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by The Visitor
The VISITOR Presents:One day, in a village called Potodaia, a young dreamer named Gabrielle
met a crusading former warlord named Xena. One was seeking adventure; the
other, redemption. On that day, an historic partnership was forged that
would soon grow into a friendship like no other.
Part I: OLD STORIES
Their journeys were legendary.
They changed the world.
17 YEARS LATER...
A ramshackle inn just outside the village of Cirra. A place of ghosts.
Some say it should have stayed dead, but still the people returned. From
the ashes it was rebuilt, from death came a small sense of hope. Stories
abound, though, and many travellers stay away from Cirra, birthplace of an
evil that is seldom spoken aloud. Some, however, brave the legends, for
whatever reasons...curiosity, hunger, desperation...no matter. On this
night, as a cold wind blows outside, the few farmers and merchants gathered
around the small fire of the inn listen halfheartedly to the tale being spun
by the woman near the bar. In her ragged clothes, with that face
prematurely aged by sorrow and despair, she attracts little attention.
Still, those few who truly listen find themselves captivated by her
words...her one remaining gift, she thinks to herself. A little something
the Gods have spared me over the years. At least I can still spin a good yarn.
"Thus the stage was set for the fourth Olympic games, and the mighty
Hercules once more presided over the events. With his wife Nemesis by his
side, Hercules introduced the many competitors...among others, his lifelong
companion and fellow Argonaut Iolaus, Atalanta, herself a former Olympic
champion, and... Xena, the famed warrior princess!"
Some of the crowd bristle at the name now mentioned. The scars are old
indeed, but some still remember...
"But the torch had barely been lit, when terror struck from on high,
from the heights of fabled Mount Olympus! Great Hera, all-powerful Queen of
the Gods, in her incessant hatred of Hercules, dispatched a trio of her
deadly enforcers against the son of Zeus and his games of peace! The battle
was joined by all the noble warriors there assembled! It shook the heavens,
and the Earth. It was in this terrible struggle that noble Iolaus lost his
life, after a lifetime of cheating death! And before the day was done, the
enforcers claimed the life of Hercules' beautiful wife Nemesis as well,
herself once having held the position of divine enforcer! But finally, with
the aid of his remaining compatriots, Hercules managed to destroy Hera's
assassins...but at what cost? His spirit was broken after that, some say.
And soon, with no further reason to remain, Hercules called upon his father,
the Great Zeus, and took his place on Olympus high, as a true immortal. His
final promise to we mortals whom he loved so dearly was to protect us
forever from the whims of his fellow Gods. Now his star shines forever in
the skies above, and we all owe our thanks to the man who sacrificed what he
loved most...his mortality...to keep watch forever over us. ...Thank you."
A small spattering of applause greets the bard. I used to be able to
do better than this, she chastises herself! In the old days, I would have
had this whole room...but the old days are gone, she reminds herself. A
lone farmer, old and infirm, hobbles over and palms her a dinar, with thanks
for granting him some small measure of joy on this miserable night. She
thanks the fellow, and pockets the coin...one of few in her purse. She
starts to wonder where she will sleep tonight, when a figure at the very
back of the tavern stands up, tall and proud, and starts clapping! Who is
this dotard, she wonders? She peers closely, examining this ancient fool,
with long white beard and wild eyes. The surrounding patrons jeer for him
to be silent, but nothing will dull his enthusiasm.
"Wonderful, wonderful! But I think I prefer you as a warrior, my
little bard! HA HA HAH!"
Gabrielle stares more closely now, and listens to the old fool's
voice...and she remembers. It's been seven years...but she remembers. And
for the first time in six weeks, a smile crosses her troubled face.
"Still remember me, little bard? Oh, I'm glad! Come, sit with an old
friend! We can tell each OTHER stories, eh?"
Shoving her way through the small crowd, Gabrielle hurries her way
towards Meleager's small table at the back. She leans her battered staff
against the wall, and dumps her satchel at her feet. Now the happy drunk he
had so long dreamed of being, Meleager orders up a fistful of ale from the bar.
"Meleager...it's been...FOREVER! What are you doing here?"
Meleager, no longer the MIGHTY, to be sure, takes a hearty slosh of his
ale before answering. "My little bard. I can never adjust to that thought,
you know. I can only recall you as a warrior. You had a fighting spirit,
"You're still an old fool. What brings you to these parts?"
"Meleager the mighty goes where he pleases, girl! And besides, I do so
Love to hear your beautiful voice..."
Gabrielle lets out a little laugh.
"You don't do that much anymore, do you? Laugh? Or smile, I can see
it in your face. You used to smile all the time, little bard. I fell in
love with that smile."
Gabrielle gives Meleager a loving slap on the wrist. "Don't embarrass
yourself, old man."
Meleager waves her off. "AAaaaahhh, I'm too old to worry about how I
look. I've always loved you, little warrior. Always will. But I AM an old
man now. I'm content to just be ALIVE, to love from afar. But I worry
about you, Gabrielle. I've been to your home."
Gabrielle recoils a bit at the mention of home. Potodaia. How long
has it been since she's been back? Four, five years?
"They all miss you there, you know. There's rumours that Lorius and
his gang are hitting towns in that area."
Concern covers Gabby's face for a moment, then she slumps back down.
"Joxer can deal with it. He's handled worse."
"He and Lila would like to see you again. Little Joran just had his
tenth. Scrappy little bugger! Almost beat his uncle Meleager in an arm
"I'll get back...sometime. I'm not ready."
"I see. So tell me, little bard. This story you just told...it true?
Were you there?"
"Naw, I had to miss it. Family business. Xena...told me about it
afterwards. Really wanted to go, too. Heh. She and Atalanta had been
scrapping for YEARS. Too bad they didn't get to square off there."
"When was the last time you saw her?"
Gabrielle's face grows old once more. A sadness falls over her, one
she's carried around for a long time. "I don't remember...six years?
What's the difference?"
"So go see her! You're still young, Gabrielle, take it from me. It's
never too late."
"Xena made her choice. I have to respect that."
"Your life, little warrior. I just want to see your beautiful smile
return before I die."
Gabrielle flashes a warm look at the old warrior. "You'll never die,
Meleager. You're too stubborn."
"To Tartarus with that. I don't want to live forever, Gabrielle. I've
found my peace, after a lifetime of looking. Now, all I want is to get you
to find YOUR peace. If it be without Xena, then fine. Just don't let that
bitch-whore whose spirit still chokes this place stand in the way..."
Gabrielle's face erupts into rage, and she almost leaps across the
table into Meleager's face. "Don't you mention her name! Don't even say
it, I mean it!"
Meleager's face turns timid, and he eases back in his chair. "Sorry,
little warrior. Just trying to help..."
