Xena, Gabrielle and Autolycus do not belong to me. They belong to MCA/Universal/Renaissance.
A mysterious figure was hiding in the dark of the night. After seeing the coast was clear, the figure ran to a high wall and below a window. Then it threw a rope with a grappling at the end of it inside the room through the window, after making sure it would hold, the figure quickly climbed inside the room. Getting inside was easy, maybe too easy. The figure looked around to find something particular and the object was soon found. It was a large emerald, the size of a man's fist. It was on a pillow on a pedestal in the middle of the room. The dark figure approached the emerald carefully, took it and replaced it with a green-painted stone. Satisfied with obtaining the jewel, the figure made its way back to the window, but by accident knocked over a vase that fell on the floor shattering into pieces. The guards outside the room heard the crash and ran inside. The only thing they found was a broken vase on the ground and the window was slightly open, but nothing else. The guards returned to their places figuring that a gush of wind must have knocked the vase over. Outside the mysterious figure smiled and vanished into the night.
In the town of Volos , three very familiar figures where sitting in a tavern having something to drink after a long travel from Amphipolis.
“Phew, I've never been this thirsty in my life!”, a blond bard said to her two warrior companions. “Apparently not, this surprise of yours had better be worth all this traveling, Xena…”, the younger warrior said.
“I promise, it is”, Xena answered. Gabrielle, Xena and Exl had been traveling for many straight days from Amphipolis to Volos , because Xena said she had a surprise waiting for them there.
“Come on Xena, tell us what is this surprise of yours, please…”, Gabrielle asked Xena, giving her the cute puppy dog look.
“Alright I'll tell you. I have arranged us a trip to the island of Pelagos as our honeymoon trip”, Xena told her wife and their Guardian.
“Xena, I can't come with you on your honeymoon, it's something just the two of you have to experience, together”, Exl said looking amazed at Xena's words. Xena smiled and said:
“Exl, like we told the night of our wedding, we are not going to leave you even for our honeymoon, you are coming with us.” Exl just looked at her Couple and Gabrielle said:
“Exl, you promised that you'd come with us on our honeymoon and disappear… when we needed our privacy, remember?” Exl nodded and said:
“Yes I remember, and as your Loyal and your Guardian, I always keep my promises.” Gabrielle and Xena were happy they had convinced their beloved young companion to come with them, they were a family after all. After finishing their drinks, they decided to some shopping before going to the harbor and leaving for Pelagos.
Exl was walking around the market place when she saw a lonely man carrying a heavy looking box, so she went to help him.
“May I help you sir?“ she asked and took the box from the man. The man gave a bow and said: “Thank you, young one.“ The man wasn't from Greece , but from a land called Japa. Exl carried the box to the man's booth and then stopped to look at some strange looking weapons on the table and asked the man what they were. He told they were called hira-shuriken or simply throwing stars. They were like four-pointed stars, flat, thin pieces of metal shaped with sharpened points and edges. Exl asked the man how they worked. The man smiled, took one from his sleeve and threw it with a delicate motion of his wrist. The star flew so fast that Exl couldn't see it until it was stricken into a watermelon in a booth about a hundred feet away. Exl was amazed at these pieces of weaponry, she asked the man how much it would cost to buy the rest of stars he had. But he just shook his head and said:
“For you, young warrior, I want to give them as a gift for helping me. In my home, one who is helped, must help others.” Exl thanked the man but still wanted to give him a coin or two as payment for the beautiful weapons. But when she tried to find her coin pouch from her pocket, it was missing. Exl turned and saw a hooded figure walking away from her, looking very suspicious. Exl shouted:
“Hey you!” and the figure started to pick up pace. Exl ran after the figure, retrieving one of the throwing stars from the watermelon. The figure ran to an alley and was caught in a dead end, a tall wooden gate was in it‘s way. Exl finally caught up with the mysterious figure and seeing it was in a dead end, she said:
“If you return my money now, I promise to let you go unharmed.” But the figure wouldn't give up, it turned and started climbing up the wooden gate behind it. Exl said:
“Well, you asked for it.” and took a few throwing stars from a pouch on her side and threw them at the figure. The figure was caught by its clothes to the gate, Exl approached it and took her money pouch from the figure's hand and smiled.
Xena and Gabrielle had been looking for Exl for some time and decided to ask some people if they had seen her. But no-one had seen a short, young warrior anywhere. A man said behind them:
“You are looking for her, the young noble warrior?”, he was the Japanese man Exl had helped.
“Yes we are, have you seen her?” Gabrielle asked the man.
