Xena, Gabrielle, the Amazons, Ares and Discord do not belong to me. They belong to MCA/Universal/Renaissance.
The lyrics to the song are from the movie Charles Dickens' David Copperfield (1993)
and the song is called “Is there anyone”.
Part 5 of the Guardian Series
An apple was tossed in the air and a chakram sliced it in half. The pieces were captured by a bard who said:
“A clean slice, very nice Xena.” The chakram flew back at its thrower and she caught it with ease. Xena said to her young trainee:
“Top that Exl.” The young warrior smiled at Xena and answered:
“Gladly.” Then she turned to Gabrielle and said:
“Gabrielle, throw another apple in the air.” Gabrielle took an apple from her bag and threw it high in the sky. Exl took two throwing stars and with a fast flick of the wrist, she threw them at the apple. It felt like slow-motion, the throwing stars sliced the apple in half and in half again. The apple pieces fell and Gabrielle had to make a few quick moves to catch them. Gabrielle looked at the four pieces of apple and said:
“I have to say, that's amazing.” Xena looked at Exl with a smile and said:
“You've learned to use those well. You are becoming more and more talented every time you practice.”
Exl smiled back at Xena and replied:
“Well I've had a good teacher. Thank you Xena for teaching me so many new things.” Gabrielle came to her two warriors and asked:
“Now we enough apple pieces to make an apple pie, or do you still want to practice?” Exl looked at Gabrielle and said:
“If we continue practicing, we'll have applesauce soon.” All three of them laughed and they had no idea how their quiet day would turn into something completely different.
Not very far from them, a dark man and a dark woman were watching their practice from a magic orb.
“Look at them, so happy”, the man said. He snapped his fingers and the orb disappeared.
“That young warrior, one day she will be a worthy adversary or a powerful ally, if she is converted to join us”, he said and turned to look at the woman.
“You know what to do, Discord.”
“Yes Ares, I do”, the dark woman said and transformed into a dark brown haired woman with clothes like an Amazon warrior has. Ares nodded and Discord disappeared.
“Xena, because I couldn't get you to join me, I'm going to take your precious little Guardian and you'll be sorry you declined to join me”, Ares said, flicked his hand and disappeared.
“So where are we going to next? I hope somewhere with some action…”, Exl said. “How about Athens ?”, Gabrielle said.
“That might be a good idea, there is always some action in Athens ”, Xena said. She stopped Argo and lifted her hand to signal the others to stop. They stood still and listened, they heard and saw shouting men running towards them.
“Romans… Exl, I think this is some of that action you talked about”, Xena said and flipped off Argo. It truly was a squad of Roman soldiers coming at them, about 10 of them.
“This should be fun…”, Exl said swinging her axe at one of the soldiers. The fight was over soon, the Romans laid unconscious on the ground and Exl turned to Gabrielle to see if she was hurt.
“Gabrielle, are you okay?”, she asked. Gabrielle smiled and said:
“Yeah, that was very refreshing.” Xena walked to Exl and asked:
“You hurt Exl?” Exl shook her head and said:
“No, are you?”
“No, I'm fine, this is odd. Why did a squad of Roman scouts attack us?”, Xena said pointing at one of the soldiers. He had an emblem indicating he was part of a squad of scouts traveling ahead of the infantry.
“Maybe they just thought we were part of the opposing side“, Gabrielle said. Xena walked to Argo and Gabrielle followed her.
“Something about this thing smells, and bad”, Exl said, walking behind her Couple. She heard a small sound of some kind and before she could react, a small dart was sticking out of her neck. Everything in her eyes just went fuzzy and before everything went black, she shouted:
“Xena, Gabrielle…” She slumped to the ground behind Gabrielle and Xena. Gabrielle sensed something was wrong, because Exl called them like that.
“Exl, Exl!”, Gabrielle said seeing her Loyal on the ground. Xena also noticed Exl on the ground and went to examine her. She took out the dart and smelled it's tip. “What is that substance on it?”, Gabrielle asked her wife.
“It's a mild anesthetic, she's been drugged”, Xena said. Gabrielle was just about to ask something, when she felt a sharp sting in her neck. She put her hand on her neck and Xena noticed this.