Gabrielle slowly lets the rage ease out of her heart, and flops back
into her chair. She starts fumbling with the mug of ale in front of her,
her thoughts elsewhere...a place long ago, a LIFETIME ago...and a single
name, that she had tried so desperately to forget, now echoes in her tired
ears like thunder...
The VISITOR Presents:
Part II: BAD DREAMS
Meleager always WAS a sly old fox. He had enough coin on him to rent a
room for the two of us for the night. Always a gentleman, he even let me
have the bed...how long has it been since I slept on anything but hard
ground? Of course, I could almost FEEL that old lech's eyes on my bottom
until he finally nodded off. Heh. Dirty old man.
As usual, Gabrielle took a long time to drift off. Sometimes she'd
toss and turn for hours, wrestling with this demon or that. Seven years
without a good night's sleep...long time. She tried to think of the good
times, tried to remember all the victories, the friends, the loves...but
those thoughts inevitably turned on the "little bard", and had to be chased
out along with all the other ghosts. After a couple of hours, however,
fatigue wins out, and Gabrielle drifts into the waiting arms of Morpheus.
She no longer relishes the embrace of her one-time fiance, though.
"Damn it all," she berated herself as she had done many times before,
"I used to love to dream."
In her dreams, Gabrielle sees herself as she when it all began. Happy.
Full of life. Feasting away on her favourite meal; adventure. And she and
Xena, as always, dined at the head of the table. Behold Gabrielle, bard and
Amazon Princess, spinning great stories of heroism and legend, even as she
and Xena felled the mightiest of Warlords with ease. Draco, Talmadeus,
Cortes, not even Ares himself could stand before them. She sees Xena, the
Warrior Princess, besting foes that would have made Hercules himself cringe.
Always in control, always ready to stand and fight, always there for her, no
matter what. And there are others, as well. She sees herself talking and
laughing with old friends. Meleager, when he was still a warrior to be
feared; Joxer, when he was most definitely NOT; Sly Autolycus, dashing and
arrogant; Salmoneus, hiding a noble heart beneath a thick layer of
Gabrielle sees herself now as she was seven years ago. Perdicus had
been travelling with her and Xena for the better part of a year now, and
their relationship had grown. As had Gabrielle's tummy, for she was heavy
with child now, and it was ready to emerge. She remembered being so proud
of Perdicus, that dull little boy from home who had changed into a fine and
strong man. She could smell the wood of the peasant home they stopped in
when her pains started. She could hear the nervous whinneys of Tympani and
Marta, tethered outside and upset by Gabrielle's screams. She remembered
feeling so safe, knowing her baby was being brought into the world by the
one person she trusted more than any. And she was right to trust...her baby
was born beautiful and healthy. She could see it as clearly now as if it
happened today. Xena held the new life high up for her and Perdicus to see,
and her enchanting smile lit up the room as she said the words, "It's a
girl, Gabrielle. You have a daughter!"
They named her Sarina, after hers and Perdicus' childhood friend, lost
long ago to a silly game. Gabrielle cried at the thought, her old friend
living again through her new daughter. She was happy. They were all happy,
as never before. And never again.
The next thing Gabrielle's dream shows her is a face...dark, in
shadows, but still as familiar as her own. A face she sees in her dreams
every night. She can feel the cold touch of her hands. Smell the putrid
stench of death she seemed to drag around with her. She could even hear her
sick, crazy laugh...
Gabrielle's eyes pop open. Seventeen years of instinct crash into her
consciousness, and she immediately knows she and Meleager are not alone in
the room. She leaps from her bed, snatching her staff up on the way. Gabby
never fought much anymore, but she always practised. She didn't live this
long being sloppy. Her eyes, trained by years of night-fighting, sneak
attacks, and ambush, scanned the dark room quickly. It took little time for
her to spot the figure in the doorway. Even with the dim light from the
torch in the hall, she could make it...HER out. The flickering glow
shimmered off the golden hair on the intruder's head. Gabrielle swung her
staff around, ready for any attack, but the figure made no move. Silent and
still as the grave, it was as if she wasn't even there. A ghost...
"Who are you?" she called out, but she already knew the answer. It was
impossible, of course, but that had never stopped HER before. As
Gabrielle's keen eyes adjusted to the darkness more and more, she could make
out the battered leather armour, the bloodthirsty eyes, and worst of
all...that smile. A sadistic grin worn by a madwoman. A decade of pain and
anger welled up inside, as Gabrielle fought to keep control. Focus,
remember, focus! Still, she couldn't stop the tears flowing, and the
emotions burst forth in a wave. Gabrielle screamed at the silent spectre
before her, hate and anguish leaping out through gritted teeth.
"You're dead. A HUNDRED TIMES OVER, you're dead! I killed you MYSELF
the last time!! LEAVE ME ALONE!!"
Her tormentor made no move. No sound. Just stood there, eerie and
evil, mocking and vicious.
"HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO KILL YOU?!?"
Gabrielle's shrill taunt still rang in her own ears, when she heard
it...a whisper, almost imperceptible. But she heard it! That voice, the
same one that stabbed her soul every day, every night. Gabrielle reeled for
a moment...this was no dream. This is REAL. She waited a moment, and then,
it came again. The same whisper, the same message. Gabrielle ran it
through her mind again and again, then looked her demon in the eyes...and
saw death. She exploded with almost a decade of fury, and charged wildly at
the figure in the doorway. She screamed furiously, and swung her staff with
more strength than she thought she had left in her. The force of the blow
almost shattered the tired old weapon as it hammered into the frame of the
door. Gabrielle glared wildly at the now empty space where her demon had
been only moments before. Her breath came quick and ragged, and tears
flowed freely down her face. Why? She asked herself. Why, after all this
time? She barely even noticed when a troubled Meleager, roused from his
inebriated slumber by Gabby's anger, placed a caring hand on her shoulder.
"...Why couldn't she have stayed dead this time?"
"What's happened, Gabrielle? Who was here?"
"It was her...it was her, she's come back."
Meleager paused a moment, hesitant to ask. "WHO's back?"
Gabrielle's head sagged like an old woman's. The fight flew out of her
on tired wings, and she leaned against her battered staff wearily. When the
answer came, her voice was scarcely more than a whisper itself. "Callisto.
Meleager leaned in tenderly. "Come, little bard. That witch has been
dead for a long time. It's just...this place. It plays tricks on the mind.
The spirits have this village cursed. Try and sleep."
Gabrielle snaps back to life, and shoves Meleager away with a force
driven by a decade of hate. "I SAW her! She was RIGHT HERE! She SPOKE to
me, damn her to Tartarus!!"
Drunk and tired, Meleager rights himself nonetheless, and looks back at
his distraught companion with sadness. "All right, all right. WHAT did she
say to you, then? What message does Callisto bring you, from beyond the veil?"