“Yes, she helped me and I returned the favor. She ran that way, running after a dark figure”, the man said and pointed to the direction Exl had ran to. Xena and Gabrielle thanked the man, giving him a few coins and went to look for Exl. They didn't have to go far when they saw Exl, who was holding a dark hooded figure by the hands behind its back.
“There you are, I've been looking for you”, Exl said seeing her friends. Gabrielle asked:
“Exl, who is this?” Exl answered:
“This creep tried to steal my money, but fortunately I caught him. I was going to take him to the local authorities.” Xena looked at the figure and said:
“Well let's see the face of this rude thief.”
She took off the hood and she and Gabrielle were amazed to see a familiar face. The man underneath was trying to look innocent and said:
“Xena, Gabrielle, nice to see you, it's been a while.” Xena looked at the man and said:
“Well it's very nice to see you too, Autolycus.” Exl loosened her grip slightly on Autolycus and said: “Wait a minute. You're Autolycus? King of thieves, master of disguise and escape artist extraordinaire?” Autolycus was pleased that someone knew him and his achievements. Exl continued:
“Well, I think you're not a very good thief, you got caught.” Gabrielle asked Autolycus:
“Why did you steal Exl's money, she isn‘t that rich?” Autolycus tried to get out of Exl's hold not succeeding and answered:
“Well I didn't know she was a friend of yours and I saw the pouch of money just waiting to be taken…” Xena signaled Exl she could let go of Autolycus.
“Autolycus, this is Exl, our close friend. Exl, this is Autolycus, we're old friends.” Exl bowed her head for Autolycus and said:
“Greetings Autolycus. I am Exl. The Loyal and Guardian of Xena and Gabrielle.” Autolycus looked at Exl and replied:
“Likewise, pleased to meet you. Sorry for taking your money, if I had known you're a friend of Xena's and Gabrielle's…”
“It's okay Autolycus, I hope I didn't hurt you before?”, Exl asked.
“No, but you gave me quite a scare, you handled those weapons quite neatly”, Autolycus answered.
Exl showed Gabrielle and Xena her new weapons, the throwing stars.
“I got this from a nice old man, he was from Japa. I helped him and in return he gave me these”, Exl told her friends.
“How do they work?” Gabrielle asked. Exl smiled, and threw one with a quick flick of the wrist and the star was soon penetrated in a wooden pillar at the other end of the street.
“Impressive…”, Xena said. Exl winked and went to fetch the star. Gabrielle asked Autolycus: “Autolycus, what are you doing here? Are you going somewhere?”
“Well Gabrielle, as a matter of fact I am. I'm going to the island of Pelagos , I have some businesses to take care of there”, Autolycus said.
“What a nice coincidence, we're on our way there too. On our honeymoon”, Xena said putting her hand on Gabrielle's shoulder.
“Oh yeah, congratulations, I heard about you two getting married.”
“Thank you Autolycus, we owe it all to Exl. She helped us get married and she is our Guardian now”, Gabrielle said turning to look at Exl, who had come back from retrieving her throwing star. Autolycus didn't get the chance to ask what a Guardian was when the three women were already telling about being a Guardian and so on.
“Well I'm happy for all of you. Shall we go, we have a ship to catch?” Autolycus said and pointed towards the harbor. The four raced to the harbor and were on ship just in time.
That night the four were spending a nice time talking, when Xena asked:
“So, Autolycus, what kind of businesses do you have on Pelagos?” Autolycus seemed a bit nervous and answered:
“Nothing special, I'm going to see an old friend. Excuse me for a minute.” He rose and just as he was about to take a step, the pouch on his belt dropped and opened. Exl took the pouch and reached for the contents.
“It wouldn't have anything to do with this, would it?”, she said taking the large emerald from the pouch. Autolycus tried to take the emerald from Exl, but she threw it to Xena. Xena looked at the emerald, then turned to Autolycus and said:
“Autolycus, were did you get this? You didn't steal it did you?” All three women looked at Autolycus, who seemed uncomfortable being stared at.
“Is that jewel something special?”, Gabrielle asked. Xena turned to Gabrielle and Exl and began to explain:
“This looks like the mythic emerald of Pelagos. A myth tells that on the island of Pelagos there is a temple with a great statue of a powerful wizard who once lived on the island. The statue was holding two large jewels, a ruby in one hand and an emerald in the other. The myth tells the jewels had magical powers that the wizard had planted in them. Many years ago, some warlord raided the island and found the statue. He tried to steal both jewels, but was only able to get the emerald. But the jewel didn't seem to have any powers, so it was just passed on from father to son. No-one has seen the jewel in years, until now.” Xena turned to Autolycus with the “you'd better start explaining” -face. Autolycus went to his seat and started:
“I heard this myth and about a rich merchant who had obtained the emerald. I heard that when it is returned to its rightful place, a treasure will be revealed. So I decided to make a trip to the island and…”
“And get the treasure for yourself. Autolycus, you never change”, Gabrielle said.
