The Broken Blade: A Tale of Camelot

Part Two

By: Llachlan

See Part I for disclaimers to this story.

Email and Constructive Criticism too: Llachlan

"Xe?" In search of her lover, Rickie looked into the kitchen. The immortal was sitting at the table, half consumed cup of coffee forgotten in front of her, the morning paper held loosely in her strong hands. I love her hands.

"Hmmm." Came the automatic, absent response

"You okay?" Her lover seemed a little lost, distracted in a way that Rickie wasn't used to seeing. She moved forward and leaned over Xena from behind, giving the older woman a warm hug. It had taken awhile before she realized that the reserve and physical distance that Xena maintained with everyone else when something was bothering her didn't apply to their relationship. As Xena had put it, 'Rickie hugs are always welcome.'

The paper was open to a black and white picture of a car tangled in the wreckage of a troop transport. The words were in a language she couldn't read, but which she thought might be German or Dutch. It looked a lot like the writing on the street signs and billboards they had seen in Germany. Along one side were more photos, fresh faced youths in military uniforms.

Rickie rested her chin on Xena's shoulder. "Xena?" she asked again.

"I'm sorry, just a little bad news."

"You knew them?"

"One of them." Xena pointed at one of the men. "He was a writer, a good one too. He liked to write action, and he was good with plot. Soft spot for bards I guess."

"He wrote some of your stories." Surprisingly, she didn't feel jealous. In a way it was the ultimate compliment to who she was and had been.

Rickie waited but the immortal didn't continue. For someone who had seen as much death in her lifetime as she had - Xena still reacted to it occasionally in ways that surprised the young woman.

"Sometimes the wrong ones get back up. And the ones you wish would - don't." Xena's words were low, her tone subdued.

"Like Mordred and Nimue."


"Is that why he took her head?" That was the hard part of writing 'The Broken Blade,' she didn't understand everything - there was much more going on under the surface than the history or accepted mythology revealed. That had always bugged her about 'Le Morte d' Arthur' - why take the Lady's head and then steal it. In the context of the great game it made sense, Mordred had needed proof that Nimue wouldn't come back to literally haunt him. Figuratively might have been a different story.

"Yes." Xena put the paper down, seemingly forcing herself out of the dark place she had been brooding. "How's the story coming anyway? I've been waiting for an update. It seems like forever since the last one. A grin at the corner of her lover's full lips told Rickie she was teasing.

"I'm stuck."

"Really?" Xena moved an arm and Rickie slid around to sit sideways in the immortal's lap. "On what?"

A slice of toast was held up and Rickie took a bite. She hadn't wanted to ask too many questions - perversely proud of how well she had filled in the gaps in what Xena had told her. It was just that in some places the details were non-existent. Xena hadn't said anything.  

"Well, you know how I wrote the last chapter out of sequence?"

"Gwynhafar's abduction, yes."

"Well I still can't figure out how you got the sword to Artos. It's driving me nuts."

"You can ask."

"Where's the fun in that?" Rickie smiled. She'd figure it out. After all, who knew how Xena thought better than she did? Right now though, she had classes to get to.

Rickie stared up at the whiteboard, wishing that she had stayed home. Her name and student number was scrawled across the otherwise pristine surface. Nervously, she looked around for the professor, unable to spot the bespectacled man with his distinctive mop of white blond hair or the beaten leather satchel which normally sat perched on the edge of the battered lectern in open defiance of the laws of gravity, almost, but not quite ready to fall.

The rest of the class was filtering in nosily, cheeks aglow and bundled against the February chill. It was the last class before reading break, midterms complete and the exuberance of pending freedom was written plainly on most of the faces.

Midterms. Her stomach lurched as she realized why her name was on the board. Out of habit she had filled out the name and student identification block. I am so busted. To her surprise, he didn't single her out right away. Instead he made a request that if the student whose name was on the board was in the class, could he or she please see him immediately following the lecture.

