The characters of Xena:Warrior Princess do not belong to me and I will return them when Im through playing with them.
This is a work of alternative fiction that contains scenes of a romantic nature involving two women. Youve been warned.
There is a modicum of violence but nothing that you wont see after nine PM on any major television network.
Due to time constraints, this story has not been edited or beta read and may contain any number of errors in grammar, spelling or punctuation. If you cant deal with a misplaced comma here and there or sentence fragments (I really like some fragments), move along. If its not going to bother you to read this before I get it cleaned up, youre my kind of people. WELCOME
Comments may be directed to the author, that would be me, at: LadySavay@aol.com
It was a dark and stormy night.
No, really, it was!
That, in itself, was unusual. In all the years I grew up in California, it had only rained on Halloween twice.
This just happened to be the second time, and it was the worst of times for me. I usually didnt go out on Halloween. This was the first time in ten years I was going out.
Id been invited to a Halloween party.
A childish little part of me had always, always loved Halloween. The idea of just dressing up and pretending to be someone always appealed to me. Never being very forceful or aggressive but fairly inhibited as well as having fairly low self esteem about my looks and abilities meant that the one time of the year I could pretend to be more than I was had unusual importance for me.
At least it did when I was kid, but as I grew older the whole dressing up and pretending issue got harder and harder to justify. As a result, I rarely went anywhere, ever, and didnt get to pretend anymore.
Add to that the fact that I was naturally shy and hadnt made a huge amount of friends meant that I was seldom invited out. This year a friend at work had asked me to come with her to her sisters Halloween party. She was nearly as shy as I was and because it was her sisters party, she was compelled to go. I had never met her sister but heard a great deal about her as Gina spoke of her often. Gina was a few years younger than I was and new to the firm so from the beginning I had been kind of protective of her. When she told me shed feel so much better if I went with her, I felt sorry for her and acquiesced. I never told her that the idea to go and once again pretend appealed to me so much. Nor did I mention the compelling fact that, besides her, Id not know anyone else there and probably never see them again. This in itself felt very freeing to me.
So, after changing my mind at least a dozen times in the three weeks before the party about what costume I should wear, I found myself staring at my reflection in the window as I stopped focusing on the rain and lightning outside while I waited for Gina to arrive.
Wed decided she would drive as her sister lived in Pacific Palisades in a high rise and parking was difficult if not impossible on any given day. Her sister told her she could use one of her assigned spaces in the underground garage. It seemed sensible to me.
As I refocused on my image in the glass, I once again questioned the wisdom of deciding on this costume.
The woman at the store described it as "kind of a white witch thing." The dress was short and form fitting showing off much more cleavage at the V-neck than I was usually comfortable with. It was a pearl gray satin and had a ragged edge at the hem and tiny buttons which closed the sleeves from the wrist to the elbow. The suede boots matched in color, tied up the front to my knees and had four-inch heels. For tonight my usual office- appropriate chignon was undone and I let all of my thick waist-length blonde hair fall down my back. But it was my face that caught my attention.
Normally, make-up wasnt something I did. I knew in my heart I just wasnt pretty and always thought the idea of trying to fool someone into thinking that way was kind of like tricking the innocent, but tonight I was out to trick the innocent. The makeup, though not excessive was making a statement. My ordinary muddy green eyes seemed to shine a clearer shade against the background of black mascara, eyeliner and iridescent streaks of gold, copper and beige as it climbed from the base of my lashes to my brow. My cheeks were accented with deep contours under the bone and glossy with shiny mauve above it, and my lips were awash in a vibrant rose. I looked great. At the moment I looked at myself and thought it, the reality that it was all façade came crashing in and I resolved once again, to allow only this one night, this Halloween, to pretend I was more than I knew I was.
I turned from the window and glanced at the clock. Since dressing, Id forgotten at least three times that my watch wasnt on my wrist anymore. Replacing it and mirroring the one on my other arm, was a gray suede gauntlet that extended from my elbow down my arm and hand to wrap with a loop around my middle finger and thumb. The beadwork was beautiful. It depicted the crescent moon, a swan and a two-sided axe of some sort. At least the left one did. The right one had a pair of crossed swords, doves and a deer. As I turned to grab my poncho, I felt the unusual weight of the amulet I wore around my neck and the earrings that dangled low enough to hit my shoulders. The heavy silver metal held pale blue and amber stones so realistic looking I would have sworn they were real topaz. That is if I didnt know I had rented the whole costume for $30.00.
I once again reminded myself to thank Gina for recommending the place to me, The Hidden Entry was a fabulous place and I was surprised it hadnt been more crowded since it was just a few days before Halloween. My experience had always been that the closer the date arrived, the bigger the mad-house-like atmosphere costume shops had. This one was very quiet though and had only three other customers and the delightful woman who helped me. Agnes was really charming.
Just as my hand grabbed the edge of my poncho, I heard the sound of Ginas little sports car pull up in front of my house and decided to run out to meet her instead of her getting drenched finding her way to the door.
The ride in the speedy little car through the wet and crowded streets left me a little afraid to take Ginas mind off her driving but she seemed unaware of my worry. She prattled away as was her habit once you got to know her well. Her very pretty pale blonde looks were largely responsible for her getting the receptionists position at our agency. If there were any people who knew the value of a good first impression, as well as a hefty pair of breasts sitting at the reception desk, it was an office full of talent agents.
Others in the office, the small and catty women mostly, referred to Gina with a number of derogatory titles or remarks and drifty was the kindest among them. It was true the beautiful young woman wasnt a rocket scientist but she wasnt as dim as they wished. She did have a tendency to prattle on a bit and now was no exception. Beyond watching the road for anything determined to plow into us, I gave only a vague ear to Ginas rambling, mostly about her very beautiful and powerful sister. By the time I was just beginning to relax my white knuckles from the door handle we were pulling into the garage beneath her sisters building.
Wed just gotten into the elevator with some other partygoers, as difficult as that was with Ginas pink chiffon fairy wings sticking out, when we heard a crash of thunder and the lights in the car went out momentarily.
I distinctly heard Gina say under her breath, "I knew it," and looked at her. Even in the dim red emergency lighting I wasnt prepared for the diabolical grin she briefly wore. I thought to myself at the time, what was that about? And then I questioned myself as to whether I really even saw what I thought I saw. Seconds later power was restored.
By the time we reached our floor, Id convinced myself it was all a trick of the light.
The panel above the door read 21 and the doors opened directly into a small alcove. The devil that was with the ballerina in front of us reached out and rang the bell and then the doors opened.
The room was vast and very dark. Only candlelight and the fireplace gave off illumination. It was much more crowded than I thought it would be and that, oddly, made me feel better. Id always felt a little overlooked in large crowds, knowing there was something completely unremarkable about me, and that was how I liked it. The odd thing was that even with all the people in the room all the costumes to catch the eye and hold it in waves of color or sequins, she stood out like a lighthouse on a dark night.
She was nearly at the other end of the room and we made eye contact instantly, in spite of the dozens of people between us.
Standing easily six feet tall and as still as a statue in what appeared to be just strips of vaguely intersecting and connecting navy blue satin. Her pale skin shone through the cuts and slots of the costume that barely kept her from violating any number of laws. She was barefoot and the only jewelry she wore was a large ring on her right middle finger and a diamond ankle bracelet. Her fall of straight, blunt cut, heavy blue-black hair was hanging down even further than my own. I saw all of that from across a crowded dark room and it never occurred to me that it was odd.
Seconds later she made her way across the room and she was hugging Gina and kissing her cheek. Since I hadnt been able to stop looking at her I missed some of what they said, but I remember hearing her tell my friend "You win. Its tonight." Then we were introduced.
"Tanya," Gina said as she smiled at me, "this is my friend, Julie Erickson. Shes the administrative assistant to Todd Gray, one of the partners at Stone and Gray" then she turned to her sister and said, "Julie this is my big sister, Tanya St. George."
As I began to tentatively offer her my hand she took it between both of hers and stepped so close to me I was nearly touching her. My mouth was just about at the level of her breasts and a quick startled breath brought a heavy scent of her into me. It was full of musk and bergamot and jasmine and it made my head swim, pleasantly. Then she spoke to me and her eyes seemed to see inside of me.
"A distinct and profound pleasure to meet you, " she paused and a small smile appeared as she continued, "Julianna."
I was struck dumb for a moment. I knew that there was no way that Gina could have known my full name so she had no way to tell her sister. It wasnt on any of the office paperwork except my personal file and that was locked up in Karens office. Beyond that, she had pronounced it correctly, too, softening the last half of it by saying Ah-na, and not Ann-a.
"How how did you, uhm "?
"Its easy. Its just a matter of wanting to know. Youre very open at least, to me. Arent you, Julianna?" She tilted her head and leaned in and for a moment I was sure she was going to kiss me. "Everything is written on your face. Its in your eyes."
There was the stolid, plodding, logical part of me, which I was sure up until now, was the larger part that insisted I open my mouth and tell her how impossible that was. How insane and new age bizarre it all sounded, but from somewhere deep inside, I knew, I just knew it was true. I was open to her. All of me was out there, for her to see and know and I realized it had to be something beyond normal that made it so. So I asked.
"How?" Id meant it to sound clinical, detached, but it came out on a breath of air soft with wonder.
And I believed her.
After that the evening went by in a kind of hazy blur for me. I remember the drink she pressed into my hand. It was pale blue, like the stones on my jewelry and her eyes, and it tasted like red wine but smelled like lilacs. I dont think she left my side all night. She introduced me to a number of people. The faces all blended together. I know there were a few men and several women and they all smiled at me and nodded at her. I kept wanting to ask her about that, but I always got interrupted with another introduction. As soon as I met them, I forgot their names. That was so unlike me, but I couldnt seem to grasp anything except her presence.
Before I knew it the room was empty, except for Tanya and I.
She found me gazing out at the raindrops bouncing on the balcony and led me quietly to the fireplace.
Then she kissed me.
The next morning I woke up in my own bed with no idea how or when I got there. After a few minutes of panic I tried hard to reconstruct the evening, but beyond the few recollections I mentioned, I had no memory of it.
I did, however, remember with startling clarity the kiss.
