Characters from Xena: Warrior Princess are property of MCA/Universal/Renaissance. No copyright infringement is intended. This is a work of alternative fan fiction. No profit will be gained from its production. This piece of fiction is copyright of the author.

There are depictions of love/sex between consenting adult persons of the same gender. If this is illegal where you live, you are underage, or the idea ties your intestines in a knot (eww...that's a thought), then stop reading here and find something more appropriate to your tastes and/or laws.

Uh...bad words...yeah. There are a few minor ones. There are depictions of violence in the following story (why bother with this disclaimer? This is Xena...there is bound to be a little hurting dished out) <Post-Edit Disclaimer>>>Now that I've finished this story, I suppose it does get a little gory towards the end, so be warned.

Thank you for taking the time to read the stuff above, and hopefully, the stuff below. Author's Note:

I really enjoyed writing "The Way of the Wolf," so I thought that I would see what happened after Wolf recovered at the Amazon village. It would probably be a good idea to read that story first so that you have something of a background idea in regards to this story.

Also, I'm not exactly sure about the term "demi-god" used for a woman. Every definition I found listed its meaning as a 'man who is half-god,' and I was unable to find a correlating term for a woman who was half-god(dess), so I use the term freely here the way that I want to because...well...it's my story, damnit!

This is a sequel in The Way of Life Series, which follows The Way of Love and The Way of the Wolf.

Comments can be sent to ztami@hotmail.com

The Way of the Amazon

by TZ Copyright April 1st, 1998

Gabrielle stretched contently and patted her stomach. Nothing better than a comfortable bed and good food, she thought, except maybe the beautiful warrior that had fed her in that same bed this morning. Xena had just left to return their breakfast tray to her mother's kitchen, and the bard was already missing her. The past moon or so had been really hectic, leaving little time for the two of them to be alone, to continue mending the rift in their relationship.

After they had left Wolf at Amazonia, well on her way to recovery, they had taken their time travelling to Amphipolis. Those days and nights (oh...the nights, she thought with a sly grin) had been fairly uneventful. Unless, of course, one counted the occasional band of brigands that always seemed to fall into the dark path of the Warrior Princess. With nary a bruise, however, the two of them were greeted by Cyrene with open arms and an invitation to stay for as long as they liked.

The blond woman sighed when she knew in her heart that it was time to move on. Her warrior was sending out subtle, and some not-so-subtle, signs that she was getting restless. The bard's eyes found the marks on their room's door where Xena had been throwing her daggers last night.

"Practicing," she had said.

If she had practiced any more, Gabrielle thought, they would have given the good citizens of Amphipolis quite a show, for the barrier would have been whittled to nothing. It was a good thing that one insatiable bard had taken it upon herself to help the warrior release some of her nervous energy.

As if on cue, Xena pushed open the door with a heavy foot and strode into the room, her arms full of packages. "You still in bed?"

The bard stretched once more for the sensual effect and purred, "Just waiting for you, love."

The warrior studied her lover with unnerving intensity for a moment, and then shook her head to clear her thoughts. "Don't even think of going there, Gabrielle. You know Mom asked that we...ah...restrain ourselves while there are patrons in the common room."

Pulling a pillow over her face to hide a mortified blush, Gabrielle remembered all too clearly the faces they had met after one energetic impromptu lovemaking session. The men and women who had been deep in conversation over their lunches, had gone silent and had stared at them as they walked down the stairs of the inn. With a steely glance from the warrior, however, they had resumed their table talk in hushed tones. Only afterwards had Cyrene pulled them aside and had warned them in blunt terms that they either learn to play quietly or not at all during the meal times. Even Xena had blushed at the reprimand.

Gabrielle pulled the pillow away from her face when she felt the warrior settle her lanky frame on the edge of the bed. The restless woman seemed lost in thought, plucking at a loose thread on her leathers. "What's all that," the bard asked, pointing to the bundles that Xena had brought into the room.

The warrior braced herself for the protests she knew would be forthcoming. "Mom packed us some food for the road."

Laying a gentle touch to still the movements of the warrior's hand, Gabrielle caught her attention. "I figured we'd be leaving soon. You've been going crazy, haven't you?"

Xena nodded as she entwined their fingers together. "You don't mind do you," she asked, once more surprised at her lover's understanding. "I know how much you love it here."

"No I don't mind, and yes, I do love it here, but...." Gabrielle searched the endless blue depths of her warrior's eyes. There was something more there than just nervous energy lending fire to their brilliant color, and worry was starting to etch fine lines on her brow. "You're thinking about Wolf?"

"Yeah," the dark woman answered. "I know she was doing fine physically...."

"But you worry about how she is...her mind...after Dahok."

Xena grinned at the small woman. "When were you able to see through me, Gabrielle?"

"When you let me into your heart, woman."

Claiming her lover's lips in a gentle affirmation, the warrior sighed at the warmth that had found its way back into their relationship. "I love you, my sweet, beautiful wife," she claimed between nibbles on the bard's lower lip.

Gabrielle put a stilling hand on the warrior's chest. "Xena, if you want to leave anytime soon, I suggest that we stop this...mmm...and uh...Xena...."

After one last passionate kiss, the warrior conceded to her protests. Clearing her throat, she stood to put distance between the two of them. "I'll...uh...go saddle Argo and tie the packs while you get dressed."

The bard chuckled at the awkward, hasty retreat that took the warrior out of the room. With a final mumble about nothing in particular, to no one who could hear, the small woman crawled out of bed and stripped off her sleeping shift. Hard, uncomfortable ground, here I come, she thought. Mentally, she calculated how long it would take them to get back to the Amazon village and the soft bed that belonged to the Queen of the Nation.

By the time that the she had washed up and donned her traveling clothes, Xena and Cyrene had said their farewells and were standing in the shade outside of the inn, waiting for her to join them. She smiled, warmed to her heart, when Xena's mom kissed her forehead affectionately and bade them to return the next time they were traveling in the area. The bard thanked the innkeeper for the food that would surely last them until they made their way back to Wolf.

Waving a final good-bye over her shoulder, the bard fell into the comfortable rhythm of life with her princess. Automatically, her feet followed one another, her staff punctuating each step, as she allowed her eyes to take in the details that sprang to life around them. It was Wolf who had explained to Gabrielle what it was like to be aware of every living thing that breathed (and sometimes didn't), and the bard concentrated on nothing, letting the air carry to her what it would.

She couldn't begin to understand how the demi-god was not insane with the intensity of it all. She herself was overwhelmed by the myriad of sights, sounds, and smells that assaulted her when she opened her senses, allowing herself to experience it all at once. Shrugging mentally, Gabrielle relaxed and began to think aloud, mumbling as she followed in the shadow of the horse and rider that were her constant companions.

The bard began to shape a story about their last adventure, one full of gods, demi-gods, heroes, and the eternal battle of good versus evil. As a last thought before she lost herself in the images her mind wanted to put to parchment, she prayed that Wolf had forgotten about her threat to take the bard for a ride.

Xena relaxed a bit when the bard began talking to herself. It was a sound that comforted her and reminded her that there was a light in her life, a blinding beacon that had guided her through some of her hardest battles. Then her thoughts began running along the same lines as her lover's, as she recalled the battle with the great evil, the demon who threatened everything they knew, their love, their friends, the good for which they fought so hard.

She hoped that Wolf was all right. Her old friend had been drained by the battle with her father. Using her gifts had exhausted her into a sleep that had lasted several days. Only Ephiny's assurances that she would be looked after, allowed them to leave. Wolf knew of her propensity to wander, and had insisted that she would be fine, and to leave before she was well enough to challenge the Warrior Princess to a friendly battle of arms.

And what fun that would be, thought Xena, as she remembered the skill in which Wolf had fought while in her human form. It would be good to see her again. A dark cloud briefly crossed the warrior's brow. She prayed for Wolf's spirit. It wasn't every day that one found out that they were the offspring of a demon that even the arrogant God of War feared.

The warrior was brought out of her musings by a gentle touch on her thigh. Looking down into the face of her lover, her mood lightened. "Want to ride?" At the bard's vigorous nod, she laughed. "Who would have thought that you might have actually grown to like this," she pondered aloud as she gave Gabrielle a lift behind her.

"Oh...if they only knew," she answered, snuggling into the warrior's back as she snaked her arms around a leather-clad waist in a trusting embrace.

Xena patted her arm and nudged Argo, following the road that would lead them up into the hills, towards Amazon territory.


Several days later and not meeting even one raider, brigand, warlord, or such, on the way (and the bard did wonder where they were keeping themselves), they came upon the first set of warning markers. Keening her senses as Xena and Wolf had shown her, she felt the posted sentries a second's hesitation after the warrior did. With casual movements, she adjusted her staff head and kept her stride even, confident of her safety among her own people. She listened as the Amazons passed word of their arrival, their bird calls singing through the tree tops.

By the time that they had passed through the second perimeter of signs, they were met by an escorting party, all capable warriors masked and armed. Not that she needed the protection, the bard thought, with one of the known world's best warriors at her side, but she didn't mind humoring them, as long as they didn't use her royal title.

The reception that greeted them was somewhat subdued, even though the Regent put on a good face, embracing the Queen with a wide smile. "Gabrielle, Xena...it's a surprise to see you back so soon."

Clasping arms with the blond woman, Xena shrugged. "Thought we'd see how things were going with Wolf," she explained.

Two pairs of eyes caught the almost imperceptible wince that creased the Regent's face. "Ephiny," the bard ask, gripping her friend's arm, "is Wolf all right? Where is she?"

The Amazon sighed and led them to the dining hall, signaling for a young warrior to settle Argo in the stables. "Where do I begin?"

After she had procured drinks for the three of them, she settled herself to Gabrielle's left at the Queen's table. "Things were fine after you left, at least until Ep returned from Garalis."

Remembering the skirmishes that the small village had been facing with a local warlord, Xena asked, "How'd it go there?"

Ephiny waved away their concerns. "Fine. Once Ep organized the warriors and a few night raids, the army left the valley. We shouldn't have any problems there for a while."

"So what happened when she got back," the Queen asked, taking a sip of the light wine.

"Well...let's just say that she and Wolf have trouble agreeing on anything. I guess it all started when Wolf had gone down to the practice field one morning and was giving some of the younger girls pointers. Eponin disagreed with her on some staff technique or something, and before anyone knew it...."

"They were trying to take each other's heads off," Gabrielle finished, scrubbing at the worry that was twitching on her face.

"Well at least they were using staffs," the dark warrior wryly offered.

The Amazon leaders shuddered at the thought of the two warriors facing off with blades. It would have definitely been a lot messier than the bumps and bruises the healers had dealt with that day.

"Since then...they are constantly at each other's throats. I have tried everything I could think of to get them to settle their differences," the Regent continued, "but they are so damned determined to kill each other, I swear by the Fates."

"So where are they now," Xena asked, hoping that Wolf hadn't been too rough on the Weaponsmaster.


Gabrielle choked on the liquid that had been making its way down her throat. "You sent them out...into the forest...alone...with sharp objects?" The bard gratefully squeezed her lover's thigh at the helping thump that cleared her coughing spasm.

Ephiny threw her hands into the air. "I couldn't stop them, Gabrielle. It's like they're two kids trying to outdo one another."

Gabrielle's retort was cut short by angry shouting outside in the square. Three bodies rushed to see what had disturbed the still quiet. Three bodies stopped dead in their tracks when they found the source of commotion.

Amazon warriors, always so fierce in battle, had nervously cleared out of the way for the two women who were circling each other, shouting obscenities for all the gods to hear. Xena put a restraining hand on her companions' shoulders and shook her head. "I want to see what happens," she explained. When Gabrielle and Ephiny stood down, she watched the arguing couple, ready to jump in if things got out of hand.

Wolf was a mess. Her long brown braid, normally so neat, was bedraggled, tendrils of matted hair fell around her shoulders. Her face was streaked with mud and dried blood from a small cut above her eye. Eponin wasn't much of a better sight. Her leather top was ripped and hanging loosely off one shoulder, her legs covered in forest debris to her knees. The two women's voices lowered to growls as they stopped and faced each other, flinging insults at one another.


"You could have told me it was there!"

"How could you miss it?"

"Well, not everyone has super senses!"

"You couldn't see centaur shit if you were eating it!"

When Eponin moved to unsheathe her sword, Xena stepped forward. "All right, enough, both of you," she warned in a voice that was intense for all its low volume.

The combatants chanced one last glare at each other before turning to face the Queen's Consort. "It's all her fault," they cried in unison, hands going to weapons once again as they turned to face each other.

Xena stepped between them and put a restraining hand to each of their chests. "All right, now. One at a time...what happened?"

Wolf caught her breath first and offered her side of the story. "We were fine...just on a little hunt...and this one here...hit a live snare and got us both netted!"

"Well if you weren't walking around cocking your head like a damn dummy bird, maybe I would have seen the trigger!"

The warrior held up a hand to still any further interruptions from the Amazon. "And?"

"She thought it would be best to cut the net," Wolf explained. "We fell," she finished through gritted teeth.

Xena looked to Eponin for confirmation. When the Weaponsmaster shrugged without argument, the warrior let them go. "Why don't both of go get cleaned up and cool down. Your Queen and Regent are half out of their wits by now."

The Warrior Princess was not a woman that either wanted to defy. Like two children, they hung their heads and apologized for the scene that they had created. Walking in opposite directions, they retired to their huts.

When Xena returned to her lover's side, she couldn't help the smirk that shaped her mouth. "Great to be Queen, huh?"

Ephiny fairly wailed in frustration. "What am I going to do, Xena?"

"You mean, what are we going to do," the Queen corrected, gently grasping her Regent's arm in a show of support. Tilting her head to the tall warrior at her side, she raised a questioning brow.

"I'll talk to Wolf," Xena conceded.

