Disclaimer: The characters of Xena: Warrior
Princess are owned by MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures,
bless them. No copyright infringement is intended.
Note: This is my one and only rift aftermath
story. Antipany is a character from a previous story, but this
tale stands alone. Suffice it to say that Antipany and Xena
still don't like each other very much. Many thanks to Inga,
whose command of language is so much better than mine, for
suggestions and corrections. The quote from "Silk's Lil
Black Warlord Book" is used with the permission of Silk.
Thanks Silk. All feedback is appreciated.
Xena was up with the sun practicing her drills. It was while she was
practicing with her sword that she became aware of others hiding in the
dense brush. Smiling, she put a little extra effort into her practice,
somersaulting off rocks and bouncing up and down trees. Barely audible
oohs and aahs came from the brush. Suddenly there was a loud crack and a
puff of smoke and eight boys came flying out of the brush, flushed like
a covey of quail. They skidded to a halt in front of the warrior
princess. Antipany followed them out of the brush.
"It's not nice to spy on people, boys. If you want to watch,
Chrolus stepped forward as the others studied their sandals.
"We're sorry Xena, we just didn't want to disturb you." He
couldn't contain his excitement. "Boy, that was cool. Are you going
to teach us that?"
"I don't think you're quite ready for that, Chrolus. Why don't
you introduce me to your friends and then we'll start with some
exercises, all right?"
Antipany made her way back to the stables as Chrolus was making
introductions. When she checked on them a bit later, the boys were
listening in rapt silence as Xena explained what they could do with a
staff, and she breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe this wasn't such a bad
idea after all.
When Telamedes came by at the midday meal to check on his family and
collect his initiates, his wife again reassured him that Xena wasn't
turning them into merciless warlords. As they made their way to the
clearing, they could hear shouts and squeals of laughter. Antipany and
her husband exchanged startled glances as they watched the most fearsome
warlord in the land play tag with a group of Apollo's finest prospects.
"It could be new training technique," Telamedes said
"Could...be," agreed his wife.
The boys took turns trying to tag the warrior. She jumped, tumbled,
ran and somersaulted always staying just out of reach. When the one boy
tired he tagged another of his mates and the chase began anew. Finally
Chrolus called a few of the others together and they made a new plan.
Xena suddenly found herself chased by all eight boys. Laughing, she
allowed herself to be tackled and they all piled on, howling in victory.
"She has the right to know," Telamedes said softly, his
arms around Antipany.
"All in good time, my love," she replied, reaching up to
kiss his cheek.
Telamedes made his way over to the pile. "Time to leave, boys.
You can continue this tomorrow if Xena is willing." He looked at
Xena and she nodded in agreement. The boys grumbled at the interruption
of their fun but soon were headed back to the temple for more sedate
lessons. She watched them leave with a smile on her face that faded into
sadness as soon as they were out of sight.
"Unique teaching method," Antipany said dryly.
"Teaches them to work together. There's always strength in
Antipany nodded. "Yes, two together are stronger than one
"I'm taking Argo for a ride. I'll be back tomorrow
morning," Xena said abruptly, heading back to the stables. And true
to her word, she did not appear again until the next morning.
The boys were back early, eager to begin their lessons. To their
surprise they found their teacher dressed not in her usual leathers, but
in a plain blouse and long skirt. After spending some time with
exercises she divided them up and soon they were happily banging away at
each other with their staffs. The morning flew by. When Telamedes came
by to collect his charges he found a young woman he hardly recognized
diligently teaching her pupils the fine art of self-defense.
Later that afternoon Antipany persuaded a reluctant Xena to sit with
her goddaughter while the sorceress attended to chores. She exited the
stable to find the young woman sitting on a fallen log holding the baby
and singing lullabies to her. The voice was exquisite and as she
watched, Antipany could almost understand what Gabrielle cherished about
the warlord. She listened to the familiar tune until the end then moved
up noisily behind her and putting her hands on Xena's shoulders, she
kissed the top of her head. "You know, princess, there are times,
very brief times, when I almost like you." Antipany leaned down and
stroked the baby's cheek. Even though the little girl slept most of the
time, she was now looking up at Xena in wide-eyed adoration.
"Oh, child. I can see we're going to have to have a little talk
about your taste in role models." Antipany sat down on the log
beside Xena. Untying her bodice, she freed a breast and gently took the
infant from Xena. The little girl latched onto the offered nipple with
"Seems to have a hearty appetite," Xena observed. "Are
you sure she's your daughter?" She placed an arm around Antipany's
shoulders and the new mother rested against her as the infant suckled.
"Takes after her father, don't you little one."
"When are you going to give this poor baby a name, Antipany?"
"When Tele and I can agree on one. Tele wants to name her
Hippolyte after some great Amazon queen. Over my dead body. No warrior
name for you, my sweet." Antipany winced suddenly. "Suck on
it, don't eat it," she scolded her sweet innocent cherub. Antipany
glanced up at an amused Xena. "Have you been teaching her table
manners, princess?" She eased the nipple from the infant's mouth
and switched breasts. "I'm more inclined to name her Electra."
Xena raised an eyebrow. "After the woman who helped murder her
"If this little one grows up to follow in your footsteps, it'll
kill me. I've decided knowing the future is not what's cracked up to be,
princess. I'd rather live in blissful ignorance. At least then there's
hope... or at least delusion."
"Stop being so melodramatic, Antipany." Xena squeezed her
shoulder gently. "I don't want her to be a warrior any more than
you do. You know those oracles are notoriously obscure. It could've
"Tell that to Telamedes. He's ready to turn her over to the
Amazons when she's old enough." Antipany's lower lip quivered.
"I won't let that happen."
"Not all Amazons are warriors. Look at Gabrielle, she's a bard
and a diplomat and she fights with words when she can, not swords. We've
got a long time to figure this out, Antipany. I promise you, I won't
encourage her to become a warrior."
Antipany studied the warrior for a few moments before nodding
reluctantly. "All right, Xena." She looked down at her baby
who was now sleeping contentedy in her arms. "So that still leaves
the problem of a name. Any suggestions?"
Xena was silent for a moment considering. Antipany handed her the
infant and proceeded to readjust her bodice. The warrior gently rocked
her as she thought. Finally she said, "How about Antandra?"
"Hmm, Antandra? Antandra," Antipany rolled the name around
a little. "Not bad. Anyone you know?"
"Knew. She's dead now, but she was a brave, honorable woman.
Just like this one's going to be."
"I'll run it by Tele, but I'm sure he'll approve since you
Xena thought it unnecessary to mention that she had met Antandra at
Troy or that the woman had died fighting side by side with a cadre of
her Amazon sisters.
