I have watched as men weave lies as truth, facts as fiction, and simple stories into legends. I too have a story to tell. My story is true; I have nothing to gain, and everything to lose. But I have dwelled in these lands for so long, and I grow weary of mortals making profit from my history. They don't understand Truth; they think so much of themselves that they make the gods look and act like them.
But we are different. Humans are weak at best; fun toys for us to play with and for us to break when we feel like it. Unfortunately, not all of us felt that way. Perhaps if she did, thing would have turned out so differently for the both of us.
Gabrielle wrapped her long lambskin coat around herself as her horse trotted down the solitary road. The sky was grey and a cold breeze nipped at her face, causing her cheeks and nose to be red. The blond bard looked back at her warrior riding Argo Jr., herself wearing her long black coat with the grey fur collar. Looking at the ebony-haired Warrior as she rode her steed, one could never tell that the two had been apart for months. Gabrielle shook away the dark thoughts. They were together again, and that is all that mattered.
“A dinar for your thoughts.” Xena stated, causing the young woman to refocus on her. Xena pulled Argo Jr alongside Gabrielle. “You have been quiet.”
“So have you.”
“Yes, but that is normal for me.” She reached out and squeezed the young woman's hand. “You have been quiet since…”
“Do you think we can stay at an inn?” Gabrielle interrupted. “It is rather cold, and I rather not sleep on the ground tonight.”
A sad smile pulled at Xena's mouth. She knew Gabrielle's interruption was the Bard's subtle way of telling her to drop the subject. “If we push on, we should hit Ardeal by nightfall.”
Gabrielle nodded. “Ardeal it is.” Gabrielle pushed her steed ahead.
Xena watched as the Bard put physical distance between them. Since her return from death, things weren't the same between Gabrielle and herself. At first, both were overcome with emotion that they had found a way to defeat Akemi and bring Xena back to the land of the living. Xena swore to herself that she wouldn't let her past come between them again.
*But it has* Xena thought to herself. Since her return, Gabrielle had been unusually quiet. At first, Xena thought it was due to the physical torture that Akemi had put Gabrielle through. She knew that Gabrielle needed to talk if she was gong to heal from the emotional trauma as well. “We both need it.” But the Bard wasn't having any of it.
Instead, she would change the subject; interrupting the Warrior whenever she brought up anything to do with Japa and their experiences there. As the weeks wore on, the Bard's temperament didn't change. At times, Xena could look into those eyes, and see them change to grey as the emotional storm threatened to spill over. And within seconds, they would change back to green as the Bard reigned in her emotions.
Xena sighed. Gabrielle was always the one who coaxed Xena to talk about her emotions. Now, the shoe was on the other foot. And the Warrior Princess didn't like it one bit. “Ya!” she cried out as she urged her golden steed to catch up with the battling Bard.
They entered the large town at dusk. The town was dark and dreary, the townsfolk seemed on edge as their eyes glanced at the two strangers and their feet hurriedly scuffled away. Xena looked around and sensing no danger she jumped down from Argo Jr. “Gabrielle, I'll take care of the horses. Why don't you check on a room for us? I'll meet you in the tavern.”
Gabrielle nodded her consent, handed her reins and entered the inn. As she entered, she noticed the tavern that was the front room of the inn. It was a single level, the front room had a large fireplace. Several round tables with chairs were scattered in the certain of the room, while long tables with benches lined the left and right walls. Lighted candles were on every table. The long wooden bar jutted out from side of the fireplace. It was clean and well maintained. The unusual thing was there was no one in sight. “Hello?” Gabrielle called out.
A young man in his 28 season entered in from the back. “Hello” he softly spoke. A kind smile graced his lips. “May I help you?”
Gabrielle nodded. The tall young man was handsome with should length wavy black hair, chestnut eyes, and broad shoulders. “My friend and I would like a room for tonight.”
“We have plenty of room.” He reached back and grabbed a key. “Our best room with a private bath. You will get both dinner and breakfast. 8 dinars.”
Gabrielle narrowed her eyes. She was hoping to get into a haggling match. “Can't argue with that price. How's the food?”
The young man beamed. “Good. We try to keep our prices low since we do not have many strangers who come through here.”
“Okay, we'll take it.” She counted out 8 dinars. As soon as their hands touched, Gabrielle felt a strange sensation run through her. She looked up at the young man. Seeing no reaction, she assumed her body was just exhausted. “Thanks.”
“You are quite welcome.” He placed the money into his pockets. “Your room is the last one on the left. Would you like some water for a bath?”
She nodded her appreciation and headed to the room. The room itself was sparse and clean, with 1 large bed. In front of the bed were a small fireplace and a wooden tub. She threw her saddlebags unto the bed. Her coat was next, revealing a rust-colored, form-fitting full leather armor adorned with silver etchings.
Grabbing a sai, Gabrielle opened the door. The young man smiled at her as he held a couple buckets of steaming water; following behind him was an older bald man who also held the same. They both came in, and the older man placed his buckets by the fireplace. He then turned and stuck his hand out to the Bard. “Hello, I am Uncle Iorgu. Welcome to my establishment!” He vigorously shook her hand. “Did my Demetri introduce himself?”
“Don't uncle me.” He mocked whispered to the Bard. “A pretty woman and even at his age he still gets tongued tied.”
Gabrielle laughed in spite of herself. “I'm Gabrielle.”
“Welcome, welcome! Well Gabrielle, we will start to serve dinner in about 4 candlemarks.”
“If you need anything, let us know.” With that the older man turned and left the room.
Demetri rolled his eyes. “Sorry about that.”
Gabrielle just smile as the young man took off after his uncle.
“Would you like some more port?” Demetri asked.
Xena shoved her cup into the young man's face. “I would.”
Demetri gave the Warrior Princess a small smile before filling her cup. He turned and was about to walk away when his uncle shooed him. He sighed and placed a big smile on his face. “Gabrielle, I hope the meal was to your liking.”
“It was great, wasn't it Xena?”
Xena sucked her lips and replied “Peachy” in a not-so-peachy way.
“I'm glad.” He walked back towards the kitchen.
Gabrielle looked at Xena. “Did you have to be so rude?”
“Gabrielle, all you had to do was take a sip and he was over here to refill your cup. I could have died of thirst waiting for him to refill mine.”
“I really don't think it was his fault Xena. Demetri is just listening to Uncle Iorgu.” Gabrielle turned and smiled towards the older man. The older man smiled back. Xena glared at the older man. He turned and walked briskly into the kitchen.
“What? I didn't do anything.”
“He's just playing match-maker.” Gabrielle chuckled. “He is very cute.”
Xena turned her glare upon Gabrielle. The Bard just smiled. “But he doesn't compare to you.” She watched as the glare became a grin.
“So,” The Warrior Princess stood up and headed towards the back, “what did happen while I was taking care of the horses?”
Gabrielle walked beside her. “I got the room, that's all.”
“And he fell for you just like that.” Xena smiled at her partner. “Not that I can blame him.”
Gabrielle bumped her shoulder into the Warrior. “Too bad I'm spoken for.”
Xena opened the door to their room. After she closed the door, she took a deep breath. “I'm glad to hear you say that. You know, after what happened, I wasn't sure…”
“Xena, why would I bring you back just to dump you?” She turned away and began to remove the top portion of her leathers.
“After what she did to you, I wouldn't blame you if you had.”
“Xena, she did it. She manipulated the both of us. Just drop it. Okay?”
“No, not okay.” Xena grabbed the Bard's shoulders and turn her around. “Gabrielle, we use to talk. Well, you talked and I listened. Since Japa, we haven't had a real conversation. I don't know what you are thinking anymore.” Her voice was barely above a whisper. “And it scares me.”
Gabrielle sighed as she looked into the sea-colored eyes of her soulmate. “It is complicated.” She paused trying to gather her thoughts. “There is a part of me that is mad at you for even listening to Akemi in the first place. There's a part of me mad at you for not telling me about your plan to die. Another part that is mad that you wouldn't allow me to dump your ashes. And a big part of me hates myself for listening to you.” She reached up and caressed Xena's face, hoping her touch would ease the sting of her words. “But I love you Xena. And if I had to do it all again, I would still go through what I did in order to get you back.”
“I'm not worth…”
“DON'T SAY IT!” Gabrielle took a calming breath. She needed to break the tension. “You do realize, it was your guilt issues that got us in this mess in the first place.” She grabbed Xena's hand “You are worth the world to me. I wish you could see you the way that I do.” Gabrielle released Xena's hand and continued to get undress. “I going to take a bath before the water become too cold.”
