Xena: Warrior Princess – Virtual Season 4 'Re-Deaux'
Episode 1 "Reunion"
Disclaimer... Xena: Warrior Princess and all characters that appeared in the television series are the protected properties of Universal Studios and Renaissance Pictures. This is a fan run and fan written "series" and nobody is making a single cent on it's production. Any character not seen on the televised series, but appearing within this cyber series is the property of their respective authors.
NOTE: Our story begins directly after the televised episode "Adventures in the Sin Trade".
And now on with the show....
The chestnut gelding let out a deep sigh as he was pulled to a stop. They were at the crest of a hill overlooking an isolated valley. Down inside, nestled into the mountainside, lay the smallest of towns.
The gelding's rider shifted slightly in the saddle, causing him to move his haunches to retain his balance. Concerned, the rider lightly vaulted from his back and lay a practised hand along his sweating neck.
"Poor boy." she murmured. "I'm sorry I pushed you so hard. We're almost there. Let's rest for awhile, hmmm?"
Xena looked around, immediately spotting a small puddle by the roadside. The way was so seldom traveled, that the recent rainwater accumulation hadn't yet been consumed by passing mounts.
"Here you go." she said, and led him to drink.
The sun crested behind them, causing the road to flood with morning light. In the valley below, Xena could just make out the villagers beginning to mill about in the fields surrounding their town. "Time to go."
As the stranger rode into view, the locals couldn't help but stop and stare. They had moved far from the more populated areas of Greece to avoid such chance contact. A stranger; any stranger, let along with a sword strapped to their back, was cause for alarm.
Xena ignored the stares and murmurs. It wasn't as if she'd never been gawked at or whispered about before. It just seemed more intense without Gabrielle to take her mind off of it.
Without bidding them to, the memories sprang forward in her mind. The soul wrenching moment as their eyes had locked, Xena's arm had outstretched as she tried in vain to stop the inevitable. Then the surreal floating up of her blond hair as Gabrielle's body plunged over the edge and into the fiery abyss.
Gone. Along with her daughter Hope, the insidious spawn of Dahok. Just...gone.
Xena shook her head, clearing her mind and for the moment and blocking out the uncalled for images. She was so close to finding out if the parchment was true. There would be time for mourning later. Right now was a time for optimism.
Soon after Xena's return from Northern Amazon Lands, she'd been sought out by a messenger. He had said nothing, but handed her a piece of parchment and then disappeared in the time it had taken her to read the message on it.
That message had led her here, to this town in this isolated part of the world. Halting the horse directly outside of the Magistrate's Office, she dismounted and patted the glossy neck. "Thanks for the ride." she whispered into his ear.
Xena turned to see a friendly looking man smiling at her from just outside the Magistrate's door. His Assistant, most likely.
"Hello." She heard herself say the word, heard how guarded her tone was.
If the smiling man had noticed, he didn't let on. "It's not often we get visitors here. Not often at all. What brings you to this part of Greece?"
Xena reached into her armour and pulled out the parchment piece. Worn, faded and crumpled from the many times it had been taken out, read, and put back, it was an immeasurably precious link to Gabrielle.
"This." she said simply. "I'm looking for a friend."
"Oh?" The smile dropped a little in curiosity as he read the note. "Says here she's at the Mineral Spring Hospice."
"Yes." Xena had no desire to have a long conversation, not after she'd come so far, not after all she'd been through. Without Gabrielle to temper her impatience, she found herself struggling to stay civil. Still, she forced herself to relax a bit, and softened her tone before the words could come out with a bite. "Where is that? Is it far?"
The man laughed. "Well of course you don't know where it is! I'm sorry, young lady, it's just that..."
"People don't come here very often." Xena finished for him.
"Yep. Got that right. To get to the Hospice, just follow that road there. See it?"
Xena followed his outstretched arm and pointed finger and could just make out what could be construed as a road if you were looking for it to be so.
"Sure." she answered.