“Well, I think I could use some help. If you give me a hand, I'll give you a fair share of the treasure. How does that sound?”, Autolycus suggested. The three looked at each other for a while, and then Xena walked to Autolycus saying:
“We'll help, not for the treasure, but because it's the right thing to do. And it sounds like a fun adventure.” She offered Autolycus her forearm and Autolycus happily grasped it. They went to get some rest, Pelagos was still a couple of days travel away.
The morning they arrived on Pelagos, Autolycus had woken up early and gone up on deck to see the rising sun. Exl also woke up unusually early and went up after Autolycus.
“Morning Autolycus”, Exl said. Autolycus bowed his head and greeted Exl:
“Good morning young Guardian. Did you sleep well?” Exl smiled and answered:
“Yes, did you?” Autolycus turned to look at the sunrise.
“Not that well, something is keeping me up at nights”, he replied. Exl saw he was quite tired and tried to think what could be keeping him up.
“Has it something to do with the treasure?”, Exl asked.
“I don't know, something just doesn't seem quite right…”, Autolycus answered. Exl gave him a pat on the back and said:
“It looks like we are about to arrive, I'll go and wake Xena and Gabrielle.” Autolycus smiled and Exl disappeared under deck.
Autolycus took the emerald from the pouch it was in and looked at it. Something about this jewel felt worrying, but what it was, he couldn't say.
When the ship had finally anchored and the passengers were free go, Xena and Autolycus went to ask for directions to the temple and Gabrielle and Exl went to get some supplies they might need. Every time Xena or Autolycus asked someone about the temple, people just ran away not saying a word. Until an old woman took Autolycus' hand and whispered the two to come closer. “You are on your way to the wizard's temple. It is a dangerous place, it is cursed. When the sacred emerald was stolen, the horrible curse came true. Anyone who has gone to find the temple, has never come back. Some say the wild animals of the jungle got them, some say it was the wizard's spirit who got them. Beware the curse, if you are not careful, you may not be around for long”, the woman said disappearing into the crowd. Xena and Autolycus just stared at each other, not knowing how to act in this situation. Xena then said:
“Let's go find Exl and Gabrielle.”
“Gabrielle, I want to talk to you about Autolycus. Something is bothering him”, Exl said when they had gotten all they had been looking for.
“What is it?”, Gabrielle asked.
“I don't know, Autolycus didn't know either. I think it has something to do with the treasure”, Exl continued. Gabrielle smiled, put her hand on Exl's shoulder and said:
“What ever it is, it will pass once Autolycus has his hands on the treasure. Look there‘s Xena and Autolycus.” Gabrielle had noticed the two coming from the other side of the market place.
“Did you get everything?”, Xena asked.
“Yes we did”, Exl said showing the pile of materials she was carrying. Gabrielle asked Xena:
“Did you get directions?” Autolycus answered:
“Unfortunately not, it appears that the temple is cursed and no-one who has gone to find it, has returned.”
A dark voice said from behind the four travelers:
“I can help you, I know where the temple is. My name is Dosim, I am a guide.” The man was skinny, dressed in ragged grey clothes, he looked a bit dishonest. Gabrielle stepped forth and asked:
“Will you take us to the temple?”
“Yes, for a small fee”, Dosim answered. Autolycus threw him a coin and said:
“You'll get the rest of your reward after we find the temple.” Dosim nodded and started to lead them from town into the jungle.
“Dosim, how do you know were the temple is?”. Xena asked suspecting that Dosim might have some tricks up his sleeve.
“I found it by accident when I was only a child, only later I heard the myth about the powerful wizard”, Dosim answered convincing. They had walked for many candle marks, when Dosim stopped and said:
“It if safer to continue the travel tomorrow when the sun comes up. It is dangerous to roam in the jungle in the dark.” The troupe accepted and set up camp. Eating some food they had bought from the market, Exl noticed something wasn't quite right. She stood up and looked around.
“Exl, what is it?”, Xena asked focusing her senses.
