Gabrielle, Xena, Hercules, Salmoneous, Velasca, Virgil and Ares are all owned by Universal.
This story is not for children under 16 years of age. It is dark, emotional, and EXTREMELY violent. There are some very disturbing scenes in it. My writing is very intense.
My utmost thanks to Marge Hunt and Lillian Wolf for looking this story over for me. This project was done under extremely difficult conditions, and I needed an outside point of view to make sure everything clicked properly. Thanks ladies.
THE GENESIS OF THIS PIECE
CROSSROADS OF DESTINY is the Xena fanfic that should NEVER have happened. To be brutally honest, its mere existence is a FLUKE.
My last Xena fan fiction piece-SOUL SEARCHING AT TWILIGHT-was written over 3 years ago. It, frankly, SHOULD have been my final fanfic story. Understand that at the time I wrote my Xena fanfics, my life was radically different than it is now. While things were tough back then, my father was still alive, and I had a bit more time to concentrate on things like fanfic. To be blunt, fanfic in my opinion is something for people who have enough free time to concentrate on-not for people like me. Sometimes I seriously wonder how in the world some fanfic authors can find the time to write thousands of pages of fanfic. Been there, done that-and I know from hard experience what that kind of work entails.
Anyway, let's get to how this story came about.
We all know about Friend In Need, and the reactions, so there's no need wasting time going over that in great detail. While I liked the fact that Xena died-the set-up for her death was pretty crappy. The story was not the best. But whatever-water under the bridge and all that.
So anyway, being that my mind is constantly toying with creative ideas, one began to form about a post FIN story dealing with what happens to Gabrielle after Xena's death. I bounced the idea around in my head a little bit, but I didn't take it too seriously. I had sworn off fanfic, and wanted to concentrate on original ideas.
Unfortunately, September 2001 came about-and I had to deal with losing my father as well as the 9/11 attacks nine days later. Read about them here.
The next few months were the most hellish of my life. I nearly lost my mother in January of 2002. She had to have part of her aorta replaced-it was a 6-hour operation. She spent a month at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. She suffered a minor stroke, and is now blind in her left eye. She's considerably weaker than before.
And then, there were the financial difficulties. Ugh. That aspect hasn't changed much.
I had been put through an emotional meat grinder. I was at the lowest point of my life. I didn't care about much of anything-and I certainly didn't give a shit about writing. At one point, I seriously considered giving up writing for good.
But I had to push on, somehow, some way.
Later on, around May of 2002, ideas began to slowly come together for a story based on 9/11, about the insanity of the ideologies that led to it. It was an INCREDIBLY difficult, painful process. I was trying to force myself into being creative. Eventually, the rage that I felt over 9/11 took over, and the drive began to create what would become IN THE NAME OF THE ONE-my darkest, most controversial story to date.
Read it here:
After that was done, I went into a creative lull again. I half-heartedly played around with some ideas, but I couldn't generate enough interest to write something again. And it didn't help that I was going through incredible stress.
The Gabrielle story idea popped up on occasion, but I kept slapping it away. It's fanfic, I told myself. A waste of time. Work on your own shit. If you have time to concentrate on fanfic, I told myself, then you have too much free time on your hands.
Understand that since my father's death and 9/11, I never really took any extended time off. My situation just couldn't allow it. It was a luxury I couldn't afford. But the stress levels soon began to become unbearable. Between my feelings on those two events and my current problems, the pressure cooker was growing and growing. In the past, I suffered from depression and anxiety attacks. And by April of 2003, I realized that if I didn't take some time off, I was going to crash. Hard. Been there, done that, and I know how ugly that is. I wanted to avoid that at all costs.
So, when summer was on the horizon, I was at the point where I was forced to take the summer off. I had to, for health reasons. I desperately needed rest. That left open a 2 month window, until I went back to work in September. I jumped at it. I wanted to do as little as possible, think as little as possible.
Shortly before this, though, I was on my Macintosh, and I was casually going through some files on a CD-ROM I burned some time back. The Gabrielle story idea was on it. And I thought it was an interesting idea. I also thought it would be a shame to just let this idea die away.
I had no other ideas for Xena fanfic. I hadn't watched the show in over 2 years-even though I still am a fan of the show and its participants. I am also on the outer fringes of the fandom-I rarely associate with any of the fans any more. There's a tiny handful I still chat with on occasion via email-and I do lurk on message boards anonymously.
This lone idea was the only Xena-related writing project I had in my head. But I still wasn't crazy about doing fanfic again. Writing is VERY hard work. It demands a LOT of time and discipline-and writing under ideal conditions almost never happens. I had told a couple of folks who liked my earlier fanfic about my misgivings on doing this. They told me, "Write it anyway."
So, after a LONG period of thought, I decided I would write this fanfic under one condition: it had to be written in the summer of 2003 and be completed no later than September.
Of course, life hardly ever goes as planned. Much to my dismay, the fanfic was more complicated than I bargained for, and the writing environment was terrible. As tough as it was, though, I stuck with it. It took nearly 4 months to write. I began assembling ideas around the beginning of June 2003. I started the actual writing on July 20, 2003 and finished on October 12, 2003.
CROSSROADS OF DESTINY is easily the toughest Xena fanfic I've ever done. It is a long, complex story. I had to do quite a bit of research via the Internet and through books. Fitting the characters into the historical context they were in was a TREMENDOUS challenge.
There are a couple of points I want to make. Firstly, I'm of the belief that this story will probably drop off into oblivion rather quickly. Outside of the fact that I'm not working with original characters, one of the other reasons I didn't want to work on this new piece was because of the show being over for two years. Many fans were extremely pissed off with the ending of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, and a lot of folks have left the fandom. My understanding too is that fanfic reading had dropped off quite a bit since the show ended.
So, the BIG question on my mind was: "Who the HELL would READ this stupid thing??"
Secondly, this fanfic will require you to keep an open mind. Many Xenites have a certain idea of how they want the show to be-and it really doesn't matter if a fanfic has gotten rave reviews; if it isn't what they want to read, they could care less if the thing has gotten glowing reviews across the board-they will avoid it like the plague. I've seen attitudes like this quite often in XWP fandom.
Still that didn't stop me from writing serious Joxer/Meg fan fiction. The reason I embarked on doing that was because I liked the two characters, and more importantly, I was annoyed at the potential that was avoided. It led me to write BRAVING THE INNER STORM, which I quite frankly thought would be panned because it contained Meg and Joxer. They are not exactly the most popular characters in Xena fandom, but that didn't matter; I wrote this story first and foremost for myself. I was absolutely stunned at the positive reactions I got from it. That encouraged me to go on and write some more stories. Of course, I don't have the following some fanfic writers have, but I developed a tiny group of fans. That still makes me shake my head in disbelief that ANYONE would like the silly nonsense I write.