"You know, I used to think love was a bitch," Antipany
mused. "Well, I still do, but I think forgiveness is an even bigger
one." She glanced at the warrior. "Isn't it, princess?"
Xena's expression grew neutral. "You should know, Antipany."
"Yes, I do. 'I forgive you', so easy to say, so hard to
practice. Especially with those you trusted and then let you down."
"I have forgiven Gabrielle," Xena said, her mouth twisting
in annoyance. "Unlike you, who can't seem to get past it."
"Ahh, but there's no love lost between us, Xena, so it doesn't
matter to you what I think. However, you do love Gabrielle. And you say
you've forgiven her but your actions tell her you don't trust her
anymore. Deep down you haven't forgotten her betrayal and it haunts
"You're the last one to be lecturing me on forgiveness,"
Xena said hotly.
"You have to go to her, you know." Antipany hated to break
the fragile truce the two had just established, but someone had to talk
some sense into the blockhead sitting beside her. "Gabrielle needs
to know you still want her with you."
"Gabrielle doesn't want to be with me right now." Xena
tensed and deposited Antandra back into her mother's lap. "Stay out
of it, Antipany. If she wants to come back, she will. I'm not going to
force her into anything."
"Anybody ever tell you you're an idiot?"
Xena gave her a cool appraising look. "And lived?"
Antipany looked down at her child. "All right I won't say it.
I'll just think it," she muttered.
"This isn't the first time Gabrielle has gone off on her own,
and it won't be the last. We see the world through very different eyes.
She always comes back as soon as she thinks things over."
"You ARE an idiot!" Antipany burst out unable to restrain
herself. Then froze, unable to look at the warrior. You just committed
suicide, she thought in detached wonder. She looked up into pools of
deadly blue ice and swallowed convulsively. "All right, do your
worst, princess." Picking up Antandra, she offered her to the
warrior. "Take good care of her, Xena. Being part of your family is
not an easy road to travel. May you protect her better than you did your
brother or your son or Gabrielle."
Fists clenched, fighting for self control, Xena felt a multitude of
conflicting emotions wash over her. Hurt, guilt, rage warred for
dominance before icy self control finally reasserted itself. Turning
away from the proffered child she said calmly, "I'm going for a
ride. I'll be back tomorrow morning for the boys' lesson." Xena
stalked over to the corral.
Not even bothering to saddle Argo, she vaulted onto her back
and urged the horse into a gallop. With dark hair flying and skirt
billowing out, the pair were a picture of power and freedom as they
galloped out of sight. Antipany sighed, feeling a moment of regret. Her
words had pierced that icy calm, wounding the warrior and she knew they
could never be taken back. It would be better for Gabrielle to just go
home but that's not what the bard wanted. "Yep, we're definitely
going to talk about your choice of heroes," she said to the child
sleeping in blissful innocence on her lap. "...Mothers, don't let
your daughters grow up to be warriors...," she crooned.
Xena stared blindly down the road her companion had departed on. She
had to leave this place. Staying here just put its inhabitants in danger
from her many enemies and Gabrielle was no longer here to stop her from
finally killing Antipany. It was getting dark when she finally turned
Argo around and rode back to her campsite but there was still no sign of
her companion and Xena knew in her despairing heart she wasn't coming
Gabrielle had to admit that Theocles was good company. The young
acolyte was erudite, handsome and best of all eager to hear her stories.
They discussed medicines, politics, recipes, the gods, philosophy, and
inevitably the conversation eventually got around to Xena. The days flew
by quickly as the two talked their way to the Amazon village. Gabrielle
hadn't realized how starved for conversation she had become. By the
fifth day of travel she had almost stopped looking behind her in hopes
of seeing a tall dark haired woman on a golden horse coming down the
road after her.
"She'll be along," Theocles said, noting the glances
Gabrielle was throwing behind them. "Antipany says Xena is one of
the smartest women she knows."
"Antipany said that?" Gabrielle looked at him skeptically.
"Yes, and the bravest."
"Are we talking about the same Antipany? The one who hates
Theocles smiled. "Well, I know she would never admit it but I
think Antipany really admires your friend."
"I'm not sure she wants to be my friend anymore. I really messed
things up in Chin. I told myself I was just trying to protect her
"Are you sure that's your responsibility Gabrielle? It seems to
me only Xena can decide where her soul will reside."
Gabrielle considered that for a moment. "Sometimes she just
needs a reminder, Theocles. I went way beyond that in Chin. And then I
let Hope kill Solon. I can't blame her for not wanting me around and now
I don't know how to make things right."
"With the gods involved, there wasn't anything you or Xena could
have done to prevent Solon's death. His death was part of a larger
plan." They walked in silence for a while. "Kind of hard to
patch things up if you're here and she's back there, isn't it?" he
She stopped and stared up at him. "Yeah, it is. Theocles, can
you go on to the village by yourself?"
"Sure, I've been by there lots of times."
"You have?" Gabrielle frowned. Suckered again.
"Of course," he laughed. "We're healers and priests,
Gabrielle and we go where ever we're needed. I've been all over the
"I'm going to hurt her," Gabrielle announced, smiling
Before she could respond the pair were suddenly confronted by a squad
of well-armed mercenaries. One grabbed Gabrielle before she could react.
Another reached for Theocles but he turned and fled back down the road.
Antipany was right, he was fast. But she was also wrong. He wasn't as
fast as the wind. Or even as fast as the arrow that impaled itself into
his back and sent him sprawling, unmoving in the middle of the road.
"Theocles!" Gabrielle cried, trying to wrench herself free
from the grasp of the soldier. She was silenced by a hard slap across
her face. "What'll we do with her?" she heard a gruff voice
ask. "Kill her. The fewer people who know we're here, the
better," came the dreaded reply. Gabrielle shook her head to clear
Then another voice piped up. "Wait! I know this woman." He
sounded excited. "Ketos, she's a bard. I heard her a couple of
years ago and I'll bet she's even improved some by now. But back then
she was traveling with Xena."
"Xena?" Heads surveyed the surrounding landscape nervously.
Gabrielle looked almost annoyed. "Relax, boys. She'll not
traveling with me now. But I am a bard." She poked the chest of the
young soldier who recognized her. "And I'm a darn good one."
Ketos smiled unpleasantly, "We'll let Creon decide that. He
wasn't too impressed with the last seven bards who worked for him."
"But I don't want to work for him!" Gabrielle protested.
He laughed. "Neither did they, young bard. Neither did they. Now
let's go." He pulled her roughly along.
