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A Past Remembered
By Anita Louise
Copyright 1997 LoisAnne@concentric.net
Xena had fallen asleep as soon as her head touched the bed. Tired as she was, she kept waking. After a considerable length of time she set up on the bed muttering, "It's that Amazon, she keeps invading my dreams. Maybe something is wrong." She got up, glanced down at her wrinkled clothes and said, "Oh well, no one is going to see me anyway." Walking carefully to the door she opened it, listening for any sounds. Sure everything was all right, she softly crept down the stairs and over to the corral. The moon was setting high in the sky. It illuminated the area with enough light, that she had no trouble saddling the horse. Then she walked it from the corral to the end of town. The sound of a dog barking could be heard in the distance. Other than that she seemed to be the only person out on this night.
Stopping she took the reins and laid them over the horse's head and leaped into the saddle. As she pulled her legs in on the animal, it raised its head and galloped up the road. Reaching the fork to the meadow, she reined the animal in and walked it slowly down the path. There were many large rocks jagging along the edge, and a sure drop if one wasn't cautious. In the daylight she never thought of this, but now she was being very careful. Xena was thankful for the full moon that night, it helped her to find her way. When the horse trod into the tall grass, Xena sighed, "Thank the Gods, it's not far now." She urged the horse on at a faster speed.
Arriving at the cave, she stopped the horse and jumped down. It didn't take her long to move the branches and lead the animal into the cave. She could see the fire she had stoked had died down. Leading the horse over to a corner of the cavern, she proceeded to remove the bridle and saddle. She walked further into the cavern and came back with new pieces of kindling and wood. It didn't take her long to get the fire going. When she had finished, she walked over to the bed and knelt down. Xena reached out and touched the woman's neck with her right hand. The skin was cool and damp. There was a heartbeat and she breathed a sigh of relief, the Amazon was still alive. Before she could move her hand the woman reached up and grasped it saying, "You've come back, I've missed you so much. Eponin where have you been?"
Xena whispered, "It's not Eponin, my name's Xena." She tried to pull her hand away but the woman wouldn't let go. So she sat down on the ground and leaned her head against the bed. The Amazon was incoherent most of the night. She rambled off and on, Xena couldn't make any sense out of what she said, except for the word, Eponin. It seemed she must have had a good friend by that name. Staring at the woman, she wondered where Eponin was at that moment. Xena went to sleep sitting on the ground with her head resting against the bed. The Amazon had developed a death grip on her hand, so she shrugged her shoulders and relaxed.
"By the Gods, you are lovely." The words filtered through Xena's dream, as she smiled and nestled her head on the floor. "Have I died and gone to the Elysian Fields?" Xena heard the words again, only this time they were stronger than before. She opened her eyes to stare directly into the light brown ones that were shining down on her. Setting up she shook her head and said, "You're conscious, are you all right?"
The woman groaned, "No, I hurt in places I never even knew could. How did I get here?"
Xena reached out and touched her forehead answering, "I brought you, don't you remember?" The woman went to move and cried out in pain. Xena got to her knees and said, "It's too soon to try to move, it was only last night I took the arrow out. You need to be still so your body can mend." The woman stared at her and said, "It's your fault you know."
Xena was taken aback at these words and she asked, "What's my fault?"
"I wouldn't be in this mess if I hadn't seen you that day in the meadow. You were like a shining star drawing me nearer and nearer." Xena sat back down and gazed at this woman. She had never noticed before but the Amazon was striking, her blond hair glimmered like gold and she had the lightest brown eyes, she had ever seen. She had never seen an Amazon before.
"Are you all right?" The woman's words rang out at Xena. She smiled and said, "I'm sorry, I was . . . staring at you. How did you get here from your village?" The Amazon didn't answer and she reached over and touched the side of her face, "Are you all right?"
Still no answer, Xena's heart seemed to leap into her throat. She got to her knees and felt for a sign of life, it was there but faint. Xena was beside herself now. What was she thinking, the woman had been seriously injured and she was trying to make ordinary conversation.