“Where is Dosim? Where has he disappeared to?”, Exl said drawing her axes. Yes, where had he gone to? Something moved in the bushes and Dosim emerged. Everyone was holding their breathes, thinking what creature could be lurking in the jungle.
“I am sorry I frightened you, I was just checking the surroundings for any predators”, Dosim apologized. After finishing dinner, they turned in for the night, but Exl kept her guard in case something would happen.
In the morning, the troupe had a quick breakfast and continued their way to the temple. Exl wanted to see if Dosim knew anything special about the temple or the statue.
“Dosim, what can you tell us about the curse?”, she asked. Dosim looked at Exl with a slightly deceitful look and told:
“The curse was cast by the wizard before he died, his planted some of his powers into the jewels and placed the jewels in the hands of statue that portrayed him. The myth says that before someone is cursed, a weird sound of some kind is heard, a colorful light flashes and then someone is cursed. But cursed how, I don't have any idea.” Exl decided this was important to know, in case something would happen.
Then they arrived at a bridge crossing over a large raging river. Xena told Gabrielle and Exl to go first, then Autolycus and Dosim and she would go last. Gabrielle and Exl started crossing and half way across, a board broke and Gabrielle nearly fell, but luckily Exl was there to grab Gabrielle's hand.
“Thanks Exl”, Gabrielle said holding to Exl's hand.
“No problem, let's get you up”, Exl answered and pulled Gabrielle up. Xena was glad Exl was there for Gabrielle. After getting across, Exl and Gabrielle waited for the others. Dosim and Autolycus started to cross and soon they were safely on the other side. Only Xena was left to cross, she began to cross the wobbly bridge.
On the other side, Gabrielle turned to look behind them to see if she could see the temple anywhere. But the only thing she saw, was a vast jungle. She turned to look at Xena, who was nearly across. When Xena was about to take her last step to get on firm land, she saw a flash of bright light. So did Autolycus, Dosim and Exl. A loud, screaming noise was also heard. But Gabrielle saw a red flash of some kind. When the flash had gone, Gabrielle was nowhere to be seen, only her bag and her staff were there were she had been standing before. Xena jumped next to Exl and asked:
“Where is Gabrielle?” Exl looked at the worried Xena saying:
“I don't know, she was right here before that flash and when it flashed, I think I saw Gabrielle disappear into those bushes. But I'm not certain, the flash was so bright.” Xena felt her heart start beating faster, where had Gabrielle vanished? Autolycus looked up and saw a eagle circling above them. He pointed at the giant bird and said:
“Xena, look, up there!” The eagle stopped circling and started to dive towards the troupe. Dosim took his knife from his belt and was about to strike the bird, but Exl was able to stop him. She pushed him over and was taken down by the giant eagle. Xena took her chakram and was about to throw it when Exl shouted:
The eagle was standing above Exl looking at her. Exl looked at the eagle and immediately noticed this wasn't any ordinary eagle. It was much bigger than a normal eagle, it was bigger than Exl. Eagles are usually dark-colored, but this one was very light, almost blond. And the eyes, usually the eyes of birds of prey are brown and dark, but the eyes of this eagle, they were a very familiar emerald green!
Exl realized something that made her heart jump up her throat, and she whispered to Xena:
“Xena, come here, very slowly.” Xena didn't understand, but trusted Exl and started approaching the eagle and Exl slowly. When she was next to Exl, the eagle took a step back and Exl was able rise. Exl pointed at the eagle and said to Xena:
“Xena, do you notice something strange about this bird?” Xena looked at Exl, then at the giant bird and said:
“Apart from the matter that it didn't rip you into pieces? Well it is a lot bigger than eagles usually are. And it's very…light-colored.” There was something very peculiar about this bird, but the idea just didn't strike Xena. Exl couldn't believe her eyes and ears, the great Warrior Princess really didn't see her point.
“Yes you are right. But isn't there something familiar about this eagle? Look at its eyes”, Exl advised Xena. Xena stepped closer to the eagle and looked into its eyes. The moment she saw them, she felt the sense of peace and love she always felt when looking into Gabrielle's eyes. All pieces clicked! The size, the light color, the green eyes… Xena could only say one thing:
“Gabrielle…” The eagle looked into Xena's eyes and Xena could hear a voice inside her mind say:
“Xena, I'm here.” Xena almost started to cry realizing the eagle was Gabrielle. Exl walked next to Xena and put her hand on Xena's shoulder, gave it a rub and said:
“Xena, I'm sorry.” Exl then put her hand on Gabrielle's shoulder and said:
“Don't worry Gabrielle, we'll find a way to fix this. I promise.” The eagle-Gabrielle rubbed her forehead on Exl shoulder and Exl gave Gabrielle a hug. Then Gabrielle put her head on Xena's shoulder to show she was alright and trying to comfort her wife.
