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
Exl had been walking for several candle marks and was feeling tired, confused, sad and angry. She stopped to look at the sea and the setting sun.
“I feel so lost, I don't know where I belong, or where I should go”, she said to herself. Someone said behind her:
“Poor thing, I can help you.” Exl drew her axes, flipped backwards and landed only a few feet from this mysterious stranger.
“Who are you? What do you want?”, she asked him.
“But my young Exl, I'm offended. Don't you really know who I am? Warriors like you worship me, they pray to me for help in battle. Can you guess?”, the man said and looked at Exl with a smirk.
“Help in battle… warriors… I know who you are. You're Ares, Greek god of War. I saw you in my nightmare. Xena has told me about you. What do you want with me?”, Exl said lowering her weapons.
“As I said, I want to help you. Has Xena told about the good old times? About how she and I were to rule the world together?”, Ares asked.
“I've heard about Xena's dark past. How her dark side took over her and made her who and what she is today. I know I have a dark part in my soul, but I am not going to let it take over me. I have learned so much from Xena and Gabrielle, and one thing is to listen to my heart”, Exl said turning her back to Ares and walking away from him.
“Oh, so you've learned about love and family. What good have love, friends and family ever done to you?”, Ares asked and Exl stopped right in her place.
“If I've heard correctly, you've never had a real family before, all those you've loved have left you. Then you got that scar on your eye defending your little nation and those claw marks on your arm protecting and helping your loved ones and friends. And now, when your family is hurt and you tried to help them, your friends banished you, thinking you hurt them. Does that sound like something worth fighting for? You try to help someone and then you get hurt, does that sound fair to you?”, Ares said walking right behind Exl.
“So you have something else, something better to offer me? What is it?”, Exl said contemptuously.
“Join me, become my ally. I have seen you fight and you're good. With your skills and knowledge and my powers, we'll rule this world. Nothing can stop us. You can go back to the Amazon village and take your revenge on your so-called “friends”. No-one will remember you as Exl, the Loyal, the Guardian, but as Exl, Creator of Havoc. Join me, the God of War, don‘t make the same mistake Xena did”, Ares said and walked in front of Exl. Exl looked Ares in the eyes and saw a flare of red in them.
“No. I only follow one God, he will never desert me”, Exl said and drew her knives. Ares shook his head and said:
“You really are stubborn. Can't you see the opportunities we have? You could become very powerful, a warrior never seen before.” Exl said:
“The only power I need to become a great warrior, is the power I get from those I love, from my family and from my friends. I don't need the God of War for that. You have nothing to offer me to gain an ally of me.” Ares looked disappointed and said:
“This isn't over young one. If you would have agreed to my generous offer, I could have helped you wake up your dear family. We'll meet again.” In an instant, he had disappeared.
Exl listened to Ares' words and dropped to her knees, saying:
She closed her eyes and saw Gabrielle and Xena in her mind, they were smiling and offering their hand to Exl. Exl tried to grab their hands, but they were just out of hand's reach. Exl opened her eyes and looked at the very beautiful sunset.
She felt her heart beating steadily and the words just came to her mind. She began to sing:
Is there anyone, anyone to guide me?
Is there anyone, willing to stand beside me?
Is there just one heart, I can be a part of?
Is there anyone, who won't turn me away?
Who is waiting to say: “I want you to stay here forever and ever.”
Is there anyone, who will let me love them?
Is my searching done?
Please care, anyone.
Be there, is there anyone?
In Amazonia , Xena and Gabrielle were still sleeping, Nalasha was by their side.
Eponin came to see the healer and ask if there had been any changes in their condition. Just as Nalasha was about to say nothing has happened, Gabrielle and Xena started to move slightly. They were both dreaming that Exl was alone, in some dark place and she was singing the same song she was singing at that moment somewhere far away. Both of them said in their sleep:
“Exl…”. Suddenly they opened their eyes and sat up. Both looked around, realizing they were safe, Xena grabbed Gabrielle in a tight embrace and kissed her on her cheeks, on her forehead and on the lips.
“Gabrielle, are you okay?”, Xena asked and when Gabrielle nodded, Xena's attention was caught by Eponin and Nalasha who were just staring at them.
