Living in the Past: Book 2
Chapter 9 – The Xena Effect
The tall warrior limped off the boat and immediately scanned the area for a patch of blond hair. It took her a while due to the lack of light reflecting off of the setting sun, but finally she spotted her mate coming toward her with two horses. A smile reached her lips when she saw the dark eyes of her noble steed.
“You know, with all the villages we’ve saved you’d think they’d get on some kind of discount network for valiant heroes.” Gabrielle complained.
“Well we did leave them there a bit longer than expected.” Xena reasoned as she stroked Argo II’s nose.
“I’m not even going to comment on whose fault that was.” Gabrielle said with a wink to ensure Xena knew she was kidding. “Now we’ve barely got enough dinars for an inn. Thank the gods I made some extra on the boat ride.”
“Thank the gods horny sailors will pay just to look at you while you tell your stories.” The warrior smirked as they walked through the crowd and toward the inn.
“Hey, a dinar’s a dinar. And, forgive me if I’m wrong, but I don’t remember you doing anything to help out our purses.” She said sarcastically.
“Hey, I’m an injured woman here. I can’t be expected to flip around like a monkey from bow to stern for a few gold pieces.” Xena joked.
Gabrielle giggled. “You’re certainly in a good mood.”
Xena took in a deep breath and released it. “I think I’m just glad to be back on Greek soil. You know, I really believe things are going to be better from now on, Gabrielle. I’m looking forward to being out of the action and spending some quality time with you.”
Gabrielle smiled and squeezed Xena’s arm. “Me too, Xena. As much as you really did need the extra time in Chin for Liu to heal your leg, I’m glad it didn’t take too long. I don’t know how much longer I could have spent in that war zone before going crazy.”
The warrior put an arm around Gabrielle’s shoulders and squeezed gently. “You’re not the only one, my bard. Now let’s get some dinner and bed down for the night. If we travel at a good pace and leave early we might make it to the camp just after breakfast. The Amazons should be busy with their tasks and we can start to settle in to your hut. It’ll be nice to get a little peace and quiet in the village for once.”
“There can be no peace between our people!”
Varia’s voice was strong and unwavering as she spoke to the vampires. It was as if an invisible line had been drawn between them. She and Eve were at the head of the Amazons while Sarah and Khepri represented the vampires.
“God, I hate being right.” Sarah said under her breath.
“The vampires have killed our sisters, therefore they cannot be trusted. We cannot ally with a race of monsters that thirst for our very blood.”
“And I’m guessing you’re not gonna be swayed on that line of thinking.” Sarah observed.
“Absolutely not.” Varia growled.
“Of course.” She looked to the messenger. “Eve, do you have anything to say about this?”
Eve’s answer was the only thing that was truly up in the air for Sarah. She wasn’t sure which course of action would surprise her more: the Messenger demanding the royal challenge, or saying nothing and silently declaring war.
“Queen Varia, I demand the royal challenge.” She said, her eyes never leaving Sarah’s.
A gasp erupted from the Amazons and Sarah felt a shiver run down her spine. Something didn’t seem right and she figured out what that something was when Varia smiled viciously at her and answered.
“Accepted.” Her eyes remaining on Sarah’s as well. “Name your weapon or name your champion.”
“I call upon Sarah to champion my challenge.”
“And I choose staffs for the weapons.” The queen said.
The time traveler’s hands started to shake as her eyes went back and forth between Varia and Eve.
She’s told her everything she needs to know to beat me. She has to know I’m immortal otherwise she’d use a sword. Sarah thought. I’m gonna need a fucking miracle to get out of this one.
As she turned back to look at Khepri she saw the worry in her eyes.
“You guys are gonna have to back up and give us room to fight.” Sarah said, trying to keep her voice level.
“Something’s gone wrong, hasn’t it?” The vampire asked.
She was met with the most self assured look the girl could muster, and a quick response.
“Just remember your promises.” Sarah said as she turned back to face Varia.
Andy tossed her a staff and she nodded her head in appreciation. After twirling it a few times to get used to the weight, she looked to Eve. The Messenger’s eyes seemed unwavering in their resolve and it struck Sarah to the core. She pulled her gaze away from Eve and focused on Varia who was twirling her staff like it was simply another extension of her body. She stopped briefly to address her opponent.
“I’d say good luck to you, but I think we both know that even that wouldn’t be enough for you to come out on top here.”
