The Roman soldier rushed at Kurgawa, emitting a harsh cry.

He didn't have a chance.

With inhuman speed, the samurai took a savage swing at his mid-section. The blade ripped hungrily through the armor and soft flesh. A violent explosion of flesh, blood, innards and bones burst forth into the air. The Roman soldier split in two. His upper half sailed back into another Roman, knocking him to the ground. His lower half flew past the samurai, hitting the earth.

Another one charged at Kurgawa. The samurai leapt into the air, whipping his foot at the soldier with horrific force. It smashed into the side of his face with a loud crack. His left eyeball burst out of his socket. The centurion was whipped into a spin. Kurgawa landed. He whipped the sword at the centurion, relieving him of his head. The headless corpse fell to the ground.

Two more came at the samurai.

Kurgawa leapt into a tight somersault. His feet smashed hard into the faces of the Roman soldiers. Blood and teeth exploded from their mouths. They flew back. The momentum of the kick sent Kurgawa flying back through the air, over the heads of two more Romans who attempted to attack him from behind. Kurgawa, instead, landed behind them. They whirled around. Kurgawa's blade tore through them with savage glee. A red cloud of blood and flesh engulfed the soldiers as Kurgawa's blade ripped them in half. The remains dropped to the ground. Kurgawa stood there, covered in Roman blood. He turned to his right-

And a giant centurion rushed at him, armed with two axes.

Kurgawa somersaulted over him. The centurion spun around, swinging his axes at Kurgawa. He dodged the blows effortlessly. With lightning speed, he ducked another blow, and rolled past the centurion. As he did so, Kurgawa took a swing at the Roman's leg. Blood exploded from it. The soldier cried out in pain, dropping to one knee. He turned to his right-

And Kurgawa's blade ripped through his upper right arm, severing it. The centurion screamed in agony, dropping his other axe. Kurgawa then thrust his sword deep into the centurion's chest. The Roman's eyes bulged out of his head in agony. Kurgawa smiled hideously at his victim-

And with incredible strength, yanked his sword up. It tore through the Roman's chest and neck, finally exiting out the top of his head. Blood, brain and bone exploded forth. The corpse dropped heavily onto the earth.

Kurgawa looked up. Dozens of slain Roman soldiers, may of them dismembered, lay before him. The few living ones ran away, screaming for their lives. Not one of the samurai was injured. One of them turned to Kurgawa.

"Shall we go after them?!"

"No!" exclaimed Kurgawa gruffly. "We must go to Lord Hashiyama's aid! Move out!!"

The samurai all ran off towards the cliff.

Xena trudged up the rocky path. She looked down below. Her sharp eyes could see that the samurai had finished battling the Romans, and were now on their way to the cave. The samurai began to ascend via a slope alongside the cliff. Fortunately, none of them had seen her. She had to stop them somehow.

Xena studied the rocks above them. Her eyes focused on one large boulder that seemed to be perched on an edge. She studied the many others below it. An idea came to her.

She ran behind another rock, and spied on the samurai as they continued to rapidly ascend the slope. Finally, when Xena felt they came close enough, she quickly stood up and flung her chakram at the large boulder's base, hitting it just at the edge.

The chakram ripped through the earth like butter through a knife. It dislodged the boulder. The boulder came crashing down off the edge, slamming into the others before it. And in seconds, an avalanche roared towards the samurai. Xena caught her chakram as it sailed back to her. She could see nothing but a huge cloud of dust. Xena heard blood-curdling screams as the samurai were ground into the earth. The Warrior Princess sighed.

"So much for them."

She continued onward. Eventually, she reached the top of the cliff-

And eight more samurai stood before her, swords drawn. Xena grimaced in disgust.

"Me and my big mouth." she growled.

The samurai charged at her, screaming their battle cries. Xena somersaulted over their heads. She landed, and threw her chakram at them. It tore through the necks of two samurai, slicing their heads off. The corpses fell to the earth. Two more of them charged at her.

She leapt into the air, swinging her foot hard into their faces. Blood and teeth burst from their mouths. The powerful blow sent them into a spin. Xena landed, swinging her sword viciously at them. There was a violent explosion of blood. Two more headless corpses dropped to the earth. The chakram flew back towards Xena, and she snatched it out of the air, hooking it to her skirt.