"But what about Theocles?" she protested.
"If he's not dead, he will be soon. You can't help him
At the end of staff practice that morning, Xena called the boys
together and proposed a new game. When Telamedes and his wife came to
collect his charges they found the boys whooping and hollering, staffs
clashing. A piece of cloth was tied to a pole.
Telamedes looked at his wife. "Another new training
technique?" he asked puzzled.
"I don't think so," Antipany grimly replied. She had a bad
feeling about this. But before she could stop the mayhem, one of the
boys thumped his opponent on the head, knocking him to the ground and
disarming him. "You're dead," he trumpeted before racing to
the pole and grabbing the cloth. "We win!" he yelled and three
of his teammates lifted their staffs in triumph. Antipany buried her
face in her hands.
Telamedes looked on in horror. When his jaw finally snapped shut, he
hurried over to the group. "That's enough!" he roared. The
boys looked at him in surprise. They could tell he was unhappy, but
didn't know why. He pointed in the direction of the temple.
"Lessons are over. Go back to the temple and we'll discuss
this." He threw a peeved look at Xena who merely lifted an innocent
He then directed his gaze in Antipany's direction. Stalking over to
where she was standing, she could see the words beginning to form.
"It's not my fault, Tele!" she protested. "I didn't tell
her to do that." Xena smiled innocently and batted her eyelashes at
the sorceress. He took his wife's arm and they walked to the stables.
Antipany looked back. "We're going to talk!" she said angrily
Xena snorted. Talk, talk, talk. Why did everyone feel it was so
necessary to talk?
Two hours later Antipany finally got a word in to remind Telamedes
that he could have stopped the lessons anytime he wanted. But by that
time Xena had vanished. She had said her farewells to the boys, cleaned
up her campsite and ridden off on Argo. Antipany knew she wouldn't be
back. She could only hope Theocles had better luck with Gabrielle. But
it was the finely woven leather Amazon necklace and talisman she found
in Antandra's crib that set off her ire once more and the stately vase
finally lost its battle to stay intact.
The striking neatness of the camp was the first thing Gabrielle
noticed. Tucked away out of sight of prying eyes, the tents were in neat
rows, with gear laid out in orderly fashion. The stench that usually
accompanied so many men was conspicuously absent. Soldiers patrolled in
alert fashion, constantly moving. The little group had been challenged
three times while walking to the center of the camp. Everyone was busy.
If not on patrol, the men were cleaning gear, practicing with their
weapons, or doing a variety of chores. Whatever else Creon was, he knew
how to command.
Finally she was taken into the biggest tent and they stood at
attention waiting for the warlord to notice them. He was bending over a
map talking to his captains. When he glanced up at them with piercing
gray eyes, all thoughts of escape fled from Gabrielle's mind. She had
seen the fire in those eyes before. When Xena was leading the Athenians
against the Horde. What Gabrielle also saw was an opportunity to study
and maybe finally understand the life that drove the warrior to act as
Creon straightened up. "That's it for today. Meet back here
tomorrow and we'll finalize the plan. We need those scouts' reports
before we decide anything else." The captains saluted and left the
Ketos shoved the bard forward. Creon leaned against the table, arms
folded across his chest and gave her a lazy speculative smile.
"What do we have here Ketos?"
"A bard, sir."
He raised an eyebrow. Gabrielle gave a little mental head shake. It
was uncanny how familiar the gesture was. "Doesn't look like much
of a bard, does she?"
Gabrielle gazed steadily into his piercing eyes. "If you were
really that bad a judge of character, you would have been dead long
ago," she said coolly.
His eyes narrowed ever so slightly. "All right. Let's see just
how good a bard you are. You will entertain us tonight and every night
we're in camp. As long as we stay entertained, you live. Disappoint us
and you die. Your predecessor lasted two days."
She studied him for a moment. "What do I get out of this?"
"Your life isn't enough?" he asked quizzically.
"My life is worthless without your guarantee of protection. As
long as I'm alive you will guarantee I'll be left alone."
He laughed. "Done. I guarantee it." The smile faded.
"But everyone will have a turn at you if you fail."
The fear that caused her heart to clench didn't show on her face.
Xena had taught her that. "Done."
He waved his hand and Ketos showed her out of the tent to another.
This one had a set of shackles staked to the ground and these he applied
to her ankles. "Not that we don't trust you little bard..."
"Gabrielle. Ketos, my name is Gabrielle."
"...Gabrielle, but we don't want you running off before the
first performance." He smiled self-consciously at her.
"I never run out on a chance to perform, Ketos," she
promised him. And then proceeded to engage him in conversation. By the
time the poor man made it out of the tent, the bard knew a great deal
about the camp and what kind of stories the men liked.
After the evening meal she was led to a platform. As she looked out
into the sea of scowling faces and jeering voices, she smiled and walked
along the platform making eye contact with as many as she could.
"My name is Gabrielle," she told them in her best bardic
voice. "And I tell stories. Some may even be about you." The
noise quieted a bit. "I have heard that you are the bravest, and
the strongest, and the smartest warriors in all the land." That
brought a cheer. "And I want to write your stories so that all may
know your deeds." The men were thinking now. "But first let me
tell you of another great war, of brave men and heroic deeds. Of lives
lost and battles won. A war over which women will forever weep. I sing a
song of Troy...," she paused dramatically. With any luck she could
keep this story going for weeks. "...the prequel."
The lush green countryside stretched before her in all its glory, but
Xena didn't see its beauty. Without the bard to point out the minute
wonders of her surroundings, the warrior just viewed it as land to be
crossed. To where, she wasn't sure. She simply let Argo have her lead
and went where the horse took her, stopping where ever she thought she
could do the most good. That Argo was taking a slow roundabout path
toward Amazon territory never filtered through Xena's conscious
At first Xena enjoyed her newly found solitude. She could come and go
as she pleased, relieved not to have to drag the bard out of bed every
morning or listen to her chatter every waking minute and food lasted
three times as long without having to fill Gabrielle's noisy bottomless
pit. So Xena ate when she was hungry, which was increasingly infrequent
and bathed when Argo finally refused to carry her. All in all, she
thought it wasn't a bad life.
One sunny day Xena passed by a farm house and saw two men arguing in
the middle of the road. There was a small pig rooting nearby. She was
about to pass them when the men suddenly began to pummel each other.
Debate whether to get involved or not ended when one of the men drew a
knife and swung it at the other. Casually she vaulted off of Argo and
landed between the two men.
