Xena, Gabrielle, Cyrene, Autolycus, Joxer, Hecuba, Herodotus and Lila do not belong to me. They belong to MCA/Universal/Renaissance.
It was a night like any other. Under the bright starry sky a family of three was sleeping side by side.
The great Warrior Princess, her wife the Battling Bard and their Guardian. Everything was peaceful until something in her sleep was troubling Exl. She was dreaming of standing near the edge of a cliff and someone behind her said:
“Exl…” She looked around her and at first she didn't see anyone. Then another voice called her:
“Exl…” Turning around once again, Exl saw two people approaching her. A man and a woman.
The woman had bright blond hair, chestnut eyes and a beautiful smile. Her name was Kalea. The man was tall and sturdy, he had dark brown hair, bread and moustache and grey eyes. His name was Convel. Somehow these figures seemed familiar to Exl, but she didn't know where she had seen them before. Exl was about to ask who they were, but the woman interrupted her:
“Exl, it is us. Your parents.” Exl was shocked, her parents? She had lost her parents when she was young, so she couldn't remember much about them. The only thing she was able to say was:
“Mother? Father?” When her father touched her cheek with his hand, Exl knew it had to be his father. Exl's father smiled and said:
“Exl, you must go back home. Your people need you.” Exl asked with amazement:
“My people? What is it? Is Nali okay?” Kalea shook her head and replied:
“No, Nali and her people are fine. It is your people who need help. You must return to them.”
“I don't understand, what do you mean MY people? I thought my people meant the village where I grew up in?”, Exl asked. Exl's parents looked at each other, then Convel continued:
“Exl, your grandfather never told you much about us. So you don't know that you didn't always live in that village where your grandfather raised you, but in the next town north of it. And you also don't know that I was King of that kingdom and as my daughter, it makes you my heiress and Queen.” Exl just looked at her father and her mother, not believing her ears.
“Queen, but I can't be… Why didn't grandfather ever tell me this?”, Exl said.
“Now is not the time to discuss that, you must leave as soon as you can”, Kalea said in return.
“We will give you further instructions on your way, please hurry Exl”, Convel said. Exl turned from her parents to walk away and was about to take one last look at them when she heard them scream. It was heart breaking to hear and Exl could only shout:
Before she could do anything else, she felt a hand on her shoulder trying to wake her and two familiar voices saying:
“Exl, Exl wake up…” Exl opened her eyes and saw Xena and Gabrielle by her side looking at her with worried expressions. Exl realized she had only been dreaming. Gabrielle asked her:
“Exl, are you okay? You had a really bad dream.” Exl stood up and looked around her, they were still in the same place where they had set up camp the previous evening.
“Exl, what's wrong?”, Xena asked Exl looking straight into her eyes. Exl said with a sigh:
“I have to go back home, my people need my help.” Gabrielle looked at Xena and Xena back at Gabrielle, then they both looked at Exl.
“Why? Has something happened?”, Gabrielle asked with worry.
“I had a dream. My parents were in it and they told me that I have to go home. It's a long story”, Exl began to tell about her dream. She told about her parents and what they had said about Exl being the Queen of her people. After listening to everything that Exl had to tell about her dream, Xena said:
“I guess this means another trip to Finlandia. We'd better get moving, the journey is long.” Exl smiled knowing that her Couple would stick with her whether she wanted it or not. But she was very happy that they would make the journey together. It wasn't long before the trio was on a ship heading towards Finlandia. Sitting in their cabin just staring at nothing, Exl was thinking about what could be going on that made her parents appear in her dream. She was woken up by reality when Gabrielle sat next to her.
“Gabrielle, I have no idea what I'm supposed to do when I go back. But I have a feeling that what ever it is, it won't be easy”, Exl said to the bard. Gabrielle took Exl's hand and gave it a squeeze.
“What ever it is, Xena and I will be there with you. You won't have to go through anything alone.”
“I know that. It just feels so weird, my parents appearing in my dream like that. I can't remember nearly anything about them, except their voices and smiles”, Exl said feeling a bit sad.
“I'm sorry that you lost them when you were so young. But your grandfather did a great job raising you and I'm sure your parents are proud of you”, Gabrielle said with comfort.
Xena returned to their cabin and yawned:
“It's late. I think it's time to get some rest.” She laid in the large hammock and wished good night.
Gabrielle wished Exl good night and went to sleep next to her dark warrior. Exl laid in her hammock looking up at the roof and thinking if her parents would appear in her dream that night.