CROSSROADS OF DESTINY only exists for several reasons: first, I had an idea that wouldn't leave me alone-or as Lucy would put it, "It's like having a terrier nipping at your ankles." Secondly, I had a two-month window to write it in. And to be blunt-if I didn't have that two month window, this story would never have seen the light of day. The conditions that were around to allow me to write fanfic simply did not exist anymore. Who knows? Maybe this two month window was a "crossroad of destiny" in itself. Alas, this project had extended by design into October-but I was determined to see this project through, come hell or high water.
And its destiny may very well be to sink into oblivion faster than the Titanic-which I believe is very likely. But you know what? I don't care.
I wrote this because I wanted to write it. It seemed like a good idea at the time. If people like it, great! And if people avoid it like the plague, that's fine too.
What will the future hold? Frankly, I don't know. My life is still very hellish. I might have allowed myself to write fanfic during that 2-month window and a little past it, but that time is gone forever. I've got serious problems that need addressing-and if I'm going to write, I have to stick to original characters and story ideas. I'm not even sure how much time I'll have to do that. Fate has not been kind to me these last couple of years, and I have a feeling it's going to screw around with me for quite a while yet.
A few years ago, a person who read SOUL SEARCHING AT TWILIGHT wrote to me, saying, "I hope real life allows you to write bigger and better things soon." And ever since then, that line has stuck with me. At the time, I thought that this was a very insightful comment. But now, two years after 9/11 and my father's death, I realize how brilliant this woman was in saying this. Real life is not kind. In fact, it can hurt you in the most unbelievable ways. It can take away your desire, time, and resources to do what you want to do. Anyone who believes in the saying, "You make your own luck" is either incredibly naive or incredibly arrogant. No matter how determined you are, you can't control everything around you, nor can you constantly adjust to changing conditions. Sure-you have to try. But trying isn't good enough. You either succeed at what you want to do-or you don't. The playing field isn't even. And many people who've been lucky get cocky, and look down on those who haven't been as fortunate, despite the latter giving their best efforts. It's dangerous to think that everything revolves around you, particularly when things are going well. It all has to do with the cards you are dealt with, as well as knowing the right people in life. Not everybody is that lucky.
Lately, the cards I've been getting have been pretty crappy. But I'll keep pushing on. And perhaps, fate will smile and I'll arrive at a crossroad that will lead me to better times and more opportunities to write what I want and sell it. We see what fate holds in store.
Meanwhile, you have this to read. If you're willing to read it, I hope I entertain you for a while, and I hope you get something out of it. And then perhaps you'll take a peek at my original work.
All the best,
October 12, 2003
Gabrielle reached into her satchel. She pulled out a roll of
bread and some cheese. Placing the cheese on her knee, she then ripped open the
roll and placed the cheese inside it. She raised the food to her mouth and took
a bite. The blonde closed her eyes and sighed in contentment. Gabrielle then
looked out over the side of the ship, onto the sea. Gabrielle could make out a
large, green land mass.
She was finally returning home-to Greece.
It had been five long years since she left her country. Gabrielle had traveled extensively through different parts of the world- including Chin, India, and the far north. She had also spent some time in Africa and Egypt.
Gabrielle felt tired. She had grown weary of traveling. She wasn't sure she wanted to do it much longer. And she hadn't seen her sister Lila and her niece Sarah in a long time. They were the only family Gabrielle had left.
This time, Gabrielle planned to go back to Potedia and stay for an indefinite period. Gabrielle had gone to different places, dealing with different people, trying to make a difference and help those in need. And she had indeed made a difference.
But without Xena, it just wasn't the same.
She took the water skin out of her bag and opened it, drinking the cool crisp fluid. It washed down her meal. She licked her lips, and looked out over the sea again.
Xena …gods how I miss you …
The old, painful grief welled up from all the familiar places. Time hadn't dulled the pain much. It was still incredibly hard-and the bard missed Xena terribly. She looked down at her boots. Darkness crossed her features.
"Are you all right, child?"
Gabrielle looked up. A white-haired old woman stood there, her face filled with concern. Gabrielle smiled sadly.
"Yes …well …no …"
She looked up into the deep blue sky and sighed.
"I'm just remembering someone very close to me. Someone who died a few years ago."
The old woman frowned. She moved closer, placing her hand on Gabrielle's shoulder.
"I know how you feel." she said quietly, her voice filled with sympathy. "It's never easy. I've always hated it when people say that it gets easier with time. The word 'easy' is so inappropriate."
Gabrielle looked at the old woman, her right eyebrow raised.
"You know …you're absolutely right. It is inappropriate."
The old woman smiled sadly.
"I prefer …bearable. It doesn't sound as flippant as 'easy.' And it's not always bearable, either."
Gabrielle looked off to her right. Pain briefly rippled across her features.
"No it isn't." she said in a small voice.
The old woman lowered her head.
"I-I'm sorry if I disturbed you-"
Gabrielle immediately faced the woman and smiled warmly.
"No-no not at all. In fact, I could use a little company."
She patted the empty space to her immediate right.
"Have a seat!"
The old woman smiled. She sat down beside the blonde.
"Would you like some bread and cheese?" asked Gabrielle.
The old woman shook her head.
"No, thank you dear."
She extended a hand to the blonde.
The blonde grasped her hand and shook it.
"Gabrielle. Nice to meet you."
"Where are you headed?"
The old woman nodded knowingly.
"Ah, yes. Potedia. It's a beautiful little town. Relatives?"
"A sister and niece."
"Oh, that's nice."
"I haven't seen them in years. I've spent much of my time traveling across the world. I can't wait to see my sister and niece again."
"It's always good to come home to family."
Gabrielle puckered her lips. She raised her eyebrows.
"They're all I've got left."
"I'm sure they'll be thrilled to see you."
"Yup. I'm looking forward to seeing them, too."
At that moment, a short, bald-headed man walked up to the two women. He tuned to Gabrielle.
"That will be five dinars for the horse feed, miss. Sorry I couldn't come by earlier-I was a bit tied up."
"That's all right."
Gabrielle reached into her satchel, and took out the money. She counted the appropriate coins and gave them to the man. He nodded.
"Thank you, miss."
The blonde smiled.
The man walked away. The old woman spoke once again.
"Oh, so you're not alone. You own a horse, hmmm?"
"Yeah. A beautiful white mare. I call her Hermes."
The old woman raised an eyebrow, smiling.
"A horse named after a male god??"
Gabrielle raised her own eyebrow, chuckling.
"You haven't seen how fast she runs. I've only known one other horse in my life that could run as fast, and it was owned by my late friend. And besides-I think it's a cute name."
