Convert this page to Pilot DOC FormatDisclaimers: The characters of The Dark One (Xena), the Bitten One (Gabrielle), and the You-Should-Know-Better-Than-To-Go-Off-With-Strangers One (Argo) all belong to MCA/Universal. The gods, well - I don't think they'd like to hear they were owned by anyone. But Tythmur, Alzeaa, Jarresk, Kyras and Rasputian are all fictional characters which belong to me.
As far as I know, Kyras is not the daughter of....uh, I guess I'd better not say, might wreck the story, but her parents *aren't* her parents. You'll understand at the end. I hope.
This story is dedicated to Lunar and Paul, co-editors of the Xena Warrior Princess Appreciation Society - thanks for the support guys. No infringement is meant on Microsoft, and the VS-947 history book is, I believe, fictional.
No milk bottles, sentient or otherwise, were harmed during the writing this story.
My eyes glanced fleetingly into the murky depths that swam and swirled around me. Shadows lurked and dodged through the mists, taunting my nerves and mocking my fright.
The ground beneath me abruptly dropped from existence. This, in itself, may not have been so disastrous - had my body not decided to follow.
Suddenly I was plunging through the darkness, drowning in its tides that crashed over me in jeering waves. My whole body began to panic, my arms surged upwards, fighting the drag with all their strength, as my head began to spin in an uncontrollable daze.
My lungs screamed - I needed light to breathe, needed the comfort of vision to live. Instead I was faced with torrents of blackness, obscuring all senses and engulfing my being.
I cramped my eyes shut, trying to hide from the dark, as my spirit gave up the battle with the malicious currents. I opened my mouth, gasping for air - and the blackness gushed down my throat, immersing my soul.
An shocking burst of light irately shattered the frozen glaciers and launched the shards of deathly ice at startling velocity in all directions. I shielded my face as fragments collided and smashed around my fragile form.
My skin began to feel the intense light burning its scalding rays towards me. Winter jumped irrationally to furious summer, and with it gone I was faced with the flames of singeing heat which now blazed beneath me.
And still I fell.
My speed seemed to increase with my terror as I clawed desperately at the air, trying to grab any hope from the intrepid darkness. My heart started going into fear-stricken spasms and my mind abandoned the 'order in chaos' option for the 'follow your heart' cliché.
The illumination radiated with vengeful fierceness, sucking me deeper into its inescapable chasm.
The life-giving dark evaporated within me, the hurricane of wind amplified in my ears, the light blinded my eyes in anger, the heat peaked in a surging crest...
And pain flashed through my being as I abruptly caught up with the ground in a soul- crushing thud.
I lay in a dazed silence for several moments.
The pain dulled to a low roar as my skin cooled and I tried to run through what had just happened in a rational, scientific frame of mind.
The distant clash of metal and angered cries were suddenly caught by my ears, and then a new wave of fear flooded over me as I realised that they weren't distant at all, just that my hearing had been used to thundering buffets of sound.
I squinted my eyes against the seemingly faint sunlight and clear sky - then reeled back in shock as a man flew across my line of vision overhead.
The sharp leap to my feet seared every muscle in my body and I winced in agony. From my doubled up form I glanced around my surroundings...and hastily wished I hadn't.
I shook my head fervently - trying to free myself from the shroud of exhaustion, and re- focused. Still, my sight saw the same scene; two women fighting passionately against a dozen or so relenting men. As I watched in disbelief, one of the outnumbered females grabbed a foe by the arm and sent him crashing to the ground, much as I had just (all to closely) encountered.
There was a crack behind me and I whipped round to see one of the men only feet away. He brandished a leering sword and a sneering grin, I edged back - craving ardently that the ground would swallow me once more.
This was *too* weird. I knew though, that it was much more than a nightmare - the images were too clear, my thoughts and senses too realistic. Whatever demented reality I now found myself in, I wanted to live through it to demand an explanation.....[he drew nearer].....I shortened my prayer - 'I just want to *live*'.....
