In the morning, the three woke up fairly early and left for Amazonia as soon as they could. Exl was feeling much better, the medicine had almost entirely got the swelling down and the bruise was a bit lighter shade of blue. Gabrielle had put a sling on her hand and secured the sling so Exl couldn't move her left arm much so she couldn't injure herself more. Xena was happy to see Exl feel much better and was sure of her recovery, if she was as gutsy a warrior that she had earlier proved to be.
"Halt. We'll reach the Amazon hunting grounds any moment now, so keep your eyes and ears open." Xena knew Gabrielle was aware where they were, but Exl had never seen any Amazon before.
They continued to walk for a while, then suddenly Xena stopped and raised her hands in the air and crossed them, in the traditional Amazon gesture of greeting , Gabrielle did the same. Exl just kneeled on the ground and bowed her head, not being able to copy Xena and Gabrielle. About a half a dozen of Amazon warriors came down from the trees and a very familiar voice said:
"Well, well, what do we have here? The mighty Queen and her Champion. My dear friends." It was Eponin, the weapons master. Seeing her, Xena and Gabrielle lowered their hands and went to give Eponin a hug.
"Hi ya Pony, how are you doing?", Xena was first to hug her.
"Fine Xena, you?"
”Hello Eponin", Gabrielle said and gave her weapons master a big squeeze.
"My Queen, it's good you came. Ephiny was worried you never got her message." Eponin was glad to see the Queen after a while.
"Yes we did get the message, what's wrong?" Gabrielle was worried about the urgent message her Regent had sent. Eponin wanted her Queen to be at ease.
"Nothing that huge, but Ephiny wanted you to come, she'll fill you in on the details when we get to the village. Shall we?" One of Eponin's warriors was looking at the still kneeling Exl and asked:
”What about her, is she a prisoner of yours or something?"
Exl didn't budge, because she didn't know how to perform around the Amazons. Gabrielle and Xena had nearly forgotten their new found friend. Gabrielle went to Exl and helped her up, showing there is nothing to be worried about. She took Exl's hand and walked her to Eponin and Xena, introducing her to the Amazon.
"Eponin, this is Exl. She is a friend of ours, she saved my life. Exl, this is Eponin, the weapons master of my Amazon tribe."
"Nice to meet you. Any friend and saviour of our Queen is a friend of ours. You're not from around here, and you're quite young for a warrior…" Eponin greeted the astonished young warrior, who tried to reply but was interrupted by Xena and Gabrielle who said: “Yeah, she gets that often.”
Eponin laughed and saw Exl's wounded arm and said:
"We'd better get you to our healer. Is it okay with you if we take you two to Ephiny and I'll have some of my warriors take your friend straight to see Nalasha?" Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other then at Exl, who didn't know what to say or do. She was a bit frightened by these Amazon warriors.
“What do you say Exl, is it okay with you?”, Xena asked her friend after putting her hand on Exl's shoulder to show her there was nothing to be afraid of. Exl said with trust in Xena:
"Yeah… I think I'll be fine. You go to see your friend and I'll go with them to the healer. I'll see you later."
"If you want, I can come with you…", Xena said but then Exl shook her head and replied: "Go. I can manage. You go with Gabrielle. I have to get this wound finally treated." Then Eponin, Xena and Gabrielle accompanied with a few warriors made their way straight to the common hut where Ephiny was waiting.
"Gabrielle! I'm so glad you finally arrived. And Xena, it's wonderful to see you too. How was your journey?"
"Well let's say it was full of surprises", Xena said looking at Gabrielle, then at Ephiny. "Ephiny, what is wrong? Why did you send that urgent message?", Gabrielle asked her Regent very worried.
"The village close to our southern border has been raided by a band of thugs and they have said to come here next. We need your help to get rid of the thugs." Ephiny knew that Gabrielle and Xena were able to handle the situation with the help of the Amazons. "Let's take a look at situation later, I'm starving", Xena said with a grin on her face meaning she couldn't beat a band of thugs on an empty stomach.
"Good, let's go and have see what the cooks have made us", Ephiny smiled and as they were just leaving the hut, one of the healer's guards came running in and said:
"Ephiny, there is a stranger in Nalasha's hut going completely insane and nearly taking the place apart." In an instant, Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other and said simultaneously:
"EXL!" Then they ran out and straight to the healer's hut.
