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A Past Remembered
By Anita Louise
Copyright 1997 LoisAnne@concentric.net
The woman shivered as she opened her eyes. Immediately she knew something was wrong. Xena was lying on the bed by herself. When she had drifted off to sleep, Ephiny had been with her. She reached for her friend but she was gone. Sitting up in bed Xena frantically looked around the cave and called, "Ephiny!"
There was no answer as she jumped to her feet, hugging the blanket around her she walked over to the dying embers of the campfire. Ephiny's clothes were gone. Xena called her name again, then dashed outside frantically yelling for the woman. When there wasn't any answer she turned and walked back into the cave. As she dressed she had a sinking feeling in her stomach, something had happened to Ephiny.
The woman stayed near the cave for weeks, going out for periods of time to hunt for her friend. As the weather changed, it grew colder. Xena had to finally admit that Ephiny was not coming back. She was heartbroken. Finally she packed her things and rode the horse back to Amphipolis. She would stop at the Tavern and tell her family good-by, then she would increase her search further for Ephiny.
Xena rode up to the Tavern, dismounted and tied the horse to a hitching post, reaching up she caressed the animals right ear then turned and walked toward the front of the building. Reaching out to open the door she took in a deep breath then entered. "Xena! You've come back, she has been asking about you." Xena glanced in the direction of the voice and said, "Toris, who has been asking about me?"
He walked over to her and said, "I thought you had heard, mother has been sick."
Xena shook her head and said, "No, I didn't know. Will she be all right?"
He answered, "We don't know, she started to go down hill after you left and the last two weeks she has been in bed. Go see her Xena."
She shook her head and replied, "She doesn't want to see me, I could make things worse." Lycius stepped into the room, smiling as he saw his sister he hurried over to her. Reached out hugged her and said, "I have missed you little sister. You must stay."
Xena replied, "I don't think mother would like it, she thinks..."
He interrupted her and said, "I told her the truth, she regrets what happened. Try to find it in you to go up and see her."
Xena shrugged her shoulders and answered, "I came back to tell you all good-bye, so I might as well get it over." She turned and left the room. Climbing the stairs to her mother's room she passed the door to her room. Thoughts were flowing in and out of her mind as she approached the door to her mothers room. She hesitated then knocked and opened the door stepping into the darkened room
Xena was used to seeing her mother as a tower of strength but the frail figure that lay in the bed was a shell of the woman she remembered. She slowly walked over to the bed and said, "Mother." The woman stirred and opened her eyes, the minute she saw Xena, her eyes seemed to light up as she said, "Xena! Daughter, can you ever forgive me?"
Xena reached down and held the woman's right hand as she replied, "Nothing to forgive mother, I should have told you. You have to be all right."
Cyrene said, "You are home now, everything will be." Xena replied, "Actually mother, I have come to tell you all good-bye, there is something I must do."
Her mother began to cry as she pleaded, "I need you, please, don't run away again, forgive a mother who just wanted the best for you." Xena felt torn but as she looked into this woman's face she knew she could not leave, not yet.
As the time passed, her mother recuperated with Xena's constant vigil. She soon realized that the time had passed to find Ephiny.
Gabrielle woke to the sounds of birds singing in the trees and she slowly sat up saying, "Another day Xena, I'm starved." She glanced around the camp but couldn't see her friend, she rose to her feet and called, "Xena! This is not funny, where are you?" There wasn't any answer and she went to find the horse. It was gone. She shook her head and said, "Probably out looking for breakfast, well I hope she returns soon, I am hungry."
Gabrielle had picked up the camp and was sitting eating a hard piece of cheese that she found in a saddle bag. She heard the crack as she jumped to her feet grabbing her staff she stood prepared and called out, "Whoever you are, show yourself." As the sound neared she was relieved when she spied Eponin step out of the foliage.
"Eponin, what are you doing here?"
The woman walked up to her cautiously, and glancing around she said, "Queen Melosa sent me. You forgot your belt. I have brought it to you." Gabrielle walked over to a tree stump and sat down. She looked at Eponin and said, "Xena told me it would cause trouble. She insisted I leave it behind."
Eponin walked over to her and said, "Well, I've brought it and you are to wear it, if I have to put it on for you."
"That won't be necessary, I like it. Why did she send you?"
