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Part Two


Chapter 4

The crowd was tightly gathered around the tournament field. All held the anticipation of todays events. The four Queen's had been seated on high, so they could watch over events. Today's event was an offering to the Protectress of the Amazons. Each of the contestants would retrieve an offering and lay it on the alter, if it appeased the Amazon Patron, the contestant could enter the next days events, if not she was disqualified.

The rules were read aloud for all to hear. By the time the sun stood over head, all five would have to return to make their offering With the sounding of the horn, all five departed in search of their offering.

As the sun slowly crept up, Marlina paced the stand anxiously. Within a few candlemarks, the first woman arrived back with her offering. Colene stood at the stand, with her prize in hand, actually both hands. The wild boar she had slained weighed heavily on her strong arms. The tall woman laid her offering on the makeshift alter. Bowing low to her Queen and the other soverigns, she moved to stand silently by and wait for the others to return.

As if on que, two more entered the field with their offerings. Sy burdened the load of a young doe on her back, while Eva carried four wild geese, two in each hand over to the stand. Each presented their offerings to the alter, bowing and coming to stand by Colene.

Time had seem to slow, as they all waited for the last two. The sun all but crested high over head before Marda finally rode in astride her steed. Proudly displaying the giant stag that was drapped over the horse. With no help, the warrior hefted the beast off her horse and dumped the heavy carcous on the alter, weary that the weight would topple the structure. When the alter proved it would remain standing, she too joined the others to wait.

Kayla had been watching the events from the tree-tops, seeing the worried look on her mother's face, she decided now was a good time to make her entrance. From tree branch to horse back, the compact woman made her way into the circle of Amazons. Kayla regally dismounted, unhooking the saddle bag from the horn, and draped it solidily across her shoulder. A hushed wave of whispers set out among the circle. Everyone seemed to be wonder what the young Princess had brought for an offering. Most puzzled as to what was in the bag. Kayla kept her grin in check, secretly over joyed she left them all wonder. Once to the stand, Kayla bowed before Queen's and gave her mother a reassuring nod, and a quick wink to Eva, before she moved to the alter.


\b Opening the pouch, Kayla began by removing a feather, swiping her hand over the ruffles to smooth it out again, then laying gently on the alter. Her hand reached in again, pulling out an acorn, which she laid beside the feather and again her hand dug deep. A single freshly picked white rose was carefully extracted from the pouch, taking it's place beside the acorn.

Marda stood silently steaming, appauled at Kayla audacity. Booted feet hastily made their way to alter and to Kayla. "How dare you make a mockery of this sacrafice, by bringing these...these trinkets to offer." visibly agrivated, she shouted for all to hear her accusations. "This is to be a blood sacrifice Kayla, anything else would be an insult." spitting the words out.

Kayla knew she was treading on shaky ground, not being afraid to push her opponent to her limits. Kayla smirked, which infuriated Marda even more. Reaching around Marda, Kayla grabbed the rose, using the long green thorn on the stem, Kayla pierced her finger, watching intently as the blood pooled. When she was satisfied with the amount, Kayla reached over and let the pooled blood drop to the petals of the white rose. taunting the brunette.

"One of these days your pacifist ways will get you into trouble Kayla. You mind explaining, your offering. I'm sure I'm not the only one clueless." Marda crossed her arms smuggly. Enjoying the look on Kayla's face. She enjoyed putting the blonde on the spot, because Kayla couldn't speak to masses and usually had to have someone speak for her.

Kayla moved to pick up the first item.

"What no interpreter?" Marda spat.

Kayla smuggly looked to her cousin. Kayla began, motioning Marda to move aside. Kayla saluted the crowd. Cheers went up, some could be seen wiping stray tears from their eyes.

Everyone's faces reflected the same look of pride, with the exception of one, that held such a look of hate, Kayla couldn't believe it. She could feel it vibrating off Marda. Even with the warning bells going off, Kayla still felt the need to stand her ground. pointing to the slain animal on Marda's alter, Kayla further salted the old wound by patting Marda on the shoulder and casually walked away.

Marda fumed and nearly blew a circuit when she over heard several in the crowd announce that Kayla was undoubtly the best choice for Queen. It was if all rational thinking fled her being. Hot rage replaced her blood, hate blocked her minds thoughts, the knife from her boot effortlessly left her hand heading straight towards Kayla back.

Time slowed... mouths panamined their warnings, people scrambled to move out of the way, several even moved to obtain the attacker and the victim. The clinking of metal on metal and the unmistakable sound of metal entering flesh stopped the action.

All froze waiting for the dust to settle. Kayla inventoried herself, nothing. She looked up to see Xena casually holding her chakrum, smiling broadly and Marda's dagger on the ground. Then blue eyes fixed on the familiar dagger sticking out of Marda's shoulder, it was Eva's bone handle dagger. Kayla questioned not bothered by the fact Marda just tried to kill her. Kayla's geninue concern was evident to all those present. She moved towards the hurt woman, only to have Marda spring out at her, like a wild beast would attack it's prey. Angry hands wrapped around her neck, squeezing for all their worth.

As the two women wrestled, the crowd moved out of their way. None tried to offer their assistance this time, it was more than clear, this battle was to be fought out. Kayla wrestled with years of pent-up hatred, as she untangled herself from Marda's grip. Kayla pleaded, rubbing her neck.

"You don't understand Kayla, either you fight me now or you walk away." Kayla started to back away. "But if you walk away, I win." Kayla stopped in her tracks.

Kayla looded to her Mother. "She's right Kayla, you must choose. Marda has intiated a challenge for the mask. Either you fight or concede." Marlina looked away from Kayla, she didn't want to influence her decision in any way.

with that said Kayla squared herself off, waiting for the attack she knew would come.

"That you will Kayla, but I will hold the Mask of Queen. It was meant to be mine, until you came along. Now I will fight for it, till one of us no longer breathes." her words were as cold as the steel in her hand. Swiping her sword from side to side, she taunted the unarmed blonde.

casually circling the brunette, Kayla reached for a bystanders staff. <I'm surprised you didn't snap years ago. Kayla chuckled. As she did, Marda advanced on her with a back handed swing, the blade solidily connected with the staff. Kayla could tell Marda was so filled hatred that logic and common sense was long gone. She instinctively drew Marda and herself away from the crowd with each forward swing.

Kayla's eyes fixed on the blood steadily oozing from the knife wound. <Marda, I think you should have someone look at your shoulder. You'll bleed to death before you have the chance to kill me. a wicked, but concerned grin followed her words, blocking another hate-filled blow.