When they got there, they heard Exl screaming and rushed inside. Exl was being held down on a bed by four Amazon warriors and Nalasha was standing next to the young warrior. Gabrielle was worried about Exl and shouted:
"Exl! Nalasha, what is going on?" Nalasha didn't at first notice the Queen and the Warrior, but when she did she approached them and said:
“Gabrielle, Xena. This young warrior came to me and told me she was your friend. She showed me her injury and when I started treating her, she just started screaming from the pain and throwing things around the place. It took four of my guards to get her to stay down."
"What did you do to her?", Xena asked and moved to her young friend's side and saw that she was in extreme pain.
"I just tired placing the fractured bones in place, I couldn't do anything more when she started to act like this", Nalasha answered.
"Then she started to call out for you two so I thought it was best to get you here." Gabrielle walked to Exl and brushed her cheek with her hand.
"Exl, it's me, Gabrielle. You're safe. Xena's here too. Please let Nalasha treat your wound, there is nothing to be worried about." Gabrielle took Exl's other hand and Xena took the other hand. Hearing Gabrielle's voice calmed Exl down a bit and then Exl turned to Xena and asked:
"Xena, could you… please use your pressure points and put me out? The pain is too much, I didn't want to hurt anyone, but it hurts so much…" Looking into Xena's eyes calmed Exl down. No-one had ever asked Xena to use her pressure points on them, but she knew it would help Nalasha nurse Exl. Gabrielle looked at Xena and nodded. Xena nodded back and said:
"Of course I will. After the operation is over, I'll wake you up, okay?" Exl just gave a nod and closed her eyes. The warriors held on to the young one, in case something would happen when Xena put her out. Then Xena pressed the pressure points on Exl's neck and behind her ear and in an instant, Exl was out.
"Now you see to her wounds. She'll stay still, I promise." The warriors turned Exl around so Nalasha could take a better look at the injured shoulder blade. Xena helped Nalasha in anyway she could, after all she had previously taken care of the wound. Gabrielle went to meet with Ephiny to tell the situation at the healer's hut was under control.
"After she wakes up, we'll take her to the holding cells and post guards to watch her. There she can't hurt anyone." Ephiny was upset about the behaviour of Gabrielle's and Xena's new friend.
"No Ephiny. She didn't mean it, she was in so much pain, she won't do it again.“
Gabrielle tried to convince her friend that the young warrior didn't want any harm to anyone.
"Where did you meet her, how can you be so sure she won't hurt anyone? She could be a spy or an assassin…" Ephiny wasn't convinced easily.
"Ephiny, she saved my life!", Gabrielle shouted angrily at Ephiny for not believing her. "What? She saved your life?"
"Yes. I was captured by a group of bandits, Exl saved me. She had been hurt the previous time she had faced those bandits. She still saved me. She is okay Ephiny. If Xena and I trust her, why can't you?" Gabrielle was a bit upset that nearly everyone thought badly about Exl, not even knowing her. Like people had thought about Xena earlier…
"Okay Gabrielle, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have doubted your word. Was she injured badly?" Ephiny wanted to make up for the bad things she said about Exl by showing she wanted to know more about this mysterious young warrior. Gabrielle told Ephiny about where Exl had come from, about her destiny and about Teme, Caetim and being a Guardian. Ephiny saw Gabrielle was very happy telling about how Exl had given her and Xena strength to ask each other to marry one another. Ephiny was very glad for her Queen, and for Xena, so the two talked about wedding arrangements late into the night.
About three candle marks later, Xena came to the Queen's hut and found Gabrielle sitting in front of the fire.
"Xena… How is she?" Gabrielle stood and looked at the tall warrior.
“Nothing to be worried about, Nalasha took care of everything. She put the fractured bones in place, sewed the wound and put different ointments to help the healing. Just before I left I woke Exl up and she was okay. Of course there is a lot of pain, but she got some medicine and she's sleeping now. Nalasha said it will only take about a week until she is healed and she can start training and fighting. She is strong, Gabrielle." Xena sat on the bed and started to undress.