Exl was woken up by a soft touch on her arm. She opened her eyes and saw her parents standing next to her.
“Mother, father… Am I dreaming or are you really there?”, she said, stood up and reached out her hand.
“Yes Exl, we are here, but we are only ghosts. We have come to give you more instructions”, Convel said. Exl wanted to ask a few questions herself before listening to the instructions.
“Father, what is going on? Why must I to go back home?”
“Because you have to take your place as Queen. If you don't, the throne will be taken by an evil man. You can't let him take it, because that will mean destruction to our people”, Convel answered.
“How can they be my people when I haven't lived there for many, many years. Am I supposed to just go to them and say: Hi everyone, I'm your new Queen and I'm going to take my place on my father's throne?”, Exl said with disbelief.
“No. You must go and see old friends of mine. They rule the kingdom together as the Royal council. When you go to them, give them this and tell them who you are, they will know what to do. You can trust them, they have always been loyal to me, especially my dear friend Serph”, Convel said giving Exl a key. Kalea said to her daughter:
“You must be wondering why your grandfather never told you any of this and why you were raised in his village instead of our kingdom. He only did it because we asked him not to tell you until you were old enough to know the truth and he raised you away from home because it was much safer.”
“Safer, how?”, Exl wanted to know.
“After we passed away, we knew that our enemies would come after you because you are the heiress to your father's throne. We asked your grandfather to take you back to his village and raise you away from harm. We only wanted what's best for you”, Kalea answered taking Exl's hand. Exl turned to her father and asked him:
“Father, who is the evil man you said would take the throne if I didn't?”
“He is called Korago, he is a shaman. He is very dangerous, watch out for his tricks”, Convel answered, he wasn't pleased to talk about this Korago.
“Father, there is one more thing. How can I take my place as Queen when I have another duty to fulfill?”, Exl said turning her glance at her sleeping Couple.
“We know about your duty, we're proud that you have vowed to be these women's Guardian. Don't worry, you won't have to break your vow to them, but before everything else you must hurry back and do what needs to be done. Everything will turn out just fine”, Convel said smiling. Exl turned to look at her parents, but they weren't there anymore. She sighed, laid back in her hammock and tried to fall asleep again.
In a few days they arrived to Finlandia and continued their journey to what Gabrielle kept calling Exl's kingdom, but Exl herself just couldn't call it that. It was a large town, much bigger than the village or town either of the three had grown up in, probably bigger than all their home villages and towns put together. After wandering around for a while, Exl asked passing citizens where she could find the council. They were directed to the palace and that's where they went. The council was seated in the great hall when a guard came to inform them about visitors:
“There are three women here to see you.” A councilor asked the guard:
“What do they want?” The guard answered:
“One of them said that she needs to talk about the King.” The guard was instructed to send the visitors in. Exl, Xena and Gabrielle walked into the great hall, Exl walked in front of the council and kneeled and Xena and Gabrielle stopped a few feet from her and stood still.
“Your Honors, I have come far to see you”, Exl said with her head bowed. She was ordered to rise.
“Which one of you is the leader of the council?”, she asked. A tall man with black hair and moustache rose from his seat and said:
“It is me, my name is Serph. We were told you wanted to talk about the King.”
“Yes, my father told me that I must arrive as soon as I can and that I must see you”, Exl answered.
“And who might your father be, young one?”, Serph asked.
“My name is Exl. My father was Convel, your King. He told me that I must tell you who I am and give you this”, Exl said and presented the key. The councilors were astonished.
“How can it be possible? Our King has been dead for many years now, he couldn't possibly have given you this key”, one of the councilors said.
Exl gave Serph the key and he gave it to another councilor who looked at it and said:
“Could this be?” He walked to a table and took a large box and carried it in front of the council.
He tried the key in the lock and it opened the box. He opened the lid and took out a crown.
Everyone looked at the crown with amazement and the councilor holding the crown said:
“Shortly before the King passed away, he put his crown in this box and locked it. He told me to guard the box. A few nights ago, he appeared in one of my dreams. He told me that one day his daughter would arrive and that she and only she would have the key to the box.” Everyone turned to look at Exl. Another councilor looked at Exl from head to toe and said:
“You can't be Convel's daughter. After her grandfather took her away, we have never heard of her since. You don't look anything like the King's daughter I remember, she had lighter hair and she was a sweet, innocent child.” Exl looked back at the councilor understanding what he meant. She didn't look anything like the person she used to be before her training. She replied:
“I am who I said I am. My grandfather has given me the training of a warrior and I've been in many battles, that is the reason for the change in my outer appearance. I am no longer an innocent child, I am a warrior now.”