"Don't worry your pretty blonde head over this, I've had worse. Plus I'm looking forward to punishing Eva severly for her interference." sneering at Kayla.

The words hit Kayla, as if for the first time it dawn on her , if Marda did win, everyone would suffer. As Marda's sword came at her again, it was more than apparent that she was no longer on the defense, but the offense. Her blue eyes burned like hot coals, as her staff taxed the brunette's sword and body. It didn't take much effort to exhaust the brunette either. Marda's wound continued to spill blood and Kayla continued to push her.

"Hades if I would of known that all it took to light a fire under your butt, was to threaten your bitch..." Marda dug.

<I'm so sorry Marda. I took away your right to the mask and I took away my love. No wonder you hate me. wincing as the dagger embedded deeper.

"That's the funny part. I don't hate you Kay. I love you with all my heart." weakily the words escaped her lips, as she brought their lips together in a crushing kiss.

Kayla returned the kiss, until the metallic taste hit her. Uncertain if it was coming from her or Marda, her hands roamed over Marda's back, until she felt the handle of the dagger. Kayla pulled away. shaking her head to clear her vision. Blood pooled at their feet.

"No I won." choking out the words. "I get to take you with me, that's all I've ever wanted was to have you with me and keep you from getting the mask. I've succeded at both........." the words trailed off, as Marda slumped towards the ground.

Kayla ground her teeth together, as the dagger sliced it's way back out. It and Marda layed at her feet. A rag covered hand went to her mid-section, a quick stabbing pain hit her neck, followed by complete numbness.......then nothing.

"Don't be to quick to follow her Kayla, you have yet to fullfill your destiny." Xena whispered into the prone woman's ear. With ease, Xena scooped the petite blonde into her arms, while Eva kept constant pressure on the wound. They moved in unison the the healer's hut.

Inside the hut, they worked on Kayla and outside the hut prayer to their Goddess for mercy and healing were being chanted. The fate of Northern Amazons hung by a slim thread.\b0

d\qc ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

\b Voices

Chapter 5


After hours of human intervention, Kayla laid prone and pale on the cot. Her mid-section carefully wrapped. The knife wound thankfully did no perminent damage and the bleeding was easily stopped with stitching, all that was left to do was to wait. There would be no party this evening.

A make -shift pyre was erected and Marda's body was prepared for her journey home. Queen Marlina stood by her sister's side, both women were shocked over Marda's confession. None more than her own Mother. Harlan was, as Marlina suspect the true force and drive behind Marda's drive for the throne, but in no way was she responsible for her daughter's hate. Her sister's innocence was evident, due to the fact it was Harlan's own dagger that ended Marda's life. Her daughters' under-handed actions and behavior, justified her intervention.

The two sister stood hand in hand, as the pyre burned. A Nation mourned the lose of a sister and prayed for the recovery of an other. The Old Prophets' words floated upwards with the smoke. One dark-headed woman down, one to go.

The dark-headed warrior paced outside the Healer's hut as the next day came and went and still there was no signs of Kayla coming around. Xena knew first hand the seduction of death. The peacefulness was alone enough to entice one never to return to the land of living. She knew that Kayla was hanging by a thin thread, fever had now set into her small frame, sapping what reserves the young woman had. It was now or never for this young Amazon and the Warrior Princess chose the now. Xena knew she had to join Kayla in the Middle and entice her back.

A familiar presence, as well as familiar words entered the warriors mind. Xena could easily see and hear Cyane.

"My Friend, now is the time to reach Savana. She is now in between this world and Death. Find her Xena...make her whole again." Xena shook her head. The image faded, but the words remained. Xena quickly found Gabrielle, who was chatting with a gathered group of well-wishers. "I need your help. I have to go under to find Savana. I'm afraid she may be lost between here and Death. I have to bring her back." Xena adimently stated.

"Is it dangerous, Xena? I don't want anything to happen to you." worried green eyes looked to the warrior.

"No, there's nothing to worry about." Xena lied as she comforted the bard. The truth was, what she was about to do was very risky. One never knew the outcome of the dreamscape, they both could be lost in the void.

Gabrielle suspicousily eyed the warrior. Her mind told her the dark-haired beauty was lying to her, but her heart told her to trust Xena's instincts. "Ok then. What do we need to do?" confidently smiling.

"Yes, instruct us on what to do." Eva voiced, the petite frame pushed away from the door frame. She had been watching the pacing warrior half of the morning.

"You were right Eva, she is the one, just as Gypsa predicted." Marlina spoke up, she too was watching from her chair set up just outside Kayla's room.

Xena and Gabrielle gave each other a puzzled look, before they looked to the two standing in the door frame.

"Before you ask." Marlina put her hand up to stop any questions. She explained the prophecy to the two.

"So Xena is the one who will change Kayla." Gabrielle voiced herself when the Queen finished.

"Looks that way." Xena noted. "But we knew that already Gabrielle. Plus we're wasting valuable time." Xena pulled Gabrielle aside to get her undivided attention. "I need to get to Kayla before she wanders over to the otherside." moving to the chest where the medicines were kept. Pulling out the cork on a small vial, smelling the contents. Xena smiled, knowing this would do nicely.

"Xena what is that?" Gabrielle questioned the contents. Crinkling her nose at the smell.

"Laudanum..." recorking the vial. "It will effectivily put me out and induce a hypnotic dream like state. It's quicker than trying to put myself into a trance." beginning to remove her armor. "Some important things though. One is not to disturb either of us. No matter what might be happening to our bodies, don't attempt to wake us." Xena stated sincerely, laying her breast-plate aside.

"Anything else?" Eva asked, when the warrior didn't continue.

"Yep, Pray." Xena flashed a white broad smile. "Ephiny!" shouting for the Regent, Xena smiled as the prompt blonde entered the hut. "Eph, under no circumstance is any of these three to touch either of us." pointing to Kayla then herself. "Post guards or do whatever you have to, understand." Xena noted, giving the blonde a stern look.

"Yes Xena, no one will touch either of you." Eph stated, a bit puzzled by the request, but figured she get more information from the queen later.

Xena studied the worried red-head. "Come here you. I'll be fine. I won't let anything happen to myself. I got a joining ceremony to attend." blue eyes danced about.

"Well you better. I..." the bards words ceased, as Xena captured her lips. The kiss conveyed all the love the warrior had for her bard.

"I love you, Gabrielle." Xena spoke just for Gabrielle.

"I love you too, Xena. Please be very careful." Gabrielle lovingily stated, as she caressed the flawless cheek. Watching as Xena carefully metered out the proper dose of medicine.