"Put that away," she snapped. "That's no way to settle
your differences." Good for you, a familiar bardic voice said. Xena
narrowed her eyes and looked around but Gabrielle was nowhere to be
"He's stealing my pig!" exclaimed one of the men.
"You sold that pig to me," the other replied.
"Did too." They glared at each other.
Xena looked at them wearily. Assaulting each other over a pig.
Shaking her head she walked over to the sow. "This is the pig in
question, I assume?"
The two men nodded. Then before they could even blink, the warrior
whipped out her sword and cleaved the young sow into two equal halves.
Longways. The pig didn't have even time to oink.
The men looked on in shock. "She was going to be a breeder
sow," one finally managed to sputter.
"Oh." Xena shrugged. "Well, now she's lunch." She
cocked her head and listened, her brow furrowed in irritation. "Oh,
for cryin' out loud Gabrielle, it was only a pig." She threw up her
hands and started back to Argo. "Yes, I know you would have handled
it differently, but you're not here, are you?" She smacked her head
a few times. "Except in here. Don't you ever stop talking?"
The two men looked at each other. "Who's she talking to?"
"Dunno. Who's Gabrielle?"
"Dunno." They picked up the carcass of the pig and beat a
hasty retreat to the slaughterhouse, thankful the sow was the only one
the deranged warrior thought to kill.
Argo glanced back at Xena before taking a more direct meander to the
Telamedes made hurried preparations to leave. A messenger had
galloped into the temple grounds that morning with the news that
Theocles had been found with an arrow in his back. He was still alive,
but not by much. When questioned about Gabrielle, the messenger just
looked perplexed. Even more troubling was the news that two warlords
were about to battle it out not far from where the bard had disappeared.
"We need to find Xena," he said thoughtfully to his wife
while he packed. "Would you send Peisander out to find her?"
"What makes you think she'll follow him, even if he can find
her?" she asked worriedly.
"I'll write a note." He hastily scribbled on a piece of
paper while Antipany called the big bird over. Peisander looked mild
insulted when Antipany attached the note to his leg.
"I know you're not a carrier pigeon, but this is important
Peisander. Go find Xena." Now the big bird looked mildly alarmed.
"Please Peisander. Gabrielle's in trouble. Take Xena to her. She's
probably somewhere near Amazon territory, so be careful; you know how
those crazy women like to shoot at any moving target." With a loud
squawk the vulture flew off. Telamedes kissed his wife and galloped off
to aid Theocles. Next time, Antipany promised herself, those two weren't
getting out her sight until they patched up their differences.
Gabrielle not only made through that first night but all the rest as
well and she was just in the sixth year of the Trojan war. For the first
couple of days she was shackled in her tent until it was time to
perform. She entertained herself by polishing her stories and by
unlocking her restraints with the two thin slips of metal concealed in
her braids. Autolycus had been a very able teacher and she had been a
very quick learner. It paid to have many skills. Xena had taught her
that. On the third morning she was escorted to Creon's tent.
She entered as his commanders were filing out. They greeted her
cordially and complimented her storytelling. She beamed at them. "Aww,
thanks guys." Creon stared at her as if he were trying to make a
decision. She waited patiently for him to speak.
"Well, you're still alive I see," he said finally.
"Ah, yeah." She hoped she looked appropriately grateful.
"I need someone to document my life. I think you just might be
the one. What do you think?"
What she thought was that no one would be interested in his life, but
wisely didn't say as much. And considering the alternative, it was
probably a fine idea. She smiled brightly. "That's a great idea!
Let me grab a piece of parchment and I'll get started."
So she spent the next couple of weeks trailing behind the warlord
documenting his every word, noting his every action. It took no time at
all for her to discover the total reverence with which his men regarded
him. His orders were accepted without comment or question. The only two
men who dared voice opinions were two of his closest captains. He would
listen to their arguments and then make up his mind, but once he gave a
command he expected it to be followed without question. And it was.
She marveled at this blind obedience and the harsh discipline that
accompanied life in the camp. Only once was she accosted by a soldier
and he was dealt with promptly, strung up and whipped in front of his
mates. His crime, she knew, was not that he had tried to assault her,
but that he had disobeyed the order that she be left alone. Everyone
kept a respectful distance after that.
Preparations were underway for the coming battle with Bercilius.
There was a tense nervousness pervading the camp which grew as the time
for war approached. Swords were honed to razor sharpness, practices
became more intense, tempers became much shorter. Gabrielle watched the
practice, her attention being drawn to one young man who seemed to lose
every match. Finally he stalked off the practice field and headed to the
brush. Curious, she followed him and found him on his knees, vomiting
into the grass.
He glanced up, startled when she appeared, then sank back down, his
head in his hands. "I'm going to die out there," he despaired.
"They all say I'll be the first to fall ." He started to cry
Gabrielle studied him for a moment. It wasn't that he didn't know how
to fight, she decided. His technique wasn't that bad, he just seemed
tentative and defensive. He had been beaten up so many times that now he
expected to lose and what he needed was some confidence in himself.
"I've been watching you," she said. "And you really are
good... ah, what's your name?"
He glanced up hopefully. "Somias," he replied.
"All right, Somias, I'm going to get you something that's going
to give you an edge. With this potion you'll be able to beat anyone.
Wait here a minute. I want you to build a small fire while I'm
She hurried to Creon's tent and grabbed a small handful of leaves
from a clay container. As she was leaving she noticed a couple of
scrolls open on the table. Unable to contain her curiosity, she glanced
around and finding no threat, she picked up a scroll. "The Art of
War, by Sun Tzu," she murmured. Great, now they were writing
scrolls about war and making it an art form. It was a good thing most
warlords didn't know how to read. She picked up the other scroll.
"Tips And Rules To Conquer By, by Silk." Good grief, Creon had
a whole library on the best ways to kill and maim. She read the first
tip. "Never leave your tent without clean underwear." Huh?
Warlords do listen to their mothers, she marveled. This Silk was
probably another one of Xena's warlord buddies from the Far East. Then
frowned in misery at the thought of her friend. She should have known
the warrior wouldn't come looking for her she thought, scowling at the
scroll and muttering, "There must be a tip in here somewhere that
says, 'Never go running after your sidekick. It might make her think you
really care.'" Brushing away a tear, she dropped the scroll and
went to the cook's tent to borrow a pot and a few ingredients.
When she returned Somias had a fire going. She put some water in the
pot and hung it over the fire. As the water was coming to a boil, she
threw in her ingredients, one by one and chanted softly as the brew
bubbled. Finally she cooled the liquid and poured some of the concoction
into a cup and handed it to the wide-eyed soldier. "Drink up,"
she said cheerfully.