“Mind if I join you?”
“Only if you promise to wash my hair.”
Xena began to get undress herself. She stopped when Gabrielle lifted up her shift. On her back was still the imprint of the dragon. But instead of color, the tattoo was filled with scar tissue. No matter how many times she had seen it, the image still brought tears to her eyes. Gently she reached out and touched it. Gabrielle flinched. “Does it still hurt?”
Gabrielle voice was a whisper. “Every day.” She reached back and grabbed Xena's hand. She knew even before she could turn around that Xena's eyes would shine, full of unshed tears. “Xena it is not your fault. She did this to hurt the both of us. Besides, it is healing.” Without letting go of the Warrior's hand, the petite woman led them to the bath. “How about that hair washing?”
Xena gave Gabrielle a small smirk then climb in behind her. Using her hands as cups, she wetted the blonde head in front of her, then lathered it using the soap. Her ministrations did not stop there as she began to gently lather and massage Gabrielle's neck and back, working her way down and back up again.
Gabrielle moaned her appreciation and leaned back into the Warrior, just enjoying the time together.
The sound of animals shrilling and people yelling woke the two warriors out of their sleep. Gabrielle looked over at Xena, who was already getting her armor and weapons. The petite blond followed suit. The two women ran through the large room of the tavern.
Demetri held a small knife in his hand, trying to fend off his attacker. Right behind the young man, was his uncle, on the ground, blood trickling down the left side of his face. Xena wasted no time, as she flipped through the air, and kicked the intruder away from his intended victims. Xena pulled out her sword, and started to make her way towards the attacker. Much to her surprise, he lifted his head, his eyes glowing with a fierce yellow coloring, and exposed a pair of sharp fangs. The warrior paused as her mind processed this new information. It was all the time he needed, as he quickly turned and fled outside. Xena followed the creature outside.
Gabrielle ran to the old man. “Are you okay?” The old man nodded. “Go.” Gabrielle ran outside to help Xena, focused on fighting by her side.
Xena looked around, and saw that some of the creatures were dragging the old and injured villagers towards the woods. “A-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi,” she cried as she flipped through the air. She landed on her feet, and then delivered a spinning kick to the head of one creature. Another creature scratched at her sword arm, leaving 4 gashes in her arm. Xena glanced at the wounds before engaging the humanoid with her sword. As the creature lunged at her, Xena thrust her sword forward, embedding the sword into the midsection. Xena kicked him off her weapon, and turned to make sure Gabrielle was okay.
Gabrielle knocked her female opponent down with a low sweep kick. The creature hissed at the petite warrior. Gabrielle twirled her sai, and was about to deliver the knock-out blow.
Seeing that her soulmate was handling things just fine, Xena turned to confront another creature. It was then that someone strong grabbed her sword arm and spun her around. Shock filled Xena's being when the person turned out to be the very creature she had killed earlier. She tried to pull her arm away, but the creature was too strong. He exposed his fangs. She prepared to deliver a blow with her other arm, when he instantaneously released her, and fled into the woods, followed by all the other creatures. Xena turned to call out to Gabrielle, and saw her lying on the ground, clutching her head.
The warrior ran to her partner. “Gabrielle, are you okay?”
Gabrielle barely nods. “Where did that noise come from?”
Xena looked at her questioningly. “What noise?”
The bard looked up at Xena. “You didn't hear it?”
“You must have been hit in the head.”
“Xena, I wasn't hit. It was that noise, it hurt my head. I've never heard a sound like that in my life.” Slowly she looked around, “Where did they go?”
Xena helped her up. “They ran to the woods. They all took off at once.” Xena grabbed the Bard by the elbow. “What did those creatures remind you of?”
“Yeah. We need to find out more about them.” The couple returned to the inn, and found that the townsfolk have gathered there, turning the tavern into a make-shift hospice. Xena looked over at the man who was ordering folks around. “I'm going to check with him, and see what he knows. Check on Demetri, and see what you can do here.”
Gabrielle nodded, and watched as Xena headed towards the bossy man and then headed to find her target.
The older man eyed the female warrior. “Thank you stranger for your help. A lot of lives were saved.”
“What were those things?”
“They are vampari. They attack once every few weeks. Nothing we have tried has worked.”
“I stabbed one clear through with my sword. And yet he got up and attacked like nothing had happened.”
“We have been dealing with this for almost 4 years now. They appear, grab the old and the weak, and just as sudden as they appear, they disappear.”
“How about the other nearby villages? Have they been attacked as well?”
“Yes. We tried to see if there was a pattern, and we have tried to track them. They are just too fast and too strong.”
“So they only attack the old and weak?”
“Unfortunately no. And it is better for the old and weak. At least we can recover their bodies.” He lowered his voice. “They feed on the old and weak, draining them of their blood. The strong, if they are bitten and survive, may be attacked again. And turn.”
“Become one of them. In some cases, those brave souls kill themselves before it can happen. Others are killed by the villagers.”
“You kill them?”
“Not in this village, but other villages.” He shrugged his shoulders. “It may be the humane thing to do. Better to die as a human, than live forever as one of them.” He eyed the warrior. “We appreciated your help. But this isn't your fight. If I were you, I would take myself and your friend as far away from here as possible.”
“Appreciate your concern for us, but we ran into something similar to this back home in Greece . We were able to destroy it.”
“ Greece , you say?”
“Hmm. That is were Helen was from.”
The magistrate tilted his head to the back of the tavern. “Demetri's mom.” The magistrate pardoned himself, and made his way to another group of people. Xena eyed the young man. Seeing that Gabrielle was talking to him, she made her way out of the tavern, to check the perimeter of the town.
“How is your uncle?”
Demetri looked up from his work. “He is fine and just as ornery as ever. He fussed out the healer and then kicked him out of his room. But he did promise to rest. I know he would like a visit from you.”
Gabrielle chuckled. “I will be sure to do that.” She nodded to the stacks of cloth on the table. “Need help?”
Demetri smiled brightly. “Yes.” He handed her a long strip of cloth. As before, when their hands touch, Gabrielle felt a surge that seem to flow back and forth between them.
“You okay?” Demetri looked at her with concern in his eyes.
“Yeah, just thinking about the battle today.”
Gabrielle stood by him silently as she helped rolled strips of cloth into bandages. She could tell from his expression that he was curious. She decided to let him take the lead in the conversation as she thought about how to get the information she wanted from him.
“So where did you two learn to fight like that? Not many people around here have such knowledge.”
“Xena taught me. In our line of work and the way we travel, it has helped us.”
“You travel a lot? So where is home?”
“Home is where the heart is Demetri. However, I am from a small village in Greece .”
“Really, my mom was from there. She died about four winters ago.”
“Sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you.” A small smile graced the young man's lips as memories of his mother played in his head. “She would tell me that Greece was so different from here. She only came here after my dad was killed. He died before I was even born. Uncle Igor insisted that she come here to raise me. He said this was a good place to raise children. She would tell me about women warriors, who lived in villages without men, and about the gods and goddesses. She even told me about other women who were like these creatures that have been attacking us. She would be so surprised to see the vampari, as though her fairy tales came to life.”
“Those weren't fairy tales Demetri. The women warriors who live together are called Amazons. I'm Queen of one of the Greek tribes.” She giggled as his eyes became big as saucers. “The gods and goddesses did exist. Now there are only two of them. And the women who are similar to the vampari, they were called Bacchai, after their god Bacchus.”
Demetri narrowed his chestnut eyes. “I remember now. Mom use to tell me stories about them-- they would lived in caverns, roam the woods for their next victim. If the victim was a man, they would tear him to pieces. If it was a woman, and Bacchus was pleased, they would make her into a Bacchai. They were shape-shifters; they could look like wolves or human. And Bacchus was killed by a Bacchai.” He slowly shook his head. “I thought she made up all those stories. We have nothing like that here.” He eyed the young woman. “Your land sounds so exciting. I would like to one day visit there, to see the land where my mom comes from.”
Gabrielle gave him a small smile, and then focused on making the bandages.
After the wounded were taken care of, the tavern closed for the rest of the day. Gabrielle and Xena decided to eat some travel rations in their room, where they could relax and share information.
“According to the magistrate, the attacks started about 4 years ago.”
“Demetri told me that they are called vampari. Wait, did you say 4 years ago?”