The old woman laughed good-naturedly.
"Yes, it is. It's good to have a sense of humor."
"It sure is."
Gabrielle looked up, and noticed that they were getting closer to the Greek mainland.
"Hmmm-looks like I'd better get myself and Hermes ready. We should be arriving at dock soon."
She rose to her feet. The old woman rose soon after. Gabrielle turned towards her and smiled.
"Well Martha, it was nice meeting you. By the way-where are you headed?"
"Have a safe trip."
"You too, Gabrielle. It was nice meeting you."
The two women shook hands, and parted company. Gabrielle scratched the back of her head and walked over to a small flight of steps that led to the lower decks. She descended them.
There were a few large boxes about, stacked in small groups. And standing in one corner was a white horse. It was eating some hay. Gabrielle walked over to it, gently petting its snout.
"Hey girl. I see you're almost done with your lunch, hmm? It should tie you over until we get to Lila's house."
The horse snorted. Gabrielle frowned.
"I wish I could have shown you to Xena. She would have loved you."
The mare nuzzled Gabrielle's left shoulder gently. A set of tears came to the blonde's eyes. She closed them and bit her lower lip.
"Dammit Gabrielle, that's enough." she whispered sternly to herself. "You gotta stop crying every other moment. Grow up and deal with it."
She rolled her eyes. Her mind wandered a bit.
Who am I kidding??
Gabrielle sat down on a nearby crate. She reached into her satchel and took out the chakram.
Xena's most lethal weapon…and the only thing Gabrielle had left of the Warrior Princess. She flipped it over in her hands, the shiny metal gleaming in the sunlight that came from the staircase.
No, I'm not dealing with this too well, she thought to herself. Have I really ever dealt with it?
The mare moved closer to the blonde, nudging her in the shoulder. Gabrielle turned towards it and smiled sadly.
"What is it with you, Hermes?" she asked in wonderment. "You always seem to know when I'm sad."
The horse let out a soft whinny. It nudged her again. Gabrielle rubbed its head.
"Thank you for trying to comfort me, girl. You sure Xena isn't putting you up to this?"
The horse snorted. Gabrielle put the chakram back in her satchel. She sat back and listened to the commotion above her-people milling about, getting themselves ready to disembark the ship. Gabrielle smiled a bit.
Yeah …at least, there's Lila and Sarah.
The thought offered some comfort…the smell of freshly baked nut bread-Gabrielle's favorite delicacy, after all these years. Lila had become quite the expert at making it, and she treated her sister to some nut bread every time Gabrielle stopped by to visit. Only this time, Gabrielle planned to make it an extended stay. And there was Sarah, too. Gabrielle was happy to know that there was someone to keep her sister company. She was a faithful daughter to Lila. They were very close.
Gabrielle looked at her arms. How funny … she thought. I should be nearly fifty-eight summers old, and I have the body of a thirty summers-old woman.
It was still a very strange thing to get used to, and Gabrielle hadn't quite grown accustomed to it, even after all this time. Many of the people she had known were now dead. She thought back to two years ago, when she attended the funeral of Princess Diana, Xena's twin. And sadly, the high priestess Leah had died a year before that. All of Xena's identical twins were now dead. Gabrielle bit her lip, and let out a ragged sigh.
And then she remembered Meg. Her mind had wandered down the wrong path-
"What did my father see in you two?! Gods, my mother was right!!"
Gabrielle winced. She shook erratically at the memory. Virgil, turning on both her and Xena. The fury in his voice-
No, don't go there. Don't go there again.
Gabrielle cursed herself for remembering that. The loss of Xena's twins hurt tremendously, but Meg's-
No. Let it go. Stop picking at the goddamned scab, Gabrielle!!
Gabrielle took a deep breath, and stood up. She turned towards Hermes, letting out the barest trace of a smile.
"I'm going up top Hermes. I should be back soon."
The horse made a sharp nod and a harsh snort. Gabrielle frowned.
"Oh, stop it. I'm coming right back! I just want to see how close we are to shore!"
The white mare lowered her head and began to chew on the hay again. Gabrielle shook her head and picked up her satchel. She slung it on her shoulder and climbed the stairs, going back on deck. She looked out over the waters. They were much closer to land now, and the pier was in sight. Gabrielle walked over to the railing and leaned against it, waiting patiently and observing her surroundings. Crewmembers rushed past her in different directions. Passengers got together their belongings.
In a short time, the ship reached the dock and came to a stop. The crewmembers dropped anchor. Gabrielle then began to walk towards the staircase.
She turned around. It was the man who had given Hermes hay. He spoke.
"I'm going downstairs now to open storage, so you can bring your mare out."
The man returned the smile. He rushed downstairs, and Gabrielle followed. The moment he reached the bottom, he turned right. Gabrielle walked down the staircase and turned left. She walked up to the mare and untied her from the post. Gabrielle heard a heavy wooden door slide open. Soon, light shone upon Gabrielle and the mare. She looked outside, and saw people milling about. The man ran back up to the foot of the stairs and looked up. His face was filled with annoyance.
"Oi!! Stabros!! Get those guys down here!! I've gotta get this plank down. Got a lady with a horse here!! Let's go!!"
"Yeah yeah, I heard ya!!" came the equally annoyed response from above. "I only got two hands, ya know!!"
A moment passed.
"Hey Mathias!! Nicky!! C'mon, let's go!!" shouted the voice. "Telly's got a horse to get off, and we're running behind schedule!!"
A tall, lanky fellow bounded down the stairs. The two men then walked over and began moving several crates over to one corner. Two large men bounded down the stairs and ran over to the other men. After moving a couple of crates, they walked off into the darkness off Gabrielle's right. As she watched, the four men carried out a very large, heavy plank of wood. They positioned it within the doorway and slid it down. The man named Telly looked out of the exit. He waited a few moments, then spoke.
"Festa, ya got it tied up down there?" he called out.
Telly turned towards Gabrielle.
"Okay miss, you're all set."
She led the horse over to the large plank and they walked down it. Both of them stepped onto the land. Gabrielle took a deep breath, and sighed.
"Ahhhhh …it's good to be home-"
Gabrielle quickly turned to her left to see four men rushing past her. She followed them with her eyes and saw them reach a large crowd of people standing in the town square. Whatever was happening, it seemed that the people were very agitated. Gabrielle's eyes narrowed with curiosity. She led her horse over to the crowd. There was a water fountain there, and several men stood in front of it. Their faces were filled with fear and anger. Gabrielle drew closer and listened. One of the men spoke.
"I-I-I can't believe the destruction!! Everything was absolutely leveled!!"
"I thought we didn't have to worry about the Greek gods any more!!" shouted an angry woman standing near the front. "Why did this happen?!"
