Disclaimer & Notices
Copyright: Many of these characters do not belong to me, and we know which ones do not. I, however, own the plot and other certain characters.
Violence: There is violence in this story.
Subtext: Any subtext becomes main text here.
Summary: This dramatic epic opens up to Xena and Gabrielle's childhood when they are best friends with an growing friendship. One day, Gabrielle's hometown is attacked while Xena is visiting her. Xena tries desperately to protect Gabrielle but ultimately fails. Xena will not stop believing that Gabrielle is alive, and she hunts for her friend. Along Xena's journey, things become darker and lead her further from Gabrielle and the memories. Meanwhile, Gabrielle is taken into slavery but it isn't for some time before her luck comes back. She meets a very caring master, who sends her away to be schooled as a bard. Later, Gabrielle befriends a very unusual girl, and the girl claims to be an Amazon. It isn't long before Gabrielle discovers how real the Amazons are, and that she's fated to be more than just a slave.
Notes: Wow! I began this epic over four years ago, and I loved writing it. What a great concept that just took me all over the place, and enthralled my readers. I hope and pray that there are still readers hanging in there after these long years. I suppose we've all endured the same amount of years as Xena and Gabrielle!
I never, ever lost interest in this story. In fact, I was so antsy to move it forward to the next step that I couldn't finish what I started here. Finally, a fellow bard (who shall remain nameless) politely told me I needed to finish it, or else. I promised. And here we are.
So this is the conclusion for the story. Xena's year is by no means as long as Gabrielle's, but it is hefty and important. The biggest thing that you must keep in mind as you polish off this story is that this conclusion is merely the beginning. If at the end, you are left wanting then please email me because my muses are already prepared to fulfill your want. Just... tell me you're still reading.
Update List: http://tv.groups.yahoo.com/group/redhope/
Started: March 33, 2003
Ended: April 24, 2007
by Red Hope
Part 8: Xena's Fifth Year
The dark, cloaked figure shifted through the black woods and swiftly moved without even stirring a stone. The figure paused by a tall tree and their hooded head tipped back some. The sliver of moon reflected in the figure's eyes as they stared at the squatting forms in the tree several paces ahead.
"Pasha, I will bet you a week's patrol."
The silent Amazon, Pasha, now spoke and whispered, "You'll only lose."
The figure's grin suddenly shined white teeth. They silently slipped past the two Amazon on the late patrol shift. The ghostly form swept through the woods that were only recently budding from the oncoming of spring. Finally the figure broke through the forest and onto a small road. The figure's head snapped to the right when there was a quiet whine.
Down on the road several hundred paces stood a warrior with two horses.
The warrior slightly grinned as the figure approached him. He stepped in front of the horses then quietly said, "It's good to see you, Xena."
The Warrior Princess didn't return the sentiment; she merely pulled back her hood. Her blue eyes sparkled icily at the second in command. "How goes things, Chuang?"
"They are in order." Chuang handed the warlord the reins for one horse.
Xena tangled the reins between her fingers as she came along side the mare. She breathed in Argo's natural but familiar scent that she'd missed. Her hand instinctively ran down the mare's neck and side. She suddenly sprung up and landed into the saddle with easy. "We shall see then."
Before the second in command could say anything else, his leader gave a loud yah and spurred the horse into a gallop. He quickly moved, mounted his horse, and raced after the warlord.
The pair road for half of a candlemark then they climbed a crest of a hill. Xena came to a quick halt, which caused Argo to whine unhappily and rear up.
Xena laughed at the small thrill from her mare's excitement. "Hoo, girl." When Argo's front hoofs connect with the soft ground, Xena took the chance to study her army's camp. It was smaller than she expected and intended it to be, which caused her blood to pulse from her anger. Somebody hadn't carried out her orders nor heeded her warnings.
Chuang sighed in relief when he caught up to the warlord. He pulled his gelding into a slow trot then finally stopped at Xena's side.
"How many men?"
"There are a hundred and fifty now." Chuang shifted in his saddle. "Of that, there are fifty on horseback."