“Thank the gods you finally woke up! Wait till everyone hears about this!”, Nalasha said relieved the couple had finally woken.
“What do you mean, finally? What has happened?”, Gabrielle asked. Eponin started:
“You were in battle, something happened and you got drugged by some very strong anesthetic. You've been out cold for several days.”
“So that's what that sting I felt in my neck, a poison dart. Like the one I…”, Xena started, but stopped realizing something was wrong. Then she touched something, she grabbed it and examined what it was. It was Exl‘s axe.
“Eponin, where is Exl? Is she okay?”, she continued worrying where their Guardian was.
“I think you'd better sit down when hearing this, it's a long story”, Eponin said and started telling the events from the beginning, when Exl brought them to Amazonia .
When Xena and Gabrielle heard what had happened, Xena stormed out of the healer's hut and into the common hut, with Gabrielle and Eponin right behind her. Xena slammed open the door of the common hut and saw Ephiny sitting in her council throne talking to the council members.
“Xena, Gabrielle, you have finally woken up”, Ephiny said feeling glad. But seeing Xena walking towards her with a very wrathful look on her face, she knew something was wrong. Xena walked right in front of Ephiny and asked:
“What did you do to Exl?” Gabrielle came to Xena's side and tried to calm her down.
“Xena, calm down, I'm sure there is a good explanation for all of this”, Gabrielle said, holding Xena's hand. She turned to Ephiny and asked her:
“Ephiny, how could you ever think Exl, our Guardian, would harm us? She loves us, we love her, there is no reason why she would want to harm us.” Eponin said behind the Couple:
“Exl told her version of what happened, but the version Cordis told was thought to be the real truth.” Gabrielle looked at Ephiny and asked:
“Is this true? Ephiny, answer me.” Ephiny just looked at her Queen, the spell that was over her broke and she realized the mistake she had made.
“I'm sorry Gabrielle. It was so easy to believe Cordis' story, because she was very convincing and Exl couldn't give a clear explanation of what happened”, Ephiny said regretfully.
“Eponin said something about Cordis implying that Exl is as evil as that scar on her face. She was given that scar fighting for her rightful place as ruler of her nation and she won. She was made Queen, Queen Exl the Valiant. Yes that scar makes her look somehow different and evil, but on the inside she is very kind and loyal, she has the heart of a warrior. She has gone through so much, good and bad, but she has always done what is right. If she would have wanted to hurt us, why did she bring us here, with her last strength?”, Xena said to Ephiny and Amazon council.
“That is true, why didn't I realize it before?”, Ephiny said.
“As Queen of the Amazons, I want to send a search party to find her”, Gabrielle said. One of the council members stood up and said:
“My Queen, there is one problem, she has been banished. She can never return here, or she will be killed. The sentence was made final.”
“So she needs to be pardoned? Can't you just do it now?”, Xena asked.
“I'm afraid the accused must be here to hear the pardon and her innocence must be proved, that is what the Amazon law says. Before she is proved innocent, in the council‘s eyes she is still guilty of the charges made against her”, the council member answered. Xena, Gabrielle and Eponin discussed the search plan and Ephiny went to give an order that if Exl is seen near or approaching the village, she must be caught, but not harmed.
After finishing her song, Exl cried for a while, feeling very lonely. A blond woman, with cute pink and fluffy clothes appeared behind her and said:
“Beautiful song, small one.” Exl didn't even bother turning to see who was behind her, she just said:
“Who ever you are, go away, I want to be left alone.”
“I can't do that warrior, I'm here to show you where you belong. With your loved ones, your family”, the spunky blond said.
“Love, I don't need love. I've always lost the ones I love, I don't want to hear about it”, Exl said and turned to look at the blond.
“Honey, you haven't seen enough love that's all, let the Goddess of Love show you something”, the Goddess said.
“Goddess of Love? You're Aphrodite, aren't you? What's the use, I bet Xena's and Gabrielle's life would have been better without me”, Exl said standing up and touched her pendant.