“Oh I don’t need luck. I’ve got Xena’s blood running through my veins and there’s something in it that always helps us to save the day. I like to call it the Xena effect.” Sarah said as arrogantly as she could.
Varia surprised her by moving in quickly and knocking her feet out from under her before laughing manically. Sarah scrambled back to her feet and tried to calm her nerves.
“I don’t think that blood of yours is going to do anything but spill on the ground tonight.”
Sarah took a deep breath and sighed.
You’re probably right. She thought to herself.
“She must be drunk.” Zoe said as she watched Sarah take the first of many blows from the queen.
“I think crazy is a better description of what’s wrong with her.” Meg said before wincing as the fight unfolded before her eyes.
“Well whatever she is, she’s not going to last long in that fight. One more blow to the face from Varia’s ‘stick of pain’ and she’ll probably be knocked out. Awwwww!” He exclaimed as Sarah took a powerful hit to the gut.
As she fell to the ground and clutched her stomach, Varia circled her like a vulture.
“You know what the saddest part of this whole thing is?” She said to the girl as she tried to catch her breath and get on her knees. “You really do think you’re doing what’s best for the Amazons. You barely even know them, Sarah, how could you possibly know what’s best for them?”
The last sentence was nearly screamed as she raised her staff and brought it down hard in the direction of Sarah’s head.
“Because I’m not as blind and stubborn as you.” Sarah said as she blocked the blow and pushed herself up.
“Oooo. Maybe she’s been holding back!” Rah said.
It was then that the group started to notice that they weren’t rooting for their queen. Sadly their champion just took a blow to the back.
“And have you noticed that none of the people you care about so much are stepping up to defend you?” Varia asked as she continued her attack. “I’m pulverizing you out here and they haven’t so much as said a word against me. Face it, Sarah, this is what they want. You’re meddling in the name of people who don’t need you to speak for them. That’s what they have me for.”
She slammed her staff down toward the ground, but Sarah rolled out of the way.
As Zoe’s group heard Varia’s words they all felt a sense of sadness wash over them. They hoped against hope that Sarah would somehow pull through.
But as the time traveler lay on her stomach and spat out a mouthful of blood she knew that it was all over. Though the fight had only lasted five minutes at the most, every inch of her body was in pain, and frankly she didn’t understand how she was still conscious. Her eyes went in and out of focus as she looked up and saw Khepri preparing strike.
“No!” She yelled hoarsely and held up a hand.
Everyone looked up at the vampire and wondered if she would heed Sarah’s command. When she backed off with a growl the time traveler lazily rolled over onto her back and propped herself up on her elbows. She knew the fight was over. Now all Varia had to do was finish it.
“You were brave to face me.” Varia said, her anger toward Sara softened by the swift victory. “I respect that, though I may not respect you. That’s why I’m going to give you the option to yield.”
Sarah looked her over and thought about how easy it would be to say yes and save herself the pain of whatever Varia might have in mind next. She wasn’t sure if it was her extremely stubborn nature, or the possible brain damage she might have suffered, but something simply wouldn’t let her concede. So with a fear that she’d never known, she shook her head.
“You’re gonna have to finish it.”
Varia huffed and shook her head at the girl’s ignorance.
“I am about to break your legs, Sarah.” She leaned down and whispered. “You can’t beat me in this fight, it’s finished either way. Now stop being stupid and yield!”
Knowing what was about to happen to her did nothing to relieve her of her fear, but still she would not quit.
“Wow, this is really gonna hurt.” She said to herself, and then addressed Varia. “Just get it over with.”
As the queen shook her head and reared her staff back, Sarah closed her eyes and turned her head. But right after Varia let out her war cry, someone else cried out for her to stop. And before she knew it Eve was knelt on the ground in front of her.
“Wait, Varia, I was wrong.” She said. “I can’t let you do this to her.”
“Eve it’s too late for that now, get out of the way.” Varia said through gritted teeth, embarrassed by her partner’s spectacle.
“I can’t, Varia. I’m so sorry, please; you have to let her go.”
“It’s not your choice anymore, Eve. Sarah has made her decision.”
The prone time traveler looked between the two women arguing over her and started to wonder if there really was something about her genes that made her luckier than most people.
“Then I demand the challenge again. You’ll have to beat two helpless victims now.” Eve said.
Varia’s eyes grew wide and Sarah finally spoke.
“Eve quit being crazy and get out of the way.”
