Disclaimer & Notices
Copyright: I do not own the Xena concept and certain characters but the plot is all mine.
Violence: There is violence.
Subtext: Yes, this where subtext is maintext.

Summary: The sequel to A Stranger in my Family and A Strange Interlude: I Had a Strange Dream. The Conqueror's dreams about her time in Chin, Japa, and India suddenly play an important role in freeing a heroic warrior's locked soul. Meanwhile the realm wages deeper into war against the Britanni, but Gabrielle stumbles across information that the rebellion may be a diversion for something far more evil. Time becomes increasingly precious though, and the Conqueror must find the answers before everything is undone.

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Started: June 25, 2007
Series 8: I, Stranger – Story #4


The Stranger of My Heart
by Red Hope

Gabrielle leaned heavily against the boat's railing. She watched the sunset continue over the watery horizon. This was the sixty-second sunset she'd witnessed without Xena at her side, and gods it wasn't getting any easier. She thought the pain would subside in her, but it seemed to worsen with each day.
She'd spent over a moon in Egypt and found plenty of people in need of help. She even managed to help a god that was eternally appreciative that Gabrielle had come to her aid. The Goddess of Love in Egypt, Hathor, had sought out Gabrielle's assistance once she heard of the bard's arrival in Egypt. Somehow Hathor had managed to lose track of her ankh and feared it was taken. Gabrielle sought it out, and she was none too surprised to find it'd been stolen from the goddess.
Hathor promised Gabrielle that she would redeem the favor at anytime. Gabrielle said there was nothing she needed in her life, but all she needed was Xena back. It was a wish that would never come true, and Gabrielle forced herself to accept Xena's death. Now that she started to accept Xena's death the nightmares were getting worse and Xena's ghost no longer showed at her side. It was time for Gabrielle to let go because Xena would not come back from the dead, not this time. Thousands of souls' freedom depended on Xena's soul remaining in the Underworld.
The bard sighed once the sun was gone and the stars started to twinkle. She wiggled her long, silver bracelet down and pushed her pressure point on her wrist. The queasiness ebbed from the bottom of her belly finally. Gabrielle slowly made her way across the deck and went below.
Several of the sailors passed by Gabrielle, and they slightly grinned at the woman's obvious efficiency as a warrior. The young woman had healthy muscles that showed under her tan. She carried sais on the outside of her boots, and her hair was kept short but somewhat shabby so that she could easily fight. Then hooked to her right side was a very peculiar weapon that everybody knew belonged to the famous Warrior Princess.
Gabrielle came into the shared quarters that she had with several other travelers that wished to go to Greece from Egypt. She'd paid her way for the trip back home not that she felt like she was going home. The bard wanted to attend to Argo and catch up with Eve before word spread of Xena's death.
The small warrior knelt beside her belongings. She shoved aside her scrolls in the bag and pulled out a few trailbars. She quickly ate them knowing they'd give her enough energy until she reached Greece in a few days. She couldn't wait for a real meal at a local taverna.
Next Gabrielle prepared her bedroll then carefully pulled out a black urn. She held up the urn, which safeguarded the remains of her soulmate. She swallowed down her mix of pain and anger before her tears started again. Soon she would need to go to Amphipolis and place Xena with her brother's remains. Gabrielle would never be ready to carry out the task; she never wanted to bury her soulmate.
For the countless time, Gabrielle mentally reminded herself why Xena chose this fate – it was for the Greater Good. Gabrielle finally removed her chakram, placed it by the bedroll, and crawled into it. She'd set Xena's urn next to the chakram.
The exhaustion of running around in Egypt finally caught up to the warrior. Gabrielle found it easier than normal to drift off tonight. She let the merchant ship's rocking lull her into her rarely calm dreamscape. She was chilled halfway through the night, but a warmth passed over her that eased her again. The warrior couldn't recall such a secure warmth since the nights by the campfire in Xena's arms.
By the morning, the movements of the sailors and other travelers stirred the bard from her pleasant dreams. Gabrielle kept her eyes closed because she just didn't want to break this moment of peace. Gods it was refreshing and calmed her aching heart, yet she knew it wouldn't last. She forced herself to get up and face the reality of her upside down life. Gabrielle started to shift, however, her body was locked down by her stomach and chest.
"It's even too early for me," a husky voice whispered, "Go back to sleep, Gabrielle."
Gabrielle's heart missed several beats when she absorbed the familiar timbered voice she loved and missed. She trembled under the furs, yet strong arms held her tighter.
"Another bad dream?" the groggy voice inquired.
Gabrielle was swept over by fear and excitement all at once. This had to be a dream, but it was far too real. Gabrielle had to find out the truth so she broke from the strong arms, and she jumped to her feet.
"Who are…" Gabrielle's words fell apart when she was met by curious blue eyes. Those same blue eyes she'd fallen for when she first left Potidaea.