“Demetri told me that his mom was from Greece . She told him stories about the amazons, the gods and the Bacchai.”
“We need to talk to her. Maybe she knows more.”
“We can't; she died 4 years ago. The same time the attacks started.” Gabrielle replayed in her mind the conversation she had with Demetri. “She knew a lot about the Bacchai. She even knew that Bacchus was killed by another Bacchai.”
“The only way she would have known that Gabrielle is if she was there.”
“You don't think she was a Bacchai? All the girls in the cavern turned back human.”
“They did. Or so we thought. According to the magistrate, four years ago is the same time that the vampari appeared.”
“Do you think she is responsible for the vampari?”
“I don't know Gabrielle. There are some similarities, but just as many differences as well. Bacchai are female, and they can be killed by weapons. According to my source, the old and weak are killed, but it take more than one bite to become a vampari. These things are male and female, and cannot be killed by weapons.” Xena reached over and tough Gabrielle's hand. “I need for you to find out as much as you can about Demteri's mom. I'm going to try and track those creatures.”
“No way! I'm coming with you.” Gabrielle snatched back her hand. “I cannot believe that in all this time, you are trying to leave me in the village.”
“Gabrielle, Demetri likes you. Use that to your advantage.”
“I have a better idea, why don't you hang around the village until I can find out any more information. Then we both can go after the vampari.”
“If I have to stand around and watch you make goo-goo eyes at Demetri, he may not live long enough for him to tell you anything.”
“Then help the villagers repair their homes, shore up their defenses before the next attack...”
Gabrielle, I will be fine.
“NO!” Gabrielle yelled.
“Gabrielle, what's wrong?”
The bard closed her eyes, trying to reign in the emotional storm that raged inside of her.
Xena reached out and gently pulled the petite warrior to her. “Talk to me.”
Gabrielle opened her eyes, and continued to let Xena hold her. “It's just that, the last time we went our separate ways, you died.”
Xena tightened her grip on the younger woman. “Gabrielle, I'm not going anywhere.”
“I know it sounds silly…”
“No it doesn't.” Xena leaned back so she could look into Gabrielle's eyes. “I made a promise to you Gabrielle when you came back to Japa. I'm not going to leave your side. You are going to know the entire plan. No more secrets, okay?”
Gabrielle nodded. “Okay.”
Xena leaned forward, and placed a gentle kiss on her soulmate's forehead. “I'm sorry.”
“It's not your fault.”
“Yes it is.” Xena continued to hold Gabrielle close. “I will stay here and find out what I can. Then we can track them together, okay?” She watched as Gabrielle nodded. ”Good. But don't say I didn't warn you. If he comes too close…”
Gabrielle smiled. “I can handle Demetri. You just help the village get itself together.”
Gabrielle went to the main room of the tavern and sat down, hoping to see Demetri. She didn't have to wait long. As soon as the young man saw her, a smile lit up his whole face, and he made his way to her table.
“Do you need anything Gabrielle?”
She smiled back at him. “Just wondering if you have time to chat?”
“Of course.” He pulled out a seat and sat across from her. “You know, it was so nice to have someone to talk to about mom and her fanciful stories.”
“She sounds like she would have made a wonderful bard Demetri.”
“I know she would have liked you.” He reached out and covered her hand with his. Once again, Gabrielle felt the same surge she felt when they hands accidentally brushed each other when they first met. She looked down at their joined hands. “Demetri…
He interrupted, “Actually my mom was sort of an artist. She made pictures to go with her fanciful stories. I kept them all after she died. Would you like to see them? And…” he paused, “have dinner with me tonight?” Gabrielle gave him a small smile and nodded. “Great. Is it alright if I meet you here, after the dinner rush?”
“Okay.” She looked out towards the door. “I need to check on my horse. I'll see you later.” She pulled her hand away and then stood to head out the door.
As soon as she exited, she looked down at her hand. The surge had stopped the moment she pulled away from him. But it was more than the surge that disturbed her. A feeling of comfort and familiarity kept ringing inside of her. She shook her head, trying to clear her mind. One thing was for sure in her head, “Xena's isn't going to like this at all.”
“You're what?” Xena tried to calmly ask. After a hard day of shoring the town's defenses, and giving advice to the town leaders, all she wanted was a quiet dinner in her room with her soul-mate. But it seemed that Gabrielle had other plans.
“Xena, it is just dinner. He wants to show me some of his mother's artwork.” She tried to reason with Xena' strategic side, “We need more information about his mother, and this is an easy way to get it.”
Xena slowly let out a breath. “Fine. I'll grab dinner in the tavern. I will be there just in case.”
“Xena,” Gabrielle was about to argue with the warriors, but seeing the stubborn look in her eyes caused her to reconsider, “Just don't spook him. Okay?”
The warrior gave her a small smile before leaving the room. She made her way to the main room, and spotted a table in the corner. She sat down at it, and made sure she could spot all of the room from her seat.
Demetri walked over to the table. “Can I get you anything Xena?”
Xena's eyes were the color of blue steel. “Just some water would be fine for now.”
The older white-headed inn-keeper came in from the back. “Demetri, what are you doing? You don't need to do that. You have more important things to do.”
“Uncle Iorgu, I was just taking her order.”
“Bah!” The old man gave the young man a gentle shove. “Don't want you to smell like the kitchen. Go now! Relax. Wait for her!”
Demetri rolled his eyes as he followed his uncle's orders. The old man turned to the warrior. “So what would you like?”
“Nonsense. We have some of the finest strong drink around!” He scurried to the bar, and picked out a dark bottle. “Distilled only from the best crops.” He poured her a drink and then himself a drink. “Share a drink with an old man?” He slugged back the drink. Xena held her drink close to her nose. Not smelling anything unusual, she sipped it. The dark and sweet liquid warmed her throat. “Very good.”
“Yes, it is!” Iorgu motioned for the warrior to lean forward as he whispered. “I think that Gabrielle is very good for Demetri, no? He has not been the same since his mother's death. They were so close. I've tried to honor my brother, and help take care of the lad all these years. It is finally good to see some happiness enter his life.”
Their conversation stopped as Gabrielle entered the room. Demetri stood up and smiled. He offered her his arm. “Uncle thought it would be best to have dinner at the farm. My mom's work is very delicate, and he reminded me that I need to take absolute care of it. So if you don't mind, your chariot awaits.”
Gabrielle glanced over at Xena before returning her attention to the young man. “Let's go.”
Xena watched them as they left the tavern. “Is it really safe for them to travel at night? Those creatures…”
“Perfectly safe,” Iorgu interrupted. “They never strike twice.”
“Good to know.” Xena filed the information away. “So you were saying that Demetri's dad was your brother?”
“Yah. He was a fine man, but he died before Demetri was even born. He was killed while defending his family from invaders. Those infidels killed my brother.”
“Sorry about your lost.”
Iorgu nodded and then slammed down another drink. “At first the boy was going to have dinner here. I told him nonsense! The tavern is not romantic. Take her to the farm, have a nice dinner, get to know one another! Besides, he wanted to show her some of his mother's work. They are far too delicate to be trotted in and out. They are the only things he has from her.” A guffaw laugh filled the air “Hopefully by the Spring, we will have a wedding to celebrate!”
“I know, I know I get carried away. But I don't know how many seasons I have left. I'm old. Is it too much to ask that my only nephew find happiness? I know that I probably shouldn't have interfered, but when I first saw her here in this tavern, I knew she would be perfect for my Demetri.” He stood up. “I will let you attend to your business. Thanks for sharing a drink with me. If there is nothing else, let me bid you a good night Warrior.”
“Goodnight.” Xena waited until the old man returned to the kitchen before she headed out of the tavern. Not knowing the direction the couple went, Xena spotted a huge Linden tree. With a running start, Xena leaped up and landed on a thick branch. She climbed the rest of the way up until she could see most of the surrounding countryside. She spots the wagon, and in the distance she saw a small farmhouse. “Too far to walk,” she surmised. Silently, Xena flipped out of the tree, and raced to the stable to retrieve Argo Jr.
“Welcome to my humble dwelling. Do you mind seeing my mother's work before we have supper?”
“Sure.” Gabrielle's curiosity made itself known. In all her travels, Gabrielle loved seeing the artwork of the lands she visited.
Gentle, Demetri pulled open an old wooden drawer. He reached inside and gingerly lifted out a large time-worn leather bounded album. He brought the album to Gabrielle. “Here it is.”
