Everything is Alive Part 2

Alti was angry enough to burst into flame, and it took a lot of self control to keep from doing it. But why should she hurt herself when she had Xena, the little blonde, and that kid shaman to torture? She thought it over for a while.

"Hmmm, stay and try to break through the kid's trap, or go mess with Xena and her friends? I'd say mess with Xena. It's more fun, and besides, I really don't want that old goat Kumaris to know where I am. I can taste their fear." Okay, she knew that Xena was the only one whose fear she could taste, but the kid was widely know to be incompetent, and the little blonde shouldn't be much of a challenge. She gave them about five minutes with her in the otherworld. She closed her eyes and thought evil thoughts.

Tendris swallowed back his fear. It was so like the other shamans to do this to him. He remembered how they taught him to swim. One brief lesson, and they dropped him into an ice cold lake. Yes, he could swim, but he still sort of resented their methods.

He used his mind to peek into the bag of herbs Delicate Flower had given him. He only recognized about half of them, but true to form, she had grinned that half savage grin of hers, saying-- "Don't worry, they'll do the job, and then some." Tendris had smiled at that. Delicate Flower was rather famous for overdoing things. He reached in the bag and felt for his iron pyrite and flint chip. They were wrapped in a bit of cotton wadding, already half-charred for the job of lighting the herbs.

Xena was alert. She was both listening and watching for her old enemy. Alti had tempted Xena to do some horrible things, and she was very, very cautious of the woman. Xena was also really not looking forward to telling Gabrielle about those things.

"Yeah, Xena. I can see it now. 'Gabrielle, I murdered the whole Northern Amazon Tribe and their queen. Do you still love me?' I'll be lucky she doesn't just walk away forever."

Gabrielle, on the other hand, was running her mind on two tracks, a trick she had learned while reading and listening to her father bellow at the same time. She was trying to guess what she needed to say to Alti, and she also was worried about Xena. The would-be shaman was doing something that was giving Xena a huge amount of pain. But Gabrielle seemed to be immune.

Track one hit on a solution of sorts first. "Oh, I'll ask my muse for help. She's never failed me before. 'Hail Clio, I, Gabrielle call on you for the words I need.'"

The answer was almost immediate. Gabrielle knew she had only to open her mouth at the right time, and the words would flow.

Her full attention turned to track two. Gabrielle thought about what she had done that Xena hadn't. The main difference was that Gabrielle had learned some new cooking methods from Tendris' aunt Ghurtha. And while they cooked, they talked. Gabrielle remembered asking Ghurtha about the peculiar shields the warriors carried into battle--polished like the shield of Perseus, and mirroring everything back to it. Ghurtha had explained that it not only confused the enemy by blinding them with the sun, but reminded them to reflect back any bad thoughts the Mongols were sending them.

"So, I guess that's what I did when Alti showed up. I think I'd better tell Xena.", and she rushed to the Warrior Princess' side.

"Hey, Xena. I was thinking about why Alti can hurt you and not me. Want to hear about it?" Okay, the look on Xena's face made it extemely obvious that she did want to hear about it. Gabrielle touched her arm to connect with her better, and smiled. Xena smiled back.

"Is she sending you bad thoughts?", asked Gabrielle.

"Horrible thoughts. And physical things too. The combination is a killer. So, what's your idea?"

"Remember those Perseus shields their fighters have? Think of one of those between you and Alti, and it works. Really."

Xena looked doubtful. Her eyebrow rose, furrowed, then smoothed itself back in place.

"I believe you." She smiled. "Gabrielle, weapons expert."

"Yeah, right," laughed Gabrielle.

The copse of trees in front of them wobbled for a second, and Alti appeared. Her grin could only be described as nasty. She struck a pose, and eyed Xena like a bird about to peck someone.

"Imagine meeting you here."

"What, you had trouble getting to our bodies?", asked Xena.

Alti's eyes flashed, and she half-closed her eyes, lauching something at Xena. Gabrielle watched closely, and she almost could see the Perseus shield appear just in front of Xena.

The reddish volley of bad energy hit the shield and bounced off, heading right back to Alti. Gabrielle smirked when it hit. Alti jumped a foot. She glared at Gabrielle, and reached back with her left hand. A long spear appeared in her hand and she aimed it at Gabrielle. Gabrielle made a Perseus shield with her mind, and then hit the ground as the spear just missed her.

Tendris was only too happy to have the Greek women distracting his enemy. He had work to do. He sneaked as close to her as her dared, and taking a handful of herbs, he wrapped the charcloth around the ends and flicked to flint chip down the length of the iron pyrite until a spark leapt out and formed a flame. Flames surrounded the herbs. Tendris blew thrm out and smoke poured from the bundle. Alti screamed, and turned on the teenager.

Xena saw Alti turn on Tendris. She leapt into the air, yelling her warcry, and twisting in the air over Alti's head, she landed between her and the teenaged shaman. Her sword was out and aimed at the woman. Xena's eyes here hard, and her mouth frozen into a grin that didn't bode well for Alti's future.

