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Kiss of Lethe
Chapter 1- The Undiscovered
The tall woman stood on the cliff, facing the sea. The crisp, salty
air filled her lungs. She liked to come up here, where there was peace
and quiet. She could be absolutely still with herself.
“Tychias, pardon me, Tychias? I am sorry to intrude, but...”
The tall woman turned towards the sound of the voice, a small sigh
escaping her lips.
“Tychias, I am glad I found you here. There is a meeting of the Elders
in the Great Hall. Master Scholar, Aristhemes, asked for your presence
at the table.” The young man stood, trying to catch his breath and
deliver the message at the same time.
“Daemon, of course you knew I’d be here, where else would I be? Out
challenging the gods?” Tychias laughed as she walked towards Daemon.
He was one of her favorite students, there was something about him that
made her especially fond of him.
Daemon smiled, looking down, unable to meet her gaze. His heart always
felt like a trapped animal whenever he looked into those ocean deep blue
“No Tychias, I mean, yes Tychias.” He stammered, intently studying the
knot work of his sandals. Tychias smiled at him, but he did not see
it. To look at her, with her dark hair whipping from behind her and
those eyes, he felt like an ant before a mountain.
She stepped past him, touching him lightly on the sleeve as she moved
back towards the path.
She asked him quietly as she moved past him,
“Are the Elders meeting for the topics of the upcoming gathering?”
“N n no, Tychias, they are meeting concerning recent reports from the
villagers up the coast, reporting an army that has started to arrive.”
“Why should we care about an army? We are an academic forum, we have
nothing to fear...”She stopped, a shadow flickering across the sun, and
across her face. She paused and looked up for a moment, then continued
her way down the path, towards the courtyard and the Great Hall.
Daemon fell in step behind her striding figure, the wind whipping their
scholars robes behind them as they moved down the cliff.
Daemon knew that it was no small wonder why he and his classmates
clamored for her teachings. It was not so much the first attraction
that each of them admitted to, but rather, being in her presence was
like being with a force of nature. With her lioness prowl in front of
the assembly. The way she had of making her point absolutely clear.
Standing absolutely still, fixing you with those eyes, and rebutting
your argument as fine and as quick as a fisherman could gut a fish. Why
she taught out here, at the edge of nowhere, no one knew. Daemon shook
his head slightly as he continued to follow her down.
Tychias knew the young man was not pondering the latest point on
aesthetics. More than likely, he was wondering what she was doing
here. She had often wondered the same thing. Why was she here? As for
herself, she only knew what Aristhemes had told her, when she first
regained consciousness. She had awoken so stiff she could not move,
every fiber of her being screaming in pain. When her eyes had finally
opened, slightly more than a slit, she saw the halo of white hair, and a
grizzled face gazing down at her.
“You are awake, good. After five days, I was beginning to become
concerned.” He smiled as her eyes fluttered open.
“I confess I have never seen anyone sleep for 5 days before. You are
at the Forum, out by the Nyccian cliffs. I am still puzzling how you
got here, the closet village is easily half a days ride.” He paused,
she croaked out, her mouth so dry,
“Who are” she didn’t finish, the “you” came out more as an exhalation
of breath than a question.
He had offered a goblet of water, and something else, something bitter,
up to her lips, she had taken a small sip.
“I am Aristhemes, the Master Scholar here.” She had passed out again,
after hearing his name.
When she awakened again, she had no memory prior to the memory of
Aristhemes talking to her.
In the weeks that followed, he stopped by to speak to her between his
duties. She enjoyed listening to the gentle scholar. He told her how
she had come to them, one rainy night, in a bloodstained tunic, and
breeches that were bloody and torn. She had staggered across the
courtyard, and as he had approached her, she reached out to him, her
blue eyes burning with fever and fear, and whispered, “I am...”before
she collapsed to the ground, her arm still reaching out.
She had been at the Forum ever since. She was given scholars robes, for
she knew much about calculations and strategies. She engaged even
Aristhemes in lively discussions. To repay their kindness, as she
regained her strength, she helped plan and build several additions. It
had been at her urging and mediation that the Great Hall was designed
and built by everyone at the Forum.
Aristhemes called her Tychias, one who comes by chance.
Chapter 2: The Discussion Begins
Daemon followed behind Tychias, knowing from the look on her face that
she was deep in thought. He had often wondered if she thought as much
about the story of her arrival as the others did? It was a story that
was faithfully passed on from student to student, just like the story of
their Ethos Scholar, who partook of ale in between lectures. Some of
the older boys claimed to have seen the clothes she was wearing, and
there was one who said he was there the night she arrived.
He breathed a small sigh of relief as he saw that she was heading
directly to the Great Hall. What he hadn’t passed along was that the
Elders and Scholars were in a state of absolute uproar, except for the
Master Scholar, who quietly told Daemon where to find Tychias.
Tychias stepped off the path into the courtyard, she made her way to
the large oak doors that marked the entrance of the Great Hall. She
started humming softly to herself, singing had always calmed her, it was
something she could do on the cliffs where no one could hear. She had
shared it only once, with Aristhemes, when he was ill 2 winters ago.
She hoped the humming would settle the unease that was creeping along
Inside the Great Hall, the Elders debated quietly among themselves,
while the scholars were much less discreet in their opinions.
“Tell her who she is, show her the weapons that she came garbed in it
is only because of her the army has arrived.”