"Follow that until you come to a smaller road off to the right. It's marked by a white ribbon hanging from a tree."
Xena couldn't imagine a smaller road, unless it was a deer trail, but she nodded nonetheless. "Go on."
"That's it." he smiled his broad smile again. "Just follow that road till you get to the Hot Springs and see the Hospice. You can't miss it!"
"Thanks." This time her smile was genuine as she offered her hand. "The name's Xena."
He shook her hand heartily. . "Don't mention it. I'm Diocles. Say, uh..there's a stable just across the road here. Can I board your horse for you until you get back? He looks like he could use a rub down and some oats."
"He deserves that, and a lot more." Xena told him, feeling more at ease as she talked about the gelding. "I'd be grateful if you'd get him settled for me, and maybe you could see if somebody would like to trade him for a wagon ride back up the main road that leads to Athens."
"Thinking of selling him?"
"If I find who I'm looking for, there'll be two of us when I return. She prefers wagons to horses."
Her acquaintance chuckled. "Sure, I understand. My wife's like that. Won't ride to save her life. She loves a good wagon or carriage ride, though. Likes horses just fine, just doesn't want to ride 'em. I'll ask around, see what I can come up with." His eyes turned serious and he sought out Xena's. Sincerely he told her, "I hope you find your friend."
"Thanks." It was all she could say.
The matter of the horse taken care of, Xena followed Diocles' directions and walked down the back road leading out of town. As soon as she was out of sight of the villagers and could no longer hear the workings of the little town, she felt her hands shaking. Wanting her body to do what she wanted it to, she clenched and unclenched her fists as she willed the shaking to stop. "Not too much farther until I find out for sure." she said to herself. "I can eat and rest once I find Gabrielle."
The beauty of the morning was lost to Xena, whose mind had a single purpose: to get to the Hospice and find the truth. As she walked down the generously labeled 'road', she noticed nothing but the way the rocks crunched beneath her feet, each step taking her closer.
"Not too far now." She murmured to herself. "It has to be around here somewhere."
The further she walked, the more she began to wonder what a Hospice was doing way out here in the middle of nowhere, anyway. It would be difficult to find people to help, and it seemed a waste to have such a place where not many would be able to take advantage of the Healer's skills.
Perhaps it was a Hospice for solitude, she mused. A place of peace and quiet for contemplation or maybe it was a spa of some sort. The label of 'hospice' was overused at times, labeling everything from a retreat to a centre of medical healing. Still, it seemed odd.
If she had more time, if her mind was focused on any other thing besides the goal at hand, she would have thought on this further, but at that very moment the Hospice came into view.
Xena stopped walking for a minute, and just took it in. It was huge, and appeared very ancient. The outer walls, which surrounded the entire building and grounds, were crumbling in parts, overgrown with vines and ivy. It looked more like a Temple than any hospice Xena had ever seen, but perhaps the resourceful villagers had reclaimed it for their own use. That would explain the architecture, and also help to explain the location.
Many forgotten Temples were scattered across Greece. As villages bloomed, grew into towns, then sometimes cities, events sometimes conspired against them and these same cities occasionally toppled, the buildings once occupied and tended with such care, left to the elements and returned to the wild.
Xena had come across many overgrown Temples in her travels, and had often felt sad that they stood empty; a waste of time, of work, of energy. She was glad to see this one reclaimed.
A flock of sparrows chose that moment to burst from a nearby tree, twittering loudly. It was enough to break Xena from her reverie, and send her walking forward once again.
The climb to the Hospice was a steep one, but she hardly noticed the effort. In fact, she was surprised to feel her breathing become laboured and sweat making the skin beneath her gauntlets itch. She paused just outside the entrance to catch her breath, and her eyes fell on a large tree seemingly standing watch over an elaborate fountain in the courtyard.
"That's the ticket." She thought, and sought out both shade and water.
She had just finished drinking a ladle full of the sweet, cold liquid when a soft voice caused her to turn around.
"We've been expecting you."