“She can’t demand the challenge again anyway. Guards.” Varia called out as she looked at Eve with a great deal of hurt showing through in her gaze.
Two Amazons grabbed a struggling Eve and pulled her away from the queen. Varia looked down at Sarah and they both resumed their previous positions. But another voice broke through the air before Varia could bring down her staff.
“I demand the challenge!”
Varia paused then turned to see who had just spoken. Every other head in the group followed her gaze until it rested on Rah.
She slowly lowered her hand as she noticed all the eyes on her. Looking down on the ground she felt the need to dignify her demand.
“Sarah was one of the first people to come looking for me when I went out into the woods by myself. I don’t think she’d do anything to hurt the Amazons, and I don’t want to see her get hurt.”
They continued to look at her as if she’d grown a third eye.
Varia stepped toward the young Amazon.
“Rah, you know that if you lose the fight, your choices will be banishment or death.” She warned.
Rah still couldn’t look up. “I know, but she also took the blame for me when we all went out of the gates. And in my entire life only one other person has ever stuck up for me before.”
The queen shook her head and threw her hands up in frustration. “Fine, then. Get out here.”
As Rah made her way through the crowd Zoe and Meg whispered their protests, but she didn’t listen. Before she got to the front of the group, Anthony’s voice was could be heard.
“Wait! I demand the challenge too.”
All eyes now went to him as he made his way to Rah’s side and they both walked to face Varia.
“What is this?” Varia asked as Sarah wondered the same thing. “Don’t think I won’t defeat you both!” She warned angrily.
“Oh fuck it.” Meg said, before moving forward as well. “I demand the challenge too.”
“No you don’t.” Zoe growled and grabbed her arm.
“Yes I do.” Meg answered and pulled the limb away as she trudged on.
Before Meg could even join Rah and Anthony, Andromeda spoke out with her demand and was followed by Andy. And with them more followed until finally even Zoe put her palm to her face and stepped forward as well.
“It’s like fucking Spartacus.” Sarah said to herself and chuckled.
Soon over half of the Amazons had issued the challenge and more were straggling along.
“I can’t believe it. She won.” Eve said, referring to Sarah.
Varia looked on at the throng of Amazons that stood in direct opposition to her and clenched her teeth. How could this possibly have happened? She turned back to Sarah, who was still lying on the ground, and trudged toward her. Once she was directly above her she raised her staff with both hands, and after the crowd of Amazons gasped behind her, she slammed it on the ground just below Sarah’s feet.
“You must be right about that Xena effect, because there is no other way you could have beaten me.” The queen said as she looked down at the girl and offered her hand. “I yield to you.”
Sarah swallowed hard and tried to take in the enormity of the situation as she reached for Varia’s hand.
“And now that Eve’s in charge I’m pretty sure, at this point, you won’t have to force her into leading the Amazon’s into battle.” The queen said as she pulled the girl to her feet.
She then started to walk away and Khepri moved forward to help keep Sarah upright.
“I don’t think Eve has the option to lead the Amazons and the vampires against the slavers, what with them being human and all. I think she’d rather just have you do it.” Sarah said, causing Varia to stop. “If you want to.”
“You don’t seem to understand, Sarah. I’ve lost the faith of my people. They can’t follow me into battle when they don’t trust me to lead them.”
“Just because you disagree with someone doesn’t mean you lose faith in them as well.” Sarah said, as she glanced quickly at Eve. “Friendship and love don’t work like that, trust me.”
“How many of you Amazons will follow your queen into battle against the slavers?” She asked.
Every single Amazon raised their sword and yelled out their allegiance, but Varia’s eyes still clung to the ground. Her pride was bruised and her anger had turned to defeat. Sarah noticed this and hobbled over to her.
“Look, I’ve had a really rough couple of days and I’m sure yours hasn’t been all rainbows and puppy dogs either.” She whispered into the queen’s ear as she steadied herself on her shoulder. “Let’s just make things easy for both of us and have you lead your people. They’ve believed in you all along, Varia. Prove them right by doing this.”
The queen looked from her subjects, to Sarah and then to Khepri.
“Is this true, vampire?” Varia asked. “Are you ready to fight under my command?”
Sarah looked expectantly towards Khepri as the dark haired vampire princess stepped forward. With swift movements she drew her sword and pointed it at the queen.
Sarah’s mouth dropped and her hair stood on end.
No fucking way. She thought as she fell to ground when Varia pushed her out of harm’s way.