"Only thirty." Chuang let out an aggravated sigh. "These parts seem to lack any decent archers."
The Warrior Princess twisted her head to the man. "Then make them, Chuang."
The second in command opened his mouth to refute the orders, however, he stopped and stiffened. His eyes for once in his life were level with Xena's icy blues.
Xena held her position as she leaned towards the warrior. "I don't want any excuse," she chewed out, "when I arrive this coming summer I want a hundred horsemen and fifty archers." She slowly straightened up with her saddle creaking in response. "Are we clear?"
The second in command only nodded.
"I want to hear that you understand me."
Chuang shifted his reins in his hands. "As you wish, Xena."
"Excellent." The warlord twisted her head towards the tiny army. She briefly watched the smoke flowing up into the sky from the small campfires. "What of Prostig and Tracker?"
"They arrived a moon ago."
Chuang sighed. "Whiny as ever."
Xena smirked at him now. "I am relieved you get to listen to him instead of me." She adjusted the reins in her hands then yelled, "Ya!" With a tap to Argo's sides, they took off again down the hill.
The second in command remained on the hilltop for a few heartbeats as he gathered himself. He slowly grinned while watching the warlord enter her camp she'd vacated for so long. He felt that thrill refuel him at seeing the dark warlord return to the army even if it was for less than a day.
The Warrior Princess slowed Argo down at the edge of the camp, and she dismounted once close enough. She walked Argo in a ways and decided to merely tie her for the few candlemarks. From the corner of her eye, she saw Chuang coming down now. She decided not to wait and went into her camp.
Xena's feral grin slowly grew across her lips as her warriors all lifted their heads to her. She ignored them each because she had no regard for the rough warriors that were only tools or weapons to her. Yet she came to a quick stop when one particular large, burly warrior stepped into her path. Slowly her feral grin curled into a smirk. "Prostig," she purred, "it's been too long."
The warrior folded his muscular arms across his metal-clad chest. He never imagined that he'd have to tilt his head back to meet this woman's gaze. It'd only been some seasons back that he was looking down at her. "Don't even greet an old friend huh?"
"My apologies," the warlord murmured. "I'm surprised you came."
Prostig grunted then he had an amused look. "After your message, I had to come see for myself." His eyes ran up and down Xena, who was no longer a young girl but was a woman in her prime with a darkening glow. "I wouldn't miss this for all of the known-world." He held out his arm.
Xena's eyes grew dark. "I'm glad to hear it." She clasped his arm tightly in a binding shake. "Where is Tracker?"
"He's not far… probably off gambling his dinars away." Prostig put his hands on his hips. "And what's with this Borias guy?"
The warlord's eyes flickered to her other warriors that were ease dropping. She patted his metal chest then walked away while saying, "Don't get in over your head, Pro."
Prostig turned on his heels and watched the retreating form of the dark warlord. He muttered, "Yours or mine?"
Xena's eyes went into slits as she could hear the warrior's muffled words behind her. If it was one thing that'd saved her on several occasions it was her unique hearing. Now she finally came upon the tent she was searching for all along. She threw open the ten flaps and entered.
Borias jolted from his small chair when the other warlord entered. He stiffened at how the Warrior Princess seemed to completely fill the tent with her amazing presence. "Xeeena," he hotly breathed.
Xena suddenly rushed forward, and she swiped at the items on the table.
Borias bared his teeth at her about to yell at her.
Xena growled in rage, grabbed his neck, and lifted him into the air. She swung him up over and slammed him hard on his back.
Borias tried to get up quickly, but he was rammed back down by a booted foot on his chest. He reached up with his hands wrapping around Xena's ankle.
The Warrior Princess hastily acted by unsheathing her sword from her back. The tip of her blade went under his neck. "Don't try me," she hotly drew out.
Borias was breathing heavily, and he was locked in place by steely blue eyes high above him.
Xena directed off to her right with her chin while grounding out, "What is that centaurs shit out there?"
Borias opened his mouth to speak, yet he halted when the blade probed deeper into his skin.