“We don’t know that, and she has shown no signs of recovering her
“She has formed a new one, she is Tabula Rusa incarnate.”
“Bah, we have let her stay for too long. We all feared this day would
come. One such as she cannot leave violence at the door.”
“She has left it behind, it is no longer hers to know, look at all that
she has given to us since her arrival. We have benefited greatly from
“Enough!” Aristhemes stood from his position at the head of the center
table, his arms planted firmly on the table.
The other’s stopped, some in mid-sentence, to turn and face him.
It was into this silence that Tychias strode in to the Great Hall. All
eyes turned from Aristhemes to Tychias.
“Waiting for me? I didn’t mean to keep you.” She smiled charmingly at
the scholars and elders.
Slipping in behind her, Damn crept along the wall towards the hallway
that led to the students dining hall. As he disappeared down the
hallway, he turned back, and caught a glimpse of Tychias smiling at
him. He turned away quickly and ran down the hall.
Arithemes smiled and motioned her towards his table. She nodded and
approached his table, slicing across the length of the hall with her
long, easy stride. He marveled at how she appeared to be gliding across
the floor, with her scholar’s robes just brushing the ground behind her.
The scholars settled back in their chairs, some murmuring among
themselves. It was not that they truly disliked her, Tychias was always
very gracious, and with a sharp wit. If she was close to none of them,
save for Aristhemes and a few students, no one could say why that was.
There was just always a sense of distance, of not quite actually getting
“You asked me to come, Master Scholar?” She tipped her head slightly,
a gesture of respect. Aristhemes smiled again, there was nothing really
deferential about her demeanor in her manner.
“Thank you for coming so quickly, Tychias, I know how much you value
your walks.” He smiled broadened as he reached out to take her hands in
“We were just discussing the unsettling news that an army has settled
along the coast.”
Tychias sat down and returned the warm smile to the elderly man. Her
blue eyes sparkling as she smiled at him. She harbored a great fondness
for Aristhemes, not only for his compassion and patience, but his wisdom
as well. She loved to listen to him speak, his voice soothed her, and
his talks of loyalty, truth, and the greater good struck something deep
within her. He always said, as his talks were winding down, “The heart
is the greatest healing force on this earth. It will heal everything,
if you listen to it.” Tychias sometimes felt like she had heard this
before, but attributed it to the fact that she had heard it so many
times from Aristhemes.
“Is there cause for concern Aristhemes?”
“No, I have prayed to Athena, and there seems to be no indication of an
impending attack.” He squeezed her hands and then turned to address the
other scholars. Tychias sat and listened attentively.
Chapter 3: The Path
The light haired woman leaned against her staff. Weariness settled in
her bones like a fog that would not lift. How many years had she been
on the road? Searching for the whereabouts of her best friend and
former constant traveling companion. Every tale or rumor of the Warrior
Princess and Gabrielle had set off to investigate.
In some villages she had battled and revealed impostors for their
petty tyranny, trying to capitalize on Xena’s Warlord reputation. In
others they would swear that they heard her riding through the night,
and sometimes even seen her disappearing form melting into the
distance. Xena had been transformed into either a beacon of hope among
the downtrodden or a tale to enforce obeying whatever rules were
particular to a village. No matter where she went, and how many dead
ends she reached, Gabrielle always took the time to tell the tales of
the Xena she had known. It kept Xena alive and bright in her mind.
True, she no longer had the look of the young bard who had joined Xena
all those years ago, determined to find adventure. Her frame was
thinner and her eyes a bit more haunted. The result of the long
stretches of time she had spent between villages and sightings, living
off a scant diet dried fruit, bread and the occasional hunk of cheese.
She often walked from before dawn until she could see the road no
longer. She feared that if she rested for too long, she might actually
miss Xena somewhere along the way.
There were others, their friends, that had joined in the search. She
had traveled the road with each of them at one time or another. They
had their obligations, and responsibilities. When each of them finally
had to go back to their families and duties, they would squeeze her
hands, or hug her tightly, and tell her in some form or another “Once
she is found, send word, and I will fly there like the fastest of
Poseidon’s steeds, or on Hermes winged sandals.” Gabrielle understood,
for where could Xena be that a legion of people searching for her could
not find? Hercules had even spent time with his relatives, trying to
discern any news. Marcus contacted her in a dream to tell her sadly
that wherever Xena was, it was not amongst the dead. Gabrielle had
awoken and knew that no matter how tired she was, she had to keep
searching. She was on the road again, after hearing about the latest
rumor of Xena’s existence, she hoped that this was just another false
alarm because she knew what was coming. Gabrielle planted her staff
firmly before her and began walking again. She had learned long ago to
push the weariness and exhaustion from her thoughts and just walk.
She had gotten the news while sitting and eating the dinner she had
exchanged her tales for. They were good tales, and as she told them,
she could almost feel Xena standing at the back of the pub, her arms
crossed with a hint of a smile playing across her lips as she listened
to Gabrielle’s rendition of the adventure.
Gabrielle had sat alone after, savoring the warmth of her meal. Cooked
meals were a luxury at this point, so she relished every bite.
The table beside her had filled up with several large rough looking
men. They ordered several pitchers of ale, and then sat drinking
sullenly from their tankards.
Gabrielle was acutely aware of them in their silence, even more on edge
than if they acted like the typical soldier, boisterous and drunk.