The reclined, dark warrior had a completely confused face. Now that she considered it, she recalled only nodding off, alone. Her piercing blue eyes scanned the new surroundings that told her she was inside of a boat. What in Hades was going on here? She focused on the petite warrior above her, and she recognized the soft features of her lover but nothing else was much the same. She lost her earlier tenderness and darkened considerably.
The dark warrior slowly climbed to her feet, and her cape fell around her body. She stared oddly at the small, blond warrior, who swiftly materialized a sai. Gradually the warrior arched an eyebrow at the rare weapon she found pointed at her.
Gabrielle shook her head several times, but she wouldn't lower her sai. "Who the Hades are you?" She gritted her teeth to hold back her bubbling anger. Just how many times would she go through these games where her soulmate died and came to life again? This time it didn't feel right, and this intruder felt strange.
The dark warrior narrowed her eyes at the smaller warrior. She quickly scanned over her opponent's well cultivated body, but she knew the facial features and body type were the same. She hesitantly asked, "Gabrielle?"
Gabrielle stepped back once and raised her sai more. "This doesn't make sense." She dragged her other boot across the floorboards again; she was a step further. "How did you... When..." She bared her teeth and hotly asked, "What in Hades is going on?" She finally absorbed the dark warrior's attire and weapons. "And what are you wearing?"
"Wait," the dark warrior cut off. She held up her hands, and she glanced off to the right to the doorway. She noticed people were passing by, and she didn't want to draw their attention to them. "Just hear me out." She lowered her hands and pleaded, "Put the sai away?"
Gabrielle glanced at the sailors going past, and she debated what to do. Could she trust this woman that looked and sounded just like her soulmate? She found her answer and lowered her sai. "Alright, you have two minutes." She knelt and sheathed her sai.
The dark warrior didn't know what two minutes meant, but she accepted it quickly. She waited until the blond warrior was up again. She then softly declared, "I am Xena." She saw Gabrielle's face grow annoyed. "I'm just not the Xena you know."
The bard shook her head and coldly joked, "And they say I'm nuts on headbang."
Xena ignored the remark and quickly explained, "This will sound... well nuts." She faintly grinned but lost it when Gabrielle didn't take to the joke. "I'm from a different world." She'd quickly pieced together that she was in some alternate reality. She knew without a doubt this was Gabrielle, older as she may be, but she was Gabrielle. "I don't know how... or why I'm here." She glanced about the obvious insides of a boat. "Wherever here is," she muttered.
Gabrielle stared oddly at the woman that mirrored her soulmate. "You're serious, aren't you?"
Xena returned her focus to the bard. "I'm afraid so." She placed her hands on her black leathered hips.
The small warrior wasn't sure how to respond. She'd fallen asleep wishing her soulmate was alive, and now that Xena was here, she acted plain crazy. Although the black leathers, scant armor, cape, and old chakram would be explainable this way. She took a deep breath and decided to stick to her gifted skill. "Okay let's say I believe you. Exactly what world are you from?"
Xena faintly raised an eyebrow at how Gabrielle didn't argue about alternate realties, she already accepted that facet. "It's complicated." She wasn't sure she wanted to reveal her life because she couldn't be sure how Gabrielle would react.
"Give me the short version," Gabrielle ordered, and her words held an edge.
Xena prickled at the the bard's demand because she wasn't use to the attitude. She nodded once then offered, "I'm from an alternate world where I'm a ruler."
The bard narrowed her eyes and stepped closer. "Do... do I exist?" She noticed the ruler's hesitation.
"Yes," Xena answered after a stretch of silence.
Gabrielle wasn't sure if she was ready for the details. She dipped her head, touched her forehead, and asked, "You're a ruler... of what? Greece?"
"Yes." The ruler saw Gabrielle's face come back up, and Gabrielle curiously stared at her. "I also rule over the former Roman Empire, Gaul, Germania, Hispania, and Britannia."
Gabrielle stared at the ruler as if she were Medusa. She lifted her left hand, brushed her bangs back, and held them. "By the gods." She gazed over Xena again as if she were truly Medusa with snake hair and all. She lowered her eyes to the floorboards, and she stared at soulmate's new chakram. Then it blindly struck her, and she knelt beside the chakram. "Oh gods, it's gone."
Xena, the Conqueror, stepped back once and studied the strange chakram in the kneeling warrior's hand.
Gabrielle scraped her fingertips over the barren wood, then she stood up with the chakram. "I... I put it..." She was completely distraught and rasped, "It's been taken."
The Conqueror shook her head and questioned, "What's gone?"
The bard's emerald eyes lifted to the ruler. "The urn."
"Urn?" Xena repeated. She then realized she had yet to meet the Xena of this reality. She found it strange. Her eyebrows slowly met, and the Conqueror dared to ask, "Where is Xena that's in this reality?"
Gabrielle stared at the Conqueror for a few beats. She tightly clenched her lover's chakram by the middle handle. She swallowed then her hoarse voice filled the small, silent room. "Xena is dead."

To be continued.

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