After touching her forehead, Xena decided to go get more wood and put on the embers of the fire she had stoked that night. When she set the last few pieces down she walked back over to the bed and set down by it. The woman's face was perspiring heavily, her breathing labored. Xena began to hum, it was a tune her mother used to hum to her when she was ill. She sat by the woman all that day, never even giving a thought to herself or the trouble she was in at home. Her mother would be so furious, and this woman didn't want anyone to know she was there. She definitely had put herself in a no win situation.
Toris walked into the Tavern and said, "Have you seen Xena?" His brother Lycius, looked up from his breakfast and said, "No, not even last night, I must have covered most of the valley." Cyrene walked in from the kitchen and said, "She did come home late last night, I had her work in the Tavern. I did tell her I wanted to talk to her this morning, but she hasn't come down yet."
Toris looked at his mother and said, "Then she must be gone again, cause I knocked on her door and she didn't answer."
Lycius replied, "Probably just sleeping in."
Torrid shook his head and said, "No way, not as loud as I knocked. She has either left or is dead."
Cyrene's face looked concerned and she said, "I'll go check on her." She hurried up the stairs, knocking several times on the door. When no one answered, she opened it and walked in. Glancing around she could see that the bed had not been turned down, although it did look ruffled. Turning to leave, she spotted something under the bed. Walking over to the bed, she dropped to her knees, and reached under to bring a bundle out. The minute she saw the blood, the woman screamed. Toris and Lycius bounded up the stairs, in an instant they were standing by their mother. Toris asked, "What is wrong mother?"
She pointed to the clothes and said, "I have made a grave mistake, your sister is in trouble. You must find her."
They looked at one another and said, "It will be all right, we will go right now." The two brothers quickly made it to the corral and saddled their horses and headed for the meadows. Toris called back to Lycius, "She loves to go there, I suggest we start at the meadows and work our way upland." When they reached the high grassy land the two split up, agreeing to meet back at the fork in the path later that day.
Xena first heard the sound of footsteps, and jumped to her feet prepared for anything. "Xena, are you in here?" It was the voice of her brother Lycius. Before long he walked into view, heading toward her with a questioning look on his face. Xena approached him and said, "Swear, you won't tell anyone."
He shook his head and said, "Do you know how worried Mother is not to mention Toris and myself. What in Gods name are you doing in this cave?"
Xena answered, "Sit down and I'll tell you."
He glanced past her and said, "What in Hades is this?" He brushed past his sister and walked over to the bed. Turning back to look at her, he asked, "Who is this? You have a lot of explaining to do Sister."
Xena walked over to him and said, "I don't know her name, but she needed my help. Come sit with me and I'll tell you." He followed her and after they sat down she began to fill him in on the past few days, when she was finished he said, "Thank the Gods you were there, they would have killed her. Sister you still amaze me. You actually removed an arrow?"
She nodded her head and said, "I hadn't any choice, she asked me not to tell anyone. She is an Amazon and terrified of the people here. I promised her I wouldn't say anything, and you have to help me keep that promise."
He got to his feet and said, "What about Toris and Mother, they will be worried and then mad. You have to tell them. If you don't, Mother may punish you till you are old an decrepit."
Xena looked at him and asked, "Can you promise me that nothing will happen to her if they know?"
He shook his head and said, "Well, it seems you have gone and gotten yourself in a mess again. But then I would think less of you if you hadn't. I won't tell anyone, so do you need anything for her, for the wound?"
Xena answered, "The next few days will tell the tale, You might say a few prayers to Apollo for her and to Hestia for us." He smiled, bent down and kissed her on the forehead then said, "I'm going, I'll try to come up with some story, the bad thing is Mother found the bloody clothing under your bed."
She groaned, "I thought I could get rid of it before anyone found it. You're smart, think of a good story. Did you want to take a look at the wound?"
He shook his head and said, "No need, I know what you can do. Take care of yourself." Xena watched him leave, then walked back over to the bed. She stood, staring at this Amazon, who even knew about her throwing the rock and killing the rabbit. How long had she been spying on her and why? As these questions invaded her thoughts, she decided to spend the rest of the night in the cave.
"Got to move."
