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Xena and Gabrielle are the property of MCA/Universal. There is no intent to infringe on this copyright.
This piece is historically based, but it is not historically accurate. Hey, it's the Xenaverse. I figure, if Xena and Disney can create revisionist history, then so can I. All acknowledgments will be given upon the completion of the story, and, finally, this story takes place after "Forgiveness" and "The River." There are mild references made to the previous stories, but you don't need to read them before tackling this one.
|Part I||Part II||Part III||Part IV|
The sun was fading in the background as Xena and Gabrielle made their way east across the landscape. The heat of the previous days seemed to be disappearing with the sun, and winter was finally beginning to make its presence felt as an icy wind started to slowly develop from the west. This was a welcome divergence for the two women who walked along the solitary pathway towards the foothills.
It was a beautiful sunset. The sky was painted with the colors of crimson, orange and blue. It's striking beauty contrasted greatly with Xena's pallid countenance. Gabrielle didn't want to intrude, but she was becoming increasingly concerned about Xena's well being. After what she'd just been through, it would be understandable if Xena wasn't feeling up to her usual standards. Besides, she knew all too well that Xena would stay silent in regard to her own health.
"Xena, are you feeling all right?"
"I'm fine Gabrielle."
"Well you wouldn't know it to look at you. Your face is ashen, your posture is slumping and you look like Tartarus."
"You know Gabrielle, flattery will get you nowhere." Xena said with obvious irritation.
"Xena, I'm serious." Gabrielle stopped and put her hand on Xena's shoulder, turning her around to face her. "You've been through an awful lot lately. I know you heal remarkably well, but even you have to have limits. It's understandable if you're feeling a little.... under the weather."
Xena just shrugged off Gabrielle's concern and turned to continue walking. Once again, she was seized by Gabrielle's hand on her shoulder, but this time the grip was extremely firm. Xena turned around quickly and stared angrily into Gabrielle's eyes. Gabrielle, startled by Xena's expression released her grip and put both hands up in front of her in a gesture of surrender, but her eyes held Xena's stare with their own determination.
"LOOK! I'm sorry I gripped you so hard, but I AM concerned about you." Gabrielle stated sternly. She continued, this time, with a more sarcastic tone. "Xena, you nearly died, AGAIN, battled an army of minotaurs, fought a psychotic Goddess who tried to alter your mindset and helped free an entire city from the wrath of an unscrupulous warlord. All in a days work for you, I know, but why don't we stop?..... for a while?... so that you can rest?"
Xena continued to stare at Gabrielle, but her stare softened as she took in Gabrielle's expression. The raised eyebrows, mocking her pride. She knew that Gabrielle was right and she slowly acknowledged that fact. Xena looked down, shook her head, then looked back up again. This time, a slight grin accompanied one raised eyebrow as she stared into Gabrielle's eyes again.
"I guess it wouldn't hurt to stop for one night. There's a small lake just over the next hill and through the woods. We can camp there for one night before we continue on to Amphipolis."
This response elicited a broad smile from Gabrielle. She leaned on her staff, put her left hand on her hip. "Well, it's about time you started being concerned with your own well being. I knew you'd see things my way."
Xena rolled her eyes. " Come on."
The pair made their way across the knoll and pushed through the woods until they came upon a clearing. Gabrielle took in a deep breath as she came through the woods and spotted the lake in front of them. The water was virgin and crystal clear. There were two large boulders. Each standing taller than either of them. One was at the far end of the lake, the other was right in the center of it. It looked to Gabrielle as if the boulders were posted as sentinels to watch over the lake and make sure it remained undisturbed. Trees surrounded the lake on every side sheltering it from the wind. This in turn gave the water a smooth, glassy appearance.
Xena smiled as she caught the look of wonder on Gabrielle's face. She unbridled Argo and began taking the supplies off of the mare's back.
"Here, catch!" Xena yelled as she pushed a bedroll in Gabrielle's direction.
The bedroll caught Gabrielle right in the face as she was caught unaware, though her reflexive response allowed her to catch the bedroll after the fact. She slowly brought the item down from her face, blew her hair out of her eyes and smiled sardonically. Xena returned the smile and laughed.
"Gotta be quicker than that Gabrielle."