My foot caught on a branch inconveniently placed in my retreating path. I lost balance, my knees buckling, and fell crashing to the grass.
The man loomed over, raising his weapon.
I grabbed the stick and blocked his strike...his blade hacked through it and I felt, rather than saw, as it wedged deep into my shoulder.
It wasn't the girlie scream one does when one finds a spider so hairy it has a ponytail, sitting challengingly on the bathroom floor. Nor was it the scream one yells after being penned up in a room of dozy relatives for New Years' Eve when you could have been at the party like everyone else in the Universe.....this was a scream of *real* pain. A scream so penetrating that it caused many items of priceless china to drop and shatter in several obscure dimensions, and the extinction of an entire race of sentient milk bottles in another.
All didn't so much as fade to black, as fade to red.
Muffled voices echoed through my happy unconsciousness. Part of my being labelled 'curiosity' went to investigate, against the wishes of two others labelled 'better judgement' and 'when you've just escaped from a room with a hairy spider in, don't open the door again.'
'Curiosity' listened intently to the sounds of the outside world, ordering the ears to pull themselves together and pay attention.
VOICE 1 (V1): 'Is she going to be okay?'
VOICE 2 (V2): '...I - I think so....it's....it's a deep wound, she lost a lot of blood...more water...'
V1: 'What do you think these weird clothes are she's wearing...?'
V2: 'I dunno...they're kinda nice, in a strange sorta way........yeah, keep the pressure constant...'
V1: 'Here, I...I got some cobwebs...'
Curiosity grinned to itself as my eyes flew open and all thoughts switched to its findings - where there were cobwebs, there were undoubtedly leggy little critters spinning them.
The swift movement of my sitting up caused me to gasp in anguish as my whole shoulder shrieked in violent agony.
V2: 'Hey, hey...don't move, lay back here until we fix you up....'
I wriggled under a tight grip as the cobwebs drew closer, and lashed out with my last line of defence - I sank my teeth deep into the hand which held them.
A screech of shock rang out, and I squirmed in terror as the dreaded nets smothered my face.
My right limb burned, but I shook violently - trying to rid myself of the course webs.
Relief came as they were pulled from my skin in a quick gesture by an unknown hand, and I cancelled all movement promptly.
I stared up at the two faces. One was dark, with startling sapphire-blue eyes which gazed deep into my innermost thoughts, despite the solid wall of confusion which guarded them. The other wasn't looking at me, instead her features were screwed up in distress as she clutched her injured hand, blood trickling accusingly down her wrist.
I squeezed my eyes closed again. 'This is *too* weird...' I opened them slowly, hoping earnestly to see the familiar florescent stars which gleamed from my blue-bedroom sky- ceiling. My attempts were, however, in vain, and I found myself lost one more in the unearthly cosmos of the Dark One's eyes.
Her gaze glanced over to the one I'd bitten, 'You okay?'
'*Okay*?!!' came the stressed reply, ''she *BIT* me!'
Long-denied tears of pain and bewilderment began to cause a leak in the dam I had so adamantly constructed to stop them, and my jaw quivered as the realisation, or lack of, what had happened crept upon my bloodied form.
The Bitten One noticed me crying first, and her tone suddenly softened. She knelt nearer, her minor wound forgotten. I cowered as she reached out to grip my unharmed hand in hers, but then relaxed slightly as her smile began to rebuild my confidence.
The Dark One leaned closer, her fingers busy repairing the damage to my shoulder. Her brow was furrowed in concentration and her face so near mine that her sleek black hair brushed against my cheek.
I didn't understand what was going on, but I felt safe with the two strangers and their charitable aid...and, against all my efforts to keep alert, I drifted off once more into somewhat more contented sleep.....
My vision blinked with wonder as I awoke from an unrecallable dream, and found myself staring up at the dark sky. For a moment I became twisted in the velvet blanket of stars which winked their mysterious patterns at my awe-struck eyes. I found it strange that their scattered specks were mirrored so intricately by man, for they looked much as the land did once night has descended and forged lamps were lit.