Serph had an idea and said to another councilor:
“Fetch the Royal journal and read what it says about Convel's daughter.”
The Royal journal was fetched and a councilor read two passages:
“Today, a daughter was born to the King and Queen. She is a beautiful child with eyes half emerald green, half sky blue.” The other went like this:
“The King's daughter was named Exl and one day, she will rule after her father, King Convel.
Serph said to Exl:
“Come closer young warrior.” Exl walked right in front of Serph and he looked straight into her eyes. Seeing that her eyes were indeed half blue and half green, Serph said:
“You are Exl. You are the King's daughter.” He kneeled for her and so did the other councilors. Exl looked at Xena and Gabrielle and then said to the kneeling men:
“Please rise.” Everyone stood up and Serph said to Exl:
“My Queen, you have returned to us. You have come to take your father's place, am I correct?”
“I'm not Queen yet and I don't want to be called it either. My father said you would know what to do when I arrive”, Exl replied. Serph nodded and continued:
“Yes, your father gave orders that if something happens to him and the Queen and the time comes that you will take your place as Queen, we have to take care of the arrangements for your coronation.”
“So is it just going to be a simple coronation? Nothing else?”, Exl asked.
“We will have a spectacular coronation and a great feast. It will be a joyous occasion. A great celebration for your return”, Serph replied.
All the councilors left to make arrangements for the coronation, except Serph.
Exl introduced Serph to Xena and Gabrielle.
“Xena, Gabrielle, this is Serph, leader of the Royal council and my father's dear friend. Serph, this is my Couple and my family. Xena, Warrior Princess and Gabrielle, Queen of the Amazons. I am their Guardian.”
“I am honored to meet you. Welcome to our kingdom”, Serph greeted the two.
“Like wise”, Xena replied.
“It's very nice to meet you Serph”, Gabrielle said. Exl wanted to know something, so she asked Serph:
“Serph, you were very close to my parents. Do you… do you what happened to them? My grandfather never told me and I really want to know the truth.”
“I'm afraid the only thing I know is that one day, your parents and you went on a family outing. When you had been gone for longer than we were told you would be, we got worried and went to search for you. We found you alone and crying, but there was no sight of your parents. Then… we found their bodies at the bottom of the gorge, but no-one knows what really happened to them. You were the only one there, but you were so young that you can't possibly remember what happened”, Serph answered. Gabrielle and Xena could see that this answer wasn't the one Exl wanted. Gabrielle asked Serph:
“Serph, could you arrange us a place where we could get some rest? Our journey has been long and tomorrow is an important day.” Serph nodded and lead them to some chambers where they could sleep.
Before going to sleep, Exl decided to take a walk around the palace. She went to the great hall and went to look at he father's crown. She was about to touch it when she heard someone say:
“Tomorrow it will be yours.” Exl turned around and saw Xena smiling at her. Xena walked to her saying:
“I had a feeling you would be here. Nervous about tomorrow?” Exl answered:
“Xena, I don't think I'm ready for this. Me, a Queen, it just feels so impossible.”
Xena put her hand on Exl's shoulder and said:
“I know it must feel strange, but that's who you are.” Exl sighed.
“A part of me just wants to run away. I'm just a warrior, not a Queen or any kind of Royalty. I just want to go back to the life we still had a few days ago.” Xena smiled.
“Xena, I don't want to lose you and Gabrielle because of all this. I'd rather not take my place here than to have to give up my life with you”, Exl said seriously.
“Tomorrow you'll take your place on your father's throne. After that we'll think of a way how we can get that life back”, Xena said. Exl looked at her father's crown and said:
“I think I'm just too nervous about tomorrow.” Xena agreed and suggested they'd go back to their chambers and get some sleep.
In the morning the news about the coronation of the new Queen had reached every part of the kingdom and the people arrived in the town square to see the great occasion and their new ruler. There was a platform in the town square and two bonfires on each side of it, because this was a very special occasion. Exl was preparing for the coronation in her chambers, she was wearing the same dark blue shirt as she wore when she fought Zabor the last time she visited her home land. Exl took her Guardian's axe from the table and looked at it. She saw her reflection on its surface and she thought to herself:
“Queen Exl… that can't be me…” And when her eyes saw the X and G that were engraved on the blade, she sighed:
“I'm just Exl, a warrior and a Guardian.” She heard a knock on the door, put the axe in its scabbard on her back and went to open the door. She was pleased to see her Couple enter the room.