Every Amazon tensed and prepared for battle. With a grin, Khepri knelt down and shoved her sword in the ground.
“As long as Sarah requests it, you have my sword.” The vampire said before her minions mimicked her position.
The Amazons all let out a simultaneous sigh of relief once the princess spoke. When she stood back up, she offered her arm to the queen.
“Shall we take care of your slaver problem?” Khepri asked.
Varia took the offered appendage. “We shall.”
Sarah simply laid her head back in relief. “Oh thank God.”
“Amazons!” The Queen said as she addressed her people. “The vampires are now our allies. They fight by our sides tonight and protect our land hereafter.”
The Amazons raised their weapons and their voices in allegiance.
“Now we take on the slavers that threaten our people.” The Queen paused before calling on her subjects. “Rah and Anthony, bring me the kidnapper. Eve, escort Sarah to the healer’s hut.”
As soon as Eve was freed by the guards she moved to Sarah’s side.
“Can you make it back to camp if I help you walk?” She asked.
“Are you kidding?” Sarah said as the Messenger helped her sit up. “After pulling all of this shit off, I could walk on air.”
She winced and clutched at her side before looking into Eve’s sad eyes.
“I can’t even begin to tell you how sorry…” She started, but Sarah cut her off.
“We’ll have plenty of time in the healer’s hut to discuss what’s going on with us. Right now, you may want to try to talk to Varia.”
“You’re right.” Eve said with a half-smile and a nod. “I’ll be right back.”
The Messenger timidly approached the queen. Varia was deep in conversation with Khepri who alternated between looking at her, and allowing her gaze to check on Sarah. It was she who first noticed Eve’s approach.
“I think someone wants to talk to you.”
Varia turned to regard Eve, then turned back to Khepri.
“Will, you excuse me for a moment.”
“Certainly.” Khepri answered as she took the opportunity to get a closer look at the time traveler.
Varia could see the trepidation in Eve’s face and though part of her relished it, another part of her felt sorry for the young Messenger. They stared at each other for a few seconds, but Eve finally broke the silence.
“I know you must think I’m this huge traitor, Varia, but I just couldn’t let your hurt her like that. I thought I could before, but when reality struck, I just couldn’t let it happen. I understand if you’re angry with me. I embarrassed you in front of your people.” She searched Varia’s face for any sign of forgiveness, but only found a tense stare. “I can leave as soon as Sarah is ready to travel, if that’s what you want.”
“Most people who betray the queen don’t have that option, Eve.” Varia said soberly.
The Messenger’s heart nearly stopped and her eyes began to water before she tore them away from the queen’s penetrating gaze.
“I’ll accept whatever must be done to make restitution for…” Eve started, but was cut off.
“But I found out a long time ago that you aren’t like most people, Eve.” The queen’s gaze was still sharp, but it had softened a bit. “We’ll discuss this when I return.”
Eve nodded and kept her eyes on the ground as she moved back to Sarah.
“How’d it go?” Sarah asked as she threw her arm around Eve’s shoulder and limped back to the village.
“About as well as it could have for someone as proud as Varia to forgive someone who completely humiliated her in front of her subjects.”
“Do we need to make a break for it?” Sarah asked, only half joking.
“No. She said she wasn’t going to kill me or banish me.” Eve said, and then thought for a moment. “Which, if you think about it, is a lot better than what happened the last time I pissed her off.”
“This is very true.” Sarah agreed as they made their way through the Amazon ranks and towards the village gates.
“Did you know the Amazons would defy Varia before you challenged her to kick your ass?” Eve asked.
Sarah chuckled at Eve’s phrasing, then answered. “I had no clue that would happen. But it was probably one of the coolest moments of my life.”
But as she looked over at her Amazonian friends a stab of guilt pierced her to the core. She was ready to fight against these people if the situation arose, and here they were saving her life by committing a massive act of treason. The thoughts caused her to pause in her steps.
“What’s wrong?” Eve asked.
“I should tell them.” Sarah said, as Eve looked at her quizzically. “About what I was going to do if I didn’t get my way. About how the person they saved is such a shitty human being that she could have gotten them all killed.”
She started to step toward them but Eve placed a solid hand against her shoulder, preventing any further movement.
“Not a good idea, Sarah. Those Amazons are about to go into battle right now. The last thing they need on their minds is the thought that they might have risked their lives for nothing.”
The time traveler thought it over for a few seconds and nodded.