A few confusing days had passed since my Arrival. I still didn't understand how in Hades I had got here, but then I -
*Hades!* I was even starting to *talk* like them now...
I struggled to a sitting position, wincing slightly at the stiffness which still inhabited my shoulder. My Protectors slept on. I watched them silently - Xena, the Dark One, lay opposite, across from the dying fire. Her face wore an unreadable expression, unlike her companion's peaceful one. Gabrielle slept beside the secretive warrior, her red-tinted hair glowing almost golden in the glow of burning embers.
Argo, Xena's chestnut-shaded mare, grunted softly from her standing position a few meters from our camp. I stood, with increasing confidence, and walked over to her.
'Hey, you couldn't sleep either, huh?'
She snorted in agreement.
I glanced back at the sleeping duo briefly, before pulling myself up into the saddle. Xena would be furious if she found out I had taken her beloved horse for a midnight trek without her consent, but something urged me to do so despite my mind's warnings. Something was *different* about tonight...I couldn't explain it, but I knew Argo felt it too, and spurred her on.
We wondered without known destination through the shadowed forest, the moon lighting our path and casting abstract designs of silvery-blue as the beams wavered through the canopy. The still air swirled the entrancing scent of perfumed flowers and the only sounds were the hushed whispers of the knowledgeable trees above us.
Argo roamed from path to field, across hills and through woods at her own discretion. I merely relaxed and let the cool solitude of the darkness envelope my troubled soul.
My thoughts were intruded upon as I felt us slow to a halt.
'Come on girl, what's up?' she resisted my spurs, refusing to move any further. I sighed and dismounted grudging. I spoke gently into her ear, comforting her, and she followed as I walked towards the sound of trickling water.
As we drew near the stream, I was surprised that the horse wouldn't drink. Instead she simply stood by the bank, her head raised alertly while I splashed my skin in the sanctifying liquid.
Then, suddenly, she bolted onto her hind legs with a startled neigh. Her tail and mane were the last things I saw as she galloped full-tilt back into the seclusion of the forest. I ignored the pain while jumping up, half in alarm, half in fright, and called desperately in her wake.
Xena was going to kill me!
I ran through the trees as they loomed taller, blocking out guiding stars, and fumbled as my unworldly clothes were caught by the talons of deathly branches. I felt those same shadows which had plagued me through my Arrival, hunting my being once more. They sprang from hiding, buffeting me with their blasts of cold wind and forcing me to dodge and turn.
And all the while I shouted for Argo. My throat started to rasp as my breathing quickened and I became ever-more desperate. The fear of what Xena would do had been conquered by the natural terror of night. I had never been alone like this before, never been this segregated from human life. I was constantly twisting round - trying to catch sight what was perusing me, but there was never anything there save the leer of black.
I was following no path, and when the dense trees parted abruptly as I turned while looking back, I had no time to stop myself as my form plummeted straight into spirit- freezing water. Somehow I had done a semi-circle in my confusion and had met up with a coil of the stream.
The chilling water rebelled successfully against the rein of fear, sweeping it away in the currents. I dragged my drenched form to the edge of the bank, where I was astounded to meet the gaze of -
I reached up and hugged her lowered neck tight against my dripping skin. She whinnied softly in concern and nuzzled my hair. Suddenly I drew away, feeling something deep inside changing gear, shifting senses.
My body shivered with cold as well as this new feeling of acute anticipation, and my shoulder - which I had hardly moved in the past two days - was screaming with lawless pain. I clasped it firmly with my free arm, trying to hold my sanity together at the same time as instructing the ache to subside in a determined order. Yet it persisted. *What was I doing?* I needed to see a proper doctor, in a proper hospital where they could do X-rays and prescribe more than kind words. I needed to rest, in a proper bed, with proper food and heat.
I needed to get home.
So far I hadn't talked much to either of my rescuers, despite their vain attempts and questions. I had refused to change into their ancient-style clothing too, choosing to keep my faded jeans, baggy grey T-shirt and basketball shoes which were - seemingly - the only links I had to my past life, the only connection to the modern world.