It was the longest fifty minutes of her academic life so far, ticking by even slower than her pre-calculus mid-term had. For the first time, she had trouble concentrating on the discussion raging around her, hard pressed to remember what the topic was, or the perspective they were examining. Every time he looked in her direction her throat constricted, and even if she had remembered what they were discussing she wouldn't have been able to speak. He knew, Rickie was sure of it, and any second now he'd throw her out. If she could just get to the end of the period, she'd leave quietly and never come back. Spare herself the humiliation of being excluded again. Being told she didn't belong.

Finally the class was over, and she gathered her things, taking a last look around the room, a faint smile tugging at her lips. It was her favorite class and she was going to miss it.

"Ms. Gardner I presume?"

He didn't sound angry. Rickie nodded, then managed to speak. "Yes." She'd at least go with dignity.

Clear blue eyes regarded her. Not nearly as vivid as Xena's, Rickie nevertheless felt their weight, aware that she was being sized and studied.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to. I got lost and ended up in the wrong class and then I didn't want to disrupt things by leaving in the middle so I stayed." The words came in a rush, pulled out by the weight of the evaluation.

"I see. That explains the first time. I am, however, confused as to why you came back. And I am most particularly interested in why you wrote a midterm for a class you're not even registered in."

"You handed them out and I thought it would look funny if I didn't write it, everyone else was, so I did, it sorta seemed like a good idea at the time."

"But why?" He sounded genuinely perplexed, and something else she couldn't identify.

Rickie tried to figure what to say then shrugged her shoulders in defeat. She didn't really have a good explanation. When she'd read the course description after figuring out what class she'd accidentally wandered into, she'd nearly laughed. Logic was what Spock did Sunday mornings on Star Trek reruns. But Professor Boothroyd's philosophy class had turned out to be so much more and so she kept coming back - even switching sections of her English Lit class to accommodate her interest. "It interested me. I wanted to learn more." She waited for the axe to fall.

It was her turn to feel perplexed as he began to laugh, the chuckle growing until he had to sit on the arm of the chair next to her. Tears stung at the corners of her eyes and she held them back determinedly, refusing to allow him the satisfaction of seeing the hurt.

The laughter abruptly stopped and the blue eyes softened in understanding and genuine regret. "I'm not laughing at you. Frankly I'm astonished. I'm not sure anyone in the history of the philosophy department has ever had anyone take an exam because it seemed like a good idea at the time."

"So you're not mad?" Maybe she wasn't going to get in trouble after all. "Can I stay?" It was out before she even realized it. Just great Rickster, open your trap.

"Under one condition." He was smiling.

"What?" The other shoe was about to drop. Thud. But she waited, trying not to fidget.

 "Register in the course. You can pick a letter of permission up from the departmental office this afternoon. You'll need to complete an extra paper to make up the weighted percentage of a couple of missed assignments - you can pick that up this afternoon too - I'll expect it after the break." He turned to leave then paused. "Unless fees are a problem."

Fees were definitely not a problem. She and Xena had had a brief argument about money before the Immortal had pulled out a dozen or more bank books and demonstrated quite clearly that money was not going to be an issue. Now or ever. Amazing what a few dinars invested over a couple of millennia could grow to. "No. No problem."


He was almost out the door when something occurred to her. "Professor! Wait! The exam - did I pass?"

"Look for yourself." And then he was gone.

Rickie looked down at the envelope resting on the desk and slowly slid her paper out, an A-minus. She read the note. "Welcome to the class."

Hours later, curled up under a warm blanket, Rickie tossed aside the book she'd been doing research for her paper from. Philosophy was a way cool class but how the hell did you answer a question like, 'is the apple or the orange more like the strawberry?'?  Deciding she'd had enough of class assignments for awhile, she unwrapped the blanket and crossed to one of the large bookshelves they'd had to add since she moved in to the warehouse.