Gabrielle smiled as she took the album and opened it. “Greek.”
“Yes, like I told you, she was from your lands. She tried to teach it to me, but since no one else around here spoke Greek, I didn't pay much attention to the lessons. “A sad look filled his face. “Now, I wished I had. I remember bits and pieces of the stories, but not enough to make out what she wrote.”
Gabrielle's hand slowly slid across the album. “This one is called Song of the Bacchai.” Gabrielle swallowed back her emotions as she began reading out loud. “My Lord told me that a person, who is bitten and slowly becomes a Bacchi, will always have a piece of Bacchus in them. It is called the Song of the Bacchai. And anyone who has Bacchus' blood flowing through him or her will recognize it. The Song will come from the heart, it will flow through their veins, and out from their touch.” A chill ran down Gabrielle's spine. “My son, you are of Bacchus' blood. You are the heir to his throne. And one day, you will recognize the Song as it calls out to you.”
Demetri stared intently at the Bard. “I never thought that story was true. You are the only person I have heard that song from besides my mother. You were a Bacchai.”
Gabrielle took a step back, away from the young man as confusion filled her expression. “You're his son?”
“So it wasn't your mother. You are responsible for the vampari.” She turned to the front door, but Demetri stood there, blocking the doorway. A smirk dressed his lips as he watched her jaw dropped in astonishment.
“The first time the hunger came upon me, I was 17. My uncle came to me, and I learned that I had inherited a lot of my father's traits. He and my mother taught me a lot. Animals satisfied the need for years. But 4 years ago, after her death, it wasn't enough.” He took at step towards her. “For months, I would hit a village and attack only in the shadows. Then I learned to control my hunger. I could feed without killing.
Then, one night I went to attack a young woman. Before I could even touch her, she turned and attacked me. It was then, we realized we were the same. I took her with me and later discovered that I had attacked her before. Others soon follow. I consider them my family.”
“They are killing people. Why?”
“My children are weaker than me, Gabrielle. They cannot control their hunger. They can't stop themselves. I can go weeks after a feeding. They cannot. They need to feed much more than me. And when their more animalistic nature takes over, even I have trouble stopping them. Speaking of which…”
Gabrielle slowly turned her head. Out from the shadows, vampari came into the light. Gabrielle quickly pulled out her sais . She counted their number…at least 10 of them. Demetri saw the determination in her eyes.
“You do know your weapons cannot kill us.”
“Maybe not, but I guess you can feel pain like the rest of us.”
“They don't want to kill you Gabrielle.” He threw up a hand, and the vampari stopped. “Gabrielle, I thought I was destined to walk this world alone. Then I found out about you.”
“Sorry, already spoken for.” With that, she slashed at the closest vampari, causing a deep slash in her face. She then attacked the one on her left, then her right. She knew she couldn't kill them, but she was determined to clear a path and escape. She was about to make a run for it when one of the vampari instantaneously stood in front of the door.
“They also inherited my speed.” She then felt one at her back. Before she could react, a male vampari grabbed her left arm and snapped it. She screamed in pure pain as she dropped to her knees, clutching her broken arm. “Also my strength.” Demetri slowly walked toward her. “Gabrielle, you are about to receive a gift.”
Gabrielle spoke through gritted teeth. “You can take your gift and shove it.”
A toothy smile appeared, and that is when Gabrielle noticed the fangs. Demetri's voice was barely above a whisper. “Uncle did say you had a way with words.” He proceeded to sink his fangs into her neck.
A scream caught in her throat, but couldn't find its way out. Pure, sheer coldness seemed to flood her very veins. She felt her blood running down the left side on her body. She raised her good arm, and grabbed at his hair, but that only caused him to sink deeper into her. The only sound she was able to make was a gasp as her blood began to burn in her veins. She sank further onto the floor and the darkness mercifully took over.
Demetri stood up and watched as her body began to convulse. “Let's go.”
One of the female vampari looked surprised. “We are not taking her with us?”
Demetri shook his head. “No need to.” Demetri picked up the album and gracefully walked out of the door.
Just as silently they appeared, the vampari disappeared into the night.
Traveling at night on horseback was not the smartest thing to do. Horses have been known to break a leg by stepping into holes or tripping over branches. But Xena had no choice. As she closed in on the farmhouse, she heard the Amazon's scream. “Gabrielle,” Xena said, her voice full of worry. She urged Argo even faster.
She kicked in the front door, her sword drawn. No one was there. She walked through the front room. She gasped as her partner came into sight.
Gabrielle's skin possessed a deathly pallor, causing her lips to look blood red, her body convulsing. Xena ran into the back room, saw a blanket upon the bed and ripped it off. Hurriedly, she ran into the front room, and began to tightly tuck the blanket around Gabrielle. That is when she noticed the arm and the bite marks on the neck. Noticing that the bite marks had already started to scab over, she looked around the room for arm splints. She grabbed a wooden chair and smashed it against the wall. She then went into the back room again, and tore the sheet off the bed and ripped it into strips. Using the broken chair as splints and the torn sheet as bandages, she set Gabrielle's arm; and then wrapped the blanket tightly around the Bard. She went outside and grabbed her medical kit and saddle bags. “Stand guard Argo.” The horse neighed.
She went back inside and fixed an herbal concoction to help Gabrielle with the spasms. As she spoon fed Gabrielle the liquid, she rubbed her throat, helping the young woman to get the fluid into her system. Once the tea was finished, she took another strip of sheet, moistened it with water and wiped the blood off of Gabrielle. It was only then, that she let her emotions go. As she cradled Gabrielle in her arms, she kissed her feverish forehead and let the silent tears fall from her eyes. “You are going to be alright. You are going to be alright.”
Once the convulsions lessened, Xena went back outside. She walked to the edge of the woods, and found two small trees. She chopped them down using her sword, and dragged them to Argo. She was fighting her emotions tooth and nail, she wanted to take Gabrielle and run, get as far away from the town of Ardeal as possible. But a small voice told her that Gabrielle would be disappointed if she didn't at least warn them. “We have to get Gabrielle back to the village girl.” The warrior tied the make shift travois to the golden steed. She went back inside, gently lifted Gabrielle in her arms, took her outside and laid her in the travois. Xena took the reins, and led Argo back by foot, hoping to see any bumps in the road to avoid them.
As she entered the town, she headed straight towards the magistrate's dwelling. She pounded on the door. The magistrate opened the door. “What happened?”
“I only came to warn you. Gather the town folk together. Demetri is the cause of the attacks. Iorgu is involved also.”
“How you know this?”
Xena stepped aside so that the magistrate could see the travois and Gabrielle. He walked over to the unconscious victim. “What happened? Who did this?”
“The last person she was with was Demetri.”
“I can't believe this! Demetri was born here! He grew up here!”
“Listen, I don't care about his biography! My friend was attacked at his farmhouse. He wasn't there.”
“Maybe they took him.” He could see that Xena's temper was about to flare. “Okay, I will bring Iorgu in and question him.” He looked over at Gabrielle. “She was bitten, wasn't she?”
Xena didn't said a word as she walked over to the travois and gently brushed Gabrielle' hair out of her face.
He sighed. “If she was bitten, then the best thing you can do for her is to get her away from here. They didn't kill her; therefore they want to turn her.” With that, he turned and ran for the inn.
After a number of moments, the magistrate returned, Gabrielle's horse trailing behind him. “He is gone. I searched the inn and the stables. He has disappeared. Looks like you may be right. Sorry about your friend.
Xena didn't acknowledge him. “I'm getting her out of here now.”
“Probably for the best,” he stated as he tied to reigns of the second horse to Argo's saddlehorn.
Xena undid the travois and picked up the Bard. She gave Argo a command. “Kneel.”
The steed dropped to her two front knees. Xena climbed up, cradling her friend. With her legs, she urged Argo to stand and the group quickly made its way out of town.
It hurt too much to breath, to move, even to think. All she could feel was the pain. The terrible heat would seem to burn her flesh, and the next moment the ice froze her to the core. Ice met fire, and the forming mists and liquid seem to drown her very essence. The elements seem to slam together in an explosion of searing light and then rip apart slowly over and over again in her body. Gabrielle wanted to scream out in agony, but didn't have the strength to do so. All she could do was open her eyes. She saw Xena's face full of focus and determination. Knowing she was safe, she allowed the darkness to swallow her once more.