“You’re right. I should tell them when they get back.”
Eve spoke as she continued leading them back to the village. “No, you’re not going to tell them at all.”
“That’s not fair Eve, they deserve to know the truth.”
“No, they deserve to go on the rest of their lives believing what they do right now. That they stood up to their queen to save their friend. Right now they all feel incredibly brave and proud of themselves. Do you really think it’s fair to take that away and replace it with feeling stupid and used just so you can get this off your chest?”
Sarah was silent for a moment. She honestly didn’t know what to do with what Eve had just pointed out. The Messenger saw her wrestling with the options in her head and spoke up once more.
“You didn’t wrong them, Sarah. Whether you were thinking about it or not, things worked out so that their lives were never in danger. There’s no need to let them think it could have been otherwise. The truth isn’t worth telling when it only causes pain. Your punishment will be to live with what you know, and if I understand you in even the slightest amount, I know that’s worse than anything those Amazons could say or do to you.”
Their eyes truly connected for the first time since Sarah found out about Eve’s betrayal and the Messenger saw just how tired and defeated the girl was. But she also saw understanding there. She could tell that the Sarah wanted to say something, but a familiar voice interrupted whatever was on her mind.
“Wow, somebody really put your ass through the meat grinder.” Arsen said.
His hands were tied behind his back as Rah and Anthony escorted him to the group.
“You should see the other guy.” Sarah rebuked.
“Varia doesn’t have a scratch on her, does she?” He asked with an amused smile.
“Nope.” Anthony answered for her.
Sarah smiled and looked at both of her friends.
“I can’t thank you guys enough for what you did back there.” She said. “I’ll forever be in your debt.”
Eve squeezed her softly, understanding just how much Sarah really meant that last statement.
“You did the same for me.” Rah said. “Mine was just more impressive.”
Sarah smiled at this and nodded in agreement.
“Take care of yourselves out there. The vampires are probably gonna want to see all the action, but don’t let your guard down.” She said.
“Hey, what about me?” Arsen asked. “I’m not sure if you noticed, but I’m all tied up and dependant on a bunch of women to keep me alive. Don’t I get a ‘good luck’ or something?”
“Arsen, you seem like the kind of guy that always ends up ok somehow. I’m sure you’ll be fine.”
As Arsen led the Amazons to the slaver’s compound he tried to slowly work his way out of his bonds.
These hookers aren’t even smart enough to realize that procreation is the secret to population, yet they can tie a knot better not than any sailor I’ve ever met.
“You know, ladies, I could probably be of a lot more help if you untied me and gave me a weapon.” He said.
“Keep your mouth shut or I’ll have them put the gag on you sooner rather than later.” Varia warned.
“Are you planning on keeping him alive after we take the compound?” Khepri quietly asked the queen.
“I hadn’t planned on it, but I really don’t want to catch any more lip from your little girlfriend. She brokered his safety in exchange for his help.” Varia spat.
“She is a handful, isn’t she?” The vampire mused. “What if something were to happen to him in battle? That would be out of your control, now wouldn’t it?”
Varia raised her eyebrow and a grin appeared at the corner of her mouth.
“Are you suggesting that you might be the one to do something about it?” She asked.
“The vampires only promised not to harm the Amazons, and last I checked he wasn’t one of your numbers.”
“Yeah, but I’m fairly certain that one of my best interrogators would step in to defend him should the need arise.” She then looked at Khepri curiously. “Why do you care what happens to him anyway?”
“I’m just not a fan.” The vampire answered.
“It’s her, isn’t it? I know he fought Sarah in the forest. Is that why you want him dead?”
Khepri answered her with a look; she could still visualize the knife sticking out of the girl’s stomach.
“You know that girl is nothing but trouble, don’t you? I mean, have you paid attention at all to what I’ve had to put up with since she came to the village?” Varia asked.
“I think that’s why I like her. I honestly don’t believe she’s afraid of anything.”
“Well that’s easy when you’re immortal.”
“It’s not as easy as you might think.”
It was then that Arsen piped in.
“Uh, if you two fearless leaders are done gabbing you might want to note the fairly large task at hand.”
They surveyed the massive camp the slavers had set up and Varia started to get a little nervous.
“Ready for a fight?” Varia asked.
“Hmm, ready for dinner.” Khepri answered.
And with that they dashed into the fray.
“So how do you think they’re doing?” Gabrielle asked ask she gently scrubbed Xena’s back.