"It appears the almighty Xena and Gabrielle forgot this one when they killed off those bastards-"
Gabrielle released her horse. She pushed herself up to the front. The blonde eyed the man who had just spoken.
"What are you talking about?" she demanded.
The man stared at Gabrielle in disbelief.
"Have you been hiding under a rock?? It's been the only news these past few days!!"
Gabrielle ground her teeth, her face filling with annoyance.
"I just got back from overseas." she said coldly. "Mind filling me in??"
The man walked up to her. His face was filled with pain.
"The town of Potedia has been totally destroyed."
A savage wave of shock and grief slammed into Gabrielle like an avalanche. She let out a short, sharp gasp of pain. She staggered back. The shock that washed over her face was soon replaced with a blinding rage. Gabrielle grabbed the man and tugged him forward, her emerald eyes penetrating his like daggers.
"Who?!" she screamed. "What god did this?!"
"I-I-I don't know!!" exclaimed the man in terror. "Only one man survived!! He would know!!"
Gabrielle shook the man roughly.
"Where is he?!" she growled savagely.
He quickly pointed to a low pink house at his left.
"He-He's there, recovering-"
Gabrielle instantly released the man and took off like a bolt towards the building. The moment she reached it, she began banging on the door furiously. Gabrielle heard footsteps rushing up to the door. A woman opened it. She stared at Gabrielle with anger.
"Just what do you think-"
"Where's the survivor from Potedia?!"
"Who are you?!"
"I'm someone from that town! I just came back from overseas! I need to see this man!!"
The woman drew back, seeing the pain and rage in Gabrielle's green eyes. She pointed to a small door in the back.
"He's in that room." she said in a hushed voice.
Gabrielle pushed past the woman and rushed straight over to the door. She opened it. Inside the room was a man, laying in bed. His head and arms were heavily bandaged. His eyes widened in shock.
"Who are you?!"
She walked up to him. The man gasped.
Her eyes filled with recognition.
Gabrielle instantly sat at his side.
"A-A goddess came to our town. She leveled everything in it. S-She k-killed every living thing there…man, woman, child, animals…"
Gabrielle clutched his shoulders, her face filled with rage and grief.
" What happened to Lila and Sarah?!"
The man shook his head erratically.
"I-I-I don't know!! I was on the other side of town-"
"What did this goddess look like?!"
"A-Amazon. S-She looked like an Amazon goddess…"
Gabrielle froze instantly, her eyes wide with shock. An Amazon goddess…
" …oh no …" she whispered, her voice trembling. "No …n-n-no, not her …"
Gabrielle looked at Kalpias, her eyes filling with tears.
"Did she give her name …??" she uttered in a low, wounded voice.
"S-She said you'd know who she was. She left me alive to tell you that she's hurt you in a way that you'll never recover from."
Gabrielle shook her head erratically.
"No …" she gasped. "No …NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!"
Gabrielle bolted out of the room and out of the house. The mare stood just outside. She hastily climbed on the mare and tore out of the town square. She raced out of town into the forest, her horse moving at top speed down the dirt road. Gabrielle's heart pounded so hard that it felt as if it would burst from her chest. Sweat trickled down her face. She was near hysteria-
No, no, no-not my sister and niece-NO!!!!
Her mind screamed this, over and over again. The journey seemed to take forever. Hermes whisked down the dirt road at blinding speed, the wind ripping through Gabrielle's hair. She pressed the mare on as hard as she could.
After a considerable time, the land began to look familiar. There was a gentle hill in front of her. She knew that hill well. Just beyond this hill lay Potedia.
The mare shot up the hill and over it. Gabrielle stared out ahead of her. Her face filled with overwhelming agony. She quickly slowed her horse to a stop. Her jaw dropped down in total shock.
Potedia-or more precisely, what was left of it-stood before her. All of the buildings had been burned to the ground. Charred bodies, some in different stages of decomposition, littered the landscape. Gabrielle gritted her teeth and urged Hermes into a gallop. She entered the town.
Kalpias was right. There was not a building left standing. Not a thing left alive. Gabrielle let out a piercing scream and within moments was racing out of the town square. She continued on a dirt path that went through some heavily wooded area. The road wound to the right and went up a hill. Gabrielle rode to the top of it. When she reached it, Gabrielle brought Hermes to a halt. Her features twisted horribly in pain.
In the distance stood the remains of Lila's home. Smoke trailed up from the charred ruins. Gabrielle let out a loud sob.
Gabrielle kicked the mare in the sides. The horse bolted up to the torched farmhouse. Gabrielle brought it to a stop and jumped off of it. She rushed over to the burnt remains, looking inside-
-and she saw two charred skeletons.
A hideous wave of grief and agony burrowed into Gabrielle. She let out a strangled cry, doubling over slightly. The blond staggered towards the skeletons, dropping to her knees before one of them. Her eyes wandered erratically over it. They settled on the corpse's right hand. More precisely, one of its fingers …
…and Gabrielle saw a golden ring sitting on one of them. Incredibly, it was untouched. It glistened in the bright sunlight. Gabrielle moved closer and stared at the ring. Her lips trembled.
She recognized it …
It was the ring Gabrielle had given Lila the last time she was here. She had gotten it from India.
Gabrielle doubled over into a fetal position. Her body trembled violently. A sound came from deep within her.
The sound started off small…a low, trembling whimper.
It grew in intensity, turning into loud sobs …
And then it turned into a soul-shattering scream.
Gabrielle bolted upright and whipped her head back, screaming at the top of her lungs. The grief and rage erupted out of her in a never-ending torrent. Her screams echoed throughout the countryside. The mare took a few steps away from her. Gabrielle then collapsed on the ground and cried hysterically. The agony was so tremendous that it wracked her body in massive convulsions. The crying and screaming seemed to go on forever …
…and then little by little, Gabrielle stopped.
She crawled over to the skeleton and tenderly kissed the skull. Her tears dripped onto it.
"L-Lila …" she whispered hoarsely.
She turned and crawled over to the other skeleton. Her tears fell onto its skull. Gabrielle tenderly rubbed it with her right hand.
"S-Sarah …o-o-oh Sarah …"
Gabrielle looked up for a moment. Something caught her eye.
It was a huge boulder, off in the distance. There were strange markings on the boulder, as if something had been burned into it. Gabrielle rose to her feet and walked slowly towards the boulder. As she drew closer, Gabrielle realized that the markings were letters …
She stopped just before the boulder, and read:
Thought you and Xena got rid of me? Guess again. I'm back.
Like what I did to your sister and niece? It was fun, breaking their bones.
Breaking their pretty little necks.
I bet ya want a piece of me, hmmm??