Xena looked straight ahead, her very being in full battle mode. Any threat would be dealt with quickly and without mercy. She glanced down at her soul-mate, and then shifted her focus back on the road. She stuck to the main road for a few candlemarks, and then urged horses deep into the woods. She traveled until she came across what looked like a small abandoned farmhouse. Nature had started to reinforce its dominance, as vines, bushes and grasses grew wild and unchecked. Xena stopped Argo. The steed gently kneeled, and the warrior slid off, holding her soul-mate close to her. She laid her down gently so she could inspect the structure more closely.
Xena made a make-shifted torch and opened the door. The house was full of dust and insects ran when the light filled the room. All that was left in the house was a small wooden table. Xena checked the stone fireplace, and saw it was still in good shape. She decided to stay here until Gabrielle was well enough to travel.
She went outside and gently picked up the unconscious woman. She brought Gabrielle inside, and with all care, laid her down close to the fireplace. She laid the torch in the fireplace, and went outside. She looked on the side of the house, and after cutting through the high grasses, she found what she had hoped to find—a few small old logs that the previous owner left behind. She took them inside, and with some kindling, she stroked a small but hot fire. She looked over at Gabrielle and saw that she was even paler than before. She went and grabbed their saddle bags and sleeping furs from Argo, and made some more tea containing medical herbs.
She brought the hot liquid and sat down on the floor. She sat Gabrielle up, and touched her skin. She was icy cold and clammy. She gently tapped her on the face. “Come on Gabrielle. Wake up. I've some hot tea for you. Warm you right up. Come on now.”
After some more coaxing, Gabrielle slowly opened her eyes. Xena audibly gasped. Gabrielle's eyes were bright and green, but instead of looking at Xena, the petite warrior's eyes seem to stare right through her, without any recognition whatsoever.
It was a long and tiring process, but Xena was able to get most of the tea into Gabrielle. “Go to sleep now.” She rocked her soul-mate until she Gabrielle finally closed her eyes.
She settled Gabrielle upon their sleeping furs. Xena then checked the fire, making sure it had enough wood to last until the morning. Knowing that there was nothing else she could do, she laid down behind her partner, wrapping her arms around her tight. Gabrielle's skin was still cold and her breathing shallow. Xena pulled her as close as possible, giving her as much body heat as she could. Soon, she fell into a fitful sleep.
The pain cease and the bitter cold were replaced by gentle warmth. She could smell the pungent scent of the smoke, and her skin seemed to tingle from the heat of the fire. But most of all, she could hear the rush of something….. the wind, a waterfall… she didn't know what it was, but it called out to her, urging her to wake up from her sleep. She slowly opened her eyes and let them get adjusted to the light. As she tried to move, a moan escaped from her lips.
Xena rushed over. “Hey you, I bet you are thirsty.” The warrior gently helped Gabrielle sit up, and then placed her hand on her soul-mate's forehead. A small smile formed at the corners of her mouth. “Your fever finally broke.” Xena raised a small cup of water to Gabrielle's lips. “Take a few sips. Then lie back down. You still look very pale.”
Gabrielle did as she was told. She scanned the room and realized that they weren't at the inn. “So, where are we?”
“Don't worry about that Gabrielle. You need to rest. You have had a fever for three days.”
“We're not in Ardeal, are we?” She watched as Xena shook her head no. “Xena, we have to go back.”
“No we don't!” Xena exclaimed. “Gabrielle, we are getting as far from Ardeal as possible.” She took a deep breath. “The magistrate warned me. They didn't kill you because they wanted to turn you into one of them. I'm not going to let them get another chance at you.”
Gabrielle focused her eyes on the ground. “He was the one who bit me.” Her eyes narrowed as she reflected on the events right before the attack. “At the farm, he showed me a scroll his mom created. It was the Song of the Bacchai. Anyone of his line will be able to feel this song.”
Xena was perplexed by Gabrielle's choice of words. “Feel?”
Gabrielle repeated the exact phrase from the scroll. “The Song will come from the heart, it will flow through their veins, and out from their touch.” She finally looked at Xena. “I would feel this energy just surge through my hands whenever we touched. I didn't think anything of it. He said that is when he realized I was a once a Bacchai. He thought he would never meet another one, other than his mother.”
“So how did Demetri become a Bacchai? They have always been female.”
“Demetri is Bacchus' son.”
“His son? That means Helen must have been pregnant when she turned back human.” Lightning flashed in Xena's eyes while her mind was putting the puzzle pieces together. “No. He can't be behind this. I'm going to kill him.”
“At the inn, Irogu and I had a drink. He told me that Demetri's father was his brother. Irogu and Ares is the same person. That is how he got away so fast without a trace.”
“Demetri told me that his uncle said I had a way with words.” A questioning look filled her eyes. “I don't understand. What could Ares possibly gain from this?”
“I don't know Gabrielle. But as soon as we get back to Greece , I'm going to find out.”
“Xena, we cannot leave those villagers to fight Demetri and the vampari. They are not match for them.”
“We're not either Gabrielle. Our weapons have no effect on them. Besides, you are still recovering.”
“Xena, I feel fine. In fact, I haven't felt this well in a long time.”
“Why you are so pale then? Gabrielle, you were out of it for 3 days. You lost a lot of blood. Even if they weren't after you, I still wouldn't risk it.”
“No Gabrielle.” She sat on the floor cross-legged in front of the petite blonde. “I'm not going to risk losing you. We can't help them. And until we find out what Ares is up to, we won't know what our next step should be.” She reached out and grabbed Gabrielle's hand. It was cool to the touch. “You need to rest. We'll stay here until you are well enough to travel.”
“Xena, I'm well now.” Seeing the look of doubt upon her soul-mate's face, she continued, “Want me to prove it?”
“I want you to rest. Tomorrow, if you still feel alright, we will leave. Okay?”
Gabrielle shook her head, knowing that Xena wasn't about to change her mind, and lay back down. * Might as well enjoy this day off.* She smirked to herself as Xena went to the fireplace and poured a cup of hot water. She could smell the sleeping herbs as the scent floated in the air. “Xena, I'm not tired.”
It was Xena's turn to smirk. “I know that. That is why I making you some tea. It will help you to relax.”
“It is going to put me to sleep. I've slept enough…” She was about to argue her point until she saw the look on Xena's face. “Sorry, I know you are just worried.”
Xena sat down next to her. She handed her the cup and watched as Gabrielle began to drink the tea. “When I found you, there was so much blood. You were convulsing. I wasn't sure you were going to make it.” Xena swallowed hard as the memories filled her mind. “I need to know that you are okay. I won't let anything happen to you.”
Gabrielle laid her head down on Xena's lap. A small smile graced her lips as Xena gently ran her fingers through the blonde tresses. “Thank you for taking care of me. I love you.”
“Love you too. Now get some rest.”
Within moments, Gabrielle was stifling a yawn. Being totally relaxed, she closed her eyes and let the herbs take over.
Xena looked down at Gabrielle and pulled the blanket over the sleeping woman. She silently bent down, and placed a gentle kiss upon her forehead. She then too, allowed herself to get some rest.
The room was still dark; the only source of light was the small fire in the stone fireplace. Gabrielle opened her eyes and scanned the room. She could see the table, and on top of the table laid their saddlebags, and cooking utensils. She heard a buzz, and looked to her left. She could see a fly as it tried to find a way out of the house. Then another sound caught her attention. She turned around and smiled as she realized that the source of the seemingly loud snore was her sleeping soul-mate. Gabrielle was fully engaged in her favorite past time. She lay down beside the warrior, to gain a better view. She sniffed, as a sweet smell filled her nostrils. She moved her head closer to Xena, and realized that the scent came from her. *Maybe she switched soaps*, she surmised, as she breathed in deeply. The scent was intoxicating. Gabrielle's eyes became very playful as an idea popped into her head.
Xena awoke to find Gabrielle gently nibbling her skin across her jaw line. It was pleasurable, too pleasurable and Xena tried to halt the younger woman's activities, even as her own body betrayed her and gave Gabrielle more room to maneuver. “Gabrielle, what do you think you are doing?” she whispered.
Gabrielle didn't stop as she kissed her way to Xena's pulse. She began to suck very lightly, causing a moan to escape from the warrior's throat. She smiled, and then looked up into the sea blue eyes. “Proving to you how well I am.”
“Gabrielle, behave your…” her words were cut off as Gabrielle kissed her deeply and soundly. The kiss didn't end until their lungs cried out for air. Gabrielle watched as Xena breathed in deeply. Then she went back for more, pushing Xena so that the warrior's back was on the floor, and she was on top.