“Shh, just look. I'll show you what would have happened if you hadn't met the two lovers”, Aphrodite said and with a snap of her fingers, a magic orb appeared and Exl looked into it.
Exl saw Gabrielle being carried by a bandit, and Xena caught up with him. He dropped Gabrielle and faced Xena, the fight wasn't that long, Xena knocked out the bandit and went to Gabrielle's side.
“Gabrielle, are you okay? Talk to me”, Xena tried to wake up Gabrielle. Gabrielle opened her eyes and was happy to see Xena.
“Xena… I thought I was going to die. What was that thing you wanted to talk to me about before the bandits attacked?”, Gabrielle said to Xena.
“Gabrielle, I wanted to tell you that I…”, Xena started, but when she saw the bandit she had been fighting had waken up, risen up, drawn his knife and was about to stab Gabrielle, Xena embraced Gabrielle and turned her back to the bandit. The same moment he stabbed Xena, the bandit was struck by Xena's sword she was holding next to her. The bandit fell dead to the ground and Gabrielle could feel how Xena was in pain by the strike of the knife.
“Xena! Xena, don't move, I'll try to help”, Gabrielle said holding Xena's hands. She laid Xena to the ground and was about to examine her when Xena stopped her and said, feeling very weak:
“No Gabrielle, there is nothing you can do. I want you to listen. I love you, I've loved you for so long, but I never had the courage to tell you this. And now it's too late.”
“Xena, I love you too. Since the day I met you, my heart has had some kind of connection to you, but I never would have believed you feel the same about me. I can't lose you, you mean everything to me”, Gabrielle said stroking Xena's cheek.
“I'm sorry Gabrielle, I don't want to leave you… but I know we'll be together again some day. I love you Gabrielle”, Xena answered. After looking into each other's eyes for a few moments, Xena closed her eyes and Gabrielle felt how she stopped breathing. Gabrielle embraced Xena, and shouted:
Exl just looked at the orb and then at Aphrodite.
“You mean, because I didn't intervene, they never told each other how much they loved one another, before it was too late? Is this the only possibility of what could have happened?”, Exl asked Aphrodite, not believing what she had just seen.
“Well, the other possibility I know of would have been that the bandits would have taken Gabrielle to the slave ships and she would have been taken to some far part of Greece or the Known World and Xena would have never seen her again.” Exl said:
“I guess I wouldn't have survived my injury either without the help I got from them.”
“No you wouldn't have, your injury was very serious. Do you now understand that your destiny was to meet them, help them get married and become their Guardian?”, Aphrodite said, snapped her fingers and the orb was gone.
“Yes, I understand. It's just like Gabrielle and Xena said, my heart will tell me what is right. My heart is lonely without them and it tells me to go back and do what I can to help them get better. But if I go back, I'm sure I'll be killed by the Amazons, I was banished. I have a feeling that Cordis has something to do with this”, Exl said.
“Not only her, but my nasty war-loving brother also. I heard about his doings and thought you might need some help. I'll tell some good news. Gabrielle and Xena are already awake and they're extremely worried about you. Go to Amazonia and prove your innocence. Seeing you three together makes the Goddess of Love VERY happy. Good luck, small one”, Aphrodite said and disappeared. Exl took out her pendant, looked at it, kissed it and said to herself:
“It's payback time.”
“Any sign of her?”, Xena asked Eponin.
“No, I haven‘t seen her, neither has Solari's group”, Eponin answered. As they walked back to the village, Gabrielle and Ephiny were waiting for them.
“If only there was some way we could get word to her”, Gabrielle said. As they were going to the common hut, a guard shouted from the watchtower:
“My Queen, it's Exl! She is approaching the main gate!”
“Open the gate!“, Gabrielle shouted. Exl walked to the main gate and inside the village. Everyone looked at her, and could see the aggressive look on her face. Exl took her weapons, dropped them on the ground, dropped on her knees and shouted:
“I come with good intentions! I want to prove my innocence! Capture me and take me to see the Amazon council!” Solari looked at Ephiny, who said:
“She has something in mind. Have guards go and chain her, let her think we still see her as the enemy.” Xena and Gabrielle went to wait in the common hut, they wanted to make sure everything was ready and that Exl will be alright. Exl was chained and taken into the common hut. The council was waiting for her, so were Ephiny, Eponin, Solari, Gabrielle and Xena. When Exl was brought in and she kneeled in front of the council, Ephiny said to her:
“Exl, why have you returned? You were warned that you must face the consequences if you brake your sentence.” Exl raised her head, the weight fell off her shoulders when she saw her Couple.