The remaining four circled her slowly. Xena's eyes darted left and right, waiting for them to attack her. She didn't have to wait long.

One leapt at her from behind, swinging his sword. Xena quickly blocked it. The swords collided violently. At that moment, two more samurai charged at her, thrusting their swords. Xena leapt into the air sideways, slamming her feet hard to the faces of each samurai. Their jaws shattered with loud cracks. They flew back, falling onto the earth. The force of the blow sent Xena into a tight somersault. She landed behind the first samurai. He turned and charged at her. There was a brief, violent parry. The fourth samurai charged at Xena. She somersaulted over the first samurai, kicking him in the back in the process. He flew towards the other samurai, impaling himself on the other's sword. His comrade stared at him in horror. He drew the blade out. The dead samurai fell to the earth-

And a savage, burning pain exploded from the other's throat. The samurai clutched it. A knife was embedded deep in it. He stared at Xena in shock. Then he fell to the ground, joining his comrade in death.

The remaining two samurai rose to their feet. Blood flowed out of their shattered jaws. They whirled their swords, eyeing Xena cautiously. Xena's sapphire eyes narrowed. They began to circle each other.

One of them charged, taking a vicious swing at Xena's mid-section. She somersaulted over him. As she was upside-down in mid air, she took a savage swing at the samurai's head. The blade tore into his neck and up. His head split in two, blood and brain bursting out of the wound. He dropped to the ground, dead. Xena landed. The last samurai charged at her. Swords clashed heatedly. There was a brief, violent parry. The samurai thrust his foot out at Xena with lightning speed . It slammed into her face. Blood exploded from her mouth and nose. She flew through the air, crashing into the ground. Xena sensed the oncoming sword. She rolled out of the way as it burrowed into the earth. With a harsh cry, Xena rammed her feet into his side with all her might. There was a loud crack as several ribs snapped. He sailed through the air, smashing face first into the ground. Xena attacked him. He rolled away, swinging his sword at Xena's mid-section. She barely dodged it. He lunged at her with lightning speed. Impossibly, Xena dodged him. With a harsh cry, she buried her sword deep into the samurai's side. He let out a gurgled cry of agony. With his remaining strength, he drew a knife-

And the side of his neck erupted in a cloud of blood and blinding pain. His eyes dilated in incredible agony. He saw Xena holding her chakram in her other hand. Blood and flesh dripped from it. Xena withdrew her sword with a sickening wet sound. The samurai's eyes rolled into the back of his head. He fell to the ground, dead.

Xena glared at the eight corpses, breathing heavily. Her injured ribs throbbed painfully. She rubbed them, licking her lips. Xena turned and ran off towards the cave.

She entered it, looking around. Xena continued on, deeper and deeper. Finally, she walked into a large open space. Light shone from a hole high above. She felt a presence. Xena's eyes darted left and right.

"You're too late, Xena."

She spun towards the direction of the sound. Two glowing red eyes appeared. And into the light walked Hashiyama, holding the Chalice of Sekhmet. He turned it in his hand. Drops of the goddess's blood dripped from it. He tossed the Chalice into a deep pit. A cold smile appeared on his face.

"So. You survived the duel with my best samurai, Kurgawa. I'm most impressed."

Xena raised an eyebrow.

"Was that his name?? Guess I'll never know for sure."

Hashiyama raised his own eyebrow.

"What do you mean?"

"They're all dead." said Xena darkly. "And the ones outside this cave as well."

Hashiyama's eyes widened in shock. She stepped into the light, a feral smile crossing her lips.

"So! What have we here?? Another warlord, bent on power. And using the power of the gods to help him succeed. How original."

Hashiyama snorted. His eyes narrowed.

"You should talk, Warrior Princess! Isn't that why you're here??"

"Warlord days are behind me. I don't get thrills terrorizing innocent people any more."

Hashiyama nodded slowly.

", you plan on stopping me??"

Xena's smile grew wider. Hashiyama laughed harshly, shaking his head. He regarded Xena for a few moments.

"I can't help but admire you."

Xena's smile turned into a sneer.

"The feeling isn't mutual."

Hashiyama smirked.

"No matter."

A moment of silence. He began to pace back and forth.

"I plan to return to my country of Nippon. I was a powerful warlord there. My men and I went on a sailing expedition when a storm overtook us. Two of our ships sank. The last, badly damaged, was sent adrift. Then we landed in a country called India. We've traveled much since then, hiring ourselves out as mercenaries. I was attempting to raise enough money to amass an army. I was going to return to Nippon, and claim the country as my own."