Once again she asked herself the question whose answer had been eluding her for months. How did Xena give Artos the sword? Think Rickie. She re-read an entry she'd perused a thousand times already, seeking a some word she'd missed, some sudden insight.

The problem was, the original legend had been added to and embellished so often she didn't know what to make of it. Only one fact remained to anchor everything else. Arthur had existed. During the fifth and sixth centuries a man had been born, lived and died. By the time the fifteenth century and Mallory's 'Morte d'Arthur' rolled around, Arthur had become the once and future king, his legend indistinguishable from the act of history and the dream of myth.

In a bizarre way she'd already seen how truth and legend could get tangled. That was, after all, how she'd even come to meet Xena. Rickie snorted, amused. The truth had turned out to be more fantasical, though only slightly less gruesome than the media sensationalized headlines. But then the mundane wasn't what sold newspapers or garnered the types of television ratings that could be parlayed into big advertising dollars.

Not that there was anything mundane about Xena.

Still smiling, Rickie settled back onto the couch and tucked the chenille blanket back around her legs. She was so absorbed in the tales and myths that she never noticed when she traded the pictures painted by words for ones painted by dreams.



The King was dead.

Uther had choked on his own vomit, a lifetime of largesse finally taking its toll. Chaos reigned in the town and surrounding villages, a chaos that would turn first to petty skirmishes and then to outright war the longer Britannia went without a king.

The people cared not who the next king would be, like as not he would be as despotic as Uther and Vortigern before him. Only the nobles seemed to care, and not for the health of the land or people, but for their own gain. Or more precisely they were concerned only that this one or that one not become king in his stead.

Skirmish after skirmish was fought in the name of justice and the land ran red with the blood of warriors and innocents alike. In the sacristies of churches, God and Virgin Mary were invoked publicly while in the bedrooms and fields the bloodshed called to deeper mysteries, far more ancient than their newly minted god.

It could not go on.

There was one. One who could champion the Land, if not the people. And She refused.

Which left only Him.

But that had been foreseen.


Did Xena know? Artemis laughed to herself as she listened unseen to the debate raging in the LadyHall. Of course Xena knew. A hundred years, or a thousand it was of no consequence, no amount of time would change that one. A comforting thought that. Though the world changed a thousand times over, still would She remain, and while She remained, justice would survive.

And with Justice the World.

Artemis laughed again, suddenly uncomfortable with the philosophical bent her thoughts were taking, more and more oft of late. Xena might not change, but she was. She had followed the waves of colonization and conquest, belief carrying her to the far shores of a new land, a new Pantheon.

The Huntress.

They were calling her now. They didn't want the Mother, they needed the Huntress. There was no need for jealousy though, the Crone would have her day thirty years hence, in a fog shrouded forest.

That too had been foreseen.


Impatiently, Xena waited for the LadyHall to clear. It had been another fractious gathering, and they were still no closer to putting Artos on the throne. Something, someone was hidden there, just out of reach of her senses and it was all she could do to keep from herding the stragglers out the door like the sheep that covered the island.

"I know you're there. You can come out now." Xena yelled to the empty air, momentarily struck by an almost overwhelming sense of dÈj‡ vu.

"It's nice to see you haven't lost your touch Xena."

She may not have lost her touch, but when Artemis, the Greek Goddess of the Hunt and Moon, appeared, Xena nearly lost her balance. She hid her discomfiture and leaned against the long table that dominated the room. The too revealing leathers were gone, replaced by, what for a God was almost humble, a long green tunic, bordered by silver and decorated with a hypnotizing array of spirals.

The hair would have given her away in any case. Unbound and unruly, Artemis' golden brown curls framed her face exactly as they had a millennia ago. The day they buried Gabrielle.

As always, Xena hid the emotional turmoil raised by the sight of a God who was both friend and enemy behind surliness. "I thought you were dead."