"She said she was coming back. For HER. She was coming for Xena."
Gabrielle spends several moments pondering the implications of that, eyes
wide and alert. "I've got to go to her. I've got to WARN her!"
"How...how will you find her?"
"I know where she is..The same place she's been hiding for more than
half a decade. I have to go...now. Thank you for everything, Meleager."
Gabrielle leans in and kisses the old warrior tenderly on the cheek, then
gathers her few belongings up and starts to head out. Meleager tries to
compose a response.
"Wait...WAIT! Are you SURE you aren't just, you know..."
Gabrielle stops and cocks her head at Meleager. "Crazy? Yes, I'm
sure. It was HER, Meleager. And I promise you, I will not let her take
away ONE MORE person I care about. I don't care what I have to do. Goodbye."
The tired bard walks off into the hall, then exits the tavern into the
cold Cirran night. She pulls her ragged clothes tight around her to fight
off the chill, and starts heading into the darkness, to find an old friend
she hasn't laid eyes upon in years. Once, they shared a life. Now, as
Gabrielle thinks about seeing Xena again, she wonders if they will even be
FRIENDS when they meet. So much pain...
Worry about it when you get there, Gabrielle. Always remember, she
But one thought kept repeating itself in Gabrielle's mind as she walked
her lonely trail; I won't let her hurt me again. I won't.
Extra special thanks to BECKY, aka deanlu, whose "Celebrations of Life" (A
dandy tale ALL Xenites should consider MUST reading) I incorporated into
The Visitor Presents:It was after two days of walking, and not being any closer to her
destination as far as she was concerned, that Gabrielle finally decided it
was time to call on an old friend. Only in this case SHE was the old one.
Normally she would never have risked it...It wouldn't do at ALL For his
neighbours to learn that Gabrielle was still alive and kicking... but this
was an emergency. Time was of the essence, and she couldn't afford a horse.
Not that she wasn't used to walking. She still had vivid memories of her
days walking alongside Xena, as she rode proudly along on dear Argo. So
magnificent they looked. Gabby eventually got a horse of her own, naming
her after her childhood pony, and after a while Argo was replaced as well.
But Xena never was quite the same with Marta. After Argo was killed, it
seemed like a part of Xena went with her. Maybe that's where it started,
Gabrielle thought. As she sat in the small tavern, playing with her food,
awaiting word of her former nephew's arrival, Gabrielle pondered the reasons
behind hers and Xena's mutual departure...and stopped, as soon as she
realized she was doing it. Ancient history, she told herself, nothing worth
thinking about. Concentrate on the here and now. Just find her, and warn
her. No matter what we have between us, I won't let Callisto sink her claws...
"Who let one of HIS kind in here?"
Gabrielle woke out of her reverie to hear the small commotion being
raised by a group of locals seated at the bar. Half past noon and already
soused. No respect for themselves, she thought, shaking her head. Then she
looked at the source of their displeasure, and her eyes widened with
recognition. That didn't take long! He's gotten fast...and big! Look how
big he is now! Gabrielle's admiration for her newly arrived nephew...FORMER
nephew...was tempered, though, by the bigoted comments of the lowbrows
surrounding her in the bar. Does that kind of limited thinking STILL take
place in this day and age, she wondered? The more things change...
He stood unwavering, despite the insults being thrown his way. He was
a good, strong boy, this one. His mother wouldn't have it any other way.
Gabrielle rose from her seat and ran over to him, giving the handsome
centaurian youth a big hug.
"Phantius, thank you so much for coming. This means a lot to me."
Phantius returned her greeting with traditional centaur humility.
"Anything for you, Aunt Gabrielle, you know that. Mother says hello, by the
Gabrielle led Phantius quickly out of the tavern, not wishing to cause
a further scene. "How is Ephiny, Phantius?"
"As well as always. You know the old saying, 'uneasy is the head that
wears the crown'. She does pretty well , though. My opinion, anyway."
"Better her than me!" Gabrielle laughed, recalling her brief stint in
Ephiny's current shoes.
"I was wondering about that whole story," Phantius prodded. "Tell me
"Don't tell me your mother never told you that story?!?"
"Oh, she told me. Several times, actually. But I remember all your
visits, when I was young. And the stories you would tell. And no one could
tell a story like you could, Aunt Gabrielle. I was hoping..."
I'm not your Aunt anymore, Gabrielle was thinking. "Well, I'm not
quite the storyteller I used to be, but I'll give it a shot, just for you.
Now, you know how, over fifteen years ago, I tried to save the life of an
Amazon princess, Toreis, from your mother's tribe. As a result, she gave me
her right of caste, making ME the new princess! Anyways, Xena and I stuck
around for a while, straightened a few things out..."
"And saved my father's life." Phantius added.
"...and helped Phantes out of a jam. After that, we left the tribe,
and continued on our way. It was several years later when Melosa, the queen
of the tribe, was killed. Since I was technically the Princess, I was
automatically named the new queen! How they tracked me down, I'll never
know. But after a few weeks, I realized, I didn't want to be any Amazon
queen! And by that time, your mother had relocated to the tribe, and you
were being raised in the village with her and your fellow centaurs. So,
with Xena's help, and a little luck, we managed to fake my death, and with
my 'dying breath', I gave my right of caste to Ephiny. Not the first time
I'd done that very thing, to be honest. Xena thankfully removed my 'body'
for burial, even though several Amazons demanded it be burned in accordance
Phantius chuckled. "Amazons ARE sticklers for tradition."
"You know it. Ephiny makes a fine ruler, though. Better than I ever
"Aunt, your message was a touch vague. I have been wondering what sort
of assistance it is you want me to provide." Centaurs. They can change
topics of conversation on a dinar.
"Phantius, I have to get to Salaya. It's a small village to the east
of Sparta. It's very important, and I don't have much time. I..."
A quick smile crosses Phantius' face. "You need a ride?"
Gabrielle hangs her head. "I wouldn't ask, but...it's SO bad,
Phantius, as bad as it could be..."
"What is it? Maybe I can help."
"No one can help. Not with her."
"Her? Someone giving you trouble, Aunt? You know I would never let
anyone harm you, not if I could..."
"Phantius, it's Callisto! Please, I haven't much time!"
Phantius reared back a bit, involuntarily. "Callisto? You
mean...she's REAL? I always thought she was just a...a story, to frighten
Gabrielle's head sank low again, and her voice almost cracked when she
said, "I wish that was all she did to children."
After a moment of shock, Phantius cleared the cobwebs and snapped to
attention. "I have to be back in four days...it's unavoidable. But I can
take you most of the way. Are...you going to see Xena?"
"I'm going to warn a former associate about a threat to her life.
That's all." Gabrielle's face betrayed the emotions behind her words. It
didn't go unnoticed by Phantius.