“Oh Gabrielle, I was so worried when you disappeared like that. If it's the last thing I do, I'll turn you back to your old self. I wish you could understand”, Xena said giving Gabrielle a great hug. Not even having her be turned into a large bird of prey could make Xena love her beloved bard any less. Gabrielle looked at Autolycus and Dosim, who had been staring at the event gasping for air. Autolycus said:
“I'm sorry Gabrielle, we shouldn't have come here, this is my fault.” Xena turned to Autolycus and said:
“Autolycus, we have to get to that temple, there can be something to help Gabrielle. Let's continue, Dosim lead the way.”
Dosim said they were nearly at the temple, when Xena pulled Exl aside and said:
“Exl, something doesn't seem right, if something happens to me, I want you to help Gabrielle turn back to normal. Keep her safe.” Exl said to Xena:
“Xena, that is exactly what I vowed to do for the rest of my life. I will never let anything happen to Gabrielle or to you, I'd give my life protecting yours. Xena, I want you to do something for me if… I‘m cursed. If I turn into something dangerous and I'm about to hurt someone, I want you to…” Xena shook her head and said:
“I'm not going hurt you or going to let you hurt anyone, I know everything will be okay.”
Dosim interrupted the conversation informing:
“We have arrived.” They walked up the stairs to the temple and started opening the door, it was hard to move. Finally they had opened the door and entered the temple. They saw skeletons, lots of them on the floor and at the very far end of the hall, they saw a large stone tablet.
Autolycus was about to step into the rays of sunlight that shined from the opening in the ceiling, but Xena stopped him.
“This might be a trap”, she said and took her chakram. She threw her chakram threw the rays of light and when the chakram was in the light, two giant blades swinged from opposite sides of the ceiling and made it clear why there were all the skeletons on the floor. Xena caught her chakram and turned to Autolycus. Autolycus looked at Xena and asked:
“Well Xena, what do you have in mind? How do we get across?”
Xena looked at Exl and pointed at the ropes holding the blades. Exl knew what Xena meant, she took a few of her throwing stars and threw them at the ropes. The stars neatly sliced the ropes and the blades fell to the ground with a great bang. Xena smiled and said:
“Great job Exl.” She took a step into the light and seeing everything was safe, she signaled everyone to follow her.
They made it to the stone tablet and Xena began to read:
“Beware, this place is cursed. Anyone who goes further is in grave danger. The sacred jewels hold great powers and are not to be taken from here.” Autolycus said:
“We have to get this emerald where it belongs, no matter what.” Dosim said surprised:
“You have the sacred emerald? Do you know how much danger you are in possessing that?”
“Yes, my friend has been cursed and I am going to make things right again”, Autolycus said and turned to Exl and Xena.
They opened the door behind the tablet and entered. Next to wall there was a row of stone soldiers. There was about 20 of them and they looked fierce. The troupe looked at them thanking the gods they were only made from stone. Just as they were at the next door, Dosim stepped on a stone and it gave in. Suddenly the soldiers opened their eyes and moved. Turning to face the frightening statues, Exl and Xena drew their weapons and started fighting the soldiers. Autolycus and Dosim tried to open the door, but it was too heavy for them to move by themselves and it seemed to be locked.
“Xena, we can't open the door!”, Autolycus shouted.
“Find something to open it and hurry!”, Xena shouted back facing two soldiers at once. They were easy to defeat except the largest one, it appeared to be the leader. Exl was about to strike it when a smaller soldier pushed her down in front the leader. The soldier was about to impale Exl with its sword, when Gabrielle came in the room from the opening in the ceiling and taking hold of the soldier's shoulder's with her claws.
“Thanks Gabrielle”, Exl said and gave the soldier a fierce kick breaking it into pieces. The moment the last soldier was defeated, the sound of a lock opening was heard from the door and Exl and Xena helped Autolycus and Dosim push the door open. Gabrielle swooped back up to the sky from the opening into the sky.
The next room was smaller than the previous one and had another stone tablet at the far end of it. They walked to it and Xena read:
“You have disobeyed the warnings and now you must pay the price. You will not be warned again, return while you still have the chance. If you go further, you are to make a sacrifice. Only making a true sacrifice will help you make it further.” On the door, there was an empty hand imprint to put one's hand in and unlock the door. Autolycus stepped forth and said:
“I'll go first. If something happens to me, you can still go on and help Gabrielle.” Xena stopped him and said:
“No, Gabrielle wouldn't want anyone else get hurt.” Exl walked to the door and said:
“I'll go. Xena, you and Autolycus can still help Gabrielle and return the jewel.”