"Xena, remember we have to take care of the band of thugs soon", Gabrielle reminded her partner.
"Oh, I remember, it's nice to have a bit of fun… Come here you."
Xena laid on the bed and Gabrielle went to lay beside her love.
"Good night. I love you", Gabrielle said and kissed Xena on the cheek.
"Love you too, good night", Xena replied with a kiss on Gabrielle's forehead.
Exl slept for nearly two days and when she woke up, Gabrielle and Xena were there right by her side. She was happy that the first thing she saw was her two loving friends. They had taken care of the band of thugs with ease, there were only about a dozen men. It wasn ' t a big deal for the experienced Warrior Princess and a group of fierce Amazon warriors. Exl started recovering fast. She had her arm in a sling and was told to move carefully. She accompanied Gabrielle to her council meetings and Xena to see Amazon fighting practice. She talked with Eponin about her weapons and wanted to know more about Amazon weaponry. Eponin promised to show her a few things when she fully healed. She even talked about some new Amazon weapons for Exl. Exl thought the Amazon village was an amazing place.
It had been a week and Exl went to Nalasha's hut to get a final check-up. Xena and Gabrielle accompanied her wanting to hear the news straight away. Nalasha examined her patient and was happy to inform that Exl was entirely healthy, but for a while she had to take it a bit easier because the fractured shoulder blade might still easily be damaged.
"How do you feel?", Gabrielle asked Exl when they came from the healer's hut.
"I feel great, my shoulder is still a bit sore, but nothing bad", Exl answered.
"Good, then we can start training. I remember Pony saying something about new weapons…", Xena smiled.
“But first, let's go to the common hut, I believe the Queen has some kind of an announcement to make. Don't you, my Queen?" Gabrielle nodded:
"Yes I do. Let's go."
In the hut Gabrielle went to sit in her Queen's council throne and Ephiny was there beside her. The other Amazons were standing next to the walls. Xena and Exl as being outsiders, not Amazons, kneeled in front of the Queen bowing their heads. Ephiny stepped forward and said with a clear, loud voice:
"Amazons, Queen Gabrielle has something to say."
Gabrielle stood up and said:
"Arise, Xena and Exl, friends of the Amazons." The two warriors rose simultaneously.
"Xena, come forth." Xena walked to Gabrielle and stood by her bard.
"I, Gabrielle, Queen of the Amazons, and my Champion, Xena, Warrior Princess want to make an announcement. We are going to be joined together as one. We are going to be wed here, in Amazonia and we want you all to be there for our ceremony." Everyone cheered and whistled in joy. Exl was extremely happy for her friends. Gabrielle raised her hand and everyone went silent.
"But there is something missing. In land far, far from here they have a beautiful tradition. When a couple is married, joined as one, they are appointed a Guardian. A person who is a loyal friend, someone who respects, honours, loves and cherishes the couple and their love to one another is to be their Guardian. He or she will be the Guardian of their love, the Guardian of their hopes and dreams, the Guardian of their lives." Exl was amazed that Gabrielle was telling everyone about her tradition in her exact words, but she also felt happy seeing the Amazons looking touched when told about this foreign tradition. They liked it, Exl could see it in the faces of the usually fierce Amazon warriors. The Queen commanded:
"Exl, come forth." Exl obeyed the Queen and walked right in front of Gabrielle and Xena. As a usual habit, she kneeled in front of royalty. Gabrielle continued:
"Xena and I have decided to ask someone very special to us to become our Guardian. So in front of all you present, we ask that Exl, will you become our Guardian? To guard our love and ours lives, to be there for us until the day we are rejoined in the Elysian Fields once again?" Gabrielle and Xena both reached out a hand to Exl who just stared into the eyes of her dear friends. Then she said with a timid voice:
"My Queen, my Princess, I would be deeply and truly honoured to become your Guardian." Then she took the hands of her friends and was pulled up to her feet into the arms of her friends to receive a great big hug. All the Amazons cheered for Xena, Gabrielle and Exl. Then Ephiny continued:
"From this day on, this young warrior will be known as Exl the Loyal! Cheers for Exl! " Exl was surprised at this tribute. The Amazons cheered.
" Tonight, we will have a feast to honour Exl, the Saviour of our Queen and the future Guardian of the Queen and her Champion and to celebrate the future marriage of our Royal Couple!"