"Hop on, Aunt. I swear I'll get you there in time."
Gabrielle allowed herself a moment of sentiment, and delivered Phantius
a warm kiss on the cheek. "Thank you so much for this, Phantius. I don't
know how to thank you."
"Aunt Gabrielle, you and Xena saved my father's life, my MOTHER's life,
and then brought me safely into this world! I would brave the fires of
Tartarus for either of you. Now come, we're wasting daylight!"
Slinging her handbag over her shoulder, Gabrielle eases herself onto
Phantius' back and settles in for the journey ahead. "Try and take it easy
on the bumps, Phantius. I haven't exactly ridden much lately."
"As smooth as the wind, Aunt, and twice as fast!" With that, Phantius
set himself onto a speedy trot. Gabrielle was struggling to hold on at
first, but soon settled into the ride, memories of her and Tympani returning
as if they had happened yesterday. She tried to keep such thoughts in her
head, instead of the creeping fears that had hammered at her for two days
straight. Visions of death and pain that had haunted her for seven years,
and a maniac who brought her happy world to a crashing halt in the twinkling
of an eye. And now, she threatened what little she had left, laughing off
the supposedly unbreakable hold of the underworld with characteristic venom.
Yes, Gabrielle tried very hard to keep those thoughts far from her mind
as she and Phantius made their way towards the village of Salaya. Instead,
she closed her eyes, and remembered the day, years ago, when Xena told her,
quite mysteriously, that she had a surprise for her. She recalled thinking
how oddly Xena was acting, maybe because she had never DONE anything like
this before. A gift...Gabrielle remembers Xena opening the stable door, and
then leading that beautiful black mare out. Her coat literally shone in the
afternoon sun! She was so pretty...and when Xena handed her the reins, and
said, "She's for you", Gabrielle couldn't help but start to cry. Even now,
a small tear creeps out of Gabrielle's eye, and she holds on tight to that
image of her and Xena, riding off that glorious day...side by side. Together.
Xena...why did you leave me all alone..?
Part III: A GOOD HORSE
The Visitor Presents:Phantius had been as swift and strong as he had promised. After two
and a half days of almost relentless riding, the charming youth had to turn
back, if he was to be home in time for his place in the annual hunting
tourney. Gabrielle bid him a fond farewell, and watched proudly as he
started his return. She waved him goodbye with one hand, and massaged her
sore rear with the other. I may have made good time, Gabrielle thought with
a smirk, but boy, could I have ever used a saddle!
Of course, she didn't tell Phantius that. Just like she didn't tell
him how she stayed awake all night, every night, waiting for that witch to
return to haunt her further. But it never happened. And now, more than
four days after starting this journey, Gabrielle was forced to stop for a
second and wonder if her old friend Meleager had been right after all. HAD
she imagined her encounter with a ghost from her past? Was her mind finally
starting to play the tricks on her that she had seen happen to some of the
elder women of her village? She wasn't THAT old, was she..?
No. It was her. I'm not so deluded in my thinking that I can't tell
dream from reality. Besides, there's no turning back now. I'm not even a
half day's walk from Salaya. I haven't been this close to her in six
years...Gods, what am I going to SAY to her?!? I hadn't even thought of
that! She'll think I'm as mad as Meleager does. Just a silly girl, looking
for an excuse to see the mighty Xena again. HAH! Not likely...
Driving such insecurities out into the breeze, Gabrielle promptly
resumed her trek on foot, her battle staff helping to ease the few miles
travel between her and her destination. Along the way, she tried to keep
herself from thinking about what she was doing, and who she was going to
see. It wasn't easy. She found herself wishing she hadn't had to sell her
pan flute last year. Nothing set her mind at ease like a nice happy tune.
It was no more than two hours into her walk towards Salaya that she
encountered them. As she made her way along the trail, three young men
appeared on the road in front of her. Nothing terribly unusual...except
Gabrielle saw the look in their eyes...one she had learned long ago to
recognize as a telltale sign of trouble approaching. Big lads...trying to
conceal their daggers, but she knew all the tricks by now. They started
moving out, spreading around, trying to surround her. Gabrielle felt an old
voice talking in her ear, telling her what to do. She surrendered to the
instinct. Act, don't react.
"Afternoon, ma'am. Could you give us directions? We seem to have lost
Gabrielle's grip on her weathered staff tightened. "I'll say. Wrong
target, boys. Leave now and you won't get hurt. I'm in kind of a hurry."
The one who seemed to be in the lead, a blonde boy in his twenties,
noticed the edge in his prey's voice. He should have paid more attention to
it. "Get her!"
The two who were circling in from the sides darted for Gabrielle. She
threw down her handbag and grasped her staff with both hands. A chill of
anticipation ran through her spine...I haven't fought since...when, Corinth?
A flood of memories inundated her as the adrenaline flooded...the day she
first received her staff from the Amazons, her victory alone against the
gorgon at Loesha, and of course that time she actually gave Ares himself a
whack..! HOW had she survived THAT one..? Time enough to reminisce later,
silly bard, you're in the middle of a fight! Gabrielle watched intently as
the nearest attacker drew his dagger, and lunged at her with it. She sped
her staff around in a flash, relishing the echo as it cracked against his
Her second foe, foolishly undeterred by his compatriot's quick defeat,
hurled himself at the warrior-bard with murderous zeal. Gabby deftly ducked
his ham-fisted assault, and flipped the reckless lad overtop of her with a
maneuver she learned fifteen years earlier. She leapt to her feet in an
instant, her heart pounding with the thrill of battle. Surprisingly, her
opponent was up and ready in short order as well! The kid has potential,
Gabrielle mused. Hopefully, he'll realize the error of his ways, when he
comes to. She waited patiently for the boy to attack again, then let fly
with a nasty blow to his temple. She didn't envy the pain he'd awake to,
but then, she didn't ask to be mugged, either. Now, where's the third one...?
"Come on, boys, I got the goods!"
Gabrielle spun and saw the last of them running off down the trail, as
if his life depended on it. And he was carrying her handbag.
In a second, Gabby reached down and grabbed a dagger out of one of her
fallen opponent's hands. She spun it about a few times in her hand to get
it's heft, then threw it with everything she had. The last of her attackers
fell like a stone as the weapon dug sharply into his calf. He screamed out
as he hit the ground, and Gabrielle ran over to him, grabbing hold of her
bag and tearing it quickly from his grasp.
"This--does not--belong--TO YOU!!"
"AAAHHhhhh...my leg! Help me..."
Ignoring his pleas for the moment, Gabrielle opened up her bag and
quickly scanned it's contents. She breathed a sigh of relief to see
everything still in it's place. With two fingers, she warmly stroked the
cold metal hide of one item in particular...