“I wish to be given a chance to prove my innocence. To prove that I am not guilty of the charges made against me”, Exl said confidently. The council nodded and Ephiny said:
“Your wish is granted. Go on.”
“I want Cordis to be brought here, there are some things I want to say about her”, Exl demanded and Solari told her guards to fetch Cordis. When Cordis came inside, she felt a bit worried to see Exl again.
“One thing I know is that she is no Amazon! And that she is behind all this!”, Exl said and looked at Cordis.
“There isn't an Amazon tribe in the land of the Pharaohs, that was thing that struck me when I asked Eponin and Solari about her. Gabrielle has told me about the Amazon tribes. Tell me Cordis, what kind of darts did I use to drug Gabrielle and Xena?”, Exl said to Cordis.
“They weren't quite big, they had a red line in them”, Cordis explained.
“How could you know what kind of darts I used if you were so far away, you couldn't clearly hear what I shouted? In my pouch I have one of the darts I took from Xena's and Gabrielle's neck. The other one I broke and left it where I woke up”, Exl said with a grin. Solari went to Exl and took out the dart from Exl's pouch. It was just like Cordis had described.
“And another thing, how did you know the soldiers we were fighting were Roman scouts? I said we were attacked, not by whom. It was only after the fight we noticed they were scouts ourselves. And if I killed all the remaining soldiers, where are there bodies? When I woke up, the only ones I saw where the three of us. Dead people don't just get up and walk away. Or how can my knife be bloody, but I never had any blood on my hands? The only way Cordis could have known all these details is that she was behind it. I sensed something was wrong about Ephiny, then I thought Cordis must have her under some kind of spell. Cordis was in this with Ares, he tried to get me to become his ally, but I would never join him”, Exl said, looking at the council.
“Exl speaks the truth, we were attacked by the Romans and after they were beaten, Exl was drugged and soon after that, so were Xena and me. Exl couldn't have hurt us”, Gabrielle said.
“I knew I hadn't seen Cordis here before and her name still sounds quite familiar. So Cordis, or should I say Discord, why don't you tell everyone the real truth”, Xena said and looked at Cordis. Discord was happy to transform back to herself and said:
“It's true. Ares persuaded me to help him separate you two from your young Guardian. He wanted to gain an ally out of her, so he ordered me to disguise as an Amazon, put a spell on Ephiny, make Exl seem guilty and get her banished. Beware Xena, what Ares wants, Ares gets”, Discord said and was about to disappear when Xena said something to her:
“Tell Ares that if he ever tries to brake up our family again, I swear it will be his last deed.” Then Discord vanished.
The council discussed for a while and then Ephiny rose.
“Exl, the Amazon council has pardoned you. You have proven yourself innocent, we apologize for falsely accusing you and I want to apologize the way I treated you. I was under Discord's spell. Release her”, Ephiny said and the guards went to remove Exl's chains. The moment she was free, Exl massaged her wrists, rose and looked at Gabrielle and Xena, who were approaching her. Gabrielle tightly embraced Exl and said:
“Exl, I was so worried something had happened to you when you weren't here when we woke up. When we heard what had happened to you, I was so scared.”
“Everything is okay now Gabrielle, I'm here with you. I'm sorry I left you, I had no choice”, Exl said in Gabrielle's tight embrace. When Gabrielle let go of Exl, it was Xena's turn to hug her.
“It's good to have you back, I knew you couldn't have done the things you were accused of. I believe this is yours”, Xena said and presented Exl with her axe.
“I thought I would never see you again, so I wanted to leave you something to remember me by”, Exl said putting her axe back in it's scabbard on her back.
“We always have something to remember you by, in our hearts”, Gabrielle said.