The woman dropped to the ground, crossing her legs she said, "I volunteered, I want to help you and Xena find Ephiny and the others."
Gabrielle stared at her and asked, "Tell me, how well do you know Ephiny?"
She smiled and replied, "Grew up together, I guess more than anybody except . . . "
Gabrielle cut in as she asked, "Xena?"
The woman nodded her head and said, "I, don't know, I guess they know one another fairly well. What are you trying to eat?" Gabrielle offered her some of the cheese and the woman shook her head saying, "You've got to be kidding, is that all you've got?"
Gabrielle replied, "Xena always does the hunting, I do the cooking." The woman looked around the camp and asked, "Where is she?"
Gabrielle shook her head and said, "Woke up and she wasn't here, her horse is gone. I thought she had gone to get something to eat but she hasn't returned, so I have no idea where she is."
Eponin rose to feet and said, "I have some dried meat in my leather bag, beats that." She walked over and brought the bag back. She handed Gabrielle some of the meat and said, "Eat, you will need your strength, if Xena isn't back by the time we are finished, we will go look for her."
Xena hadn't returned and Eponin had handed the golden belt to Gabrielle saying, "Put it on, maybe it can help us find out where the others are."
After Gabrielle put the belt on she asked, "How is this going to give us the information?
The woman answered, "Touch it and ask." Trying to keep back a grin Gabrielle said, "Well at one time I would have laughed at the thought but after our trip to Mount Olympus, anything is possible." She placed her left hand on the belt and asked, "Where are Ephiny and the others?"
"You've but to look."
The voice was pleasing and the two women looked at one another and in unison asked, "Look where?"
An image appeared in front of them, it was an image of Ephiny and Xena!
Gabrielle looked shocked and Eponin cried out, "Ask where they are!" After she had asked they saw the city, it was Athens. As the vision faded, Eponin said, "Guess we know why Xena hasn't returned."
Gabrielle looked like she was going to explode as she said, "I can't believe it, she went without me!"
Eponin replied, "Well, one thing is for sure, they need help. If you are ready, let's go."
Gabrielle looked at her and said, "I'm ready."
The two women were quiet as they walked, each seeming to be deep in thought. Nearing a stream, Eponin suggested they stop and rest. Gabrielle walked back where the woman stood and said, "Are you tired?"
She answered, "Some, remember I came from the Amazon Village. A rest will do us both good as we have been pushing ourselves. We should reach the outskirts of Athens soon.
Gabrielle approached her and said, "Once we get in, how are we going to find them?"
Eponin replied, "Looked like they were in some sort of jail. Shouldn't be to difficult." Gabrielle walked over to the water, dropped to her knees and took a drink. Splashing water on her face she said, "It's not bad." She got up and walked over to where Eponin was sitting, honing a knife. She set down and said, "You seem so sure of yourself, don't you ever have any doubts?"
The woman stopped what she was doing and said, "All the time. It's not being so sure of yourself, it's more like just do it and pray for the best."
Gabrielle had leaned back against a large rock as she sighed, "I don't understand it, why did Xena do this to me?"
Eponin replied, "Maybe you shouldn't think about it so much, I'm sure Xena had her reasons."
Gabrielle replied, "How can you be so nonchalant, they are in trouble."
The woman stared at her and answered, "Xena knew it wouldn't be easy, that's probably why she left you behind. Get over it, you will be no help to me if you go in there angry."
Gabrielle stood up and said, "Well, I'm going to take a walk, when you get ready, follow the trail."
Eponin looked at her and said, "What trail?"
"I thought all Amazons had this instinct for hunting and being able to trail."
Eponin smiled and said, "Oh I can trail you but why?"
Gabrielle walked up to her and said, "Because I can't just sit here, I have to go do something."
Eponin replied, "Look at you. You keep up this insistence and all you are going to do is get yourself caught or worse."
"Yeah, do you have a better idea?"
Eponin reached out and grabbed Gabrielle's right hand as she said, "Come back down here with me. We need to wait till nightfall to enter Athens. The less that see us the better, I have always found that the night hides many things. Gabrielle set back down as she said, "I can't help it..."
Eponin replied, "If it will make you feel any better, I am not happy that Xena and Ephiny are together, regardless of the place."
