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A Past Remembered
By Anita Louise
Gabrielle felt a chill run up and down her body as she turned to glance over at Xena. It didn't take the Bard long to realize that her friend was not lying on the furs. She sat up and reaching out she placed her hand on the furs. They felt warm. That meant her friend hadn't been gone long. She scrambled to her feet calling, "Xena! Xena! Where are you?"
"You keep up that yelling and you're going to have the rest of the Amazons dashing in here to see if you're all right." The cool voice radiated from the back of the cave.
Gabrielle's eyes lit up as she ran toward the sound saying, "Don't ever do that to me again, you scared me, I thought you had left." Gabrielle found herself running into the warrior who was walking back toward the chamber.
Xena reached out and caught the woman. Gabrielle stared up at her and said, "Before you say it, you're right, I got a little panicky. But you have to admit Xena, it is not unlike something you would do." Xena reached down and picked up a leather backpack and handed it to Gabrielle. Gabrielle asked, "What's this?"
Xena started walking toward the light of the chamber as she replied, "We may need some of the supplies. I'm sure the food will come in handy." Gabrielle followed her and when she entered the chamber she could see the warrior was carrying one on her back. Gabrielle set it down and said, "You've been a busy person for so early in the morning, I guess we have everything we will be needing to make the trip then?"
Xena removed the backpack, turned and looked at the Bard as she said, "Yeah, but you had better check and make sure I'm not forgetting anything."
Gabrielle's face beamed as she said, "You are trusting me to do that?"
Xena gazed into the woman's eyes as she smiled and answered, "I have trusted you with my life, a backpack isn't much after that."
Gabrielle seemed to be radiating as she asked, "Have you eaten breakfast yet?"
Xena shook her head and said, "I did check in on Melosa, she had a bad night but the fever seems to have broken. I think she's going to be all right. Before we leave she wants to see you."
"I've brought your breakfast, hope you two are hungry." They both looked up to see Eponin standing at the entrance to the chamber.
Gabrielle looked at Xena and said, "I'm starved."
Xena walked toward Eponin and said, "I find myself hungry, breakfast sounds good."
The woman and another Amazon carried in several dishes of food and chalices filled with drink.
Before they left Eponin said, "If there is anything else my Queen would like, just let me know, enjoy your meal."
Gabrielle stared at her and said, "That will be all Eponin, if we need anything else, we will let you know." After the two women had left, the warrior walked over to Gabrielle and wrapped her right arm around the Bard's neck, bringing her left fist down on Gabrielle's head she briskly rubbed it, then said, ""Don't want you to let this Queen thing go to your head."
Gabrielle laughed as she replied, "Oh I won't Xena, but just remember as an Amazon Queen all my subjects obey me and since you are here..." Xena raised an eyebrow and her eyes seemed to penetrate the very soul of the Bard, as she replied, "Does my Queen want me to leave the room also?"
Gabrielle looked down at the food and said, "No, I think we should eat." Xena smiled as she sat down and waited for the Bard to join her on the bed of furs.
Gabrielle never knew when Xena was joking with her, as her sense of humor sometimes was very dry. The two of them ate a hearty meal both knowing they would be traveling and would need their strength for the trip. When they had finished Gabrielle fell back on the soft fur and said, "I don't know about you, but I'm full."
Xena followed, landing next to Gabrielle as she said, "Me too, most I've eaten for awhile."
Gabrielle turned her head and their eyes met as they said in unison, "Since last night!"
The two laughed as Gabrielle said, "A person could get used to this. Couldn't you Xena?"
Xena smiled and answered, "Who needs all this? That's why I have you around." The woman barely got the words out of her mouth before she found herself attacked by the feisty blonde.
Gabrielle sat straddled on Xena's stomach as the woman said, "Oh, is that all I'm good for Xena?"
Xena smiled as she said, "I just ate, you're wrecking my stomach. Get off." Gabrielle reached down and grabbed the warriors hands, holding them she said, "Not until you give me an answer." Gabrielle knew that if the woman wanted to, she could send the Bard flying across the room but she also knew she wouldn't as she smiled down at Xena. Xena laughed and said, "All right, I could get used to this."
Gabrielle squeezed her legs in on Xena's sides and said, "Not the right answer." Within seconds the warrior turned the table on the Bard and Gabrielle found herself on the bottom with Xena straddling her. Gabrielle looked up at the devilish grin on Xena's face as she said, "Ok, so maybe I don't need you to answer."
Xena fell back on the furs as she said, "You know, you should stay here, I'll feel better..."
Gabrielle set up and stared at Xena as she pressed a finger to the warriors lips she said, "You know you want me to go, and I'm going. Right now, I'm going to go see Queen Melosa, lay back, relax and I'll be right back." Xena stared after the Bard as she ran from the room then she closed her eyes a smile crossing her face as she thought of the bards words, 'Oh is that all I'm good for Xena?'