Xena took hold of Exl's upper arms and said:
“Exl, I'm not going to lose you like I lost Gabrielle.” Exl took Xena's hands to her own and said looking deep into the warrior's eyes.
“Xena, I will sacrifice myself to help Gabrielle. You haven't lost her and you're not going to lose me. I'll be okay.” Xena's heart felt heavy, but she knew Exl wouldn't let Xena sacrifice herself. Exl put her hand in the empty hand imprint.
The door opened slightly and Exl stepped in. When the others tried to follow her, the door closed and wouldn't budge. All they saw was a flash of bright light and heard the screaming sound they had heard before. A second or two passed and the door opened.
Exl's axes were laying on the floor and nothing else. Xena picked up the axes and said:
“Exl…” She looked up and saw another opening in the ceiling. Gabrielle was circling in the sky and when she saw Xena, she flew to the edge of the opening and watched her wife who was nearly in tears. Xena closed her eyes and heard a voice inside her say:
“Xena, Exl is safe.” The sound of growling beasts made Xena draw her sword. Four wolves emerged from the darkness and started approaching the rest of the troupe. They were dark and looked very hungry. When one of the wolves was only a few feet from Xena, something pounced it and made it take a few steps back. The creature that saved Xena was also a wolf, but smaller than the others and it's fur wasn't grey, but a light shade of brown. The bigger wolves started circling the smaller one and one after another they tried to attack it, but with a few agile moves, bites and strikes of a paw, only the largest, darkest wolf was left facing its smaller opponent. The smaller wolf pounced and was able to bite the bigger wolf in the neck making the larger one fall.
As the winner of this battle, with the small wolf was about to turn to Xena, when the nearly dead opponent clawed the left front leg of the brown wolf and it took it‘s final breath. The smaller wolf winched and took a few running steps before falling to the ground, being injured. Xena had been watching the battle with sensing something very familiar about the brown wolf. After it fell to the ground, Xena ran to it, kneeled beside it and stroked its head. The words just came from her mouth like a reflex:
“Exl?” The small wolf opened its eyes and looking into them, Xena felt a wave of relief and fear sweep over her. Seeing the blue-green eyes and the scar over the left eye confirmed that this truly was Xena's and Gabrielle's young Guardian. Exl had sacrificed herself to be turned into a wolf so Xena, Autolycus and Dosim may go further and then protected them from the wolves' attack. A calm voice inside Xena said:
“Xena, I'm okay. I didn't want you getting hurt…” Autolycus kneeled next to Xena and Exl and looked into Exl's eyes.
“Exl… why do all my friends keep turning into wild animals?”, Autolycus said to Xena. Xena took a bandage from Gabrielle's bag and wrapped it around Exl's injured leg.
“We must go on, it's the only way we can help Gabrielle and Exl”, Xena said rising up. Exl carefully rose and took a few cautious steps towards the door, walking did hurt a bit, but she had been injured worse before.
Xena and Autolycus pushed the door open and they entered a big room, and seeing an opening Xena whistled and Gabrielle came down to the room and faced Xena. Gabrielle noticed the wolf near Xena and took a step back. Xena walked to Gabrielle saying:
“It's okay Gabrielle. Exl sacrificed herself to help us help you and she was turned into a wolf. I feel so alone, even though I know you are here with me.” Exl came to Xena's side and looked into Gabrielle's eyes. Gabrielle touched Exl's head lightly with her wing and Xena saw a tear fall from Gabrielle's eye.
“Everything will be okay, I promise. I won't let you stay like this”, Xena said and patted Exl on the head and Gabrielle on the shoulder. This family would always stay together, in human or animal form. Dosim had walked to the next stone tablet and read it. He then called Xena and Autolycus to come and read the tablet. Xena read:
“You have truly made a great sacrifice to come this far. Beyond this door you will find what you are looking for. But remember, what you want may not be what you really want.”
They opened the door and stepped into the room. Finally they had found it, the statue of the wizard. It was made of gold and in its left hand was the large ruby and the right hand was empty. Autolycus took the emerald and said:
“This if for you my friends.” Before he could take a step, Dosim had ran to the statue and was now trying to get the ruby.
“Dosim what are you doing?” Xena shouted, with Gabrielle and Exl by her side.