And even if I could talk, what would I say? That they were living a myth and that this was just an unscientific 'glitch' on the new computer-formatted history book (now available in 72 different languages on Microsoft's VS-947)?
The unexpected movement of Argo turning her head and backing away a few paces brought me from my unanswerable tangle. I was about to stand and re-mount, it was almost dawn and even if we cantered all the way (assuming we could *find* the way) I knew we'd never make it before Xena and Gabrielle awoke. A noise caught my attention before I could rise fully, the sound of something, or *things*, moving through the water upstream.
I looked up, dropping Argo's reins in astonishment and sinking back to my knees.
As the lightening sky's first glimmers of hope were caught and reflected on the cracked mirror of water, two creatures splashed jestingly through it towards me.
My eyes widened as I watched them draw nearer. One reared up and gave an echoing call, then let gravity pull it down while causing a huge torrent of water to surge over its companion. I laughed in spite of myself at their playfulness as the other retaliated.
Argo tossed her mane in jealousy, but she seemed to instinctively know that respect was due, and kept quiet.
I hardly noticed her actions, I was transfixed by the beauty of the pair. Their silver- tinted coats gleamed as the sun began to rise on command. They were unmistakable for horses, there was an air of majesty and grace about them that I had never encountered in life before, even in the many animals I had lived with.
My uncle had once told me a story about unicorns. He had said that in the past they had guarded the land, living in pairs which never separated. They were responsible for protecting all of the creatures in their forests and while they were there, the sun would rise when they called it, and the cycles of life would rotate as they should.
I remembered asking where they all went, he had looked out the window and gestured to the sky. 'Man chased them,' I recalled his words, 'hunted them for their magical horns. He who drinks from the horn of a unicorn will be cured of any illness, and he who holds one is granted with powers beyond his belief.'
I had questioned what this had had to do with the sky.
'It was the only place they could go.' my uncle had replied with a sigh, 'The heavens were the only place man couldn't reach. There, all unicorns could live in peace, and still watch over the forests.' and after seeing my smile he had added, '...but that was not the end of the story. Man became so greedy that he destroyed many of the unicorns' homes trying to find them.'
My grin had vanished, that wasn't the way a story should finish. My uncle retorted that the story hadn't ended yet, that it was still to occur.
I stared at the two legends, suddenly realising what he had meant.
They were closer now, and one of them had stopped. It held me with a curious stare, while the other slowed behind it. Neither side moved for several minutes. I didn't know an awful lot about life here, but I somehow understood that the mystery surrounding the creatures was still in tact, and that they were believed in only marginally more here than in my world.
Seeing they showed no evident signs of fear, I swallowed and took a deep breath - praying that they wouldn't bolt. Then, like a time-lapse film of a plant growing, I rose so slowly that I half-expected to see the seasons change as I did so.
Still they stood, regarding me with the same curiosity I bestowed to them.
I moved forwards, *why didn't they run?* A small part of me *wanted* them to, if they ran from me, they would run from all men - and then, perhaps, they would survive. If all their kind were this trusting, it would only be a matter of time before the last of them would be forced to the heavens as my uncle had talked of.
I waded, shin-deep, in the water once again. This time, though, I felt no cold. I stopped a few meters from them, unable to bring myself to intrude any further.
The second unicorn shuffled its position and - for a fleeting moment - I thought both would buck and recede to the safety of their forest. But instead, the first lifted a hoof, and stepped forwards.
The second followed, closing the gap between us to but a few feet.
I was stunned. I hadn't expected them to tolerate my presence at a distance, let alone accept it so confidently at close range.
My mind began carefully considering the dangers of what I was about to do, but its reasoning weakened and dissolved, as I studied the incomparable compassion I sensed from the duo.
Without allowing any more time for thought, I nervously raised my right hand and out- stretched it towards the first unicorn.