Snapping out of her sentimentality, Gabby grabs a few clean rags out of
her bag and kneels down beside the fallen youth. She repositions his leg,
roughly, and grabs hold of the hilt of the knife. He whimpers.
"Hold still. This'll hurt...a lot. Maybe next time..."
A swift yank, and the blade comes free. He suppresses a scream.
Gabrielle tosses the weapon and starts cleaning and bandaging the wound.
"...You'll think twice before trying something like this!" She worked
diligently, and deftly, just like she was taught. She'd run into
Hippocrates about four years ago, and was almost stunned by how proficient
he had become. She picked up a few pointers from him that even Xena hadn't
known! Too bad I don't have any thread, Gabrielle mused. Oh well. A nice
limp might help the message sink in a bit.
Dressing the leg as best she could with her few supplies, Gabrielle
tied it off tight, earning another cry from her patient.
"Now listen. Your friends will be awake soon. Get them to walk you to
the inn just down the road. You need to stay off that leg for a few days.
And be nice. You've seen what the opposite gets you."
"Th-thank you...I'm sorry..."
Gabrielle rises to her feet. "Yes you are. But you don't have to stay
that way your whole life. Think about it." Leaving him to suffer in
silence, Gabrielle gathers up the rest of their weapons, and stuffs them in
her bag. Then, staff in hand, heads on down the road again. It's only
after a few minutes that her adrenaline cools down enough--Gods, that was
WONDERFUL!--for her to notice she still has blood all over her hands. Clean
rags are all gone...she looks around, and sees a small stream through the
bushes. In a few moments, she's kneeling down, washing her hands off,
watching as the small pool of blue water is stained crimson.
She laughs a bit to herself. Blood Innocence...she hadn't rolled THAT
phrase around in her head for a few years. What's it been...thirteen years,
more? Gods, I remember how I cried after my first kill. Xena tried so hard
to tell me it was okay, but I wouldn't listen. Just a frightened little girl.
And now you're a tired old woman, spending too much time living in the
past. Focus on the present, Gabrielle. Do what you came to do, then get on
with your life...such as it is. Gabrielle stood up again and dried her
hands roughly on her skirt, then headed off with renewed vigor.
Evening was just starting to force it's way into the sky when Gabrielle
arrived at the outskirts of Salaya. She'd only been here once before,
almost ten years ago. She made her way into the village, keeping her eyes
peeled, trying to keep her heart from racing too fast. I can't believe I'm
here...she's so CLOSE...
A burly old farmer working by the side of the road caught Gabrielle's
eye, and she walked over. He saw her and gave a friendly wave.
"G'evening, Miss. Anything I can help you with?"
This is it, Gabrielle. Be strong. "I'm looking for the farm of a man
called Darius. I have a..."
The old farmer's face turned serious. "Aw gee, I'm afraid you're a
little late for that, Miss. Poor Darius, he passed away a couple years
back. Damned shame. Were you close to him?"
Dead?!? Gods, no, I can't be too late! Calm down, calm down...
remember, he's not the one you're interested in. She could still be here.
"Ummm, actually, I was really looking for... his wife. You know,..."
The smile returned to the farmer's face, and he spat out a hearty
laugh. "Oh, the farmer-princess? Yeah, she's still here. Took over the
farm after Darius shuffled off. She and the kids keep the place running
mighty good, too. You just keep going up this road, 'til you get to the
town meeting hall. Then hang left, and you can't miss it. It's the one
with the really big, mean-lookin' scarecrow!"
"Thank you very much." Gabrielle waved politely and started heading up
the road. A cold sweat started to form on her brow. Come ON, Gabrielle,
she badgered herself, what's the big deal? SHE's the one who did the
leaving, remember? You have nothing to be nervous about. Nothing.
And, in a short few minutes that seemed to Gabby like years, she found
herself staring at what was, without question, the biggest, meanest looking
scarecrow she had ever seen. Yeah, that's about her style. Now, if I could
just stop shaking...
Gabrielle was about to head for the main house, when she caught glimpse
of movement from the field in behind. She darted towards it, her heart
pounding now harder than it had in over six years. She ran as fast as she
could, stopping when she got close enough to make it out. A woman...no, not
A woman...HER. You could feel her presence from the road. What's that
she's pulling...is that a ploughshare?!? Look at her...she's in better
shape now than she was before! She looks like she's added over ten pounds
of solid muscle. Oh, Hercules give me strength, I don't know if I can do
Out on the field, the master of this farm tends to her field the same
as she has for the last two years. Who needs an OX? she had told her
neighbours. They laughed, but they stopped pretty quick. Sweat seeped into
her thick blouse, as her powerful legs dug ever harder into the soil. Her
diligence had yielded a record crop this last season, and with a little luck...
Xena stopped in mid stride. Something was...wrong? No, but still, she
felt something...someONE...that she hadn't felt in a long time. She
discarded the straps of her ploughshare and looked about her. In an
instant, she saw the solitary figure standing out near the house. And in
that same instant, she recognized her. How could she not? She hadn't been
out of Xena's thoughts for a single day since they first met. Xena could
feel a lifetime's worth of emotion flooding to the surface. Her whole body
shook, as if she had been physically struck...she's HERE! She's really
HERE! When she cried out, it was almost involuntary. She couldn't have
stopped herself even if she had wanted to try.
Gabrielle leaned her head back, and steeled herself. Just do what you
came to do, Gabrielle. That's all you have to do.
Part IV: JOURNEY'S END
The Visitor Presents:They just stood there, staring at each other for what seemed like
forever. Xena's eyes were almost brimming with tears, and a joy she hadn't
felt in ages welled up inside her. Gabrielle was trying hard to keep a cool
facade going. Give her the message. Then you can go. That's all you have
After a while, Xena broke the standoff. She bolted over to where her
former companion was standing. She couldn't contain her enotions for
another second...and she had full well expected Gabrielle to be feeling
exactly the same way. But when she got close enough to clearly see the look
of hurt and anger in Gabrielle's face, a terrible shudder passed over Xena's
heart. And she realized this wasn't going to be the reunion she had dreamed
of at all.
"Gabrielle? Please, what's the matter? It's been so long..."
Gabrielle straightened her shoulders, struggling not to be too
intimidated by Xena's always overwhelming presence. "I came to give you a
message. A warning, really. That's all."
Xena looked confused. "A message? The first time we've seen each
other in six years, and you have a MESSAGE to deliver? Gabrielle, come on.
I've missed you."
"MISSED me?" Gabrielle's attempts at controlling her emotions failed
as quickly as she feared they would. "How can you say that? If you cared
so much for my company, then why did you leave?"
"I...Gabrielle, I explained that. I was tired. I'd been fighting my
whole life, and I couldn't do it any more. I just wanted to...to settle
down, and devote my life to something other than waging war. I thought you
understood...that it was okay with you."
