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"I Had Forgotten"
By: My Warrior
The usual disclaimers apply. The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, Cyrene, Argo, etc. are the sole property of Universal and this story in no way means to infringe on any copyrights. The story itself is the sole property of the author and may not be reproduced in any manner without my permission. This story may not be used for any type of profit. It's a work of fan fiction, and it's just for fun. Hope you enjoy!
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"If there were no words, no way to speak...I would still hear you.."
It is a beautiful day today, but I doubt my daughter has noticed. The sun is high, the sound of laughter in the village echoes all around me, but I can do nothing to pull her from the duty she has assigned herself. She sits on the edge of a healerís pallet, brought in and set up in a secluded back room of my tavern especially for the bard that rests on it. The bard is motionless except for the sound of shallow, labored breathing, and the warrior watches her as if each breath will be her last. But...perhaps it will be. I watch my child, the warlord turned hero, the dark turned light, or at least..a paler shade of gray. In most places she reveals nothing, the warrior mask firmly in place. It is often a technique of survival, sometimes merely habit. But in here, her emotions are naked and I can see every crease, every frown every tear that threatens to fall from the proud face. Everything that can be done for the sweet girl that rests there has been accomplished, and yet the warrior will not leave her side for a moment. Perhaps she fears that if she goes, the bard will slip away in her absence. The warrior brushes an errant lock of hair off the bardís face, letting her fingers linger there a moment before she brings them down to entwine with those of her friend. "Friend" sounds ridiculous even as it forms in my mind, for I know there is no word for their bond, it transcends all labels.
The warrior looks up for a moment and notices me, and for a fraction of a second there is a hint of a smile. The eyes soften, the warrior retreats and the child enters in her place. I smile back. I had forgotten what a beautiful smile my child has. It has been so long since Iíve seen it. I wish I could absorb her pain. I wish I could turn back time and undo the events that have lead us to this moment. It cannot be done.
I hear the bard gasp, and the tall form leans over her and stays riveted to the spot until the breathing returns to normal. Warrior releases a breath she didnít know she had been holding, and settles back down. Although two weeks have already passed, I am unable to forget what transpired in the forest behind the inn. The images have not changed in vividness or clarity, and sometimes I see them at night in my dreams.
It had been a beautiful day then, too. The bard was restless as she waited for the warrior to finish up a few small chores around the stables. She decided to go for a walk, completely unaware that her every move was being monitored from the trees.
Krykus could not believe his good fortune. For five days he and his men had lurked in the forest behind the inn, keenly observing the warrior and the bard as they moved about. By the third day the men had grown restless and voiced their desire to simply surround the inn and take their chances with the warrior. But Krykus would have none of that. He had waited too long, done too much careful planning to screw up what may be his only shot at revenge. No, they would wait.
The bard rounded the inn and followed a dirt path that wound around a few small scrub trees before she took the readily marked trail into the woods. The trail snaked its way through a thick grove of pines before curving sharply towards the river. Halfway to the waterís edge four men jumped from the trees and circled her like a pack of wild beasts. Krykus watched as the small woman leveled two of his men with her staff before the third and fourth brought her to her knees. Even completely subdued, the bard continued to struggle and spat out a few choice phrases as Krykus emerged from behind a stand of trees.
"Krykus!" Gabrielle shouted as he approached her, recognition and loathing evident in her gaze. "What in the godís names do you think youíre doing?"
"Well, hello, Gabrielle, " Krykus replied. An evil grin rolled from his lips as he watched her struggle against the two men still holding her. "Long time, no see."
"Not long enough," the bard said, fuming. "When Xena gets wind of this, youíre gonna wish.." She was cut short by a hearty laugh from the warlord.
"No my dear, this time youíve got it all wrong. See, when Xena finds out Iím holding her precious little pal, Iím gonna wish I had thought of this a long time ago. You see, I owe Xena a little bit of pain and personal anguish. And sheís gonna get it."
Gabrielle laughed. "Ha! Come now, Krykus, itís about time for a little reality check. But hey-maybe sheíll agree to fight your worthless hide with one hand tied behind her back. You know, just to give you a sporting chance."
The man on Gabrielleís left slapped her hard across the face, splitting her bottom lip. The bard shook her head and glared at the warlord. "Coward!" she yelled. "Canít even do your own dirty work, huh?"
"Normally, my dear, that remark would have earned you a fair lot worse than that slap. However, Iím in a good mood today so I think Iíll just overlook it. Now, we simply must get back to the inn. Iím sure Xena will be so very happy to see us." Krykus laughed wholeheartedly and led the way down the narrow path. Twenty yards from the inn, he stopped abruptly. Still struggling against her captors, the bard began to yell.
One of the men reached out a hand to silence her, but Krykus waved it off.
"Donít worry boys", he said. "Let her yell. He chuckled as Xena, flanked closely by Cyrene , burst into the clearing. She stopped short a few feet from the warlord, eyes flashing. She swung her sword in front of her body, the metal blade whistling dangerously in the morning air.