She was soaking up the last of the gravy from the bottom of the bowl
with her last piece of hearth bread. The torches along the wall
flickered and a gust of cool air rushed through the pub. She looked up
and saw a tall, attractive man standing in the doorway. He surveyed the
room and then made his way over to the table of men in three long
strides. She saw his black polished armor, the glistening insignia for
Lieutenant, and the blood red seal of Ares.
“Great,” she thought as she chewed on the last piece of juice soaked
Over the last few years had watched the disintegration of the Warlord’s
powers. Destroyed by bad politics, betrayals, in fighting and petty
wars. As the Warlords power eroded. a new, more frightening breed was
festering. The mercenary bands. They were quick to sell their services
to the highest bidder and then turn around and sell out their employer
if his enemy paid more. She had heard tales from one too many villagers
who had hired a mercenary band for protection only to have another
roving band come along and offer them more. Too often, the protectors
became the violators. They all wore the crest of Ares on their armor.
The God of War was apparently less particular about whose blood was shed
“Aye ya pathetic group of slags,” the lieutenant laughed as he picked
up a pitcher of ale and took a long hard swallow. He slammed the
pitcher back down.
Gabrielle noticed everyone in the pub studiously avoiding looking over
at the table. The food, or remnants of food and the bottom of their
tankards were much more interesting to them.
“All of you that are interested, we are hiring for an army. The pay is
4 dinars a day, meals and travel.” The lieutenant paused, listening to
the sound of discontent rumbling below the surface. “Ah, and did I
mention the bonus?” He smiled slyly, “5000 dinar for the soldier that
brings in the head of Xena.”
Gabrielle’s blood turned to ice at the sound of Xena’s name.
“Eh? That warrior wench is dead, she ain’t been seen fer years.” One
of the men spoke, then cleared his throat and spat on the floor.
“Lovely.” Gabrielle thought, her nose wrinkling slightly.
“You worthless son of a pig, you would question the word of Ares
himself?” The lieutenant leaned forward and glared at the man.
“Ares hisself? That cannot be.”
Gabrielle sat stock still, listening hard to every word. “Ares
himself, why now, why after all these years? Had he always known?”
Gabrielle clenched her teeth, her blood beginning to do a slow boil.
“Aye, Ares has pointed to, of all things, a Forum, located in a valley
on the far side of the Nyccian cliffs. We load up the ship, Temerity
and set sail in two days time, pass the word.” The lieutenant leaned
back, then turned and walked back out. He was gone in five strides.
The table had come alive, with all their shifting forms and animated
“By the gods, the warrior wench still alive.”
“I owe her for a thing or two, I do.”
“I’d like to show her a thing or two, hehehe.”
“There are tales of her everywhere, but they are just tales.”
“At the Forum, what is she doing there?”
“Hah! Xena, Scholar Princess.”
The table burst into guffaws and more degenerating comments from there.
Gabrielle had pulled her pack together and quietly slipped out. She
was wondering the same thing, how had Xena gotten there?
The sound of pounding hooves snapped Gabrielle’s’ attention back to the
present. She heard the sound of horses being ridden hard along the road
before her. She stepped back into the shadows along the side of the
road, behind a tree, and watched as two more mercenaries thundered
past, on their way to the dock, undoubtedly.
She watched them pass, and thought back to the last time she had seen
Chapter 4: A Village Saved is a Friend Lost
The young girl on the side of the road had been cowering and covering
her head when Xena and Gabrielle passed by. Xena reined Argo to a halt
and slid from the saddle. Gabrielle looked around, she leapt into
fighting stance with her staff held ready.
“What is it? What do you hear Xena?”
Xena looked over and laughed, “I don’t hear anything except you
stirring up dust. Gabrielle, trust your instincts instead of mine.
There is a child over there.” She pointed towards the side of the road.
Gabrielle smiled sheepishly,
“Oh, I knew that. I was just testing you. See if you’d panic.” She
followed Xena as they made their way towards the child.
It was a young girl, and when she saw Xena approaching she screamed and
began throwing small pebbles and sticks, whatever she could get her
“Ok, Ok, shhh, shhh. It’s ok. We’re not going to hurt you. See, we’ll
stop here.” Xena held up her hands and stopped.
The barrage of weeds, dirt and sticks continued for a moment, and then
abated. The girl looked at them, her eyes wide with terror.
“What are we going to do?” Gabrielle whispered.
“I don’t know, maybe one of us would be less frightening. Would you
mind moving Argo off to the side of the road and wait?” Xena whispered
Gabrielle touched Xena lightly on the shoulder in assent, and began to
back away slowly.
“Go get Argo, feed Argo. Am I a bard or a horse keeper?” Gabrielle
asked herself as she finally turned and walked towards Argo, who was of
course giving her that sidelong look.
“I am going to sit here, on the road, so you don’t have to strain your
neck, ok?” Xena said as she slowly folded her legs beneath her. The
girl scooted back slightly, never taking her eyes off Xena.
Xena settled across from the young girl, smiling at her, her arms still
in front of her.
“I’m Xena, that’s my friend Gabrielle, and my horse Argo. Who are
The girl didn’t speak.
Xena thought for a moment, and then began to hum softly. It was an old
children’s song that her mother used to sing her. The girl cocked her
head, as if trying to make out the strains of what she was humming.
Xena paused, then started to sing the actual song, softly, to the girl.
Gabrielle turned towards the sound, astonished. She had heard Xena
sing only one other time, and that was at Marcus’s second funeral.