He looked at her doubtfully, then shrugged and took a careful sip.
"Ugh," he said, wrinkling his nose. "What is this
She looked around carefully, making sure they safe from prying eyes.
"A sorceress friend of mine taught me this. It's made from..."
She looked around again then leaned forward and whispered in his ear.
The young man's mouth dropped open and he regarded the brew with
wonder. "Really?" he asked.
"Really," she confirmed. "Creon himself drinks it
every night." Which was the truth, she thought with only a slight
twinge of conscious.
Somias downed the rest of the cup in great gulps. Then he tipped the
pot and drank the rest. When she headed back to camp he was licking out
the pan and eating the sediment. "Remember, Somias," she
called back over her shoulder, "it doesn't make you invincible, it
just enhances what's already there."
The next few days flew by as they broke camp and headed for their
confrontation with Bercilius. Gabrielle continued to document the
warlord's every word and tell her stories at night. By the time they
reached their appointment with destiny, Gabrielle had a pretty good idea
what life must have been like for the warrior princess. Creon was tense,
eager to begin the battle. It didn't help that his once plentiful supply
of chamomile tea had mysteriously dwindled down to nothing in no time at
all, a cup being part of his nightly ritual to relax after a hard day of
command duties. But he had to say he was pleased with the unusually high
degree of confidence and aggression displayed by his men.
Argo ambled down the road with her brooding mistress scarcely paying
attention to their direction. But even in her pensive state, some part
of her was acutely aware of her surroundings. She took note of the
chirping of the birds, the rustling of the underbrush from small animals
and when the noise of battle reached her subconscious, Xena snapped to
attention. A grim smile crossed her face and she greeted the sounds with
relief. If there was ever a day she was in the mood for a fight, this
was it. She urged Argo into a gallop and entered the embattled village
with a warcry that caused heads to raise up in wonder.
The raven-haired beauty cut a swath through the invading soldiers as
a sickle through wheat, a feral chuckle greeting every death. She
plunged her sword into one after another of the mercenaries, then flung
her chakrum and watched it bounce off a rock, a cooking pot, two posts
and slice three soldiers' throats before returning to her. She plunged
her sword into another when she heard a yell behind her. The approaching
mercenary's nose met the end of her elbow.
She dispatched two more men then looked around and found the young
soldier had staggered to his feet. Disappointed that he was only one
left standing, she decided to take her time with him. A fist to his jaw
and the youngster found himself flat on his back once again, a sword
digging its point into his throat. She studied him with her intense icy
blue eyes. Eyes lost in bloodlust and wanting his life so bad she made
no effort to hide her need.
"Please," he whispered, tears forming in his eyes.
"Please," the word echoed in her mind, only in Gabrielle's
voice. "Xena, he's hardly more than a boy," the bard
whispered. Xena felt the soft touch of her friend's hand as it caressed
her arm and rested on her sword hand. "Enough, Xena." Warm
gossamer breath kissed her lips.
The beautiful warrior blinked and sanity returned. But no warmth.
Stone faced she studied the young man for a few moments before finally
saying, "You need a new line of work. Go home."
If the point of her sword had not been planted so firmly against his
throat, she was sure the would-be warrior would have nodded
enthusiastically. As it was he could only whisper, "Yes, I'll do
that. Thank you." The sword returned to its sheath and he scrambled
to his feet and began to run, not daring to look back.
Xena watched the young man fly out of the village as if Hermes
himself were giving him a lift. She had been ready to slit his throat,
eager to feel the power once more. But feeling Gabrielle's hands
restraining hers, hearing her young friend's voice pleading for reason
had dragged her back from the abyss once more and she held on to those
sensations as long as she could.
She looked around slowly. The villagers stood staring at her with a
mixture of gratitude and fear. Most of the invaders were dead and those
she hadn't killed outright were quickly dispatched by the villagers.
"It's all right," she said wearily. "I'm not here to hurt
you. I just want to help." So she spent the next few days helping
to repair the damage, burying bodies, and fortifying defenses.
But she never felt accepted, never broke through the reserve that
surrounded her. Gabrielle would have put these people at ease in a
heartbeat with her chatter and stories and by the time they left 'Xena,
Destroyer of Nations' would have been remembered as 'Xena, Savior of
Timorine'. The villagers were appropriately gratified for her help but
still there was a vague sense of relief on all sides when she finally
After another few days on the road Xena accepted the hospitality of a
farm family exchanging help in the fields for a place to stay in the
stables and some meals. She hoped the hard work would tire her out
enough to finally get a good night's sleep. Sleep had always been hard
to come by but the last couple of nights it had been virtually
After the evening meal she took an ax and attacked a downed tree,
splitting wood with mindless zeal. She began to think about her
companion and her fury grew. Why? Whack! A log split into two neat
pieces. She hadn't done anything wrong. So why did she feel this was her
fault? Whack! Two more sticks of firewood. If Gabrielle thought she was
going to beg her to come back... Whack! She couldn't understand what the
bard was so upset about. She was only trying to protect her friend.
Whack! Why couldn't Gabrielle understand her soul wasn't worth saving?
Whack! Maybe this was for the best...
Suddenly Xena stopped and listened. Then curled her lip. "Great,
just great. What do you want Ares?"
The god appeared in front of her, pacing back and forth, glaring at
her. "What do you think you're doing? I didn't train you to work in
the fields or chop wood. This is beneath you!" He stopped for a
moment fuming, then made an effort to calm himself.
"It's honest labor, Ares. You should try it sometime."
"Pulleeeze," he said, scorn dripping from every syllable.
He trailed a finger along her cheek and stepped behind her whispering in
her ear. "I have an army just waiting for you, Xena. That idiot
Bercilius commands it now but with you in command it would sweep away
everything in its path. No one would question your decisions. No one
would make moral judgments against you."
"No irritating little blonde bards in that army, huh Ares?"
"Not a one," he chuckled. "In about a week your army
will battle another led by a warlord called Creon. He's good, Xena.
Almost as good as you. It will be an interesting fight. Aren't you just
a liiittle bit tempted?"
That was the problem. She was always a little bit tempted by his
offers and this was no different. And she was tired. Tired of wandering,
tired of being alone, and most of all tired of hearing that voice in her
head without the comforting presence of its owner. She knew in her heart
it wasn't Ares who could provide what she needed.
"Ares, give it up. I'm not interested. Not now, not ever. Go
tempt some unsuspecting fool with more balls than brains and
They glared at each other for a few moments before Ares threw up his
hands in frustration. He pointed a finger at the downed tree and it blew
up in a thousand pieces. "I'm going to do that to you one day, Xena,"
he threatened before vanishing.