Come to Crete. I'll be waiting.
A fury Gabrielle had never known erupted from within her soul like a volcanic explosion. She arched back, staring out into the heavens.
Gabrielle dropped to her knees, her emerald eyes overflowing with rage and bloodlust. She let out an animalistic snarl. Her heated stare bored into the boulder before her.
"You're dead Velasca. I'll kill you if it's the last thing I ever do on this godforsaken earth."
She turned, looking back at the skeletons of her sister and niece.
"She won't get away with this. I swear it."
Gabrielle sat before a fire, holding a dagger. She turned it over in her hands, studying it with rapt curiosity. Her eyes covered every inch of the blade.
I'm going to gut you with this, Velasca.
Gabrielle nodded slowly. The thought repeated itself, over and over in her head. And this was the one weapon that could do it-
The Dagger of Helios.
Long ago, Xena had hidden this dagger deep within a cave that only she and Gabrielle knew about. They had hoped that it would never have to be used again. But Xena knew she could leave nothing to chance. And Gabrielle trusted her wisdom.
Sure enough, Xena had been right.
Gabrielle had gone back to this cave, and retrieved the dagger. Afterwards, she journeyed to Hephestos's dwelling, deep underground. She was able to find a few weapons she could use to battle Velasca. Gabrielle knew that anything she could use against this goddess would be to her advantage. Gabrielle also knew that Velasca thought she was immortal now, and that nothing could stop her. Gabrielle raised an eyebrow at this thought.
Boy, are you in for an unpleasant surprise.
She sheathed the dagger, putting it aside. Gabrielle picked up a small leather bag and opened it. She pulled out one of its contents-a small golden ball.
It was a weapon that would paralyze any victim it was thrown at. Gabrielle had seen these used before by goons that had once been sent by Strife to go after her and Xena. Only a god could immediately reverse the effect of the balls; otherwise, the unfortunate target could remain immobilized for years, possibly longer.
Gabrielle had about a dozen in this bag. She knew they worked on gods. Xena eventually ended up using them on Strife. Ares had to release him from the spell of the balls.
She put the ball back into the bag and put it aside. Gabrielle picked up a small red bag. She opened it and took out a small clump of partially rotted fruit.
It was ambrosia. But it was spoiled. Gabrielle knew that spoiled ambrosia could give her the strength of a demigod, but only for a brief time. She had been fortunate enough to find some laying around in Hephestos's room. It could prove useful. Gabrielle put it back in its bag and laid it down beside the other one.
Gabrielle picked up yet another bag and took out a silver bracelet. She smirked as she gazed at it. Hermes snorted, titling her head. Gabrielle looked up at the mare.
She put the bracelet on her right wrist. Suddenly, Gabrielle vanished from sight. The horse whinnied in alarm, stepping back.
"It's okay, girl, it's okay!! I'm still here!!"
A moment passed, and Gabrielle suddenly reappeared again, having taken off the bracelet. The horse snorted sharply. Gabrielle frowned.
"Sorry Hermes. Didn't mean to scare ya."
She put the bracelet down beside her and got up. She walked over to the mare. Gabrielle gently stroked its head.
"Hermes, I'm afraid this is good-bye."
The horse snorted again, only sharper this time. Gabrielle frowned.
"I'm sorry, my friend. But where I'm going, you can't come. I have to find Velasca and kill her. Even if it means sacrificing my life to do it. If I don't stop her, she's going to kill more innocent people. You saw what she did."
A pause. Then Gabrielle spoke again.
"This time, I might not be coming back." she said quietly.
The mare lowered her head and pushed Gabrielle gently. It made a soft whinny.
"No, I mean it Hermes. This is a god I'm going against. And it's going to take everything I know to stop her and kill her. I'm going to have to rely on everything Xena taught me."
Gabrielle placed her head against the mare's.
"I'm going to really miss you, Hermes. You remind me so much of Argo. You have her attitude."
Gabrielle smiled sadly.
"Hmm…I wonder if horses reincarnate too…"
The horse whinnied softly. Gabrielle patted it. She then walked over to the horse's side and took off its saddle and bridle. Gabrielle tossed both aside, into the grass. She then turned to the mare, sadness and determination in her face.
"You're free, Hermes. Get going."
The horse whinnied, snorting and shaking its head.
Gabrielle's expression grew ice-cold.
"Go!!" she snapped.
The mare drew back a bit, whinnying again. It titled its head, studying Gabrielle for a moment. Gabrielle bared her teeth in seething anger.
"Get outta here, ya stupid horse!! GO!!!"
The horse recoiled at her master's sharp voice. She then let out a loud whinny and ran off into the forest. Gabrielle's head dropped. She stared at the ground, tears flowing from her eyes.
"Good-bye, old friend."
The young Amazon woman trembled violently. Her face was inches above the frozen ground. Tears dripped down into the snow in torrents.
"P-P-PP-Please don't kill me."
The red-haired goddess knelt down by the trembling form. She grabbed the young woman by her chestnut hair and yanked her head up. Velasca's eyes narrowed with malice.
"Give me a good reason why I shouldn't."
"G-Great goddess Velasca, I-I-I'm sorry-"
Velasca's left arm snapped forth like a cobra. Her hand clutched the girl's throat. Within incredible strength, she lifted the girl high into the air, standing up herself.
"Not as sorry as you're gonna be." hissed the goddess.
Her white pupils began to glow. Soon, a bright blue-white bolt of energy shot out of her arm and through her hand. It engulfed the young woman. She let out a blood-curdling scream as the energy bolt consumed her flesh. A few yards away, a group of Amazons sat in the snow, staring at the two in absolute terror. Soon, the girl's screams withered into a sickening, gurgling cackle-and then nothing. She was reduced to a charred skeleton. Velasca released the skeleton, and it dropped into the snow. Steam hissed from the ground where the skeleton lay.
Velasca gazed at it, her lips curled into a cruel smile.
"Ahhhhhhh …that was fun."
She looked around. Beyond the Amazons was a great forest. It stretched outwards in all directions, down the sides of the massive mountain they were on. Clouds covered the lower levels of the forest. Velasca took a deep breath and sighed. She then looked down at the Amazons. Her features grew dark. She walked up to the group of frightened women.
"You are the most pathetic group of Amazons I've ever dealt with. Spineless …no ambition. Just content to rot away on this stupid mountain. How the Amazons have fallen …"
She suddenly reached down and grabbed the nearest Amazon by the throat. She yanked the woman up to her feet. Velasca glared into the woman's terrified face, her lips twisting in disgust.
"Soft…" the goddess growled. "Weak. Useless-"
"Leave her alone!!"