As Gabrielle approached the entrance to Queen Melosa's chambers, two guards seeing her, stepped aside. Gabrielle smiled at them and continued into the room. The torches were lending an eerie glow across the Queen's form. As Gabrielle slowly approached, she could see that the Queen was awake as she knelt down by her.
Melosa turned her head managing a smile she said, "Xena told you I wanted to see you?"
Gabrielle nodded and said, "I would have come anyway, are you all right?"
The woman replied, "Thanks to Xena, I understand if the arrow hadn't of been removed..."
Gabrielle answered, "She is a wonder to behold, I'm glad she was able to help you. Is there something you want to tell me?"
Melosa reached out an grasped Gabrielle's right hand and said, "I know if something were to happen to me, that you will assume your rightful place as Queen of the Amazons. This sets my mind at ease. I don't know you as well as Xena does, but I do know you will not quit until the Amazons have been avenged and those that were taken are returned."
Gabrielle replied, "We will do all we can, you just need to focus on getting better."
The Queen said, "I want to give you something, it will help you with your search and keep you safe."
Gabrielle looked skeptical as she said, "I have Xena, don't worry everything will be all right."
Melosa said, "Go get Eponin." Gabrielle knew not to argue with the woman, who was having a hard time speaking, so she got to her feet and left the chamber. It didn't take her long to find Eponin and the two returned to the chamber.
Eponin walked over to the Queen and said, "Gabrielle said you wanted to see me?"
Queen Melosa asked her to bring her the chest and Eponin left the room. Gabrielle looked concerned as she said, "I'll be all right, you don't have to worry about me. If I had a choice of an Army or Xena protecting me, I would pick Xena. She cares about me and with an Army of people I don't know, it would cause me to wonder where their loyalty lies. There is no cause to be alarmed, we will find Ephiny and the others."
Eponin returned carrying a large chest. She walked over to the bed of furs and set the chest down. Melosa looked up at her and said, "Open it." Gabrielle watched the woman unlock the box and pull the lid back. Melosa looked at Gabrielle and said, "Look inside, you will see two belts, one large one and a smaller, remove the smaller." Gabrielle stared at the two belts that shone up at her. She was sure they were made of Gold and she said, "Gold belts, if you weren't so sick, I'd think someone was playing a joke on me."
Melosa answered, "You are looking at the Golden Girdle of the Amazon's, The Amazon Queen wears it. Many have tried to steal it but all have failed in their attempts. The smaller one, get it Gabrielle."
Gabrielle reached down and removed the belt and handed it to Melosa. Melosa looked at her and said, "You will wear it, it will protect you and if any harm should befall you I will know immediately. It contains the power of Apollo." Gabrielle stepped back and looked at Eponin whose face was stern and said, "A belt, no, that's ok, you keep it."
Melosa looked at Eponin and said, "She will wear the belt, see she does before she leaves." The woman passed out.
Gabrielle frowned and said, "Tell her I said thanks, but no thanks." As Gabrielle turned to leave she found Eponin standing in her way. The woman said, "Gabrielle, you must wear the belt or you will not leave."
She could see that this usually calm Amazon was very serious and she shrugged her shoulders and replied, "All right, don't get bent out of shape, I'll wear the belt." Eponin walked over and picked it up, then walked back to Gabrielle and placed the Golden Belt around the Bard's waist. Gabrielle looked down at it and said, "It's beautiful, but, I don't know how Xena is going to take this."
As she entered their chambers she could see the woman honing her dagger. Xena heard the bard enter and stood up. "Glad you are back, we need to get going." As Gabrielle neared her she looked up at the Bard and said, "What's this?"
Gabrielle looked sheepish and answered, "A Golden Belt."
"That's just great, I let you out of my sight for an instant and you come back wearing something that will catch the eye of every thief along the road. Take it off."
Gabrielle mumbled, "I didn't want to wear it anyway, Queen Melosa insisted and Eponin wouldn't let me leave without it." Gabrielle reached behind and unbuckled the belt, letting it fall to the floor. She reached down and picked it up saying, "The Queen told me it held the power of Apollo and would protect me. It is pretty don't you think?"
Xena reached out and took the belt, surveying it she said, "It's very pretty and if you were going to stay here I could see you wear it, where we will be going it will just cause trouble."
Gabrielle asked, "What are you going to do with it?"
Xena walked over and laid the belt down on the fur bed and said, "Before we start back down the path, I will tell Eponin there is something in here she needs to pick up. Let's go while we still have the light of day ahead of us." The two picked up their belongings and left the comfort of the cave. Gabrielle stood waiting for Xena to return as the woman walked over to talk to Eponin. She saw Eponin nod her head and knew that the Amazon, was not going to be happy when she found the belt left behind. Gabrielle hoped Xena knew what she was talking about.