He turned towards Xena, his face full of savage glee.

"But now... with the power of this goddess flowing through my veins, I shall raze Nippon to the ground. The people there will bow to me. And then, it will be onto the world."

Xena chuckled, shaking her head.

"Oh no-no-no-no. I don't think so."

The glee was replaced by a dark rage.

"What...??" he uttered in an inhuman growl.

Xena looked up at Hashiyama, her ice blue eyes pulsating with feral determination. She gritted her teeth heatedly.

"You're not leaving this cave. This will be your grave, Hashiyama."

Her voice rumbled with deadly finality. Hashiyama's eyes narrowed.

"You think you can defeat me?! I have the power of a god!!"

"I've killed gods before. What can a piss-ant like you possibly do to me?!"

Hashiyama's eyes narrowed into glowing slits.

"I'll ground you into the earth, bitch."

At that, Xena laughed harshly. She glared at Hashiyama, her eyes wide with gleeful spite.

"Well, what are ya waiting for?! Come on!! Or are ya afraid a woman will beat ya?!"

Hashiyama's eyes widened in fury. He fired a red-white ball of energy from his hand. Xena leapt out of the way. The bolt ripped into the wall, blowing out huge chunks of rock and debris. Xena rolled along the ground. Hashiyama spun towards her, firing off another ball of energy. She somersaulted towards Hashiyama as the energy ball ripped into the wall with a violent explosion. As she flew over him, upside down, Xena swung her sword hard at his head. Hashiyama sensed the oncoming sword, and ducked. It whistled past his head. Xena landed behind him. Hashiyama rolled along the ground, and fired another ball at Xena. She jumped out of the way again and flung her chakram at his head. Hashiyama tried pulling out of the way, but wasn't fast enough. It tore across the side of his face. Blood exploded from it. Hashiyama cried out in pain. He rolled along the ground. The chakram ricochetted off the walls of the cave, towards Xena. She leapt forward, catching it. Both turned to face each other. Hashiyama noticed the ground trembling. He suddenly realized the cavern was about to cave in. He had to get out. Hashiyama rushed off towards the entrance. Xena's eyes went wide with rage.


She somersaulted through the air, landing in front of Hashiyama. She whipped her foot across Hashiyama's face. Blood and teeth blasted out from his mouth. He stumbled backwards. Xena took a vicious swing at him. Hashiyama ducked the sword. With lightning speed, he executed three kicks of his own. Two slammed into Xena's mid-section, causing one of her injured ribs to snap again. The third hooked hard into the side of Xena's head. The powerful blow sent Xena flying through the air, smashing face-first into a wall. She fell hard to the ground. Hashiyama's eyes went wide with rage. He drew his arm back, and fired an energy ball at Xena. It hurtled towards her. Suddenly, Xena got on her knees, and drew her chakram. With a savage cry, she slammed it into the oncoming energy ball. It bounced off the weapon, shooting back towards Hashiyama. His eyes widened in shock.

The ball slammed into his chest with punishing force. He flew back through the air, towards the wall-

And a large, sharp piece of rock ripped out of his chest. Hashiyama's eyes dilated in agony. Blood erupted from his mouth. He found himself impaled on the wall of the cavern. His eyes rolled into the back of his head. He slumped forward, dead.

Xena got to her feet. The cavern was collapsing around her. She ran out of it. With a deafening roar, the ceiling caved in. Xena ran swiftly as the passageway collapsed behind her. Finally, she exited the cave. A blast of air and debris shot out of it. Xena rolled along the ground, dodging the debris. She gasped heavily. Her broken rib sent sharp stabs of pain through her left side. She slowly rose to her feet-

And she saw him.

Kurgawa. Bloody and bruised, but alive. A cold smile was etched into his face. He was armed with a sword. Xena grimaced in disgust.

"It just gets better and better." she mumbled to herself.

Xena's eyes narrowed. Her lips twisted into a snarl. She hooked the chakram back onto her skirt. The two warriors began to circle one other. Then they charged at each other, screaming their battle cries.