Her lips were hot and moist and the minute I closed my eyes I had to grab her because I knew I was falling backwards and it seemed to go on forever. I felt I was breathing her into my body, somehow. There was this thick velvety darkness filled with strong arms and firm muscle and silky skin and her scent and it seemed as though she was filling me up with her essence, soul, something.
And then I woke up at home.
I didnt know it then, but that was the beginning.
Firmly putting out of my mind the kiss and all that it implied about me, I hurried to shower and dress for work. I had never been late and wasnt going to let the bizarre night Id just had change that. Besides, I told myself, I probably just imagined it all. Guess I shouldnt have had that drink. I dont know what it was, but Im sure it was much stronger than I could handle and I was probably drunk. I wasnt much of a drinker and had never been drunk before, so I just assumed that the foggy feeling or not being able to remember the night and what happened after the party meant I was just too intoxicated.
I hoped I hadnt done anything to offend Gina or her sister while I rushed around to make it to work on time.
It was a lot easier than trying to convince myself Id shared a passionate kiss with a strange woman. An astonishingly beautiful strange woman. Yeah, sure. Like what would a woman like Tanya St. George see in me?
Once again, having never been kissed by anyone, let alone a woman, didnt seem to register as odd. It should have and I should have noticed, but I didnt.
I made it to work on time and it appeared as though Gina wasnt unhappy with me as she greeted me with her usual warm hello and offered to get me coffee. I was so grateful I hadnt made a fool of myself I told her Id like that and hurried to my desk.
Still trying hard to put the evening behind me, I booted up my computer and started to answer Todds mail and make the phone calls he never seemed to have the time to make.
Id always known I was doing his job for him. He was a handsome, charming man whod gotten his position by schmoozing and marrying Hank Stones daughter. Hed kept it because he paid me a large salary to make him look good. I did it because I knew I never had a chance of getting his position. First I was female, second I was ordinary looking and in a place like L.A. where looks are everything that was a definite minus and third, according to Mr. Stone at my six-month job evaluation, I was just too self-effacing.
"You need to show a little backbone, Julie. Get out there and let them know who you are. This is an old boys network and an old man's town. In our business we have to sell our clients to studios and networks and that means we have to sell ourselves to them first."
He sat back in that big leather chair and just shook his head as he continued with my evaluation.
"Its a shame, Julie. The clients like you and so do the suits at the studios, but youre just not aggressive enough." He smiled then and leaned forward, "Youre damned persistent and youre good on the phone, girl, but youve got to meet them on their own turf and not back down where our clients interests are concerned."
He lost his smile and shook his head a little.
"Im going to offer the partnership to Todd. Just between you and me, hes a little too slick for my liking, but hes marrying my Sandy and I cant find a reason to deny this to my daughter. I wish I could. Id like you to work as his assistant."
I guess he could see the disappointment that I wasnt able to hide and hurried on.
"Maybe youll be good for each other. You watch him. See how he doesnt take no for an answer. He pushes. He charms. Hes just dammed relentless one on one." His mouth lifted in a little grin as he looked at her again. " Maybe hell learn how to follow up from you. I cant guarantee anything, but if anyone can teach him how to make a deal, its you."
It made me angry then and it made me angry that day after Halloween when I thought of it. Unfortunately, as always, I didnt do anything about it.
Or so I thought.
That was something else I didnt notice at the time. Well, that and my fashion sense.
It seems that day, after my shower I put on some make-up. I have no memory of doing that, but I must have because Becky the file clerk mentioned she liked my lipstick after lunch. I just looked at the girl like she was nuts until she smiled and walked away.
All day I remember getting odd looks ranging from outright surprise to a kind of you go girl grin from some of my coworkers.
Todd didnt show up for work and part of me was grateful. I felt that same resentment for doing his job for him that I could usually push aside, pushing its way out of me and was glad I didnt have the opportunity to let loose on him. Not that I had ever done that before, but I always wanted to, and today for some reason, I knew I wouldnt keep it to myself.
It wasnt until close to six that night that I realized Becky was right. I realized it just after I shut my hair in the desk drawer.
Suddenly a lot of things Id done all day started to stand out. I went into the ladies room and took stock. Instead of my usual up-do Id left my hair down. I was wearing make-up. Nothing as showy and extreme as the night before; a subtle, but for me, remarkable change and I was wearing a dress. I always wore pants. I had dozens of them, all appropriate for an upscale office building in Century City, but I only had three dresses and I was wearing one of them.
For a silly moment I was glad I had chosen this one as versus the floor length formal I wore for a co-workers wedding or the pale blue silk I wore to the office Christmas party last year. Then I looked at the sedate black sheath I had on and realized Id had no memory of choosing it or putting it on this morning.
After just staring at myself for a while I made my shaky way back to my desk and decided to call it a day. Just as I grabbed my coat and purse, my phone rang and I automatically picked it up.
"Stone and Gray, Ms. Erickson speaking, may I help you?"
God, her voice! How can I tell you how it sounded? Rich and smoky like a lounge singer at three in the morning hushed and powerful like noises in a forest at dawn. Compelling!
It must have been compelling, because before I knew what happened I was on my way to her place. I dont remember making a conscious decision to go there or even agreeing to it, but suddenly I was getting off the elevator and she was opening the door.
The portrait of her standing in that doorway is so clear for me. She was barefoot again and this time she wore a silver charm bracelet around her ankle. It tinkled like little bells as she walked. Above that she wore purple velvet pants tight at the ankle and hugging her all the way to mid hip where it stopped and allowed a lovely length of abdomen, bare save for a shiny silver navel ring. Then just before modesty would become a moot point a matching purple velvet wrap around halter lifted her breasts and tied behind her neck.
I tried very hard to stop staring and start talking but my mouth was so dry that when she pressed a goblet of the same drink Id had the night before into my palm, I sipped it, gratefully, without thinking about it.
Then things got fuzzy again.
There was food and I ate it. She must have spoken to me because I remember watching her mouth move, a lot, I just have no idea what we talked about, but I do remember how she looked when she smiled or laughed or frowned.
The fireplace was lit again and we ended up on the floor in front of it, leaning against what I think was her couch.
Then there are the things I seem to remember but make no sense and so I dont quite believe they happened.
Like, suddenly, Gina came out of one of the rooms and said something to Tanya. But it had to have been my imagination because she was still in costume, I think, the outfit was still all pink and gauzy but no wings this time, and all of a sudden, poof, she was gone and nothing was left but a shower of sparkles.
Or, the moment when suddenly we werent in her apartment any more. We were somewhere else, some time else it seemed. Suddenly, I felt a breeze and it was daylight and instead of walls and windows and rain there was sunshine and marble pillars and a large man with sandy brown hair and arms like a tree trunk hugging me.
I had the vague impression that I knew him. That I should somehow recognize this place. I knew for certain I wasnt dreaming, because the dreams came later and they were really bizarre.
Then the last memory I had again was of Tanya kissing me. It was nearly like the first time. It was just as intense and passionate but this time I knew it was coming and leaned into it. This time too, it felt so familiar.
Then the dreams started.
Once again I woke with no idea how or when I got home. This time though I was too preoccupied with the dreams to worry about it much.
I looked at the clock and realized I had some time to spare before I had to get ready for work and took it to try to separate dream from hallucination from reality.
The dreams were sketchy. Mostly just a quick scene that sang out to me and then moved on. Most of them seemed to occur out of doors. Some were violent and some heart wrenching. I dont remember one word spoken but the emotions were powerful and right up front. Fear, amusement, blinding loss, grief, joy, passion, anger, hurt and threaded though it all a feeling of comfort and place peace of mind and abiding, unending, unconditional love.
I guess that was what made that morning different. There was no panic this time. Just the after glow of that wonderful feeling of love; of being surrounded by it, forever.
I took careful note of all I truly remembered from the night before and what of it was really a dream and then it occurred to me that I was naked.
Since I never slept naked that should have concerned me, but it didnt.
Suddenly the alarm went off and without further ado I got up and decided to put off all my questions for later. I went in to take a shower and dress as I made up my mind to call Tanya and meet with her to find out what the hell was going on.
It was out of character for me to think like that, since I normally avoided conflict and confrontation like the plague. I should have noticed that too, but I didnt.
Work that day was very similar to the day before, with two exceptions. The first was Todd was at work that day; he wandered in sometime just before lunch, and the second was, as a result I couldnt help but notice this newer, more assertive attitude I was displaying.
It started right after he got in to his office and rang me to get his coffee for him. I said no, and hung up.
It took a couple of minutes for it to sink in but when it did, he came out to my office and started to ask me just what I thought I was doing so I told him.
"Im doing my job AND Im doing your job as well, because someone has to. The clients deserve it. Nowhere in my job description does it say Im your maid, your servant, your slave, your gopher or your waitress. You have two perfectly good legs and arms and you know just where the coffee pot is so if you want a cup, just help yourself." He opened his mouth to say something but before he could I continued. "Now, I have three off site meetings with some casting agents and then Im taking off the afternoon for some personal time and since you never seem capable of answering your own phone I suggest you ask Gina to take messages for you."
With that, I grabbed my briefcase, coat, and purse and left.
It would be days later before I would hear about the spontaneous applause that rocked the office behind me.
By six that night I was once again on my way to Tanyas.
The deals were locked and five of our clients had been hired for three new movies and one mini-series. I had close to four-thousand dollars worth of new clothes in my closet from my afternoons shopping, including seven new dresses and six new skirts, Elizabeth Arden and I had become close personal friends and Id dropped another three-hundred at her counter and my resolve to get some answers from the mysterious Ms. St. George was firm in my mind.
At least it was until I got there. This time she didnt even offer me a drink; she just pulled me inside, closed the door, pulled me close into her body and kissed me.
This is the way things progressed for a month, give or take.
Each day at work I was becoming more aggressive and assertive. Todd was becoming surlier and more derogatory, but that could be because all his clients suddenly wanted me to represent them exclusively. The clients who did stick with him made their unhappiness at his not returning their calls or finishing up on the paperwork known to Hank Stone. As a matter of fact, one well-known actress threatened to sue when his lack of prompt follow through cost her the lead role in a very sought after film. The role going to her rival blonde star made it all the more unpalatable and Hank calling Todd into his office was now a bi-weekly event.