Xena kept her gaze on the young girl, singing this children’s song for
this frightened young girl, the song she would never sing for Solan.
Maybe it was her singing, or the pain that flashed across her face as
she thought of Solan, but the girl relaxed slightly and inched towards
Xena. Examining Xena more closely.
Softly, the girl began to sing, in a reed thin voice. Xena smiled
across at her and kept singing.
Gabrielle walked Argo off to the side of the road, still astonished.
Xena never ceased to amaze her. How could this be the same woman that
they called the Destroyer of Nations?
“Amazing isn’t she Argo?”
Argo snorted and bent back down to graze.
“You’re a horse, what do you know?” Gabrielle laughed as she sat down
in the field.
Several songs later, Xena stopped and asked again,
“What is your name?”
“Atthis.” The girl whispered softly.
“You sing very well Atthis, what are you doing here on the side of the
“I, I ran from the village. We were attacked.” Atthis’s voice wavered
and she began to cry.
“I am sure your parent are very worried about you. How about if I go
into the village to see if it’s safe?”
“We can’t go back, they’ll kill you, or worse. I couldn’t find my
parents, I couldn’t find them anywhere.” Atthis began to cry harder.
“I’ll help you look.” Xena said, already her blood beginning to rush
through her. ‘Curses on these stupid Warlords, one and all’. She felt
the piercing pain of regret, ‘did my armies ever do this? Forced a
child to flee in terror, sitting and cowering somewhere, too frightened
to move. Obviously they had, after all Callisto was proof of that.’
She shook her head slightly, focusing once again on Atthis.
“What happens if they kill you?” Atthis asked between sniffles.
“They can try, but I don’t think they will.” Xena flashed a large grin
at Atthis, holding her hand out towards the girl.
Atthis looked at the outstretched hand, and then tentatively placed her
own in the center of it.
“Shall we go and scare those attackers back to where they crawled out
from?” Xena closed her hand gently on the small hand. It was like
holding a small fluttering bird.
Atthis still looked scared to death, but nodded her head.
“By the gods, Atthis, no harm will come to you.” Xena spoke solemnly
to the girl, hoping that she could keep her word.
Gabrielle smiled as she saw the both of them walking across the road
“Gabrielle, this is Atthis, Atthis, this is Gabrielle, and Argo.” Xena
said as they approached.
“Hi Atthis,” Gabrielle gave her a big smile. ‘At least I was
introduced first,’ she thought to herself.
They made their way towards the village, Atthis riding in front of
Xena as Gabrielle walked along side.
Just outside of the village, Xena stopped, and looked down at Atthis.
“I think maybe I should put you in a tree somewhere, and then come back
once I have sent them away.”
Atthis looked up, “What if you don’t come back? Then what will I do?”
“If I cannot, then Gabrielle will. Won’t you Gabrielle?”
“Of course, Atthis, I promise you.” Gabrielle smiled up at Atthis.
“O, ok.” Atthis shrugged slightly, not wanting to leave Xena, but also
not wanting to go back into the village. She had seen the soldiers cut
down some of the bravest men in the village.
“Ready?.” Xena wrapped her arms around Atthis, and then leapt off of
Argo. The moment she hit the ground she began sprinting towards a tree,
took a small leap, and then catapulted into the air. Atthis squeezed
her eyes shut. She felt the air around her, then a ‘thump’. She opened
her eyes to find herself in one of the trees. Xena still holding her,
standing on a large branch.
Xena smiled and placed her in the crook of the large branch and trunk.
“You can see from here, you’ll be able to see when I have run them off,
and then you can start counting, because Gabrielle or I will be back
before you count to 100. Can you count that high?”
Atthis nodded, leaning back against the trunk.
“Good. Be right back.” Xena smiled at Atthis and then jumped off the
tree. Atthis gasped and then peered over the edge of the branch. Xena
was leaping from branch to branch. She leapt down, grabbed a low
hanging branch and swung down onto Argo’s back.
“Show-off.” Gabrielle laughed, waving up into the trees at Atthis.
‘You say that every time.” Xena replied, nudging Argo forward and
waving at Atthis.
“Only because if that were me, Argo would have stepped forward just a
step, and my bottom would be very sore and very dusty.” Gabrielle
replied as they moved on towards the village. Xena laughed down at her
The closer they got to the village, the quieter they became. Xena was
trying to tell how many soldiers were involved. It was hard to tell
with all the chaos and mayhem that accompanied the rampant slaughtering
during an attack of these small villages. The tangy smell of blood,
sweat and dust ignited something in her. Xena drew her sword and gave
her battle cry, as Argo galloped into the center of the village.
Gabrielle hefted her staff and ran in behind Xena, striking soldiers
with quick hard blows. All that time practicing and talking to Argo has
certainly helped, she thought as she ducked a swinging sword and struck
her attacker hard in the gut, as he doubled over, she brought it back up
and clocked him squarely on the chin.
Xena’s stood on the ground as Argo ran through the clusters of men, her
sword flashed around her. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw four
soldiers advancing on two women and several small children. Her eyes
narrowed and a sneer started across her lips, in one fluid motion she
raised her sword with one hand, deflecting an oncoming blow, and grabbed
her Chakram with the other hand, slicing it through the air.
The four soldiers heard the screaming of the Chakrams approach, and one
was unfortunate enough to turn around at the wrong time. The Chakram
richocheted off the bridge of his nose and then struck the other three
in rapid succession. They all crumpled forward, falling at the feet of
the astonished women.