The Bard turned her head and stared at the woman, then she said, "You don't like it either. My feelings have been right, there is something between the two of them."
Eponin shook her head and said, "All I know is neither one of them should be there."
Gabrielle replied, "You can try all you will, I know something is there, if you know anything, tell me."
Eponin replied, "It's not my place, Xena will tell you when she feels the time is right and if she never mentions it, just accept it. She is with you now, isn't she?"
Gabrielle's eyes seemed to spit fire as she said, "She's with me now, are you telling me that Xena and Ephiny have . . . "
"I didn't say that, you just keep trying to put words into my mouth."
Gabrielle was back on her feet as she said, "Well you can sit there till Hades flies by in his chariot, me, I'm going to Athens." She glared at the woman and said, "Are you coming!"
The woman reached out and grabbed the Bard by her shoulder as she said, "We've gone as far as we can for now. You can see the entrance to Athens from here. We will watch for now and when it gets dark, we will go down. Gabrielle turned and walked past the woman, she was feeling confused and very tired. After what had recently happened to them, she was surprised she was feeling such doubt. "I saw a stream back there, I'm going to go clean up, get some of this road dirt off. If you need me, that's where I'll be, not that you'll need me, seems no one does." Eponin watched the woman walk away, holding her head down and distraught. The woman wished she could ease the Bard's mind, but she knew that she would be the last person to do it. She remembered the day that Ephiny returned to the Amazon Village.
The people had just finished harvesting their crops. They were celebrating a good harvest, when the lone woman walked into the square. The music stopped as everyone turned to see who was approaching. Low gasps escaped them as they stared in awe, "Ephiny, you're alive!"
She looked pale and drawn, and as she neared them she stopped, staring into the faces, faces she hadn't seen in a long time. Slowly the women approached her and their shock turned to cries of joy. Two of them picked her up and carried her to their Queen. Queen Mailen sat regally, she seemed to be in shock as she stared at the woman.
Setting Ephiny down on the ground, she gazed into the Queen's eyes, then fell to her knees, bowing her head. Queen Mailen said, "Rise, Ephiny, it is good to see you again my child." A loud commotion was taking place behind her as Ephiny turned to see what was going on. She froze when her eyes met the gaze of her friend. Eponin brushed past the last woman and threw her arms around Ephiny as she cried, "It is true, you have come back! Where have you been I missed you."
Ephiny returned the embrace then pulled back staring into her friend's green eyes and said, "Eponin, you missed me?"
The woman's eyes began to tear as she said, "Miss you, I was beside myself with worry. I looked everywhere for you. Queen Mailen sent parties out looking for you, it was as if you vanished from the face of the land. What happened to you?"
"It's a long story."
Eponin replied, "I have all the time in the world."
Queen Mailen said, " Ephiny, come here my child." Ephiny walked away from Eponin, approaching the Queen.
Queen Mailen said, "We all want to know what has happened to you. Please, come up here and tell everyone." Ephiny filled them all in on what had taken place. When she finished she noticed Eponin was missing from the crowd. Queen Mailen smiled and replied, "We owe Ephiny's life to this village woman. From this day on, the name of Xena, a true Warrior in the Amazon custom, will be given safe passage across our lands and anything she desires. Be it known, we will not forget her kindness and the name of Xena will be spoken in reverence, now Ephiny, you must go and see Tala."
The Amazons cheered, as she turned and walked toward home.
"Hello Tala." The soft voice drifted to the woman who was busily working at the Hearth. The voice sounded familiar but she knew it couldn't be. She turned to see Ephiny approaching her as she gasped, "Ephiny, it can't be!" Ephiny reached out and hugged the woman as she said, "It's me, I've come home."
Tala was weak as she said, "Got to sit down." Ephiny helped her to a chair, and then set down. She stared into the woman's face. It showed signs of aging, there were lines on her face that weren't there when she had left. "Tala, are you all right?" The woman clasped her hands together and said, "I prayed for your soul."
Ephiny asked, "My soul? What are you talking about?"
Tala continued, "When you didn't come back from the hunt, and there was no trace of you, we gave you up for dead. We have been in mourning. Last I saw you, you were growing into womanhood. I look at you now, you are not the same person that left here on that day. Your thoughts were on the hunt, then, it was a game. You have grown up, what has happened to you?"
Continued in Chapter Ten