”Gabrielle, hold still…”, she said and began to approach her wife when she felt a sting in her neck as well .
”Xena, what's happening?”, Gabrielle asked.
”I don't know, but I'm feeling very… sleepy…”, Xena answered and she fell to the ground unconscious and Gabrielle fell down right next to her.
As they all laid there, Ares appeared and walked to the sleeping women. “Now, the next phase of my plan”, he said and walked to Exl. He took one of her knives from her boot and stabbed the soldiers with the knife. He took some of the blood from one of the soldiers and used it to stain Xena's and Gabrielle's faces and hands. He snapped his fingers and the soldiers were gone. He placed the knife back in Exl's boot and said to her:
“Young warrior, you are going to learn an important lesson. I hope you're ready for it.” Then he disappeared.
About a candle mark later, Exl woke up. Only a small amount of the anesthetic had affected her, because Xena had removed the dart soon after it had hit her. She rose and saw Gabrielle and Xena on the ground. She tried to wake them up, but wasn't able to. Then she saw the darts in their necks. She removed them and broke the other one. She examined the other one, it had a red line around it and she put it in her pouch on her belt if she needed it later. Then she saw another dart next to Xena's hand. It was much smaller than the ones she had found on Xena and Gabrielle and it had a blue line around it. Exl felt a bit lost, not knowing where they were exactly. Her head was aching a bit and everything looked a bit fuzzy, but she wouldn't let it stop her. She built a stretcher and attached it to Argo‘s saddle. Using all the strength she had left, she lifted Xena and Gabrielle onto the stretcher and put blankets over them to keep them warm. Exl was feeling quite weak, but she knew she had to get her Couple to safety. She looked at her friends and slightly touched their cheeks. She walk to Argo, stroked Argo's muzzle and said to her:
“Argo, I need your help. Take me to Amazonia , I know it's near, but I don't know where it is exactly. Please, Xena and Gabrielle need help.” Argo seemed to understand and it was as if she nodded. Exl rose up to Argo's saddle and gave her the signal to start moving.
In Amazonia , Solari, the Captain of the guard was going through the plan of their next hunting trip with Eponin, the weapons master. Suddenly, they were interrupted by a woman who came rushing into the guard hut.
“Captain, I was just on a normal inspection of the nearby area, when I saw the Royal Couple and their Guardian in a fight”, a dark brown haired warrior called Cordis reported to Solari.
“What? Were they alright?”, Eponin asked.
“Yes, at least at first. Then the young one just did something that made Gabrielle and Xena fall to the ground. After that, she stabbed the rest of the men they were fighting”, Cordis said.
“Exl? She would never do anything like that”, Solari said and looked at Eponin. “Are you sure it was Exl?”, Eponin asked.
“Yes I am. She looks just like you've described her”, Cordis said with amazement. “Eponin, take Cordis and go tell Ephiny. Something is not right about this”, Solari said. Eponin left with Cordis and just as Solari was going to see the main gate's guards, one of them shouted to her:
“Captain, it's Xena's horse and Exl is riding it! There is a stretcher being pulled by the horse!” Solari raced to the watchtower to see it for herself. It was Exl riding Argo.
“Open the gates!”, she shouted and the guards opened the gate to the village. Exl rode Argo to the village center and when she saw Solari in front of her, she said: “Solari. It's Gabrielle and Xena… they need help.” She was so tired, she nearly fell off Argo. Solari was able to catch her and ordered some of her guards to carry the Royal Couple to the healer's hut.
“Exl, what happened?”, Solari asked Exl. Exl answered:
“We were attacked and…”
“We'd better get you to see Nalasha as well”, Solari said and helped Exl walk to the healer.
“Why won't they wake up?”, Exl asked Nalasha when she was sitting by Gabrielle's and Xena's bed.
“They have been drugged with something very strong, all we can do is wait”, Nalasha said looking at Exl.
“Let me see that eye of yours“, she said looking at Exl‘s scar. Exl said:
“It‘s an old scar, it‘s nothing to be worried about.”