The blond warrior nodded, more confident now that she had some council in the matter. "I'll talk to Eponin."

Gabrielle looked between the two of them and shrugged. "I guess I'll go to our hut and get things settled in, then." From the looks of the anger that had flowed between the two warriors, they might be here a while, she thought, almost feeling guilty at the small consolation the Queen's bed would provide.

Kissing the bard's brow, Xena left to question her old friend. For Gabrielle's and Ephiny's sakes, she would find a way for the two rivals to at least be civil towards each other. Without knocking, she entered the guest hut that had been afforded Wolf.

Wolf, who was bent over at the waist, trying to unbraid her hair, didn't even look up at the warrior. She knew Xena's scent immediately, the combination of leather, metal, sweat, and...bard. "Did you come here to talk to me like a child some more, or will I have the luxury of an adult conversation?"

Xena crossed her arms and leaned against the support post in the middle of the single room. "Sarcasm doesn't suit you, Wolf."

"Damn," she swore when she managed to tangle the leather strip that was wound through her hair, holding it in place.

"Here," the warrior offered, "let me do that."

Wolf grabbed a chair and straddled it, her forehead resting on the back support as the tall warrior patiently, with nimble fingers, released her hair from its constraints. Running her fingers through her hair, she sighed. "I know that I've been acting like a fool, Xena, but that woman just loves to piss me off, I swear." The small woman stood and crossed to the washbasin.

"She can be relentless," Xena conceded. "But that's what makes her a great warrior."

"I never said she wasn't," the small warrior replied as she filled the bowl with water and dipped a cloth to scrub the dirt from her body. "There are times, though, when I just want to carry her up to the clouds and drop her on her head. She is so obstinate and stubborn, and...." Wolf threw the wash linen into the bowl with a disgusted snort.


"This isn't doing me any good. I'm filthy."

Xena chuckled and put an arm around her friend's shoulders. "Why don't you gather what you need, and we'll go up to the baths."


"Yeah, she'll love one about now, too, I bet."

Without having to be told twice, Wolf gathered a set of clothes, her soap, and a drying linen, and followed the warrior out the door. Along the way, they collected one grateful bard, and were deep into a comfortable banter before they reached the short path that led to the public bathing area.

When they crested the hill, though, Wolf stopped dead in her tracks, a feral snarl escaping from between her clenched teeth. "What are you doing here," she asked, conveniently ignoring the Regent who had been in deep conversation with the object of her derision.

Eponin's mouth set in a grim, determined line as she moved to rise from her seat.

Ephiny's hand shot up to catch her shoulder. Flashing a pleading look to Xena, she eased the angry Amazon back into the pool.

Xena turned to Wolf, blocking her line of sight. "Please, Wolf, for Gabrielle, just behave, all right?"

The small warrior glanced over at the Queen and blushed. Nodding her head, she began to disrobe quietly, ignoring the dark-haired Amazon whose eyes were burning holes through her back.

Assured that Xena could handle the small woman, Gabrielle stole a look at Eponin, who had shrugged off Ephiny's restraint and was watching Wolf through hooded eyes. The Queen blinked once, then twice. No way, she thought, fighting the laughter that threatened to burst. She slapped herself mentally. *I'll be damned.*

Once they were ready to enter the bathing pool, Xena made sure to keep herself between Wolf and Eponin, only relaxing her vigilance when she was able to take a seat on a stone bench between her friend and her lover.

She turned her focus to Gabrielle when the bard nudged her discreetly under the cover of the water and tilted her head toward the glowering Amazon. The tall warrior tried to discern what the bard was silently telling her. What is...wait...there...oh, gods, no, she thought with a silent groan. She turned her head slowly and looked into the bard's green eyes for confirmation. Her eyes widened when the bard's brow rose. The Nation would never survive, she thought, chuckling quietly as if she had heard a private joke.

The bath was interrupted when an Amazon scout called for Ephiny. Clasping her arm to her chest, the woman kneeled. "Queen Ephiny," she began, and with a nod of her head, "Queen Gabrielle, there is a large group of Amazons on their way. Solari asked me to inform you. She said that it looks like the villagers of Garalis."

"What the...? I thought it was settled," the Regent asked, mumbling to herself. When the warrior at her side moved to leave the bath to meet the group, she laid a restraining hand on her shoulder. "No, you stay here and relax, and that's an order," she added when the warrior tried to mouth a protest.

"I'm going with you," Xena said as she helped Gabrielle from the pool.

"But what about...," the Queen asked, nudging her head towards the two women in the pool who refused to make eye contact.

"Let them kill themselves," the warrior deadpanned. At her lover's stricken look, she studied Wolf for the danger signs of an explosion. The small warrior was studying her hands, picking at some non-existent dirt under her nails. "They'll be fine," she promised. When she saw the look on the small woman's face as she studied covertly, the Amazon keeping her company, Xena's jaw fell. "Artemis help us," she muttered under her breath. Quickly she donned her leathers and caught up with the Queens who were practically trotting back to the village.

Left alone, the two women made a pretense of bathing, trying hard to ignore each other's presence. At Wolf's curse, Eponin hazarded a glance and grinned at the small woman's difficulty. When they had fallen out of the net, she had landed on a newly fallen tree. There must have been some sap on the wood, for her bathing companion was trying to pull apart the clumps that snarled her hair. Moving slowly to the opposite seat, behind the demi-god, Eponin took up some soap and reached out a tentative hand.

Wolf, preoccupied with her thoughts and her losing battle with the tree sap, didn't know that the Amazon was behind her until she felt the first touch against her scalp. She turned her head sharply and fixed the woman with a scowl.

"Come on, Wolf, just once, don't be so stubborn," Eponin pleaded. "Just let me help you with this, and then I'll leave you alone." She sighed when the small woman merely turned away. The Amazon chuckled in amusement at the tangled mess she began to scrub. "It is...kind of...my fault that you got sap in your hair."

Her shoulders slumping, Wolf's annoyance deflated at Eponin's wry humor. "Kind of," she agreed, leaning back into the strong fingers that massaged her scalp, sending slivers of pleasure along her nerve endings. As promised, once her hair was clean, Wolf felt the Amazon move to her side of the pool once more. She wasn't surprised by the feeling of loss, the chill that stole down her back at the warrior's absence.

She had known that it would be like this the first moment that she had sparred off with the dark-haired Weaponsmaster. The energy between them had been palpable, at least to Wolf it had been. What she couldn't figure out was, how to accept these feelings within herself, even after Lin Chi's advice, and whether or not the Amazon felt the same thing that happened whenever they got within a distance of each other. And for her, she acknowledged with a silent groan, the Amazon could be anywhere on the territory, and she would be able to sense her. Concentrating on her bath once more, Wolf finished not long after and silently dressed, leaving Eponin behind.

After the small warrior was out of sight, Eponin sighed and buried her head in her hands. Her fingers still tingled where they had massaged the woman's scalp. The feel of Wolf leaning into her touch, as if she enjoyed the sensual attention, had fueled a fire that had been smoldering ever since she had seen the small woman on the practice field, wielding a staff as if she had been born with one in her hands. If Wolf didn't kill her with those hands, she would eventually with the lust that she inspired within the Amazon's body.


When the four women, including the Queen and her Regent, reached the village square, a small escorting party was leading in a band of disheveled Amazons. Alarm ran through those watching as the party was brought up in the rear by two wagons carrying wounded.

The leader of the band, an older warrior with dark red hair, approached the Queen and knelt to a knee, saluting her. "I am Arna of Garalis. I offer my life to you and the Nation."

Gabrielle, uncomfortable with the subservient nature of the powerful woman before her, pleaded with her to rise. "You look hungry and tired. Why don't we get everyone some food," she said, indicating the way with a wave of her arm. "Ephiny would you please get some women to help with their wounded and take them to the infirmary?"

"Yes, Gabrielle."

The Queen nodded her head in thanks and led the weary Amazons to the dining hall. Cooks had already begun heating the afternoon leftovers that would hold them until dinner. The refugees sat quietly in small groups, devouring the food and wine that was set before them.

Arna, who was sitting with the Queen and Regent, made apologies for her people. "I'm sorry about our rudeness," she began. "We've been traveling non-stop for the past few days...there wasn't much time to eat," she explained.

Ephiny stared wide-eyed at the village leader. "From Garalis?" When the older woman nodded, the Regent whistled through her teeth. "That's a week's travel," she said aloud, clarifying the point for her Queen.

Gabrielle was following the conversation and concern etched deep lines around her grim mouth when she realized how hard the Amazons had pushed themselves to reach the capital. "Why were you traveling so hard, Arna?"

A vein in the warrior's temple began to throb as she remembered the events that had led to the evacuation of their village. After Gael's army had left the valley, they had celebrated, assuming that his absence meant safety. How wrong they had been. The warlord had merely pulled back, retreating into the hills to consolidate his power, and when the Amazon's were the most vulnerable (the morning after the party), his army attacked once again. Instead of engaging them in the valley that separated their territories, though, his army rode straight for the village, determined to eliminate every female in sight.

Normally, her Amazons were capable fighters, but with so many still feeling the effects of the strong wine, it had been a struggle not to lose every one of them. They had been able to hold Gael's army off long enough for his soldiers to take some serious injuries, which prompted the warlord to pull back once again.

When the smoke in the village had cleared, she had been left leading a handful of warriors able to fight, and three times that number unable. Conceding a temporary victory to the warlord, they had gathered what they would need, and with the wounded being cared for by their young healer, they had made their way south to Amazonia.

After the Amazon finished recounting the tragedy, the Queen leveled her gaze at her consort whose hard blue eyes were masked as the dark warrior processed the information. Gabrielle patiently waited until Xena was finished. "Xena?"

The warrior looked up from the mug into which she had been staring. Forcing her attention back to her present company, she replied, "I need to speak to Eponin first, Gabrielle."

The Queen nodded and announced that a meeting was to be held in two candlemarks in council chambers. "Until then, why don't we see about finding some lodging for our guests," she asked, easing the tension with a bright smile.

Arna nodded her gratitude and bowed her head in respect. "I thank you for your help in this matter, my Queen."

Gabrielle waved off the warrior's words. "There is no need to thank us. You are our sisters. And please, call me Gabrielle. Titles make my teeth itch," she explained, grinning to ease the warrior's formal manner.


Ephiny and Solari joined Gabrielle as they made arrangements for the Amazons of Garalis, double-bunking a few of their own warriors to make room. When Ephiny examined the final results, her brow rose several notches. "Are you sure you want to do this, Gabrielle?"

The Queen smiled enigmatically as she watched young girls move personal possessions from one hut to another. "Trust me with this one, Eph. I've got a feeling."

Yielding to the Queen's decision, the Regent shook her head. "You will explain that feeling when the both of them are unconscious in the healer's hut, won't you?"

Gabrielle's eyes widened at the Amazon's sarcasm. "Honestly, Ephiny, you've got to think positive." When the other woman grunted in response, the bard put an arm around her waist and guided her towards the meeting hut. "It's going to work out," she assured.


After speaking briefly with Eponin, Xena and the warrior went to the council chamber to study a map of the northern territory which included Garalis. After the Amazon had demonstrated the warlord's battle tactics, they discussed possible countermeasures to regain the Nation's land. By the time that they had come up with several plans, the Queen and her Regent had arrived. The two warriors outlined their options. When Arna and two of her lieutenants arrived, everyone was ready.

Wolf slipped into the hut behind the scribes who would record the meeting. She stood against the back wall, listening silently as Xena easily slipped into command mode.

One by one, the ex-warlord described for the displaced Amazons the options that were available to them. When the tall warrior finished, the Queen asked for the refugees' opinions on the merits and downfalls of each alternative.

During the next two hours, debate and discussion rebounded across the Council table. Wolf found her eyes straying often to Eponin who, in the process of drawing battle lines on a table map, exposed a generous view of delectable cleavage. Unwillingly, her mind began to play pictures of the Amazon writhing under her attentions.

Gabrielle, more than a little bored with the talk of battle strategies, let her attention focus on the woman standing across the room. She recognized the flame of desire that blazed in the small woman's eyes when Eponin leaned over the table to mark a position on the map. It hadn't been that long ago when she herself suffered from the same affliction.

Eponin had also been watching Wolf, although discreetly from under lowered lashes. Leaning over the map to explain part of a strategy to Arna, she glanced up again and inhaled sharply. Wolf, whose features had been distant whenever the Amazon's eyes had before focused in her direction, was devouring her breasts with hooded intensity. When her hands began to tremble, betraying her inner turmoil, the Amazon stepped back to her position behind Ephiny's left shoulder.

Quelling the urge to growl when the sweet visual treat moved from her line of sight, the demi-god shook her head to clear her illicit thoughts. When she was sure that she was able to control her reactions to the dark-haired Amazon, she raised her gaze once more. Her breath caught in her chest when she was trapped by sharp brown eyes. Wolf's own widened in surprise.

Remembering the warrior she craved with her mind and body, Gabrielle let half her mind stray on a lustful tangent, thinking of the powerful woman at her right. The other half was drawn to the soft gasp at her left where the Weaponsmaster had resumed her position behind the Regent.

The Amazon knew that passion was burning from every pore of her body. She could feel the heat of it suffusing her face. She unconsciously licked her lips which had become dry with her quickening breath. Everyone in the room fell away but the woman leaning against the back wall of the room.

Wolf couldn't breath, she was sure that the room had collapsed around her. The Amazon held her eyes, burned her with the energy that was emanating from her body. The demi-god could almost see the tendrils of need that snaked across the space between them. She felt them latching into her skin and drawing her closer to the Amazon warrior.

Surreptitiously, the bard watched the Amazon out of the corner of her eye and then shifted her gaze to Wolf. The moment that the two women connected had been a tangible thing, the sexual tension between the two warriors permeated the room.