"Hey!" she yelled, looking at pieces of wood scattered
everywhere. "You could at least stack it before you
disappear." She began to pick up the firewood. "Just like a
god," she muttered. "Always leaving a mess behind for some
else to clean up."
When she departed the next morning there was an dark emptiness inside
her that she still refused to acknowledge. The bard would have told her
that her soul was starving in an environment of communal deprivation.
The farmer's wife simply commented that Xena was the loneliest person
she had ever met.
Xena sat brooding, staring at the campfire and the small pot of
vegetables cooking on the fire. She was restless and her feeling of
foreboding continued to grow. Sleep had been just a pleasant memory for
some days now. She ate just enough to keep her going but not enough to
prevent her from losing weight. The circles under her eyes had grown
more prominent as the lonely days progressed and the wandering was
getting tiresome, but there was only one place she wanted to go and that
was anywhere Gabrielle was.
It had been almost a month since she had seen the only face she
wanted to see, but the longer she stayed away, the harder it was
becoming to believe Gabrielle would want anything to do with her. But
she had to know. Argo's wanderings had brought them within a half day's
ride of Amazon territory and she was determined to see her friend.
Irritation stirred as she heard the rustling of wings and a big ugly
bird settled himself on a branch above her. He cawed out a cautious
greeting but the warrior never moved. Argo whinnied and moved closer.
"Fine, you talk to him," Xena muttered.
The vulture stared down for a moment then flew to the ground,
awkwardly hopping over to where the woman sat. "Go away," she
growled waving an arm at him. The big bird hopped back, startled, then
sat pondering his next move. The hubris of these two-legged animals
confused him. They all breathed the same air, defecated on the same
ground, and in the end even the proudest of all these creatures ended up
as roadkill just like any other animal. What was there to be so arrogant
about? He was mystified.
Peisander slowly extended the leg with the note tied to it. The
warrior glared at him. "I don't care what trouble Antipany is in
now. I'm not going back." She cast a feral smile in his direction,
her upper lip curling. "And if you don't leave, you're going to end
up in that pot of vegetables. I've always wondered what vulture stew
The big bird blinked slowly then suddenly squawked and rolled onto
his back, feet extended into the air, not moving. Xena looked at him in
dismay. "Great Zeus, I've killed Antipany's bird." She looked
at Argo. "How am I going to explain this?" Argo just snorted
and shook her head.
She knelt down by Peisander wondering if blowing air down his beak
would help. After all, it had worked on Gabrielle... She sighed,
thinking about her companion. When she looked down again she noted one
big eye staring up at her. The leg with the note waved in her face and
it was then that she noticed the writing on the note was not
Antipathy's. She snatched it off the vulture's leg and sat down on the
ground to read.
"Cxah cuote, debtiewlle em lrimbal. triwche himt vltk Clian orn
"Hades take Telamedes and his abominable handwriting!" she
muttered. Peisander rolled back onto his feet and peered at the note
over her arm while Argo looked on from over her shoulder. "I don't
suppose either one of you could translate this?" she asked
hopefully. All she got in return was blank stares. "Didn't think
so," she muttered. Absently she scratched the big bird's head while
she tried to decipher the note. Peisander amended his thinking. These
two-legged creatures were good for something besides roadkill. He
crooned his appreciation.
"All right, Telamedes wouldn't write unless it's important.
Maybe that word is..." She jerked upright and looked at Peisander.
"Is this about Gabrielle?" The big bird squawked in
excitement. "Is she in trouble?" Peisander flapped his wings
and started to dance. Her eyes narrowed. "Are those words 'Creon'
and 'Bercilius'?" she asked. The vulture squawked again.
"Thank you, Ares," she muttered, smiling darkly.
Xena felt a calmness she hadn't felt in quite a while. Now she had
focus and a reason to go after her friend. "We'll leave tomorrow
morning," she told them and proceeded to eat her stew, sans vulture
meat. The rest of the evening was spent bathing, cleaning her leathers,
sharpening her sword and waiting impatiently for the first glimmer of
Creon stood on the hillside and watched the battle unfold. It was
going just like he planned. Carefully he explained what was happening to
Gabrielle. "See that group of men there," he said pointing
down to a group who were extending themselves precariously forward.
"They're going to draw our opponents out and down. We'll be able to
divide their forces and bring up our reserves to finish them off."
Gabrielle looked and frowned. "Your men will be massacred, won't
He nodded. "That group will take heavy losses. But they know the
risk. It's for the greater good and in the end they'll gladly give up
their lives for our cause." Excitement gleamed in his eyes.
Gabrielle looked for some regret, some sign that the warlord saw
these men as more than just pieces in some morbid game. But there was no
regret in his manner and suddenly she understood the mindset that had
molded Xena into a heartless warlord. Gabrielle had always judged her
companion in the context of the person she now knew, not the murderer of
that past time. But the warlord still lurked beneath the goodness that
now defined her friend. It had taken a tremendous strength of character
to bring herself back to humanity and a tremendous will to keep herself
And as Gabrielle watched those men willingly go to their deaths for a
cause that had more to do with power than righteousness, she also
understood the gravity of the crime she had committed in Britannia and
then in Chin, at least in Xena's eyes. For it was the strong who defined
the greater good and set the rules of the game. And by warrior rules,
Xena had no choice but to stand by her companions, right or wrong and
repay her debts no matter what the cost, even if the price was her soul.
Those values Gabrielle knew she could never share because the cost did
matter. Right and wrong did matter. Every life deserved a chance.
So Gabrielle had tried to make her friend play by new rules, her
rules. She understood now why she shouldn't have tried. Xena had proved
her loyalty time after time. When she risked a lifetime on Cecrop's ship
for her. When she had defended her from the Horde. And Gabrielle knew
the depth of the warrior's love. Powerful enough to want to kill her.
And then deep enough to forgive her. But it was a betrayal perhaps too
quickly forgiven then buried so completely in her companion's iron will
that Xena wasn't even aware that the hurt was still there, festering.
Gabrielle sighed. It was time for her to go home. She prayed there
was still a home to go to. Her chance came when the battle being
decided, Creon prepared to enter the battlefield and deal with Bercilius
himself. Gabrielle politely declined to go, using the time honored
defense understood by all men. She fainted.
And was promptly brought back to consciousness by a cup full of wine
hitting her face. "Oh, what happened?" she sputtered opening
one eye to glare at the wine thrower. She sat up, holding her head.
"I don't feel so good," she said softly.