Xena approached the Bard and smiled as she walked past her saying, "Come on, before Eponin sees what it is she needs to pick up."
Gabrielle ran to catch up to her and said, "She's not going to be to happy Xena, the belt might have come in handy." Xena stopped, turned and waited for the Bard to approach her then she said, "I hope I don't have to hear about the Belt this whole trip." Gabrielle shrugged her shoulders, smiled up at the woman and said, "What belt? Xena do you think that horse is still there?"
Xena laughed, "We'll soon find out, and I just may let you dig the hole." The warrior loved to see the look of dismay on her friend's face, and she had to admit that there were times she loved to tease the Bard.
It didn't take long for the two to make it back down the mountain. Gabrielle had to quicken her pace in order to keep the warrior in her sights. Reaching the bottom she sighed, "Thank the Gods, flat ground." Xena headed for the corral and Gabrielle yelled, "Xena, hold up, you're not really going to make me dig that hole are you?"
Xena was staring at the corral as she turned to see Gabrielle fast approaching, her face red from the pace she had been keeping. The woman said, "I was just joking, but the horse is gone, the Amazons have taken care of it. Let me get our horse saddled and we will be on our way. Give you a chance to rest a bit."
Gabrielle collapsed on a log as she watched the woman saddle the Palomino. The horse looked a lot like Argo and she knew the warrior was worried about her mighty steed. If anything bad were to befall the horse, Gabrielle hoped whoever caused it was ready to meet Hades. She found herself staring at the empty huts and her mind wandered back to the time Ephiny had treated Xena when she was wounded. Although she tried to stop the thoughts they were invading her mind. Did Xena know Ephiny before? What kind of a bond did these two women have? While Xena was recuperating, what did she and Ephiny do? Were there any quiet times? Why wouldn't Xena talk about it?
"You going to sleep all day?" The warm voice of the warrior echoed down as Gabrielle looked up. Xena was sitting on the Palomino gazing down at her, a smile on the warrior's face. Gabrielle's face flushed as she stood up, "No, I'm ready."
Xena reached down and said, "Take my hand, I want you up here with me." Gabrielle obliged as she settled in behind the warrior, she reached around and held onto Xena's waist as the woman urged the horse forward.
They had been riding for awhile when Xena called back, "By the way, want to tell me what had you so deep in thought back there?"
Gabrielle replied, "Nothing in particular, just looking at the devastation of the village."
Xena called back, "Never knew devastation could bring such color to your face."
Gabrielle laid her head against the warrior's back and said, "You're too observant Xena, maybe one day I'll tell you." The horse had carried them most of the day and Xena reined it to a stop as she said, "Let's walk a bit, give us all a breather. We will stop at the creek up ahead."
Gabrielle slid off the horse and said, "Can't hurt to walk, need to get my legs back to solid ground anyway." They had been walking for quite a distance when Xena said, "There, the creek, let's stop. It will be getting dark soon and we could all stand to rest." Gabrielle set her things down and walked over to help the woman, with the gear she was removing, from the horse's back and said, "Xena, I was thinking, could I name the horse?"
Xena laid the saddle down and said, "Name the horse? I don't know. Why not. What do you have in mind?"
Gabrielle reached out and patted the horse and answered, "Savior."
Xena frowned at her and said, "Savior? What kind of a name is that for a horse?"
The Bard stepped back and said, "Well, he did carry you and me from danger, he has been there for us. Why, what would you name him?"
Xena had been watching her friend closely and she replied, "Savior sounds fine, just be sure and let the horse, know you penned the name on it."
Gabrielle replied, "Good, now that, that's settled I'll go get some firewood and start a fire." Xena watched her friend walk off and said, "Be careful." Gabrielle called back, "Well, you could come with me." The warrior thought for a minute, smiled and ran after her.
That evening, the two sat by the campfire. Gabrielle watched Xena, poking at the embers with a long stick. The smoke from the campfire, spiraling into the air, then changing directions caused by the gentle breeze, came floating toward her. She didn't move as it passed over her like a ghost in the night. After the smoke passed, she was hit with a fragrance she knew so well, and she said, "It has been a long day, I think I will turn in." Xena looked up and replied, "I'll join you in a bit. I have a few things I need to do."
Gabrielle turned on her left side and whispered, "Hyacinth and Cinnamon, I knew I would eventually figure out the combination. It's heavenly." Xena called over, "What are you mumbling about?"
The Bard softly replied, "Nothing."
Xena gazed at Gabrielle and she knew, from the woman's breathing, she was fast asleep. She walked over to the horse and bridled it. Xena led it from the camp and when she approached the thick brush of the forest, she whispered in the horse's left ear, "Well, Savior, let's go do some spying." The lone rider and the powerful Palomino, journeyed through the forest like a shadow passing the moon. It wasn't long, before she reined the horse to a stop outside the city of Athens.