"Krykus," she said, drawing out his name, her words dripping with anger. She looked at Gabrielle, and for a moment concern flashed across her face before the mask went back up.
"Canít find someone your own size to fight, I see." She taunted. "However, from the looks of two of your men, it appears the bard got in a few good licks of her own." Xena looked over at Gabrielle, silent approval written on her face. The bard never took her eyes off the warrior, but she acknowledged the compliment with a barely discernable grin.
Krykus merely sighed. "Yes, well...she did put up a fuss about being captured." He folded his arms across his chest and appeared to contemplate something highly important before continuing.
"And, " he said. "My dear Xena, if you want to see your bard with any recognizable physical features, youíll have to cooperate fully."
"Really..." Xena hissed. "I donít suppose it occurred to you to play fair."
"Of course not, " Krykus laughed. "Whereís the challenge in that?" He scratched his chin thoughtfully.
"Get to the point." Xena said, the sword still moving in front of her.
"The point," Krykus replied, "Is that you have damaged my, shall we say, previously stellar reputation."
"Iím so, so sorry, " Xena said, feigning sadness. "You poor thing." She curled her upper lip in a snarl and eyed the warlord with contempt.
"You arenít sorry at all, " Krykus laughed. "However, very shortly, you most certainly will be."
"Is that so?"
Xena glared at him, but kept one eye on the bard. "And just what is it that Iím going to do to restore your perfectly evil reputation to itís pathetic former state?"
Krykus grinned. "Well, the damage, my dear, has already been done. Quite a few times over, I might add. You should have killed me when you had the chance, Xena."
"What, and ruin this touching reunion? Oh, Krykus, you underestimate my complete respect for you." Xena spat on the ground. "Thatís what I think of your reputation."
"Iím so sorry to hear that. But I will get your respect, one way or the other."
"Gabrielle has nothing to do with this, you murdering scum. Let her go."
"Sorry, Xena, canít do it. See, I know you too well. Fighting me isnít a problem for you. However, losing her is." He looked at Gabrielle. "So...if you donít want Mykos over there to cut her throat..."
Mykos pulled out his blade and poised it at the base of the bardís throat.
"Which he could do so very easily..."
Krykus strolled up behind Mykos and took the dagger from him. He grabbed the bard and leveled it at her throat himself. "Or, I could do...my OWN dirty work..." He stared hard at Gabrielle, who ignored his remark and looked away. Krykus turned his attention to Xena.
"You took my dignity, Xena," he said. "Now Iíll take yours." He shifted the blade in his hand. "Throw your sword at my feet."
"Let her go."
Krykus turned the blade slightly, and a small trickle of blood dripped from the cut. Xenaís hand tightened around her weapon as she contemplated a way to take out the warlord with her chakrum but he was too close to Gabrielle. She threw the sword at his feet.
"Let her go."
"I believe Iíll see your chakrum join your sword." He began to turn the blade again. The bard swallowed hard.
The chakrum landed on the ground with a clank.
"Your armor, oh mighty princess.."
"You heard me." He grabbed Gabrielleís hand and bent the pinkie back until it snapped. The bard cried out for a moment, then set her jaw and remained still. Krykus laughed. "Bet that hurt, Gabrielle."
"I hardly felt a thing."
Xenaís armor landed in a pile at Krykusí feet.
"There! " she yelled. "Are you satisfied? You divested the big, bad Warrior Princess of her weapons and armor. Nobody else has ever done that before. What a man you are. Now let her go." Xenaís eyes met Gabrielleís, and they locked on each other for a moment before the warrior looked at the warlord. He spoke.
"I want your honor, too,, Xena " he cackled. Perhaps you could drop to your knees, if it isn't too much trouble. " He slowly rolled the bard's index finger between his stubby palms for effect. Wishing to spare the bard any more pain, Xena slowly lowered herself to the ground.
"Very, very good," he roared. "Look at that!" The men laughed.
"Not so mighty in that position, hey Xena?"
Xena just glared at him. "Let her go, Krykus! You got what you wanted."
"Oh but Xena," Krykus said, "Judging from your current position Iíd say you have the privelege of a front row seat."
"Lucky me," Xena spat. "Whatís the occasion?"
"The death of your soul."
Krykus pulled the blade from Gabrielleís throat and jammed it straight into her abdomen. When the entire piece of metal disappeared, he twisted it upwards and then pulled it out. Blood began to spill on the ground, and the bard fell forward and landed in a heap.
...I can still hear my daughterís cry of anguish. The "No!" still haunts me. I have never heard a sound like it, and I hope never to again. As the warlord and his men rode away, the warrior ran to the bard, completely oblivious to everything around her. She gathered the small form in her arms, pressing her hand to the wound, even as blood seeped out through her fingers. That she didnít perish on the spot remains a mystery to me, but the Amazon healer was in the village today and helped Xena stop the flow of blood although with great difficulty. That was ten days ago. The bard has not awakened, yet she has not died either. My daughter, however, has been robbed of something and the light in her eyes I had gotten used to seeing has gone out.