Xena took a vicious swing at Kurgawa. He leapt into the air, slamming both feet into Xena's face. Her head snapped back, blood bursting from her mouth and nose. She flew through the air, crashing into the ground. Stunned, Xena rolled onto her back-

And a sword plunged down at her. Xena quickly shifted to the right, swinging her sword at Kurgawa's mid-section. Impossibly, he somersaulted out of the way of the oncoming sword, using his own to balance on. He flew through the air, landing on his feet. Kurgawa sensed something rushing towards him. Instinctively, he raised his sword-

And there was the horrific clash of metal. With lightning speed, Kurgawa rammed his foot into Xena's stomach, chest, and face. The last blow sent Xena flying through the air again. She slammed into the earth.

Xena saw an object plunging at her. She dodged the sword and swung hers again, but met with nothing but air. With incredible speed, she rolled away and onto her feet in a crouched position-

And a blade came down at her.

Xena blocked it, her body shaking violently from the force of the colliding weapons. With incredible strength, she pushed Kurgawa's blade off hers. Kurgawa stumbled back. Xena leapt into the air, ramming both her feet into Kurgawa's face. She slammed them repeatedly into it, driving the samurai back. Finally, with one savage double-kick, she pushed off Kurgawa. She flew back through the air. Kurgawa was hurled back, smashing face-first into the ground.

Stunned, the samurai sensed an oncoming presence. Folding himself tightly into a spring, he flipped himself up and away from the oncoming sword. He felt it dig into the earth-

And Kurgawa thrust his body back out with all his might. His feet connected solidly with something. Kurgawa fell belly-first to the ground, glancing over his shoulder. He saw Xena's body flying back through the air, flipping over itself, the warrior's sword flying out of her hand. She smashed face-down into the earth, raising a huge cloud of dust.

Kurgawa was on his feet, armed with sword. He rushed at the Warrior Princess, swinging his sword down at her head.

Impossibly, she rolled out of the way. Kurgawa heard a whooshing sound. He yanked his head back. But he wasn't fast enough.

The chakram tore past his right eye. Blood and flesh exploded from the socket. Kurgawa cried out in agony. He released his sword, stumbling back. An instant later, he sensed something rush at him-

And he twisted out of the way. Kurgawa grabbed Xena's hair. He rammed a knee with all his might into her face. The powerful blow snapped her head back. Blood erupted once again from her nose. She staggered back, dropping the chakram. Kurgawa threw a savage right at Xena-

Only to feel her own fist burrow into his face. Blood and blinding pain erupted from it. His head snapped back. With a savage cry, Xena grabbed his shoulders and rammed her head repeatedly into his face. Kurgawa's nose was shattered. Blood and teeth burst from his mouth. She rammed her knee with all her might into his groin. Steeling her fingers, Xena jabbed her right hand into the side of Kurgawa's neck-

And suddenly, she felt Kurgawa's fingers rip into her own neck. Her eyes dilated in shock and incredible pain. The two warriors stumbled away from each other, both falling onto one knee.

Xena knelt in the sand, trembling. Focusing every last bit of strength she had, she rammed her own fingers into another part of her neck, counter-balancing Kurgawa's pressure-point attack. The vicious pain subsided. She looked up. Kurgawa thrust his own fingers into his neck as well. She noticed his body stop shaking.

The two warriors rose to their feet. Xena's eyes narrowed. She had definitely met her equal. Kurgawa matched her every move, and then some.

Gabrielle surveyed the carnage among the rubble. Asima rushed up to her side.

"How many?"

Gabrielle sighed.

"All of them, I think."

Ayman turned to his sister.

"At least we don't have to fight samurai."

Gabrielle turned towards them.

"Let's get going."

A foot hooked into the side of Xena's head. She flew through the air, smashing sideways into the earth. Kurgawa rushed at her. She quickly rolled onto her back, raising her foot. Kurgawa's stomach collided with it. She grabbed his wrists and flipped him with all her might over her head. He hit the ground hard. A cloud of dust erupted from it. The two warriors quickly got to their feet.

Kurgawa threw a savage punch. It smashed into Xena's face. It whipped to the side, liquid red streaming out of her mouth, along with a tooth. Seconds later, Xena returned with her own devastating right. Kurgawa's face whipped off to the side. Blood streamed out, falling onto the sand. The two warriors then threw vicious lefts at each other. Both connected solidly with the other's face. Both warriors flew off through the air. They crashed into the earth.