Xena sat taking in the vastness of the city, her eyes seeming to search for something, then she pulled her feet in on the horse and said, "Let's go boy, you can rest in a bit."
Slowly they made it down the plateau and onto open ground. Before reaching the gates to the city she stopped the horse and jumped down. Taking the reins in her hand she started walking toward the gate, a swagger in her step. Savior walked by her side as if he had always been there. The horse raised its head, proud to be walking by the woman. A man stepped out of the shadows and said, "Halt, who goes there?"
Xena stopped and said, "Just a traveler, looking for a place to bed my horse and a place to rest for the night."
The man walked up to her and said, "Well you look harmless enough, I don't see any weapons. There is a stable at the end of the square and "The Bilge" about twenty paces to your left may have a room. " Xena thanked the man and continued to walk toward the end of the square.
The sound of the horse's hoofs striking the packed dirt of the street along with her own foot steps gave the woman an uneasy feeling. Seeing a corral, of sorts, up ahead she assumed that she had reached the stable. Xena tied the reins to the corral fence and started walking toward the shoddy building.
Reaching the front, she grabbed the handle pulling the large wooden door open. The sound of the creaking as it moved brought a young lad hurrying toward her. Xena looked at him and asked, "I need to leave my horse here for a bit, can you take him?"
The boy nodded and said, "It will cost you five dinars." Xena handed him the money and said, "It's the Palomino tied to your corral fence. I'll be back to get him." He nodded and walked out to get the horse as Xena turned and walked back toward the main gate. She started to take the twenty paces and when she got to ten she could smell the heavy aroma of grog and heard the boisterous sounds of men laughing and carousing. She knew she was probably at a Tavern.
Approaching the doorway she hesitated, then pushed it open and walked in. Although it was dark inside, there were a few torches burning, sending some light into the room. Xena closed her eyes then opened them again, she glanced around the room and could see it was full of men, most of them looked like they had just come in from the Sea.
This was not uncommon since Athens, sets on the edge of the Sea. It was one of the biggest Seaports in the area. People not only traveled there on land but also from the Sea. She walked past several tables of drunken men and approached the bar.
A man looked up at her and said, "This is no place for a lady."
Xena smiled and said, "I'll have a tankard of ale." He snorted then brought a tankard and set it down in front of her and said, "You're new here aren't you?"
Xena took a long swallow then said, "What's it to you?"
He said, "These boys been out to Sea a long time, thought maybe you might like to make a little spending money."
Xena looked around the room and said, "Sorry mate, it's not a chore I would want. Tell me has anyone been in here talking about selling slaves?"
He nodded and said, "More than half this town consists of slaves, what kind you looking for? You sure don't look like a buyer to me. Or, are you a Slaver?"
Xena leaned back against the bar, her elbows resting on it and said, "Not a Slaver, I'm asking for my family. We are looking for a few women with fire and energy to help out at our place."
He replied, "I can get you several of the women you see in here for the right price."
Xena thought for a minute and said, "Don't look like they would last long, I was thinking more like an Amazon. There's always more money too be made, when things are difficult if you know what I mean."
He laughed and said, "Well your right about that, they will certainly bring in the customers if that is what you have in mind. Tell me where is your place?"
Xena took a drink and said, "It's near Amphipolis, the name doesn't make any difference, It's the money isn't it? And I have money. Now tell me about the Amazon's."
He ran his tongue over his lips greedily and said, "I can send word."
"You, Xena Warrior Princess!" A loud voice bellowed out from the entrance. Xena stood erect as the man that had been talking to her muttered, "Xena... I didn't' know who she was." He ran toward the man walking into the room. The soldier stared at him then brushed him aside and said, "Surrender, you are under arrest!"
Xena grasped the tankard as she started walking toward the man. Staring at him she said, "Under arrest, for what? Drinking in a tavern?"
Several men ran in the entrance behind him, their swords were drawn. The man glanced at Xena and said, "They're remarkable, your eyes.... You are under arrest for horse stealing."
Xena scoffed, "Horse stealing, what are you talking about?"
He said, "The horse you stabled belongs to Santos, can you prove it's yours?"
Xena glanced around and took a sip of the ale. In an instant, she reached up and grabbed the torch that was hanging on the wall. She blew, and as the ale met the flame, it roared into the man's face. Xena struck out at the three men, who had their swords drawn, knocking them from their hands, as her feet struck out sending the men to the floor. She bend down and put the pinch on one of them and said, "I've just cut off..." He gasped and said, "I've heard it before, what do you want to know?"
Xena whispered, "The Amazon's, where has Santos taken them?" Before the man could answer Xena felt a blow to the back of her head and fell forward. Santos reached down and turned her over as he said, "Well, well, we meet again Xena. We have things to talk about. Take her to the compound."
Continued in Chapter Four