“Well, today's the big day. Are you ready?”, Gabrielle asked her with a smile.
Exl looked outside the window and saw the massive crowd that had formed near the platform where Exl was to be crowned. Then she turned back to look at Gabrielle and Xena, and nodded:
“I guess so. I still think this is a bad idea. But I'll do it because it was my father's wish.”
“Don't worry, everything will be okay, we'll be there right beside you every step of the way”, Xena said and patted Exl on the back. Another knock was heard on the door and Serph entered the room.
“Your Highness, everything is ready, we are waiting for you”, he said bowing his head.
Exl looked at Xena, then at Gabrielle and finally at Serph and said:
“Let's get through with this. The people are growing impatient.”
They left the room and walked to the platform. Serph gave a speech to the people:
“My people, as you know after the tragic death of our King and Queen, our kingdom has been without a ruler so many years. But I am pleased to say that today that all will change. The daughter of our beloved King has returned and will now take her place as ruler of our kingdom. Here she is, Exl, the heiress to King Convel!” Exl took a step forward and saw how everyone was staring at her for a while. Then someone started to cheer and soon everyone was cheering for her. Serph took the crown from its box and Exl kneeled in front of him.
“With this crown, I Serph, leader of the Royal council, crown you, Exl, our new…”, Serph began but he was interrupted by a loud laugh. Everyone turned to look where the laugh had come from and saw a man dressed as a shaman in the very back of the crowd. He started to walk towards the platform and people gave way to him. Exl stood up and looked straight at the man, and seeing his outfit and outer appearance, she knew he was a shaman and he had to be the one his father had warned her about, Korago.
”Well, well, if it isn't young Exl, it has been so long”, Korago said.
“Not long enough”, Exl said with a fierce look on her face. Gabrielle and Xena stood behind Exl looking at the shaman.
“Korago, what are you doing here?”, Exl asked not being pleased to see the shaman.
“I heard about your coronation, I had to see this for myself”, Korago answered with a grin.
“What's so special about it? Exl is taking what is rightfully hers, her father's throne”, Xena said.
“Yes, your father would be so proud of you”, Korago said.
“Why wouldn't he be? Exl has chosen to follow the same path he followed and she will be a great ruler”, Gabrielle said and placed her hand on Exl's shoulder.
“I can see that. Oh, he parted this world far too early and so dramatically. And your mother… why did fate have to take them both?”, Korago said “sadly”.
“And what would you know about their deaths? No-one knows what exactly happened to them, only their bodies were found…”, Exl said with sorrow.
“Oh but I do know, because I saw everything, I can show you”, Korago said with a great grin. Nearly everyone who heard his words was gasping for air. Korago walked to a bonfire, took some kind of powder from his pouch and threw some of it into the fire. Flames flared up and a clear image appeared in the flames.
A family was on a walk, a woman named Kalea was carrying a bag and a man named Convel was holding a small child about the age of three in his arms. When his wife asked him to help her with the bag, he gave the child something, put her down and said to her:
“Now Exl, stay here, don't wander off. Okay?” The girl with bright blue-green eyes nodded and said:
“Okay father.” Convel smiled and ruffled his daughter's soft hair and went to his wife. A few moments later, when Kalea returned and called out for her daughter, little Exl was nowhere in sight.
When Kalea finally located Exl, she was near the edge of the cliff and falling would be fatal.
“Exl!”, she shouted and ran to her daughter. Exl's distressed father heard the frightened cry of his wife and saw how Exl was only one step away from falling with his wife right behind her. When Exl fell from the cliff she was caught by her mother by her shirt. As Kalea was pulling her to safety, the edge gave way and the only thing that kept Exl and Kalea from falling was Convel who was holding his wife's free hand with both his hands. Kalea was tightly hanging on to Exl and she said to her husband:
“My dear, I can't hold on for much longer, take Exl and get her to safety.” Slowly, Convel let go his other hand and reached it to take Exl from his wife. He caught Exl and lifted her onto a rock a safe distance from the edge. Exl just sat there looking at her parents, not really understanding what was going on. Convel said to his wife:
“Darling, I'm going to pull you up now, very carefully. The edge could still give way from beneath us.” Trying to pull her to safety, his grip nearly broke from her, but they both held on tightly to each other. All of a sudden, the ground under Convel began to give way and he grabbed a root next to him. He was now holding onto it and trying to hold his wife. The root felt strong, but he couldn't hold on for long. He looked down at his wife and the fall. Then he felt the root move, it was slowly rip from the ground. He looked at it with terror in his eyes and shouted:
“NO!” The root ripped from the ground and Exl's parents fell down screaming. Exl saw them fall and carefully she went to the edge to look down. Very quietly she said:
The image faded and Exl looked at the fire. With a shocked and sorrowful voice she said:
“I remember it now. Father told me not to wander off, but I still did. Then I remember falling and mother catching me. Father lifted me to safety and then… I remember them screaming when they fell. My parents died saving me, it's my fault they died.”