It didn't resist, and my finger-tips hovered inches from its nose.
In a quick, unexpected movement, the animal pulled back its head, meeting my hand halfway.
Amazement didn't even come close to describing this action. Their pure innocence swept over me and in that instant, that split second in time, and everything became clear.
Suddenly I understood everything as I stroked the angel-wing-soft hair. My fingers travelled up to the untamed creature's mane and further, following the spirals of the magical horn in the way I had missed so much.
'Alzeaa, Tythmur...' a grin spread across my face as I greeted each in turn, 'I am home.'
'You just wait 'til I find that little daughter of Aries!' Xena growled, her face seething in the fierce anger Gabrielle had always feared, ' 'cause she picked on the *wrong* woman to steal a horse from...'
'W-wait...Xena!' the warrior turned, all of Tartarius burning in her raging eyes, 'Now, I know how it looks, but I don't believe she would do this purposely, and with that shoulder.....it's just - not *her*...'
Xena sneered, 'I don't *care* what her reason was! We don't *know* her at all, she hasn't *told* us anything about where she's from or who her family is.....and Argo *wouldn't* just ride off with any stranger. We should've just left her with that wound and had it over with.'
'Don't say that!' Gabrielle was getting desperate. The more she knew of the new 'heroine' Xena, the more she realised the warlord side of her was in control.
At that moment there was a sound behind them, Xena unsheathed her sword - the desire to battle coursing its venom through her veins...
Tythmur stopped, something was wrong. I could feel it too, but spoke comfortingly to the three nerved animals, who obeyed my commands and proceeded onwards.
I felt freer than I had done in a long time, my self-belief re-established and my purpose re-stated. All this time I had been away, I had forgotten all I held dear, but now...now things would be set right.
We drew to a halt after several more minutes, this time on my wishes. I knew Xena was near, near - and angry. She was hiding close by while Gabrielle......the bard was scared.
I focused all thought on Xena, '...drop your sword.' I thought, '...*drop your sword*...'
There was a soft thud close-by and I cast my vision contentedly to where the Dark One stood, a few trees away, with a dumbfound look of bewilderment directed at the ground where her warrior-sword lay.
A gasp came from behind a bush as I saw Gabrielle's flash of red between the leaves.
I dismounted and watched as Argo trotted over and rubbed her head against her owner's puzzled cheek. Xena suddenly snapped out of her daze, a smile spanning her face as she welcomed her lost friend.
Her expression steeled as she saw me.
'*You*...' she thundered, stepping to retrieve her blade.
'Xena, no!' Gabrielle darted out of cover.
I raised both hands in a sign of surrender and shot the bard a look which said I could handle it.
'So, you're not content with just stealing *my* horse, huh?' the warrior said, jabbing the point of her sword towards the unicorns.
I smiled, suddenly remembering that few mortals ever saw the mythical beasts for what they really were, but instead only saw white horses. In this way the unicorn could live out its existence hidden from untrained senses.
'*T'akkosha*' I whispered in reply.
Gabrielle gasped for the second time in under a minute as first Tythmur, and then the shyer Alzeaa, revealed their secret.
Xena's expression went from disbelief, to mystification, and back to disbelief as she glanced between me and my silver-shades, '...how did you...what...?' she murmured.
'My name is Kyras,' I said, 'daughter of Artemis and Poseidon.'
'So you were close when you mentioned Aries...' Gabrielle mumbled to Xena, who stood, recovering her composure and returning her blade to its scabbard.
'You're a goddess.' the warrior stated, rather than asked.
'Yes,' I paused, 'and I'm home.'
'So let me get this straight,' Gabrielle said, her words muffled through a mouthful of food, 'as a result of this one sorcerer's actions, you were thrown into another de - di...'
'dimension,' I offered.
'Right, another dimension, or uh, time...' she broke off to swallow, 'in which you've been living for...'
'under the care of a family who...' she gave up.
This was *too* weird.