People at work started treating me differently. Suddenly, everyone wanted my input and opinions, the interns went out of their way to get me coffee or have my paperwork copied or filed or typed.
Men and women Id known for years asked me out to lunch for the first time and a couple had the courage to ask me out to dinner or dancing.
Hank Stone finally called me into his office near the end of the month to tell me I was getting a raise and a commission increase and that hed had calls from other talent who wanted to leave their agencies and join Stone and Gray but only if I represented them.
All in all, it was a great month and I know I owed much of that to Tanya.
I still had no answers.
Wed see each other every night and each time, with or without the drinks I got that hazy, foggy feeling and weird things happened and weird dreams haunted my sleep and she kissed me.
And the next day, I woke up in bed, alone and naked and with no idea how or when I got there and no answers.
To be precise it was over a month before I really took stock of the me I was now and determined, with intent, to get some answers.
I remember it was a full moon and driving to Tanyas gave me a few minutes to review the last forty days of my life and the changes in myself.
As of this morning, I had taken over more than ninety percent of Todds clients, either as a result of Hank giving them to me or by their own choice. I now had my own administrative assistant and Gina was doing a splendid job of it. Id joined the gym downstairs in my building and started to work out every morning which left me feeling both energized and much more confidant about my body. Somewhere in all of the last few weeks Id developed a killer fashion sense and a day didnt go by without at least someone in the office commenting on my clothes and how good I looked in them. My attitude was the biggest change though.
I was confident. I was assured. I was assertive. I was in control.
And everybody around me for more than few minutes, knew it.
Todd started out annoyed, moved on to resentful and then slid into intimidated.
Of course, that might have to do with the fact that I told him if he didnt change his attitude toward me Id have no qualms at all about letting his wife and his boss/father-in-law know about his mistress, a former file clerk, who stopped working and has been living in a condo at the beach he pays for.
Id heard of people turning pale from fear but Id never seen it until then.
Needless to say, his attitude adjusted just as soon as he got the breath back in his lungs.
Now, one of the scarier changes to occur in me was that I suddenly didnt much like my job anymore. For reasons I couldnt understand, it just seemed so shallow. I felt like I should be spending my time doing something more worthwhile. I had no clue where the feelings came from or what to do about it, but it did make feel very unsatisfied with my life. That, added to my new take-no-crap attitude left me wondering just what I did want to do. For that I had no answers. Again.
I was determined to get some tonight, even if I had to beat her to death to do it.
This time when the door opened I didnt wait for her to pull me in and close off my questions with her kisses. I walked through the door as soon as it opened speaking my mind.
"Alright, first dont touch me. Second, go sit down in the chair, the chair, not the couch. As I watched the tall woman make her way slowly across the room to the chair next to the fireplace I continued, "Third, dont talk to me. At least dont talk to me yet. When I get finished you can, as a matter of fact I want you to, just dont do it now. You do something to me when you speak to me. I know you know it. I dont know just what it is, but you have some kind of power over me and I cant think when you speak to me. And therein lies the problem."
I was really wound up now and as I took off my coat I threw it across the back of the couch and began to pace as I spoke. Well maybe ranted would describe it better.
Deliberately avoiding eye contact with this sorceress, I started to vent.
"You see I know that since the day I met you Ive been living in La La Land, or the Twilight Zone or somewhere over the rainbow. Ive changed everything about myself. I dont even feel like me anymore. What happened to that quiet, unassuming, plain and dowdy dishrag I was on Halloween morning? Dont get me wrong, Im not saying I want that me back, I just want to know whats going on. What happened to me after you touched me? Why cant I remember how I get home every night and why do I wake up every morning naked? Is this some kind of mind control? What was in those funny blue drinks? Am I being drugged? Is this a top-secret government experiment and do I have an implant in my brain or something? I dont care if you tell me youre an alien or a pod person or a witch as along as its the truth, but Dammit to Hell, I want some answers and I want them NOW!
By the time I was finished I was yelling and Id paced so furiously up and down behind her couch I saw my shoe prints in her carpet. I was also sweating and shaking and scared to death. It wasnt until then that I finally had the courage to look at her again.
I dont know what I was expecting to see, maybe shock, maybe fury. I wasnt prepared for the glee. For that look of pride and adoration or the smile that said clearly, Id just made her year, but before I could register it and respond she was out of her chair, over the back of the couch, lifting me in her arms and spinning me around.
"Brava, baby. Thats my girl. Welcome home!"
Just as I was about to remind her, in no uncertain terms that she hadnt answered my questions and I was still angry, the door to the kitchen opened, (at least thats what I thought it was because I realized just then Id never been in any other room but her living room), and Gina stepped out, except it wasnt Gina. It was the pink fairy again only this time she had no wings and you could see right through the pink chiffon that barely covered her.
"Totally radical. You did it, babe. Shes all yours again." She seemed to float over to Tanya and kissed her on the cheek then turned to me. "You go girl! Like, welcome home."
While Tanya beamed and Gina, who wasnt quite Gina, fluttered I finally got a hold of myself and said, "Home, where? Whos home? What are you talking about? What in the hell is going on here? WOULD SOMEONE ANSWER MY GOD DAMMED QUESTIONS! "
Tanya managed to tone her grin down to a smile and just nodded at Gina who said, "Oh, yeah. Guess thats my cue, huh?" She put her arm around me and led me over to the couch. Sitting me down she sat next to me and started, "Well, you see, Sweetcheeks, its like this." Next thing I knew she was placing a kiss on my forehead and I had that hazy, foggy feeling and I fell asleep. Or at least I thought I was sleeping.
The dreams were disjointed and didnt seem to be connected to each other at all at first, but then I got the rhythm of them. In it, in each and every dream, there we were. She and I but not.
The most vivid one for me was the one with the warrior and the bard Amazon warrior. That part was confusing for me at first. Snatches of it kept coming up and each time they did it felt real and more a memory than a dream, then the others came. In some I was a man and she was a woman or we were both men or we were women but looked different and each time was the feeling of rightness and togetherness, until
Suddenly the memory took on a dark tone. In this one we looked just like we do now, just like the warrior and the bard looked, but suddenly I was seeing it in just one dimension. The place was chilly and foggy. The buildings were stone and the clothes were reminiscent of movies set in medieval times, and instead of seeing her face I saw someone else. She had dark hair too and I know I knew her before. I could feel the struggle within me to resist what she said to me, but I just couldnt do it. After that, there was this big empty in me and an overwhelming feeling of failure. I let her down. I didnt deserve her. I deserved to die. So I did.
That felt funny to me. Off wrong somehow, like I wasnt supposed to do that. I wasnt supposed to be able to do that, but I did, and it was all my fault. The woman I couldnt remember was Tanya, I was sure of that, but the face that I kept seeing as my life ended was the other womans and I sought out her name in my mind.
The sorceress Morgaine, and I was Guiniverre, but I wasnt and neither was she. She was someone else and shed done something to me, tricked me into believing I was this other woman and I was unfaithful and unworthy and I needed to die so I did. Who was she really? I should have known who she was.
"Who was she?" I found myself repeating that as I woke up. Now Tanya was sitting next to me and Gina, no, Aphrodite, was standing in front of me.
"Who was she?" I looked from one to the other for an answer.
Tanya gently took me by the chin to turn me to her. Looking deeply into my eyes, she whispered as gently as she could, "Alti."
Suddenly it came back to me.
Shed caught me alone in the woods near Camelot. We were going there to advise the king, Arthur. The Lady Vivienne had asked us to see him and remind him of the friendship hed always been shown by the folk of Avalon and to try to moderate the influences of the Christian church that she foresaw coming into his life. She knew if they gained his ear without a moderating influence he would turn against her and her people.
I was alone because Tanya no, Xena had to bring an injured farmer back to his steading. Wed found him nearly beaten to death by bandits and we only had the one horse. She was due back to our camp that night, but now it was only mid afternoon.
I didnt recognize her. She must have assumed some kind of glamour because always before, in every lifetime she had, I knew her instantly.
Not this time, and it would cost me dearly.
After apparently stumbling into my camp, she asked if she could stop and rest, as she was old and fatigued. She appeared to be just that, an elderly Christian nun on a pilgrimage to a shrine on the far side of the island. Of course I offered my hospitality and somehow missed the herbs she slipped into my drink.
Now, as I remembered it for the first time clearly in hundreds of years, I felt again the misery as I had my memory and will wrenched away in her magic. The spell was lengthy and evil and I had no comparison for the infinite agony I felt as she worked it on me, but by the time she was done I had no memory that she hadnt given me and no will of my own. I was her creature in all things and only, deep inside did I acknowledge that empty space that ached constantly in loss.
I did her bidding as she spoke it and as she told me what she wanted she changed and that same beautiful, evil face that Id fought against for years and years became her again as she shed her disguise.
Then the memories of my deeds came in fragments, as if my soul werent strong enough to see them too clearly or in too great a detail.
Presenting myself to Arthur as Guiniverre at my supposed fathers home.
Remembering Alti threatening both the man and his daughter with certain death if they gave me away.
Flirting to win his heart and leaving with him, knowing with certainty that Alti would kill both of her hostages as soon as we were wed, but going anyway.
The wedding night.
The next day when Xena came looking for me at the castle and I denounced her as a witch and asked for her to be burned.
The look of heartbreak in her eyes as she ran for her life from the knights doing my bidding.
The lust for Lancelot and the betrayal in Arthurs eyes.
The banishment to the convent and the years of emptiness and loneliness and the faceless, nameless woman who haunted my dreams.
Then the day, years later, when Alti came to me again in my cell looking as young as the day I met her in the woods and took my wrinkled hands into hers, pushed back my silver hair and touched me on the forehead and it all came back to me. My treachery. My betrayal. My callous disregard for the one person in my life I loved always, more than the air I breathed.
Then she left me, laughing, as I wept without stopping for a day and a night and a day.
Then I died.
Something was wrong with that.
"I died?" I whispered, hoping they would know what I meant. Hoping they would help me to validate this question I had.
I watched Tanya Xena look at Gina-Aphrodite and they seemed to say something to each other without words when Xena turned to me and said, "In a manner of speaking, yes."