Xena raised her head as the sound floated across the cave. She had been drifting off and on throughout the night. Constantly waking to check on the woman. Toward morning Morpheus, gained control and she had drifted into a restless sleep. Fully awake now she rubbed her eyes, looking across at the moving form on the bed. Xena was on her feet in an instant, running to the Amazon's aide. She reached out and placed a hand on Ephiny's left shoulder and said, "Don't, you are too weak and you might start bleeding again."
Ephiny replied, "Then you tell me how I take care of . . . "
Xena smiled, dropped to her knees and said, "I'll help." Ephiny's eyes seemed to shoot fire as she said, "I don't think so, an Amazon would never . . . " Xena reached out and touched the woman's forehead and said, "You don't have a choice. Let's see if you can sit up." Xena reached out to help her, as Ephiny cried, "Back, my head is spinning and I feel sick to my stomach." Xena eased her down on the bed and said, "You have to get used to being up. How are you feeling now?"
Ephiny managed a smile and said, "My head is better."
"Good, let's try again. I'm going to put my right arm around you and help you. Now, trust me, I am going to pick you up."
Ephiny's eyes widened as she said, "No, it's too much, I can walk."
Xena replied, "Trust me, I have been known to have many skills. I've carried you from the meadow to my horse so this short walk is nothing. Lean on me, I promise I won't drop you."
Ephiny gazed at Xena, and at that moment, she felt a peacefulness within and knew this woman could do what she had said. She was amazed at the way Xena lifted her off the bed and carried her from the cave. Walking from the cave, Xena carried her to an area she had previously prepared.
A chirping bird attracted the Amazon's attention as she said, "It's so beautiful out here, can we stay for a few minutes?"
Xena nodded and replied, "Yeah, I never get over the beauty and sounds." She walked over to a large tree, its branches, spread out like an umbrella. She knew it would provide them with plenty of shade. Setting Ephiny carefully down she said, "Don't lean back yet." Xena stepped behind her, dropping to her knees, she sat back against the tree. Spreading her legs, she reached out placing her hands around the woman's waist, pulled her back and said, "Now, lean on me, I'm a lot softer than the tree."
Ephiny's injury was paining her, but this woman's gentle touch and words seemed to made the aching fade. Laying her head back, she felt the warmth of Xena's skin and started to move. Xena wrapped her arms around the woman's waist and said, "It's all right, relax, the air will do you good. Xena reached out and brushed several strands of golden hair back off Ephiny's forehead and said, "You never have told me what you were doing in the meadow."
Ephiny began to tremble and Xena asked, "Are you cold?" She was happy the woman couldn't see the deepening color her face was becoming as she muttered, "No, I just felt a chill for a minute. I'm fine." Ephiny told Xena about the village and the hunt that she had been on. When she finished telling her about the day she saw Xena and Toris in the meadow she said, "I had to come back, I had to see if you were real."
Xena looked away and said, "You make me sound like something special, I'm merely a peasant girl."
They had been there for awhile when Xena said, "We had better get back, I don't want to take a chance and have someone see us. Explaining you, might be difficult." There wasn't any answer as Xena whispered in the woman's ear, "Wake up, we have to go in."
Slowly opening her eyes Ephiny mumbled, "Why?"
Xena answered, "Someone might come by, besides you need to lie down and rest."
Ephiny said, "I am rested." Xena had decided they should get back to the safety of the cave and she said, "Lean forward, I have to get up." It didn't take her long to get to her feet and she said, "Feel like trying to walk?" The Amazon nodded, as she helped her to her feet. Holding the woman close she said, "We'll take it slow, lean on me." They hadn't walked far when Ephiny fell, Xena held onto the woman, catching her fall and carried her.
Laying Ephiny down on the bed she smiled saying, "Sleep, it's no wonder you are weak, you are probably hungry. Mother is right when she tells me, 'Xena you would lose your head if it wasn't attached.' She had to admit there were times when she let things escape to the back of her mind. Knowing she was not a cook, Xena decided to go back home and see if she could find something to bring back. She was hungry and knew that the Amazon had to be.
Xena led the horse from the cave, turning to look back at the sleeping form of the woman. She felt a chill travel her body, and jumped on the horse. Her thoughts wandered back to the woman when she had said, 'I just felt a chill for a minute.'
Urging the horse across the meadow Xena thought, had the two of them caught some kind of illness?
Continued in Chapter Eight