"Leave him alone, you old bat."

Alti could see the blonde coming up on her other side, staff at the ready. It was hard to admit, but she was more worried about her than Xena in this world. The woman had spent way too much time with Kumaris, and Alti didn't trust her. So, Alti knew she needed to put on a great show, or Gabrielle could be trouble.

"Oh Xena, have you told your friend what fun you and I had the last time you were here?"

Xena's eyes rolled back in her head, and she went white.

"Shut up!"

"Hey, little girl. Ask Xena whatever became of the Amazons in this region. I think you'll find the answer very enlightening."

Xena was losing it. She rushed toward Alti with her sword raised. She was so predictible. Alti gathered energy in both hands.

Gabrielle could see Alti about to attack Xena. She figured that Xena had done something heinous. It wasn't the best time in her life. But that was the past. Gabrielle knew she had to use her best skills.

"I'm a bard. I tell stories, and I write them on scrolls. When I tell stories about Xena, they are about the times she is heroic. I don't tell about the times she fails. No one needs to know about those times. I finally realized today that I am also writing my life. I do it every day, with all my words and thoughts and actions. So, you are the villain in this story. But I've decided you are not a very powerful villain. As a matter of fact, I think I'll write about how Tendris defeated you--all by himself with a handful of herbs. Your power comes from other people being afraid of you. After I tell my story, who is going to fear Alti anymore?"

Something inside Alti drooped. She felt her energy draining away. She turned and looked at Tendris. He was grinning. Alti looked at Xena. She tried to send a bad memory, and nothing happened.

"She got you there, Alti. And It's my turn now. I don't need you anymore. I used to have you around to make be feel terrible about the things I did years ago, but you know what? I can beat myself up just fine without your help. I'll tell Gabrielle all about the Amazons, and I will try to find some way to begin to make up for it. You are useless to me. Go away."

Alti felt all her power leave. She now knew why she had needed Xena. She ate her fear. Now she was just standing there, completely alone and knowing how weak she was. She turned, and ran.

The trio didn't even have time to hug. A drum was calling them back to the clearing. They saw the clearing below them, and awoke in their bodies only to see Delicate Flower, Ghurtha and Kumaris standing over them grinning.

Tendris got to his feet. He only swayed a little, then got right back into balance. He had done well, even if he had really needed Xena and Gabrielle's help.

"How did it go?", asked Kumaris as if he hadn't forseen everything.

"We beat her. Xena and Gabrielle did most of the fighting, but the herbs worked just like Delicate Flower promised."

"Tendris is the true hero today. He got us to the otherworld, used us to distract Alti, and got her with the herbs. His trap worked great too," said Gabrielle.

"He's gonna be a mighty shaman someday. I'm sure of it," said Xena.

Delicate Flower's lips quivered as if she was smothering a laugh. "We have something for you."

Tendris watched as his Aunt Gurtha unwrapped a parcel. Inside was his shaman coat, but instead of the plain coat of a student, they had added brass bells, fringes and yellow ribbons. His eyes grew round and his jaw dropped. This meant that he had really impressed them. He was only sixteen years old, and he had yellow ribbons and bells. Of course it would have been much cooler to have red ribbons and bird feathers in his hat, but he could wait. Maybe next year.

Xena looked at Gabrielle, half lovingly, and half afraid. She knew they had to talk a few dead Amazons. She was really not looking forward to it. To be honest, she had seen the white-hot heat of the bard's temper, and really didn't want to experience it again.

"Xena, we have to talk."

"I know. About the Amazons, right?"

"Yes. What happened to them?" Gabrielle was wearing her patient face. That didn't figure to help Xena's cause any.

Xena shifted her weight to her other foot, then back again. Her jaw worked. She took a deep breath, then let it out and tried again.

"Gabrielle, I love you. I just wanted to say that because, well..."

"You're afraid I'll leave you. How many times do I have to tell you...?"

"I killed them."

Gabrielle turned pale. She looked as if some god had punched her in the gut. It would have been better if she had punched Xena instead. Xena was sweating, waiting for the explosion.

"You killed my sister Amazons?"

"Yeah. Gabrielle, I'm sorry. I really didn't want to hurt you with that."

"How many are left?"

Xena's voice was like a whisper. All the energy had gone at once. "None. I killed them all."

Delicate Flower interupted quickly. "No, you did not kill them all. There are fifteen still alive."

Xena looked immensley relieved.

"Are you an Amazon?", asked Gabrielle.

"No, but I met them out riding when I was Tendris' age. "One of the old Amazons was taking care of the children when you attacked their mothers. She lived just long enough to teach them to survive on their own."

Relief washed over Xena's body. She was never so happy to have failed in her life. Then, wonder of wonders, Gabrielle smiled at her, and gently placed her hand on Xena's arm.

"Can you take us to them?", asked Gabrielle.

"Not dressed like that," said Ghurtha and Delicate Flower simultaniously.

Part 3

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