Xena ducked an arrow that struck the soldier whose blow she had
deflected. She snatched the Chakram out of the air and wheeled Argo
around to face the remaining soldiers.
“Hello boys, is this any way to welcome a guest?” She flashed her
wicked grin as she stared at them.
The soldiers glared back at her, with a mixture of fear and anger
battling across their features. She lifted her sword and charged
straight through their line. A whirling dervish of kicks, blows, and
her sword glinting in the sun.
In little time, the battle had turned, the villagers taking up clubs,
pitchforks, anything, and fighting back against the soldiers.
Xena had spotted the Warlord, his face red with fury, calling his
troops back. He wheeled his large stallion around and took off into the
forest. Xena watched him go, he wouldn’t be hard to find, not with a
few dozen horsetracks and footprints leading the way to their camp.
She smiled and whistled for Argo. She whipped the Chakram through the
air, to finish the last few persistent soldiers. She caught it as it
arced back through the air towards her. She turned and could see Atthis
standing on the branch, leaning forward, but still holding on to the
trunk. Argo trotted her towards the tree where they left Atthis.
When Gabrielle turned around again, Xena was already making her way
back towards the center of the village, the small girl settled in front
From the milling villagers, a woman’s voice cried out,
“Atthis, oh by the gods! Atthis!” A woman made her way through the
crowd that had gathered around Xena.
“Mommy!” Atthis cried, squirming to get down off Argo. Xena handed her
down to the sobbing woman.
“Thank you. A thousand blessing on you, thank you!” The woman cried
as she hugged Atthis tightly. Xena smiled and turned to look for
“Stay here. I have to finish up my cleaning. If you don’t get the
all, they always seem to multiply.” She flashed Gabrielle that
brilliant smile and then “Hiyaaahed” Argo into the forest.
That was the last that Gabrielle had ever seen of Xena. She didn’t
return by evening, nor the next morning. By midday the following day,
Gabrielle had set off towards the camp. She had spent most of the
evening telling stories to Atthis, and telling her not to worry about
Xena. Now, she was beginning to wish someone would tell her a story,
preferably Xena, recounting how the battle in the forest had been won.
Gabrielle found the camp, and when she saw it, she knew Xena had been
successful. The entire camp was destroyed, only a few dazed soldiers
Gabrielle intercepted one as he was leaving the camp, his pack slung
over his shoulder, his armor dirty and bloody.
“What happened here?” Gabrielle asked him.
“Xena.” He said, not stopping to look at her. He was a young man,
Gabrielle hoped that he would either learn the way of a true warrior or
go back to his home and return to the life that he had left in pursuit
of riches and glory.
“THE Xena? The Warrior Princess?” Gabrielle feigned surprise.
“Like a harpy she tore through here. We couldn’t get any sort of shot
at her, she was everywhere at once. The lord and his lieutenants took
off, and she laughed and gave pursuit.” He said, slowing down slightly.
“On foot?” Gabrielle sounded incredulous, she knew how often people
wanted to tell the things they had seen, and survived.
“Naw, she whistled and this great golden beast came crashing out from
the underbrush. She leapt into the air, landed on the saddle and kicked
the two soldiers that were running towards her . She was gone before
the soldiers even hit the ground.”
Gabrielle walked a small way with him, listening to him tell his
version of things. She had all the information she needed.
When they came to a fork in the road, Gabrielle excused herself and
took the path that lead back towards the camp. The young man said good
bye, his momentary animation gone, and continued to trudge along the
She gazed at the ground, becoming more and more frustrated. The demise
of the camp had ensured that there were no discernible tracks of any
Gabrielle spent the rest of the afternoon circling the parameter of the
camp in an ever widening arc. She was frustrated and a little scared.
She arrived back at the village, dusty, dirty and tired. She had a hard
time swallowing past the lump in her throat.
‘Stop it Gabrielle, Xena is fine. She is a big girl after all, and she
knows how to take care of herself.’ Gabrielle had never doubted her
friend’s abilities, until the time when Xena had been struck by
Callisto’s dart, and almost died, or did die, depending on how you
looked at it. Except Gabrielle had been telling herself that all day,
and it didn’t seem to be helping.
As she came to the field at the far side of the village, she leaned on
her staff. It was then that she saw Argo, grazing in the field.
Chapter 5- The Whim of a God
From high up on Mount Olympus, Ares sat, chuckling to himself. It was
so amusing to watch the bard’s torment. Annoying little gnat. The
beauty of this was well worth the wait. The anticipation was almost
bursting through his chest. Soon, very soon, Xena would be battling for
his glory again. Why he hadn’t thought of this earlier, after his mild
success with the ruse of her father, he did not know.
A bright flash of light startled him, he leapt to his feet, sword
“Put your toys away, ‘brother’, and I do say that sparingly, before you
hurt yourself.” Athena stood before him, tall and regal, smiling in
“Why Athena, most favored of our father’s children, how could the rest
of us have known that the headache that preceded your birth would be so
appropriate for you always.” Ares sneered as he sat back down.
Her small smile exploded into a radiant smile, “ I did not come to
bicker with you Ares, we have more than enough time for that.
Admittedly, it gets tiresome to have a battle of the wits with someone
so poorly armed.
“I came to ask you, what is the meaning of mounting attack against the
Academy? The Forum at the Nyccian cliffs. You know they are under my
protection, and I would have thought you were tired of being humiliated
by me in war games. How many times can you lose to me?”