I started to shake my head in confusion and said, "What?" When I realized my face was wet. Id been crying and I wasnt aware of it.
Tanya/Xena started to wipe my cheeks dry with her fingers and I noticed she was avoiding looking me in the eyes.
"What, uhm, what do you remember exactly."
"What do I remember? What do you mean, what do I remember, from when? I remember you but you werent you and I remember me but I wasnt me, except I was and I remember her" throwing my hand up toward Gina, "but she wasnt Gina she was Aphrodite. She was a Goddess. A Goddess for Gods sake. What is going on?"
Gina leaned down at that point and laid hands upon me this time instead of her lips and I started to calm down. She looked to Tanya and said maybe shed better take over and let me in on the rest of it. Tanya didnt look real pleased but nodded her head anyway and the next thing I know I was out like a light again.
When I finally woke up this time I had my memories back. I had all of my memories back. All the memories that Alti stripped away from me, the good and the bad.
And the very worst of all.
Xena sacrificing herself for the 40,000 souls in Japan and the agony of disbelief and loneliness of those first few days.
The day we landed on Egyptian soil and I was so weak from crying and retching and not eating that I hardly had the energy to make it to the first inn I could find.
That wonderful night when it all changed.
When a jubilant Aphrodite and a reluctant Ares came to me in my room at the inn and called Xenas spirit there as well. How they explained it all.
How they had all been told they were to never reveal any of this to us on pain of having their Godhood stripped away, but that it was all a moot point now, because Xena and I both believed shed died.
That we couldnt do what we were supposed to do while she wasnt with me.
Ares, who had been mostly silent and completely sullen, decided at that point to start talking.
"Okay, its like this." He stepped away from the wall hed been leaning on and strode, cockily, to the center of the floor. Crossing him arms over his chest, he let out a deep sigh and began. "When you and Eve killed the Gods, Xena, you didnt kill us all."
"Obviously," Xena interrupted, "youre still here."
Ignoring her for what may have been the first time in his life, he continued.
"The Pantheon was effectively destroyed, but you never went after any of the Gods or Goddesses that didnt go after you and Eve. Nor, did you ever seek out to destroy any of the older Gods. That was a good thing, since both of you have been under the protection of one of them since you were born. We, that is to say, The Olympians didnt know about any of that until you took that first plunge into the mortality pool after Callistos poison dart took you down."
He began to pace and I knew him well enough that by that action alone I knew he was trying hard to phrase something in a way to either make him look good, or not tell us everything. I glanced to Xena and with a look, she told me shed seen it too and to just wait for him to finish.
"You have no idea of the shit that flew after we got that emergency summons from the Fates." He looked at his sister who nodded and took in a deep breath and shuddered all over. "It was ugly." Evidently he decided not to say what he planned on saying next and his demeanor changed to that of someone summing up.
"So, in a nutshell, you cant die, either one of you. Since you kept trying and failing at it over and over again we all thought you would have gotten that part by now. I mean, Xena, Sweetheart, just how may times can people die and come back to life before you start to suspect something, huh?" He turned from her and looked at me. "And you, Girlie, I have to admit to gaining a grudging sort of respect for you over the years, but in this case, I have to say that your influence over tall, dark and dangerous was to contribute to the dumbing down of the Warrior Princess."
I opened my mouth to protest that at the same moment Xena did to defend me when Aphrodite spoke.
"Much as I hate to agree with you on anything, Bro, this time youve hit the nail on the head." She turned to Xena. "Now I know that Sweetcheeks here is into all things sweet and nice and forgiveness and self-sacrifice and everything, but tell me just when you lost sight of that famous Warrior Princess logic, huh? Why didnt you ever question that whole life and death thing? Why did you never look for the answers? Why did you just think it was a special case each and every time? I mean, Im not any great tactician but even I would have thought that between the two of you dying eight or nine times and coming back to life, youd catch a clue or at least, wonder what in Hades was going on!"
Xena looked alternatively pissed and chagrined. Finally furrowing her eyebrows she asked. "Okay then, what the Hades is gong on? What am I missing here and how is this Gabrielles fault in any way?"
The Goddess shot a quick glance to her brother and decided quickly that if he spoke now theyd end up having to take the swords away from both the God of War and the Warrior Princess, so she dove right in.
"Well, you see, as much as I hate to admit it, you guys didnt keep coming back just because you were soul mates and couldnt live with out each other." She held up her hand to stop me from indignantly declaring to even the Goddess of Love herself, that we were indeed soul mates. "Now, dont get me wrong, you two are definitely soul mates. The love you have for each other is the real deal and no one here is questioning that." She shot her brother a dont even think about it kind of look and went on. "Its just that you kept coming back not because you needed to be with each other, but because you willed yourself to be with each other." She stopped and looked at us and evidently still not seeing the understanding she hoped to find, sighed deeply and started to speak again when there was suddenly another presence in the room. This one arrived with out any of the smoke or sparkles that accompanied the other Gods arrivals.
She stood a few inches taller than Ares and wore a simple short, pale blue toga, held together over her right shoulder with a Moon and Sun clasp. Her hair was long and so fair as to be nearly white. It was held back from her face by abalone shell combs. She carried no weapons and was barefoot but even without the use of diaphanous gowns or weapons she outshone both of the deities in the room. Her eyes were blue-green and her skin golden bronze and when she spoke it was like hearing music on the wind.
"I am Eurynome, and it was I who chose you to serve the world and have given you immortality and the gifts you have yet to know."
She stepped closer to us where we sat on my pallet and cocking her head, asked, "How much do you know of me?"
Without thought I began to recite one of my older poems, written just after Xena and I began to travel together. Shed once again left me at an Inn, this time in a larger city than most we visited and went off to check on a marauding warlord. Id gone to speak with the city bard and he let me read his small volume of histories. For some reason, I wrote the verse I now recited but had never read it aloud to anyone.
"Ancient, Creator, She, who naked, danced her way from the arms of Chaos to grasp the wind as her lover and made from their joining, the earth and skies and stars and moon. To whom we all owe homage and praise, Eurynome, the creative dancer and mother of life."
The Goddess cocked her head and bowed lightly as she said, "Very prettily penned, bard. I thank you for the grace of it." She turned to Xena now and bent slightly as if to impart a secret, lowering her voice she said, "Now I can understand your occasional reluctance to have her tell your stories. While the facts are pretty much right, she does get a little .uhm "
"Flowery?" Xena added.
Um, yeah." She nodded and stood up again.
I decided to shelve my response to that for another time.
"To be precise, I am the Creator. I knew what this world and its inhabitants could become. In that moment, I knew too, that with such wondrous creation there was and always would be, the destructive tendencies of my father, Chaos, as well. I wanted to make sure that was moderated. I thought about it long and hard, for longer than you could imagine and when I determined what was needed, I acted."
She walked across the room to the only other place to sit and grabbed the chair, "May I?"
Xena and I both just nodded and watched as she brought it closer to us and sat.
"What I needed to offset all those things which might destroy humanity was in effect, a champion. My champion had to be many things. Brave, strong, skilled, determined, and clever." As she said this she looked pointedly at Xena. I wasnt surprised that Xena had been chosen as her champion, considering she had all those and so many other qualities a real champion of humanity might need. I sat next to her shade, so very proud. Then she turned to me.
"But my champion also needed to be compassionate, understanding, patient, persistent and joyful." She grinned a little, as I couldnt keep the look of surprise from my face. I turned to Xena and saw on her face that same feeling of pride in her companion as I had shown.
"It wasnt easy." Eurynome continued. "I waited for generations to find just such a one. I knew above all things that my champion had to a mortal. To understand the cruelty and inhumanity that mortals are capable of inflicting on one another, but also to see the wonder of self-sacrifice, hard work and happiness they could gift each other with. I spent years making excuses to visit the fates and to surreptitiously study the millions of lives destined to be born, seeking out just those characteristics, when I came across the two of you. The color of the thread when you finally came together was exactly the shade Id been seeking out for years. I made my plans, distracted the Fates from the loom, and gave you my mark before they knew anything was amiss. And in all these years, you have never let me down."
She folded her hands and leaned forward a bit. "However, there have been bumps along the way. Much of what has happened to you both was written in your destiny by time itself and could not be changed and even if I had wanted to spare you the grief of it, I would not, for it was all that you went through both alone and together that made you who you are. You needed each painful lesson and reminder of the duality of nature to strengthen your resolve in moments of fear or crisis. You needed too, to think independently of guidance from me or any Gods." At this she looked over her shoulder to a now, fidgeting, Ares. "While that wasnt to be the case at all times, having their occasional interference made you even more sure to depend on yourselves for answers. That is how it should be. The only problem was, though you had to be mortal to know all of these things, it wouldnt do any good at all if you somehow ended up dying on the way."
She sat back again and said simply, " So I made sure you couldnt do that."
"But I did." Xena said, "I had to. Those 40,000 souls were my fault and it was up to me to redeem them. I dont know what you mean by not dying, because I am most assuredly dead. I was beheaded. You dont get much deader than that."
The Goddess sucked in a deep breath, puffed out her cheeks and released it. "Okay, lets get this little problem taken care of right now, shall we." She stood and suddenly the sitting in the chair in front of us was Akemi.
"First off, before we go on, I want you to know, I love you both very much. You have gone through more than any thousand mortals have and done the right thing in almost every case." She put her hand on Xenas shoulder, "I know you have no love for the Gods and that is more than understandable. They have used and deceived you, tried to kill you and your children and only meddled in your life for their own benefit. You have never received anything from them without paying a price and so Im sure it is with much skepticism that when I say I love and honor you, you wonder at what cost. Let me now try to put your fears to rest."
She stepped over to me and laid her hand on my shoulder. "Gabrielle, my little champion, the heart of a lion in the soul of a lamb. It is you who tempers and guides, you who protects Xena from herself, you who have shown a cynical warrior that she is better than the sum of her past, and for that I am grateful. I love and honor you as well, but "
She stood up now and crossed her arms over her chest. "In this case, I have to agree with Dite and Ares. You made a mistake. Though it was a mistake made in the depths of the love you have for your soulmate, nonetheless it was wrong. Next time listen to your heart and go with it, okay?"
Saying that she turned to Akemi. "From you we will have the truth at last. Speak."