Xena and Kurgawa slowly rose to their feet, glaring at each other. Then, a smile crossed Kurgawa's lips. Xena raised an eyebrow. She returned the smile.

Then they charged at each other again.

Xena executed a vicious, whirling kick. Kurgawa blocked the blow. With lightning speed, Xena thrust her foot repeatedly at the samurai. He blocked every single blow with deadly efficiency. Xena thrust out her foot again. This time, Kurgawa grabbed her foot and calf with both hands. Suddenly, using Xena's own leg as leverage, he flipped himself over Xena's head. Kurgawa landed behind her. Xena, momentarily off-balance, spun to face the samurai. A foot slammed deep into her side, refracturing her ribs as well as a new one. Ferocious pain blasted forth. She let out a loud grunt, flying back through the air. Xena hit the ground face-down.

The pain was almost unbearable. But Xena fought through it with heated determination. She sensed a presence rushing towards her, and flipped out of the way. Xena heard a sword strike the earth. She rose to her feet-

And a blade whisked towards her mid-section. Xena leapt back. But she wasn't fast enough.

It tore through her leather and flesh. Blood spurted out of the wound. Xena cried out in pain. Kurgawa swung at her again. Xena leapt into the air, swinging her right foot full-force into the side of Kurgawa's face. There was a loud crack as his jaw snapped. The violent blow sent him flying through the air. The sword tumbled out of his hand. He crashed into the earth, his head smashing into a rock. Kurgawa rolled into his stomach.

Xena landed. She picked up a dead samurai's sword and rushed at Kurgawa's motionless form. She plunged the sword at his back-

And her lower left side erupted in searing pain. Xena screamed in agony. She stumbled back. She only had a moment to see Kurgawa on his knee with a long, bloody dagger in his hand. Xena tripped on a rock and fell back onto the ground in a seated position. Kurgawa approached her.


Both warriors spun towards the direction of the sound. It was Gabrielle. Ayman and Asima were at her side. Terror washed over the blonde's face. Xena glared at her heatedly.

"Stay out of this Gabrielle!!"

She quickly turned towards Kurgawa. He slowly approached Xena, eyeing her warily. Xena got to one knee. She felt the new wound. It was bleeding heavily. Xena knew she had to act quickly, before her strength was drained.

She rose to her feet. The two warriors circled each other, studying the other's body movements-

And Kurgawa rushed at Xena with a ferocious cry.

She took a violent swing at him. With incredible agility, he dove underneath the blade, rolling along the ground. His left arm struck out like a viper. The dagger tore across Xena's leg. Blood exploded from it. Xena cried out in pain. In half a second, she was spinning around, bringing her sword down at Kurgawa's head. He dodged the blow by inches, and rammed both his feet hard into Xena's left side. Searing, savage pain erupted from it. Xena's blue eyes bulged out in agony. She stumbled back. Kurgawa was on his feet in less than a second. With a well-aimed kick, he knocked the sword out of Xena's hand. Kurgawa lunged at her. She spun out of his way, grabbing his wrist. With all her might, she rammed her left foot deep into Kurgawa's right side. There was a loud crack as several ribs snapped. His brown eye bulged out in agony. With a hideous scream, Xena rammed her right fist with all her might into Kurgawa's face. His head snapped back, a huge fountain of blood erupting from his mouth. Another vicious kick to his left side. More ribs snapped. Xena threw a left-

And she felt a fist smash into her face. Blood and several teeth erupted from her mouth. She stumbled back-

And something burrowed into her stomach. Xena felt herself lifted into the air by the force of the powerful blow. The air was knocked out of her lungs. She landed back on her feet-

And something grabbed her shoulders. Xena's eyes focused on a massive forehead filling her vision-

Another explosion of pain. She felt her nose snap-

And something hit her across the face with horrific force. She felt airborne-

And finally, Xena collided back-first into a wall of rock. She fell face-first to the earth.