“I can only imagine.” Xena said with a chuckle. “Sarah can drive me crazy; Varia must really have her hands full right now.”
“Maybe they’re getting along ok. She spent some quality time with Eve on the boat over here, maybe she rubbed off on her.”
“Pfft. I’m more worried that she’s rubbed off on Eve. Could you imagine how much trouble those two could get into if they were on the same page?” The warrior suggested.
“Well I don’t know about them, but I know I sure could do with getting into a little trouble right now.” Gabrielle said as her soapy hand wandered to Xena’s chest.
She softly caressed her breast before giving the nipple a mischievous squeeze. Xena moaned into the touch, but slowly turned to face the bard.
“About that.” She started, not having a clue how to say what she wanted. Her silence did not go unnoticed by the bard.
“Did I say something wrong?” She asked, worried.
The warrior automatically chastised herself for her cowardly inability to say what was on her mind. She softly stroked the bard’s face and gave her a reassuring smile.
“You did nothing wrong, love. It’s just that…” She paused again to swallow her pride, but continued. “…Gabrielle I know this is going to sound stupid, but I’m a little…nervous. With my leg the way it is, there are certain things in life that I just can’t do anymore and sadly, that affects our bedroom as well. I’m scared that I won’t be able to…” Just say it, warrior. “… to please you as much as I did before.”
Gabrielle’s face was aghast at first, but soon her open mouth turned into a smile that she was trying to suppress.
“Well I certainly didn’t expect you to be happy about it.” Xena said, somewhat hurt.
“Oh, Xena no. I’m not happy that you’re injured, it’s just that…” Now it was the Bard’s turn to clam up. “… it’s just that throughout our entire relationship I’ve been the one who felt insecure about what I had to offer you in that area of our life together. You always had so much more experience than I did.”
“Hey, I didn’t have that much more!” Xena defended herself and the bard quirked an eyebrow to correct her. “Ok, so maybe I had a bit more than you to draw from.”
“What I’m trying to say is that I love you no matter what you can or cannot do in the bedroom and the fact that you are worried about it, makes me love you even more.”
She moved in to kiss her passionately. As their tongues dueled and hands started to roam something crossed the warrior’s mind. She pulled away to address Gabrielle.
“Are you saying that you’re taking pleasure in my insecurity?” She joked.
“Absolutely.” Gabrielle said as she placed another kiss on Xena’s mouth. “Now let’s get you in that bed so I try to impress upon you just how much pleasure I’m receiving.”
“You know, Gabrielle, I’m not always as tough a warrior as I seem.” She said with a coy grin. “I have a lot of insecurities I can share with you. In fact, it may take all night before I get through them all.”
Gabrielle stood and let the lukewarm water cascade down her perfect figure while Xena watched with rapture.
“I guess we’d better get started then.” She said, offering her hand to the warrior.
“Ow, ow, ow!” Sarah exclaimed as Eve checked her ribs.
“I know it hurts, but I have to make sure they’re not broken.” The healer explained.
“Well how are we doing so far?” Sarah asked through clenched teeth.
“The wounds seem to be fairly superficial. I’m not feeling any breaks. You’re incredibly lucky.”
“Heh, you really don’t have to tell me that.”
“You’ll need to put some salve on the cuts and bruises, but other than that you should be fine with a few days rest. I do think you’ve pulled a few muscles, but all of the bones are still intact.”
“I can help her with the salve.” Eve said, taking the offered cream.
“Good, now if you don’t mind you may want to head back to your own room. I may have need for all the beds in the hut tonight.”
Both Sarah and Eve nodded as they walked out of the healer’s hut.
“I guess no matter how far back in time you go, some things never change. The future is doomed to constantly produce doctors with horrible bedside manners.” Sarah said as she hobbled toward the jail.
Eve chuckled at the remark, then questioned Sarah about the direction they were headed.
“Why are we going toward the jail, your quarters are toward the back of the camp?”
“I just figured I’d hang out with Rada until the Amazons come back to release her.” Sarah answered flippantly as she continued to limp onward.
“But Sarah, you need to rest and I need to get this salve on you.”
“Don’t worry about it, it’s not like it’s going to kill me. I’ll deal with it later.”
Eve thought for a second then spoke again.
“You mean you’ll deal with me later.” She said, causing Sarah to stop in her tracks.
The time traveler cringed before she turned around to face the Messenger. Then with a sigh she finally spoke.