“How are you feeling?”, Nalasha asked Exl. Exl just looked at her loving family and sighed.
“Only my heart hurts”, she replied to the healer. Nalasha looked into Exl's eyes and said:
“Don't worry, they'll be alright.”
“Too bad the same thing can't be said about you, young warrior”, Ares said looking at Exl in his magic orb. He laughed and stared into the orb.
Eponin came inside the healer's hut and said to Exl:
“Exl, Ephiny wants to see you, now.” Exl rose and walked out of the hut with Eponin and into the common hut. Ephiny was sitting in the Queen's council throne, Solari was standing next to her and Eponin walked to Ephiny's side. The Amazon council members were sitting in their places. Exl kneeled in front of Ephiny and bowed her head. Ephiny said:
“Exl, tell us what happened. How did Gabrielle and Xena get hurt?” Exl raised her head and said:
“We were on our way to Athens , when we were attacked by a squad of about 10 men. We beat them easily and a moment later, everything in my eyes just went fuzzy, then black. The next thing I realized when I woke up, Gabrielle and Xena were laying on the ground and I wasn't able to wake them up. So I thought it would be best to get them here to be taken care of.”
Eponin and Solari looked at each other, thinking that Exl's story could be the truth. Ephiny looked at Exl and said:
“We have been told a different story. Cordis.”
Cordis walked near Ephiny and bowed her head.
“Tell Exl and the rest of us, what you saw happen”, Ephiny said. Exl felt something was wrong with Ephiny, she wasn't herself.
“I was doing my inspection of the nearby area, when I heard some men shouting. I went to take a closer look and saw the Queen, her Consort and their Guardian fight. They were nearly surrounded, when she”, she said pointing at Exl,
“started to shout something, I couldn't hear it clearly and she took out two darts from her pocket and threw them at the Royal Couple. They just fell to the ground and she took her knife and started stabbing all the remaining Roman scouts. After killing all of them, she approached the Royal Couple with her knife drawn, and then I knew I had to report this to Solari. Look, her knife is still bloody!”, Cordis said. Exl took out her knife and dropped it seeing it covered with blood.
“No! That is not what happened! What she has told is a lie!”, Exl shouted and when she tried to rise, she was caught by two of Solari's guards. Cordis pointed at Exl and said to the Council:
“See, she is very aggressive! She could have easily attacked the Queen and her Consort. Look at her, she is as evil as the scar on her face! I heard that when she came here for the first time, she nearly took apart the healer's hut in her anger and rage. She is not one of us, she has never been one of us, why should we believe what she says?” All the council members started whispering. Eponin looked at them and said:
”No, Exl couldn't have done it. She is the Guardian of Gabrielle and Xena, she loves them with all her heart, she would never hurt them. Ephiny, you know this.” Ephiny just looked at Exl squirming in the hands of the guards and answered: ”Gabrielle said she trusted her, that she would never hurt anyone. Now, she and Xena are injured, by their ”loving and caring” Guardian. I'm sorry Eponin, I have no choice. Take her weapons and take her to the holding cells, tomorrow the council will make their decision what to do with her.”
The guards dragged Exl from the common hut to the holding cells, she was thrown in the cell like she was the enemy. Exl just sat there and didn't know what was going on in her head and in her heart. Ephiny had really believed the words of Cordis, that Exl had injured Gabrielle and Xena. Solari and Eponin came to see her later, they brought her some food.
”Here Exl, eat something, you've had a rough day”, Solari said giving Exl the plate of food.
”Are you sure you won't get into trouble helping me, the enemy?”, Exl asked hurting inside.
”We won't, no-one knows we're here. Exl, what you told Ephiny and the council, is it the truth?”, Eponin asked.
”Of course it is, why would I lie? It happened just like I said. First I felt a sharp sting in my neck, then I blacked out. I found this dart near Xena, I believe it was the one that struck me and Xena removed it”, Exl said and showed Solari and Eponin the smaller dart.
”So someone drugged you and then attacked Xena and Gabrielle? Who?”, Solari asked.
”I don't know, I wish I did. How are Gabrielle and Xena feeling? Have they woken up yet?”, Exl asked worried for her dear ones.