"If all you wanted to do was not fight anymore, then why didn't you let
me join you? Why did you make me stay behind? We'd been together for TEN
YEARS, and all of a sudden you just throw it all away?!?"
The former warrior's head sagged, and her shoulders drooped. She
didn't know how to answer. "I'm...I'm sorry, Gabrielle, I.."
"Sorry?" The accusatory edge to Gabrielle's voice was as sharp as a
knife. "Fine. Thanks. Apology accepted. Glad that's all cleared up."
"Xena, Callisto's back. That's what I came to tell you. She said she
was coming for you."
Xena reeled. This is too much all at once, she screamed inside
herself. Six years, and then THIS..? "Callisto? Gabrielle, how can that be?"
Gabrielle snapped defensively. "Don't you patronize me, don't you DARE
"I wasn't! I just meant...Gabrielle, are you sure?"
"I know what I saw. It was her. And she hasn't changed her tune in
fifteen years. She wants YOU."
That name started reverberating in Xena's head like an echo. Callisto.
She thought she had left that anchor far behind. But even now, the chain
started pulling again. How many more would be hurt this time? Because of
the monster I let loose on the world? How many deaths will I be responsible
Gabrielle caught the contemplative look on Xena's face, and let her
stance soften ever so slightly. "I heard about Darius. I'm sorry."
That seemed to snap Xena back to the world, and she looked again on her
old friend. "Thanks. He was a good man. Lycus and Sarica tool it pretty
hard, but they've bounced back."
"What about...what was his name...Argolis?"
"He left a few years back. Decided he wanted to see the world. He
made it back for the funeral, though."
"Mmmm. Well, listen..."
"Do...do you want to stay for a while? It must have been a long trip.
You know, Sphaerus' farm is just on the other side of the village! And
there's someone else you should see as well."
Gabrielle looked up at Xena's face, and saw what LOOKED like genuine
affection. Have I been judging too harshly all these years? Maybe...maybe
I could try...
However, before Gabrielle could respond, a sudden frown crossed Xena's
face, and her eyes widened just a little. "Or...well, maybe you could come
back ANOTHER time. We're...you know, it's coming up to harvest, and things
are a little busy right now, so..."
As fast as it left, anger leapt into Gabby's heart. "I don't BELIEVE
it! After all these years, you're STILL trying to drive me away! Fine, I
can take a hint!" Gabrielle turned to leave, but Xena snapped a quick hand
on her shoulder.
"Gabrielle, wait! That's not it, honestly! It's just..."
She turns back, and stares devastatingly into Xena's piercing blue
eyes. "What? Can't you tell me the truth, even now? Right now, you tell
me! WHY DID YOU LEAVE ME ALONE?"
Xena looked back into Gabrielle's eyes, eyes that were once full of
life and innocence, and now spoke only of bitterness and pain. It broke her
heart. Her voice was barely audible, and every word hurt. "I did what I
had to do. Gabrielle, you and I shared so many things...no one ever meant
as much to me as you, you must believe that. But...I brought you SO much
pain. How many times did you almost die because of me? How many terrible
memories did I cause? And Callisto...she wouldn't EXIST if it weren't for
me! ALL she ever wanted was me, but I wasn't enough. Every person she hurt
or killed, I was responsible for. Look at poor Diana...Callisto BUTCHERED
that sweet girl, for pity's sake, and just because she LOOKED like me! But
after what she did to you...I couldn't let you be hurt because of me again,
I COULDN'T! I have never forgiven myself for that. And I never will. I'm
Both women had lost their battles to hold back tears. "You
were...PROTECTING me? That's IT? You...you arrogant BITCH! I was not a
CHILD anymore! How DARE you make my decisions for me?!?"
"You were in danger just being NEAR me...you had Perdicus then,
anyways. That was..."
"Perdicus...you know, I haven't seen him in almost as long as you? We
just couldn't..couldn't go on together. He was wonderful, but...it was YOU,
Xena, it was ALWAYS you! You were EVERYTHING to me, and you left me when I
needed you the most!"
Xena swept her hair back with a shaky hand. She couldn't recall ever
being this far out of control, and she didn't like the feeling. "I didn't
mean to hurt you, Gabrielle. I only wanted to keep you safe."
"And I suppose that's why you want me to go NOW, right? Because of
Callisto? Well, I'm STAYING! This isn't finished, not on your life!"
Xena extended a friendly hand, which Gabrielle promptly knocked away.
"I--I'll have Lycus get a room ready..."
"I think it would be better if I stayed somewhere else tonight."
Gabrielle tried to get her quavering voice under control, with only moderate
success. "For now, at least."
"Right...sure. Ummm, there's an inn...or no, Sphaerus would be glad to
take you in. I can show you the..."
"I'll find it." Gabrielle turnand starts heading off, but stops after
a few paces. She reaches into her bag, and pulls out something she's been
carrying around for more than half a decade. She half turns, and tosses it
into Xena's hands. "If she really is back, you may need that again. See
Gabrielle walks off, and Xena watches her go with a heavy heart. She
looks in her hand, and a rush of nostalgia sweeps over her as she once again
holds her Chakrum aloft. Hasn't even rusted, she notes with a chuckle.
Soon enough, she lets it drop down to her side. For almost half an hour,
Xena stands alone in the growing darkness, until she hears a voice from the
house calling her name. She turns lethargically, and sees beautiful Serica
standing in the doorway. With little enthusiasm, she makes her way towards
her. The look on her adopted daughter's face is one of noticeable concern.
"Are your chores done?"
"Xena...who was that woman? Was it...Gabrielle?"
"We'll talk about it tomorrow, honey. Get some sleep."
Serica can't help but notice the shiny weapon in Xena's hand.
"Will...we talk about THAT, too?"
"Later, Serica. Later." She casts a fond but stern glance in the
girl's direction, and she quietly backs off to her room. Xena plops herself
down in a chair, feeling as exhausted as she ever has. She tosses her
Chakrum limply onto a table, and leans back. Ignited by the furor of the
last few minutes, Xena's mind finds itself wandering...back to that terrible
day, six years ago, when she turned her back on her best friend in the
world...she clenched her eyes, and didn't fight the memory this time. She
had to remember. She was so sure she had done the right thing...but maybe
Callisto was right all along. Maybe all I can do is bring pain...and death.
Part V: BITTER REUNION
The Visitor Presents:
Part VI: TRAGEDY
SIX YEARS AGO...
Perdicus had just put the finishing touches on the new home. He and
Xena had built it with their own hands, for him and Gabrielle to raise their
child in. Little Sarina was almost a year now, and was as precocious a
little thing as this tiny farming community had ever seen. She seemed to
love her cousin Joran with a passion, and he responded in kind. Joxer was,
of course, wonderful with both of them. Despite his ferocity in combat, he
always retained that childlike quality that Lila had fallen in love with.