She was suffocating. She was frantic. Wolf was sure that she being burned from within by the need that engulfed her entire being, the need to share her every desire with the woman who held her captive. Suddenly afraid that she was losing herself, she savagely pushed her baser, her heartfelt needs into the little dark hole that had formed recently in her soul. With a start that she hoped was not noticed by the entire room, Wolf tore her eyes from their captor and fled the hut.

Gabrielle was watching Eponin when a sudden movement drew her attention. When she looked around to find Wolf, the other woman was gone. The Queen turned her gaze fully to Eponin. The Amazon tried to school her features, but the hurt at the apparent rejection was evident in the tight set of her features. With a trembling hand, the Weaponsmaster pushed a stray hair behind her ear and turned her attention back to the words that passed between Xena and Arna. Gabrielle felt her heart break at the sadness that was clouding the Amazon's intense eyes.

The bard listened distractedly as the warriors decided on an acceptable plan and agreed to reconvene the next day after the midday meal. Her mental gears were busy churning, contriving a plan to get Eponin and Wolf together, and thereby bringing peace to the village, which was the Queen's priority, after all. She chided herself silently. She could claim a higher motive, but in reality, she just wanted the two women to realize a love that was obviously meant to be.


That evening, as everyone gathered for the evening meal, Gabrielle was unusually quiet. And whenever the bard was quiet, the Warrior Princess was worried. Xena knew that her lover took her responsibilities as Queen seriously, and it was in her basic nature to be concerned about the welfare of her Amazons. The warrior sneaked a hand under the table and gave the woman an assuring squeeze on her leg. "What's wrong, love," she whispered, ducking her head in an intimate gesture.

Gabrielle allowed herself to be lost in the intense gaze that captured hers. Within half a heartbeat she knew that she loved Xena with her total being. Theirs was an unbreakable bond, one that even the horrors conjured by the evil Dahok could not destroy. Even without Solon's help she knew that they would have worked things out. That's if they had survived the their fall over the cliff, she thought with a mental shrug. All that was in the past, though, and her future would have raven-black hair and ocean-blue eyes.

"Thinking about Wolf...and Eponin," she revealed. With soft touches she traced the long tapered fingers that were resting on the table before her. "You should have seen the look that passed between them today in the council hut. They really do feel something for each other besides the anger they think is there."

The warrior chuckled deep in her throat. "Oh, I saw it all right. Ep was really hurt when Wolf ran out."

"Yeah. Why do you think she did that, Xena? Why would she run from something that could be so good?"

Xena tore her eyes from the bard's and glanced down to watch the patterns that the blond woman was drawing along the top of her hand. "Wolf and I are a lot alike, Gabrielle. Maybe she just feels that...."

"She doesn't deserve it?"

The warrior nodded.

"That she thinks that she is truly evil deep in her heart, and that someday that evil might be unleashed, hurting the ones that she cares for?"

Xena fought back the tears that threatened. The Amazon dining hall was not the place to suffer a crying spell. Soft fingers lifted her moist eyes back to the bard.

"Xena, she has to know that no matter what, true love will always overcome any circumstances. I'm sure that Ep knows all about Wolf and her...situation. Gossip passes through this village faster than shi...."

The warrior had to grin as she held up a hand to halt the bard's descriptive language. "I get the idea, woman." She knew that Gabrielle was speaking not only of Wolf, but of her also. Her heart ached at the unconditional trust and love that her lover could convey in one look. *She still trusts and loves me even after everything that I've put her through*. Her smile lit half the hall with its brilliancy. "Maybe we should get a staff and beat it into her," she said, stealing a chaste kiss.

The Amazon Queen startled and then blushed at the unusual public display of affection. "They've already tried that," she reminded. "Could YOU talk to her, Xena?"

The warrior glanced over at Eponin who was picking at her food, scanning the crowd with an occasional glance, looking for Wolf, who was absent from the meal. She could almost hear the Amazon sigh when she realized that the small warrior was not in the hut. "Yeah, I'll go talk to her."

"Thank you, Xena. I really appreciate it."

Quirking a brow, the warrior turned to face the bard once again. "How about if you show me this evening just how much you appreciate it?"

Gabrielle's face glowed, betraying the fevered rush of adrenaline that fired through her blood when she realized what the promise would mean. She nodded her head mutely.

"I'll see you tonight, then," the warrior husked into her ear. "And you can leave your top on, to start with."

Without meaning to, the bard looked down at the russet garment that was part of her royal attire. She knew that Xena liked how it framed the swell of her breasts. She closed her eyes and imagined the texture of the warrior's tongue as it traced a wet path through her cleavage. When she opened her eyes, she caught her lover in a smoldering trap, burning her with the intensity of her desire. "I'll be there," she croaked, her throat dried suddenly from the heat that coursed through her veins.

Xena's nostrils flared and her eyes opened wide. The scent of the bard's arousal started a trickle of her own juices. She was prepared to give the known world's shortest pep talk just so she could fulfill the contract of love that had been sealed with the bard. "I'll be waiting," she responded, able to barely control the quiver in her voice. In her eagerness to complete her end of the bargain, Xena excused herself from the table and left to find her old friend.

"What was that all about," the Regent asked as the tall warrior made a hasty exit from the dining hall.

The bard smiled dreamily and idly stroked the tabletop. "Eph, let's just say that if things go the way I'd like them to, it is going to get really...interesting...around here."

The blond Amazon tried to decipher the mysterious tone of the Queen's statement but then dismissed the effort. "What do you think about the upcoming confrontation with Gael," she asked, pulling the bard effectively out of her daze.


Xena searched the village twice before she realized that Wolf was no longer there. A quick search in Eponin's hut had revealed that the demi-god had left her things, so chances were that she was prowling the forest, the warrior figured. After scouting the perimeter of the tree line, Xena found a set of fresh footprints, faintly discernable in the soft humus.

Sighing at the woman's reluctance to travel one of the cleared paths, Xena began pushing her way through the thick underbrush. Wolf's tracks were easy enough to follow, though, for she had not been hiding them deliberately, but hers was not exactly a straight path. Xena shook her head in frustration and wry humor. The demi-god was just wandering in a haphazard way, as if her mind were on other things besides where she was going.

When Xena crossed a well-worn trail, she stopped to get her bearings. The setting sun cast little light into the forest, and after a candle mark and a half, she wasn't sure exactly how far she had gone. She was still in Amazon territory, she mused, kneeling to trace a marking sign. She never heard the figure as it stepped onto the trail behind her.

Wolf watched as the tall warrior studied the grooves on the small boulder that marked the trail to the Amazon village. She had been following the warrior, wondering why Xena was out in the woods at this time of night. She cleared her throat discretely, jumping beyond the range of the sword that was drawn faster than a snake's strike. Wolf held her hands out and cocked her head. "What's up, Xena?"

The warrior narrowed her eyes as she replaced her weapon. "Out looking for you. What in Hades have you been doing out here? I've been tracking you for over a candlemark."

"Funny, that. I've been tracking you."


"Thought I smelled something...uh...funny, and I thought I would...uh...check it out."

Xena sucked in her cheeks. "Funny, huh?"

Wolf nodded as she reclined against a large tree. "Guess you were thinking about Gabrielle, hmm?"

Reminded of her purpose and the reward due upon her success, the warrior took a seat upon the rock she had been studying and steadied a gaze at her friend. "Wolf, we need to talk."

The small warrior, never one to doubt her former commander's serious tone of voice, crossed the path and sat in the dirt at the other woman's feet. "About?"


"What about me?"

Xena scratched her chin, trying to remember the arguments her heart had used against her brain when she had allowed the former to follow its course in loving her bard, and to accept the love that was returned. "I know how you feel about Eponin," she began without prelude. "What I don't understand is, why you fight with her. Why do you struggle against the feelings in your own heart?"

Wolf plucked at a pebble buried in the packed earth between her outstretched legs and shrugged. "She doesn't feel the same way."

The tall warrior rubbed at her temple, willing her impatience back into its lair. "Wolf, I saw what happened in the council hut. You know how she feels about you." When the other woman remained silent, she continued to press. "I know there's something else," she revealed. "Wolf, look at me."

Unable to disobey the warrior's stern tone of command, the small woman lifted her head.

The pain that Xena saw in her sad brown eyes, even in the fading light, made the tall warrior's heart clench. Had she looked like this before the bard had broken through her walls and defeated all her doubts?

"Look, I know what you're feeling. I've been there. Do you think that it was easy letting Gabrielle love me? As much as I felt for her, and the gods know how I fought against caring for her, I couldn't let her love me because I thought that I didn't deserve another person's heart. Not in the way that she offered hers."

Wolf chewed the inside of her mouth, not wanting to feel the pain, the desperate need to accept Eponin's love. "You know who I am, Xena," she whispered, her voice hoarse with emotion. "I am the child of a demon, an evil god. I may be fine now, but what if...."

Xena ran a finger along the scar on her friend's jaw. "All the 'what ifs' won't make the hurt go away. And I know it hurts, wanting to be so close to someone that you feel like you are being turned inside out." She took a breath to still her pounding heart. "And then to find someone who wants the same thing, to love you, to be inside of your heart and soul, no matter how tainted it may be. You can't believe that the pain will go away...that it just won't disappear if you allow yourself to take that risk of letting someone in."

"Oh, gods," the small woman cried in anguish. Allowing her tears to fall freely into her hands, Wolf sobbed. She felt strong arms lift and cradle her, rocking her until she was quiet enough to hear the incoherent murmurs of comfort. Sighing, she knew why Gabrielle liked this spot. It felt safe and warm.

Reluctantly, Wolf pulled herself out of Xena's arms and got to her feet, rubbing away the headache that her bawling had caused. She knew that the warrior's words were true.

Her own fears of what she perceived to be her inherent evil were nothing when compared to her friend's dark past. Xena had lived for over ten years letting blood wash over her, reveling in its violent course, in the fact that she had been the blade that had opened the fount. She knew that Xena still had nightmares, not to mention constant reminders, of her past as the 'Destroyer of Nations,' and that only the love of a gentle bard had more or less, kept her on a sane path the past three years.

Wolf snorted derisively at her own pitiful excuses for keeping Eponin at an arm's length, and a violent, angry distance it had been. All she had to compare with Xena's regrettable actions was the fact that a demon (that she had destroyed) had sired her. Surely, if Xena had found the courage to let someone that she loved beyond her own life, love her in return, even knowing that at one point her soul was blacker than the dankest depths of Tartarus, then, the demi-god thought, so can I.

Xena watched the young woman who had once been a skinny runt of a healer's apprentice in her army. With all her strength, skills, and god's-blooded gifts, she struggled against the one thing which she had no defenses - herself. She paced in the darkness, back and forth on the well-traveled path, the battle she fought evident in the expressions that contorted her features.

The tall warrior stretched her neck to release the tension that had taken hold. She could sense the sentries moving about in the trees above her, knowing that they were avoiding them discretely, perhaps fearful of the wrath of the little one, the anger that was foreign to the woman who was quick with a grin and a grain of dry humor. The disclosure of the demi-god's past had taken its toll on her spirit, her kind and gentle nature. Xena felt her heart go out to her friend.

She prayed to Artemis, Wolf's newfound patron goddess, that the young woman would find her way out of the darkness that had enslaved her soul. Without comment, she followed when the demi-god stopped her pacing and, as if making a decision, strode with purpose back to the village.

When they reached the edge of the forest, Wolf stopped and turned to her tall, and very wise, friend. "I want to thank you, Xena. You've...uh...helped me see things a little clearer." She scuffed her boot into the soft earth and apologized. "You must think that I'm a fool. What I've had to deal with is nothing compared to what you still live with. At least my demons are gone."

Xena shrugged off the woman's words. "Gabrielle gives me the courage to face mine. Love can do amazing things, Wolf. Let yourself be loved." Patting the small woman's cheek with a firm hand, the warrior continued. "And Ep is a great woman. She'll be good for you."

Wolf finally allowed all of her restrained emotions for the dark-haired Amazon free reign, to shine through in a blinding smile that reflected the dull torchlight in the square. "Ah...Xena...you have no idea. She's strong, smart, and when she's well into her wineskins, she has the most vulgar sense of humor."

The night was pierced with deep laughter. "I figured you were too busy trying to take her head to realize, little one."

Wrapping an arm around the tall warrior. "Hmm," she mused, "and her eyes, and oh...just thinking about...hehe, guess I better stop before I find myself in a whole lot of hurt," she mumbled as she tried to rub away the giddy feeling that had settled in the pit of her stomach.

Xena laughed at the woman's discomfort. "You're going to love the sleeping arrangements," she purred evilly, leading the small woman away from her guest hut to the opposite side of the village.

"What...is this," Wolf asked as Xena steered her towards Eponin's hut.

"Your new quarters...at least until we take care of Gael and his army." The warrior bit the inside of her cheek. She almost felt sorry for the both of them. "Don't look at me. It was the Queen's decision."

Rubbing a hand across her eyes, Wolf moaned. "It's too soon."

"Then sleep, and deal with it in the morning. Good night, little one." Xena turned to leave and claim her prize, who, if all was going according to the details of their agreement, was awaiting her eagerly in their bed.



"Get in a good one for me, huh? She could have warned me."

Xena grinned wickedly. "Oh, I'll be sure to make her holler a bit."

Wolf rolled her eyes and entered the hut cautiously, her step hesitant. Opening her senses, she knew that Eponin was asleep. The Amazon's rhythmic breathing whispered inside the demi-god's head, a lull that she allowed herself to fall into as she spread her pallet on the floor. In the darkness she found a blessed peace, easy with the possibilities tomorrow might bring.


Gabrielle fidgeted under the light blanket, gasping at the desire that burned under her skin. Even after Xena had left and she had been pulled into a serious conversation by Ephiny, her thoughts had remained with the warrior that had left her wet with need. She reached tentatively down and began to stroke the slick folds that thrummed for the attentions of one certain Warrior Princess.