"Ah-ah, Borias I don't want excuses." The dark warlord pulled the tip of her sword away from his neck then trailed it down his neck. "It seems as if you're not performing as I requested." Her blade traveled down between his chest and paused at his belt buckle. "Perhaps you're not quite the sum of your parts." She drew her blade down between his groin and pushed her tip down. "I'm thinking maybe I should subtract a piece of you for each failure." Suddenly her stoic expression broke with a hungry grin. "It’s a fair trade, don't you think?"
Borias had labored breathing because never once had Xena threatened him, at least not like this. He wasn't sure what had become of her these past moons, but she seemed to be growing darker and wild.
"I asked you a question, Borias," the warlord snarled, "I'll just assume you agree." She gritted her teeth and prepared to run her blade through.
Borias snapped out of his shock. "Wait," he begged.
Xena's entire body was tense, although she remained still. Her wild eyes burned Borias.
"There is a small time warlord that is marching this way," Borias hastily explained. He noticed how Xena's taunt muscles soothed under her skin again – it was a good sign. "Chuang and I plan to overpower him not that it will require much."
"Go on," the warlord murmured.
Borias slightly relaxed but then he felt Xena's blade circling over his genitals. "He's a rather loose warlord, his men are pretty unsettled." His lips pulled with a faint grin. "It should prove easy to take them and run this guy through."
"Hmmm." Xena licked her lips as she trailed her blade up to her partner's chest. She bent down very low and whispered, "See that you do run him through…." Her fiercest grin spread over her face. "Or else I'll run you through," she amusingly whispered.
Borias blinked and within that instant Xena was completely gone from his view. He hastily climbed to his feet to see the warlord on the other side of the tent. His eyes followed downward to what Xena was staring at on the ground.
Xena tapped the tip of her blade against the map on the ground. "This is his current location?"
Borias adjusted his armor. "Yes," he coldly replied. "I plan to meet him about thirty Roman miles from here."
"Where is he marching to?"
Borias's expression was tight, but he answered, "I believe either Aenus or Doriscus." He folded his arms over his leather clad chest. "He failed miserably in the Macedonia province."
Xena lifted his head towards him because she could tell he was hiding something. Her eyebrow arched up.
"He tried for Amphipolis."
The Warrior Princess's eyes immediately darkened. "When?"
Borias sensed a chill ripple up and down his back at Xena's voice. "Two moons ago, but Amphipolis defeated him quite well." Slowly a smirk spread over his lips. "It seems that Amphipolis has allied with the Delian League."
Xena's icy eyes lowered back to the map, her vision focused on the mark of Amphipolis and the mark for this warlord's location. "Interesting," she murmured. Again the tip of her sword met the mark for the warlord. "I want him dead, Borias…." She read the name of the warlord then coldly whispered, "And I want Kyros's head."
Borias straightened his back out when the warlord approached him.
"Are we clear?" Xena whispered when she was in front of him, only a mere breathe away. "Because if we're not then I'll take your heart now."
Borias held his ground, his eyes locked with hers. Her hot threat chilled him, yet he didn't show it. "He'll be taken care of."
"Glad to hear it." Xena lifted her sword up and let it lean against her right shoulder. She smiled casually at him then turned and marched out of the tent.
Borias sighed before following her out. He stood at the entrance of his tent, arms braced against his chest, and his eyes carefully watched the other warlord.
Xena nonchalantly strolled through the camp, then it happened. She'd come upon a tent meant for four men and inside there were muffled cries. Instantly Xena's rage flared when she easily concluded what was happening inside so she entered.
Suddenly there was a man's yelling then there was a sickening smack as the large man came reeling out of the tent. He landed hard on his back, his pants down with belt clinking, and a soft moan from his lips. He tried to regain his balance by first pulling his pants up.
The warlord stepped out of the tent, her sword at her side, yet her eyes only for this worthless warrior. Her rage was growing with each step she took towards him, but she'd learned over the season to harness such anger.
The warrior finally was on his feet by the time Xena was before him. He hesitantly searched for help from his buddies but all the other warriors merely encircled him and Xena for the show.