Exl's head sank down and Gabrielle and Xena came right beside her. Xena said to Exl:
“Exl, of course your parents saved you, any parent would do that. Even if they would have known what would happen, they would have still done what they did.” Exl's teary eyes met Xena's and she said with a heavy heart:
“It still doesn't change the fact that it's my fault they died. If only I would have listened… I can't live with myself knowing that I'm responsible for what happened. I can't take my father's crown, I don't deserve it, I'm sorry.” Exl ran away from the town square.
“Exl!”, Gabrielle tried shouting after her, but she was too far away to hear it. Korago said with “great amaze”:
“Can you believe it? Your beloved heiress is a murderer…” Xena and Gabrielle turned to look at the shaman and Gabrielle said:
“No. Exl may be many things, but she is NOT a murderer.”
“Well so it seems, I guess you don't know her as well as you think”, Korago said to everyone. The people started whispering and talking to each other. Xena was furious and said to the people:
“Look at yourselves! Exl was only a small child when this happened, she can't be a murderer. She has done so much for her people and now when she has troubles and hardship and she needs your support, you turn your back to her. You should be ashamed of yourselves, some friends you are.” Then Xena and Gabrielle ran after Exl and the crowd continued their talking.
Exl ran to the house she vaguely remembered to be that of her family's and went inside. Seeing familiar objects and remembering her parents, she started throwing things in rage. When she finally calmed down, she sat on a bed and stared into the emptiness. Gabrielle and Xena arrived at the house and looking around themselves in this empty home, they went to Exl's side.
“Exl, how are you feeling?”, Gabrielle asked. Exl just stared into nothing and answered with a cold voice:
“How would you feel after finding out how your parents died and that you were responsible for it? It's like someone has ripped out my heart.” Gabrielle felt sad for their Guardian. Xena looked at her unhappy wife and then said to Exl:
“Exl, I've lost people that I love, I know how you feel. You can't blame yourself for the accident.”
Exl turned to Xena and Xena could see the distress, the sorrow, the pain and the anger in her friend's eyes. Exl said:
“Accident? You made me understand that Caetim's and Teme's death wasn't my fault when I blamed myself for it, but this is something completely different. Without me, my parents would still be alive and my father would still be King.” Exl saw a box on the ground, picked it up and opened it. Xena and Gabrielle could see it was full of what must have belonged to Exl's parents. Exl took out a silver ring, it was a beautiful ring with a picture of a wolf's paw and a star on it.
“This is my father's. I remember it now, he gave it to me right before…”, Exl said squeezing the ring tightly in her hand and a tear fell from her eye.
“Xena, I think Exl needs to be alone for a moment,” Gabrielle said and took Xena's hand.
“We'll be outside”, Xena said and Exl nodded. When Gabrielle and Xena walked outside the door, they were knocked unconscious and dragged away.
Exl looked at her father's ring and felt a presence in the room. She looked up to see her parent's ghostly figures in front of her.
“Father, mother, I am so sorry… It's entirely my fault”, Exl said trying not to cry. Her mother approached her and held Exl's face in her hands. She said:
“Exl, we love you and giving your lives for yours was something that we would have done no matter when, no matter where.” Exl hugged her mother, then looked at her father and said:
“Father, I have failed you. I can't take my place on your throne.” Convel looked at his warrior daughter and sighed:
“My dear Exl, you must. It is rightfully yours. You deserve to know the truth and you have to avenge our deaths.”
“What do you mean avenge?”, Exl didn't understand .
“It wasn't your fault we died, it wasn't an accident. We were murdered”, Convel said looking at his wife.
“Murdered? How can that be? I saw the images that Korago showed us”, Exl said with amaze.
“That was only half the truth. Korago is behind all this, he has always tried to get his hands on my throne. Take that pouch, it contains the same kind of powder Korago has. But when you throw some of it into the fire, you'll see the real truth.” Exl's father pointed at a pouch on the table and Exl took it.
“You must hurry, Korago is going to take your throne and your family is in danger”, Kalea said.