Xena paused at the door of the Queen's hut when she heard Gabrielle moan. Even without the divine gifts that Wolf carried, she could smell the bard's arousal as it filtered through the portal's light covering. Slipping silently inside, she watched from a dark corner as her lover kicked the blanket off her flushed body. As promised, she was wearing only her top, under which her breasts were heaving with the exertion of her self-pleasuring. The warrior's mouth began to water when she took the final steps that led to the nectar she longed to taste.

With her eyes closed tight to better picture the object of her fantasy, Gabrielle never saw her lover approach their bed. And in her fevered state, she never felt the warrior's weight settle on the bed. But the moment that Xena seared her swollen nub with an erotic kiss, she screamed in ecstasy, driving her hips higher towards the source of her release.

As the bard moaned her name between incoherent cries of pleasure, Xena removed her weapons and armor in record time. Crawling up her lover's body, she placed her sword at the head of the bed and greeted her bard with a welcoming kiss. Tomorrow would come too soon for her tastes, she thought with a sigh, as the bard's hands began a journey of delightful familiarity.


When Eponin awoke in the morning, she rolled over and found a single white wildflower on her pillow. Fingering its rough stem, she wondered, her mind still fuzzy with sleep, who had left the gift. Sitting up, she saw Wolf's bedroll placed neatly on her clothing chest at the bottom of the pallet. Her hand went unconsciously to her throat. *Still in one piece*.

She had worried herself sick last night, questioning her Queen's wisdom in lodging the demi-god in her hut. She had fallen into an exhausted sleep, worried that Wolf would take offense at having to share the same quarters with her. Either the woman had gotten better at controlling her anger, or....

Sparing a glance at the sun rising into morning, she rubbed her eyes to clear Morpheus' spell and stood to her bare feet. The Amazon trudged to the washbasin in which she found a small piece of parchment. Her eyes opened wide and then misted when she read the words that flowed across the page in precise strokes.

<p> I'm sorry about the way I've been. I've been such a bitch. I would like it if we could start over. Please forgive me.


Eponin clutched the note to her chest and twirled in a circle. She felt like a little girl with her first love. Starting over could mean so many things...so many possibilities, she thought. Folding the parchment carefully, she placed it and the flower at the bottom of her clothes chest. Her hands caressed the bedroll on the lid lovingly. With a new purpose, she washed quickly and dressed With an uncontrollable giddiness, she ran out of her hut, looking for the little warrior that fired her blood.

Xena and Gabrielle had just stepped from their own hut when they saw Eponin racing across the compound to the dining hall. They looked at each other questioningly when the Amazon stuck her head through the door to glance around and then took off running again.

"Wonder what she's doing," Gabrielle asked.

"Who," the Regent asked as she stretched, smiling a good morning to the Queen and her consort.

"Maybe Wolf knocked her silly last night," Xena offered.

"What?" Ephiny's harsh question carried through the crisp morning air. "Gabrielle...what have we done?"

The Queen's reassurances were cut short by TWO figures sprinting through the village. Their voices raised in excited shouts.

"Pony, get away from me with that thing!"

"Come on, Wolf...it's only a snake," the Amazon carrying the offensive reptile, called after the demi-god who was running as fast as her shorter legs could take her.

"I swear, Pony...I hate snakes," she blurted in admission.

The three observers watched with mixed expressions of concern and amusement. The tallest and darkest had to pinch her lips together to keep her humor silent. They watched as the smaller woman leapt into a somersault, bunched her legs upon landing, and launched herself into a nearby tree. The pursuing Amazon tossed the traumatized serpent into the brush and took the traditional route up into the above branches. Only Wolf's squeal revealed that Eponin had caught up to her. A few tense moments of silence was followed by another shout.

"Pony! Don't...we're going to fall again!"

Gabrielle winced as the prediction came true, a fading cry preceded their two bodies landing...softly. *What the...?.*

"Oh, gods, no...," the Regent wailed softly, her chin falling to her chest.

"What," Gabrielle asked in alarm as she gripped the blond Amazon's arm.

Xena lost her battle and began laughing. Between breaths she managed, "The horse manure."

As if on cue, the two women stepped from the trees, both coated in horse dung. When Wolf took stock of her body, she growled fierce enough to scatter all the forest creatures within hearing distance. "Eponin!"

The Amazon took one look into the small woman's eyes and took off running back the way they had come, throwing occasional glances over her shoulder to see her pursuer gaining ground. When they reached the public bathing area, Wolf caught her in a flying tackle that sent them both into a pool, startling a few early morning bathers.

When the Queen and her entourage of two found the women, they were in the middle of a water fight, splashing each other with abandonment, giggling and shouting.

"Giggling," Ephiny asked. "They don't giggle," she said matter-of-factly, trying to convince herself.

"Told you things would work out," the bard smirked, rocking on the balls of her feet after sighing a private moment of relief.

Xena shrugged. "Maybe they hit each other silly last night," she deadpanned.

"Maybe it was the fall," the Regent reasoned.

"Oh, they fell all right, and it wasn't just into the horse shi...."

"Gabrielle...," a low growl sounded.

"Yes, Xena?"

The warrior bent her head to the bard's ear. "I thought I told you that I only like to hear you talk dirty in bed," she intoned, nipping a tender lobe.

Blushing profusely, Gabrielle cleared her throat. "So, Eph, what's for breakfast this morning," she asked, drawing her friend away from the baths and towards the dining hut.

Xena threw a last glance over her shoulder to the two women who seemed to be sharing an intimate secret, whispering a conversation back and forth. She smiled for her two friends' fortune at finally finding one another. With long strides, she caught up to the Queen and squeezed her shoulders affectionately.


Half a candlemark later, Eponin and Wolf entered the dining hall. The Amazon was looking down at the smaller woman and laughing at a joke that she had told. Both were still damp from their unexpected dip, but were in very good spirits, which lent to the confused buzz of chatter that made its rounds among the tables.

Gabrielle called and waved the two warriors over to join her at the head table. The bard smiled indulgently when they sat next to each other without breaking off their discourse. She watched their body language as they spoke, their touches more (much more) like caresses than the blows that had become commonplace between the two.

The Queen's Consort was still dealing with her inconvenient humor when she swept a glance over the crowd that was observing the new lovers. To the warrior, the Amazons seemed to be holding their breaths, expecting the two women to explode in a confrontation at any moment. When Eponin ran a casual, lingering finger over the muscles of Wolf's bare arm, fifty sets of eyes went wide. Only the newcomers seemed unconcerned about the drama that was unfolding at the Queen's table. Their thoughts were focused on the battle that would reclaim their village.

After the morning meal, the villagers of Garalis were treated to a spectacle of weapon mastery. Even though there was no more anger between the two, both Wolf and Eponin had a competitive streak that provided for a show of supreme ability. Their weapons changed from the chobos, to the staff, and then to swords. When Wolf unsheathed her twin swords, the visitors gasped at the uncommon sight.

"Could you imagine it if she was wearing her armor," the bard asked Xena who had elected to refrain from the friendly competition so that she could study her friend's technique.

"She is something," the tall warrior easily admitted. Even before Wolf discovered her other skills, she had been a master of the eastern ways of fighting. She was definitely someone that the Warrior Princess was glad to have as an ally.

"She wants to fight the way she is for the battle with Gael."

The warrior nodded. "I know."

"Don't you think that it would be a lot easier if she just, you know...shifted...and took them out with the...uh...force?"

Xena spared the bard a distracted glance. "First, and most important," the warrior began, wanting to clarify Wolf's reasoning, "she understands that the women of Garalis need to fight, to regain some control over their circumstances. They need to show a strong front to other warlords who might share Gael's greed. Second, and not by much, she needs to fight in her human form so that she can feel as normal as possible. She knows what she can do, but she wants the Amazons to see her as a warrior, a woman, not as the daughter of a god."

Gabrielle was stunned by the great number of words her lover had sacrificed for her half of a conversation. Then she felt ashamed for not understanding Wolf's decision. She smacked her palm against her forehead and berated herself in soft mumbles. The woman had been trying to reconcile the fact that she wasn't the Celtic foundling that she had lived most of her life as. But rather, she was Dahok's daughter, and as such, he had gifted her with the ability to change her shape into a fierce-looking dragon. Under Xena's tutelage she had also learned the ability to harness energy as the tall warrior had been taught by Lao Ma.

However, she would not flaunt these skills because she just wasn't that kind of person and because she understood the Amazons' need to reclaim what was theirs, including their peace of mind. Besides, watching her play with Eponin in their mock battle was enough to assure the Queen that Wolf was a warrior who was valuable to the Nation, no matter what shape she took.

Tired of teasing the Amazon warrior, opening herself up for strikes and then moving swiftly to block or deflect the expected blows, Wolf disarmed the Weaponsmaster with a flick of her wrist. When her opponent clasped her hands above her head, the small warrior resheathed her swords and bowed.

"Remind me never to go against you with blades, Wolf," Eponin asked, panting from the exertion.

"I could ask the same of you, Pony. You landed some good ones with that staff of yours," the small warrior admitted as she stretched with a wince, splayed her hands over bruised ribs.

"What about the bow?"

"Never really learned," Wolf replied. "I was trained for face-to-face combat."

"Want me to teach you?"

The demi-god blushed and then giggled at the suggestive wiggle of the Amazon's brows. "Why not? I'm always ready...for a challenge."

While a majority of the spectators stayed behind to watch as Eponin's students displayed their knowledge of her lessons, quite a few, including Xena and Gabrielle, followed the two women to the archery field.

Wolf carefully watched and listened as the Amazon Weaponsmaster gave her a quick lesson in the art of the bow. In the Amazon attire that she had begun to sport since she had arrived at the village, Wolf provided a magnificent picture as she notched an arrow and pulled the bowstring to her cheek as Eponin had showed her.

If the teacher hadn't been so enchanted by her student's posterior, she would have seen that the woman had turned her body too far towards the bow in an effort to aim the projectile.

Wolf's howl of pain when she released the arrow caught everyone's attention. Xena winced in empathy and borrowed a waterskin from someone in the crowd. She trotted over to where Wolf was crouched on the ground, her hand gingerly covering her wounded breast.

Leaning down to unlace her friend's top, Xena heard the urgent whispered apologies that Eponin was offering, pleading with Wolf. When she peeled the top off of the young woman's shoulders, she sucked in her breath.

While Wolf wasn't bleeding, the delicate skin on the outside of her right breast was as red as the pigmented dyes that had been used to paint the dragon on her chest. She had been chafed raw at the edge of her areola.

With a painful grin, the demi-god looked down to survey the damage. It didn't hurt as bad as it looked. She tried to ease Eponin's grief by joking. "Well, at least it's still attached. I won't have to have my armor altered."

The Amazon released a shaky laugh at the woman's efforts. "Some teacher I am," she said, berating herself.

"Relax, Pony. Just do me a favor, will you?"


"Watch my whole body when I try that again, and not just my ass, huh?"

Eponin blushed when she realized that she had been caught. Her color faded, though, when she moved around Wolf's body to view the damage for herself. When she reached out a hand towards the long, wide welt, her wrist was seized in a gentle, but firm, grasp. She looked up into eyes that were filled with discomfort and a hint of something else that signaled a responding urge within her own body.

"Don't...do that, please," Wolf asked, desire roughening her voice. When she had realized that the warrior was about to touch her breast, her sex had screamed with the need of release. And on a crowded practice field was not where she imagined her first time with Eponin.

"Sorry," the Amazon mumbled, trying to pull away.

Wolf, however, refused to relinquish her hold on Eponin's wrist, and instead, she entwined their fingers together and kissed her lover's hand lightly. The twinkle that flashed in the Amazon's eyes was enough for her to return the good humor with a grin.

After Xena had wet a soft cloth with the water and applied it to the injured area, she retied Wolf's top. "All finished," she announced, patting her friend on the shoulder and uncoiled her powerful body to tower over the other two.

Wolf stood to her diminutive height and easily pulled the Amazon to her feet. Tilting her head, she announced, "Must be lunchtime."

When two sets of brows rose, she explained in an aside to Xena, "I heard Gabrielle's stomach growling."

The ensuing laughter that possessed them, claimed for all to see that the demi-god had suffered no serious damage from her close encounter with the gut-string of the bow.

With a nod of her head in the direction of the village, Xena invited them to join her, and like a pack that follows its leaders, the Amazons fell in behind the trio as they gathered their Queen and made their way to the dining hall.


After a casual lunch, a group convened in the council hut to finalize the plans for their offensive against Gael. They decided that they would travel further north than the village where they figured that Gael might have left soldiers waiting for their return. They would attack on two fronts, from the north and the east, hopefully driving the warlord deeper into the valley, to be trapped by the canyon in the southern end and the mountains to the west.

Gabrielle had already sent scrolls to several villages that were along the way, briefly describing the situation and asking for volunteers to join their effort in defending the Nation. They expected conservatively thirty warriors to meet with them by the time they circled north of Gael and set their camp.

They would leave the village in the morning and travel easy, making their way in the week that it should, and not the few days that Arna's group had taken. The slower travel would enable those of Garalis' warriors who were accompanying them, to recover from their minor injuries and fatigue.

Solari would stay behind in the village (after much futile pleading with Eponin to trade places) to keep an eye on things, as well as those of the refugees who were still too wounded to travel. Eponin had promised the Amazon that she would definitely be the one to go on the next campaign, while the Weaponsmaster would stay behind to twiddle her thumbs in boredom.

Gabrielle had won an easy argument with Xena to allow her to go. Even though the bard would not be joining the battle, the warrior admitted to herself that she would need her lover there to bring her back from the dark abyss that her soul fell into after such an exercise.

After her own personal victory, the bard had written a list of things she would need for the camp's infirmary where she would wait until the battle was over.