With great difficulty, Xena propped herself up on her elbows. Kurgawa staggered towards her. She slowly got to her knees, then her feet. Her sapphire eyes went wild with rage and bloodlust. She rushed at Kurgawa, executing a flying kick-

And Kurgawa flipped onto his hands. He slammed both legs onto Xena's calf like a vise, as she flew through the air-

And he twisted himself into a violent spin, whipping Xena's body around and around overhead. Then he separated both legs, releasing her-

And Xena smashed back-first into the boulder again. She fell to the ground. Kurgawa flipped himself onto his feet. Xena rose to hers-

And Kurgawa slammed his right fist into her stomach. Xena grunted, doubling over in agony. Kurgawa followed up with an uppercut. Xena's head whipped back. A hard kick to her left side. Xena let out a loud, mournful cry-

And the next was a whirling kick. It connected solidly with Xena's chin. She flew through the air, her body flipping over itself. She smashed face-fist into the earth, and lay still.

Kurgawa clutched at his broken ribs. He began to walk towards the fallen warrior. Suddenly, Kurgawa heard a furious cry from his right. He leapt into the air in a somersault. He looked down-

And saw Gabrielle tear past in the form of a flying kick.

Both warriors landed on the feet. Gabrielle spun to face Kurgawa. She rushed at him.

Gabrielle executed a vicious combination of kicks, but Kurgawa, incredibly, blocked them all. Gabrielle then thrust her sais at him with lightning speed. Kurgawa slapped away every attempt. He snapped out a foot. It burrowed into the blonde's stomach. Her emerald eyes bulged out in agonizing pain. She flew through the air, crashing into the earth. Her sais flew out of her hands. Kurgawa rushed at her. Gabrielle quickly grabbed one sai, rising to her feet. She thrust it hard at Kurgawa's mid-section. He grabbed her forearm and snapped it like a twig. Gabrielle screamed in agony. Then, a savage left to her face. Gabrielle's head snapped back, blood shooting from her mouth and nose. Finally, he delivered a brutal kick to the blonde's side. There was a loud crack as ribs snapped. Gabrielle flew through the air, crashing back-first into a boulder. She fell to the ground and lay motionless.

Kurgawa panted hard. Sweat and blood dripped down his face in torrents. Then, to his total shock, he heard a hideous scream from his right. Like a cat, he sprung high into the air-

And he saw Xena's form whisk past, underneath him. He landed. Xena whirled towards him, whipping out a booted foot. Kurgawa leapt back. Xena executed a flying kick. Kurgawa somersaulted over her head. Both warriors landed. They faced each other.

Xena lunged at Kurgawa, throwing a left. He twisted himself, grabbing her forearm and ramming his left fist with all his might into Xena's face. Her head whipped back. Wrapping his right arm around her left forearm, he viciously yanked it up, snapping it. Xena wailed in agony. Kurgawa burrowed his left fist into Xena's stomach, lifting the Warrior Princess into the air. As she landed again, Kurgawa threw a flurry of lefts and rights into Xena's face and torso. Xena staggered back, her eyes rolling into the back of her head. Finally, Kurgawa executed a whirling kick. It hit the side of Xena's head with horrific force.

She was hurled through the air. Xena hit the ground, her head slamming into a rock with a sickening crack. She rolled face-down, alongside a dead samurai.

Kurgawa wasted no time. He snatched up a samurai's sword, and rushed at Xena. Raising the sword, he plunged it at her with lightning speed-

And something tore into his chest.

Through his body-

And out his back.

Kurgawa's eye widened in shock and agony. He stared into the blue eyes of the Warrior Princess. She held the dead samurai's sword. And it was buried in Kurgawa. To the hilt.

Time seemed to pass for an eternity. The two warriors stared at each other. Red-black blood flowed over the hilt onto Xena's hand. Slowly, a smile appeared on Kurgawa's face. A smile of respect and admiration. Xena returned the same smile.

Then Kurgawa's body went limp. He dropped his sword, and fell over onto his side, dead.

Xena fell back onto the ground, gasping heavily. She heard footsteps rushing towards her. In seconds, Asima and Ayman knelt by Xena's side. Asima placed a hand on the side of her face.


"H-Help Gabrielle...H-Help her-"

"I'll do that." said Ayman.

He quickly rose to his feet, running towards the blonde. Xena lay there, gasping.

"Xena, don't move." said Asima. "Just take it easy."

Xena managed a weak smile.

"That guy...was tough..."

"Don't talk.
Just rest."

Xena grimaced in agony. She felt the familiar veil of unconsciousness begin to overwhelm her.

"Good...idea. I'm gonna take a nap."

Asima's eyes widened in fear.

"Xena, don't-"

Xena's eyes closed. Her head rolled to one side. Asima's face filled with terror.