Artemis laughed, a genuine happy sound that filled the room, echoing from its walls. "Old Gods never truly die Xena, we just change our names. Didn't you know that?"

She hadn't, nor Xena suspected, had most of the other Olympians. "I saw you die." They'd all died, save Aphrodite and Ares. Athena's had been a particularly satisfying, if unspectacular, death.

"No Xena. You saw your belief in me die."

Theology. Not her cup of tea. "What do you want Artemis?"

"Direct as always." Artemis had taken a seat in a chair that none but the Lady of Avalon had occupied in five generations. The chair of the Mother. "And please, call me Diana."

Xena had never lacked a sense of irony and she began to laugh. Pagan Britannia was paying homage to a God of their conquerors, a God that the Romans themselves had sought to quash. She wondered what Nimue would think of it all. Nimue probably knew or would adjust with that maddening equanimity of hers and say something profound.

"Are you quite finished?" Diana asked, looking peevish.

"Quite." Privately she was still laughing, more so because with that last question Diana had shed her mature aspect and regained the petulance Xena associated with Artemis. "You were just about to tell me what you wanted."

Diana shifted slightly, regaining a measure of regality. "It's not so much what I want as what you need."


It had been anti-climatic after that. Three weeks later, Artos, Kai, and a host of challengers for the throne made a trip to Ynys Wair, the place Xena had secreted the sword and stone many years previous. Once there, three times thirty-three locked themselves within and gave themselves over to the judgement of the stone. Seven nights later, Artos emerged, King of Britons.

He had the sword. Now he had to keep it.



Xena turned off the laptop, cursing under her breath as the sound of running feet and a cry of "retreat" streamed out of the machine. She looked over at Rickie, who was still asleep, the noisy shutdown appeared to pass unheralded. "You are a very lucky machine," she growled. Not that Rickie was easily awoken.

"Xena?" Rickie asked, sleepily.

"You were expecting someone else?" She leaned down and kissed a rumpled Rickie.

"My girlfriend. She was supposed to be home hours ago."

"Ah well then, maybe I had better leave." Xena was trying her best, but she always felt awkward with the slightly silly repartee that went with some of Rickie's imaginative tangents. She got up and made a show of tiptoeing toward the nearest window, though both she and Rickie knew it wouldn't open.

"Xena! Oh no you don't."

She let out an 'oommphh', more out of play than because the teen had actually done any damage and let Rickie's weight carry them too the floor, whereupon she gallantly broke their fall, uttering a very real 'oommphh' in the process.

"Mine." Rickie growled, from where she sat pining Xena to the floor.

"Yours. " Xena agreed contentedly. "Aren't you even going to ask where I was?"

"Where were you?"

"Nope. Not going to tell." If she played it right, then she'd have a lot of fun as Rickie tried to pry the information out of her.



"Please?" The please came with a pout that was completed by a suitably quivering lip.



"You think that's mean?" Xena lifted a brow, a devilish glint in her eye that Rickie must have instinctively recognized, since the teen began to scramble backwards. Not fast enough though. "That's not mean. This is." Long, practiced fingers knew exactly how and where to tickle Rickie, and soon the younger woman was squirming on the floor, breathless.

Xena relented and waited for her lover to regain a measure of control over her twitching body.

"Just for that you're going to have to wait for the next section of Blade. I might even make you wait a whole year."

Xena grinned. "Too late. You left the laptop on."

In an instant the playful air evaporated and Rickie leaped to her feet, her face an unreadable mix of emotion. A second later, she and the laptop were gone.

Stunned, Xena sat for a minute.

"You touched my scrolls?" An equally indignant voice cut across the millennia and Xena could see herself and Gabrielle standing next to Argo as if it were yesterday. It had taken a giant and a traded whip to get her out of that one. Giants were pretty much extinct these days and she didn't think Rickie was into whips. Though I could be wrong about that one.

An apology would have to do.

