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Chapter 9 - The Chosen One
SPECIFIC CHAPTER DISCLAIMER: In this chapter I have borrowed the idea of a psychic bond between Xena and Gabrielle. This idea, as far as I know, was originally conceived of by Missy Good, and is used with her permission. Also, this chapter could most certainly be considered intense and a bit disturbing, at least it was disturbing for me to write it. Just don't write to me and complain you weren't warned. Ok I think that's it, enjoy.
It was a world of shadows and half light, and Gabrielle felt herself drifting at its edges, awareness only seeping through at odd intervals, leaving her more confused, and more frightened. How many days have I been here? Or is it just hours? What's happening to me? I just can't tell anymore... are they in the room... where did they go? What're they going to do to me? Sacrifice me to their gods?
Who's there? Xena? Oh, Xena... I'm so sorry... I should have stayed in the village... wait, you aren't Xena...
The priest of Arimon moved slowly about the chamber so as not to disturb the Chosen One. He was the honored among the priests, he alone had been chosen to minister to the Holiest among them, the Chosen One. He, for three days, had prepared the ceremonial drink in accordance with the sacred texts as they were interpreted by the High Priests. She was now ready for the ritual that would cleanse her of who she had been. It would ready her to fully become the Chosen One and fulfill her destiny.
As he had done for the last three days, he retrieved the herbs from the table near the fire, removed a measured amount, and poured in steaming water. The High Priests had impressed upon him the importance of carefully measuring the herbs. If he failed to do so, the ritual would be a failure, and he would suffer the consequences. He had not been a priest for long and was eager to prove to his superiors his ability to attend to Chosen One. It was a great honor, and if he failed, his life would be forfeit.
He finished mixing the drink and moved to the Chosen One's bedside, kneeling down he cradled her head with his free arm and held the cup to her lips. Gabrielle was aware of what was happening, but it was almost as if it was occuring over a great distance, as if it was not truly happening to her. She remembered little of what had happened since her capture. She had been treated surprisingly well, and that perhaps had frightened her more than anything.
She felt herself being lifted up and a cup was forced to her lips. She drank reflexively, her body craving the liquid. After she had finished the cup, she was laid back down. Gabrielle tried without success to focus on the person with her, but she could not force her eyes to come to rest on the man. She knew he must be Horde, but somehow felt he was not a soldier, nor a guard. He had been near, seeing to her every need, but for how long she could not say. Somewhere in the haze that had settled over her, she knew she was being drugged, but to what end was a mystery.
She was only dimly aware of the hands that held her upright, it was as though her entire body had been numbed somewhat, allowing her only ghosts of sensations, a rather unsettling experience for the young bard, and one that instilled her with a deep seated fear. Gabrielle tried once again to focus her eyes and her mind, and yet again failed in the attempt. The routine had become a familiar one, and she knew that the drink would once again rob her of any semblance of sanity.
Oh gods, please, just let them kill me... let me die. Let this end... Xena... help me... please. The bard thought to herself, as she felt the drink take effect, plunging her once again into an abyss of darkness, where her thoughts were no longer her own. Robbed of all that made her who she was, Gabrielle became that which the Priests of Arimon so desired, the Chosen One. Ready to fulfill her destiny, and take the order of Arimon to new heights of power within the Horde society.
The visions came to her, as they had since she had been brought to the Horde encampment. Horrible, terrible scenes played out in her mind. Gabrielle could see herself, no longer the young bard and Amazon Queen, but a godlike figure, held up for the Horde nation to revere and worship. Then the vision shifted, and she was at the head of a great Horde army arrayed against the people she had thought of as her own, the Amazons, Centaurs, and the men of Marmax's allied army gathered from the far reaches of Greece. It was she who gave the orders to attack, she who commanded the slaughter of the Greeks.