Gabrielle walked over to where Xena was placing her bedroll. "Cute Xena, very cute."
Xena flashed Gabrielle a tongue in cheek smile and continued building their camp. Gabrielle placed her bedroll next to Xena's then walked into the forest to collect some wood for a fire. When she came back, Xena was knee deep in the lake with her hair pinned up. She was bent over with her right ear towards the water. Listening.
"What do you feel like having tonight?" Xena yelled to Gabrielle without looking.
"Well, since I don't know what's in season, or what kind of lake this is, why don't I let you decide." Gabrielle retorted as she remembered the last time Xena asked this question of her.
Xena remembered as well. She raised one eyebrow and smiled to herself. Suddenly, her expression became serious, she jerked her head ever so slightly, then readied her hands over the water. In a moment, she thrusted her hands into the water, grabbing hold of the fish swimming by, yanked it out and hurled it onshore, missing Gabrielle by a mere foot.
"Thank you for not hitting me flush in the face this time." Gabrielle yelled to Xena wryly.
Xena washed off her hands and made her way back to shore. Gabrielle had already built a fire and was now preparing the fish for dinner.
"You know Xena, maybe one of these days YOU could clean the fish."
"I cut up people Gabrielle, you cut up dinner."
"Good point!" Gabrielle acquiesced.
Dinner was a quiet affair with each indulging in their meal and conversation kept to a minimum. After dinner, Xena and Gabrielle relaxed by the fire. Gabrielle noticed that some color had started to return to Xena's face. She knew she was right about taking a rest. They had been pushing themselves hard to get to Amphipolis ever since they left Serres two days earlier.
"You feeling better Xena? You look better."
"I feel fine."
"You're sure?! You said that last time." Gabrielle reminded her.
"You want me to prove it to you?" Xena asked
"How?" Gabrielle was a little confused.
"Oh, just a little exercise I'm about to endeavor upon."
Gabrielle stared suspiciously at Xena.
Xena leaned slightly towards Gabrielle, but kept her stare on the fire in front of her. . "We're being watched." She whispered. "There's three men in the trees behind us, two to our left and two to our right."
Alarmed, Gabrielle turned around to look into the woods, but she could neither see nor hear anything. Xena continued to stare into the fire.
"Xena, how can you stay so calm and unconcerned? I'm going to get my staff." Gabrielle said in hushed tones.
"Walk slowly, and don't let on that you know of their presence." Xena replied.
Gabrielle nodded. She slowly rose to her feet, then sauntered over to her bedroll and retrieved her staff in a very non-chalant manner. Although her movements never betrayed her awareness of the intruders, the leader became alarmed when he saw her pick up the staff and immediately stepped out from behind the trees. His two comrades accompanied him. The men on either side of the camp remained hidden in the trees.
Gabrielle had made her way back to Xena and stood next to the seated warrior.
"You boys lost?!" Xena asked the men in a low drawn out tone. She never looked up from the fire.
"That's right." the leader replied. "We're all lost, and it was just our luck to happen upon you lovely ladies. I'm sure you won't mind sparing a few things for some lost and weary travelers. You're supplies, for instance."
"Is that all?!" Xena continued to stare into the fire.
"Oh no. We'd like all your dinars, and that horse will do just fine as well."
"Well, I'd hate to tell you boys this, but you've come to the wrong place." Xena said, finally looking up from the fire. She slowly stood up and let the men take in her size and presence. Then she stepped forward and stood side by side with Gabrielle.
Gabrielle had a tight grip on her staff and was poised in a ready stance.
The leader backed up a step as Xena stood formidably in front of him. He quickly gathered himself, however, and stepped back up in front of his men. "You ladies wouldn't want to be difficult now would you? Afterall, I think we can come up with a fair trade here."
Xena just folded her arms in front of her, raised one eyebrow and sighed with impatience.
"That's right ladies. I'm in a generous mood. So I'll tell you what we're gonna do; you give us the horse, your money and your supplies, and we'll let you go relatively unharmed." The leader said. This elicited a laugh from the men behind him.
Xena just smiled back. "You know, I can think of less painful ways for you boys to try and acquire some trade merchandise. So why don't you just behave and move along."
"Or else what?!" The leader shot back.
Xena turned towards Gabrielle, and put her hand on her shoulder. "Or else my friend here is gonna make you very sorry."