Eva took her place by the slumbering figure on the cot, gently tucking back stray blonde hairs. Her entire being rested there also. "Xena?" her words spoke volumes.

"Don't worry Eva, I'll bring her back in one piece." Xena reassurantly replied. Her head hit the pillow, as two of Eva smiled back. Xena didn't fight as the drug ran it's course. A warm seducing sleep pushed the Warrior Princess over the edge of consciousness..

"By Artemis, that didn't take long." Eva noted, also taking stock that four rather intimidating guards had stepped into the hut. She watched as Ephiny carried out the warrior's request. "So what do we do now?"

"We wait,... patiently. If I may," Gabrielle reached for Eva's elbow, "I suggest we get something to eat, it might be a long night." leading them out the door, a quick wink to her Regent and a calming breath for herself. *Hurry back Xena*

Blue eyes strained to focus on their surroundings. No color, no noise, neither dark or light...emptiness. *Where's Gabrielle's chatter when you need it* laughing to herself. With ease she found her intended target. Kayla was the only light present. In amasement Xena watched the young woman. Kayla was completly oblivious to the hundreds of souls that surrounded her. Souls lost, trapped or just passing through all gathered around, each wanting to touch the bright essence that entered this abyss. Xena moved to claim the light. "Kayla..." the name echoed.

<Xena, by the Gods I'm glad your here. Where ever here is.? worried pale blue eyes looked over the area, souls scattered as the dark frame came closer to the light one. Disappearing all together when the small frame was engulfed in the tall woman's embrace.

Xena could feel the small body tremble. "Your alright now." patting the blonde's back. "Here is no where. We're kinda stuck between the living and death."

Kayla listened carefully, but was still confused. <I'm dead? blue eyes painfully looked up.

"No, just lost." Xena tenderly replied. Smiling when Kayla let out the breath she was holding. "We need to get you out here."

Kayla watched as Xena searched the emptiness. Xena looked as though she was looking for an exit.

"We won't be going back to quick, there is someplace I need to take you too. Or rather you have to take us there."

the young woman adamently asked.

Xena chuckled. "Well "we" have to go back to the Sacred Forest and your going to take us there." Xena watched as what color Kayla had ran from he face.

<I...can't go back there. backing out of the tall woman's hold. Kayla turned and ran into the emptiness, the light hungry soul's followed the fleeing form.

Xena concentrated hard, using her own powers, the void melted into heavy overgrowth, she found herself standing at Cyane's feet. The sound of someone running, caught her attention. "You can't run away Kayla." announcing the facts, her blue eyes still rested on the decomposed figure, which the tree had now claimed. Heavy vines enterlaced over the skeleton, protectively holding it into place.

Kayla stopped, forcing herself to breathe normally. She couldn't believe she was actually standing in the Sacred Forest, actually standing at the feet of her decomposed sister. The bile that was forcing it's way up was burning her throat. swallowing the acid. Blue eyes of both shades locked.

"There was no one left to take them down." Xena announced, tearing herself from the saddness she saw. "After what happened here, no one would come near this place. For all knew it was filled with evil."

blue eyes captured the tall warrior.

Kayla didn't have to verbally accuse Xena, her look did it. "Understand Kayla, your only seeing a small part of the whole..." a strong arm wrapped around the thin waist. "They've all been properly put to rest, in another time."

Kayla prompted, hoping they could leave.

Xena chuckled at the blonde's attempt. "Sorry but we have to go back before we can go forward or home." the smile faded. Tightening her grip around Kayla's waist, Xena prepared them both for the journey back. Cyane had told Xena she'd only need to mention the young Princess' birth name and that would be the key to unlocking the past. The warrior released a sigh, "You must go back, if you want to go forward. Find your voice Savana." Xena watched, as well as felt the blonde slip back into the past that held nothing but darkness for them both. Savana crumpled into the warrior's embrace. Xena gently laid the figure down.

"Go with her Xena..................." the words filtered around the tall woman. Xena instantly found herself propelled back to the past. To her own horror, Xena had to watch herself slaughter the whole village all over again. She saw everything Savana saw. The day Xena: Destroyer of Nations wiped out the Mystics' played itself out, before them both. Xena swallowed hard.

Savana watched, oblivious to Xena's presence. The lone figure rode into forest, dismounting, the figure moved to join the funeral pyre, Cyane seemed to be telling the figure to leave, until it taunted the Queen, which prompted the figure to flee and the Elders to follow. Savana watched the battle take place among the trees, amazed at the agility of the players. One by one, Savana watched in horror as her people fell victim to the dark figure, finally leaving Cyane alone, to face off the demon.

Savana watched as the light and dark clashed, secretly wishing she could change the out come. But to no avail, the dark once again defeated the light, as it did everytime she had this nightmare. Cyane once again ended up impladed. Laughter from the dark figure filled the forest, soon a second voice joined the first. Together they laughed as they looked over their slain prize.

Savana watched the vultures, her need to see their faces consumed her. With controled thought, Savana placed herself on the branch along side her slain sister. Her small hand reached to wipe away the blood that trickled from Cyane's mouth, but her hand passed right through. blue eyes fixed and focused in on the assailants' face.

For the first time, the faces came into focus. The one collecting the blood, Savana immediately recognized. This face usually found it's way into her nightmares. Blinking several times, Savana tried to focus on the dark headed one watching. despairation filled her voice.

Xena had been watching from below. The Princess' failed attempt to wipe the blood away, almost broke the warrior's heart. Upon hearing the young woman's plea, Xena closed her eyes. *See me Savana. See me for who I am*

It was as if someone pulled the blinder off, for immediately the dark figure's face focused. Savana's heart and lung's ceased to work. It was no mistake that Cyane's assailant was Xena. The small woman began to shake, Savana willed herself to breathe. Watching closely as the woman she just resently met and befriended wicked laughed and boasted. "NOooooooooooooo!" the single word filled the dream scape.

Xena covered her ears to sheild them from the heart piercing wail. Thankful she was watching, Xena moved to catch the small frame, before it hit the ground.

In her grief, Savana had forgotten she wasn't standing on the ground. She moved to balance herself, but failed and immediately started to head down. The crunch of bones never came, only a soft umfph. Savana found herself staring at the one who destroyed her past. Her feet found the ground again.

"It was you...All this time...Your face that elouded me...That haunted me...That took away my blood, my people, my voice...How could you?...Befriend me knowing all the time you and that She-Demon killed my people." Xena watched and listened to the young woman's tirad. "It makes me sick to think Cyane let the likes of you touch her. By the Gods, how have you been able to live with yourself." the more she yelled, the madder she got. For the first time in her life, Savana knew hate, could taste it, smell it.