Velasca's eyes darted to her left. A lone Amazon had gotten to her feet. She glared at the goddess with rage. Velasca raised an eyebrow. She tossed aside the one in her grasp. The young girl flew face first into a large snowdrift.
"And what have we here?" said the goddess.
Never taking her eyes off the Amazon, Velasca walked up to her. The goddess cocked her head to one side, studying the Amazon from head to foot. Velasca raised both eyebrows.
"Ummm-you were saying??"
"What do you want from us?! Why are you doing all this?!"
"You'll have to speak up a little louder, because I can't quite hear you, dear."
Fury filled the woman's face. She let out a savage cry and threw a vicious punch at Velasca. The powerful blow whipped the goddess's face off to the right. The Amazon threw another punch, but this time, Velasca grabbed her left fist. She instantly crushed it. The Amazon screamed in agony, dropping to the ground. Velasca moved around her so that she was facing the other Amazons. Velasca's fingers wrapped around the Amazon's hand like a steel vise. Blood erupted from the goddess's grasp. The Amazon wailed in agony. Velasca glared at her for a moment, then displayed a feral smile.
"Well, what do ya know? An Amazon with a spine-"
"Fight her!!" screamed the Amazon. "She killed our Queen and our other sisters!! It's better to DIE than live like this!!"
Velasca instantly yanked the woman to her feet. She clutched the Amazon's throat, snapping her neck with a loud crack. Velasca tossed the lifeless body into a snowdrift. She sighed.
A few moments passed. The fear that was on the women's faces soon changed to seething anger. One by one, they began to rise to their feet. The one nearest to Velasca, a gray-haired woman, glared at her with malice.
"You were going to kill us all, anyway." she growled. "You were just playing with us."
Velasca chuckled, shaking her head.
"My, my. Mind readers too?? You girls are full of surprises, aren't you??"
Velasca's smile turned into a feral sneer. She raised both her arms. Her hands began to glow-
-and three arrow tips suddenly ripped out of her chest. Velasca's eyes widened in shock.
She turned around-
-and another arrow tore into her right eye, burrowing out the back of her head. Velasca clutched the arrow, yanking it out of her eye socket. The mangled flesh rapidly formed back into an eye, and the hole closed up in the back of her head. Velasca's eyes glowed for a moment. The three arrows slid out of her back, falling onto the ground. All the wounds sealed up. Her eyes peered off into the forest where the arrows came from. Her lips curled into a snarl. She turned into a whirlwind. The whirlwind tore off towards the forest. The gray haired Amazon stared off after the goddess, Eventually, the whirlwind disappeared into the midst of the massive trees.
"What in the world…?? Who shot those arrows??"
She turned to face another Amazon, who was pointing off to Varina's right.
"Someone is signaling us with a mirror!!"
Varina looked off in that direction. She could see a flashing light in the distance, in the midst of a group of trees. Varina immediately recognized the signals being flashed.
"Jenna, Garnet, come with me. The rest of you, head north into the forest."
The three Amazons ran off towards the flashing light, while the others rushed off towards the forest. Eventually, the three arrived at the group of trees. They met a young Amazon there. She was gasping for breath. Varina rushed up to her.
"Maria!! Are you all right??"
"The warrior bard Gabrielle has come to save us!!"
Varina's eyes widened in disbelief.
"G-Gabrielle?? As in Xena's partner?!"
"Yes! She's going to try and kill Velasca! Listen carefully-she told me to tell you that you'll know Velasca is dead when you see a massive lightning display atop the mountain, as well as feeling a violent earthquake. She's going to try and lure her into caves there and kill her there."
Maria looked out into the distance, seeing the large group of Amazons fleeing into the forest.
"W-Where are they going??"
"We're heading north. There are a few hiding places where we can stay safe. Afterwards, we'll send some scouts here to keep a watch out for the sky."
"Do you think the Warrior Bard has a chance against Velasca??"
Varina looked out towards the forest where the goddess went.
"If anyone has a chance of killing that bitch, it's Gabrielle. She learned from the best warrior ever to walk this earth."
She turned to face Maria.
"C'mon. Let's join the others."
The four women ran out of the group of trees, heading off towards the massive forest before them.
The whirlwind came to the stop at the foot of a high, icy cliff. It slowly materialized back into Velasca. Her white eyes darted left and right. She gritted her teeth in frustration. Whoever shot the arrows at her was nowhere to be seen.
"Come out, you coward!!" she yelled in a thunderous voice. "Come and face me!!"
Her voice echoed throughout the surrounding area. Soon, the echoes subsided, leaving only the sound of strong winds threading throughout her surroundings. Velasca's eyes narrowed. She began to slowly walk forward, her eyes scanning the area before her-
-and suddenly, she sensed something rushing at her. Her right arm snapped out-
-and the goddess snatched a large arrow out of the air. Velasca let out a furious cry and spun in the direction the arrow came from. She lifted her left arm.
In less than a second, massive blue-white bolts of energy shot out of her hand and burrowed into the area of the forest where the arrow came from. Trees exploded violently in huge clouds of yellow-orange fire. Boulders exploded into hundreds of small pieces. Velasca stopped. She lowered her left arm. Her eyes darted left and right again. She then willed her hearing to become super-sensitive-
-and then Velasca heard it.
A solitary heartbeat.
It was calm, but strong, beating steadily. Velasca listened intently to it. The heartbeat sounded familiar. Very familiar…
…and then a cold smile formed on her face. She knew who it belonged to.
With her right hand, she snapped the arrow in two. The pieces fell into the snow. Velasca's face filled with glee and bloodlust.
"I know it's you, Gabrielle!! I hear your heart!! You've learned to calm it down, but I still remember that heartbeat!!"
Velasca wanted to kill the bard with her bare hands, if possible. Slowly, just like she murdered her sister Lila, and her niece, Sarah. Velasca knew that if she followed the source of the heartbeat, she would find Gabrielle.
Velasca turned into a whirlwind again. She roared through the fire, and then turned off to the left, heading up a steep incline. When the whirlwind reached the top of it, it dissipated, rematerializing into Velasca. Before her stood a gigantic ice cave. Velasca listened intently, and heard the heartbeat coming from within the cave. Her lips twisted into a snarl.
"I've got you now, Gabrielle."
Velasca broke into a quick jog. She rushed into the cave, listening for the heartbeat. The light grew dimmer as the goddess went deeper in. Then she saw a light off to her left. She could hear the heartbeat coming from that area. She rushed up to it and went through the opening in the wall. Soon, Velasca entered a gigantic cavern. The ceiling was high above, and massive. At its center was a large hole, where sunlight streamed down onto the snowy ground. The goddess slowly walked forward, soon entering the rays of light that streamed down from the hole. She paused for a moment-
-and she suddenly sensed something coming at her.