It was a lithe, petite woman dressed in flowing white robes. A cowl partly hid her features, but her eyes and serene expression told Xena she was a good soul.
Suddenly feeling nervous, Xena withdrew the parchment once more. "A messenger..."
"Sent you that. Yes, I know." The former Priestess turned Healer smiled serenely at the Warrior. "I sent him to find you."
The ladle clattered to the stones without Xena noticing. She was in front of the Healer in an instant, her eyes bright with a mix of excitement and apprehension. What if all of this was a false lead? What if Gabrielle wasn't...
She forced the image of a small, blonde corpse out of her mind and instead blurted out,
"Is it true? Is she here?"
"You look tired, My Child. You have come a long way and suffered much hardship. You must rest, and eat."
"No." Xena's hand shot out and gripped the Healer's forearm in a gesture borne of desperation. "I have to see for myself. I have to know *now*."
The look the Healer gave Xena was one that only a holy person could give. Filled with compassion, tenderness and understanding mixed with determination. Xena released her arm, suddenly ashamed of her action.
"I'm sorry. I just want so very much to know for sure. I *have* to know. Don't make me wait, I can't bear it."
"I am Serena." The Healer told her, choosing to not respond to Xena's words. "Many years ago, this was a Temple of Apollo and I was His Priestess. Then the town was destroyed in a pointless war, and my services as a Priestess were no longer required. However, a healer was necessary, and so I picked up that mantle."
Xena was drawn into the story in spite of herself. "And since Apollo is also a God of Medicine, it was relatively easy for you to switch roles."
Serena smiled. "Yes." The energy that came from her was so calming, so complete in it's goodness, that Xena found herself speaking the words,
"I think a short rest would be good after all."
Startling violet hued eyes met blue ones. "Can I offer you some food?"
The Warrior simply nodded. Then her body, pushed too far beyond it's endurance several times over, finally gave out, and Xena fell to the courtyard cobblestones, unconscious.
Serena motioned into the shadows and four more people in white robes poured from the mouth of the Hospice and scooped up Xena's inert form, gently carrying her to a safe, comfortable place.
"Rest, Warrior. The object of your quest is near at hand."
Serena laid a blanket over the sleeping woman before she ushered the other healers out of the room and shut the door.
Xena dreamed as she slept.
She found herself standing at the edge of a beautiful meadow. Emerald green grass spread out before her, dotted with daisies and various wildflowers. The sun shone brightly, yet it wasn't uncomfortably hot. Bees buzzed merrily amongst the flowers, and in the distance Xena could make out the forms of a doe and fawn laying in the shade of some trees.
It was perfect.
Too perfect, Xena thought to herself as she strode out onto the meadow. Nothing was ever this good.
"Oh, you're so right." Alti's familiar rasp sounded in her ear.
Xena whirled, her sword slipping from it's sheath easily as she stood ready to fight.
Alti was nowhere to be seen. Instead it was her disembodied voice that taunted Xena.
"You're going to die, you know." She said almost languidly. "You and your little friend." Her voice trailed off in a cacophony of laughter.
Images flashed through Xena's mind, accompanied with sensation.
Romans. Cold. Snow. Pain.
Among the pain, blood and sense of death, Love hovered like a tangible thing.
"I love you, Xena." Gabrielle said, smiling even as a tear ran down her cheek and the Roman Centurion kneeled to drive the nail into her hand.
"I love you, too, Gabrielle." Xena answered, feeling the emotion drive out any fear, any pain.
The images gone, Xena yelled out to Alti, "I'll tell you now what I told you right before I killed you, Alti. Right before I impaled you on that tree limb, do you remember?"
The response was a hiss of recollection. "You can't kill me. I've simply taken another form."
Xena shrugged. "Whatever. You still lost, Alti. Gabrielle's alive! I'm close to finding her, and I'll stop that vision, do you hear me? I'll stop it!"
Alti's maniacal laughter filled the air, and then morphed into the sound of the rushing wind.