“So Ares tried to get you to join him? Didn't his offer sound good enough? I bet he used the old “we can rule the world together” -technique, didn't he?”, Xena asked Exl.
“Yeah, and for a moment I thought he was speaking the truth about love and family. Every time I try to help someone, I get hurt myself. Like this scar on my eye and these scars on my arm, are they worth it all? But my heart gave a simple answer: yes they are. No matter how hurt I get helping and protecting my friends and family, it is all worth the pain and suffering”, Exl said looking at Gabrielle and Xena.
“I knew your heart would lead you to make the right decision. That's the heart of a loving warrior”, Xena said smiling. Exl pulled her family into a hug and was very happy that she had been pardoned. She knew that Eponin and Solari would have taken care of Xena and Gabrielle, no doubt about it.
“One thing bothers me, how did you wake up? You were in such a deep slumber…”, Exl asked. Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other and then at Exl.
“I had a dream, you were in it. You were somewhere very dark and you sang this beautiful, but sad and lonely song. When I heard you sing it, I knew something was wrong and I had to wake up”, Xena said. Gabrielle continued:
“And the answer to your question is yes. We are here to guide you, to stand beside you. You are a part of us, our family, we will never turn you away.”
“We want you to stay here forever and ever, with us. We love you Exl, we want you to love us”, Xena finished.
“In my heart I know that, but I wanted to hear it for myself. I love you two, even how hard Ares may try, he can never separate me from you. He'll have to kill me to succeed in that, I will never leave your side even at the risk of my life”, Exl said holding her pendant.
Ares looked at the threesome, feeling disappointed his plan had failed and that Exl had revealed Discord's identity.
“Ares, she is too clever, you'll have quite a challenge to get her to join you”, Discord said.
“I'll succeed, I will have Exl as my ally and when I do, the world will tremble at my feet. Mark my words Discord, if I can't have Xena or Exl to join me, no-one will”, Ares said and took his magic orb in his hands and crushed it.
Later that evening Exl sat by herself for a while at dinner and just stared into emptiness. Ephiny came to her and said:
“Hey, what's on your mind? I hope you don‘t have a grudge against me for what I did, I wouldn‘t be surprised if you were.”
“Hi Ephiny. No I'm not angry at you, you were under Discord's spell. You know I would never really hurt Gabrielle and Xena. I was thinking about the nightmare I had the night before my banishment, it was simply awful. Xena and Gabrielle had died and I was accused of murdering them. Then I was taken to be executed, Ares was the executioner. Gabrielle and Xena, well actually their bodies rose and asked me why I did it. I really thought the dark part of me had taken over and I had hurt them. Then I was taken to be executed”, Exl said looking at her happy Couple talking with Solari and Eponin.
“What you said about them meaning the world to you, even under that spell I knew it was the undeniable truth. I know how much you love them and how much they love you. When you accepted your sentence and left, you did it because you didn't want to hurt them and allowed yourself to be banished, thinking it was the best option. I think that is something a real hero and a true warrior would do”, Ephiny said and put her hand on Exl's shoulder. Exl turned to look at her smiling Couple.
“Thanks Ephiny. I'm just happy everything turned out right and my family is okay now”, Exl said and walked with Ephiny to her family. They sat together and had dinner, and talked late into the night. Turning in for the night, Exl didn't go to her own hut, but to the Queen's hut with Xena and Gabrielle. Exl didn't want to leave her Couple, now that they were awake and well and Gabrielle and Xena didn't want Exl to be left alone, after all she had been through in the last few days. Gabrielle and Xena lay down on their big, soft and very comfortable bed and Exl sat in the large, cozy armchair near the bed and found a comfy position were she could fall asleep. She looked at her dear family and said with a grin:
“Good night, please wake up tomorrow. I don't want to get in trouble again” “Good night Exl”, Xena answered and yawned.
“Good night Exl, good night Xena my love”, Gabrielle wished her wife and their Guardian. Exl felt safe being with her family and knowing they would always be there with her, no matter where she is.
End of “Deception”
The series will continue in: “Small One”
Please let me know what you thought about the story. I am happy for every feedback I receive, it will give me a chance to know what you think about my writing. Thank you all the feedback so far.
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