“You really haven't heard the entire myth have you? Well let me tell you”, Dosim said taking the ruby.
“The wizard did plant some of his powers to these sacred jewels. Into the ruby, he planted the power of transformation and some of his evil energy and into the emerald the power of healing and some of his good energy. When the statue is only holding one of the jewels, those who approach and enter the temple are cursed by its powers. If it is holding the ruby, it can turn people into animals for example. The people who have vanished coming here have just been turned into animals. If the statue would be holding the emerald, it would heal those who enter and turn them back to their own selves. When the warlord stole the emerald, he unleashed the curse of the ruby. But there is more. If both jewels are taken and joined together, they give the one holding it the power of invincibility and all the energy inside them. You helped me get here and pass all the traps and obstacles. Now all I need is the emerald, hand it over, Autolycus.” Autolycus held on tightly to the emerald and said:
“No. I came all this way to return it where it belongs, I am not going to let you take it and make yourself invincible.” Dosim took his knife and said:
“Then I'll take it from your cold, dead fingers” and tried to attack Autolycus but was blocked by Xena, Exl and Gabrielle.
“Sorry Dosim, but you'll have to get through us first”, Xena said with her sword drawn, and her family was standing in front of her ready to fight. Dosim attacked Xena, trying to stab her but didn't succeed. He was soon on his back on the floor and a growling wolf and a screaming eagle were keeping him on the ground. Xena grabbed the ruby and threw it to Autolycus and said:
“Autolycus, put the ruby back in its place. Quickly!” Autolycus did as he was told, and when he had placed the ruby in the hand of the statue, it looked like the statue had squeezed the jewel tighter in its grip. Dosim shouted:
“No!!” and kicked Exl and Gabrielle away from him and tried to jump Autolycus, but was outrun by Exl who pounced him and made him fall to the ground. Dosim remembered Exl's injury, so he grasped Exl's injured leg and gave a tight squeeze. Exl growled from pain and had to let go of Dosim. Dosim grabbed the emerald Autolycus had dropped and was going for the ruby, when Gabrielle and Xena surprised him. Gabrielle took hold of Dosim's shoulders and Xena gave him a good punch in the face. Dosim dropped the emerald that rolled out of everyone's reach. When Dosim got punched, Gabrielle was able to push Xena away from him so she wouldn't get knocked over. Xena rushed to Autolycus and asked were the emerald was, but Autolycus didn't know. Dosim tumbled at the statue and touched the hand that was holding the ruby. The ruby flashed brightly and it emitted a bright flash of red and the flash hit those in its way, Dosim, Gabrielle and Exl. They all fell to ground, and while Gabrielle and Exl were just laying there, Dosim could feel his life being sucked out of him. Dosim's evil heart had attracted the ruby's evil energy and killed him.
Gabrielle and Exl were still alive, but for how long? While Autolycus went and got the emerald and put it in its rightful place, Xena rushed to Gabrielle's and Exl's side and tried to figure out what she could do to save her family. Exl and Gabrielle slightly opened their eyes and Gabrielle clearly said:
“Xena, I love you, I always have and I always will…” Xena stroked Gabrielle's soft feathery head and said:
“Gabrielle, you can't leave me. I love you.“ Then Exl said:
“Xena, I'm sorry, I failed. I tried to do my best… will you forgive me?” Xena stroked Exl's head softly and said:
“There is nothing to forgive, I don't want to lose you, either of you. I love you.” Then Exl and Gabrielle cried a single tear and closed their eyes. They stopped breathing, they were gone.
“No… please no…”, Xena said quietly and felt tears falling from her eyes to her palms. Autolycus came to Xena and said he was very sorry.
Xena placed one hand on Exl's and one hand on Gabrielle's cheek, trying to keep herself calm. Then the jewels in the statue's hands started flashing and a bright flash of green and red filled the room. Something strange was happening, Xena could feel the soft fur and feathers disappear from under her hands and were replaced with the soft cheeks of her wife and their Guardian. When the flash was gone, Xena and Autolycus could see Gabrielle and Exl in their own human forms, but they weren't breathing. Having an idea, Autolycus went and touched the hands holding the jewels and another bright flash filled the room. Now Xena could hear the shallow breathing of her loved ones.
Gabrielle quickly sat up and gasped for air, and feeling relieved Xena hugged her wife tightly. Exl also sat up, gasped for air and held her aching hand. Xena pulled Exl to the same embrace as Gabrielle and kissed both women on the cheeks several times.