She found Rickie staring out of one of the few uncovered windows on the loft level and just watched for a moment. Finally, just when it seemed that either she had to speak or Rickie would turn and find her standing there, Xena spoke. "I'm sorry."

There was no reply, so Xena tried again. "In my life, I've had very few regrets. One stands out. I was lucky enough to get a second chance at that one and I guess I just carried it over."

Curiousity stole over Rickie's features, swallowing the hurt. "What?"

Xena opened her mouth to tell the story, then stopped, momentarily taken aback at the emotions that came with the images even now. Even knowing that it had all turned out for the best; that they had indeed lived through it. "I once told Gabrielle that I regretted not having read her scrolls. And then we died. I got another chance, and not a single night went by after that, that I didn't read one. I didnít want to make the same mistake."

"I'm the one who's sorry." Rickie moved forward, hugging Xena. "That's not your stuff to wear. But my journal is off-limits, okay?"


"Now about this dying thing?"

Xena laughed. "We got caught, we got crucified, we came back." She looked at the questions forming in Rickie's eyes and impishly carried on, continuing a game she'd played with Gabrielle, and now shared with Rickie. 'Fewest Words Possible' - Xena thought this one might be a record breaker. "Centurions. Caesar and Callisto." She wasn't prepared to mention Brutus.

"Caesar? Julius Caesar?" Rickie's eyes were glistening again, this time from excitement rather than tears.

Xena held her finger against Rickie's lips. "Whoa. One legend at a time okay? You already have a book to finish."

"Then you'll tell me the details? All of them?"

"I promise." She crossed her heart and held her fingers up, scout style.

"Good. Because I hate guessing."

"I dunno. You're pretty good at it." She'd have to remember later to ask Rickie how'd she'd figured out that Artemis had been the one to help with Caliburn.

"Really?" They were drifting towards the bedroom, hand in hand.

"Yep. But you cheated."

"No, I omitted. That's different."

Xena chuckled to herself. If Rickie wanted to omit her abortive attempt at carving the stone, or the equally futile mass hypnosis, that was fine by Xena. One thousand full grown warriors behaving like chickens was more serious in reality than it would sound on paper fifteen centuries removed from happening.

She liked Rickie's version better.

Much better.

Rickie sat up, unaware of what, exactly, had woken her from the deep sleep she'd fallen into after their lovemaking. It wasn't a nightmare, but it wasn't a garden variety dream either. Disquieting was the only word she could think of. She wasn't even entirely sure that it had been a dream. It could have been a memory - though whether hers or Gabrielle's was another question.

Too many questions for three a.m.

There had been enough talk of the past tonight. It had been hard to explain to Xena about the lack of privacy under her father's watchful eye and iron thumb. The ridicule had been even harder to talk about. Xena had tried her best just to listen, but Rickie had been half afraid, half hopeful that the Immortal would leap out of bed at any second and rush to take the head of the Gardner family patriarch - rules be damned.

It had felt good. Just to finally share it. To have Xena pull her close and hold her. If they could bottle that, an entire industry would fail. Two. The drug companies would be right behind the therapists - they'd make themselves obsolete.

She giggled, as the holes in her logic nagged at her mind before she'd even finished the quip. Professor Boothroyd would be proud. Her smile got bigger. It had been a good day.

An a-minus in philosophy - which she was now officially registered in - and that just happened to raise her GPA. She'd successfully set a boundary with Xena that hadn't descended too far into dyke drama, then gone on to solve a centuries old mystery, all by her self. If that weren't enough, they'd had a lovely warm bubble bath and made love - twice.

A good day indeed.

Now, if she could just figure out what Xena's little surprise was. Of course, she didn't need brains for that one. Sometimes mysteries needed a physical touch. Rickie rolled over and slid her hand along Xena's thigh gently enough to provoke a response, but not to wake her.

Or at least a deft touch. She smiled again and threw herself fully into the task at hand. This mystery was going to be fun to solve.

September 2, 2000

To Be Continued