Although not an Amazon, Wolf had asked to go with them and defend the honor of the Nation. She was, after all, following three of the most important people in her life, and she wanted to be there to make sure that none of them were killed. Even though she had told Gabrielle that she would fight in her human form, she had no objections to shifting if it meant the life of one of those she loved.

Eponin had met the news with a tender kiss, relieved that she would not be separated from the demi-god who meant so much to her. She had laughed at the breathless state in which the small gesture had left her. The Amazon shuddered at the prospect of their first joining. It would be explosive considering that the both of them were so worked up that they had trouble being around each other without the possibility of mutual ravishment. The warrior reflected that never, even when she had first discovered the raptures of sexual fulfillment, had she pleasured herself so often just to take the edge off her need.

After the meeting was concluded Ephiny and Eponin left to organize a provisions detail and the women of Garalis went to visit their wounded sisters in the infirmary.

Xena walked out of the council hut with a shorter woman on either side, her long arms each wrapped around a set of shoulders. They made an impression on those who observed. The dark Warrior Princess, former Destroyer of Nations, intimidating with merely a glance; the Queen, who had begun her life as a simple village girl and was a warrior in her own gentle way, who traveled with her lover to the farthest corners of the known world; and the demi-god who was a powerful force of muscle and energy, the one who was surrounded by an aura of blue light to those who were touched with the gift of sight.

The three women made their way to the temple where the Queen asked for Artemis' blessing on the military venture that would help the Amazons reclaim what was theirs. With a heartfelt plea, she entreated the goddess personally to help her guide her warrior, to lead her out of the darkness that engulfed the ex-warlord whenever she had to lose herself to battlelust.

After Wolf took a moment of her own to ask for the goddess' favor for when she rode onto the battlefield, the three friends separated.

Gabrielle went to find Ephiny to see how the provision detail was faring, and the two warriors left to fulfill a mutual wish to test their skills against each other.

Gabrielle willed away the bit of worry that nibbled at her gut. She knew that they would be careful when they sparred against each other, but she had to consider the fact that both of them just enjoyed it too damn much. Which might, just might, lead to a bit more aggression than was necessary. She said another prayer in passing, that the two women would remember that the real battle lay to the north, and not with each other on a friendly field.


When Gabrielle caught up with the Regent, things were going smoothly. The two carts that would carry their camp supplies were steadily being filled. Gabrielle hid a grin behind her hand when she saw Eponin failing miserably at her pretense of overseeing the job. The Amazon warrior's eyes drifted expectantly over the compound every so often, as she nodded absently at her charges' choices of provisions.

"You knew all along, didn't you?"

The Queen turned to her Regent and shrugged. "Not until I saw the way that they looked at each other in the baths," Gabrielle admitted. She chuckled when she remembered the awkward beginnings of her intimate relationship with Xena. "They reminded me of how Xena and I used to be."

"Just a little more violent, though, right?"

Gabrielle waved off the flicker of worry that crossed Ephiny's face. "I only hit Xena a couple of times. Our courtship was more of a battle of wills than weapons."

Ephiny's face registered the shock. Someone had hit the Warrior Princess and gotten away with it? But then again, she surmised, they had it bad for each other for so long. The Queen's death in Thessaly and the warrior's reaction had brought it all into focus. When Xena had died, Gabrielle, who was still a princess at the time, had been miserably forlorn. They were true soulmates, if she had ever seen a pair, Ephiny thought with a tinge of awe.

Then she looked to her second-in-command, her friend since they were children. Eponin had had her share of lovers in the past, but ever since she had met Wolf, she had been preoccupied by no one else. It would be good to see the warrior settle down, she thought. "Think we ought to let her go," the Amazon asked.

Gabrielle studied Eponin as the warrior directed one of the young Amazons. "Sure, why not? We can finish here."

With a mischievous grin, the Queen moved to sneak up behind the Weaponsmaster. Standing on her toes to reach an ear, she whispered, "Wolf's on the practice field."

The Amazon warrior spun on her heel and blushed. "I...she...," she began to sputter.

The Queen patted her arm in mock sympathy. "I understand, Ep. Ephiny and I can handle this. Why don't you go to her?"

Eponin glanced at Ephiny who nodded her agreement. Before the Regent had even dropped her head a second time, the love-struck Amazon was running across the compound.

"Love," Ephiny sighed, rolling her eyes.

"Yeah," Gabrielle returned, her mind wandering to a certain dark warrior who held her heart.

The Amazon looked at the Queen and rolled her eyes again. "Come on, let's see how bad it is," she encouraged, pulling at her friend's arm. Silently, she said a prayer to Artemis that she would find the light in her heart again, the one that had died with Phantes.


Eponin stopped dead in her tracks when she reached the practice field. She was awed by the spectacular display of the two friends exercising with their blades. It was obvious from the exhibition that Wolf had been taking it easy on her when they had sparred with swords earlier. Against Xena, though, the small warrior was able to test herself without restrictions.

While the Warrior Princess used her strength and height to her advantage, Wolf used her speed and dexterity. Her twin swords easily deflected every blow, her body ducked and contorted to avoid punches and kicks. When Wolf went on the offensive, she managed to back Xena up into an awkward defense, using her twin blades to keep the tall warrior occupied. Xena was unprepared when the small warrior dropped into a split.

Tucking her blade along the length of her arm, Wolf punched the inside of the tall warrior's thigh. She heard the tall warrior's grunt of discomfort and smiled slightly with satisfaction. Rolling back into a tuck, she again stood at the ready.

Xena grinned wildly and approached the small warrior cautiously. With a savage show of teeth, she attacked. Even with the agonizing cramp that caused her to limp, the tall warrior was able to shower the demi-god with blows that were beginning to test the smaller woman's endurance. When Wolf's grip on her weapon slipped, Xena smiled in victory.

Wolf cursed the sweat that caused her to lose her grip on her sword. The curse turned into a silent groan a moment before Xena made contact. The flat of the tall warrior's broadsword struck her wrist and caused her to drop her weapon all together. Tucking into another roll, she avoided the finishing stroke.

Nodding her head to acknowledge her friend's skill, Xena approached, aware that even with only one sword at the ready, the small woman had many weapons at her disposal. She studied her opponent's eyes, waiting for the flicker, the twitch that would betray her next move. To the tall warrior's dismay, Wolf's gaze was unwavering, as if she were made of granite. She was momentarily surprised when the demi-god threw her sword into the air.

When Xena was distracted by the unexpected move, Wolf took the opportunity to launch herself into a somersault over her mentor's head. Pulling a dagger from her boot, she pressed it against the tender flesh of the tall warrior's neck. "Yield?"

Considering her options in the split second that it took Wolf to blink, Xena grabbed the woman's wrist. She had been surprised by the somersault, but Wolf had not considered the negative aspect of her current strategy. With a growl, Xena threw the woman over her shoulder.

Already off-balance because of the way she was standing on her toes to reach the taller warrior's throat, Wolf was unable to counter the move and reminded herself to relax the second before her body impacted the hard dirt. When she opened her eyes, her gaze followed the length of blade that was pressed against her throat. "Hi."

"Yield?" Even though Xena sounded like she was not going to take any other answer other than an affirmative one, there was a hopeful glint in her eyes that begged for Wolf to continue.

Sparing a look to her lover who was pale with apprehension, the demi-god looked into blue eyes that reflected the sunlight glinting off her sword. Wolf considered her options. She could give up and let Xena have her victory, or she could try and counter the blade at her throat. But then again, she thought, she didn't want Eponin to have to see all the blood. After a moment's hesitation, she replied, "Yep." She smiled at her lover's sigh of relief when Xena stepped away and lowered her sword to rest the point in the dirt.

The tall warrior grasped the smaller woman's hand and pulled her to her feet. "That was better than I would have thought, Wolf."

The demi-god grinned and rubbed her smarting wrist. "Yeah, it was fun," she admitted, walking next to the tall warrior who was still limping slightly.

"Where did you learn to hide your moves so well?"

"Are you kidding? I rode for two years with the Ice Queen herself," Wolf retorted as Xena snatched a waterskin from the ground and proceeded to rinse the sweat from her face.

"Hey, that was hard...," the warrior began, smacking the smaller woman in the chest with the heavy skin. When she saw the wince of pain, she cursed. "Oh shit, Wolf, I'm sorry, I forgot...."

Wolf waved off the apology and released the breath she had sucked in with the pain. "It's all right, Xena, don't worry about it."

"You better tell her," the tall warrior said, nodding her head towards the observing Amazon. "She looks like she's either going to faint or rip my head off with her bare hands," Xena observed with a knowing grin.

"Xena, don't tease Pony, please?"

The warrior did a double-take and stopped their progress across the field by clasping her small friend's shoulder. "You really do love her, don't you?"

Wolf's eyes blazed with passion, desire, and love. "With all my heart," she easily admitted. "I never thought that I would feel this way after Lin Chi," she explained. "And the way that she makes me feel...."

Studying the glazed look that stole over Wolf's eyes, the warrior laughed. "You haven't bedded her yet, have you? With your speed records, I thought you would have."

Blushing furiously, the small woman turned the warrior, putting their backs to the Amazon. "I...I want it to be special. You know...flowers, poetry, candlelight, wine...," Wolf explained, trailing off as she contemplated the perfect seduction.

"A courtship?"

Wolf snapped out of her reverie. "Yeah, what's wrong with that," she asked, standing to her full height and raising her head so that she wasn't staring at her friend's cleavage.

Xena chuckled. "Nothing, little Wolf, it's just that...well, this isn't like...."

"The usual?"


"Oh, Xena, you know what it's like. She...reaches in and touches my soul every time I'm near her. Sometimes if I think too hard about it, I feel like I want to cry or something...I don't know," she finished lamely, shaking her head.

"You aren't the same girl who nearly got herself killed for a little roll in the hay, are you?"

The demi-god merely smiled and turned to face the woman who she loved. "Yes, and no," she answered. "Anyone else, I probably wouldn't have thought twice about it, but with Pony, I want to wait. I want her to know that she has my heart and soul, as well as my body. I love her with everything that I am," she revealed as she walked towards Eponin like a moth to the flame.

Xena watched as the lovers greeted each other. Their casual touches became lingering caresses, their heads bowed as their hearts' secrets were shared. The tall warrior contained her humor when they stepped suddenly away from each other, putting space between their bodies that wanted desperately to betray their wills. If this keeps up, the dark warrior thought, they are going to be unstoppable in battle...all that pent-up energy.

Having no problem with her own battle readiness, being that she was always ready for a good fight, Xena left the women alone to their inclinations, to search for the other half of her soul.


Gabrielle glanced up the trail one more time before turning and following her earlier boot prints in the tall grass. She lifted her head and gazed at the assembly of Amazons as they waited for Wolf and Xena to return from their scouting.

Arna was pacing impatiently along the side of the trail, mumbling and casting looks into the trees where the trail disappeared. The other warriors of Garalis were watching her with anxiety. Other Amazons were sharpening their weapons or catching naps. Gabrielle had assumed that they were the ones who had the last watch into the morning's early dawn. She knew that there were others in the branches above, watching the higher trail.

Eponin and Ephiny were deep in a hushed discussion, sharing some jerky between themselves. Gabrielle had tried to join them earlier, but her fidgeting had made them nervous. She had then found herself talking to one of the draft horses that was pulling a cart. But then it had snorted in annoyance at her mindless chatter, so she decided that Arna had the right idea. Finding a vacant patch of ground, she had begun to wear her own path.

At the familiar bird call announcing riders, all Amazons stood and held their weapons at the ready. When Xena and Wolf appeared on their mounts, the sound of swords being replaced into scabbards hissed through the expectant air.

As Xena reported their meager findings, Wolf busied herself by brushing down their horses. Glancing across the opening, she saw Eponin watching her with intense scrutiny, her eyes hooded in desire. The demi-god mentally steeled her reserve. She knew that it was hard on the both of them. If she opened her senses, she could practically taste the Amazon's readiness. Leaning her head against Beast's neck, she reminded herself why she was waiting.

Eponin had watched her lover as she had descended gracefully from her mount's bare back. The small warrior's every move was primal, hinting at the potential for savagery. The Amazon's breath caught when she was trapped by the demi-god's eyes, her loins exploded in a rush of need. Clenching her fists, she cursed the fact that she couldn't even get a moment of privacy to alleviate the discomfort of her body's ache.

Glancing around the clearing and seeing that Xena had finished, Wolf took off in the direction of the lake beside which they had stopped. She prayed that the cool waters would ease the fire that was licking at every nerve ending in her body.

Gabrielle was surprised to find herself guided away from the group by Xena who steered her into the tall grasses along the side of the trail. When they had gone far enough to be out of hearing distance of everyone (well, except for the demi-god who was, at the time, chilling her fever under cold water), the tall warrior sat and pulled her down into an embrace.

"How are you doing?"

The Queen looked at her consort, her eyes revealed her relief and love. "Just fine," she replied, giving in to the urge to touch the warrior's face.

"We should make another ten leagues before dark," the warrior announced.

Gabrielle wrinkled her brow in thought. "We will be passing by Euralon, then, won't we?"

"Yes," Xena replied, proud that the bard had studied the maps so well.

Nodding her head to her private thoughts, Gabrielle stared off into the distance, her fingers plucking at the end of her skirt.

"Nervous," the warrior asked, pulling her back into her arms.

"Nah," she lied, knowing that Xena would know the truth.

"Uh, huh," the warrior replied dryly. "We're not leaving for another candlemark, so why don't you relax and take a nap," she advised as she pulled the bard to the ground beside her. After Gabrielle had found the soft spot above the warrior's right breast that she favored for a pillow, Xena allowed herself the luxury of joining her lover in a light slumber.