"Come on," Xena provoked, "show me you're a man like you were showing that girl." She spun her sword.
The warrior backed away one step. He hadn't expected Xena to return tonight or ever again actually. He suddenly registered what Xena had said to him. He growled, spun around, and ripped a sword from another warrior's sheath. He narrowed his eyes at the warlord as his body hunched forward.
The Warrior Princess's laugh filled with amusement, and her eyes lit up as she attacked him.
The warrior found himself stepping backwards as Xena pressed down on him. He snarled at her then tried to give a kick.
Xena jumped away in time.
"I was enjoying the spoils of an army," the warrior argued.
The Warrior Princess raised a dark eyebrow at him. "You picked the wrong army." She gave her loudest warcry, which vibrated throughout the entire camp.
The warrior felt as if he was suddenly attacked by several enemies at once. He desperately tried to parry every furious blow that Xena gave, but he was losing stamina. Suddenly he cried out when a hot blade sliced through his right leg.
Xena whirled away with her bloody sword when her opponent fell to his knees. When her cloak settled around her body she was surprise to see the warrior trying to raise his sword to her. Xena easily kicked it out of his hands. She then stood before him, her burning eyes on him. "For raping in my army your life is forfeited."
There was a blur of Xena's sword as it swept down.
The warrior's mouth was open, eyes wide, and he couldn't say anything as his head and body separated. His body collapsed to the right while his head rolled off to the left.
The Warrior Princess remained still, staring at the lifeless body for a heartbeat, and then she looked at her men. "Is there anybody else that wishes to follow his path?" She waited but the only thing she heard were the various fires crackling. "I want this trash cleaned up," she harshly ordered, "and then training will begin." Her gaze met Chuang, who was beside Borias near his tent. She signaled him then she spun around and stepped into the tent where she'd earlier found the now dead warrior raping a young girl.
The young woman sensed another presence in the tent again. She buried her wet, flushed face into her bound hands. Her shredded top was all that covered her body as she huddled on a straw bed.
Xena was silent as she stared at the girl. She first wiped her blade clean of the blood and sheathed it behind her head. She noted how there were cuts with bruises over her body then her mouth was gagged by dirty rags. Now she began to wonder if she shouldn't have made his death much slower and very painful.
After a sigh of regret, Xena stepped forward and bent down with her right hand lightly touching the woman's bruised shoulder. "Its okay," she tried in her lightest voice. She reached behind the girl's head and easily untied the gag then removed it.
The girl whimpered and tried to ball up even tighter after the touches.
The warlord's eyes narrowed at the reaction. She didn't realize how hard this would be. She removed her touch then offered, "You're safe now." She noticed that faintly relaxed the girl's posture. "What's your name?" she finally tried.
The girl started shaking, yet she mumbled, "Dasha."
Xena just barely picked out what the girl had said. "Alright, Dasha I'm going to take you to my tent…." She trailed off when the girl balled up tightly again and was uncontrollably shaking. "I'm not going to hurt you, nobody is but I need to check your wounds." Finally she had a view of the scared face of Dasha.
Dasha's amber eyes were consumed with fear; her face scratched up and wet then her mangled blond hair all over.
"First, let's cover you." The warlord straightened up as she reached for the clasp of her cloak.
The girl's eyes widened when she saw the beauty and power of the woman before her since the cloak was no longer in the way.
Xena sensed the night's chilled air biting against her bare skin. She only wore her Amazon leathers. She carefully lowered the cloak over the girl's body. "Come on."
Dasha sensed strong arms coming under her then lifting her. Her senses were no longer filled by straw and sweat from the bed but by wool and leather from the warlord's cloak. She held back her whimpers, and she buried her face away as she was carried out of the tent.
Xena exited the tent with the concealed bundle in her arms. Next to the tent stood Chuang at attention, and she nodded at him.
Chuang fell in step behind the Warrior Princess as they went across the camp. When they came to Xena's tent, he stepped aside and waited next to the tent flap outside.