Ayman gazed out the window. Lightning ripped through the heavens. A torrential rain burst from the sky, burrowing into the brown earth. He shook his head.

"Huh!" he said to himself. "This is gonna be a nasty one-"


He turned around. Gabrielle stood before him, her left arm in a sling. A bandage was wrapped around her waist. Ayman smiled sheepishly.

"Oh!! I'm sorry, Gabrielle. The apple juice."

He turned to his left, picking up two mugs. He handed one to Gabrielle. She took a sip, and let out a warm smile.

"Aaaaaaahhh-that's good. Oh yeah..."

He looked out the window.

"Hard to believe it's been over a week and a half."

Gabrielle's face darkened.

"Yeah...I know. I hope we don't run into any samurai again."

Ayman turned to Gabrielle.

"Let's bring this to Xena."


The pair walked into a adjoining room. Xena sat in bed, eating soup. A bandage was wrapped around her head and mid-section. Her left arm was in a sling. Asima sat at her side. She rose to her feet. Asima looked at Ayman, raising an eyebrow.

"Took you long enough!" she said with a smile.

"Sorry. I was just checking out the storm. It's a bad one."

He looked at Xena.

"How's the soup?"

Xena shrugged.


"Let's leave these two alone for a bit, Ayman." said Asima.

Ayman set the mug of apple juice down beside Xena's bed. He nodded in agreement.

"Yeah. They need the rest. Good night."

"Good night." answered Gabrielle.

Brother and sister left the room. Gabrielle walked over to the bed, sitting down next to Xena. She sighed.

"Can I ask you a dumb question?"

Xena placed the empty soup bowl on the nightstand beside her. She turned to Gabrielle, raising an eyebrow.


"How're you feeling?"

Xena paused a moment in thought.

"Eh! I've been better. But I'm getting there. Slowly but surely."

Gabrielle paused a moment. She shook her head in amazement.

"Xena, I'm surprised you survived at all."

She turned towards Gabrielle, and sighed. Xena raised an eyebrow.

"No one's more surprised than me. Kurgawa was probably the best warrior I've ever encountered. I got lucky that I fell near a sword."

Gabrielle picked up the mug of juice beside the bed, handing it to Xena.



Xena took a sip. Her blue eyes scanned the ceiling. She puckered her lips in thought, raising her eyebrow again.

"I really thought that was it for me."

Gabrielle placed a hand on Xena's forearm.

"So did I."

The Warrior Princess lowered her head.


She turned to Gabrielle.

"You were right before, you know. I do tend to act like I'm invincible sometimes. A few warlords here, a god or two there... you stack up enough wins, and begin to get a bit on the complacent side. Maybe even a little cocky."

Gabrielle raised an eyebrow.

"Cocky, huh?"

Xena smirked, lowering her head.

"Oh yeah."

She looked up.

"But no one's invincible. Not even me."

Silence for a few moments. Gabrielle tilted her head, looking into Xena's eyes.

"I'd say this is a great time for a vacation."

Xena turned towards her friend, raising her eyebrow.



Xena gave a puckered smirk, gazing off to the side. She nodded slowly.

"Yep. Think you've got something there, bard."

Gabrielle looked out the window at Xena's left, observing the rain burrowing into the earth. Gabrielle sighed.

"I don't want to deal with gods, warlords, and armies for quite a while."

"I hear ya, Gab."

Xena patted her friend's knee.

"You should get some sleep."

What about you?"

"I'll join ya soon."

Gabrielle placed her mug on the table next to her. She slid under the covers.

"'Night, Xena."

Xena smiled softly. She rubbed her friend on the head.

"'Night, Gabrielle."

Xena rose to her feet, and walked over to the window. Lightning crashed through the heavens. Hail began to pelt the earth. She took a sip from her mug, and sighed.

How long would her luck last?

Xena shook her head. The things that she and Gabrielle had been through together. Xena couldn't believe it herself. Why had they survived so long, and repeatedly cheated death? Was it good luck or bad? Xena didn't know.

All she knew was that another day lay ahead of her and her friend. More of the same. More unknown adventures and dangers.

Xena gazed out at the storm. She raised an eyebrow.

"Tomorrow's another day." she said quietly. "Another roll of the bones."

She blew out her candle and closed the window. The storm continued its song of fury and power, deep into the night.


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