“My family?”, Exl asked. Kalea touched the mirror that was in the box and gave it to Exl. Exl looked at it and saw Xena and Gabrielle in a cage in the middle of town and Korago was about to make himself King.
“Xena, Gabrielle…”, Exl said and was about to run back to town when she was stopped by her father.
“Exl, take the ring. Do you remember what I told you about this ring?”
“Yes. Only a warrior with a pure heart can use it power. What exactly is its great power?”, Exl said.
“You'll see. Now go and be careful”, Exl's father said and winked. Exl put the ring on her finger and raced towards the town square.
Korago was giving a speech in the town square.
“Citizens! You are in need of a great leader, a true, honest leader, not a young warrior with a dark past!” Xena and Gabrielle were in the cage listening to the speech and trying to get out.
“Xena, we've got to stop him. We've got to get out of here”, Gabrielle said.
“I know Gabrielle, but these bars are too strong for me to break without my weapons”, Xena replied. Korago continued:
“As a sign of my devotion to the people, I will kill these two friends of the Betrayer.” He turned to face the captives holding a sword. He started approaching them and his eyes were nearly “gleaming” when suddenly from nowhere, two knives flew across the air and broke the hinges of the cages. Everyone turned to look at the direction of where they came from and before they knew it, Exl had leaped from a rooftop and landed between Korago and her captured family. She had her axes drawn and a fiery look on her face. She said to Korago:
“Korago, you have already taken one family from me, I won't let it happen again.” Korago just looked at Exl and said contemptuously:
“Still can't accept the truth, can you?” Exl took the pouch from her pocket and said:
“Let's see what the real truth has to say.” She took some powder and threw it into the fire. Great flames flared up and an image formed in the flames.
Convel gave Exl the ring, Kalea asked her husband's help and he put Exl down. He told Exl not to wander off and Exl agreed. Korago appeared not far from the edge of the cliff, he waved his hand and a shiny jewel appeared next to Exl. It caught her attention and she tried to grab it. But Korago moved it so Exl just couldn't catch it. He was slowly luring Exl closer and closer to the edge. Kalea came back calling for Exl, then she saw her near the edge and ran after her. She caught Exl just in time and Korago wasn't pleased. So he clapped his hands and the edge of the cliff started to give way. Convel was able to catch them both and Korago wasn't pleased yet again. Exl was lifted to safety by her father. Convel was trying to save his wife, Korago saw his opportunity and clapped his hands again. The ground broke under Exl's parents, her father managed to grab the root. Korago disappeared and reappeared at the edge and looked down at Exl's parents. He waved his hand and the root started to rip from the ground. Convel looked up at Korago, Korago grinned and with a quick flick of the wrist the root ripped from the ground. Convel shouted:
“NO!” and he and his wife fell. Korago was weak after all of this, he would deal with Exl later and he disappeared. Exl slowly went to the edge and quietly said:
The image disappeared and everyone looked at Korago with disgust, hate and anger. Exl looked at him and said:
“Murderer”. She kicked the cage's door and it opened. Gabrielle and Xena were able to climb out of the cage, take their weapons and stand behind their Guardian.
“It was you all along. You lured me to the edge of the cliff hoping I would fall, but you didn't plan that I would be rescued. So when you had the chance, you murdered my parents and now you've come to finish what you started”, Exl said with a burning glance.
“You're just as weak as your father, he wasn't the leader these people needed. They needed someone strong and determined, not a sensitive and emotional warrior”, Korago said tightly holding his sword.
“Well they certainly don't need a murderer”, Xena said drawing her sword.
Korago looked around him and saw how all the people were looking at him with anger and disgust. He threw down his sword and with the snap of his fingers he turned into a large grizzly bear. Everyone took a step back except Xena, Gabrielle and Exl, who said:
“Two can play this game.” She took hold of her closed right fist with her left hand and with a quick flash, in front of Xena and Gabrielle wasn't their young Guardian but a light brown furred wolf. It looked exactly like the wolf Exl had been turned into on their adventure on the island of Pelagos . The bear Korago came at Gabrielle and Xena and the wolf Exl pounced it scratching the bear's neck. Korago grabbed Exl off his neck and tossed her to the ground. Then he tried to strike Exl with his paws but Exl managed to get out of the way. She bit Korago's right leg and Korago fell to the ground. He quickly rose up and the people watched as a growling wolf and a growling bear just stared at each other. Suddenly the bear took off and the wolf ran after it with Gabrielle and Xena right on their trail.