"Too much for you, little bard?" asked Creon with some
amusement. "Take her back to her tent," he ordered. He gave
her a hand up. "Don't worry, I'll tell you all about it tonight so
you can write it down." Barking orders, he mounted his stallion and
rode off with most of his men.
Gabrielle was escorted back to her tent and shackled. Darkness was
fast approaching and she knew she would have to hurry to get away before
Creon returned. Carefully she removed the thin metal strips from her
braids and picked her locks. Gathering up her belongings and staff she
debated on taking her scrolls and then decided to leave them. Creon
deserved them, she thought. She called her guard in and quickly
dispatched the unsuspecting soldier with her staff. Because most of the
soldiers were at the battlefield, the camp itself was lightly guarded.
Only one sentry challenged her. She tried to bluff her way past but
the guard was not fooled. He tried to grab her but she dodged away,
bringing her staff up in a defensive position. Growling in frustration,
he drew his sword and brought it down on her staff. Gabrielle hit the
ground rolling and brought her staff up to strike where it would do the
most damage. Suddenly a fist shot out from behind her, landing with
devastating effect on her assailant's nose. His eyes glazed and he fell
slowly over backwards, his helmet falling off as he hit the ground.
Gabrielle continued to roll up to her knees, sweeping the staff to take
this new adversary's legs out from under him. Except that this foe wore
a leather skirt and easily jumped over the sweeping staff.
And in an instant, Gabrielle's arms were holding her tight, her face
buried in the warrior's chest. Xena's heart was right; it was exactly
what she needed. She returned the embrace with a relieved sigh.
Gabrielle looked up, her eyes full of questions. The warrior held a
finger to the bard's lips. "Let's get out of here," she
whispered and spun around heading away from the camp before the bard
could say any more.
Silently they crept through the trees until they came to Argo. Xena
swung up into the saddle and offered an arm to her companion who was
showing no inclination to accept the help up.
"I could have gotten away without your help, you know."
"I know." Her arm was still extended.
Gabrielle studied her friend. "You don't look so good. You've
"What took you so long?" The query was calm but Xena felt
"I came as soon as I heard you were in trouble."
"Otherwise you wouldn't have come at all?"
Oh, oh. While Xena acknowledged that she wasn't the most sensitive
soul on Gaea's green earth, she hadn't lived this long without the
uncanny ability to accurately gauge the subtle nuances of her
surroundings and she now determined that the air had just gotten several
degrees chillier. Xena suddenly cast an alert gaze into the darkness.
"They're coming!" she hissed, reaching for her companion's
Years of experience had taught the bard not to question Xena's
instincts even though nothing seemed out of order to her. She grabbed
the proffered arm and swung up behind the warrior. Xena urged Argo on as
fast as they dared through the trees and back on to the road. She
breathed a small sigh of relief, hoping against hope that Gabrielle
would not utter those four little words that always caused her gut to
The bard tapped her shoulder. "We have to talk," she said
Damn. Damn. Damn.
After persuading Gabrielle that silence was needed until they were
safely away from Creon's camp, the pair rode steadily in the silvery
moonlight until late in the night. Xena would have been content to ride
like this forever, with Gabrielle's arms around her waist and her head
leaning against the warrior's back. Not that she would admit to anyone,
even herself, how much she had missed her friend. When Gabrielle was
sure the numbness in her posterior was a permanent condition and Argo
was beginning to labor, Xena finally halted the horse and slid off,
helping the bard down and led them into the forest to an area hidden
from the road.
"We can't build a fire, Gabrielle, it's too dangerous."
Xena removed Argo's saddle and the saddlebags. The horse wandered over
to the small nearby stream and took a much needed drink of water.
"Fine with me," the bard said wearily. "Let's just go
to sleep." She pulled out the warrior's bedroll and sank down
wearily. Within minutes she was fast asleep. Xena listened to the gentle
snoring and felt a peace within her that had been missing since the
bard's departure. She brushed a stray lock of golden hair away from
Gabrielle's face and gently kissed her cheek, wondering if that peace
would once more take flight after they had her friend's much longed for
talk. Sighing, she settled against a tree and prepared to defend against
intruders, the blackness, and her own dark fears.
Gabrielle woke the next morning stiff but well rested from the best
sleep she'd had in weeks. Sometime during the night she had awakened and
noting that Xena was determined to stand guard, she had simply gathered
up the blankets, settled herself within the hollow of her friend's
shoulder and thrown the covers over them both. Without a word being
exchanged, she was asleep again the minute she felt Xena's arm tighten
around her, much to Xena's grateful amusement.
They fell into their well established routine with Gabrielle starting
the morning meal while Xena foraged and attended to Argo. After
breakfast, Gabrielle finally felt awake enough to finish what should
have been done a month ago.
"Xena...," she began.
Her companion knew she would not be put off any longer.
"Gabrielle," Xena interrupted, "I love you." That
stopped the bard for a least a couple of heartbeats. "I just wanted
you to know that," the warrior continued, "before we do
"I do know that." Gabrielle smiled in spite of herself then
looked stern. "But that's not the problem is it?"
No, it certainly wasn't. Xena tried again. "I do trust you, you
know," Xena said finally.
"You trust me to cook your food and not poison it,"
Gabrielle replied. "You trust me to carry the dinars and not rob
you blind. You trust me to find the best bargains in the marketplace and
negotiate deals between disputing parties, but you don't trust me to
protect your life. I was wrong in Chin and I've admitted that. And if
you expected me to see Hope as anything but my daughter, you were
wrong." She looked at her friend sadly. "Now you don't trust
me to back you in any fight."
"I just don't want to keep putting you in a position where you
have to choose between what you know is right and what I believe is
right. One of these days you'll defend me and end up violating every
principle you hold dear. I don't want to be responsible for that."
Gabrielle thought for a moment. "It's too late for that now, my
friend. My view of good and bad, right and wrong has been changing ever
since we met. Maybe that's because I'm getting older, I don't know, and
things just don't seem so black and white anymore. Or maybe it is
because of your influence. You're a strong woman, Xena, with strong
convictions. But my principles are not your responsibility. It'll be my
choice in the end."
"And my soul is mine, Gabrielle."
They both studied the ground for a moment knowing Xena would never
stop protecting the bard as Gabrielle would never stop trying to rescue
the warrior's soul. They loved too much to stop now.
"I don't know why I said what I did about betraying me,"
Xena said finally. "I forgave you a long time ago, after Illusia."
Gabrielle looked up. "But when will you forget?" she asked
softly. For that her friend had no reply.