Xena felt her heart pounding in her chest. Where was this place? Why was she here?
A flash of blond drew her eyes to a distant spot on the landscape.
Xena ran forward, eager to see for herself who it was that she had caught a glimpse of.
As she ran, a Sanctuary came into view. Marble columns reached skyward. Stately benches dotted the area, and Xena slowed to a walk as she noticed the many people resting in the shade.
Nearby was a table filled with fruit and good food of all types shared space with elaborate pitchers of wine. Equally elaborate goblets, filled with amber liquid, were held by the occupants of the glen.
The people laughed, toasted each other, kissed, hugged and made merry.
Xena's eyes scanned for the blonde hair she had seen, and her heart rose and fell dramatically a she saw the source of it, then realized it wasn't Gabrielle.
"Welcome to Elysia."
Xena's eyes dropped to a person of incredibly small stature. The dwarf raised his goblet to her and smiled. "Did your horse throw you?" he asked. "I can't imagine you being bested in battle."
"I'm not dead." She said.
"Oh, well, then you can't stay." He said.
"I'm not planning on staying." Xena answered curtly. "I came to find my friend."
"I'm Mattias." The little man introduced himself. "You must be Xena. I heard tales of one who could visit the Realm of the Dead, only to return to the surface world."
Blue eyes continued to scan for the one she came for.
"That's me." She said. "If you'll excuse me, I have to go now."
"Sure! Enjoy yourself. Have some grapes, they're wonderfully sweet!"
Xena didn't really hear him as she walked past the table, examining each face.
That voice. It couldn't be.
The young man came directly up to Xena and embraced her lovingly. "What are you doing here? I can't believe it's you! What happened?"
"I'm not dead. I'm looking for..."
"Hey, Marcus! Look what the hydra dragged in!"
"Well, I'll be." The handsome dark man joined them, his eyes bright with recognition.
"I haven't changed that much, have I?" he laughed. "Come on! Have a drink!" He grabbed a goblet from a nearby tray and handed it to her. "Drink up." He winked.
"No, thank you. I came for something else. For someone else."
"What are we, chopped liver?" Lyceus asked, a small edge entering his tone. "Don't you care about us anymore?"
"Of course I do! I'm so happy to see you, but...but I have to..." her mind was getting fuzzy. Why *was* she there?
"Have a drink." Marcus insisted. "What's one drink among old friends? You wouldn't insult us by not drinking with us, would you, Xena?"
They were suddenly too close.
"Stand back." She warned, reaching for her sword.
"That won't do you any good, Xena." Marcus said, suddenly not friendly at all. "We're *dead*, remember?"
"Yeah." Lyceus seconded. "We're dead. Because of you."
"There was nothing I could do. You weren't supposed to die! And you, Marcus, you died a hero. You died an honourable death."
"Because we knew you, because you touched our lives we're dead." Marcus intoned.
"Because you knew Gabrielle, because you touched her life, *she's* dead." Lyceus smirked.
"No. No, you're wrong! You're both wrong!" Xena turned to run from the scene only to bump straight into Hades himself.
The God of the Underworld grasped her by the shoulders and simply stated, "It's an illusion, Xena. Look." He spun her around, and the only that remained was the meadow. "The one who was causing the trouble has been expelled from my Realm." He said with a smile. "There's the truth."
Marcus and Lyceus were there, talking amiably, but not noticing her. "They can't see you, Xena." He explained. "Because this is a dream."
"I have to know where Gabrielle is." She said, her mind suddenly clear again, her purpose known.
Hades stepped back, spreading his arms wide.
"She isn't here, Xena. She isn't here." Then he dissipated before her eyes, turning into a flock of sparrows and flying away.
With a rush, Xena was awake and sitting up in the small bed.
Her heart was racing from the dream, but she willed it to return to it's usual rhythm. With a few deep breaths she remembered what had happened. Her trip to the isolated Hospice, meeting Serena, then collapsing.
"A dream." She said. "It was only a dream."