Gabrielle then proceeded to prove to Xena just how fit she truly was.
They didn't leave the old farmhouse until later that morning. As they rode, Gabrielle noticed that everything around her seem sharper. The colors seem more vibrant, she could feel the tingle of the breeze as it blew by her skin. She could smell the faint aroma of the fallen leaves. She thought about her other close encounters with death, and how the world seemed more alive afterwards. She wondered to herself how long this sensation was going to last this time around.
Xena glanced back at her partner. Even though she still looked pale, Gabrielle was indeed feeling better, and was up for the trip. A small grin danced upon Xena's lips as she briefly thought about this morning. She glanced up at the sun, and hoped that its rays would kiss Gabrielle's skin, and return her healthy glow once more. Her thoughts were interrupted as she heard a stick breaking. She slowed down Argo, and looked at Gabrielle.
The bard nodded, indicating that she heard it too. Both warriors stopped their steeds, and climbed down. They walked side by side.
“We're being followed,” Gabrielle whispered.
Xena nodded. “You need to get back on your horse. If they are vampari, you need to get out of here.”
“Forget it. I'm not leaving you alone Xena.”
“Don't worry,” both women looked up at the tall Linden tree from which the voice came. They watched as Demetri jumped down and landed like a feline upon his feet. “There is no they. And I'm not here to attack.”
Xena drew her sword as he took one step towards them. She stood in front of Gabrielle, with the horses guarding their rear. “Go back to whatever hole you crawled out of, you are not going to get to her again.”
His dark eyes stared at the bard. “No need to. What's done is done.” After a few moments, he shifted his attention to the warrior. “I came here to warn the both of you.”
“Warn us about what?” Xena sneered.
He ignored Xena's question. “Gabrielle, do you remember the night when you were bitten by a Bacchai? Do you remember who turned you?”
Gabrielle thought about it. “Why?”
He smirked. “Xena, do you remember when you were bitten?” The warrior remained silent, but he could see in her eyes clarity and acknowledgment, while in Gabrielle's eyes only shone confusion. “Mother was there on both occasions. She told me the story over and over again, hoping that I would avoid the pitfall of feminine wiles. Xena, you remember… you know it was Gabrielle who turned you, and you turned very quickly. Gabrielle however, doesn't remember being bit or who did it; and unlike you, she didn't turn quickly.”
“Do you have a point?” The Warrior Princess asked.
“According to mother, Bacchus knew that you would make a fine addition to his ranks. He came up with a plan. The best way to get to you was through your companion, so he disguised himself as a female mortal. He, my mother, and another Bacchai surrounded Gabrielle on the dance floor. And he bit her. She has no recollection because she was bitten by Bacchus himself. And unlike a regular Bacchai bite, his bite invades every part of a woman…every drop of blood, every bone, every organ. It invades her slowly, making its imprint on every facet of her being.” He smiled evilly. “So there is no need for me to bite her again. My bite just reawakened what was already there.”
“Am I Gabrielle? Tell me, why are you still so pale? I bet you your skin is cold, as least it feels that way to humans. Don't things seem a bit clearer and your senses sharper? Have you smelled any new scents that make your pulse race with anticipation?”
Xena glanced back at Gabrielle and saw that the fear in her face. She needed to end this very quickly. “You said you were here to warn us.”
He continued to stare at the bard. “The hunger will come. You need to come with me Gabrielle so I can teach you to hunt, how to pick your prey. If you don't, the hunger will take over, and you will attack any person that is near you--- a man, a woman, a baby…nothing will be safe around you. You won't be able to stop it or control it once it takes over. It won't stop until it is satiated.”
“She is not going with you anywhere.”
“If she stays with you, she will come to regret that decision.” He finally looked at the Warrior Princess. “And you won't live long enough to regret anything.”
“If you thought that story would cause us to separate, you were wrong. Ares has tried this before. It didn't work then, and it won't work now. I don't know what kind of sick game you and Ares are playing, but you won't win.”
“I already have.” He turned and walked towards the woods. “Remember what I said Gabrielle. We will be waiting.” With that, he ran into the woods and disappeared from sight.
Xena turned and looked at Gabrielle. The young woman looked paler. “Gabrielle,” she said as she tried to reach out to her.
Before Xena could touch her, Gabrielle turned and ran to the edge of the woods and promptly retched up the meal she had earlier during the day.
They traveled in silence, each woman replaying Demetri's words in their own mind. They finally came to a spot suitable for making camp. Each woman attended to their individual tasks. After camp was made, Xena looked at Gabrielle. “Bet you don't feel like rations tonight. Anything in particular you want me to try and find?”
Gabrielle silently shook her head no. Hating the silence that seemed to have captured them, Xena walked up to Gabrielle, and pulled her into a tight embrace. “He lied to us Gabrielle. We'll make our way to the coast, we'll be home in a moon or so, okay?” Gabrielle began to pull away, but Xena grabbed her hands. “Don't let him play games with your mind.”
The warrior-bard eyed the warrior. “Xena, if I ask you something, I need for you to tell me the truth.” She swallowed hard before asking, “What do my hands feel like to you?”
Xena looked down at their joined hands. She slowly looked up at Gabrielle's face. “Gabrielle, you lost a lot of blood…”
Gabrielle snatched her hand away. “Don't! Don't make excuses Xena. This morning, I woke up and saw a fly buzzing around the room. I looked at the table and saw every one of our items on that table. It never dawned to me that I shouldn't have been able to see them in the dark.
And then I watched as you slept. I smelled this sweet scent, and realized it was coming from you. I thought you had use a new soap, but it wasn't that. I smelled you, and I wanted you so badly.
I saw things, heard things, felt things…and I thought it was just my reaction to being so close to death. I reasoned everything away.” She finally looked Xena in the face. “He is right; I don't remember how I became a Bacchai. I'm still pale, even after being in the sun all day. My skin is still cold. And I still can smell your scent.”
“Gabrielle, you were sick for days. You almost died. Everything you are experiencing can be related to that. And as far as my scent goes, well, I haven't had a bath, so that is why you can smell me.”
Gabrielle chuckled a little. “Xena, what if he is telling the truth?”
“Why are you giving him so much credit? He and Ares are working together. Enough said.”
Gabrielle nodded. “Maybe you are right.” She reached out and touched Xena on the arm. “I need for you to promise me something. If it turns out that he is telling the truth…”
“He isn't” Xena stated flatly.
“If he is, I want you to leave me here. I don't want to affect anyone in Greece with this.”
“Gabrielle, I'm not leaving you alone.”
The young woman embraced her soul-mate. “I love you.”
“Love you too.” Xena continued to hold her. “I'm not very hungry either. Let's just turn in, okay?”
Gabrielle nodded, and followed her soul-mate to the sleeping furs. Xena pulled Gabrielle to her until the your woman's head was on her shoulders.
Gabrielle smiled, then breathed deeply. “Xena?”
“Promise me that you will take a bath tomorrow.”
Xena chuckled. “I promise.”
Xena awoke, only to find she was alone in the furs. “Gabrielle?” Xena frantically looked around until she saw the bard.
Gabrielle sat on the ground, her back up against a tree trunk. She gave a small smile to Xena. “Hi.”
Xena eyed her partner. “Are you okay?”
“I'm okay Xena. Just woke up early and couldn't get back to sleep.” She stood up and went over by the fire. “I made some tea. Want some?”
Xena nodded. She reached out and grabbed the cup Gabrielle offered. “Thanks.” She took a swallow of the hot brew. She noticed how tired Gabrielle looked. “Are you hungry?”
“Good; glad to see your appetite back. Why don't you rest here while I go hunting? Once we're finish with breakfast, we can break camp.”
“That sounds good. See you when you get back.”
Xena nodded, grabbed her sword and chakram, and went deeper in the woods.
After a few moments, Gabrielle let out a sigh of relief. Gabrielle thought about what caused her to wake up in the first place… Xena's scent filled her nostrils while the sound of the tall warrior's heart thumped in her ears. They were almost too much to take. She went to the woods, and heard another heartbeat. She silently stalked the animal, and was able to capture the rabbit. But she couldn't stomach the idea of drinking its blood. She let the creature go, and silently crept back to camp and sat by a tree that was upwind from the sleeping woman. During those wee hours, Gabrielle tried to come up with a way to make Xena see the truth. She didn't know how much time she had left before the hunger would take over. She also knew that Xena would never willingly leave her. Gabrielle thought about leaving herself, but she knew that Xena would be able to track her. She was at her wit's end when an idea popped into her head. “Aphrodite, if you can hear me, please come here.”