“I guess I’m kind of a coward when it comes to apologizing.” Sarah said, embarrassment coloring her face.
“Why would you be embarrassed about it? If anyone needs to do the apologizing here it’s me.” Eve said.
“I’m not good with that either.”
“Well you’re just going to have to suffer a little bit then, Sarah, because I need to get this out.”
She pulled the time traveler to a bench and opened up the salve, speaking as she applied it to Sarah’s wounds.
“Can I at least start?” The time traveller asked as her eyes surveyed the ground.
“Look, I know I’m not the easiest person to get along with. I’m stubborn and proud and it’s hard to get me to see things from a different perspective when I’ve already made up my mind. But that’s not an excuse for what I did back there in the cave.” She finally looked up to meet Eve’s eyes. “We’re friends, and that should have counted for a lot more than it did at the time. I should have cooled my temper and figured out a way to make this work instead of threatening to switch sides. And I know that it really doesn’t matter now, but I did make Khepri promise to get you out safe if things went wrong. I know I’m a jerk a lot of the time, but wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to you Eve.”
“Are you done?” Eve asked with a small tear threatening to tip out of her eye.
“That depends, was the apology good enough? I’m usually too proud to make them.”
The Messenger chuckled sadly but nodded her head before continuing to apply the salve. She took some time to collect herself before speaking.
“I know it was Varia that you were fighting out there, but I feel as though it was me who put every single one of these wounds on you. You may have planned to fight on a different side, but I fought dirty. I told her exactly what she needed to do to defeat you out there and now you’re in pain because of me.”
“And I’d be in a lot more if it weren’t for you.” Sarah interrupted. She could tell that Eve’s heart was breaking with every wound she tended. “It took a lot of guts for you to step in like you did, especially against your lover.”
“But I wouldn’t have had to step in if it weren’t for my own actions.”
“No, it was my actions that put me there, Eve. You may have played a role in what happened, but we all choose our own paths.”
“I told her to break your legs.” Eve said, not shying away from Sarah’s confused gaze as she hammered her point home. “You told Khepri to make sure I got out ok, and I told Varia to break your legs.”
Sarah exhaled sharply and stood up. That stung, whether she’d already figured it out or not. There was something about hearing the words that just cut her to the bone. Running her hands through her hair she tried to figure out what to do with this information.
“This is why I hate this part.” She said, her back still to Eve. “I thought you told me that there wasn’t much point telling the truth if it only caused pain.”
“I never said I followed my own advice.”
Sarah didn’t know what to say at that point. She didn’t want to deal with this.
“I’m going to see Rada.”
As she started toward the jail, Eve rose from her seat to follow.
Morning brought with it the return of the Amazons and the arrival of Xena and Gabrielle. Sun filtered through the small window of the holding cell and Sarah’s eyes fluttered open as she took in her surroundings. There were a few empty flasks of wine strewn about and Rada was nestled on her shoulder sucking quietly on her thumb. She would have laughed at the scene, but as soon as her face contorted into a smile the soreness from last night’s fight echoed throughout her nerve endings.
“Ow.” She said softly as she brought her hand up to her face. As if that would help.
Upon moving the rest of her body she found the same results spread out over the bruises on her skin. Gently she shimmied out from under her Slavic friend and headed to the window to see what was going on. Amazons were starting to pour into the camp and all of them looked to be in good spirits. Shouts of ‘victory’ and ‘to a strong Amazon nation’ rang out over the huts and Sarah decided to ignore the aching of her body so as to ascertain information about last night’s attack.
“Did we win?” Rada asked sleepily.
“It looks like it.”
“Good, that’ means we’ll be drinking again soon. I need to fix this hangover.”
Sarah giggled as she headed toward the door.
“I’m gonna go talk to the queen about letting you out. I’ll be back soon.”
“Try not to piss her off again.” Rada said with a wink and a chuckle.
As Sarah emerged from the jail she could hear her name being called by several familiar voices.
“Sarah, you should have seen it!” Rah said quickly and enthusiastically. “The vampires were so strong and fast we barely had to do anything. They completely backed us up in the fight!”
“And then they ate a couple of bad guys.” Zoe said with a cheeky grin and a thumbs up.
“Did you guys lose anyone? Is everyone ok?” The time traveler asked.
“All of the Amazons are fine. It was pretty much a slaughter on our part. The slavers were so afraid of the vampires that they were kind of running around like idiots, so we made quick work of them. Thanks to you.” Anthony said with a slap to her back.