The small woman seated on the chair seemed to be attached to it in some way. She tried to free herself and twisted and pushed but she was effectively pinned to the spot. She camped her jaws tight together as though to keep from saying what the Goddess compelled her to say. I saw Xena start to stand and could tell by the outraged look on her face she was about to intervene, but I caught her arm and shook my head hard. I could tell she was considering refusing my request, but after a moment she quieted.
"SPEAK! The truth! All of it. NOW!" The words were nothing less than a command and they came from the enraged faces of all three deities in the room. She could not have refused if she tried.
In spurts and bursts, between muffed sobs and furious screaming the truth did indeed, finally come out.
There was no reason for Xena to have stayed dead. Akemi had lied to her. Again.
She wanted her, my warrior, for herself, and so she had told her the one thing, my beautiful, wonderful, guilt ridden lover could never walk away from. She told her the lie that only by her staying dead would the 40,000 souls of Higuchi be redeemed. The truth was that with the death of the Soul Eater, the souls hed consumed were set free to take another chance at the wheel. All of them, all but Akemi, whos act of deliberate patricide, whos deceptions to Xena to bring her there, whos manipulation of the warrior to help her die un-honorably and thus cause the villagers to fight a drunken, guilt ridden Warrior Princess caused the fire that destroyed them, meant that she was to remain behind in a state of limbo for a thousand mortal lifetimes to ponder her evil deeds. Seems she didnt want to stay there alone and since shed always had a thing for Xena she saw this was her chance to have her to herself.
I was furious.
Angrier than I had ever been with anyone in my life if you put all those angry moments together. If she had not been dead already, she would have been a blood soaked corpse in minutes. I leaped from the pallet and started for her when I found myself restrained in the arms of Eurynome.
Her voice in my ear telling me to let it out gave me the first chance since that sunset that passed on the mountain in Japan to vent my fury. I screamed and screamed until my throat was raw. At Akemi, at Xena, at myself and then at Akemi again. I dont know how long I carried on but the next thing I knew I was being held in the arms of my soulmate and a wet cloth was being wiped gently across my eyes and cheeks.
It was later, days later, before I found out what else happened to Akemi in that room when I lost myself in hysteria. It wasnt pretty. Each of the three deities had gifted her with their own form of punishment to last the rest of her thousand lifetimes in limbo. It seems they were as angry as I was.
It wasnt for a few more minutes that I realized something felt different. More correctly, something felt right again. Thats when I realized it wasnt the shade of my beloved who held me, but a flesh and blood woman.
Eurynome than told me that Xena was only dead because she believed her self to be and, that while I was taking that little nap, she explained to her that her immortality and my own came with no strings and that it was our choice our Will that determined if we lived or died.
She simply explained it to Xena and then told her she didnt have to be dead and to stop it at once.
So she did.
I also found out that the lifetimes we had seen ourselves living in the future while we were in India were still going to happen. We didnt need to die to be reborn to live them; we simply needed to manifest ourselves in the flesh required at the time. That too, she said was part of the powers she gave us. Our being her champions was not for this time only. We were to go on fighting for the greater good for eternity.
If we so chose.
Thats when she gave us the choice. The choice to live out this mortal lifetime and to, at the end, age and die, rest for a few years and be reborn, or to take all that weve learned the good and bad, and continue to do our work all over the earth, together eternally.
I suppose it should have been something I should have pondered longer. The logical side of me said to weigh the pros and cons and discuss it with Xena, but what happened instead was my mouth opened and said, "Of course Ill go on." Having spoken, I readjusted myself on the pallet to sit beside my warrior. It wasnt until I said it that I looked at Xena. I realized that for her, this was a much harder decision, for any number of reasons.
First, Eurynome was right, Xena had no reason at all to trust the Gods and this was trusting them with her future. Beyond that were other considerations like her own feelings of fallibility and the responsibility of being the champion of both the Creator Goddess and humanity forever. Then, while watching her face I saw the rest of her concerns play out on it. I suppose it was good that I had to spend so long in our early years observing my warrior because she wouldnt speak to me about her feelings. I became an expert in her body language and her facial expressions. I saw them change and could have written down what she was thinking with unfailing accuracy.
What sort of powers beyond immortality have I been gifted with? What would the Destroyer of Nations do with them? Can I be trusted to do this and not pervert it to my own greater good? The lure of my darkness is always so close to me. How can I agree to this without, eventually giving in to it? Part of me was glad Id finally died and could stop this constant battle to keep that part of me from the world. From the world and Gabrielle. What of her? How long can I expect her to stay with me if she knows that we will never end? How long before my very nature drives her away form me? I want to serve this cause. Ive been serving it since I met her and I know its the only thing I can do to make up for the infinite amount of evil I brought into the world, but should she have to pay for it too? Should she have to pay for eternity for my chance at redemption? Will we never have rest? Will we never know peace? Can I do this to her for the sake of my own guilt?
It finally must have filtered though her self-examination that Id answered because she suddenly looked at me as though she would argue about it. Before she could start I held up my hand.
"Yes, I know what it means and yes Im more than willing to be with you forever and do what we do. Ive thought it through and I know what I want. This is the second easiest decision Ive ever made. The first was to follow you to Amphipolis. Ive never regretted that, I wont regret this one either." I smiled and leaned forward just enough to stop the But" I knew was aching to take shape there. I guess the kiss must have conveyed what my words didnt because she sighed with resignation and let it go.
She turned to Eurynome. "May I ask a couple of questions first?"
"No. If you accept to continue on as my champions Ill answer any questions you have, any time you ask them, if I know the answer. If you do not accept, I will remove the gift and try to find another champion somewhere in the future."
Not half a heartbeat went by before Xena said, "I accept."
The Goddess smiled, but I thought she looked more vindicated than satisfied as though shed never doubted our answers for a moment.
"Now, before we get to your questions let me offer this. In this acceptance of your charge, you have in this instant, Xena, wiped clean from the slate of time, any and all offenses and evils you perpetrated as the Destroyer of Nations. Know now, that your actions of the last few years and the actions of the future commitment you make balance the scales of justice and your past transgressions have been cleansed from it. Be free, finally of the guilt you carry and know those souls you once wronged, rejoice for you." She leaned forward and kissed Xena on her forehead.
The half choke half sob I heard was the only warning I had before Xena threw herself into my arms and burst into tears. I had never seen her sob like this. It nearly broke my heart and my own face was awash with tears for her instantly. I could just barely make out the Goddess of Love through the watery film covering my eyes and noticed the slip of pale pink hankie she was using to wipe her own eyes, as my head swiveled I saw something I should never have forgotten. The God of War wiping away his own tears while listening to his toughest warrior give vent to her grief. I dont think he realized until that moment what damage he had done to the woman he supposedly loved.
As I continued to rock, pet, comfort and cry with Xena the clarity of the memory faded and I found myself once again, in Xenas arms in Tanyas high-rise apartment in Pacific Palisades.
"Why didnt I know? Where have I been? What in all Hades did Alti do to me?"
I hadnt finished my questions for more than a heartbeat when once again, Eurynome appeared before us, this time in front of the fireplace.
I expect in deference to the place and time, she was wearing a stunning royal blue pantsuit and dyed alligator pumps. I found myself automatically saying, "Donna Karan, huh? Nice."
Thats why I guess it was all the more stunning for me when Xena left the seat beside me and fell to her knees at the Goddesss feet. It took just another moment of memory to emerge before I too, found myself kneeling on the floor beside my love. I knew then that we were both here out of love and not obligation. It was the fact that over hundreds of years She had proven to us her wisdom and compassion and that she was indeed the author of all life for a reason. It was because she was, really, love itself, in all of its infinite manifestations.
Instead of commanding us to rise, she simply knelt down in front of us and opened her arms. Without a second thought I fell into them and felt Xena hugging us both from behind.
"Welcome home my little champion. Ive missed you so."
After the small crying jag we all had ended, I took my seat again on the couch next to Xena and our Goddess sat on the loveseat with Aphrodite.
"Well, is anyone going to answer my questions? Where have I been? What happened to me?"
"What happened to you was an abomination!" the Goddess was furious. If you hadnt even heard her words or her tone of voice, her countenance would have given it away. She sprang to her feet and strode to the mantel where she grabbed it and faced away from us. We could tell she was trying to control herself by the tensing of her muscles and her deep breathing.
Finally she turned back around.
"In the beginning, the finest gifts that mankind received from the Gods were the gifts of free will and self. They became gifts that were considered universally sacrosanct. It was understood by even the most devious of the deities that to force the will from a soul or to remove the sense of self that made each person unique was to cheat and cheapen the Gods gifts." She stood very still and looked over our shoulders to a vision only she could see, and then said, "I had forgotten that not all of them felt that way."
Finally she looked at me again. "What happened to you was a spell. A spell begged by an ancient evil soul to an even more ancient and evil God. Im not sure it would have been given had it been anyone but you it was directed against." She hung her head. "It was my fault. I had grown complacent over the years and was distracted elsewhere. I know now that it was a deliberate distraction, but at the time I didnt. By the time I realized what had happened, it was too late. There was no way to undo it. Our only hope was to find it."
"Uhm, Im sorry but Im still confused here."
Xena cleared her throat, glanced at the Goddess who nodded and sat on the floor in front of me. She took my hands into her own and began.
"It was Alti."
"I know that. I remember that much, but what did she do?"
"She never remembered us, from lifetime to lifetime, she was ignorant of us and who we were until we would confront her evil in any aspect. Then she remembered it all, all of her previous lifetimes. All of the times we defeated her and her plans. It would all come rushing back to her. Eurynome told me the realization of all those memories could be really painful."
I had to grin at that, having just gone through it myself. No wonder I got all hazy and forgot the actual events. My goddess must have been cushioning the blow for me.
"In the lifetime before the one where she found you in Briton she made a deal with the devil so to speak. She spent those three years after we found her in hiding, remember?"
I tired to do just that. It started to come back to me. Alti was a man then. A General. A corrupt Roman General who helped the emperor Aurelian to conquer the state of Palmyra and bring the widow Queen, Zenobia back to Rome in chains.