Xena prepared herself for what was about to come. The change in the blue eyes looking up at her, startled her. From pale blue to indigo, hate had a way of doing that, darking what is light. Years of darkness and hardness softened the hard slap, that crossed Xena's right cheek. But it couldn't sheild her heart, it broke at the sight of the tears streaming down the pale face.

"Up until four years ago, I found it very difficult to live with myself. It wasn't until the I let the light touch me again that I learned to forgive myself." Xena offered the statement.

"Shut up! I don't what to hear your story of redemption. Your still the cause of this." Savana spread her hands out wide. "A lifetime of goodness could never make up for this." berating the dark headed woman. Savana instinctivly went to reach for her sword. She wanted so much to see this dark hearted demon on the end of it. Realizing it wasn't there, a quick search over the forest floor and a sturdy limb was tossing back and forth in her hands. Rational thought escaped the blonde, disappointed that dark headed bitch wouldn't feel her blade, she settled for beating her death instead. Xena's blood was definitly going to join that of her ancestors'.

The first blow stunned the warrior, more surprised that one so small could hit so hard. By the third blow, it began to sting. Instinct had to be pushed aside, Xena reined in her own battle readiness. Xena went numb...accepting her fate...accepting her punishiment. Xena didn't fear death, for she knew that it would not be by the blonde's hands. No, she wouldn't die today, but she was getting one Tartartus of a beating.

The blonde continued to plumet the warrior, every blow bringing Xena closer to unconsciousiness. The bright purple marks continued to mutliply. Just before her eyes rolled into the back of her head, a familiar voice sang out. The beating stopped.

"Enough Savana. Xena's paid her dues." matching blonde hair and blue eyes directed.

"Cyane?" the young woman dropped the club, running to the comfort of her siblings' arms.

"Oh it is good to hold Bug. I'm glad Xena finally found you. I wasn't for sure what Alti did with you or too you. I would try so hard, but I could never hear your thoughts." twin blues shed tears of joy.

"That was my curse then. By taking my voice, Alti kept you from hearing me." Savana offered. Her head buried into the softness of her sister's chest, breathing deep, she inhaled the essense that was unquiely Cyane.

"You've grown into a beauty. I see so much of our Mother in you." pushing the younger woman back a bit, then drawing her back in.

"Oh Cyane, I'm so sorry that Xena did this to you, to us. I will make sure she pays for what she's done." Savana adamently stated.

"Listen to me Savana." pushing her away again. "You must forgive Xena. She has already paid for her crimes against our people. She's been properly punished. Let her enjoy her redemption."

"But it was by her hand, that you all died." Savana countered.

"Ah, but it was by her hand that we were all set free. Xena broke Alti's hold that kept us in the Valley of Death. That's more than a enough to earn her my forgiveness. As well as yours." Cyane stearnly looked her younger sister. "You have no choice but to accept this..."

"Why is that?" the younger woman questioned.

"Because Xena is the only one left, who can teach you the ways of our people." stating the facts, as she went over to the bruised prone figure. "Isn't that right Xena?" lightly using her booted foot to awaken the beaten woman.

The proding wasn't necessary, Xena wasn't out. She had chosen to lie still, to allow the siblings time to reunite. "Right" grabbing the booted foot and pulling.

Cyane found herself, flat on her butt. "Damn you Xena. How is it that you can always catch me off guard?" broadly smiling.

"You think to much with the heart and not with your head." matching the blonde's smile, her hands cupped Cyane's face. The kiss was light and heart felt, the kind you reserve for the first one who captures your heart.

"Thank you for finding her." Cyane heavily breathed into the warrior's ear.

"Actually she found me, sort of." Xena winked, as she accepted the hand up.

"What ever. She has been found." encircling her arms around Xena and Savana. "She has found her voice again and your redemption is complete." squeezing them both. "And my time is short."

"By the Gods I wish I could change the past. I miss you so Cyane. Sometimes I feel so alone." Savana choked out, her head lowering.

"Never again Bug, from now on..." pulling her chin up "you'll always be able to feel me and I will be able to hear you, as well as you'll be able to hear me. You've grown into a fine young woman Savana. Our Mother, as well as our people are proud of you. Take your place as Queen. Rule our sisters with your heart and mind. Always look for the good in your enemies, even when sometimes all you can see is the bad. Every action has a reaction. What ever it is, you accept it. We can not change our destinies, Savana." looking to the warrior, as she finished. Her words were meant for both of them.

The Princess and the Warrior watched as the lecturing amazon started to fade.

"Please don't go yet Cyane..." Savana reached out to touch her, but once again her hands went right through.

"It's time, besides the land of the living is waiting to crown their new Queen and a certain Queen is waiting for a cetain warrior. Go now, we'll be together one day...but not anyday soon though." putting her clenched fist to her heart, thumping it twice and raising her arm in the Amazon salute, the entity faded..................\cf2\b0\f2


A groggy haze over took the young Princess and the Warrior....The Land of the Living was beckoning them back.\cf2\b0\f2



\f2 Chapter 6



The infinite darkness gave way to hooded light. Their wayward spirits thrusted back into the seeming lifeless frames on the cots. The bystanders watched the frames convulse for the last time. During the whole ordeal the spiritless bodies twitched, causing great alarm in those who watched. Several times the guards had to restrain a certain pair of Queens and a worried lover from disturbing the journying women.

With the last thrust of the bodies, the red-headed Queen, made it clear she would no longer be kept away. "Move out of my way now Sela." green eyes singed the guard.\cf2\b0


"Yes My Queen." Sela replied, moving out of the determined woman's way. Sela shrugged, when the Regent gave her a stearn stare.

"Gabrielle, Xena made it quite clear you weren't to touch." Ephiny scolded.

"I'm not touching Eph, but I can't..." Gabrielle stopped mid sentence when the tall frame on the cot moaned. "Xena?" small hands captured the moving, groaning head.

The warrior fought hard against the drug that tried to keep her sedated. Trying her best to focus her crossing, blurred vision, Xena latched on to the familiar voice and pulled herself into consciousness. "Gabrielle?" blue eyes blinked, until the focus adjusted. The sight of one beautiful red-head calmed her nerves.

"Oh Xena, you made it back." Gabrielle gushed, throwing her arms around the older woman. "I was getting a bit worried. I didn't think it would take over a candlemark, but you've been out for over a whole day." worried green eyes looked the warrior over. The brightening purple marks on her skin worried the bard. "Xena, What in Hades?" gently fingering the bruises.