After eight long days at the bardís side, the warrior agreed grudgingly that she probably needed a bath and a little fresh air.The Amazon Regent had been summoned to Amphipolis and Xena left Ephiny at Gabrielleís side after fifteen minutes of the Amazonís promise that if Gabrielle so much as moved an eyebrow differently, she was to come to the bathhouse and get her immediately. Xena took her bath, and then did something I will never forget as long as I live. I remember the soft footsteps in my hallway, a tentative pause outside the door, then a soft knock.
""Xena?" I had said, as the door opened and my big ferocious warrior crossed the room and crawled into the bed with me. I put my arms around her and held her for a moment. I had forgotten what it was like to hold a child. It had been so long. For a moment I thought about the irony of a woman five foot two rocking a six-foot child like a baby. I could feel her tears dropping onto my shoulder. She did not speak. For a few moments there was no warrior and no innkeeper. I was just a mother holding a frightened child. The child spoke.
"Yes dear." I said, more of a statement than a question.
"If anything happens to my Gabrielle..." She said nothing more. Then, as quickly as she had come, she left.
I stand by the pallet and gaze at the still form on it. Only the slight rise and fall of her chest signals that there is still life. I am dressed in my leathers, but my armor and weapons remain on the floor nearby. I glance at them. My sword is honed and polished. Sunlight from the window bounces off it and makes an interesting pattern on the far wall. The chakrum, the armor. It was all at my disposal yet I was powerless to use it. All of my years of training, all of my many skills...all paled in comparison to that which I could not do. My hands...they have done so much killing, and have done so much healing...yet when it really mattered, they failed me too. I failed me. I failed her. Can you hear me, Gabrielle? I donít know what to say! I donít know what to do! I freed Prometheus! I unchained Death! Iíve been to Tartarus and back, and yet...I am able to do nothing but watch as you fall to the ground in a pool of your own blood. I want to scream, but no sound emerges. I pound my fist on the table in frustration. The room is quiet, the only sound is that of my shattering soul, and that is so loud that my ears are ringing. Donít you leave me!
It is late. Another day has passed, and the bardís condition has not changed. My daughter is stretched out on the pallet now, cradling the bard. She stares at the ceiling a lot, her fingers running idly through the golden red hair. She is relentless. Sometimes I hear her singing softly, as she is now. I recognize it as the bardís favorite song. I had forgotten how beautiful Xenaís voice really is. Gabrielle used to tell me that every once in a great while, she could get Xena to agree to sing for her. As a child, she sang all the time. As a warlord, the only song that anyone ever heard was the clang of blade against blade. And now, this sweet bard who has given her the motivation to redeem her tarnished soul......I am unwilling to speculate what will happen if she does not make it. I have never seen a big bad warrior break into a thousand pieces, and I don't want to have to start now.
Xena, are you there? I know you're there, I can hear you, I can feel you. But I can't seem to wake up from this. My whole body hurts, and I'm thirsty. I can hear your voice even though it sounds like you're far away. I keep drifting in and out, and I can't tell one day from the next, one moment from another. I haven't the strength to speak or to move. It frustrates me. How long have I been like this? A month? A day? I do not know. I can hear you sing, though. Do you have any idea what a beautiful voice you have? Didn't think I'd have to hover between life and death to get you to sing for me, though. Oh hey, look-I still have my sense of humor. I know you'd laugh with me if you only knew. And the stories-gods, I think you've talked to me more in the last-how long is it?-a month? Than you have since I've known you. Please keep talking. How bad is it? Can you hear me? I know you can't. I wish you could. Am I dying? If I die, you better remember your promise. You will not become a monster. You're way beyond that now. I'm so proud of you. Do you know that? The Destroyer of Nations is gone. You're one of the good guys now, you got that?
The early morning rays are filtering in through the window, and I glance in to find the warrior sound asleep, finally succumbing to the sheer weariness of her emotions. She is still sitting in the chair by the pallet, her head tucked firmly against Gabrielle's shoulder and her fingers still entwined with the bards. The stars were out in full-force last night and I couldn't help but pause by the doorway when I heard Xena pointing all the constellations out to Gabrielle." And that one up there looks like a soldier," she had said. At that moment Argo whinnied in the distance and Xena turned to Gabrielle and said with a grin, "Don't mind her, Gabrielle. She thinks everything looks like a horse." I could not stop a huge grin from plastering itself across the entire length of my face as I walked away. My big, bad, ferocious Warrior Princess.
Suddenly Xena stirs, but just as quickly falls back to sleep. I turn to go, but a slight movement catches my eye and I move quietly into the room. The bard's eyes are open, and she focuses on the sleeping form nearby. "The bigger they are, the more they snore," she says with a grin. I smile. Yes, it most certainly is a beautiful day.