Filled with renewed energy, Xena stood and headed out to find The Healer. She needed answers, and this time she wouldn't take cryptic statements.
Xena threw open the door with such force it banged against the wall, causing echoes to ripple throughout the building. She strode out into the hallway, her determination growing with each step.
The hallway led to an outside passage, and for now that seemed as good a place as any to find Serena. Then suddenly the Healer was there, in front of the passage, her hands held up to stop Xena's progress.
"Do you need anything?" she asked.
"Yes." Xena replied, allowing some of her frustration to surface. Healer or not, ex Priestess or not, this woman was not going to double talk her any more! "I want what I came for." She said. "I want answers. *Now*. No more talk of me resting, or eating, or meditating or anything! I just want Gabrielle."
Familiar laughter reached Xena's ears.
The sound seemed to come from far away, but it was enough to jerk Xena's head in it's direction.
"I think you'll find what you're looking for in the garden." Serena said, but Xena had all ready brushed past her and ran through the doorway.
She found herself in a long stretch of green. Not unlike her recent dream, but she could feel the hot sun, hear the buzzing insects. This was no dream.
At the bottom of the strip of garden, two people were sitting on the grass reading a scroll. One was a robed healer, and there was no mistaking the other.
When Xena called out, no sound came at first. It stuck in her throat, blocked by the rush of emotions. The wind shifted, once again bringing the sound of laughter up the hill.
"It's not a dream." Serena said. "She will not disappear if you call to her, and no monsters or daemons will take her place. Alti cannot touch you in this place; nothing can harm you in this place. Go to her."
At that very moment, Gabrielle turned, as if alerted by unseen hands. Her hair fell over her shoulder, her chin tilted up as her hand shielded her eyes against the glare. Who was that with Serena? The sun...she couldn't quite make out who...
Curious, she stood, and then everything became clear.
Later, nobody could remember who moved first, who called out whose name first, who shed the first tear of pure joy. There was only a mad dash to the other, the warmth of bodies locked in the fiercest of hugs, and a tide of emotions that broke with a hurricane's force.
"I thought I lost you!" were the first coherent words Xena could get out. She couldn't let Gabrielle go, and so kept her clutched tightly against her chest, one hand around her waist, and the other entwined in golden hair. "I thought I'd lost you forever!"
"I thought so, too!" Gabrielle returned. "Xena, I woke up here and I couldn't remember a thing. Not a thing! And then after weeks passed and my burns healed, I..."
Xena gently disengaged from the embrace and immediately took the bard's hands into her own. She searched every precious inch, but could find no mark. "Burns? How badly were you hurt?"
"Let me answer that." Serena was standing there with them. For how long, Xena and Gabrielle couldn't say; so wrapped up in their reunion had they been. "When Gabrielle came to us she was very near death." Serena explained. "We lost her briefly, but Hades saw fit to return her to us."
Xena wanted more details at that remark, but Serena's expression silenced her query. She let the Healer continue,
"After we almost lost her, she remained in a deep, unnatural sleep for days. Finally when she awakened, she didn't know who she was. It took some time before her memory returned, and then from that time forward she rapidly recovered."
"I wanted to come looking for you, but they'd all ready sent the message." Gabrielle told Xena, reaching up to wipe a tear streak.
"We thought it best for her to wait for you to come here." Serena explained. "Imagine if she had left, only to have you arrive days or weeks later?"
Xena nodded. "I can see that. Thank you, thank you so much for all you've done. If there's any way I can repay you...."
Serena raised a hand to stop her. "No thanks are necessary. Healing is what we do. Besides, you have all ready repaid us, and the world, ten times over for this small act of kindness."
That got their attention. "Excuse me?" Xena asked, her natural intuition springing back to life after being dulled for so long. "What do you mean? I've never met any of you before today."
"You would be surprised, Warrior Princess, who you know and who you do not." came the cryptic response. "Just know that we are grateful, and wanted to repay you for all the good you've done."
"She probably means since you've started working for the Greater Good." Gabrielle guessed.