As Gabrielle had figured, they passed the village of Euralon where they were greeted by twelve warriors and a young healer. As Queen, Gabrielle praised the women generously for their dedication to the Nation and sent a scroll back to their village with a scout, thanking the chieftess for allowing her warriors the opportunity to serve.

As Xena had predicted, they traveled the ten leagues before the sun descended over the horizon. They found a secluded clearing to make their camp, laying their bedrolls and lighting their campfires with efficiently.

Gabrielle was laying out her bedroll in the middle of the camp when Xena startled her with an embrace. "What are you doing here?"

The warrior hid a grin at the bard's surprise. "There's enough warriors to keep an eye on things," she replied, as she sat on the bedroll and began her nightly ritual of sharpening her weapons. "Thought maybe I'd keep my wife company. Is that all right with you?"

The grinding of stone against metal stilled as the bard wrapped her arms around her lover and gave her a gentle squeeze. "Any time, warrior, any time."

Acting as if they weren't on their way to defend Amazon rights in battle, the two settled into their usual evening routine. While Xena worked on her weapons, Gabrielle heated some camp rations into a filling stew and told stories that the warrior had already heard, but didn't mind the repeats, for the musical voice that recounted the tales, eased the tensions she always felt at the end of the day.

When they had finished eating, they settled comfortably in each other's embrace, watching the flames of their campfire consume the branches that fed it. Occasionally, oblivious to the watching eyes around them, they stole soft kisses from one another, touched each other in simple caresses that were meant to reaffirm and not to excite.

Wolf collapsed on her bedroll after watching the play between her friends. She sighed at the hunger she felt, that she could hear roaring in her ears. Her own raging blood, when she stopped long enough to block everything out, was pounding her senses to mush. So preoccupied with her private misery, she didn't see Eponin roll out her bedroll across their fire until the Amazon released a harsh breath when she sat.

Glancing over the fire, Wolf's heated eyes were almost preternatural in their fevered brilliance. Taking a deep breath to taste the woman's essence, she groaned. "Pony."

The Amazon looked over at her lover and quirked a lazy brow. "Wolf?"

"Been busy," the small warrior asked as she unconsciously ran her tongue over her dry lips.

Eponin gave her a shrug. "I couldn't handle it."

Wolf chuckled when she saw the woman wiping her hand idly over the lush grass as if to hide the scent of her self-pleasuring.

"I don't know how you can deal with it," the Amazon continued, a brief scowl contorting her features. When she looked up to face her lover, she swore. Wolf was leaning on her elbow, her head bowed. When the demi-god lifted her eyes, they were naked with need. "Oh Hades, Wolf, I'm sorry," she apologized as she crossed to the small woman and gathered her in strong arms. "How do you handle it," she asked softly.

"I just remember why I'm doing it," she replied, a gentle smile shaping her mouth as she laid her head on the Amazon's shoulder, surrendering her body to ride the waves of heat that were licking at her sensitive skin. She was beginning to believe that she was a masochist at heart, the torture through which she put herself was becoming a bittersweet pleasure. "I remember why I'm waiting."

"Oh, Wolf, I know this is hurting you. You can smell my need for you. I can see it in your eyes when you look at me."

Exhausted by the constant struggle to control her baser desires and the long march, Wolf felt herself drifting. "Pony, please," she mumbled. "You keep talking like that and I'm bound to forget my reasons," she pleaded, her last words fading on the night breeze.

Eponin pulled the woman closer and kissed her forehead. "Not a chance, Wolf," she whispered. "Gabrielle told me your story today," she explained to the sleeping woman. "She told me about your loyalty, your love, and your faith. And I know that you have enough honor in your little finger to wait for the right time. And I promise you," she vowed as she lowered their bodies to the pallet, "that our love is worth it." The Amazon accepted Morpheus' embrace as she was lulled by the sentries' bird calls sounding through the trees.


Gabrielle glanced around the tent and rearranged the bandages on the table before her for the hundredth time. They had made it to their predetermined campsite in just about the time that Xena had figured. As they traveled, they had picked up another forty-two warriors, swelling their numbers to sixty-two.

Scouts had been sent out as soon as they had pitched their tents. They had returned last night, reporting that the guards' gossip was mainly of Gael's plans to build a fortified keep in the southern half of the valley that he had taken from the Amazons.

The Queen would have thought that their increased numbers would have given them the advantage would have made for a given victory, but Gael had also picked up some men since his massacre of Garalis. Gabrielle took a steadying breath and said a silent prayer for her Amazons, asking that none of them lose their lives in the imminent battle, and that if they had to die, to do so with honor.

Ephiny, after much arguing with her Amazon sisters, had accepted command of the party that would attack from the east, with Arna as her second. Xena was appointed, naturally, to lead from the north with Eponin and Wolf. The Amazon commander had left earlier to take advantage of the darkness since their position was practically on the warlord's back step.

Heaving a great sigh, Gabrielle glanced around their temporary hospital. She shivered at the prospect of the bodies that would soon be resting on the various pallets that were arranged throughout the tent. They had picked up a healer, Aglai from Euralon, but at the present, she was occupied with her warrior lover from whom she had refused to be separated.

Unwittingly, her mind drifted to Xena. The warrior had gone off to be by herself. Probably to brood, the bard thought sadly. She hoped that her lover would have the will to return to her after the battle, and if the warrior didn't, she was prepared to bring her back at any cost.


Xena, unaware that she was the subject of the bard's desperate plans, was watching the valley from the vantage point of a ridge above the camp. She stood tall, refusing to let her shoulders slump under the weight of her thoughts. She was leading an army into battle willingly...again. After she had left her warlord days behind her, she had vowed that she would never do so again.

But when they had been faced with the threat of the Horde, she had given in to the darkness and had led the Athenians to victory. How she had hurt Gabrielle then, she thought. *And she stayed with me*. And now, once again, she had a powerful army at her disposal, one that was sworn to her through their loyalty to their Queen and her decision to appoint the ex-warlord as the commander.

It had been a natural conclusion considering her experience, but it was her experience that could be the end of her. But the Amazons would follow her anywhere, do as she ordered without question. Simply because their Queen trusted in her leadership. Gabrielle...the love that reminded her of her destiny, the light that would lead her back from the depths of her bloodlust...the wife that trusted her not to lose her way.

Distractedly, emerging from her thoughts, the warrior ran a hand over her head after a pebble hit her. She knew of only two people who would dare such a thing, and one of them caught her eye as she moved through the groups of Amazons preparing for battle.

"Wolf," she called as she turned to catch a second pebble in midair, noting the serious set of the demi-god's features when she jumped from the boulder upon which she had been standing. Xena stopped herself from returning the favor, from tossing the pebble back to her friend.

Wolf moved to stand beside the tall warrior and observed the camp. "How are you feeling, Xena?"

The warrior shrugged as she followed the golden hair that reflected the late day's light. She was afraid. Very afraid.


The warrior turned her head to the friend that had been with her in the beginning, had seen her at her worst, the young woman who had seen the fear that the Destroyer of Nations had inspired. And yet, as she did before, the demi-god was committed to join her in battle. She would fight against the warlord that had threatened a people that neither of them were bonded to, except for the fact that they both were in love with Amazons. Wolf had proven herself worthy of trust. "Yeah, I am," the warrior admitted.

Wolf nodded her head in understanding. "You have an army at your command. Considering your track record, I'd be afraid, too."

"Well, thanks, I needed the encouragement," Xena retorted dryly.

The demi-god shrugged and studied the tall woman. "I want you to know that if it becomes necessary, I have no problem with shifting...if you command me."

Xena nodded. "I know," she whispered, trying not to let her own darkness defeat her.

Wolf could almost read her friends thoughts. "Xena, you aren't a warlord anymore."

The warrior tossed the stone she had been holding, clenched in her fist. "I wish I could believe that."

Wolf turned the warrior to face her, putting her hand behind Xena's neck to draw her blue eyes down to her own brown ones. "Look, you wouldn't be beating yourself up over the whole idea if you were. You'd be down there at Gael's stronghold, most likely serving his entrails at a victory celebration," the demi-god explained emphatically.

Xena grimace at the imagery. "I never served entrails."

"Whatever...entrails...hearts...organs are organs," Wolf clarified, waving her hand through the air. "What I'm saying is that here you are, making yourself sick with worry over something that might never come to pass. Gabrielle won't let it. She's probably down there now writing a royal decree that the Warrior Princess is forbidden to return to her former ways."

"I'm surprised she never considered it before," Xena deadpanned, giving in to the urge to smile.

"I like this Xena better," Wolf said when she saw the life return to her friend's eyes. "You've really got to learn how to relax," she chastised as she wrapped both hands around the back of the tall woman's neck.

Xena closed her eyes, allowing her muscles to loosen under the small bolts of energy coming from the small warrior's fingers. "You're getting good at that."

"Hmm...I'm working on just the right amount of power to give pleasure, and yet, not juice a person to cinders," Wolf replied with a suggestive wiggle of her brows.

"I thought that you were abstaining."

The demi-god shook her head. "Not Pony...not in that way. I had a test subject," she said as she nodded her head to the woman that Xena continued to follow with her eyes.

"Excuse me," Xena asked with angered indignation.

"Not like that! She was tense...almost as much as you. I just gave her a little jolt to loosen her up." When the warrior's eyes narrowed even more, Wolf put her at ease. "I swear that my hands never went below her shoulders," she said, putting her fist over her heart.

Xena's mouth lifted in a wicked grin. "Gotcha."

Wolf shook her head at being suckered into the trick. "Uh, huh."

"Come on, Lieutenant Wolfdragon...let's go find our women."

"You know, Xena, I really like that name," the demi-god said as the two of them made their way slowly down the trail to the camp.

"Well, after this is all over, you'll still be 'little Wolf' to me."

"Why not make it easy on yourself and just call me 'Pup?'"

The warrior threw her head back and laughed. "It's good to have you here, Wolf."

"Wouldn't be anywhere else, Xena."


That evening when Xena entered the tent that she shared with the Queen, she was more relaxed and comfortable with her temporary position among the Amazons. Gabrielle sent a silent thanks to Wolf for her help. She was no more eager to share space with a brooding warrior than she was to pull her own teeth.

Xena smiled in satisfaction when she saw that Gabrielle had drawn a bath and was waiting for her, wearing only a sultry smile. Disrobing with practiced hands, the warrior complied to her lover's silent wish, and sank into the water, into a heat that had more to do with the company than the steaming water.

That evening when they made love, it was if it was the first time. Holding nothing back from each other, they were awed by the heights to which they soared. Their bond became palpable, the pounding of their hearts witnessed their connection. For Gabrielle it was a reminder to her warrior what awaited her upon her return the next day. For Xena, it was a reason to return, a promise of salvation.


The sun was still a candlemark from rising, but Gabrielle woke instantly when Xena shook her gently. The warrior chuckled softly at her quick response, as the young woman threw on her clothes and rekindled the cooking fire to brew some tea. When she stood and turned, her face was of grim determination. "It's time."

It was a statement of hard fact. There was no fear, no trepidation regarding the battle. Xena nodded as she sat before the fire, sipping her tea. She set her mug down when the bard moved behind her to help her with her armor. Her small hands were efficient, repeating a chore that she had performed what seemed a thousand times.

No words were shared as the Queen prepared her consort, her champion, for the meeting with Gael's army. But when Xena stood to take her leave, she halted the tall woman with a gentle touch to her arm. The warrior looked down into that a face that was strong, yet held a slight tremor of fear. Xena memorized the lines, for they were the map that would return her to sanity.

The bard offered her a scrap of cloth. Xena remembered the piece well. She had told the young woman that it reminded her of the shifting green of her eyes. She lifted it to feel its softness against her cheek. When she caught its scent, her eyes glinted with amusement and desire. Raising the cloth to her nose to inhale the bard's intimacy, the warrior raised her brow and tucked it into her cleavage.

"One piece, Xena," the bard spoke finally.

"I promise." A thousand emotions were in those two words. Feelings to which she would be numb until the bard brought her back.

There were no words of undying love. They had shared those last night. A brief kiss was all they would allow themselves. Otherwise, they might want to forget about the warlord and lose themselves in the safe cocoon of their love.

The warrior felt no reluctance when she let the ice cold mask of death fall over her face.

When Xena exited the tent, her adrenaline had already begun to roar in her ears, surging through her veins in a manner that she could only compare to the heights she scaled when Gabrielle loved her body. She glanced around at the women who were forming ranks in two lines. She called her lieutenants to her after they had wished each other a safe return with a lingering kiss. Once their lips parted, their thoughts were only of war.

She ordered the two of them to pick five warriors each and flank her main force with Wolf on the left and Eponin on the right. When all the warriors were accounted for, Xena and her two lieutenants mounted and led them into the valley.

As the Amazon force began to make its way towards the stronghold, Gabrielle climbed the ridge carefully so that she could watch the battle that she prayed would not come. They would offer the warlord one chance to desert the valley...only one. And if he should refuse...the Queen shuddered at the thought of the bloodshed that would result. Her skin rose in gooseflesh with the chill on the early morning air.


At first light, Ephiny, Arna, and a few of the women of Garalis stepped from the shadows of the trees. They were in plain sight of the sentries posted along the walls. The men, who were not really surprised to see them, nor when they noticed that the Amazons were fully armed and ready for a fight.

Even though she knew that there were a dozen of the Nation's best archers behind and above her, Ephiny had to stifle the sliver of apprehension that clawed its way up her back, raising the fine hairs at the base of her neck.

When the men on the walls called to them, Arna stepped forward and called for Gael. The men's raucous laughter pierced the stillness. When the warlord made his appearance, the Amazon bristled. "Gael, I am Arna of Garalis, and I have come to ask you to leave this valley."

Ephiny hid her cringe at the sight of the hulking man. His bearded face and naked torso were covered in scars telling of battles he had survived. He held his long broadsword loosely in one hand while the other bore his weight when he leaned forward. "Ah...if it isn't the Amazon bitch! I see you've brought some of your girlfriends," he replied with a cruel grin. Emboldened by the mocking jeers of his soldiers, he continued. "Forget it, slut. I lay claim to this land."