"Ow, stop. " grabbing the small poking hand. Knowing she better explain before Gabrielle berated her. "The Princess over there gave me these." Xena began, all eyes went to the still unconscious form that was able to land not one, but several rather good hits to the warrior.

With Xena usual flair for retelling a story, it didn't take her long to give the details of her and Savana's journey. By the time she was done, Savana too had come out her prolonged sleep.

"Come on Little Wolf, wake up." Eva tenderly scooped the blonde into her arms, cradling the young woman against her breast.

A moan escaped the cradled body, "What a way to wake up." dry lips kissed the exposed flesh. Blue eyes emerged from under closed lids, a lopsided grin escaped.

"By the Gods! You can talk Kayla...I mean Savana...Kayla... Oh Hades." Eva pushed aside her confusion and pulled the small frame into herself.

Muffled sounds came from her breast, Eva released her death grip on the blonde. Savana sheepishly smiled. "I love you." simply whispered. They melted into each other, Savana tenderly kissed the sweet wet lips. "I've waited so long to tell you that."

"I've waited so long to hear it." They held each other, as warm tears embedded into their leathers.

When the tears subsided, Marlina took her turn welcoming back the child of her heart. "Sorry Eva, but I'm pulling rank." laughing while she inched her way in between the pair.

"Oh Mother." again the tears began to flow, as mother and child lovingily clung to each other.

"You have no idea how wonderful it is to hear you speak. I've often wondered what your voice would sound like, wondered how you sounded when you laughed or cried. Don't think me in grateful for your gift of communicating with your mind, but nothing can replace the sound of a childs' voice telling you..."

"I love you, Mother. Thank you for all you've done for and given to me. You are and always will be part of me." a fresh round of tears started.

Speeches and prayers finally gave way to the grandest of celebrations. They celebrated the speedy recovery of Savana and the upcoming joining of Queen Gabrielle and Xena.

Queen Marlina sat with Ephiny, as the two went about planning for the next days events. Tomorrow the crowning of the new Queen would take place, followed by a celebration of course and the next day the joining would be held, with a another party following.

"One good thing." Savana up an announced.

"What?" Eva questioned, as she polished off her mug of ale. Both women were showing signs of impairment.

"Thank Artemis, we Amazons know how to party." Savana hiccuped, which prompted an all out giggling fit.

"Not very becoming for royality." Harlan scoffed, wrinkling her nose.

"Come now Sister. How quickily you forget our behavior when we were young.?" Marlina poked her younger sibling, surpressing the infectious giggles.

"So true Lina. Guess I just..." Harlan dropped her head.

"It's alright, Dear" pulling her sister close, "The past few days have been quite a strain for us all." tender brown eyes conveyed love and understanding. "With loosing Marda and all, your forgiven a moment of discontent." the older sibling rocked the weeping form.

Harlan's tears finally dried, she wiped the remaining moisture away. "Lina, I hope you know that I had no knowledge of Marda's intentions. True I am guilty for wanting her to be queen, but only if she won it fair and square."

Marlina studied the remorseful woman before her. Years and good instinct told her Harlan was telling the truth. That indeed Marda had acted alone, no encouragement from her mother was needed to fuel her hate against Savana. "I believe you Sister." patting her hand. The loud laughing from the fire caught her attention once more. Above all the noise, Marlina honed in on and relished the sound of one voice. Pride evident on her face.

"She'll make a good queen. You've taught her well." Harlan noted, listening to the groups laughter.

"Thanks, but I only taught her the rules, the rest comes from within herself." Marlan replied, smiling proudly.

"It's their light." Ephiny muttered from behind her mug.

"What?" Marlina questioned the blonde.

"I said, it's their light. Savana and Gabrielle radiate good and hope. One can't help but be drawn into their smiles." the Regent reported, looking over to the log where both of the luminecent women sat.

The three women caught their breaths, as they watched the pair. The glow from the fire bathed them in a hazy yellow ring. Their smiles outshone the red flames. The Regent was right, they did evoke a air of goodness, one almost felt the need to reach out and touch such strength and beauty. Marlina looked around the crowded fire, they weren't the only ones staring. It was as if, everyone stopped to note them.

Artemis bent and kissed first Gabrielle, then Savana on the cheek, she had come to personally bless her two favorite mortals. "Eternal blessings on you both. My Amazons are in good hands now." she faded away, taking with her the hazy ring around the pair. The spell was broke, the party goers shook off the fuzzy feeling. \cf2\b0


"I think," Eva began, wobbling as she stood, "It's time to hit the sack." stretching out the kinks that had settled while she sat.

Blue eyes settled on the stretching frame. Savana's breathe caught somewhere, she wasn't for sure where it went, probably the same place her heart went. Her mind sobered up, the body was a bit slow to respond though. "Take me..." her mouth went suddenly dry, as the rest of her became one giant puddle, Eva shot her a raised eyebrow. "Take me to bed." finding herself happily surrounded by two arms, "It's going to be a busy day tomorrow."

"It's going to be a busy night. I promise no interruptions this time." Eva purred into Savana's ear. "Tonight I want to hear you!" A smile crept out as the frame in her arms shivered in response.

"By the Gods woman, let's waste no time." Savana exclaimed, dragging the older woman behind her. She stopped in front of the table, "Good night Mother." bending to kiss the soft cheek.

"Yes good night Mother." Eva teased, adding her kiss.

"To bed with you both." Marlina scoffed at the drunken pair. "And get some sleep." she added with a wink.

"Right, sleep is the last thing on my mind right now." Savana snorted, pulling Eva close.

"Savana, remember your position." her aunt reminded.

"Don't worry Aunt Harlan, I'll remember all my positions." wiggling her brows, before she got swatted on her behind. "I'll have you know there is a punishment for hitting the queen." rubbing the stinging skin.

"Tell me all about it after tomorrow's ceremony." Eva retorted, bending and hefting the light frame over her shoulder.

"Eva! Put me down this minute. This really underminds my authority..." the ranting could be heard all the way to their hut.

"Fiesty little thing." Ephiny chuckled.

"Hate to say this, but I think we're all going to sorry that one got her voice back." Marlina happily informed, the group all joined in on the laughter. "Well Ladies, I think I too, will turn in. Someone will have to alert and oriented tomorrow." bidding them all goodnight, Marlina and Harlan retired to their hut.

"Right like any one near that hut will get any...sleep." Gabrielle snorted. A new round of giggles started.

"Then I guess we should go sleep in the stable then, seening as it's our hut that is right next to theirs." Xena teasingily recommended.