In a not so subtle display of glitter and light, the goddess of love appeared in front of Gabrielle. “You rang Sweet Pea?” the tall blonde goddess asked. It was then she noticed the bard's state. “Are you hurt?” Without hesitation, she kneeled down, and began checking for injuries.
Gabrielle grabbed the goddess' questing hands. “Aphrodite, listen please. I don't have much time. I need for you to take Xena back to Greece , far away from here.”
“No problemo babe. I'll have you both back in less time than it takes for you to blink.”
“No! Not me. Just Xena.”
“Did you two have a fight? You know communication is the heart of a strong relationship.”
“Aphrodite, please focus!” The goddess heard the intensity of the plea and looked at her mortal friend. It was then that she noticed the difference. “Gabrielle, what happened to you?”
Gabrielle took some calming breaths. It was then she noticed that the goddess' scent was invading her senses. Her mind wondered if every person had a unique scent and taste. She shook the morbid thought from her mind. “Aphrodite, listen carefully. There are creatures called vampari. They live off the blood of others.”
“Groody! That is disgusting!”
“I was bitten and now I'm affected. I'm becoming one of them.” Gabrielle felt her stomach clinched in hunger as the goddess continued to sit near her. The bard stood up and took a couple of steps back. “I'm afraid of what I will do to Xena. She refuses to see what is happening, and she won't leave. You got to get her away before I harm her.”
“Okay Gabrielle. And as soon as I get her back to Greece , I'll come back and help you.”
Gabrielle shook her head. “Aphrodite, no disrespect intended, but your scent is driving me nuts. I don't need the temptation.”
The goddess smiled as the ego took hold. “I do have that affect on people.” The humorous moment quickly evaporated as she saw the yellow rim around Gabrielle's irises. She had seen that exact look before. “It can't be. Only Bacchus…”
“He had a son, his name is Demetri. He is the one that bit me.” She gripped her torso as the pain swept through her body. “Go. Xena can explain the rest.”
“I'll do as you ask Gabrielle. But I know I can speak for Xena here…we are not going to give up on you. We will find a way to get you two back together, and get you well.”
Gabrielle managed to give her a small smile before the goddess disappeared in a stream of pink and gold glittering light.
Xena went about 40 paces outside of the camp. She felt the creepy-crawly feeling run down her spine. “Get out here Ares,” her voice became a growl, “Now!”
In a show of white light and smoke, the black leather-clad God of War stood before her, with a Cheshire-cat grin on his face. “So you figured it out. I knew you would.”
“It didn't work. He only bit her once.”
“Denial is not just a river in Egypt , is it Xena? She's changing and you know it.”
Xena gritted her teeth. “You bastard!” Xena slugged the god in the face with a right hook.
The god stumbled, then straightened himself to his full stature. “Such passion wasted on someone who only wants to drain you dry. It doesn't have to be that way Xena.”
“What are you up to Ares?”
The god cocked his head. “You want the truth? Okay. The truth is, Olympus is a very lonely place with only Aphrodite and me there. I miss my family. We didn't get along, but I miss them the same. I was shocked to discover that Bacchus had a child. He has such power Xena. He can build an army that is indestructible. The problem is…he is lonely and he isn't a capable fighter. I can't have my only nephew being so destressed. So, when I discovered that Gabrielle had been bitten by Bacchus himself, well, I just had to help Demetri. They do make a fine couple, you have to admit that. Can you imagine the carnage they will cause?
But there was a fly in the ointment, a very beautiful fly…namely you. So I have a deal for you Xena. There is still Ambrosia around. I have some. All I have to do is give you some. You eat it once, you become immortal. Eat it twice, and you will become a god.” He walked up to her and looked her straight in the eye. “Think about it. You will be the new Queen of the gods. Gabrielle can be your Chosen One, if that is your wish. You two will be together for all of eternity. With all your memories, all your skills, never growing old, never having to fear or face death ever again. And with Demetri and Gabrielle leading our armies, mankind will have no choice but to worship the ground we walk on, humbly beg for our favor and fear our very presence.”
“Same ole Ares, same old story…you want to conquer the world. Can't you come up with anything else to do?”
The god snickered. “Xena, in case you haven't notice, I am a god! And gods must have worshippers; we must be feared and respected. What are gods without worship, without power, without fear?”
“Exactly what you are…nothing,” she sneered.
Ares ignored her jab and continued. “What better way to gain that respect, that power than with humans who have been turned into demigods themselves? We will be the new Pantheon. Face facts Xena: Gabrielle is immortal now. So is Demetri, Aphrodite and myself. You are the only missing piece to the puzzle.”
“No dice Ares. The idea of being with you for eternity is making me sick.” The warrior turned and started to head back to camp.
“She's dead. Ares watched as those two words stopped Xena in her tracks. She turned and faced the god, anger flashing in her blue eyes. The god was all business. “The Gabrielle you knew is dead. Or should I say, she is as good as dead. Gabrielle always liked power. And she loves the battle. She loves it so much, she is afraid by her love of it. But she will have all of eternity to conquer that fear. Xena, I am offering you a chance to be part of destiny. You can accept this gift that I offer you. Or you can reject it. But know this; this gift is only for a limited time. Act fast, before time runs out…for you.” He reached out his hand and in it appeared a bowl of Ambrosia. The orange substance jiggled about in the gold bowl. “Life,” he stated as he lifted the bowl, “or death,” and he motioned to his empty hand.
She turned and glanced at the god one last time. “I've made my choice.” She turned and walked away.
Dejection filled the god's voice. “So be it Xena.” Ares disappeared as the white light flickered three times.
She was half back to camp when Aphrodite appeared. “Sorry Xena, but I promise Gabrielle to take you somewhere safe.”
“No need for that Aphrodite.” The warrior walked up to the goddess and looked her in the eye. “I need to know something. Are you in cahoots with Ares?”
“Bro? As if. Duh, I'm the goddess of love silly. What do I know about war except that it messes up the nails,” she stated as she gave a look at her perfect manicure. “Anyways, Gabrielle asked me to take you back to Greece . She is in a bad way Xena. She even kept away from me because of her thirst.”
Xena nodded, knowing the goddess was telling the truth. “Well I need a favor from you. And it is a big one. Don't take me to Greece .”
“Listen tall and deadly....”
“No you listen. I'm not going to leave her alone, not in this strange land with Demetri and his kind.”
“Xena, how are you going to help her?”
Xena eyebrow popped up. “I have a plan.”
Gabrielle slowly brushed her steed. The gentle animal neighed, and softly placed its head on top of the petite warrior. Flashbacks of the day she had found him flooded her memory. “Well boy, it is time. Thanks for being so good to me. I hope I have treated you well. You are free to go. Goodbye my friend.” She swatted him on the hind parts, but he trots away only a few feet. “Stop being stubborn,” she demanded. He neighed once again, then turned around, and walked away.
She watched as he trotted through the grass. *Too bad Xena won't be as easy to get rid of. Hope she doesn't hold a grudge against Aphrodite.* The wind carried the warrior's scent, alerting Gabrielle that Xena was near. She closed her eyes and could once more hear the sounds of beating and liquid flowing. She opened her eyes, turned her back and took a deep breath to calm the predator instinct. As soon as Xena stepped into camp, Gabrielle asked, “What are you doing here?”
. “You convinced Aphrodite to take me to Greece ,” Xena placed her sword in the scabbard, “and I had to unconvince her.”
“Xena it was for your own safety.” Gabrielle turned around and faced Xena.
The warrior gasped as she saw that most of Gabrielle's green irises had turned yellow. Xena could barely hide her anguish as she continued to look at the bard.
Gabrielle saw Xena's reaction, which caused a sad smile to grace her lips. “I guess we both have to face it. Demetri told us the truth Xena.”
“So what? We can get through this.”
“Xena, do you love me?”
“Of course I do.”
“Then for both of our sakes, please leave. I don't know how much longer I have, but it gets harder every single day….being near you, and not giving in to the hunger. I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I hurt you.”
Xena let her emotions overwhelm her. She rushed in and pulled Gabrielle close to her. “Gabrielle, nothing is going to separate us. We are going to beat this.”