The Regent put a stilling hand on the redheaded warrior and stood forward to take her command. In a clear strong voice, she addressed the man. "Gael, I am Ephiny of the Amazon Nation, if you will not return this land to my people who have held it since the time of their grandmothers' grandmothers, then you seek war with us."

He growled at their impertinence. "So be it, Amazon," he snarled with derision. Raising his sword, he signaled his archers to attack. When the soldiers raised their bows, they were taken by surprise (and then Celesta) when the Amazon snipers hidden in the trees found their marks with unerring accuracy. Gael cursed as he left the wall to ready himself for battle.


Xena waited behind the last ridge, unseen by the warlord's sentries. When she saw the volley of arrows, she counted to a hundred and then back to one to settle the animal within her. She would wait until the warlord moved his men onto the battlefield, out of the safety of the stronghold, and then she would give her own signal. Looking left then right at her flank forces, she saw that Wolf and Eponin were watching the scene intently. She knew that they were waiting for her call.


When the gates to the stronghold opened and Gael rode through with his massive army, Ephiny sent a prayer to Artemis and raised her fist into the air. When the gates had been closed by the enemy's force, she lowered her arm. "Amazons, attack!"

Ten more women stepped from the cover of the forest and readied their weapons as those in the trees began once again to fall their targets from the air, moving through the trees so that their positions could not be determined for a retaliation.


The moment that Xena heard Ephiny's call, she gave her own.


To the warlord's credit, only one man in Gael's forces pissed his pants when the shrill cry echoed through the valley. The soldier knew the sound before he saw the she-demon charging across the field. He had only been a boy when the Warrior Princess had attacked his village, but his nightmares kept the memory fresh. Without a second look, he turned and deserted, running deep into the forest until he collapsed in exhaustion.

Gael cursed his luck. He knew that the Warrior Princess had been something to admire in her time, although he was sure that her reputation was exaggerated greatly by the simple-minded peasants that she had terrorized. Where he came from, women were only good for two things (maybe three if a man was lucky), and making war was not one of them. With an arrogant smile, he split his force, sending the majority of the men to meet Xena, while a squad of forty remained with him. He licked his scarred lips in anticipation. He wanted the red-head's blood.

The lieutenant in charge of meeting Xena's larger force said a prayer to his god of choice as the black demon charged down the hill into the valley. His blood ran cold, as her mount's thundering hooves shook the battlefield, digging up great clods of earth. Even from his distance, he could see the bloodlust that had contorted the warrior's features. She was more animal than human, and he saw a vision of his own death. Shouting orders, he commanded his mounted infantry to engage.

Xena met the riders with a savage eagerness. Her sword flashed only once, for the blood that ran its length, dulled the gleaming blade. With a single-minded purpose, she led her troops through the scattering mass of men, cutting them down with an ease that proclaimed the truth of her past as a disciple of Ares.

Leading her troops towards the front line, Wolf and her squad prevented any soldiers from flanking the main force and attacking from behind. Her twin swords whistled through the air, singing a chant of death for those who braved her space. When Beast reared, she presented a terror from the night's deepest shadows, her black and bronze armor absorbing the blood she drew forth from her victims.

Casting a quick glance to her right, she saw that a few men had broken past the right flank and were engaging Amazon warriors behind the front line. With a curse, she called to her second and took off in a flying gallop. Something was wrong with Eponin.

When she arrived at the other end of the battlefield, the three men who were engaging her lover froze in terror at the sight of the demi-god's horse trampling a forth who had moved to join them. The warhorse's rider stole their breath with a feral howl as she leapt from the saddle. Her swords, as she cut their bodies to pieces, were a blur of sound and sight. With a vicious kick, she sent the last man to his death.

Rushing over to the injured Amazon, she caught the bigger woman as she collapsed. "Beast, guard!" When the warhorse complied, she turned her attention to the woman in her arms.

"Wolf, how nice to see you here," Eponin muttered, her eyes glazed with pain.

"Uh, huh," the small warrior nodded as she took stock of the deep gash in her lover's leg. Tearing a strip from the woman's skirt, she bound the wound and checked for any additional injuries. The Amazon's breath was quick and shallow, her pulse weak and rapid. When Wolf put a hand to her cheek, the skin was clammy and chilling. "Eponin, be still, I'll be right back."

When the Amazon did not respond, the demi-god stood and approached her horse. "Beast, stay with her, please." When the warhorse snorted and nodded her head, Wolf took left in a ground-eating run to find her commander. She caught sight of Xena as a man's agonized scream pierced her ears. Sensing a presence behind her, she pulled a dagger from her boot and spun, sending the blade to find a home in the man's chest. Standing from her crouch, she resumed her course.


The Warrior Princess turned to find the source of the voice. Recognition tempered the fierce lines of her face as Wolf waited for her attention, concern evident in the wavering lines of the small warrior's features. "What's wrong," she asked as she sent her chakram flying to take the head of another soldier.

Wolf waited until the weapon returned to its master's hand and then approached the warrior. "Eponin's down. She's starting to go into shock," she explained, fighting the tortured agony that tainted her voice. "I request to be relieved of my command so that I can take her to the infirmary."

Xena glanced around and estimated the cost of the loss of her lieutenant. "Go on," she shouted as she turned Argo to meet the charge of another man.

As soon as the commander gave her permission, Wolf began sprinting towards her lover. Shifting on the run, she took to the air and unfurled her powerful wings, covering the distance in a matter of seconds.

Xena knew the moment that the battle balanced in their favor. The sight of Wolfdragon brought many of the men to their knees, praying to the gods to spare them from the Amazons' fury and the demons that rode with them. With a strength greater than any she had ever used in battle, she forced her darkness back into the furthest corners of her soul. She turned and engaged those who were still eager to fight, relying only on the skills which she had practiced so diligently most of her life.

When Wolf landed at Eponin's side, she gave Beast the order to return to camp as she gathered her lover gently into her scaled arms, cradling the woman as if she were a child. Taking to the air once more, she crooned deep in her throat. "Please, Pony, don't leave me. I love you too much to lose you now."


Gabrielle had seen Wolf shift into her dragon form. When she saw the direction of her flight, she called to Aglai. There was only one reason why the demi-god would be returning to camp. When she recognized the Amazon leathers on the body the dragon carried, she whispered a prayer and made her way carefully down the ridge to meet them.


The battle was over quickly once Wolf shifted. Xena ordered the Amazons under her command to round up the surrendering soldiers, as she worked her way around the stronghold to see how Ephiny had fared. When she turned the corner, she came upon a sight both gruesome and heartening.

Gael had been defeated by Arna who had suffered only minor wounds from the confrontation. However, the warlord was swaying at the end of a rope from a tree branch, his body mutilated beyond recognition. The crest of the Amazon Nation had been carved neatly into his chest. The good thing, she thought with some awe for the restraint that the Garalis Amazons had shown, was that the surviving soldiers were being held at arrow point instead of dangling in similar circumstances.

She ordered a thorough search of the stronghold (no more Cirras for her...not ever again) and then set a torch to the warlord's camp. When all of the prisoners had been gathered, she ordered twenty of her Amazons to accompany them back to Garalis where they would stand trial.

With a mental shrug, she knew that the men's fates were sealed the moment they decided to join Gael in his attack on the Amazons. If they were recognized as being in the village the morning of the massacre (and more than likely, all of them would be), they would be decapitated. Quick and easy. She wanted no say in the matter. She was not one to mix in Amazon politics, she thought.

But then the warrior laughed with genuine mirth. She was, in all ways but legally, married to their Queen, and the things that she had done for her lover ever since she had received her caste had made her basically a main player in those same politics. With a resigned shake of her head, she abandoned the battlefield. Mounting Argo, she led her remaining troops back to the camp in a victory march.


When Wolf landed with her precious bundle, Gabrielle greeted her with worry written across her face. "Wolf, what is it?"

"Gash on her thigh. She's lost a lot of blood, and she's gone into shock," the dragon answered.

"Aglai...Aglai! Snap out of it," the Queen called to the healer who was staring in fascination as Wolf shifted to her human form and carried the injured warrior into the infirmary.

The healer blushed as she looked to Gabrielle and rushed inside the tent, mumbling apologies to the Queen.

When Wolf laid Eponin carefully on a pallet, she bent to remove the bandage that had been stained through.

Gabrielle grasped her by the arms and tried to pull her away. "Wolf, come on, let the healer see to it."

The demi-god struggled to pull from the bard's surprising strength. "I was with Xena...I know what to do," she cried.

The bard switched to words to calm her friend. "Look, Wolf, I know that you can do it, but you're too close right now, okay? Let Aglai handle the wound," she ordered. "Go talk to Eponin, give her a reason to stay with us."

With those words, the blood rushed from the small warrior's face. She fell to her knees at the head of the pallet and took her lover's hand into her own. Bending her head, she began to whisper words of love and need.

Once Wolf had settled, Gabrielle moved around the pallet to assist the healer. The wound was long and a finger deep, but the sword did no serious damage as it cut cleanly though skin and muscle. It was not so deep that the Amazon could not recover from it without any major repercussions, given that she could stay off of it long enough for the muscle to heal.

After Aglai had cleaned and packed the injury with a medicinal poultice, Gabrielle closed it with neat stitches she had learned from practice with Xena. As she was finishing, the healer made ready for the others who were cresting the last hill into the camp.

When the injured began to arrive, Gabrielle was surprised. Aside from Eponin, they were mostly minor puncture and sword wounds with a couple of broken bones thrown in for variety. She thanked Artemis silently for her guidance and protection. Sure that Aglai could handle the situation, Gabrielle assigned a couple of healthy warriors to aid the healer as she left to find Xena.


After Ephiny had given her report, Xena's shoulders sagged in relief. Things had gone very well, with no fatalities and few minor injuries. Glancing across the valley, she could see the flames that continued to burn Gael's stronghold to ashes. Relieved to be finished with her command, she turned and entered the Queen's tent.

Gabrielle had just lifted the lid off of the steaming tub. Xena's brow rose in surprise. My wife, she thought with a mental sigh of exhaustion. She wasn't really tired from battle. In fact, she was still running high on the battlelust that raged through her blood. Her weariness stemmed from the fact that she was fighting her natural inclinations desperately, quelling the urge to strike out until the murderous urges dissipated.

Falling to her knees in front of the fire, she allowed the bard to remove her armor and leathers. She barely registered the woman's absence until the bard returned to guide her to the water that the warrior wished could heal her soul.

Gabrielle left the tent to have someone clean Xena's leather and armor. When she returned, she found her lover leaning forward in the tub, rocking back and forth, her arms wrapped tight around her middle. Without a word, the Queen disrobed and joined her consort.

Xena howled silently with violent need when Gabrielle began washing the blood and gore from her body. Her body shook in reaction to the gentle scrubbing that removed the coppery scent of battle from her hair. With an effort that was bound to sap her strength for days, Xena willed the monster into its cage. She sat, numb against clear reasoning, as the bard poured buckets of cool water over her body until the sheeting water ran clear.

She felt a tug on her arm and looked up with dazed eyes into the gentle face of her lover, whose expression was compassionate with understanding. Standing at the silent request, she followed the small woman to their pallet and shivered as Gabrielle dried the moisture off her skin with efficient strokes. When she felt another tug on her hand, Xena looked down at the pallet. Tears began to well in her eyes as Gabrielle invited her with open arms and legs. With a last gentle smile for the woman who understood and accepted, who loved her, Xena let the demon loose to feed on the savage desires that only her sweet wife could tame.

Gabrielle cried out in primal ecstasy as Xena entered her roughly. She had been ready the moment she recognized the look in her warrior's eyes. She knew what to expect and how to deal with it. She was not afraid. Even when battling the demons of her own darkness, the warrior had never hurt her in the past. Their loving just tended to have a rougher (much rougher) edge to it. It was the only time that she didn't have to beg the warrior to unleash the control she always held over sexual power.

After just a few moments of Xena's merciless thrusting, the bard cried out with her first orgasm. When her breathing returned to normal, she grabbed the warrior by the hair and yanked her away from the breasts that she had been ravishing. With a strength that surprised them both, the sweet, little bard from Potedaia flipped the Warrior Princess onto her back to suffer the Amazon Queen's version of tough love.

Into the late candlemarks of the evening, the couple inspired more than a few Amazons to seek solace with each other. However, in the infirmary, Wolf was still kneeling at Eponin's side. She laced her fingers with those of her unconscious lover, and began to court her, whispering a song of love that she had learned as an innocent girl growing up among the Celts. In between bouts of tears, the demi-god covered the Amazon's face with gentle kisses, entreating Eponin to return to her and their love.


The next morning, Ephiny stopped by to see how the injured Amazons were faring. Only three were wounded enough to warrant a pallet, and one of those was Eponin. The Regent stood in the doorway, framed by the rising sun. She was afraid to move lest she disturb the couple who were entangled with each other.

Sometime before dawn, Wolf had crawled onto the pallet to stretch out against her lover's uninjured side. Her head was tucked under the Amazon's chin, her arm thrown possessively across Eponin's chest. Ephiny smiled at the picture they made, as if they hadn't been trying to kill each other a moon ago.

She was startled out of her thoughts when she felt eyes observing her. Focusing her attention, she was expecting to see Wolf awake. However, she was surprised to see the Weaponsmaster smiling weakly at her.

Gesturing for her to approach quietly, they clasped arms. "How did it go?"

Ephiny felt her friend's brow for a sign of fever. "We won. No one died...on our side. All Gael's men who survived are being escorted back to Garalis." Studying Eponin with sharp eyes, she asked, "How do you feel? You got a nasty cut on your leg."