I went over it again, 'I was 'thrown' into this - this *new world* after the great Conjuror Rasputian used his powers to capture a unicorn. As daughter of Artemis and Poseidon I am blessed with the gift of animal understanding, and given the task of protecting the Guardians.' I glanced towards the two 'horses' blending in with the background of merchants and peasants in the peaceful town of Myetta. 'Few mortals acknowledge the *existence* of the unicorn because they've been able to adapt to man's carnality, but of the ones who *do* unquestionably believe, there are a handful who have the power to sense them - if close enough.
'Rasputian was one of them. He wished to increase his power with the possession of a horn, and had the adequate ability to start a search. It took him many years to defeat me, but in the end his acquirement of The Cassbrius meant - '
'The Cassbrius?' Gabrielle interrupted, pouring herself more wine and then re-filling Xena's, without taking her eyes from me.
'It's a pendant, supposedly graced with the capability of transporting a person somewhere.' Xena explained, joining the conversation.
'*Somewhere?*' the bard repeated, raising an eyebrow.
'Well that's just it,' I cut in, 'no one can be exactly sure *where* it'll send them. Sometimes it will take you half a day's walk away from where you left, and at others...' I trailed off, motioning to my clothes.
'Loooooong way away.' Gabrielle nodded.
'So did he get the horn?' Xena asked.
'No. I was able to free Jarresk in time, but at my own loss.'
Gabrielle shifted on the bench, trying to get comfortable as she saw the plot thickening.
'In order for the Cassbrius to work, the person being transported needs to be wearing it, while someone else chants the spell.'
'What's the spell??' the bard asked eagerly, noting this all down mentally for refinement later.
I gave her a 'stories don't need to be told in *that much* detail' glare, and continued, 'I was wearing it after it was given to me as a gift from someone I helped on the road, and after my appearance for Jarresk's rescue, all Rasputian needed was to find the *spell,*' I glanced meaningfully at the bard, 'and I was gone.'
'Then what?' Xena pushed.
'Then I ended up in some weeeeird world,' my memories of it were already fading fast, 'while he was free to chase the unicorns up into the sky.'
My mortal friends exchanged puzzled glances, '...sky?' they chorused.
I sighed, this was going to be a long afternoon.
Dusk began to descend as I felt a familiar glow of light emanate from my being. My tattered clothes had been replaced by my godly garb, the last chain holding me to the other life broken. I felt strange, returning to the old ways. Of course, seeing mother and father, my siblings and friends was a welcome experience - after all, it was their persistence to reverse the spell which had pulled me home...but I still felt slightly misplaced. I had had an insight to another world, another society...and although only shimmers of acknowledgement remained within me, I knew they would linger with my soul for all time.
'After all that fear,' I mused, brushing my hand across Alzeaa's soft back, 'after all that confusion about where I was.....'
I smiled and listened to the distant call of a wolf.
'I wasn't being tossed into a *new* world, I was returning *home.*'
'Hey,' came Xena's friendly beckoning, 'you ready to go?'
I turned and walked over to the two of them, nodding.
'But before we do,' I unclasped the pendant from my neck and handed it to Gabrielle, 'here.'
'The *Cassbrius?*' she awed, rubbing its stunning form lightly with her thumb, 'but what good is it without the spell?'
'None.' I replied sparklingly, 'It's just to say thanks.'
'For what?' she asked.
''Well, you two *did* save my life back there, remember?'
'But aren't you immortal?' the Bitten One pursued.
'Only in this world.' I said with a grin. My shoulder had healed perfectly as soon as I'd returned to my parents' side, 'I became so used to living as a normal person in that other world, I began to forget who I was, *what* I was...'
The three of us exchanged hugs of farewell, and I added - for the sixth time - an apology for taking Argo.
'But I must admit,' I said from the height of Tythmur, 'You guys are like, *way* cool at the whole fighting thing...'
My laughter was caught by the breeze as I rode my silver-shades towards the horizon, calling the sinking sun to follow.
' *Way cool...?*' the two comrades repeated simultaneously.
'This is *too* weird!!'
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