The warlord made a beeline for her bed that she hadn't seen for many moons. She settled Dasha onto it but made sure to adjust the cloak over her body. She then went in search of her medical supplies in a small trunk nearby.
The girl remained huddled, however, her eyes were watching Xena's every move.
The Warrior Princess came back over with a leather satchel in her left hand. She placed it on the edge of the bed down by Dasha's knees. She opened it up and hunted around for some supplies. "I need to look over your wounds."
Dasha understood the older woman's implications so she tried to get her body to relax. It was very hard, but she slowly did it.
Xena had pulled out a tiny wood jar of balsam made from jewelweed. She smeared her fingers though the pasty substance then explained, "I'm going to put this on your cuts. It'll clean them and help them heal." She pushed the cloak away some then slowly worked on applying the salve to each wound she found. It took some time as there were so many cuts and wounds so it wasn't until about a quarter of a candlemark until she was up to Dasha's round cheeks.
"Are you…." Dasha lost her confidence when icy eyes met hers.
Xena lost the eye contact as she knew it was what scared the girl. She continued focusing on the cuts.
The girl decided to try again, her small voice asking, "Are you an Amazon?" She was given a faint grin by the warlord.
"Something like that," the Warrior Princess muttered.
"The Amazons are in these parts," the girl softly spoke. She watched as Xena pulled away and put the cap back on the jar. "What's your name?"
The warlord shoved the jar into the kit then lashed down the flap. "Xena." She turned away with the satchel in hand.
Dasha watched as the muscular woman went to the open trunk and tucked away the medical kit. When the dark warlord faced her again, she slightly shrunk away.
"Where are you from?"
"Maroneja," the girl murmured.
Xena considered the mental map in her mind. She knew it would be a solid candlemark ride to that town as her army was nestled between it and Doriscus. "Stay here and rest. I will be back soon." She moved for the exit but paused.
Dasha studied the woman's back and how her muscle rippled under smooth skin. She was taken by it and also by the uniquely designed sword hilt protruding from the sheath.
Xena twisted her head until her dark gaze settled on the girl. "The tent will be guarded." She left her implications at that then she disappeared.
Dasha felt more at ease. She was surrounded by the smell of balm, wool, and some unknown sweet scent. She reached up and with her scratched up fingers, she toyed with the steel clasp on the cloak. She slightly lifted it and realized it was a detailed feather.
She was never sure when she'd fallen asleep. She didn't know how it happened considering she was so shaken earlier. She never knew how long she slept for but what awoke her was a tall, dark figure looming over her. Dasha gasped until she realized who it was.
"I see you slept," Xena stated. She was pleased that her valerian root that was mixed in the balm put the girl to sleep.
Dasha slightly nodded.
"Time to go now." The warlord bent forward.
As Xena picked her up, Dasha quietly asked, "Where?"
The Warrior Princess hefted the girl into her arms while simply saying, "Home." She walked out of the tent.
Chuang waited for Xena with two horses by the tent. He was about to move to help Xena with the girl, but he came up short.
Xena merely gave a low whistle to Argo.
The mare's ears flickered, yet she carefully bent down until she was resting on the ground.
Now Xena easily mounted her horse with the girl still safe. She adjusted her feet into the stirrups then organized Dasha for the ride. After gathering the reins into her right hand, she repeated the whistle.
Argo huffed then rose up to her staggering height.
The second in command was remotely surprised. He quickly mounted his gelding then followed Xena out of camp.
The warlord's eyes scanned over her men's beaten and worn forms. She'd trained them hard for the past two candlemarks, and she was barely pleased. She made sure to remind Borias of his duties while she was gone these next moons.
Right now though, Xena had more pressing matters as she needed to get this girl back to her town then make it to the Amazon Nation before day break. She knew if she was founding missing in the Nation then every suspicion and rumor floating around about her would be confirmed.
Xena had been with the Amazons for five moons now. She'd already earned her Amazon sword and was close to taking the Amazon Judgment for her mask. She would be quite happy the day she would receive her mask. It wasn't long ago that she'd discovered a little, hidden rule about challenges made to the queen. Whatever Amazon challenged the queen must not only have a right of caste but also have passed their Amazon Judgment, mask in hand or rather on head.