Korago ran as fast as he could, but he knew he couldn't get far. He was forced to stop when his escape route came to a dead end. He was at the edge of the same cliff where he had ended the lives of Exl's parents many years ago. He snapped his fingers and was back in his human form. Exl had caught up with him and was slowly approaching him. Then she stopped and closed her eyes and also turned back into her human form. Exl drew her axe, continued approaching Korago and said:
“All these years I've wondered what really happened to my parents and now that I know the truth, I know what I must do.” Xena and Gabrielle finally arrived at the scene and watched as their Guardian was face-to-face with the murderer of her parents. Korago was very frightened and was pleading:
“Please, Exl, mercy…” Exl just said with anger:
“What would you know about mercy? You killed my parents in cold blood.” Gabrielle shouted:
“Exl! Don't you think Korago should face a fair trial for what he has done?” Exl lowered her weapon and turned around to look at her Couple, both of them had taught her that revenge isn't the answer. Exl realized that she was so close to be turned into a cold blooded killer like Korago. She felt hurt inside but she also knew that killing Korago wouldn't bring her parents back. The anger inside her calmed and she said:
“You're right, he will face a fair trial.” Xena and Gabrielle smiled bit and Korago sighed of relief. Exl's face turned from calm to furious and she continued:
“But it will be the trial of God.” Korago's face turned white and he screamed when Exl pushed him over the edge of the cliff and he plummeted to his death. Exl fell to her knees and Gabrielle and Xena ran to her. Exl's eyes were filled with tears and she said:
“It was my guilt, my guilt and anger took over me. I couldn't stop myself, I had to avenge them…”
Xena and Gabrielle gave Exl a big hug and Xena said:
“We understand. Everything is alright now.”
Returning to town, Exl looked at the platform and her throne, then at Xena and Gabrielle. They both nodded and smiled. Exl smiled back, walked up to her throne and said to the crowd looking up at her:
“I have avenged the death of my parents and disposed of my rivals to my father's throne. Everything is now ready so I can take my place as Queen.” The people cheered, but stopped when Exl continued:
“But I'm afraid I'm just not ready to become your ruler. There is so much I must learn before taking my place here. I leave this kingdom to be ruled by the Royal council under the leadership of Serph, because I know they are the best people to rule in my absence.”
The people were a bit disappointed that yet again Exl would leave her place as ruler. They had heard of what she did after defeating Zabor. Exl continued:
“Don't be so unhappy, I promise to return if you need my help and one day, I will return and stay as Queen.” The people cheered for Exl, she was a great warrior and one day she would make a great Queen. They called her Queen Exl Alake, meaning one to be honored.
In the evening, Exl, Xena and Gabrielle walked to Exl's home and Xena and Gabrielle could see something was bothering Exl. Gabrielle asked:
“What's the matter Exl?”
“I lost my parents so long ago, but they have never left me. They have watched over me all these years and I know they're with me right now.” Behind them a man's voice said:
“Yes we truly are.” They turned around and saw the ghosts of Exl's parents right there.
“Father, mother…”, Exl said and went to embrace them. Then she looked at her Couple who looked at the family with amaze. Exl said to her parents:
“Mother, father, this is Xena and Gabrielle. They are my Couple and my family.” Then she said to Xena and Gabrielle:
“Gabrielle, Xena, these are my parents: my mother Kalea, and my father Convel.” Gabrielle and Xena bowed and Exl's parents saluted them in the same way Exl always saluted them.
“It's an honor to meet you,” Xena said.
“We are also honored, thank you for looking after Exl. She is our most valued treasure”, Convel thanked.
“She is very important to us, it's a great pleasure to have her as a part of our family”, Gabrielle replied.
Kalea said to Exl:
“My dear, could your father and I talk to Xena and Gabrielle for a while?” Exl nodded, said:
“Of course, as long as you want” and went to the next room.
“What is this about?”, Xena asked.
“We wanted to tell you how much we really appreciate the fact that you've given Exl the family she has wished for so long”, Kalea said.
“We've been through a lot together. She helped us join and when we heard the story about being a Guardian, we knew she would be the best Guardian for us”, Xena said.
“She was like us, a lonely soul needing a place where to belong, someone to love her and someone she could love”, Gabrielle continued. Convel smiled and said:
“Avenging us wasn't easy for her. If we could have, we would have told her the truth earlier. After using nearly all his powers when he attacked us, Korago had to hide and regain his strength and powers. It took him many years and while he was hiding, we knew Exl would be safe from him. But a while ago, Korago got his powers back and we knew that he will stop at nothing to get his hands on my throne. So we appeared to Exl and told her that she must return and take her rightful place. We also had to know if Exl was ready for the truth. After Korago showed what was half true and seeing how much it hurt Exl, we knew that now was the moment to reveal what really was true.