Ares smoldered under Athenas’ cool gaze, he finally shrugged and said,
“They have something of mine, and I want it back.”
“Do tell what the scholars could possess that would interest one such
as you?” Athena smirked across at him, folding her arms across her
“Just something I lost awhile ago. Ever feel like that, suddenly you
remember something, and you just tear about everywhere trying to find
it?” Ares said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. It was well known
that Athena was a stickler for details.
“You want the scholar Tychias, don’t you? Why would you want one such
as her. A good tacticians mind, sound judgment, so unlike your style
“It isn’t necessarily her mind that I am after.” Ares leered at Athena,
and then burst out laughing at his own wit.
“You are such a shallow swine Ares. She is of strong form and good
grace, but...” Athena stopped, finally making the connection between the
beautiful quiet scholar and...her brothers obsession? “What have you
done? You cannot wage war for her, she has turned from your path, she
is under my benediction, she has become a hero.”
Ares snorted, “Hero, Zero, they all sound the same. She hasn’t reached
those heroic proportions just yet, that are still cities that quake at
the name of Xena.”
Athena was momentarily silenced. She was stunned at the sheer level of
Ares obsession with his creation. Then she remembered that this was
Ares, he of the monumental ego and proportionately small brain.
“So you see, my lovely, intellectual, peace loving sister, benefactors
of heroes, champion of truth, you are not the only one with brains in
the family. I for one am quite impressed with my own brilliance.” This
time it was his turn to fold his arms across his chest, smug and self
Before he knew it, he was staring directly into her steely gray eyes
darkening with anger.
“Harm one brick of my Forum, one hair on her head, tamper with the path
chosen by the warrior and you will know once again know the stinging
humiliation of being defeated by me.” She whispered to him before
Ares rubbed his jaw thoughtfully. Was it worth risking a war against
Athena for her, his Warrior Princess? He could wait and see, but he
knew his plan was foolproof. Not only would he have his Xena back, but
he would finally defeat Athena, and humiliate was too tame of a word for
what he would do with her.
Once his Warrior Princess was back, all the blood that would flow from
her blade would make him strong again. Her turn against him had it’s
effects. The minor skirmishes the mercenaries managed to incite were
entertaining at best. The power hungry warlords and others provided
meager sustenance. No, Xena was different. She had burned with a fury
that drove her to lay waste to everything in her path, yet saving the
women and children. Her rage had fed his thirst like the sweetest of
nectar. It was so pure, so unrefined. He hungered for more. She was
his wrathful warrior, rage incarnate. Everything was perfect in the
world, he was gaining strength, as people bowed their knees to her and
consequently him. All until his do-good 1/2 brother convinced her that
she could battle for the cause of good. Protect the innocent and the
helpless. She had fallen for it, and the final blow was her standing up
to him . She would have died rather than go back to what she had been.
She actually wanted to go back and undo or at least amend all the things
she had done. He had been furious, and as he watched her struggle, he
interfered and incited war at every turn, always placing her in a
battle. That was how his most recent loss to Athena had occurred.
Defeated by her calm, collected manner in battle. Ever the strategist.
Ares knew though, that there was a fine line between himself and
Athena. Just as he knew his true warrior, his Destroyer of Nations, was
still there. Waiting, lurking, for the opportunity to quench her
bloodlust. He had seen that old spark ignite and almost catch hold when
she thought her father had returned and then been killed. Another
stroke of near genius. If it hadn’t been for the interference of that
runt bard, Xena would have been all his again.
Ares settled back into his chair, picking up a dagger from the table
beside him. He smiled as he looked at his reflection in the polished
blade, running his finger along the sharp blade. Half a heart beat
later, the dagger struck the map against the wall, it’s point buried
deep into the small building, settled by the Nyccian cliffs. The sound
reverberated through the room, mingling in with the sound of Ares
Chapter 6- What the Bard Found
Gabrielle continued towards the Forum. She couldn’t stop the images
that followed after she had found Argo from flooding back. She
quickened her pace, hoping to outrun the memories that prodded and poked
Upon sighting Argo, Gabrielle began to smile as she rushed towards the
golden mare. Argo looked up and reared slightly, then stepped back.
Gabrielle dismissed the horse’s behavior and thought about going to find
As she got closer, she realized that Argo was not playing, her large
brown eyes were almost white, and she was acting terribly skittish.
Argo tossed her head, and Gabrielle noticed the usually fine silky blond
mane was matted and the saddle covered in dark stains.
She slowed down, and holding out her hand, began to speak softly to
Argo. She interspersed her talk with small clucking noises, inching
slowly towards the nervous horse. Argo snorted and reared again, this
time kicking her front legs forward. Gabrielle stopped, and stood, with
her hand out, continuing to talk to Argo. Argo had finally calmed down
enough for Gabrielle to approach, she placed her hand gently on the
rough velvet hide of Argos’ muscled neck. As she ran her hands along
the mares’ side, her fingertips stumbled over nicks and scratches.
Gabrielle examined the saddle closely. The dark stains mottled the well
oiled leather. Gabrielle rubbed at one of the stains, when she looked
down at her palm, beneath the slightly brownish shadow that the oil
always left, there was a rusty red tinge.
Gabrielle swallowed hard, and then set about unbuckling the saddle.