The rumors were already stirring about the fear of Xena's claim to a mask and then the queen's own mask. Yet there was no proof and nothing anybody could do to halt Xena. And the Amazon that most feared the day of Xena's Amazon Judgment was Queen Cyane herself as she dreaded the Nation falling into Xena's hands. Not only was she envisioning a Nation controlled by this dark, mysterious Amazon but also by the evil shaman. The queen's only hope rested on her adopted sister, Yakut, the young apprentice shaman.
It was a candlemark and half before dawn, and Yakut was already awakening. She received little rest these days as her worries about the Nation grew stronger. She woke up with a rapid beating heart from a nightmare. She forced the memories of the dream away, then she went into her washroom.
It wasn't long before Yakut was ready, cleaned, dressed, and weapon in place. She gathered her cloak from its hanging spot by the door then tossed it on. She knew the early morning would be chilled until Helios was fully awaken. She swung her cloak on as she stepped out of the hut. She quietly closed the thatched door then scanned the sleeping Nation. The only faint life she could pick out was the outline of a guard in the small keep at the top of the wall. The torch inside of the keep neatly drew out the Amazon's lean body.
Yakut sighed then decided to go eat first. She knew the kitchen would be open of all places. As she made her slow trek across the quiet village her walk started out normal but then she went slower and slower until she stopped. Yakut lifted her bent head then twisted her neck around towards her left. Her senses were heightened now and something was out of place, she knew it.
The Amazon carefully turned in the direction she sensed the disruption. She followed the trail that she felt, and it eventually guided her deeper into the center of the huts. She paused near one hut because she knew she was close, very close. She focused her sensed better then it caught her eyes.
There about several hundred pouses or just over a hundred paces away was a tall, dark form shifting in the night.
Yakut hunkered down behind the hut. Her mind had an awful feel of deja-vu, but she ignored it for right now. Instead she desperately tried to center her sixth sense on the moving figure in the shadows to figure out who it was. Her two-spirit powers suddenly came to life, and her mind was slammed by random images of Amazons that she mostly knew. Finally the image halted on one woman's face.
"Xena," Yakut breathed. Her two-spirit vision linked to the dark Amazon, and she watched as Xena moved through huts unseen by all but Yakut's two-spirit. Finally Yakut's vision ended with Xena entering her own hut.
The apprentice shaman let out a heavy breath. Her thoughts raced with what she saw, and her fears were heightened. She didn't know where Xena had been, but she knew it was outside the Nation. She regained her composure and decided it was best to continue on until she could speak with Ino.
When Yakut made it into the dining hut, she found nobody there yet. She was a bit relieved for that fact so she went into the kitchen. She found the head chief already there and preparing for breakfast. She grabbed up some food, drink, and flatware then went to sit at one of the tables. She tried to eat even though her mind was working hard.
After a quarter of a candlemark, Yakut tensed up near the end of her meal. Her eyes went directly to the entrance of the dining hut and there stood Xena. She held her breath.
Xena sensed the apprentice shaman's gaze locked on her. She merely disregarded it while going into the kitchen to scrounge up some food. She collected a plate of food then supplies and joined Yakut from across the table.
"Good morning," Yakut offered.
Xena eyed her young friend. "Good morning. Why up so early?"
The Amazon played with the last of her food. "I couldn't sleep."
Xena raised an eyebrow as she ripped apart a piece of flatbread.
""Why are you up so early?"
"Patrol duty soon," the dark Amazon answered.
Yakut nodded then settled her fork down on her plate. She considered what to say next but asked, "How do you like patrol?"
"Very boring," Xena joked.
The apprentice shaman's body shook with a silent laugh, but the grin on her face revealed her. "It can be that." She straightened her back out as she debated what to do. With Xena right here, she had an opportunity to possibly touch Xena then have things revealed to her. The only hitch was if she'd be able to focus her powers so that she would receive the most recent vision of Xena. She decided she would try and hoped that Ino's lessons would pay off.