In her mind, the visions played themselves out, and Gabrielle was powerless to stop them as they washed through her mind, wiping away all else in their wake like waves upon the sand. In the end, there would be nothing but the truth of the Horde left in her mind. Gabrielle's last cognitive thought was of Xena, and her regrets that she would never again see the warrioress in this life, before the visions swept her completely away.
The High Priest had been in solitary meditation for three days, and his orders were clear, no one was to disturb him except to bring his meals. He had to prepare his mind and body for the ritual that would either confirm the Chosen One, or expose her as a fraud, resulting in her immediate execution.
He had used the time alone to extend his powerful mind to touch the mind of the Greek woman he had determined would become the Chosen One for these people, and allow him to gain the power he and brother priests so richly deserved.
Guiding her mind had been amazingly easy, and he wondered, not for the first time, if she did not possess some psychic ability of her own that left her open to his influences. Tonight would be the final night before the ritual, and he was determined to prepare her for what was to come. Over the last three days, he had been planting the seeds of knowledge within Gabrielle's mind that she would need to survive the ritual and emerge as the Chosen One. But not only that, the ideas and visions he imparted to this Greek woman would enable him to control her later. She would be of little use to him if she were not controllable. She would become the Chosen One, but he would wield her power.
Carefully he guided her through the visions, overcoming her inhibitions, defeating her sense of self. She was nearly ready for the ritual the next night. There was one last barrier, one that he had been unable to breach, but this night, that wall would fall. He calmed himself, breathing deeply as he prepared to enter that protected part of Gabrielle's mind. Using his extraordinary skills, he probed the barrier Gabrielle's subconscious mind had erected, and then began his methodical deconstruction of that barrier, removing it layer by layer.
It was a painstaking process, and he could feel the Chosen One's almost physical pain as he worked. This was a part of herself she kept so tightly locked away, it was possible even she was unaware of it's existence, the priest surmised. That was why it was so vital it be removed. To deny her even that which she was unaware would ensure his total control, his total domination of her mind and her psyche. She would be his, body and soul. The power of the Chosen One's mind surprised him yet again, and he found that this last barrier was not going to be defeated as easily as the others he had encountered within her mind.
He probed more deeply, and felt the resistance pouring from the Chosen One, flooding his mind. The High Priest pulled back from his assault briefly and could feel the answering subtle relaxation from within the young Greek woman. He immediately took advantage of her lowered defenses and redoubled his mental attack, pounding her barrier with a determined ferocity.
At last he was able to break through, and what he found there was so powerful, the priest gasped aloud. Only once before had he encountered at bound as strong as this one, and he briefly wondered at the implications of severing it. But it could not be helped, this attachment could prove his undoing, and forcefully he stretched his mind to invade this bond, endeavoring to sever it permanently.
As he worked, he could feel the resistance within the Greek woman, and marveled again at her strength of will, hoping that this strength could be turned to his advantage and used to serve his purposes.
Unraveling the bond strand by strand, he could feel the Chosen One's panic increase, the fear traveling through his connection with her, and he felt it almost as if it were his own. His heart rate quickened, and he worked faster, his brow knitted in concentration, small rivulets of sweat working their way down his face, stinging his eyes. The suddenly he was at it's end, the last strand that linked her with the other, too far away for him to sense directly, but tenuously there, nonetheless. He broke the bond gleefully, reveling in the despair he felt from the Chosen One at its loss. Fear and despair would be his allies in her conversion, she would become the Chosen One now, and nothing could stop the genesis now.
In her hut, Gabrielle awoke screaming, the pain that lanced through her mind seemed unbearable.
Xena? Where are you... why have you left me here to die alone? It's gone... everything's gone... there's nothing left... and you have abandoned me. Gods, please... let me die... the pain... no more pain... just let this end.
Get OUT of my mind! Please no... don't take that from me... anything but that... I need that... please... it's all I have left... no...
And then it was over. The bond she had so carefully protected, even from herself, was gone now, and she felt its loss keenly. Unable to prevent it, she was now utterly alone.