Xena finished loading Argo then turned reluctantly to face
Gabrielle. "Are you still going to Amazonia?" she asked
The bard nodded. "Yes, but I want to see what happened to
Theocles first." She paused for a moment studying the warrior's
face. All her friend had to do was ask her to stay. "What are you
going to do?"
Xena refused to meet her gaze. She looked at the horizon and
shrugged. "I don't know." She fiddled with Argo's reins.
Gabrielle sighed. She knew this was all she was likely to get.
"Goodbye, Xena. You'll always be welcome by the Amazons." She
reached up and kissed Xena's cheek before turning away.
The bard turned back and looked at her questioningly.
"I want to come home," Xena said quietly. "I miss my
Gabrielle shook her head, feigning confusion. "Amphipolis is
that way," she said waving a hand to the east. "But you know
that." Come on Xena, she urged silently, you're almost there.
Xena shook her head in frustration. The bard didn't seem to
understand. "No! Not there. I..." She stopped, trying to find
the right words. It seemed like everything she said lately came out
Being one of the more sensitive souls on Gaea's green earth,
Gabrielle had a good idea what her companion was struggling to say, but
for once she was not going to speak for her. Her hopes were dashed when
her friend looked away, saying nothing. Gabrielle turned away once more.
"Go home Xena, wherever that may be. I wish you peace." She
stopped abruptly when a hand suddenly clamped down on her shoulder.
"Wait, Gabrielle." The urgency in the warrior's voice
caused Gabrielle to turn around and stare at her, determined not to move
until Xena finally managed to spit it out.
Xena looked down at the bard, who was staring at her with an
expectant gaze, and smiled ruefully. "You're not going to help me
out here, are you?"
"Nope. Not unless you want me to whack you between the eyes a
couple of times."
Those piercing beautiful blue eyes narrowed. "That won't be
necessary." She took a deep breath and began, "My soul is just
an empty expanse of desolate wasteland without you. My spirit blooms in
your presence and dies in your absence. My heart...my heart...,"
she floundered and looked disgusted. "What a crock of... Aww
Tartarus, Gabrielle, I miss you, and I'm dying without you."
Gabrielle blinked. "That was pretty good." More than she
expected in fact. Maybe it was time to give her a hand. "So, your
home is still with me?"
Xena nodded. This wasn't exactly the reaction she was hoping for but
at least the bard hadn't run away.
"And I'm still part of your family?"
"You'll always be my family," Xena replied. Of that she had
Gabrielle stared at her, thinking. She wanted to do nothing more than
throw herself into Xena's arms and vow never to disappoint her again.
But she knew that was a vow she was unlikely to keep. Too much had
happened. Too much had changed. She had changed. And there was still too
much left unresolved between them. She willed her arms to stay at her
Xena tried to hide her disappointment at the bard's hesitation.
"It's all right, Gabrielle," she said gently. "I've
handled things badly and if you don't want to be with me, I
understand." She turned to mount Argo.
Gabrielle grabbed her arm. "No! It's just that I've changed so
much these last few months. I won't follow you blindly anymore, Xena. I
won't stand by and watch you assassinate someone. I don't care how much
they deserve it. You have to accept me for who I am now. Can you do
Oh yeah, she could do that. You made allowances for family. You
forgave family. You loved them in spite of their mistakes. Gabrielle had
taught her that. Xena nodded to the gentle green eyes. "Gabrielle,
you never followed me blindly and I never wanted you to. I know we'll
never see eye-to-eye on everything but I still believe we can work
things out when we disagree. I promise you, I'll listen to you better
from now on. You won't even have to hit me with your staff."
Gabrielle couldn't stop the tears, she didn't even try.
"Then...please...come home, Xena." She gasped as she suddenly
found herself in a bone crushing hug. She relaxed and returned the
embrace, laughing softly. "I love you too."
They stood for long moments resting in the comfort of each others
arms until Xena finally released the bard. Grabbing Argo's reins she
started walking down the road. "Let's go then. We'll have to find
where you were attacked if we're going to find Theocles." She
started to hum happily to herself.
Gabrielle stared after her. Xena humming a lullaby? And here she
thought all the warrior sang were dirges. She wiped away the last few
tears and ran to catch up. "Xena, what did you do to Antipany?"
Xena glanced at her companion. "Nothing."
"Nothing?" Gabrielle asked with some trepidation.
"Well...I did put the pinch on her. And she got her revenge. I'd
say it came out about even."
"I gather she was still alive when you left?"
"Oh yes, a little livid, but most definitely alive," Xena
replied with some regret.
"What was her revenge?"
Xena grimaced. "It seems by virtue of being Antandra's
godmothers we've become full fledged members of Antipany's...
family." She looked like she just ate a green persimmon.
Gabrielle looked startled then snickered as the possible consequences
of that development sunk in.
Xena looked at her, irritated. "That's not a laughing matter.
There are certain members of our family who I'd rather not see anytime
soon. She's one of them."
Gabrielle stared ahead thoughtfully. She was so happy to be with Xena
again. But she wondered if her companion would ever truly trust her. She
considered apologizing once more for her betrayal, for Solon's death,
but knew in her heart that it would be a futile gesture. Xena was a
woman of action, not words. Actions formed a solid foundation to the
warrior while words were carried away by the breeze. Well, it had taken
three years to build that bond of trust before she destroyed it and if
it took another twenty to rebuild it, then so be it. She just hoped they
were given the time.
"So they decided to name her Antandra, huh? I like that. Our
family sure has grown over the last three years, hasn't it? Your
relatives, mine, Solon, a demigod and his sidekick, a thief..."
"Now there's a family member to be proud of."
"Otherwise known as a swindler in some villages."
"Please, Xena." Gabrielle jabbed her gently in her ribs.
"A whole nation of Amazons, a sorceress..."
"A madwoman you mean. And don't forget her vulture."
"I didn't forget Argo either. And several wonderful godchildren.
A little unusual but It's a pretty good family, Xena."
Xena put an arm around her companion's shoulder. "Yeah, I guess
it is. You'll always be the center of mine, Gabrielle. Always."
Then her soul grew as lush as a verdant forest when Gabrielle smiled up
at her, while her spirit blossomed into a thousand brilliant colors and
her heart... Her heart sang with the complex melodies of a chorus, not
that Xena was aware of it. All she knew was that it was great to be
They walked in comfortable silence for a few moments.
"Xena, can we talk?" Gabrielle grunted in discomfort as the
arm around her shoulder spasmed.
There are times when love is not enough.
Or loyalty. Or trust. Or honor. Or forgiveness.
Or any of the other building blocks that form strong relationships and
There are times when the only way to keep a home standing is simply to
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