The goddess spun towards her left, seeing for a brief instant a glint of gold rushing towards her at high speed. She raised her left arm and fired a bolt of energy at it. It hit the object, causing it to violently explode. Velasca quickly fired off another blue-white bolt of energy in the same direction. There was a violent explosion and a cry of pain. Velasca listened intently and suddenly heard something fall hard some distance in front of her. Velasca stared at this area and saw sparks of electricity thread their way around a human form. Then Gabrielle materialized, laying on the ground and shaking her head. She propped herself up on her arms. The silver armband fell from her wrist, cracking in two. Velasca let out a brilliant, feral smile.
"I see you, Gabrielle!!"
The goddess raised both her hands and fired two massive energy bolts at Gabrielle. The blonde quickly raised the chakram, and both energy bolts hit it, bouncing back at full velocity towards Velasca. Her eyes widened in shock-
-and the bolts hit Velasca directly in the face and chest, full force.
The goddess's head whipped back, blood bursting from her mouth and nose. She cartwheeled through the air, crashing face-first into the snowy floor. Velasca groaned for a moment, shaking her head. She slowly rose to her feet-
-and saw Gabrielle hurtling towards her in the form of a flying kick.
The boot burrowed hard into the goddess's chin. Blood and several teeth burst from Velasca's mouth. Again, she flipped back through the air and slammed onto the ground. Velasca propped herself up onto her hands and heard an outraged cry. She looked up to see Gabrielle coming down at her, dagger in her hand.
The goddess quickly smacked the dagger out of her hand with her right palm and slammed her left into Gabrielle's chin. Blood burst out of Gabrielle's mouth. She flew back through the air and crashed onto the icy floor. Velasca got up and threw herself on top of Gabrielle. She quickly wrapped her hands around the blonde's throat. Gabrielle responded by slamming the palms of her hands hard into the sides of Velasca's head. Blood burst from the goddess's ears. She cried out in pain and released Gabrielle's throat. With a furious scream, Gabrielle sent a right fist hard into the goddess's chin. Velasca flew off her and fell back onto the snowy earth.
Both rose to their feet, Gabrielle being first. As Velasca began to stand erect, Gabrielle threw a vicious punch into her abdomen. Velasca grunted loudly in pain, doubling over. Letting out a deafening cry, Gabrielle sent a right uppercut to her chin. The goddess's head whipped back, blood flowing like a fountain from her mouth. Gabrielle then grabbed Velasca's shoulders and repeatedly head-butted her in the face, shattering her nose. A knee burrowed into Velasca's abdomen. Blood burst from her mouth. She doubled over slightly. Extending her right arm, Gabrielle savagely whipped it into Velasca's throat. The goddess's body flipped over itself and crashed face-first into the ground.
Gabrielle spun towards Velasca and reached down towards her-
-then Velasca grabbed her outstretched left arm and set her right foot burrowing hard into Gabrielle's side. Gabrielle let out a strangled cry, her eyes dilating in agony. Velasca folded back her right leg and snapped it out again, hitting Gabrielle in the face. Blood exploded from her mouth and nose. Velasca released her, and Gabrielle staggered back. The goddess rose to her feet and snarled.
Letting out a sharp cry, Velasca sent a punishing left into Gabrielle's jaw. Her face whipped off to the left, a stream of blood and a couple of teeth shooting out of her mouth. Velasca then threw a right. Gabrielle's head whipped in the other direction, more blood erupting into the air. Velasca burrowed her right fist into Gabrielle' abdomen. The blow was so powerful that it lifted her into the air. Gabrielle dropped back onto her feet, doubled over. She staggered backwards. Letting out a savage cry, Velasca executed a brutal whirling kick. Her foot caught Gabrielle under the chin. Blood burst from her mouth.
Gabrielle flew back through the air, flipping over herself several times. She finally crashed hard into the ground and lay still. Velasca breathed heavily, wiping the blood from her mouth. She licked her lips.
"I see …you've got a god's strength, Gabrielle. But I sense you're not a full god."
The goddess began to walk towards the blonde's fallen form.
"Xena taught you well. But not good enough. A shame Xena's dead, because I would have loved to break her neck. Just like I broke the necks of your sister and niece."
Velasca drew closer. She could see a puddle of blood forming under Gabrielle's head, which was growing larger by the minute. The goddess bared her teeth.
"Time for you to join them."
She drew her right arm back, a massive blue-white energy ball forming in her hand-
-and with a loud cry, Gabrielle rolled onto her knees, burying the Dagger of Helios into Velasca's abdomen.
The goddess let out a gurgled shriek, her eyes bulging out of her head. Fiery, overwhelming pain surged up from her abdomen through her entire body. Velasca looked down at her stomach. She saw the dagger in her abdomen, buried to the hilt. Red-black blood flowed out of it, completely covering Gabrielle's right hand. She stared into Gabrielle's face. It was full of rage and hate. The energy ball in Velasca's right hand fizzled away to nothing. Her right arm dropped to her side. Gabrielle stood erect, eyeing Velasca face to face. She wrapped her left arm around the goddess, pulling her against her body. The blonde's eyes narrowed into feral slits.
"This is for Lila and Sarah."
She jerked the dagger up higher. More blood and pieces of flesh shot out of Velasca's abdomen. She let out a loud, agonized cry.
"This is for the village of Potedia!" Gabrielle hissed.
She yanked the dagger up again, widening the wound. Intestines began to fall out of it. Velasca gaped at Gabrielle in unbelievable agony. Harsh, gurgling sounds came from her throat. A red foam formed in her mouth. Gabrielle held her tighter.
"And this … is for those Amazons you killed."
Letting out a vicious scream. Gabrielle ripped the Dagger of Helios up Velasca's torso, the blade just exiting out between her breasts. Blood exploded out of the massive wound, splattering onto Gabrielle's face and upper body. She stepped back. Velasca staggered backwards, clutching at the massive wound and trying in vain to hold in her innards. Gabrielle glared at the mortally wounded goddess.
"Rot in hell, Velasca."
The goddess dropped to her knees, staring at Gabrielle. Then she fell face first into the snow and lay still.
Gabrielle sighed heavily and sheathed the dagger. She turned around and began to walk off. As she did so, Velasca, shaking violently, struggled onto her hands. The goddess pushed herself up. She lifted her right hand and squinted her eyes shut. Slowly, an energy ball began to grow in her hand. The goddess focused every last ounce of remaining power she had into it. Velasca drew her arm back. Gabrielle heard the crackling sound coming from the energy ball and turned around. Letting out a strangled cry, Velasca threw the energy ball at Gabrielle. She quickly lifted the chakram. The energy ball slammed into it. The powerful impact sent Gabrielle flying through the air. The energy ball ricocheted off the chakram and up into the air. It slammed into the ceiling of the ice cavern, and there was a violent explosion. There was a loud roar as the ice ceiling collapsed. Tons of ice and rock rained down on Velasca, burying her.
