, once again ripping her gaze from him. "Then tell me why, when I look at you, I feel," her hands rolled in front of her as she searched for the right word.

"Desire?" Nickoli offered. "Lust? Perhaps a bit randy?" His smile became more mischievous.

"Yes," Gabrielle finally admitted. "Except for that first time I saw you."

"Death itself has a certain allure," Nickoli said. "Anything that is unknown will tempt. If it is known, then the lack of fear of it will also make it tempting, because you realize in fact, not faith, that there is the potential for something else, beyond this life. It would follow that something representing that would also be alluring in its own way, even desirable."

"That first time you saw me," Nickoli said. "I wanted you terrified. So you were terrified. Now?" he shrugged. "I don't want anything from I you in particular, except that Xena honor our arrangement."

"Xena has changed a lot," Gabrielle said evenly. "She won't simply take a life in cold blood. Not anymore."

"Perhaps," Nickoli agreed. "And perhaps not. We shall see."

"I've died before," Gabrielle said suddenly. "More than once. I don't have any desire to do it again."

"Then," Nickoli pursed his lips. "I would have to say, in your case, that it is not the knowledge of what is that drives you. It is the curiosity of what could be."

They locked eyes suddenly, and Gabrielle felt the beating of her heart hammering against the inside of her chest. She was suddenly lost in his gaze. Those fierce green eyes held hers and bored into her soul. She felt a wave of heat and desire wash over her so suddenly that she actually sighed. Then a sudden realization hit her, shaking her from that gaze.

He wanted her! His own gaze was so filled with lust and desire. The slight twitch of his lip, the way his chest heaved suddenly. Then his composure reasserted itself and he smiled so seductively that she had to struggle to keep herself in check.

"Stop that!" she hissed at him, struggling to keep her voice down…

"Gabrielle? What is it?" David asked. "You look like you just saw a ghost, again?"

"I only now realized," she answered in a distant voice. "How much alike the two of you were?"

"Honey?" David said nervously. "You're starting to freak me out a little here."

Gabrielle looked down at the corpse lying in the sand. "Let's get him back to the temple." She said. "I'll tell you all about it on the way."

They were still deep in conversation when they finally entered their suite later that night.

"No way," David said emphatically. "There is no way that I'm related to that guy!"

"What other explanation could there be?" Gabrielle asked. "I finally understand why the way you've been acting around the High Priest has put me on edge! It's because you act just like him!"

"And it scares you?" David asked.

Gabrielle's voice caught suddenly. Then she shook her head. "I thought it did. But in truth, it doesn't."

She paced back and forth trying to put her thoughts into words. "There was something about his presence that – well, excited me/" she finally shrugged. Then she smiled at him ruefully. "You have a lot of that presence, which explains how you can excite me too, I guess?"

"Swell," David groaned. He seated himself in a chair and held out his hand.

"All right." He began. "First, you're telling me that these Bacchi are actually now something different? And that they formed the foundation for most of the modern Vampire legends of my time, am I with you so far?"

"You used the word yourself," Gabrielle nodded. "Nickoli's last name was Vampyra, and his daughter told Xena and me that they had chosen to call themselves Vampires, after him?"

"Gabrielle," David said patiently. "There are no vampires where I came from. They were something from old ghost stories. No evidence of them ever existing has ever been found!"

"That you know of," Gabrielle said flatly.

"Right!" David agreed. Then he stopped. "That I know of." He shook his head after a few moments.

"No!" He said emphatically. "Even if they existed, they weren't around by the time I was born," he looked at Gabrielle, suddenly uncertain. "Were they?"

"Why not?" Gabrielle countered. "If the Centaurs, Banshees, Cyclops, and even the ancient Gods existed. Why not them?"

David had to admit it. She had a good point. He rubbed his head.

"And I'm the spitting image of this Nickoli?" he asked.

Gabrielle knelt before him and placed a hand over the whiskers of his beard, covering the side of his face.

She saw for the first time, the outline of his whiskers, had he worn only the goatee.

She nodded.

"Shave this part off, and trim the rest down a touch," she said with a shiver. "And the only difference is the color of your eyes."


"Yeah," Gabrielle said breathlessly. "His were pale green."

She stood up suddenly and stepped away. Then she laughed out loud.

"It's unbelievable," she said dryly. "I fell in love with a man who looks just like one of Xena's old enemies, and I never even realized it until tonight."

"You say that as if it's a bad thing?" David asked nervously. "Is it?"

Gabrielle looked at him and saw the twinge of dread in his eyes. A subtle fear that this revelation might cost him everything. She smiled and knelt down before him again.

"This doesn't change anything, David," she reassured him. "I love you. Nothing will ever change that. Nothing."

David smiled and breathed a sigh of relief. Then he was all business again.

"Well, it seems we have two problems, here." He said. "Three, if you count the interruption of our honeymoon."

Gabrielle smiled.

"Number one: we have a High Priest trying to do magic that he can't handle. Two: we have Vampires at Giza. The sixty-four thousand dollar question is: What do we do about it?"

"You die," A voice whispered from the balcony.

part 4

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