Xena remembered the moment when Exl changed her form and fought Korago.
“That ring. There is something special about that ring that Exl used when she changed into that wolf. How did she do it?”, she asked.
“My name, Convel, means wolf warrior. I got that ring from my mentor when I was made King. He said that a warrior with a pure heart could use its power. The first time I ever had to use it was when a warlord tried to attack our kingdom. I saw Kalea in trouble, I had the ring in my finger and I thought to myself: I'd give my life to save Kalea. That's when it happened, the ring's power changed me into a wolf and it gave me the strength to save Kalea. I would have used it to save Exl and Kalea when I saw them at the edge of that cliff, but I…”, Convel told.
“You had just given it to Exl”, Gabrielle said.
“Yes. When she was a little girl, Exl always wanted to wear my ring, so I gave it to her to hold. Of course I had to save them, with or without the power of the ring”, Convel continued.
“When Exl left to help you, I told her to take the ring because I knew she could use its power.”
“How did you know that?”, Gabrielle asked.
“Because she is my daughter and I have seen and heard what she has said she would do to protect you. Because my father has taught her to be the best she can be, to always do her best and because she has learned love and loyalty from you two. She has the purest heart I know”, Convel said with a big smile.
Xena and Gabrielle also smiled and Kalea said to them:
“There is still something we want to say to Exl before we leave, will you please ask her to come here?” Xena gave a whistle and Exl came to them in lightning speed.
“Exl, it is time for us to go”, Kalea said to Exl. Exl understood this and said:
“Mother, father, I love you very much, with all my heart. I always wished you'd come back home someday, but I accepted a long time ago that you'd never return. I've missed you so much.”
“Exl, I wish we could have been there to see you grow up and show you the love you always deserved. But even though we weren't physically there with you, we were always with you, in here”, Kalea said pointing at Exl's heart.
“I know that mother. Grandfather always took good care of me and without him, I wouldn't be the person I am today. Please thank him for me and tell him that I love him”, Exl replied. Convel laid his hand on Exl's shoulder and said proudly:
“Exl, when you chose to follow the same path I did, at first I thought it wouldn't be the right one for you. But watching you grow and become the great warrior you are now, I can only say that I'm so very proud of you. You know your place in the world, you know your duty and you have a very loving family. Remember, always stay strong and listen to your heart. If you never need our help, just think of us and we can hear your thoughts.” Xena and Gabrielle listened to this farewell and were glad that Exl could finally tell her parents how much she loved and missed them.
Convel turned to Xena and Gabrielle and said:
“Thank you Xena and Gabrielle, for everything you have done for our people and especially for what you have done for Exl. We are forever grateful and we hope there is something we can do to repay you.” Gabrielle looked at Xena and smiled, then she looked at Convel and Kalea and said:
“You already have.” Kalea looked at her husband with amaze and Convel back at her with the same feeling. Exl was also wondering what Gabrielle could mean with what she just said.
“You have given us a wonderful friend, an important person to our family and the best Guardian the world has ever seen. To have Exl with us for the rest of our lives is only thing we want from you in return”, Gabrielle said smiling. Convel and Kalea also smiled and looked at their daughter, Exl smiled and Kalea said:
“Exl, go to your family. Always remember that you are never alone, you have us and you have these two great people, to always stand by your side. We love you sweetheart.”
Exl saluted her parents and went to stand beside her Couple. Her parents ghosts disappeared and only Xena, Gabrielle and Exl were left standing in the empty house.
“Exl, I think your parents are the greatest. It's too bad you never got to spend enough time with them”, Xena said. Exl looked at her father's ring and said:
“I know, but now I know how much they love me and I will always remember the good moments we had. Like this conversation we just had.” They stood there silently for a few minutes and then Exl realized something:
“Well, I guess our work here is done. Perhaps we should head back to Greece .”
“Are you sure? Don't you want to stay here for a few days?”, Gabrielle asked her.
“Yes I'm sure, there is so much to do, so many villages to help and so many evil tyrants and warlords to defeat back in Greece . Everything is okay here. We can go back home”, Exl said with a wink.
Xena and Gabrielle were happy that everything had turned out okay. Exl was happy that she had the chance to see her parents and to know they loved her and would be with her for all eternity.
End of “Empty Home”
The series will continue in: “Bad Dreams”
Please let me know what you honestly 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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