What Aurelian didnt know was that his most favored General was fomenting dissent in the ranks and planning a coup. Or he was until Xena and I, in the guise of advisors to Aurelian showed him proof of his deception. Just before he was to be executed, his friends broke him out of prison and he fled to the hills. He wasnt found for three years and then, only by accident. We were there, in the box with Aurelian when he/she was beheaded. Before the ax fell he cried out to us in Greek. "The next time belongs to me. Guaranteed. Its been paid for in advance."
I shuddered a little. I remember the cold chill I felt when I heard that. I remember too, doing my best to dismiss it. I mean, after all, what could Alti do to us? We were immortal.
"Yeah. I remember."
"Well, it seems she spent every minute of those three years trying to gain the favor of every God she could. I think what she wanted was her own immortality or to level the playing field somehow by being born in each lifetime with all her memories. Evidently she succeeded. She didnt get all she asked for, but she got something much more devastating, for me at least. We just never thought of the consequences if they got together."
"Who got together?"
She took a harder grip on my hands and looked deeply into my eyes before she answered.
"Alti and Dahok."
Im sure she could see the look of panic form on my face so she pulled on my hands to get my attention and rushed through the rest of it.
"He evidently wanted revenge on us both and gave her the spell she used. It was a kind so powerful that it wouldnt have worked without a God to give it energy. What she did, in effect, was remove not only your memories, but your sense of self and your will as well."
She got up on her knees so she could be closer to me. I was shaking so hard by then she had to put her arms around me.
"Alti took your will and your knowledge of self and held it in a jar. When she left you, she gave you the memories she wanted you to have and reminded you that you were mortal. That you were subject to the ways of the flesh and would lust and age and die. Then she made sure to hide the jar where we couldnt find it. She changed her image again and became Morgaine, Arthurs sister and showed up only when she needed you to do her bidding."
Since I had started crying again, she stopped long enough to hold me and let me calm down in her arms. When I got myself back under control I asked her to go on.
"By the time I found you missing and found you had changed your physical aspect and didnt remember me, it was too late. I spent the rest of your lifetime tracking Alti and sleuthing around for clues to what shed done to you. Just as I figured it out, she came to you in the Abbey and convinced you of your betrayal of me and how you did her bidding. Gifting you with all your memories for just a few moments, she left and you grieved yourself to death."
"What? How could I do that?" I turned to my Goddess and couldnt keep the tone of anger out of my voice when I spoke. "I thought you told me we were immortal. How could I die?"
She sat beside me and brought her hand to my cheek. Her eyes were so compassionate and I knew what she was going to say would hurt me. "You couldnt. You only thought you did." Then she kissed my forehead as Aphrodite had done and I remembered.
Well, not remember more like saw what had happened all those lifetimes I had no memory of myself.
There I was, seemingly sleep walking through different ages and eras. Always in a different manifestation and always, fighting for the greater good and winning. Only it wasnt me.
"It wasnt me." I looked at my goddess and saw her flinch.
"No, it wasnt you. Not really. Because we couldnt find the vessel that Alti hid containing your will and sense of self, we had to improvise. Xena still needed to do her job as champion and she couldnt do it with out you by her side, so I did something Id never done before. I imposed my own will on you. I gave you appropriate memories for each encounter as well as your purpose and strength and attitudes in each encounter and let you go do it. But we knew it would be too painful, too cruel and unkind to allow you to have those memories until wed returned your will to you, so as each seeming lifetime, ended we allowed you to believe you died and brought you back home."
"Home?" Just the word conjured a familiar feeling a place of comfort and endless peace. I knew it wasnt the home of my birth or the Amazon nation. It wasnt Amphipolis either, yet those were the only places I could consciously remember ever being at home in.
"Olympus." Aphrodite said. "It was the only place we could keep you safe from them, until we found you again."
"Sweetheart, when Alti stole your will and your sense of self and your memories she stole who you were. All the things that made you Gabrielle, bard, Amazon, Princess, Queen, warrior " Xena stopped and placed both hands on my face. "Wife and Champion of Eurynome the creator Goddess. After she allowed you your memories in your cell at the Abbey, she allowed the curse of the spell to continue. Without your will, you were "
"Nothing. I slept, didnt I? In between the times when we needed to balance the forces of the greater good on earth, you took me to Olympus and I slept. Thats who it wasnt it? That second night I came here. We went home and Herc was there. He was my Guardian when you couldnt be with me, wasnt he?"
Xena nodded "You were defenseless. We couldnt be sure if they were done with you or if they wanted more,"
I think they were all surprised that I was taking all of this so well. I think they expected me to rant and rave and or at least cry about it. I was too busy for that.
"So, why now? Why tell me all of this now? Whats changed?" I made sure I was looking straight into Xenas eyes when I said it. She could never hide anything from me when I watched her face. I was glad I did as she broke into the most beautiful smile Id seen in, well, thousands of years. At least that I could remember.
"We found it." She said.
"I found it, thank you very much."
I had to turn completely around to see him, but Id know that voice anywhere. Even in the twenty first century he was wearing black leather. All right, it was Armani and he did look hot in those pants and that jacket. The red silk shirt though, looked a little too early Godfather for my taste, but I wasnt about to play the fashion police for the man, uh, God who found where Alti hid my will.
"He sure did." Dite said, then she walked over and put her arms around him and, surprisingly he let her hug him.
"You see, my champion, wed been looking for it all this time with no luck. It was all that damned Merlins fault. He taught her that stupid Spell of Making and she changed it into something else. Then she put a spell on herself to forget what it was disguised as and where she put it. I arrived in answer to Xenas prayer just minutes too late. Nothing I could do would compel her to tell me where to find it because she couldnt remember. It wasnt until she showed up again years later, that we realized she was being reincarnated with her memories from her previous incarnations since Briton, intact and if we could get to her in time we might have a chance. Unfortunately, she was now Dahoks chosen and we couldnt get past his protection. Oh, we could kill her, and we did that. Plenty! We just couldnt compel her to tell us where it was or what it looked like, until Mr. Sneaky God over there came up with a new angle." Eurynome smiled benevolently at the god of War and I could swear I saw him blush.
"I just turned Dahoks game around and played him. Got together a few of the older Gods and had them keep him so busy he wasnt paying close attention to his champion. You know, when the cats away and all. Then Id made sure Id done my homework. I studied my enemy and found a definite pattern in the kind of person that rang Altis evil little bells. Then, when I found she had a thing for bad boys and since wed never met face to face, I made it my business to get close to her, Very close! With a sip or two of Siss best aphrodisiac, I had her in a very compromising position, if youll pardon the expression." He strode over to the couch and sat with one hip on the back of it, facing me.
"I got to tell you. You two spent years telling me all about the enormity of the male ego, but that woman has to have a Y chromosome somewhere. She just had to crow to somebody about how she managed to turn the Warrior Bard into a milkmaid. So, with just a little attention to what she was saying and a lot of attention to what is, admittedly a very nice body, she spilled."
"Yeah, yeah, what? Give! Where was it?" Okay, so I was a little bit impatient, so sue me.
"Right out in the open where anyone could have seen it. IF you knew what to look for. That Spell of Making that Merlin taught her was very good. None of us even felt it and I know that the Princess here wouldnt even have gone there to check. Too many nasty memories." The look on his face was an odd mixture of admiration and old wounds. I had to say it surprised me.
He took a deep breath and blew it out not quite making eye contact with me. I noticed Xenas hold on me intensified a bit as he spoke.
Ill admit right now that made my stomach roll over and my heart drop. Xena could feel my tension and sat beside me wrapping me in her arms. It took a second but I calmed and said. "Go on."
I was expecting him to tell me she buried it or ensorcelled it in some way. I wasnt expecting what he said.
"It was the Eastern-most stone. The whole thing."
"Oh my God."
"Oh, yeah. Thats why we had to get Dahoks attention elsewhere. He has very little power left in that place, not since the whole Druid thing started. All that benevolent energy directed at the earth deities," at this he actually grinned and bowed his head a bit at our Goddess. She smiled back. "It pretty much neutralized his influence, but hes always kind of coveted the place so he keeps an eye on it." Ares stood and stretched. "Then of course it was just a matter of waiting for dark, copping the stone, replacing it with a duplicate and working the spell to undo it." He grinned again and brushed his nails across his chest. "Alti didnt even know she gave that up. I really am as good as I think I am."
Four separate voices including my own were heard saying the same thing at the same time.
After a few chuckles, I turned to my goddess.
"Okay, what now. I want me back. I want to be me again."
I meant what I said. I did. I just wish I had been better prepared for the cure.
Eurynome cleared her throat. "Weve, uh, weve given you back your memories. We did that a little bit at a time, so you wouldnt be overwhelmed. Theyre all there for you, in your mind. You just have to try to recall them and they should all come to you."
"I knew that. I guess that was what was going on with that hazy, foggy feeling I had every time I came here, huh?"
"Yeah." Xena added. "We had you take them in a little bit every time you came here."
"Let me guess. It was the drink wasnt it?" The thought that I was ingesting my own memories like some kind of liquor nearly made me giggle.
"Yep." Xena said and id my giggling for me. "I was kind of happy that all your memories were, uh, they were "
"The color of your eyes?" I couldnt help smiling at her. She was nearly blushing. After all this time she should know that all my memories are filtered through my feelings for her, even my childhood, when I think back on it, is sprinkled through with the dreams I had of the tall, dark haired, blue eyed hero who would same day come to Poteidaia and change my life, saving me from death by boredom. Of course it wasnt until I saw her that I knew she was the one who would do it. Silly child!
"Uh huh." Then she held me close and shivered a little. I realized then what all those years must have been like for her without me. I grabbed her hard and pressed myself as close to her as I could.
Xena didnt speak. I knew she couldnt just then. She was shaking with emotion and I knew she was trying to hold herself together for me.
"Gods what you must have gone through. Im so sorry, beloved. So very sorry I put you though all of that." The horror of not having her with me in anything other than a soulless body for close to fifteen hundred years would have made me mad. How did she cope? Goddess, what I did to her. Stupid, careless, witless woman! How could I have been so foolish as to fall for Altis trap? How could I
"Stop! Stop that kind of thinking right now, bard. That was the hook she used to land you in this mess in the first place. Lets not go there again." Eurynome tugged gently on a strand of my hair and I understood what she was saying. I understood, but it was so hard to let go of all the guilt for all the pain I put my soulmate through.