Gabrielle flew over a cliff, falling for a good minute into the darkness. She slammed hard into the rocky ground below. A massive explosion of pain erupted from her side and head. Gabrielle then felt herself rolling down an incline, finally hitting a hard object. Every part of her body was in incredible pain. Gabrielle could hear a roar above her that was getting louder and louder every second. A violent gust of wind blew at her, sending snow and rocks into her face. Suddenly, she heard a loud crackling noise coming from her belt. She began to feel her body stiffening up. Gabrielle realized it was the immobilizer balls breaking up. She heard the violent roar getting louder and louder. Gabrielle knew this was the end. She was going to be buried under tons of ice. Gabrielle felt the veil of unconsciousness begin to take over. She uttered once last word.
Then everything became pitch-black.
"C'mon Jania! Get a move on!"
"I'm coming, I'm coming!!"
The brunette Amazon rode her horse up the side of the hill with difficulty, finally reaching the top. Her five comrades were only a few yards ahead of her, also on horseback. One of them dragged a dead deer on a large sled, while two others rode behind it. Behind these three rode two more women. These two appeared to be the oldest of the group, around fifty summers old. One of them stopped, turning her horse and looking towards Jania. This woman had dark hair with large streaks of white in it. She was the taller of the two, with dark brown eyes. Jania rode rapidly through the snow, finally catching up to the two women. The tall Amazon smirked, raising an eyebrow
" A bit slow today, huh Jania?"
The young Amazon smiled sheepishly.
"We still have a long way to go yet. C'mon."
The three rode together, slowly beginning to catch up with the other three women ahead of them. The brunette at the tall Amazon's right spoke.
"Well, things aren't as bad as last year Meldinas. There seems to be more game around this time."
The woman nodded in response.
"Mmm. And at least the weather is holding up Miranda."
She looked up towards the blue heavens.
"Not a cloud in the sky."
"No. Let's hope it stays that way."
Eventually, they caught up with the other three women. They rode through a large group of trees and emerged onto flatland. To their right was a towering cliff. Jania spoke again.
"I can't wait to get back home. I'm famished."
A couple of the women ahead of her chuckled.
"Hungry again, eh?" called out the woman furthest to the front, on the left of the sleigh.
"Oh stop it, Althea!" she responded defensively.
"Your appetite is bigger than the rest of ours combined. And you know it."
"Althea, if you don't shut up, I'll-"
Suddenly, the earth began to tremble violently. Jania's eyes widened in fright.
The horses whinnied in panic, trying desperately to maintain their footing. The women struggled with the animals.
"What's going on?!" cried Jania.
Suddenly, there was a horrendous cracking sound. Meldinas quickly looked to her right. Her eyes widened in terror. A massive fissure opened up in the side of the cliff.
"Everyone back to that group of trees!!" she shouted. "NOW!!"
With difficulty, the Amazons rode their horses back to the large group of trees. With a tremendous roar, tons of ice, boulders and snow burst from the fissure, cascading down onto the plain below. Soon, the earth stopped shaking. Although the mass of debris moved closer and closer to the women, it was slowing down considerably. Eventually, the debris came to a stop. The Amazons stared at the debris in amazement.
"T-That was too damn close!!" exclaimed Jania.
Suddenly, a violent aftershock ripped through the ground. The horses whinnied in terror. The Amazons struggled with the horses. After a few moments, the earth stopped shaking. Jania's eyes darted left and right.
"Please let it be over, please let it be over…" she yammered erratically.
A few moments of absolute stillness passed. The Amazons and horses looked around nervously.
"Everyone all right??" asked Miranda.
The other women nodded. Althea shook her head.
"We were lucky we weren't caught in that."
"Let's get going." said Meldinas.
The Amazons then began to cautiously ride back towards the snowy plain. Miranda studied the debris with rapt curiosity. Suddenly, her sharp eyes spotted something. She stopped. Meldinas turned towards her.
"What's wrong Miranda?"
"I just spotted something strange."
Miranda turned her horse and rode towards the debris. Meldinas raised an eyebrow.
"Um-sis, where are you going??"
Meldinas followed her. The other women noticed what was happening, and stopped as well. Miranda rode slowly for a few moments. Then she suddenly stopped in her tracks. Her jaw dropped in stunned disbelief.
"No…it can't be…"
Meldinas stopped at Miranda's side. She stared at her quizzically.
"What are you doing??"
Miranda lifted her right arm and pointed.
"That large, long block of ice there? I think I see a human figure in it!!"
Meldinas gazed where Miranda was pointing. Then she saw it. The block of ice.
Encased inside appeared to be a human form, and it appeared to have blond hair. Meldinas's eyes widened in shock.
Miranda climbed off her horse. Meldinas followed suit. They began running towards the block of ice. The other women looked at each other, then rode over to their horses. They climbed off them and ran off after the pair. All of them arrived at the block of ice. They gasped in shock at what they saw.
Encased in the ice was a young woman. She had blond hair and was dressed in a tattered brown fur cloak. She was completely covered in blood. She held against her chest what appeared to be a circular metal object. It gleamed in the sun. Suddenly, the woman's body began to glow. The ice started cracking. Then, the side of it shattered, and the woman's body fell out of the block of ice onto the ground. She rolled onto her back. The metal object rolled out of her right hand and over to Meldinas's feet. The other Amazons rushed over to the blonde. Meldinas bent over and picked up the metal object, handling it very carefully.
"What is this??"
"Meldinas!! She's alive!!"
The Amazon quickly looked up, eyes wide with shock.
Meldinas rushed over to the other women. Miranda was inspecting the woman's body. The blonde was shivering violently. Miranda looked up at Meldinas.
"She's pretty beat up. Whoever she is, she was in one hell of a fight."
"What about all that blood on her??"
Miranda shook her head.
"I don't know. She's got quite a few cuts and bruises, but nothing to explain the amount of blood on her face, arms and chest."
Meldinas turned to the other women.
"See about assembling another sleigh. We're bringing her back to camp."
The other women nodded. They walked off. Miranda looked up at Meldinas.
"Who could she be??"
Meldinas shook her head slowly.
"I haven't a clue."
She lifted the metal disk up in front of her, gazing at it intently.
"I'll tell you this, though…whoever she is, she must have been one fierce warrior. This metal disk? If you handle it the wrong way, you'll cut open your hand. This is no ordinary weapon."
She looked down at Miranda.
"Assuming this woman recovers, I'll bet she has a very interesting story to tell."