Gabrielle closed her eyes, trying to listen to Xena and fight the hunger at the same time. The pain was so great, and the pulse by her ear was so strong. She could feel the fangs as they grew forth from her upper jaw. She screamed in anguish as she pushed her soul-mate away. She doubled over in pain.
Xena started to make her way over to the other half of her soul, but Gabrielle threw up a hand, causing the warrior to stop.
“Don't come any closer Xena, please” the petite warrior begged. She looked up at Xena, her eyes wet with unshed tears.
Xena took a breath, as she stared into the yellow rimmed eyes. “Tell me what to do Gabrielle.”
Gabrielle gathered her strength and rose to her feet. She took a calming breath. “Don't follow me Xena. Don't try to find me. And if you ever find a way to destroy them, make sure I'm the first.”
“Gabrielle, don't say that!”
“Bye Xena. I love you.” With that, the young woman spun around, and ran as fast as she could through the woods.
Xena tried to follow her, but Gabrielle was too quick. Xena looked around, and noticed that Gabrielle wasn't covering her tracks; she just wanted to put as much distance between them as possible. Xena whistled for Argo, and the battle horse raced to her side. Xena climbed onto the steed, and followed the trail.
Gabrielle ran until the stomach cramps forced her to stop. She leaned against a tree, and breathed heavily. She couldn't pick up Xena's scent. Thinking that she had lost her, the blonde pushed herself up, and tried to walk. On her third step, her legs gave out. The muscles in various parts of her body began to betray her with cramps. She gritted her teeth, swallowing back the screams of anguish that threatened to rip from her mouth. She blinked her eyes, trying to stay focus. Her last conscious thoughts were on the love she had for her soul-mate…and her hatred for Demetri.
Dusk had taken over the land. Xena knew she should stop and make camp, but she was determined to find Gabrielle before nightfall. She knew there was a good chance that the hunger had taken over, and she wanted to stop Gabrielle from making her way to a village and killing an innocent person. In addition, she also knew that Demetri and his offspring may be looking for Gabrielle as well.
Xena focused as the sounds of the woods disappeared. The warrior stopped Argo and climbed down. She could feel that she was being watched. Her only clue to the imminent attack was the sound of a tree leaves rustling. She braced herself as the creature flew at her, tackling her to the ground. Using their momentum, Xena flipped them over so that she was on top. She looked down at the creature and gasped.
Gabrielle's eyes held no hint of green, they were blazing yellow. The young woman snapped and snarled as she tried to bite Xena's arm.
“Gabrielle, it doesn't have to be like this.” Xena didn't want to hurt Gabrielle any more than needed. She punched the woman in the jaw, hoping to knock her out. The punch proved to be ineffective, and only caused the blonde warrior to be more aggressive. Gabrielle quickly rolled over, causing Xena to lose her grip. Both women came to their feet, circling each other.
Xena was ready for Gabrielle to attack. But this was not Gabrielle. Instead, the creature was very animalistic in its attack. It threw itself into Xena, ignored the blade of the sword, and went for Xena's throat.
The warrior felt the fangs as they pierced her throat, and felt the rip of tendons. She tried to pull back her head, but Gabrielle had her in a death grip. She fell to the ground as the blood streamed down the front of her. She felt herself getting weaker by the moment. At last, the merciful darkness took over.
Slowly, eyes turned from yellow to green. Gabrielle tasted something salty and metallic in her mouth. She quickly pulled away and looked upon the horrible scene in front of her.
Xena throat and the front of her body were covered in blood. The tall brunette warrior laid deadly still on the ground, her skin a ghostly white. Gabrielle shook her head in denial, but her hands told the truth, they too were covered in blood. *What have I done?* She fell to her knees in anguish.
Aphrodite appeared on the other side of Xena. “Gabrielle, I will be right back.” With that, the goddess wasted no time, and disappeared with Xena. She reappeared in one of her marbled temples. Xena's body laid upon the cold marble table. The goddess walked up to the table. “I'm so sorry Xena that things turned out this way. I promise you, I will keep an eye on her.”
The goddess went back to the woods. She spun around. “Gabrielle?” The young woman was no where in sight.
Three weeks had gone by since he had warned Xena to no avail. Three weeks since his sister told him that Gabrielle had killed Xena, and they had buried Xena in her family's crypt located in Amphipolis, just as Xena had requested. Demetri and the others had looked, but there was no sign of the newest vampire.
Ares hated waiting around. He had a plan, and he wanted to put it in place. He needed something to distract his mind from Xena and her death. He shook his head at the waste. “She made her choice. She could have had it all, but no. I hope she is happy.”
Then, Ares felt a surge of hatred and anger. It called to him like a moth to a flame. He hadn't felt anything that strong since the days of Xena's obsession with vengeance against Caesar. He smiled. “I have a new toy,” he stated gleefully as he disappeared.
The God of War did not materialize right away. Instead, he watched in the shadows as the petite blonde delivered a round house kick to the head of a tall thinly built young man. He howled in rage and pain as he fell to the ground. He didn't even have a chance to get back up before she threw a sai into his chest. He pulled it out and threw it to the ground. He dived at her, but she side-stepped out of the way. As he flew past her, she swept his feet from underneath him, sending him to the ground once more. As he lay on the ground, she ran up to him an stepped on his hand with her left foot. She raised her right foot and brought it straight down on his elbow. The only sound heard was the crunch of his joint, and his screams of pain.
“Now go home while you still can.” She watched as he got up and eyed her. Thinking better of it, he ran in the opposite direction.
Gabrielle turned to the young man and child. The man held the five year old close to him. “How can we every thank you? My wife is a great cook, and we only leave a few moments away. Why don't you stay…”
“Go home,” she interrupted. “I don't want your thanks.”
The man grew silent, gathered the child into his arms, and ran down the road.
Gabrielle gathered her tossed sai, and cleaned it off.
The god finally surfaced. “I think you had that backwards,” he watched as Gabrielle spun around to face him. “You see, that man was your prey. Not the vampire.” When she said nothing back, he continued. “You can be a vicious minx when you want to be. Xena would be proud.”
That is when the rage exploded. “Don't you dare say her name! It is your fault!”
“She made her choice. I warned her. I even gave her the chance to be a god, and she threw it away. She knew you would kill her, and she still made that choice. If you want to blame anyone, blame her!” He pulled at his leathers. “She chose her destiny. Now it is time for you to face yours.”
“Whatever it is, the answer is no.”
“You haven't heard me out yet.”
“I don't need to. I figured out the highlights. Demetri can create a whole army of us. However, from the lack of fighting abilities that they have shown, warfare is not his strong suit.” She eyed the god, “And that is where Xena and I fit in. You borrowed a page from Bacchus' playbook, get me, you get Xena.”
“Not quite, but close. Yes, I do want you to lead my armies. Gabrielle, you are an immortal. In fact you are more than that. With your powers, humans would worship you as a demigod.” He watched as she turned her back to him. “What else is there for you-- The Amazons? Do you really think they will accept you now? Do you think you can go back to Greece ? Accept the facts. You have no where else to go.”
Gabrielle lowered her head at the truth of those words. “You are right. I have no where else to go. And I need to face facts.” She turned her head towards the god. “You want a war Ares, you got one.” She turned around and walked towards the god. “Vampire blood will spill. I will destroy Demetri's children, and then him.”
The god smirked. “They are immortal Gabrielle.”
It was her turn to smirk. “Demetri let the cat out of the bag. He stated that his children have weaknesses. They cannot go without blood for long. I bet you they have other weaknesses too, weaknesses that neither Demetri nor I share.”
Ares narrow his eyes. “He created you.”
“No he didn't. He just woke up something that had been inside of me. If he was smart, he would have left it there asleep. I haven't fed in weeks. I am quicker, faster and stronger than them. Every last one of them I have fought has retreated. I will find a way to kill them all.” She gave the god a cold smile. “Not quite the war you wanted, but it will have to do.”
“Why do you want to make things so hard for yourself? Why can't we all just get along?”
He didn't get a verbal answer. Instead, she quickly got in back of him and bit him where the neck meets the shoulder.
Ares couldn't believe this was happening. He reached up and tried to pull her off, but she was draining him too quickly. For the first time in a very long time, Ares felt true fear. He fell first to his knees, and then he toppled over.
She detached herself from the god and turned him over so he could look her in the eyes. Her eyes, once green, were blood red. “That's why. Tell Demetri I will be coming for him soon.” She stood up and walked away.
Return to the Academy