I nodded my understanding but couldnt talk around the boulder lodged in throat.
The Creator Goddess reached past me and lovingly stroked Xenas hair and she started to calm. I think it was just the realization that we were at the end of this that did it.
Reluctantly I pulled away and took in a claming breath before asking, "Okay, so what do we do now? Am I better? Do I have all my parts?" That got a snort from Ares and a laugh from Xena. Even the blonde goddess smiled. Then the smile faded.
That should have warned me.
When no one said anything I looked to my partner. "Xena?"
"Gabrielle. We could restore your memories without pain because we did it slowly while you dreamed and because what we used was not what Alti stole from you. She discarded your memories. The ones we restored were the ones Mnemosyne held. Eurynome managed to separate out your sense of self and we gave you that back while you slept a bit at a time. One night your morals, the next youre your attitudes, the following your charisma eventually feeding you all of the parts that made you uniquely you. Your will is your own and cant be copied or stored. When Alti stole it there was no way to restore it to you." She took my face in both of her hands and looked deeply into my eyes. "To give you back your will we have to reverse the spell."
For a moment I couldnt see what the problem was. Okay, so they had to reverse the spell, so what? It wasnt until I saw the anguish in my lovers eyes that I remembered the agony I went through when she worked the spell on me in that forest in Briton. Then I knew.
As Julianna Erickson I had avoided confrontation and conflict always. Id done it to avoid any kind of pain, physical or emotional. I just wasnt a very strong person and Id been known to cry for an hour after getting vaccinated. This was going to require the same kind of courage I had when I faced the cross with Xena. I was damn sure Julianna didnt have that kind of intestinal fortitude. I know I must have, once upon a time, when I was me, but all I had to draw on were memories. I started to tremble.
Xena started to wrap her arms around me and I bolted.
I ran as fast as I could for the balcony. It was the only place I knew to go when I was sure I was going to vomit. I might have been terrified but I had enough manners not to puke on her white carpet.
As the vomiting continued unabated and I was producing nothing but noise, Eurynome interceded and my stomach calmed at last.
I knew I had no choice. I knew it had to happen. I knew I had to do it.
Walking back into Tanyas living room was the bravest thing Id done on my own in fifteen hundred years.
Before I could speak, Xena started incanting.
The crash of thunder shook the building and a huge flash of lightening just outside the sliding glass doors filled the room with light. I was concentrating on Xena but I couldnt help noticing the worried furrow on Eurynomes beautiful forehead or the way Ares moved to the balcony doors, changed into his original leathers and drew his sword.
By now I was trembling so hard my knees went out and I crashed to the floor. Then the pain began.
It started crawling out of my belly like lava, filling my lungs and my gut with fire. My skin felt like it was being shredded by cats claws. The pressure in my head kept building and building and I was sure the pounding behind my eyes would have them bursting from my head any second. There was no way to scream. There was no breath for it. No energy to spare.
By now I was curled into a ball of agony only able to call to my Goddess for help in my own mind, and at that, feebly, as the shock of it all took away my ability to think. I was just feeling. Writhing and whimpering, crying an unending river of tears as the blows began. I could feel myself being struck by unseen hands. I felt the muscle in my left shoulder tear and the bones of my ribs break as I flew across the room. I tried to plead with Eurynome to stop, but by then she was occupied.
Her eyes closed and her hand shot out toward me as a glowing silver ball of light hit me in the chest. I was sure it would kill me. I know I must have been allowed the grace to black out for a moment, because when I opened my eyes I was flat on my back staring up at Xena. Her eyes were closed as well and her hands extended over her head. She was still incanting and even through the blazing agony, I could see she was sweating and tears were streaming down her cheeks.
I realized the pain was due to my injuries. They were real. I could see the blood pool under my eyes and the swelling of my nose. Another sharp jab of pain caused me to jerk my head around and I saw the misery of my left leg, as it lay broken halfway up my thigh and the bone protruding through the skin.
A moment later I was struck again and I was sure Id heard the crunch of my skull breaking as another silver ball of energy hit me in the side of the head. It rolled me over on my stomach and suddenly all my flight instincts kicked in. I just had to get out of there. I put all my energy into trying to crawl away from these two, a woman who was supposed to love me and a Goddess who was my supposed patron. Didnt they see they were killing me? How could they hurt me so? This whole thing had been some sick lie. Some twisted plot to take a naïve woman with no family and torture her to death in this witches cult. I had to get away.
Suddenly I was bound.
My arms were stuck fast to my sides and my legs felt as if they were weighted down with iron. Aphrodite stepped toward me and rolled me over on my back again. Her face was set and expressionless but she too was crying. The movement caused sledgehammer sized bolts of pain to radiate up and down my spine.
Then the sliding glass doors shattered.
Xena kept speaking but her eyes opened as she looked at Eurynome.
"Dont stop!" was all she said in response.
Xena took two steps and managed to straddle me while her incantation became louder and more fervent.
Eurynome brought her hands over her own head and then brought them down quickly. As she opened her eyes, she looked directly at me and pushed her hands together from her sides. Another ball formed. This was a swirling, angry mass of blue and green and gold. My eyes widened as I watched realizing Id never live through this. I wanted to close my eyes but I was compelled to watch as she gathered the ball and pushed it toward my face with an audible "Ungh" of effort.
I noticed in that last second of my existence that Ares was picking himself up off the floor and tossing his own balls of energy at the dark shape on the balcony.
Aphrodite was on her knees swaying and crooning in what appeared was an erotic haze.
Xena was trying to continue standing. Her knees kept trying to buckle as though she were being pushed down from above.
The blue, green and gold ball grew to fill my vision completely. The temperature dropped and suddenly I could see my own breath in the air. The building began to shake violently and the floor beneath me collapsed.
And then it hit me.
When I woke up I was naked, alone and in my own bed.
A dream. It was all a dream?
I shook my head to try and clear it and threw off the sheet to search for the injuries I knew should be there, but saw nothing like that.
My muscles were stiff but that was probably due to the ferocity of the nightmare.
I folded my legs in front of me and leaned my head in my hands and my elbows on my knees, scrubbing my face to make sure I was now awake.
"What the FUCK is happening?"
"I thought breakfast would be good."
I could barely make her out in the dim light of the room, but she must have known that and moved to the window where she opened the blinds just enough to light the room with out blinding me.
There she stood. Six feet one inch of taut, toned flesh, covered in a thin layer of burnt orange silk that draped from thin straps on her shoulders to fall just below her hips, holding a wooden tray filled with fruit and pastry and coffee.
It could still be a dream. Or maybe Ive just gone mad.
This vision of luscious womanhood might just be the manifestation of my delusions. I dont remember feeling any sexual feelings before until I met her on Halloween. Maybe I didnt even meet her. Maybe I just saw her somewhere and now, that Im completely out of my head, she became my fantasy.
I probably am delusional. I could be in this world of make believe in my mind forever, but I suppose it could be worse. I mean if I have to be nuts, being nuts with a half-dressed beautiful woman who brings me breakfast in bed isnt so bad.
Its much better than that whole nightmare about spells and evil Gods and personal Goddesses. Hmm, what is that quote again?
"Those whom the Gods would destroy, they first make mad." I wasnt even aware I had spoken out loud until she responded.
"Youre not mad, love. Its real. Im real."
She finally set the tray down on the nightstand and sat on the bed next to me.
Without warning, she pulled me to her and kissed me.
Oh, boy, there it was again, that same feeling of falling and being filled up with love and lust and comfort, just like before when shed kissed me. It went on for a long time and long before I wanted it to stop she pulled away.
Looking deeply into my eyes, she said. "Now, who am I?"
I had to take a minute to swim up from the depths of her eyes before I answered, tentatively.
She smiled and nodded as she bent forward and kissed me again. Oh, it was sooooo good. I could feel it filter down from my mouth to my heart to my stomach to my groin, where it pooled and started to agitate.
Once again, she pulled away.
"Who are you?" She began to run her fingers through the hair at the base of my neck while she waited for me to answer.
To be honest, speaking wasnt the first thing on my mind just then. I tried to fall forward and kiss her but she held me back. I guess I finally got the idea I wasnt going to be able to kiss her again unless I answered her, so I put what was left of my scattered concentration toward the effort and said, "Gabrielle?"
This must have pleased her because she smiled that wonderful smile at me and whispered, "Thats right, Baby, youre Gabrielle." She leaned in and gave me another kiss. This one was short and gentle and landed just on the corner of my mouth.
"Who loves you, Gabrielle?"
This time I was sure of my answer and said with out hesitation, "You do."
Again she smiled and kissed on the other corner of my mouth, "And who do you "
"You! I love you. Ive always loved you."
Then suddenly everything in my world shifted, as though Id found the code to unlock the secret of the universe, everything became clear again, for the first time in fifteen hundred, seventy-three years, I knew who I was and where I began and most important who I loved and who loved me.
Then suddenly we were in each others arms and hundreds of years of loneliness and want were being acted out on our bodies.
Everything seemed to happen in slow motion then.
Before I could ask for it she stood and let the thin straps of her flimsy gown fall from her shoulders and I watched as it skimmed over the most perfect set of breasts Id ever seen. I seemed to fixate on them, enjoying their bounce and quiver as I watched her labor for breath. Before my very eyes her rose tinted nipples hardened and a gasp I couldnt have stopped escaped me.
A brief second later her gown slipped off her hips and left me with a view of the rest of her. A view I know no one had seen this intimately since I had last looked upon her like this.
Mine. Shes mine and shes always been mine and mine alone.
Before I thought about it I was up and sliding into her arms. The minute our skin touched we both released a deep, contented sigh.
Home. Im finally home.
This is what I needed to feel complete, to feel solid. To stop believing it was just a dream. I held the reality of us in my arms.
When I opened my eyes and lifted my head I could see she was crying softly with me. The moment was so sweet and tender, but overlaying it all was the thrust of need and desire that I knew I hadnt felt for lifetimes.
As she bent her head to kiss me, I let it take over and soon the flooding torrent of arousal was all I could think of. How much I wanted, no, needed to touch her to have her touch me. Before I could voice the thought she was pushing me back down to the bed and I was holding on to her for all I was worth.