The feast was amazing. They had good food and dancing, a true Amazon celebration. Exl was happy to be there for the celebration, as a guest of honour. Gabrielle and Xena were pleased that Exl had agreed to become their Guardian. It made Xena very happy knowing the woman of her life was to become her wife and Gabrielle felt the same. When the two sat together at the feast, everyone could see these two were always meant to be joined as one.
Xena wanted thank her future Guardian, but couldn't find her anywhere. Where could she have gone to? Xena figured Exl might have gone for walk outside the village. It didn't take long for her to find the young one. She was kneeling down on one knee,
holding her right fist in her left hand in front of her chest as if she was meditating or praying. Hearing footsteps behind her, Exl pulled out her knives and was ready to take on the possible foe that had tried to take her by surprise. But she put her knives down after seeing who was facing her, it was the tall dark warrior.
"Oh it's you Xena. I was here telling my grandfather, that I am one step closer in fulfilling my destiny. I hope he's proud of me", Exl said with taking a glance at the dark night sky. "I'm sure he is", Xena responded with a smile. Exl turned away from Xena, sat on the fallen tree next to her, and silently started weeping. Xena went and sat next to her friend putting her arm behind Exl and placing her hand on Exl's shoulder.
"Hey, why are you crying? What's the matter?", she asked her unhappy young friend.
"Xena… I'm scared", Exl was finally able to say, knowing she could tell Xena what was bothering her.
"Of what?", Xena tried asking.
"I have never had friends like you and Gabrielle. Or a real family. I was supposed to be part of Caetim's and Teme's family, but… Xena, I am afraid that I'll lose you like I lost them. I am afraid to become your Guardian. Something will go wrong and I'll fail you like I did them." Tears just kept on flowing from Exl's eyes. Xena tried to soothe her friend by saying:
"Exl, Gabrielle and love each other. We want to get married, and we want to have a Guardian. Before meeting you, we discussed what we would do in case something happens to either of us. When we are here, we have friends to watch our backs, but we need someone to look after us when travelling around. When I proposed to Gabrielle and when she proposed to me, we both knew you would be the perfect Guardian for us. Not because of your prophecy, but because we love you. We trust you, you have to trust yourself. If we had any doubts about you becoming our Guardian, we would have asked someone else. But there is no-one else we'd happily accept as our Guardian." Xena's words filled Exl's heart with confidence and happiness. She hugged Xena and said: "Thank you Xena, I won't disappoint you."
The two warriors didn't notice Gabrielle coming from the woods. She had first wondered
where her Loyal had gone and then where had her Champion had disappeared to.
Seeing the two women safe made her happy. She decided to express her existence.
"Xena, you're not going to cheat on me with our Guardian are you?", she said, but neither of the warriors was amused. Exl turned her face to Gabrielle, and when Gabrielle saw the red, tear-filled eyes, she sprang to her friend's side.
"By the Gods, Exl are you okay? Is everything alright?" She looked at Xena baffled why their friend was in Xena's arms crying.
"Gabrielle, everything is just fine. Xena and I were just talking." Exl tried to wipe her eyes.
"Yes, nothing is wrong", Xena agreed with her warrior friend. Exl changed the subject: "Shouldn't we get back to the festivities, everyone'll think where all three of us have gone to." She started heading back to the village, with her friends right behind her.
"Yes we should. You go ahead", Xena encouraged Exl to go. After she had gone, Gabrielle wrapped her arms around Xena and asked:
"What was all that about? Is everything really okay??"
"Yes my love. Exl was here talking to her grandfather about fulfilling her destiny.
Then she got upset and told me she's afraid of failing us, losing us like losing Caetim and Teme. I told her that you and me love her and trust her entirely in being a great
Guardian." Xena held Gabrielle tighter and gave the bard a kiss on the forehead.
"Well you spoke like a bard. I know she'll do her best. It's a good thing you talked to her. I'm proud of you and I'm proud of Exl." Gabrielle kissed Xena on the cheek.
"I love you my bard", Xena replied.
"I love you my warrior", Gabrielle said smiling.
They took hold of each others hands and returned to the village and to the festivities.
End of part 2
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