They both helped out so much during that first year, but none more so than
Xena...she doted on Sarina as if she were her own, perhaps still feeling
guilty about what had happened to her own child, all those years ago.
Whatever, little Sarina couldn't have had a more loving Godmother. Her
first word, in fact, was "Zee-na?", a moment that actually brought a tear to
the warrior-princess' eye, much to Gabrielle's delight.
Night was starting to fall in Potodaia, and a chill wind was blowing.
There was a small celebration in town that evening, heralding the beginning
of the new season. Pharis had spared no expense in hiring several exotic
entertainers, and there was a good spectacle to see, and a fine feast to
match. Enjoying the festivities, with her sister, her husband and her best
friend by her side, Gabrielle reflected on her life at that moment and
thought to herself with a beautiful smile, "I have never been happier than now."
It was past Sarina's bedtime, of course, so she had left her daughter
at home. Lila's friend Ariana watched over her, as she had several times
before. Joxer had some small security matters to attend to, but promised he
would be along to join Lila and the others before too long. Strangely,
though, he WAS taking too long, and Lila started to worry. She always was a
worrier, Gabrielle chuckled. Still, she agreed to go with her sister to see
what was keeping her husband. They left Xena and Perdicus at the
celebration and headed across the village to Lila and Joxer's home. When
they arrived, the door was open.
Gabrielle and Lila entered the house cautiously. Inside, they soon
heard a low moaning. Gabrielle lit a torch, and there on the floor was
Joxer, badly cut and beaten to within an inch of his life. Once upon a
time, Gabrielle would not have been surprised by such a sight, but now...
Lila leapt over to her fallen husband, and cradled his head in her
arms. Gabrielle ran into the other room to check on little Joran. He was
safe and sound, thank the Gods. She returned to Lila, who was so worried,
so scared, but Joxer refused to lie still. He called to Gabrielle, though
his voice was weak...She came, and kneeled down beside him.
"Who did this, Joxer? What happened?"
He answered painfully, fear evident in every word. "It...
The words had barely had time to register in Gabrielle's mind when the
cry came from outside. A terrible warning that filled her with dread. One
Gabrielle's head snapped up. She stared out the open door with a sense
of fear she had not felt in ten years. In an instant she was on her feet
and darting outside, then veering off in the direction of her home. She
prayed the whole time.
The first wave of smoke hit her square in the face as she got closer,
and she almost screamed. Now she could see the bright red glow, rising over
the tops of the other homes. She ran harder than ever before in her life.
Now, she was only seconds away...and she was close enough now that she could
hear her laughing...
She rounded the final corner and looked on her home. Before it stood a
vision of death from hers and Xena's past...a creature of evil that was
supposed to have been dead and buried. She stood, torch in hand, gazing
madly on the unforgiving inferno that engulfed Gabrielle's small house, and
she laughed that horrible laugh, so loud and so hard the Gods on high must
have heard it. But over it all, over Callisto's mocking laughter, over the
din of the blaze and the terrified screams of the townspeople, Gabrielle
could swear she heard her daughter crying out to her. For the last time.
Gabrielle saw it all in less than a second, watched her world die, and
just kept on running. Straight for the pyre that her home had become. If
it hadn't been for Perdicus tackling her and holding her back, she too would
have gone up in that conflagration. So many times since that day she had
wished he had let her go. But Perdicus wrapped his arms tightly around her,
and told her there was nothing they could do, and lied so valiantly about
how everything would be all right. And all Gabrielle could do was stare and
scream...scream the name of her baby girl, her own little piece of beauty
that she had brought into this world, maybe the most beautiful thing that
had ever lived. Now just a memory...just like that.
"Sarina...oh, no, please, no...PLEASE, NO!! DON'T TAKE HER FROM ME!!
After who knows how long, Gabrielle stopped screaming, and just lay
there, shaking in Perdicus' arms. Slowly, he stood, and held her up with
him. He tried to look into her eyes, despite the tears that flooded both
"Gabby? Gabby, please, listen to me! GABRIELLE!"
But Gabrielle wasn't listening to him. Instead, she heard other
voices...a friend, a good friend...Xena? Yes, Xena. And she was angry, as
angry as she had ever heard her. She was screaming at someone, but who?
Gabrielle turned her head and looked through her bleary eyes at Xena, sword
drawn, squaring off with...her. The woman who...
Without another thought, Gabrielle pushed Perdicus away violently, and
turned and ran. As fast as her legs would carry her, she ran, back to her
sister's house. Her legs screamed at her to slow down, but she wasn't
listening anymore. Why listen? The world doesn't make sense anymore
anyways, not without Sarina. Gabrielle ran like a woman possessed until she
arrived back, to find Joxer slowly rising to his feet. Lila saw the
devastation in Gabrielle's eyes, but before she could ask, Gabrielle grabbed
Joxer's sword and left again.
"Callisto, do you have any idea what you've DONE?!?" Xena was so
enraged she could barely speak. She was gripping her sword so tightly, her
fingers were starting to bleed. "You worthless, vicious..."
Callisto waved a warning finger at Xena. "Tut-tut, Xena. Sticks and
stones. What's done is done, isn't that so? Besides...what are you gonna
do about it?" She grinned like the madwoman she was, the lust for blood
dripping off her words.
Xena stared at her so hard, her eyes felt like they would burst out of
their sockets. Tears welled up, but she wouldn't allow them. Not yet.
"I'm going to kill you."
Callisto threw her head back and screeched out that hellish laugh of
hers once more. "KILL me? Old news, Xena. Been there, done that. Still,
my sympathies. TOO bad about your pretty little god-daughter. Maybe NOW
you'll start to KNOW what it FEELS..."
The blade burst through Callisto's chest like a lightning bolt, taking
the breath from her taunts. Stunned, she stared down at the shiny
protrusion, dripping with her own blood. She choked out one last chuckle,
then collapsed onto the ground. She slid cleanly off the sword, and
Gabrielle held tightly onto it as she watched Callisto hit the ground. She
didn't even look up, not once, to see the look of horror on Xena's face.
Whatever was left inside Gabrielle snapped then and there, and she
raised the sword high. With a yell of rage, she brought it down on her
fallen tormentor, and again, and again. She screamed and screamed as she
hacked away at the cause of her pain. She struck blow after blow, 'til her
arms felt as if they would fall off. And then she struck again. Her
bellows were almost feral, gut-level howls of pain and fury. It took Xena
and Perdicus both to pull her off. It wasn't enough, she screamed. It
would never be enough.