"Doesn't matter where you sleep as long as it's not together. At least for tonight my loving intendeds." Ephiny gleefully reminded the pair, moving to stand between them.

"But we're only to be seperated the day before the ceremony Eph." Gabrielle whinned.

"Ah, but it is the day before, My Queen. So don't give me any flack." Eph scolded, pointing her finger at the red head, while she eyed the warrior.

"Fine, guess I will be sleeping in the barn." Xena announced in an annoning tone. She gently, but firmly pushed her way around the Regent. Blue eyes nicely conveyed the message of no interference. Xena lead Gabrielle off, but still were she was in the Regent's eye sight.

"Today is going to absolutely torturous. To think I can look all I want, but can't touch. By the Gods how do I get myself into these situations." Xena quietly admitted, almost pouting.

Gabrielle bit back her laughter, it was indeed a rare thing to witness the Warrior Princess pouting. "You know Xena, good things come to those who wait." Gabrielle smiled. "Hey I got to remember to right that down."

"We'll see, oh bardly one. Guess we should turn in." Xena pulled the small frame into a hug. Ephiny took a step closer, Xena pushed the bard to arms length. The Regent smiled. "Spoil sport." the warrior chasticed. For which the Regent replied by sticking her tongue out.

A blur of activities where in full swing even before most of the party goers were even up. The scouts had done their jobs. Both Gabrielle's and Xena's familes had wandered into the compound early in the morning. People from all their neighboring villages came to witness the two events.

"To Hades with these ties." Savana frustratingly threw up her hands. "Who on earth would pick out this sort of outfit? With all these blessed ties in the back, a body would have to be a contortionist."

Eva chuckled at Savana's plight, clearing her voice and moving stand behind the ranting woman. "Begging your pardon, Your Majesty." her warm breathe caressed the fine fairs on Savana's neck. "You picked out this lovely little piece your self. Seems I remember you saying something about, you wouldn't have to worry about the ties, because you'd have plenty of ladies in waiting to tie them for you."

Savana quickly turned around. "Your enjoying torturing me this morning...aren't you." the last words were purposefully whispered into the closest ear. "Well then I suggest you help me with these, since your the only lady waiting around here. Please" adding a protruding lower lip.

"I hate it when you pout. I melt everytime." promptly turning the younger woman around. Nimble fingers set to the task at hand. Clearing her throat..."Speaking of the only lady waiting around. I want to make sure I'm always the only one." cool metal slid down the soft skin, resting comfortably just above Savana's breast crease. Eva peered over her shoulder, approving of where the necklace was resting.

Savana gently held the metal up for inspection. The hand forged gold piece was simply two hearts entwined with a grape vine design. "Tristin made this, didn't she?" laying the piece back between her cleavage.

"Yes, how'd ya know?" Eva questioned, pulling the half dressed royality close.

"Because once she metioned that our two hearts where wound tight together. They are ya know. I couldn't want anyone more than I want and forever." blue eyes burned a hot whiteish blue, as they drank in the brown ones staring back. Before Eva could seal her love for the honey haired woman, Savana side stepped her advances.

"Gee you have a funny way of showing affection Savana." Eva taunted the retreating form.

"Patience my love." the young woman replied, walking to the heavy brown leather trunk, a quick rummage produced a small black leather bag. "I've carried this with me for so long, just waiting for you to finally realize you can't possible live with out me." a seductive tone matched the walk of the huntress. With great care Savana opened the bag and emptied out the contents in her palm. Both woman laughed.

"You've got great taste." Eva snorted, the gold piece in Savana's palm matched the one on her neck.

"You bet I do. I'm very particular who and what I taste." continuing her stalking.

Eva caught herself before her weaken knees gave out. "By the Gods woman, I'll never grow tired of being seduced by those eyes."

"How about these lips..." her lips brushed lightly against the soft cheek, "these hands..." which began to run up and down the exposed waist, "this tongue..." promptly starting a trek from the earlobe to the hollow of Eva's neck.

Savana looked surprised when the object of her desire disappeared. Eva's backward retreat found her lying back on the bed. "You read my mind." Savana glared down. "Come 'ere." Eva pulled herself to a sitting position. A perfect height indeed, a delicious bounty was right there for the taking. "Ah ah, business first." Savana scolded. Infinite tenderness was taken, as she placed the necklace over Eva's head. "There..."satisfied with her efforts, "now your mine for always."

"I've been yours for the past seven years. I just couldn't believe you'd want an old amazon like me." Eva's head hung low.

"Are you quite through." Savana stood with her arms crossed. "I've always wanted you, I've gone through great pains to train you, amazon of mine. And believe me...your not a quick study." a full smile broke out, as she loving brushed back wayward brown strands of hair.

"I'm not am I." chuckling to herself. "The Gods' have given me the greatest gift and I promise I'll never not show you the love and respect you deserve."

"I do." Savana huskily announced, stradling Eva's lap. "Guess this is where I get to kiss my bride." wickedly grinning.

"I think thats the priestess' line...and I don't see one love." Eva replied, pulling Sanvan closer.

"Who needs a priestess, I know I love you and I picked you to be my consort, nothing can change that. Besides I'm Queen and my word is law." gently pushing the brunette back.

"Your not Queen, yet my dear." the familar voice broke the pairs vows.\cf2\b0


"Mother!" Savana promptly removed her small frame from Eva's, blue eyes found something on the ground alot more interesting.

Marlina inspected the identical necklaces. "I hope you know young lady that when we get home, the two of you will be properly joined, by a preistess. I can only assume that Artemis herself must approve of this joining, since your both still flesh." trying hard not to laugh. Nothing made her more happy than to finally see this two really together.

"Now I suggest you two finish dressing and meet me on dias and don't be late." a raised eyebrown punctuated her point. Stepping forward to embrace her daughter, something shiny caught her attention. "You don't want to lose this." bending and picking up the gold loop. A quick hug and kiss to Savana, the same for Eva.

"Trillin is very good at piercing, you won't feel a thing." nonchanlantly mentioning the fact.

"Piercing? What do I have to have pierced.?" Eva questioned the retreating Queen.

"Darling, I think you better explain to your new consort what it is she needs to have pierced." Marlina shook her head, not trying this time to hold back the laughter.

Once Marlina had left, taking with her the taunting laughter, Eva advanced on Savana. "Ok my Little Wolf, just what is it I have to have pierced?"

Savana pulled the brunette close, whispering the reply, while her fingers pinched Eva's left nipple, making her squeal.

"No way in Hades I'm I gonna let anyone pierce me there! " she pulled away ranting.