“Gabrielle… Exl… you're alive, I thought I lost you”, Xena said feeling so overwhelmed by the reviving of her loved ones.
“Xena, you can't get rid of us that easy”, Exl said smiling. Autolycus was happy to see his friends alive and well. Then he turned to the statue and saw a stone tablet in front of the statue that wasn't there before. He told his friends to come and see the tablet. All four stood in front of the tablet and Gabrielle read:
“You have returned the sacred jewels to where they belong, you have earned the treasure. You will find it underneath the statue, but remember that not everything that shines and gleams is gold and there are more important things in life than all the riches you may possess. I learned it the hard way. My wasted my life trying to become the greatest wizard this world has ever seen, but something was missing and when I figured out what it was, it was too late. The greatest strength you can have is love and your family. Nothing in this world has greater power than love and those who love and are loved are the strongest.”
Exl looked under the statue and saw how the gold coins and jewelry and diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires and pearls shined in the sunlight. Autolycus kneeled in front of the statue and took a great handful of treasure to look at.
“Good for you Autolycus, you found the treasure. It‘s yours, you have earned it”, Xena said holding Gabrielle in a warm tight embrace in one arm and holding her other hand on Exl‘s shoulder. Autolycus looked at the treasure he was holding, then turned to look at his friends who seemed so happy being together again and he dropped the jewels and gold back where he had taken them.
“Autolycus, was is it? Aren‘t you going to take your share of the treasure?”, Exl asked noticing what Autolycus had done. He stood up and said:
“No. I understand what the wizard meant. He had all the riches he could want, but he was still unhappy because he had forgotten his family and those he loved because of it. Remember what was written on one of the tablets: “what you want may not be what you really want.” First I wanted the treasure, but seeing you hurt, what I really wanted was to get you back and your family back together. Your love for each other brought you back to life. My friends are much more important to me than any treasure in this world.” Exl walked to Autolycus and smiled.
“Thank you Autolycus for helping us”, she said and gave him a nudge on the shoulder.
“For you my friends, anything”, Autolycus answered smiling.
The troupe left the temple and when they reached the harbor, they heard that some of those who had disappeared on their way to the temple had returned home.
The curse had been broken and they turned back to their human forms. At the harbor Autolycus said:
“It was nice seeing you but I must go. I have a friend I must visit, he had been missing for years, but apparently he had gone to find the temple and been cursed on his way there. He came home and invited me to visit as a thank you for braking the curse.”
“It was nice seeing you Autolycus, I hope we meet again soon”, Xena said and offered her forearm to Autolycus. He grasped it and smiled. Exl said:
“See you soon Autolycus.” Autolycus ruffled Exl's hair and said:
“It was truly fun meeting you, young warrior.” Then Autolycus turned to Gabrielle and said: “Gabrielle, take care of these two warriors of yours.”
“I promise. Good bye Autolycus”, Gabrielle answered. After Autolycus had left, Xena, Gabrielle and Exl got board the ship that would take them back to mainland Greece . Going into their cabin, Exl was carrying a heavy bag.
“Exl, what do you have in that bag?” Gabrielle asked. Exl opened it and they saw she had taken some of the treasure from the temple.
“Exl, you took some of the treasure?”, Xena said.
“Only my share, and I took enough to share with you. Even though Autolycus didn't want it, I thought I could take some of it for us. This was your honeymoon and what is a honeymoon trip without souvenirs?”, Exl said with a cunning wink.
“What about Autolycus?” Gabrielle asked.
“Don't worry, once he opens his bag, he'll find a nice surprise I left him”, Exl answered pouring the contents of her back to the table.
All the gold and jewels were shared and before turning in for the night Xena asked Exl:
“Exl, when you entered the room and you were turned into a wolf, weren't you afraid?” Exl smiled looking at Xena. She said:
“No, I knew I had to help Gabrielle and I couldn't let you go. From the very beginning, something about Dosim didn't seem quite right. I knew if I'd be turned into something, you could still take on Dosim if needed. When I stepped into that dark room and before the flash, I remembered an old text that is about faith in our God: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” In my mind I changed it a bit so it is about faith in family and in love. “Even though I walk through the valley of shadows and death, I fear nothing, for you are always with me. Your heart and your love, they protect me.” Xena had never heard anything that beautiful be said about her family before. That would be something she would never forget and in times of distress and fear, she could always remember this wisdom and feel thankful for her loving family. Once again they had proved that with the help of family and friends, anything and everything is possible.
End of “The Island of the cursed”
The series will continue in: “Warrior… Queen… Lackey…”
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