They later discovered that one of Callisto's surviving priestesses had
forged some sort of supernatural pact, to exchange her life for her
mistress'. But explanations were of little importance anymore. It was
almost a week before Gabrielle stopped crying. The mood in Potodaia was
like that of a tomb. Perdicus and Lila tried to reach Gabrielle constantly,
but she was inconsolable. And Xena...Xena was so distant after the
incident. Something had changed inside of her now. She wouldn't talk to
anyone about it, though, but she stayed by Gabrielle the whole time
nonetheless. After about a month or so, Gabby finally started to return to
a semblance of normality. She was at least walking and talking, a marked
improvement from her previous state. It was then that Xena made her
"Leaving? But...but why? Where are you going?"
"My days as a warrior are over, Gabrielle. I'm...tired. I don't want
to fight anymore. I'm going somewhere where I can live my life in peace."
"Well...then I'm coming with you!"
"No, Gabrielle. You and Perdicus belong here."
"Gabrielle, this is something I have to do...on my own. Darius has a
farm in a town called Salaya. That's where I'm headed."
"Xena, please don't leave, not NOW!"
"Be brave. You have people here who love you. You'll be fine."
"No, Xena, you can't go! I need you here, I do!"
"You're strong Gabrielle. Believe that. When you're stronger, feel
free to visit. But I've got to get going, if I want to make camp before
"You're leaving NOW? But...Gods, don't I even get to say goodbye?!?"
Xena leans over and embraces the little bard with all her might. She
hopes the tremble in her voice won't give her away. "Goodbye, Gabrielle. I
have always loved you, you know that."
Gabrielle was speechless. After a moment they separated, and Xena
stroked her hair fondly. Then, she simply turned and walked away.
Gabrielle felt like crying, but doubted she had any tears left inside of
her. She just stared dumbly, watching her partner walk out of her life with
barely an minute's explanation, and wondered why everything was crashing
down around her. Then Xena stopped, and turned around. She stared into
Gabby's eyes again, then let a smile cross her face. She unhooked the metal
disc that hung so faithfully from her hip and tossed it towards the bard.
Gabrielle caught it and held on tight.
"I won't be needing it anymore." she said. And then she was gone.
And Gabrielle discovered that she still had some tears left after all.
The Visitor Presents:Halfway through the night, Xena awoke with a start in the chair she
somehow drifted off in. She was in her kitchen, her chakrum staring
silently at her from the table. Almost absent-mindedly, she wiped the half
dried tears from her cheeks that had fallen while she dreamed.
Potodaia...Sarina...Callisto. Six years, or a million? What did it matter?
Standing up top her full height, Xena crept quietly out of the house,
careful not to disturb Lycus and Serica. Emerging into the crisp night air,
she took a deep breath to remind herself she was still alive. Longer than
I've had any right to be, she laughed. Sometimes she marvelled that she
could even still MOVE after the life she'd led. But country life seemed to
agree with her. As she crossed her field towards the stable, warm thoughts
of the last few years here crossed her mind. She had had a good life with
Darius...so sweet he could be sometimes. He taught her a few things, about
life. About peace. Still, even right at the end, he knew...he had ALWAYS
known, she supposed, that she never truly loved him. Just the life. The
calm, after a lifetime of torment, and bringing the same to others. The
kids were a gift from the Gods, true. I NEVER thought I would make a
half-decent mother! They've been good for me, I think. And I even think
I've been good for them. It's nice to think I've brought SOMEONE in this
world something, other than pain.
With a squeaky creak, Xena hauled the stable door open and made her way
in. Just the one horse here right now, old Moerae. Silly old girl. I
think you're ready to retire now too, aren't you girl? That's all right,
you don't have to answer. I can recognize a tired face when I see one.
Xena stood silently for a while. She was unsure about what she was
about to do. It wasn't the sort of thing she usually did, but then, today
has not been her usual day. Her mind was still reeling from it all.
Summoning up her courage, Xena lowered herself to her knees, and
propped her arms up atop a bail of hay, lacing her fingers together. It was
clumsily done. It was the first time she had done it in...how long? She
couldn't remember. Had she EVER done this? Xena found herself suppressing
a shudder. Get a hold of yourself, "warrior princess", she scolded herself.
You've fought Titans, you can do this.
And so, for the first time in a long, long time, Xena Warrior Princess
closed her eyes and prayed.
"...You know I don't do this very often. I'm not the type. I've
always depended on myself and my own inner strength to guide me through
whatever life had to throw at me. So far it's worke out pretty well, or so
I thought. But now... Hercules, I just don't know what to do. The living
embodiment of everything that was reprehensible and evil in me, a creature I
had thought long dead, ...WHY? Why is she back, after all this time?
Haven't I atoned? Haven't I and all those around me suffered enough? And
sweet Gabrielle... You know how I feel about her. I've never loved anyone
more. I COULDN'T love anyone more. I swore I would never hurt her, ever
again, and that's EXACTLY what I've done. Please... help me. Help me..."
And then Xena heard the voice, as gentle as she remembered it, coming
from behind her...
"All you ever had to do was ask."
Xena turned her head, and saw him. He stood so regally, but with the
bravery and humility that marked him as something special, even among Gods.
His hair shone even in the darkened stable, and moonlight somehow found it's
way to the reflective gauntlets he sported on his forearms. Everything
about him spoke of the glory of Olympus. He was divine. He was Hercules.
"It's been a long time, Xena." He smiled his beautiful smile, and she
suddenly found it difficult to stand. As gallant as always, he extended a
helping hand. When she took it, she could feel the little hairs on the back
of her neck standing on end.
"Yeah...a long time. You're...looking good, Hercules." Why did she
feel like a little girl? She had been...intimate with this man, back when
he WAS a man. Godhood, she supposed, is just one of those things that
permanently changes a relationship.
"You too. You know, sometimes I regret leaving. It was--a lot
simpler, back then. Me and Iolaus, rolling into town, never fearing death,
unbeatable. I miss those days." There was a noticeable sadness in
Hercules' eyes, even deeper than the loss that haunted them before. Xena
noticed, and became a little less sorry for herself than she had a moment
"I called to you tonight because...I'm feeling a little, I don't know,
lost. Two people came back into my life tonight. And neither of them seem
to like me very much."
"You're wrong, Xena. Gabrielle loves you very much. You must believe
that, or this wouldn't hurt you so."
"Hercules, I've really screwed up."
"You did what you thought you had to, Xena. It was just as much a
sacrifice for you as for anyone."
"Leaving her was the hardest thing I've ever done. And what for? All
I've done is cause her more pain. And now, she's here, and I don't know if
she'll even TALK to me! And if she's right..."
Hercules' eyes narrowed somewhat. "Callisto." The son of Zeus had
only faced Callisto once, but that was more than enough as far as he was
"Is it true? Is she really back? HOW, Hercules? Does Hades have so
"I--I'm not sure. I've had this---feeling, for a while now, that
Xena looked hard at Hercules. "Something..? What kind of something?"
Part VII: DIVINE INTERVENTION