”I'm afraid not, Nalasha said that the drug they were given is strong, she doesn't know for how long they will sleep”, Eponin answered.
”If what you told what happened is true, why would Cordis lie about what she saw?”, Solari asked.
”I have a feeling she didn't see what really happened. Who is this Cordis anyway, I can't remember seeing her before?”, Exl said thinking about Cordis.
”Cordis came to us about a week ago, she is an Amazon warrior from the land of the Pharaohs, she wanted to join our tribe. Ephiny took her in, even though usually she isn't that happy to have strangers in our village”, Eponin explained.
”I noticed something is odd about Ephiny, but I don't know what it is. Tell me, what possibilities do the council have in deciding what will happen to me?”, Exl asked her heart beating restlessly.
”Well, because you're not an Amazon, you can't be punished by Amazon law. I think you might be banished, and never be allowed to return here again”, Solari said looking at Eponin for her agreement. Exl's eyes filled with tears and she said to her Amazon friends:
”If I do get banished tomorrow, will you do me a favor?” Eponin and Solari nodded, seeing how Exl's heart ached thinking of the possibility she would never see her family again.
”Promise me, you'll take care of Gabrielle and Xena, and tell them how much I love them. My life is so empty without them”, Exl said and offered her hands to her friends, who grasped them, and said:
”We promise. We honor our Royal Couple, and we never want them to be harmed.” Before they left, Solari and Eponin wished Exl good night. Exl walked around the cell for a while and then went to lie down in the middle of the small cell. Before she fell asleep, she took her Guardian pendant, looked at it and held it close to her heart.
The whole night was a complete torment for Exl. She had a terrible nightmare. She dreamed about the next day, she was chained and she was taken to hear her sentence. All the Amazons present whispered to each other and pointed at her, Exl could hear the words deception and disgrace. Exl was down on her knees and she looked at Ephiny and the council members, one of them stood up and announced: “Exl, Warrior, you have been accused of injuring the Royal Couple and of lying to the council. We have decided…” But she was interrupted by a messenger who came to her and whispered something in her ear. After hearing the message, she looked very stunned. She continued:
“I have just been informed that the Royal Couple has departed this life.” Exl shouted:
“NO!!!” All the Amazons looked very angry and very sad at the same time. The council members talked to each other and the one to give Exl her sentence looked at Exl and her eyes turned red.
“Exl, you are accused of murdering the Royal Couple, and the sentence for it is DEATH!”, she said and pointed at Exl. The guards behind Exl pulled her up and walked her out of the hut. In the middle of the village, there was an executioner and a block where the offender's head was placed. Before Exl was taken to the executioner, she was taken to see something. Next to the healers' hut, there were two open coffins, and inside them were Xena and Gabrielle. When Exl was in front of their coffins, Xena and Gabrielle sat up and opened their eyes. The eyes looking at Exl weren't theirs, they were red and very scary.
“Exl why?”, Gabrielle asked.
“Exl, what did we ever do to you to deserve this?”, Xena asked.
“Didn't we love you enough?”, Gabrielle asked and touched Exl's cheek. When she touched the left side of Exl's face, it felt like her scar was on fire. Then Xena put her hand on Exl's left shoulder blade, the one that had been fractured before. It felt like someone would have hit her with a club, it was extremely painful. Exl took a step back and looked at her loved ones, who turned to look at the executioner. The executioner wasn't an Amazon, it was a tall, dark man. Exl was dragged to him, she was forced to kneel and her head was placed on the block. The executioner said:
“Now young warrior, meet your doom.” Ephiny nodded, she was standing next to Gabrielle's and Xena's coffin. Before the man swung his sword, Exl could see how he smiled.
Then she woke up, she was panting and her heart was beating very, very fast. She was glad it had only been a nightmare. She looked at the door and could see the rays of sun gleaming from the small cracks in the door.