"If you want to be the Queen's consort, you must dear. It's a honor to wear the gold ring, it marks you above the rest. It's always been done Eva. Your not the first, nor will you be the last." Savana pulled the woman back.

"I bet Xena isn't sportin one of these in her left nipple." Eva pouted.

"That remains to be seen. Now help me finish getting dressed. We'll discuss this a bit later." Savana pulled her close, lightly brushing their lips, "I love you." the deep kissed sealed their earlier actions.

Several cleansing breathes later, the pair exited their hut. The Princess was flanked on either side by her quards, Colene and Sy proudly lead each squad. Eva took her place behind the royal woman. The small procession made their way to dias. None was disappointed in their new Queen. The blonde, was elegantly dressed, the light doe skin skirt with it's long tail and short front panel nicely showed off her strong shapely legs. The matching colored halter top dipped just far enough and hugged tightly and her gold necklace finished off the outfit. Her blonde hair was neatly parted, half hung down her back while the other half rested in a tight bun. Her empty scabbard rested on her left hip.

As with custom, the present Queen had the honor of marking her sucessor. As with tradition, the new Queen would forever carry the mark of her blade across her left breast. Sort of a symbol that she carried the burdens of her people with her always. The crowd seperated at the stairs, allowing the small group to acsend.

The guards stopped at the stairs, each bowed as Savana passed, a sweet smile was reserved for each of them, not only were they her personal guards, but they were lifetime friends and her future court. Savana graced the crowded dias, flanked by Eva. They both knealt before their Queen and their Hosting Queen, Gabrielle, the two other visting Queens flanked either side of Marlina and Gabrielle.

"Rise my young apprentice." Marlina cleared her shaky voice. "Savana you have won the right to carry the Mask of the Queen. Do you accept this position and all it's burdens, putting your people's welfare and future before your own?"

"Yes my Queen, I, Savana accept this honor, nothing will sway me from my duties to my people." crossing her closed fist across her heart. A proud mother smiled back to her daughter.

"Eva remove her top." Marlina addressed the brunette.

Eva looked a bit perplexed at the request. Never having witnessing a crowning, Eva along with most of the crowd gathered, knew nothing of the events that where about to take place. With custom, the Crowning usually took place in one of Artemis' temples, but under the circumstances the temple was being prepared for the wedding. The events that went on were secret, but today the solemn events would be played out for all to see.

Eva moved when she saw Savana starting to untie her own top. "Why must you remove your top?" whispering as she untied the knot.

"To receive the Mark of the Queen, of course." Savana reassuringly patted her hand. Using her eyes, she made Eva aware of the blade resting in the red coals.

"You mean, they..." Eva's eyes went wide the shock.

"Yes, the Queen must carry the mark of her blade. They all do." Savana pointed out the fact.

"I don't." Gabrielle stepped forward.

"You carry the title, but have never been marked." Justina, Queen of the Eastern Region spoke up.

"I'm afraid so." Gabrielle meekly replied, she wasn't proud of the omission.

Ephiny stepped forward, "There was never time to properly crown Gabrielle, she accepted the mask rather quickly and very informally. " the Regent defended.

"No better time than the present them. If you'd like Gabrielle you may add your sword to the coals and receive the Mark today." Marlina suggested.

"I don't have a sword. I chose not to carry one." Gabrielle spoke up.

"Yes you do." Xena imerged from the back, removing her sword. I'm your champion, therefore I carry your sword for you. It would be an honor for you to use it for your Marking." Xena lovingly replied, her voice full of pride.

"So it shall be done." Marlina announced and gestured for Xena to add her sword to the coals.

"Artemis here our pleas, Bless Savana and Gabrielle in their rein, help them to rule wisely, with a fair heart and even hand." the Queen finished her prayers with a slight bow of her head.

Again she motioned for the removal of the top. *Artemis please help keep my hand steady* Marlina prayed silently, it was one thing doing this to stranger, but to one's own child. She removed the blade. As if on cue, the two visiting Queens' each grabbed an elbow and held Savana tight.

"Thanks, but I'm ok." Savana announced, determined to stand on her own. The two women stepped back, but stayed at arms length. Savana dropped her top, stood straight up and willed herself not to feel or react.

Marlina quickly dunked the glowing steel into the bucket of water and without hesitation lifted the tip to the unmarked flesh. No sound, just the faint smell of burning flesh.

<<That's it Little Sister, mother is so proud of you, as am I> Cyane held her sibling loosely around the waist. <> the spirit lightly kissed the soft fair cheek.

"Thanks." Savana offered the sentiment.

"Your welcome." Eva's voice answered back. Pulling up the halter top.

"But..." Savana blinked, expecting to see her sister standing there, not Eva. "I...thought...ow!

"Sorry love." Eva immediately pulled away the leather, soft as it was, the fresh burn hurt. "Here let me kiss it better." ever so soft, her lips lightly danced over the burn mark, her wet tongue cooled the heated flesh, several dozen breathes caught over the intimate act of kindness. Her efforts ended up on the lips she never tired of.

"Custom is to put this salve on the mark." Justina frankly stated, holding out a jar. But secretely she was impressed with this woman's efforts.

"Guess it couldn't hurt." Eva smiled brightly, very pleased with herself. Tenderly appling the salve.

"You are so bad." Savana smiled, "I liked your first attempt better."

"Later my love." Eva promised seductively, quickly sweeping her hand over the mark again and just as quickly covered the exposed orbs.

"Now for you young lady." Marlina turned her attention to the small red-head. With the same gentle touch, Marlina repeated the act on Gabrielle. Invisible Godly hands held up her chosen, Artemis beamed with delight. Xena and Ephiny smiled at each other, more than proud of their Queen.

Xena quickly moved to her bard's side, not to be outdone, Xena bent to adminster the same remedy to Gabrielle's mark.

"Here, this works better." Ephiny interjected by placing the jar right in front of the exposed breast.

"By the God's woman, your cruel." Xena shot the Regent a dirty look.

"Maybe, but by Artemis I will keep you two apart." Ephiny smiled and guided Gabrielle to her seat. The Patron Goddess laughed, more than tickled by the warriors aggrivation.

Marlina smiled. "Young love." shaking her head. "My people it has been a priviledge for me to serve as your Queen for these twenty some odd years, I know with all my heart that I pass down my mask to a qualified woman. May Artemis guide you always my daughter." with this said Marlina carefully placed her mask on the young Queen's head, Artemis added her own adjustments by squaring it off so those blue eyes could be easily seen. Marlina bowed before her Queen. The crowd followed suit.

"You've done well by my people Marlina, I have always been impressed with you. Enjoy your days in peace and happiness." the Goddess tenderly kissed the older woman forehead, then disappeared.