She slid the heavy saddle off Argos’ back and onto the ground. The
blanket beneath was stained a deeper red, and beneath that, so was
Argos’ back. She fell back and sat on the saddle. She stared at her
hands, as if trying to divine whose blood it was. “It isn’t Xena’s, it
isn’t Xena’s” she muttered to herself through clenched teeth.
“Gabrielle? Is Xena back?”
Gabrielle turned towards the sound of Atthis’s voice, the young girl
was running towards her and Argo.
“NO! I mean, Atthis, could you please tell the village blacksmith that
I need this saddle cleaned and re-oiled? If you could run and do that,
that would be great. I’m going to get Xena now.” Gabrielle leapt to
her feet, then regained control.
Atthis stopped in the field, confusion on her face, without a word, she
turned around and began running back towards the village. Tears
streamed down her face, she knew something bad would happen, she just
Gabrielle watched the figure recede, she didn’t mean to sound so
harsh. She was unnerved by the sight of the blood on Argo and the
saddle. She turned back towards Argo,
“C’mon girl, ya gotta take me to where Xena is, one last ride, and then
I will leave you here. So you can rest, hmmm? We’ll all be back
together before you know it...Argo?”
Argo craned her neck forward, whinnying softly and nuzzling Gabrielle
on the shoulder with her soft nose.
“Thank you Argo.” Gabrielle said as she climbed gingerly onto Argos’s
Argo turned back towards the forest and trotted into the lush
darkness. How long had they ridden, Gabrielle could not say, her face
buried into Argo’s neck to avoid the tree branches and to cry.
Argo finally stopped and neighed. Gabrielle slid off the horses back
and gazed around.
Xena had been here, undoubtedly, she saw the crumpled body of the
Warlord, and scattered about him were 3 men who each wore the insignia
of Lieutenant. All dead.
Gabrielle searched the area, it had been quite a battle, but there was
no sign of Xena.
“Is she trapped under Perseus’s shield?” Gabrielle thought, her
anxiety not lessening as she gazed around.
“Xena?” Gabrielle called out, her voice quickly absorbed by the
She bent to examine the mulchy forest floor, here, here were Xena’s
tracks. She recognized the mark of the bootmaker on the left heel.
Despite herself she smiled, Xena was not excessive in her spending
habits, but she did always insist on particular workmanship. Gabrielle
followed the tracks, they disappeared into a flurry of horse and foot
prints. A little ways up, she saw the leaves tinged with blood, and
muddy, much much more muddy than the rest of the clearing.
“Mud?” Gabrielle grabbed a handful of dirt and leaves, heavy and moist
against her palm. She stared hard at the ground, the way she had stared
at her hands back in the field, something, there had to be something she
“Ah Xena, I should have paid more attention when you talked about this
stuff...Who knew that one day I would have to use it to find you?”
Indents there, the outline of a body, a half moon shape, curled up?
And so many footprints. Gabrielle leaned over and ran her hand along
the compressed earth. She brushed against something cold and hard, she
dug around a little, and then pulled up a buckle. It had broken off,
and like the leaves surrounding it, dirty and rusty looking from blood.
One of Xena’s buckles...Simultaneously two images hit Gabrielle, one of
her sitting and watching Xena tend to her armor, and then other of Xena
curled up in ball, and the who- soldiers mercenaries- who? stood around
and...and...Gabrielle could feel it rising, the emotions she had held in
check came bursting out.
She knelt in the dirt, holding the buckle tightly, and the tears began
flowing down her face, deep sobs racking her body. She felt her entire
heart collapse inside her chest.***
Gabrielle felt the aching loss flare up again, even now, 5 years
later. It had been too much, too many losses. She continued walking
briskly, unable to see the road for the tears that returned with the
same force as they had that day in the woods so long ago. Gabrielle
hoped that she was finally going to see Xena again, she had imagined
their reunion, first laughing and then crying. Then she would let her
have it, what was the meaning of disappearing so that no one could find
her? She nurtured this new image to help soothe the heart break that
had been like a worm, gnawing away at her heart.
Chapter 7- When dawn breaks- The Reunion
Tychias awoke before dawn, as was her habit. The cold floor a welcome
reminder that she was still here. She padded across the small monastic
room, only slightly larger than the ones assigned to students, and
pulled out an old scholars robe that she had alternated slightly. She
slipped into the frayed and comfortable garment, exited her room to the
washbasins, and then out towards the cliffs in the blue gray haziness of
She made her way up the trail by memory, up the gentle curves and
slopes. Until she was standing, in the same spot that Daemon how found
her a few days ago. She breathed the cool morning air deep into her
lungs, surrounded by the sound of the ocean crashing against the craggy
rocks below. She gazed out across the ever roiling waves, this was not
the calmest area to sail into, but there was good fishing out in those
waters. The villagers would load up their small craft and maneuver
their way through the waves. She could already see shadows moving out
across the water, as the sky continued to lighten.
She began her morning routine, first stretching, and arcing to touch
the ground before her, and then leaning back to touch the ground behind
her. She concentrated wholly on her body, her breathing, her
movements. She was a vision of kinetic grace, her arms weaving
intricate designs before her, lunging slowly, kicking towards the sky.
Gabrielle came over the last crest of the sloping hill and saw the
graceful figure, robe flowing around and behind each movement, lit by
the now rising sun. Her eyes were arrested by the fluttering
luminescent figure moving against the backdrop of the cliff, and the
brilliance of the sun.