"How are your lessons with Alti?" the Amazon tried.
Yakut lightly shrugged. "Long and tedious… sometimes I am not sure why I signed up for this."
Slowly a grin formed over Xena's hard features. "Maybe because you're good at what you do."
Yakut smiled despite the situation. She took the opening now and as her hand went to lay on Xena's on top of the table, she said, "Thank you."
Instantly Yakut's two-spirit powers came to life, and her mind was flooded by images that she tried desperately to control. She needed specific information.
The tip of an Amazon sword met the mark for a warlord's location. "I want him dead, Borias…." Xena read the name of the warlord then coldly whispered, "And I want Kyros's head."
The tall man with long dreads straightened his back out when the warlord approached him.
"Are we clear?" Xena whispered when she was in front of him, only a mere breathe away. "Because if we're not then I'll take your heart now."
Suddenly the images raced forward then came to a jerking pause.
Xena loomed over an unknown, kneeling warrior and her sword was at the ready. "For raping in my army your life is forfeited."
There was a blur of Xena's sword as it swept down.
The warrior's mouth was open, eyes wide, and he couldn't say anything because his head and body separated. His body fell while his head hit the ground and rolled away several paces.
Xena remained still, staring at the lifeless body for a heartbeat, and then she looked at several other warriors. "Is there anybody else that wishes to follow his path?" She waited but the only thing she heard were the various fires crackling. "I want this trash cleaned up," she spat, "and then training will begin."
The image fuzzed over then sped forward to finally rest on something else.
Xena helped the girl dismount Argo then she too got off the mare. Her boots slammed into the dirt road as she faced the small blond. "Your village is just ahead."
The girl faintly nodded but peered over Xena's shoulder at the man on the large horse. She subconsciously pulled the cloak closer to her body.
Xena sighed but her tone remained hard and cold. "See that you forget where that army is located." When fearful amber eyes peered up, she continued, "Or I promise you will not live your next kidnapping." Then with a signal of her chin, she told the girl to go.
For a brief heartbeat, the girl was held by frozen blue eyes that contained no more regard for her as they did earlier. The frightened girl stumbled backwards with a cry, turned, and tried to run towards her town. She never dared to look back.
The apprentice shaman jerked out of her vision when Xena's hands disconnected from hers.
Xena was confused by Yakut's lost and ghostly expression. She'd never seen somebody's eyes flicker with images then just disappear like they did with Yakut.
Yakut came back to herself finally. "I'm sorry." She cleared her throat. "That… happens… once in awhile."
The Amazon grew more suspicious. "What happened?"
Yakut quickly tried to cover her earlier display by saying, "Flash backs from my nightmares. Nothing serious." She was surprised by Xena's concerned expression considering what her visions just showered her. It was as if this Amazon was two people in one, and Yakut shivered at the thought.
"Are you okay?" Xena quietly asked.
"I'll be fine, thanks." The apprentice shaman offered a smile then returned to the last of her meal. She now saw several other Amazons filing into the hut for breakfast. "When do you need to go on duty?"
Yakut nodded at her friend. "I'll go as well."
Xena's expression flickered with a smile. "Come on." She got up and strolled along side her friend to rid of their dishes then out of the hut. "When do you finished with Alti and her training?"
Yakut pulled her long, wool jacket closed when they came into the cool morning. "Not for another four seasons… at least." Her thoughts wandered off to Xena's future in the Nation. "You will be trying for your mask in the spring soon."
"Yes," the Amazon confirmed, "I believe I am ready."
The apprentice shaman stopped in front of the temple. "I heard rumor you're taking the position of ilarchès."
The Amazon dipped her head then quietly answered, "I am."
Yakut forced a smile. "Congratulations, Xena."
"Thank you." Xena took a step back while saying, "I need to get to patrol. I'll see you later, Yakut."
"Until later, my friend." Yakut watched the Amazon turn then jog off to the south gates. A shiver rippled up her spine and back down. She was heavy with thoughts about her visions which followed her up the steps and into the temple.
To be continued in part 2...
Back to the Academy