Sarah barely suppressed a yelp, but tried to keep a smile on her face.
“How are you feeling?” Meg asked.
“Oh, I’m great! Just a few cuts and bruises really, nothing major.”
“That’s amazing.” Rah said. “She kicked your ass so hard.”
“Yeah, well, I’m just a fast healer I guess.” She answered as she surveyed the area for a place to sit down.
“Well that’s good.” Zoe said. “You’re gonna need your strength because we’re about to start up a celebration. Not only did we defeat the slavers, but Xena and Gabrielle just got into town.”
“Seriously?” Sarah asked. She hadn’t expected them for at least another week and she really didn’t want them to know about everything that had transpired.
“Yeah, they’re actually headed to the queen’s hut to get the details.” Anthony said.
Sarah bolted off before he’d even finished his sentence. She limped quickly in their direction and intercepted the warrior and bard before they reached Varia’s hut.
“Hey!” She said, overenthusiastically hugging them both. “What are you guys doing here so soon?”
“Well we decided to leave as soon as we got the go ahead from Liu.” Gabrielle explained before noticing Sarah’s disheveled state. “What in Hades happened to you?”
“You know, fighting bad guys and all. I took on four at one time!” She explained as Eve started to walk up to the group.
“Four at one time, that’s impressive. You must be getting better.” Xena said as she painfully clapped Sarah on the shoulder.
“She is.” Eve agreed before greeting each of her mother’s with a hug. “But she didn’t take on four men.”
Eve had every intention of telling Xena and Gabrielle about everything that had happened, including her betrayal, but she was interrupted before she had the chance.
“Okay, okay, it was three bad guys. Way to steal a girl’s thunder, Eve!” She said, hugging the Messenger with one arm.
“Just go with it.” Sarah whispered quickly to the messenger.
“Three men is still pretty amazing considering how bad you were the last time we saw you.” Gabrielle said.
“Yeah, well, Eve showed me a few moves on the boat. I probably owe a lot of it to her.”
“Owe what to her?” Varia’s voice piped into the conversation as she exited her hut.
“My refined fighting skills of course. I was just explaining to Xena and Gabrielle that I wouldn’t have been able to take down those three guys if it weren’t for Eve’s training.”
“What three guys?”
“You, know sweetie.” Eve sidled up to her, preparing to go along with Sarah’s plan. “The slavers she fought in the compound. The ones who gave her those bruises.”
Varia surveyed the messenger’s face quizzically, but finally received the message Eve was sending with her eyes.
“Oh, right.” She said enthusiastically. “Yeah, she did a great job busting up those slavers.”
“Why are they acting so strange?” Gabrielle whispered to Xena.
The warrior simply shrugged.
“Well, you must be ready to get settled in your hut.” Varia suggested, trying to find a diversion. “And I need to address the Amazons about the battle, so why don’t we all meet up during the festivities and we can tell you all about what’s been going on around here.”
“That sounds like a great idea. We can’t wait to hear about it all.” Xena said. “Though I must say I was a little worried about how well you all would get along. It’s nice to see that you’ve worked together. I can relax now knowing that these two didn’t cause any trouble.”
“Us cause trouble?” Sarah asked. “Come on, you should have a little more faith than that.”
“Right.” The bard said suspiciously before they headed to their hut.
Sarah could feel Eve move behind her as she watched the warrior and bard’s forms disappear into the crowd.
“You didn’t have to lie to them for me, you know.” The Messenger said softly to her back.
“I did it for both of us. The details of what happened in the last few days don’t really matter because we’re still at the same place we were when we entered the village.”
“And where is that?”
Sarah finally turned around to address her face to face.
“We’re friends, Eve. And friends love each other not just in spite of their shortcomings, but because of them. You accept me for my shit and I accept you for yours. That’s what real friendship is all about.”
“So do you really think that everything went as smoothly as they say it did?” Gabrielle asked Xena as they walked into their new home.
“Not a chance.” The warrior replied. “But as long as their safe and sound, I really don’t think I need to know everything that happened. Right now, I’m ready to settle in and relax.”
“Are you sure you’re feeling ok?” The bard asked before pretending to check the warrior for a fever.
“I’m perfect.” She answered with a hug. “Welcome home, my bard.”
“I’ve been home ever since I met you, Xena.” Was the soft, sweet reply.
To be continued…
Return to the Academy