"Precisely." Serena bowed her head briefly.
"How did you get out of the lava pit?" Xena asked her soulmate. "I looked over the edge, you were gone."
"All I remember is falling, and I woke up here." Gabrielle admitted. "I wish I knew more, but that's all there is."
Almost afraid to ask the next question, Xena hesitated before asking, "What about Hope?"
Once again the Healer broke into the conversation. "The one called Hope is no more. She perished in the flames, disowned by her father for failing. The threat of Dahok is over, thanks to Gabrielle's willingness to sacrifice herself for you, and the Greater Good."
"Dahok is no slouch." Xena said, still not convinced. "He has many followers, even Ares..."
"Ares has been dealt with." Serena said, for the first time an edge sharpening her tone. "He was misled, and misused, but is now back in the good graces of Olympus. The other followers are all ready going on to other things, disenchanted by the lack of results promised them by Dahok and Hope."
"And you know this, how?" Gabrielle asked.
"I was a Priestess, remember? I have my ways."
Xena was far from pacified by the half answer, but she set all questions aside. In the long run, it didn't matter. Nothing else mattered, now that Gabrielle was by her side once more.
"What do you say we get out of here and go home?" Xena asked, brushing Gabrielle's hair out of her eyes.
"I'd say that's the best idea I've heard in a long time." A shadow suddenly fell across her features, and she let out a sigh. "Xena, before we go, I just want to say I'm sorry. If I'd have listened to you in the first place, none of this would have..."
A finger gently touched her lips, silencing her.
"It doesn't matter." Xena told her. "I shouldn't have blamed you for Solan's death and if we stand here and try to apologise for every thing we each would want to do differently we'd be here for eons. The truth of the matter is that we both did things we regret, but nothing in the past can be changed. We just have to go forward. Together."
Gabrielle broke into the smile that never failed to melt Xena's heart. "I love you, you know that."
She pulled the bard close and kissed the top of her head. "Ditto."
Serena cleared her throat, effectively getting their attention. "One of our administrators, Jonus, is driving over the mountain to Parnassus to pick up a new Apprentice. May we offer you a ride? It will take you around the town you came through to reach here, but it's closer to your eventual destination."
"Yes, that would help us a great deal." Xena nodded with a happy grin.
"Thank you so much for everything!" Gabrielle added, and left Xena for the briefest of moments to hug her benefactor and healer.
"You are most welcome. And now, I fear, it's time for us to part. Come this way, please."
The 'healers' stood and waved until the cart had disappeared from view. The goodbyes had been complete and heartfelt, and Xena and Gabrielle had been eager to get on their way. Packed into the wagon, they had looked back and waved until a bend in the road blocked their view of the Hospice.
"It is done." Serena intoned, and the robe fell away as she grew several inches, revealing herself in Her true form.
"You did well, Athena." For an instant, it appeared the man standing beside her was the Magistrate's Assistant that Xena met that first day in the tiny town. Then in the blink of an eye, he was Zeus.
"If it hadn't been for Gabrielle's sacrifice, we could never have ridden the world of Dahok and his influence." Athena told her father. "When she died, I had to interfere. I'm just glad Hades agreed."
Hades, who had been standing behind her also disguised as a healer, simply said, "What could I do? It was a small thing to give her life back, and a good way to thank Xena for all she does, as well."
Zeus chuckled. "I think you gave two lives back, by that act." He told his brother. "Xena's as well as Gabrielle's."
With that, the group of Immortals faded from sight, and with their return to Olympus, the elaborate illusion they had created melted like spun sugar in the rain.
On the road to Parnassus, in the back of a wagon they didn't know was driven by Hermes, Xena and Gabrielle were lost in conversation and in each other's eyes.
They never even noticed the little town in the valley disappear, and would never know the real help they had in achieving their reunion. ===============================================================
THE END Disclaimer: No Gods who masqueraded as Healers were harmed in the making of this tale. Unless you count the chafing they got from those robes....
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