Gabrielle slowed her steps, squinting against the brightness. The
closer she got, the tighter her heart clenched in her chest. She was
breathing short shallow breaths. Her throat constricting, the movements
of the person on the cliff, superimposed against the shadow of her
memories, and she knew that it was Xena. Tears welled up in her eyes,
she wanted to run up and tackle her, and hug her. To feel the substance
of Xena in her arms, to make sure she was real, and not another dream
that she would wake from with the dew of tears already settled across
Gabrielle continued her slow measured steps, past experience having
taught her running up and leaping on Xena from behind was not always a
prudent move. She was trying desperately to rein in the emotions that
were racing through her, like wild horses stampeding. She pursed her
lips together, knowing that if she parted them, and the questions,
accusations, sadness, and anger would come spilling out, now that the
agonizing was at an end.
Tychias continued her movements, slowing down imperceptibly. Someone
was approaching, quietly. She knew it wouldn’t be any of the Elders, or
even the Scholars, and the students couldn’t move that quietly no matter
how hard they tried. Tychias took a deep breath, and turned around in
one fluid motion. She found herself looking at a golden copper haired
woman, lean and tired from a long journey apparently. A very long
journey, as Tychias took note of the frayed and dusty clothing. The
traveler was gazing at her intently, tears brimming in her soft blue
Tychias smiled, and the woman smiled back, looking as though she were
about to collapse.
“Can I help you traveler?” Tychias asked the woman gently. This woman
needed a meal and some rest, she could certainly provide that at the
Gabrielle stared at Xena, smiling one of those rare warm smiles,
overjoyed at seeing her friend again. Just as she was about to speak,
Xena’s words hit Gabrielle like a blow in her gut.
“W-wh--what?” was all she could stammer out. Peering more intently at
her friend, burning her gaze into Xena’s own startling blues eyes. Even
as the rampaging force of her emotions abruptly stopped, and her heart
folded in on itself.
“You look tired and hungry traveler, come, I offer you sanctuary at the
Forum, a respite from your travels.” Tychias held out her hand, waiting
for the woman to take it. Although the woman did look terribly
Gabrielle numbly accepted the offered hand, and followed Xena down the
Tychias led them swiftly down the trail, before too long, they were
entering the courtyard of the Forum.
“Good morning Scholar Tychias!”
“Beautiful dawn isn’t it Tychias?”
“Back so soon?”
Several students and Scholars called out their greetings as Tychias
moved through the courtyard. She nodded, and smiled at the others as
she passed, laughing out loud at the last comment.
Gabrielle felt like she were drowning, but she didn’t know in what.
Xena? Laughing, smiling, speaking so warmly to these scholars and
students as they passed and entered into a long corridor.
Tychias turned and smiled again at the traveler,
“Come, I will take you to a room, there is a bath down the hall from
it, if you like, and I will go and get some porridge and fruit?”
The corridors were like a maze, each interconnecting with the other.
In what appeared to Gabrielle as a series of random turns down various
corridors, they stopped at a door, that looked like any other door they
Gabrielle finally found her voice again,
“How long have you been a Scholar?”
Tychias smiled again,
“I don’t actually know that I am a true scholar. I arrived here one
day, they cared for me, and once I was better, they allowed me to stay.
I have been a Scholar here for four years? The other year was spent
recuperating and listening.” Tychias laughed a little as she opened the
slight wooden door.
“Were you badly hurt?” Gabrielle continued, prompting Xena with her
inquiring bard’s tone. Wanting to get her answers any way that she
“Very. They believed me to be almost dead, upon my arrival, I spent
the first 5 days completely unconscious, and the following weeks
drifting in and out of awareness. I would say that it was several
months before I could go without fatiguing myself.” Tychias stepped
into the room and paused, she had never really had to tell what had
happened to her, everyone always knew. It felt odd.
Gabrielle stepped into the room and looked around.
Tychias cleared her throat,
“I will return shortly with your morning meal. If you are up to it,
would you mind if I joined you this morning?”
Gabrielle turned her gaze to Xena,
“Of course, I would like that.” She smiled at Xena for the first time
she had encountered her on the cliffs.
Tychias returned the smile, and the walked out into the maze of
Gabrielle sank slowly onto the thin mattress. The room was stark, with
the bed, a trunk and a small desk in the farthest corner.
‘What had happened? Xena as a Scholar, Xena almost dying. Xena warm,
kind, almost gentle, not close lipped or guarded with every emotion.’
Gabrielle was not surprised, but unprepared for this woman she met who
wore the face and body of Xena.
“What do I say to her? She doesn’t even know me-Hah, how could she
forget me? Maybe if...”Gabrielle’s’ thoughts kept running into each
other, with no solutions.
“On the one hand she’s alive. That’s a relief, on the other, she is
not who she was. This may not be a bad thing, she seems content.”
Gabrielle spoke aloud, trying to channel her thoughts. “Content, yes,
she does seem that. How often did I wish to see her free from the guilt
she carried, that ate away at her like a slow burning flame? To look
into her eyes and see them clear, radiant, free of the shadow that
always hovered there?
“So, here she is, relaxed, comfortable, and content.” Gabrielle kept
meshing the Xena she knew with the woman she had just met. Maybe it
isn’t her? There was Princess Diana, and others along the way. They
were dead ringers for Xena. Except for Tychias having no memory prior
to five years ago.
“Were you speaking to anyone?” Tychias asked as she stepped into the
room, holding a platter with two wooden bowls and various fruits.