I couldnt seem to get enough of her mouth. While she kissed me I was visited again with the thousands of memories of other kisses wed shared. Each one was magical. Some were harsh and passionate and others sweet and tender, but this kiss felt like all of them. It grew from gentle to rough and felt like we both needed to reaffirm all of those feelings again for both of us, at once.
Finally, when I bordered on blacking out from lack of air, she lifted from my lips and brought her mouth to my neck, whispering between kisses and licks how she loved me and missed me so.
I wanted it to last forever. I wanted it to go on and on but I really didnt. I couldnt. I knew neither of us could wait much longer to connect in that special way that climax always connected us before.
As though she were reading my mind, she shifted and brought her hand down between my thighs. As quickly as she did it, I mirrored her actions. I knew I wouldnt come without touching her as she touched me. I had to be inside her.
Ill never know who began the moan first but as we both entered into each other as that first feeling of my fingertips reaching into her humid velvet, and, as she entered me, the moan we sang out to each other filled the room.
From there, time seemed to speed up again. As she looked into my eyes again and told me with that one special look I would always be hers, we began to move. We slid together, washing up against each other as the sweat between us allowed and as she brought her lips down to taste mine again we began to tremble.
I felt it build in both of us, as much in the kiss we shared as in the quiver in my gut and clenching at my fingers until, with a move as perfect and practiced and graceful as any Ive known, we pushed each other over into bliss.
It was everything I remembered about loving her and having her love me. It was a powerful, rolling constant of ecstasy that peaked and dipped and peaked again to leave us both breathless and clutching at each other for dear life. I thought for what must have been the millionth time that I had been to Heaven and Hell, Elysia and Tartarus, Id seen every sight this world could show me that people called magnificent yet nothing Id ever known could compare to the wonder of this love we shared. Nothing, ever would.
With my first full breath afterwards, I began to sob. I could feel her start too and I knew the best cure for this was just to remain in each others arms and let the excess of emotion clean it out of us.
If anyone from our days as the Warrior Princess and the Bard of Poteidaia, friend or family, could have seen us now, they would not have expected that it was I, the emotional little sidekick and not the warrior in my arms that had managed to calm down first. They would have been so wrong.
Only I knew that it was because my warrior had a greater capacity for love than anyone Id ever met, that being without me as she was, being able to touch me but not have me know her for all those years, had wounded her so very deeply. It takes a heart that large to constantly endanger yourself for people whom youve never met and who will never see you again to do you a service. So, when she continued to weep, I just held on and told her over and over again that I was here and I was never going to leave her anymore.
When she finally controlled herself enough to let go of me, she rolled onto her back and pulled me to her side just like the way it always was.
I propped myself up and took a minute to use the sheet to dry her tears then I kissed her face everywhere I could reach until she began to laugh. We hugged each other hard and just rested for a few minutes.
I shifted over just enough to grab the coffee carafe and poured some in one cup for us to share. She scooted back against the headboard and took a sip as I started to tear a Danish into bite-sized pieces. We finished one and as I wiped off first her mouth then my own, I began.
"Okay, now do you think you can tell me what happened last night."
She looked at me in alarm and I quickly clarified.
"Wait, I know about the spell and Eurynome and replacing my stolen will, but I mean, I got the impression that something went wrong part way through."
She cleared her throat and took a sip of coffee.
"Yeah, youre right it did. We were counting on Dahok being distracted to lessen his impact holding Altis original spell together. Wed taken precautions so that his energy was being used somewhere else. What we didnt expect was the wards he had placed on the spell originally. It seemed to have some kind of guardian whose purpose was to interfere if anyone tried the reverse spell."
"Ah, I see. Well, since Im here it must not have worked, but just how close to messing things up did it get?"
"Way too close." This time the Creator Goddess was sitting on the foot of the bed and wearing her original toga. Being the sensitive and compassionate Goddess we have come to know and love I noticed that both Xena and I were dressed as well. Well, semi-dressed, Xena in her orange shortie gown and me in aqua baby dolls. I had to smile my thanks for her thoughtfulness; she just nodded in acknowledgement and went on.
"He conjured up a demon to guard that spell. The problem was the demon was from Hell not Tartarus and nothing Ares, Dite or I tried to do it was working."
"So how did you get rid of it?" This whole thing was bringing back my memory of the night before in a very painful way and I found myself burrowing into Xenas arms. She must have felt my needs as she folded her own arms around me and held me tight. She pressed her cheek to the top of my head and I started to relax.
Safe. Im always safest in her arms.
"We didnt. Since nothing was working we had to just finish the spell and hope that when it was broken, the demon would leave."
Xena turned me a bit so that I could look at her as she explained. "Its only reason for being there was because it had been compelled to guard the spell. They managed to hold it off from interfering from my incanting and Eurynomes directing the energy, but they couldnt make it leave. When the spell was broken it had no job to do so the compulsion ended and it went home. But not before it caused major damage to my apartment building." She grinned a little.
"Yeah, we had to work quickly to fabricate a freak tornado hitting the place to explain away the shattered windows and structural damage." The Goddess explained. "Fortunately, Ms. St. George has very good insurance and the building she owns should be right as rain as soon as the insurance inspector gives her the go ahead to make repairs." She smiled broadly at Xena who laughed with her.
Then she turned to me.
"Now, what about you Ms. Erickson? Whats your next step? Still going to work as a talent agent?" She grinned a little at Xena and then lay on her side, spread out across the foot of the bed. "I have it on good authority that come tomorrow morning there is going to be an opening for a new partner at Stone and Gray and that Todd Gray will be taking over the New York office at his own request. Seems he just cant abide the beach anymore and wants to take his wife back east and start over."
"Uhm, may I ask a question?" I turned until I was now lying with my back against Xenas chest and her arms were holding me close.
Eurynome just nodded.
"Why, uhm, I mean how, I mean a talent agent? What was I doing as a talent agent?"
My own memories of this lifetime seemed to begin about five years ago as I woke up in my house one morning. I looked for a job in the only paper I had, Daily Variety. I noticed an opening for an Administrative Assistant and decided to put my business degree to work for me. I applied with Stone and Gray and got the job.
The rest is boring, until last Halloween.
"Yeah, I was wondering about that too. Every time you woke her up so to speak, its been for the cause. Ares didnt find out where Alti hid her will until a couple of weeks before my party" Xena cocked her head and furrowed her brow. "I mean you couldnt have known when he would find it and if you needed her here for the same reason we usually get together, what arent you telling us? Do we have a job? If we do, just what kind of help will being a talent agent be? Always before weve been warriors, doctors, priests, shamans, advisors, soldiers, lawyers or even, uck, politicians, but a talent agent?
Whats up with that?"
Eurynome slid the arm that was supporting her head down flat onto the bed. She let her head drop slowly and turned partially into the comforter as she answered.
"What?" We both asked.
When she lifted her head I would have bet every dinar, drachma, ruble, yen, pound or dollar Ive ever owned that my goddess was blushing.
She lifted her body off the bed gracefully, turned and walked toward the window. We waited for her answer, Xena a lot more patiently than I.
She took a breath and turned to fully face the window as she said, "I wrote a screenplay."
There was a silent pause in the room.
"You what?" I was glad Xena asked because I was still trying to get my mouth to close.
Finally she turned to face us and that blush was still there. "I wrote a screenplay. Universal optioned it and I wanted to have a little input when it came time to cast it. I was pretty sure Gabrielle, uh, Julianna could help me out."
Im sure both of us could have reacted in any number of ways to this news but we both decided it was just too darn funny and the small giggles we let loose soon turned into bed pounding, shoulder thumping, holding-your-gut -with -your-hands laughter. When we finally regained a bit a of breath, I asked, "Why? Why would a Goddess need to write a screenplay?"
My mouth dropped open again as I watched the Creator Goddess start to fidget. She twitched at her toga and wiggled one knee up and down as she answered. It was so precious.
"Its this whole, uhm, creative urge thing, ya know? Sometimes I just have to make something, build something, just create. I mean look around, there isnt much that mankind hasnt made for themselves and Ive had this story kind of floating around in my head for few years and" She stood up straight then and looked at us defiantly, actually daring us to dismiss her effort. "Its a story that needs to be told and now is a good time. It reinforces the concept that women can be and do anything they want to. The world needs to know that."
Finally, having managed to control myself, I fell forward on my stomach to the foot of the bed and thought about it.
It felt odd that in all the time wed known our Goddess she had never once shown any of the same arrogance or vanity so prominent among the others wed encountered. Not one speck of narcissism or conceit ever tainted her goals for us. It was always for the greater good. To serve humanity. Id often wondered at that when, being a bard by nature Id seen so many of the stories of her origins or her accomplishments incomplete, skewed or worse still, ignoring completely her role as the creator of everything.
The God of Eli had gotten all the good press, and it didnt seem to matter that he was depicted as harsh, hard to please, vengeful or biased.
Any other God or Goddess would have made sure the story was put right, but not her.
Maybe now was the time for her to tell the tale. Maybe now the world was ready to hear that it owed its very existence to this compassionate, tolerant and loving Goddess.
"Okay, what can I do for you then?"
"I just want to make sure that the right people get chosen to play the leads. The chemistry between them is critical to the whole thing working."
"Ill do my very best. Now, what is this story about?"
She smiled. "Well, its a drama, and a comedy, and an adventure, and a love story."
"Yes, and ?" I thought I had an idea just where this was going, but I wanted her to say it.
"Its a period piece set in ancient Greece."
"So, uhm what happens? How does it start?"
She stepped away from the window and drew her hands up as though to center the scene in the camera lens, her gaze became unfocused and she began to see it in her head.
"Exterior: Day: A small Greek village is under attack by slavers when a beautiful, dark haired warrior woman rides in wielding her sword and shrilling a battle cry. The voice over says,
"In a land of ancient Gods, warlords and kings, a land in turmoil cried out for a hero. She was "
I smiled to myself as I thought; This is where I came in.
Then they told Xena to stop being dead. So she did.
It took us most of the night to ask and have answered all our questions but finally, we were just too overwhelmed by it all and asked to left alone.
Then we were. Alone. Together again.