"Cut," the dark-haired Amazon snorted. "Feels like I've been stuck to the bone."

"You were pretty bad, from what Aglai says. Went into shock. She says that Wolf saved your life."

"I remember floating," Eponin muttered, trying to remembered what happened after Wolf had killed her opponents.

The Regent chuckled low on her breath. "Ep, you weren't floating, you were flying."

"Ah, shit, Eph...don't tell me I missed it," she hissed in regret.

Ephiny nodded her head, concealing her mirth behind a hand. Many Amazons had been curious to see Wolfdragon, but none of them had the courage to ask the demi-god to shift for them.

"So, tell me...what's she look like?"

Shrugging, the blond Amazon admitted, "Let's just say that if I hadn't known that it was Wolf, I'd would have had to change my breeches."

"You wear breeches," the Weaponsmaster asked with taunting humor, swatting away the smack that was aimed for her head.

"Ha...ha, warrior." Ephiny let her humor pass and quirked a brow. "So, she stayed all night, huh?"

"I guess so," Eponin answered, stroking the head softly that was resting against her breast.

"You're lucky you were out of it last night," the Regent said, changing the subject. "The Queen and her consort set new records for the loudest...." Ephiny paused when she saw Eponin's eyes rise to the tent flap. "Well, speaking of Cerebus," she admitted, smiling for the warrior who had entered the tent.

Her eyes raked over Xena as the tall woman kneeled to check Eponin's wound. She didn't seem any worse for wear. But the shift that she was wearing until her leathers were returned, revealed numerous scratches and bites all over her body. The Regent raised her brow when she saw the one on the top of the tall woman's foot. *What had they been doing last night.*

Wolf stirred when Xena pushed a strand of hair out of her eyes. "Hey, Pup, you want to join the party, or are you going to sleep all day?"

Squinting her eyes against the light that filtered through the tent, the demi-god raised her head and looked around. "Xena, I was kidding about the name," she mumbled.

"Oh really, I couldn't tell," the warrior returned dryly. "Doesn't matter, though, Pup, 'cause I'm gonna milk it for all it's worth."

The small woman groaned until she felt her lover stir beneath her. Wolf's eyes widened in joyful surprise when she saw Eponin watching her, awake and alert. Unwilling to stop herself, she raised her head and drank greedily from her lover's willing lips. "Pony," she sighed, content to lay her head back down to listen to the Amazon's heart beating loud against her ear.

Yawning for effect, the Weaponsmaster succumbed to her body's need for rest and closed her eyes, dismissing her company. "Good night, all."

Ephiny adjusted the blanket over the two lovers and stood to join Xena. As they left the infirmary, the Regent asked, "So, how's Gabrielle this morning? I swear you two didn't get to sleep until a few candlemarks ago."

Xena quirked her brow. "Oh, how could you tell?"

The Regent blushed and shook her head. "The two of you could have woken the gods on Mt. Olympus with the noise you made."

"What do I have to keep telling you Amazons? That's not me. Gabrielle's the one with the lungs."

"Uh, huh. And that wasn't your battlecry that I heard as the sun was going down?"

The tall warrior grinned wickedly. "That was inspiration."

"So that's what they're calling it these days," the Regent pondered aloud.

"Really, Eph, you need to get laid."

"Tell me something I don't know, Xena."


Half a moon later, the band of travel-weary Amazons arrived back at the capital. Solari greeted the group and then pulled the Queen and her Regent aside to give them a report of what had happened in their absence. The wounded of Garalis had left to return to their own village a few days previous. The two cooks had to be separated...again. Their argument had been the usual - whose recipe for venison stew was better. But other than that, things had been quiet.

When everyone had been settled, Gabrielle and Xena went to check in on Eponin. Neither were surprised to see that Wolf had moved permanently into the Amazon's hut. What had shocked them, though, was the fact that Eponin was propped up in bed, sharpening Wolf's arsenal of weapons as the demi-god laid beside her, reading poetry from one of the scrolls she had borrowed from the village archive.

"Are we interrupting," Gabrielle asked as she led the warrior into the hut.

Eponin raised her head from her task and smiled. "Not at all, please come in."

Raising her cheek to accept a kiss from the Queen, Wolf set the scroll aside and sat up to her knees. "Gabrielle, Xena," she greeted.

"Hey, Pup," Xena answered as she stepped to Eponin's side of the bed and lowered herself to sit on the edge.

"So, Ep, how's the leg? I thought after all that travel in the back of the cart, you'd be out there doing somersaults or something."

Eponin shrugged and softly smiled. "Guess I just found better things to do," she replied.

The Warrior Princess looked affectionately to the woman who had stayed at the Amazon's side the entire trip home. "You're gonna make her soft, Wolf," she chided with humor.

Winking at her lover, the demi-god ran a hand over the Amazon's firm arm. "Far from it, Xena," she retorted as the temperature in the hut rose several degrees for the new lovers.

"So, are you two going to make an appearance at the celebration tonight?"

The couple looked into each other's eyes and then at Gabrielle. "Yeah, we'll be there," Wolf answered for them both. "But don't expect us to dance or anything."

"Nah," Xena assured them, "we wouldn't want to scare everyone away," she deadpanned.


That evening as Apollo began his descent, the escort party returned from Garalis to the sounds of drums. Shaking off their weariness, they joined their sisters eagerly as the festivities began.

Xena learned from Ephiny, who had heard from the senior officer of the escort party, that all of Gael's men had indeed been executed. The warrior wasn't really surprised. She had expected as much. She went to find the bard, who she felt, should hear the news privately.

Although she had managed to maintain an air of nonchalance about the whole battle for her people, Xena knew that the young woman would be saddened by the total loss of life that she had somewhat commanded. Even after three years of traveling with the most infamous warrior in all of Greece, after losing her own blood innocence, Gabrielle still tried to maintain her moral code regarding the value of life, no matter whose it was.

As predicted, the bard broke down and cried when the warrior led her to a quiet copse of trees and shared the morbid news. Xena held her lover, consoling her with murmured words of reassurance, until her sobbing ceased. Wiping away the last of the Queen's tears gently, the Consort returned her to the party, where she was prepared to handle Ephiny's report publicly with stately decorum.

When Wolf and Eponin stepped into the bonfire's circle of light, all conversations ceased. Stories had been spreading through the village about the demi-god's flight to save her lover's life, and the couple had become the fodder for many romantic notions. To their good humor, they accepting the Amazons' ribbing about getting carried away with the whole idea of their courtship.

After the meal had been consumed, a hush fell over the crowd as the Queen climbed to her dais and launched into a tale of the battle that reclaimed the Amazon village of Garalis. "I sing a song of the Amazon Nation, the chosen people Artemis...," she began.

Xena settled back against a hay bale next to Wolf and Eponin. In silent companionship, they listened to the bard weave her words of magic, spinning a tale of battle glory and heroism. Passing a wineskin among themselves, they lost themselves to her romantic metaphors, leaving the true nightmare of that day to bury itself in the dark recesses of their memories.



Cheers engulfed the couples as they found themselves jostled among the well-wishers. The day's light rain had given way to a brilliantly clear night that had witnessed the joinings so eagerly awaited. Representatives of villages as far as the furthest reaches of the Amazon Nation were in attendance. Their purpose was to see their Queen joined and to welcome their new sisters into the family.


After a long discussion, Wolf and Xena had decided that it was inevitable, loving ranked Amazons, that they would take oaths to the Queen and the Nation. Both of them had already fought for Gabrielle, both as a friend and as the leader of her people. The swearing ceremony was only a formality in their minds, for they had already taken vows to protect their respective lovers and those for whom they cared (which included the Nation).

The joining ceremony, on the other hand, had been the result of clandestine meetings and careful plotting. They had pulled the Regent eventually into their scheming, threatening her with loss of limb and life if she were to let the surprise out of the bag. When the warriors had finally proposed the double joining to their prospective mates, all their efforts had been rewarded with tears of happiness and kisses of passion (unrealized for the still frustrated couple).

Banners had been sent out and word of mouth had spread like wildfire. Within half a moon, Amazonia had been crowded to the seams and beyond into the forest, as representatives and families arrived. A great hunt had been organized for the celebration that would follow the ceremony. Going out together, just the two of them, Wolf and Xena had brought in two stags and a boar in under three candlemarks, much to the chagrin of the larger parties who had fared less favorably.

Much pomp and ritual had been paid to the four women as they were prepared to ask for the goddess' blessing of their unions. While Gabrielle and Wolf had allowed themselves to bask in the luxuries that had been administered on their minds and bodies, the dark-haired warriors had accepted it with restrained impatience. For Xena, it had been simply an aversion to the whole ritual and pampering. And for the Amazon, it had been a matter of her libido and its impending relief.

And so, on the night that the moon swelled to its full brilliance, the two couples had been joined. Xena had given her vow to defend the Nation and her Queen as both an Amazon warrior and the sworn Consort by law. After the tall warrior had finished, Wolf, in her full warrior regalia of black leather and armor, had taken her own. Once they had been accepted by their sisters, they were joined to the women who held their hearts.

In true emotional bard fashion, Gabrielle had been reduced to tears as Xena had laid her weapons at the Queen's feet in a gesture of surrender and sacrifice. Many laughs had erupted through the crowd when Wolf had repeated the same, but taking twice the time, as she had deposited her numerous weapons reverently at her lover's feet.

The two couples had taken their joining vows in unison, drinking from their respective chalices of wine, asking for the blessings of Artemis, their patron goddess. When the priestess had declared them joined legally by Amazon law and custom, the crowd had erupted in cheers.


Wolf, who was talking to Xena, found herself on the end of another back-slapping. Sparing a glower for the tall warrior who tended to avoid such pleasantries with only a look, the demi-god accepted endless wishes of congratulations. Standing on her toes, she tried futilely to see her new wife through the crowd that was mingling in the village square. So preoccupied as she was, she did not sense the warrior bend down to her ear.

"I bet it's a bitch being so short, Pup."

"Better than being freakishly tall," Wolf retorted, her ill humor melting at the barely concealed grin on her friend's face. "Can you see her?"

"Who," Xena asked with mock ignorance. When the warrior received only a muted growl in response, she scanned the crowd quickly and nodded her head toward the central platform. "She's with Gabrielle."

Wolf nodded her head. "Well then, Commander, lead the way. Maybe if I hang onto your skirt tails, I won't be molested."

Xena chuckled low in her throat. "They can be just a bit enthusiastic, huh?"

"Just a little," Wolf agreed with slight impatience.

"So, Pup, tonight's the night."

The demi-god felt another taut strand of control over her heated lust fray and bust. "Keep reminding me, Xena, and I might just ravish her in view of everyone."

When the warriors found their mates, they were greeted heartily with kisses from the women whose brows were lifted in question at the private humor the two were sharing.

"She's a bit...anxious," Xena supplied, whispering in the Queen's ear.

Knowing what the new couple were dealing with, having denied themselves sexual release with each other, Gabrielle grinned wickedly. "Remind you of anyone, Xena?"

The warrior quirked her brow. "Yeah, and I can tell you where every ice cold puddle of water is from Mt. Olympus to Sparta."

The Queen chuckled at the memory of her own suffering. "I could show you a few that you might have missed."

"No reason to now," the warrior purred, capturing a sensitive lobe between her teeth.

Gasping at the fire that erupted in her loins, Gabrielle decided to forego propriety and practiced a little royal prerogative. With a suggestive gleam in her eyes, she led her wife to the privacy of their hut.

Wolf, seeing that the Queen had already retired for the evening, saw no purpose in stewing in her own juices. She pulled her wife's head down to whisper words of need. Few were witness to the spectacle of the two women rushing to their dwelling. Their eagerness to finally consummate their relationship lending them the speed of Hermes.


When Wolf and Eponin reached the privacy of their hut, they melted violently into one another, as was their most basic of natures. Their need far outweighed any discomfort or remorse they felt as their clothes were ripped and scattered.

Ragged sighs were torn from their throats as their naked bodies met for the first time. Before they could succumb to the weakness in their knees, they stumbled to the bed, pulling each other in their haste to discover tastes and textures.

Foregoing any restraint or sentiment for slow gentleness, their mouths fused, their tongues invaded. The sheen of sweat on their heated bodies lent to a delicious gliding friction that resulted in tiny explosions of pleasure along every nerve ending. Their words of love were reduced to feral grunts and tortured moans.

Instinctively, their hands found the places that brought orgasmic delight, urging each other to the pinnacle they had craved upon their first meeting. When they reached their climax together, it was the greatest reward for their promise to wait.


Several women startled when cries of release pierced through a lull in the celebration's noise. Those on royal end of the square heard distinctly the phrase "oh gods" cried in twelve different languages, while those on the other end, down to the most jaded with experience, blushed at the primal roar that was released in two-part harmony.

Knowing smirks were exchanged as money crossed hands. Solari won twenty dinars betting that Wolf and Eponin would restrain themselves until after they were joined, but not before the dancing began. Many were in agreement that someone (most believed that it was Wolf) had definitely broken the Queen's 'loudest scream while in the throes of ecstasy' record.

As for the couples, well...Xena and Gabrielle were satisfied to love each other and fall into the bliss of easy sleep with each other. However, Wolf and Eponin, having denied themselves for so long, made love frantically throughout the night, collapsing finally in the early candlemarks as the last of the revelers passed out from the effects of too much wine.


To this day, no game can be found near the bit of land that used to be the Amazonia (which had been abandoned many years later during a severe drought and was buried eventually under the layers of time). Legend among the animals is that two souls that discovered each other, return occasionally to the place of their greatest joy, to rediscover, to burn in a fury of desire, howling their releases into the still forest air. Cries are said to echo across the mystical place, so primal, that even the largest beast is reluctant to encroach.

The End.

The Way of Love

The Way of the Wolf

The Way of the Amazon

The Way of the Bard

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