"My Queen." Eva bowed deeply, taking Savana's hand, she kissed it and placed her sword at the Royal's feet. Her guards' did the same, each laying their sword at her feet and kissing her hand. Before this pledge was done, there were seventy plus swords lying on the dias.

"I'm more than touched by your display of loyality, I will strive to live up to your expectations. May Artemis bless us all!" raising her mask, "Let's begin the Feast of Dementer. The crowd roared their approval of their Queen's first proclaimation.

"I had no idea that was would hurt that bad." Savana halfed whined, gently cradling her breast.

"I thought I'd lose my lunch there for a moment." Gabrielle agreed, clutching herself as well. The two young women compared burnt flesh, as they stood by the water barrell. The coolness of the water relieved some of heat in the blister.

"Hey Xena, got a minute?" Eva questioned the brooding warrior.

"Sure I got all the time in the world." Xena sarcastically announced.

"Good cause I have to ask you something." leading the warrior away from the dias, "Do you have one of these?" pulling the gold ring from her waist pocket.

"Yep," Xena drily replied, pulling hers out too.

"So ya gonna?" Eva prompted, the two older women headed for the wine vats.\cf2\b0


The sun rose on it's own accord. Most wished it had stayed hidden, the brightness was a quick source for a headache.

"Gabrielle, if I even attempt to raise a mug of wine to my lips today...please slap me." Ephiny held her throbbing head.

"That will teach you. Amazons.." the red head huffed.

"Yea well. How's the?" Eph gestured to the burn.

"Hurts a bit, but well worth it. I'm glad I finally got to finish the process, kind of makes me feel complete."

"Just wait, today's ceremony will really make you feel complete." the curly blonde wiggled her brow.

"Nah, I've felt complete with Xena since the first time. This is just formality." Gabrielle beamed.

"Your truely a lucky woman, my friend." Ehpiny spoke, her voice sounded so sad to Gabrielle.

"You'll find that special someone...someday. Surely you can find love again. I don't think your destined to be alone forever. You have so much to give Eph." green eyes held so much love, just not the forever after kind of love.

*Oh I found love, Gabrielle. It's just your in love with someone else.* Ehpiny sighed heavily. "Well guess we better get you ready. I know there is a very anxious warrior out there waiting to get hitched." Ehpiny collected her thoughts and set about her tasks.

"Rise and shine!" Joxer's obnoxious voice rang through the barn. He swerved right to miss the flying horseshoe.

Hercules easily caught the shoe. "Careful Joxer, she's never been known as a morning person." the tall man laughed. "Morning Sunshine" he purposefully bellowed the greeting.

"The only good thing about this morning is that I can wake up in my own bed tomorrow." the warrior grumbled, as she put on her boots.

"Come on Xena, surely you can think of better things to be greatful for?" Hercules eyed his friend.

"Why can't I stay grumpy around you?" Xena grumbled as she took her best man's arm.

"Don't know, I have that effect on alot of folks." he beamed down at her. "Let grab breakfast and get you spruced up. Besides your Mother is pacing her hut waiting for you."

The Warrior rolled her eyes. "Oh What A Beautiful Morning..." she sing songed as two left the barn. Joxer walked into the closing door.

The Temple bulged from all sides. Everyone was present for this union. A nervous warrior paced the alter.

"Xena your going to wear a path in the stone." Hercules pulled the woman close

"What's taking so long?" Xena exclaimed, secretly thinking she needed a good workout to release some of this energy. A smile crept out at the thought of the work out she would get tonight.

"You look stunning when you smile." Hercules praised the beauty. The woman who at one time captured his heart, he smiled at the memory. He appraised the tall figure. Ebony hair neatly braided, laced with wild flowers, a white flowing blouse with blue vest, of course more than ample cleavage was showing, soft brown body hugging leather pants tucked neatly into knee high boots.

"Your making me blush." she teased.

"Sorry for staring, but.." the demigod blushed.

"No prob..." her words faded. All eyes went to the Temple doors. For there stood a vision in white...white leather that is. Low cut white V-shaped halter, short white skirt, held on by a silver jaded belt, the same silver served as straps on the top and also connected the top and skirt on the sides. Silver bracers gently encomposed both biceps, as well identical silver braclets on her wrists and ankles. Her long red hair was pulled up to one side, white feathers hung loosely down. Open toed sandles with straps neatly wrapped up her calf finishing off the outfit.

Hercules reach over and closed Xena's mouth. "Wouldn't want a bug to pop in there."

"Thanks" her throat was dry. "Now that's something worth getting up for." finding her voice.

"And don't you ever forget Warrior." Artemis directed. "What didn't expect to see me did ya?" the Goddess smiled. "I wouldn't miss this joining for anything. How about you Dite?"

"Like the waves were dull compared to this action." the blonde Love Goddess beamed.

Xena smiled, as she clenched and unclenched her fist. Her voice seemed to have escaped her once again, as her intended stepped up and took her hand. A loving full smile was all she could manage. The two transparent Goddess moved aside.

"What's the matter warrior?" Gabrielle brushed up to the tall woman.

"Your...Your beautiful." a single tear rolled down the tanned cheek. Any coherent thought escaped her.

"Hate to break it to you, but so are you. I'm having difficulty breathing." she ran her hands over the blue vest. A huge smile broke out. "You did it." letting her hand move under the blue vest to graze the left nipple again.

"Of course, just for you. But understand I not wearing this all the time. It's a bit uncomfortable." the warrior grinned.

"You never have to wear it again. It's enough just to know you thought enough of our tradition to do it." the bards green eyes welled up with tears.

Savana was openly watching the two at the alter, she wasn't the only one. "It didn't hurt that much, but it sure sobered us right up." Eva leaned over and whispered in her ear.

"You..." reaching over, her hand traced the outline of the ring. "By the Gods you did." blue eyes lite up.

Eva trapped the hand to her breast. "That is to show you how much I love you. Your are my Queen, I'm yours to command."

"I'll never command you, darling. Everything we do, we do together. We're quite a good team." she slightly pulled on the ring, but captured the whince in her throat as she kissed her consort.

"What changed your mind?" Savana looked to the older woman.

"You did. You stood there, in front of all your people and let them brand you. I knew then if you could do that selfless act, surely I could have my nipple pierce to show my love and respect for you." teary brown eyes stared into teary blue ones.

Artemis watched on as both of her chosen Queens' kissed the women who held their heart and soul. Knowing full well a choir of voices would sing out the Patron's name that night. A sound she never tires of hearing.

The End

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