It was about a quarter candle mark later, when Solari came to the holding cells with two of her guards and said to Exl:
“Exl, it's time to hear the council's decision.” Exl's hands were chained behind her back and she was walked out of the holding cells and into the common hut. Exl kneeled and looked around her to see if Xena and Gabrielle would have been there, but they weren't. Ephiny and the council members entered the hut and sat in their seats. Exl could see Cordis looking at her with an evil grin, and Exl looked back at her with a look saying: “I know you're up to no good”. Ephiny talked with the council members, then she rose and looked at Exl. Exl could see from Ephiny that this wasn't going to end well.
“Exl, the Loyal and Guardian of Queen Gabrielle and her Consort Xena, you are accused of hurting our Royal Couple. Do you have anything to say before the council gives out it's sentence?”, Ephiny said to Exl. Exl said:
“Even in my wildest dreams, I could never hurt Xena and Gabrielle, they mean the world to me. I haven't done the things I am accused of.” Ephiny tried to squeeze the information out of Exl:
“Then can you explain why you were seen throwing the poison darts at the Royal Couple, stabbing the soldiers and why is your knife covered with blood?”
“I… I can‘t… I was told by Gabrielle and Xena that I have the heart of a warrior and the heart of a warrior would never let the warrior hurt those they love. I can't explain what happened, all I know is that I blacked out and when I woke up, I couldn't wake Gabrielle and Xena”, Exl said and her head sank down. The Amazons started whispering and the council started talking. After a while, Ephiny looked at Exl and said:
“Exl, the Amazon council has decided of your punishment. You will be banished, never to return here again and never to see the Royal Couple. If you brake this sentence, the consequences will be horrifying. Do you understand?” Exl felt tears falling from her eyes to the ground, she lifted her head and said:
“Yes, I understand. Before I leave, may I see Gabrielle and Xena, one last time? That is all I ask.” Ephiny looked at the rest of the council who nodded and turned back to Exl and said:
“Yes you may. Guards, remove her chains and take her to the healer's hut.” The guards removed the chains, Exl stood up and left the common hut with the two guards.
The guards stopped by the door and let Exl enter the hut by herself. Exl walked to her sleeping family, they looked very peaceful. Exl took hold of Gabrielle's and Xena's hands, turned to Gabrielle and said:
“Gabrielle, I'm sorry this happened. I could never have believed that I could hurt you, but I guess the dark part of my soul took over me. Look after Xena, she needs someone gentle and kind to calm her. I love you.” She kissed Gabrielle's hand, turned to Xena and said:
“Xena, thank you for being a wonderful teacher, a great friend and helping me find my place in this world. I have to leave you now, I can't continue my duty as your Guardian. Take care of Gabrielle, she needs to be protected and loved. I love you.” She kissed Xena's hand and took something from her behind her back. It was the axe she was given by the Amazons as a “wedding” gift. Exl kissed it and placed it next to Xena. She walked to the door, turned to look at her Couple, saluted them and left.
Exl walked with the guards to the main gate, Solari and Eponin were there waiting for her. Exl looked at them and said:
“Remember what you promised.” Solari and Eponin nodded, Eponin gave Exl her weapons back and Solari gave the signal to open the gate. The gate was opened, Exl looked at the village one last time and walked away from the village. She heard the gate closing behind her, she stopped and said quietly:
“Good bye my friends, good bye my family…”
Ares appeared in the guard hut where Cordis was sitting in.
“Good job, we finally separated the young one from her dear Couple”, he said. Cordis was startled by his quick appearance and said:
“Don't do that! If someone hears you…”
Ares smiled, Cordis closed her eyes and transformed into the dark, intimidating goddess of retribution, Discord.
“So Ares, what's next? Are you going to convince the kid to join us, she seems very loyal to Xena and Gabrielle?”, Discord asked.
“Don't worry, I have a way or two to convince her to join me, you stay here until I inform everything is ready”, Ares said and when he heard someone coming to the door, he disappeared. Solari opened the door with her sword drawn.
“Who were you talking to Cordis?”, she asked the surprised warrior.
“I… I was just practicing a meditating technique my tribe uses, I was remembering the mantra for it”, Cordis said quickly. Solari looked like something suspicious was going on, but thought everything was under control so she left.
End of Part One
Continued in Part 2
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