"WHAT?!" The leader laughed. His men laughed as well.
"XENA!" Gabrielle shot back as Xena returned to her spot in front of the fire.
"I decided you were right Gabrielle. I'm not feeling too well. You handle it will ya?"
"Xena, you have got to be kidding. Now you decide you're not feeling well?"
Xena just raised an eyebrow and shrugged her shoulders.
"I'm getting tired of this, you've had your chance. I'll make short work of this little cupcake, then we'll all make short work of you." The leader said, pointing his sword at Xena as he stepped forward to take on Gabrielle.
Gabrielle turned around and saw the man's raised sword above her. She instantly took her staff and thrust it into his belly, then back against his hand causing him to double over and drop the sword. Then she swung her staff upwards and introduced it to the man's jaw. This sent him sprawling to the floor completely dazed. The other two men were stunned by what they had just witnessed, but regrouped and charged her. Gabrielle ducked her first attacker and met the second with a thrust into his knees. The second man fell to the ground and Gabrielle delivered a swift blow to the back of his head. Turning to meet the first man again, she blocked his club as it came down upon her. She blocked another attempt by the man to club her from overhead.
"Xena!" Gabrielle yelled out in the middle of the battle. "Don't you think you could help out a little?" This as she blocked yet another blow.
Xena just yawned and leaned back. She put her arms behind her head and continued watching the goings on.
Gabrielle blocked another blow. This time, the man had over swung his weapon. It was the advantage Gabrielle had been waiting for. She gave him a hard thrust in the stomach, then did a full circle pivot and swept her staff behind his legs, cutting him down. When he tried to get up, she cracked him over the skull ensuring that he would stay down. Then she brought her staff back up to the ready position and took in her surroundings. Seeing the three men lying on the ground before her, she put her staff down and leaned on it, allowing a satisfied grin to creep over her face.
"Huh, that wasn't so bad." she said out loud.
"AAAAAaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!!!!" came a yell from the woods and suddenly two men, one from each direction was rushing towards her waving their clubs and swords.
"XENA! I could use a little help now!" Gabrielle yelled.
Xena just continued to enjoy the fire.
The men came upon Gabrielle and she ducked again, letting the first man miss her with his club.
The second man raised his sword and swung furiously at Gabrielle. She side stepped the arc of the sword, then swung her staff, knocking it out of the man's hand. The first man came at her with his club again. He raised the club above his head and prepared to strike. At that same moment, the second man was charging at Gabrielle again. The first man's club came down hard. Gabrielle stepped out of the way of his blow and at the same time avoided the second man's rush. Instead, he took the blow from the club of his confrere and was sent crashing to the ground. The first man was stunned by his own ineptitude and Gabrielle took advantage of his momentary mental lapse. She took her staff and swatted the club out of the man's hand, then she alternated left and right swings, first slamming into each shoulder, then each leg. At the last, she sent a swift uppercut to the man's jaw and watched him as he joined his friends on the ground.
Xena finally got up and walked towards Gabrielle. She came up behind Gabrielle and wrapped both arms around her. Gabrielle smiled at her friend's acknowledgment of her latest accomplishment. She started to turn her head towards Xena, but Xena squeezed tightly and whispered in her ear. "Don't move."
Gabrielle stiffened up and in a split second, Xena had caught an arrow just inches from her right temple. Gabrielle didn't move. She only turned her eyes towards the arrow. In another instant, there was another arrow from the left. Xena had caught this one mere inches from her head as well. Gabrielle took a deep breath and held it. Xena threw both arrows to the ground, stepped out in front of Gabrielle, unhooked her chakram and threw it to her left with authority. The chakram split the branch of one tree, sending its inhabitant unceremoniously to the ground. It ricocheted off the tree and swung back to the right breaking the bow of the other shooter, just as he was beginning to reload. In a moment, it was back in her hand. A feral grin crossed Xena's face as she hooked the chakram to her waste and ran towards the last man in the tree to the right.
"Ayiyiyiyiyi." Xena yelled, her strides quickening.
His eyes widened at her approach and he tried to climb further into the tree.
Xena kept up her charge straight towards the tree. "EEEEEEyyyyaaaaaaahhhhh!!!" she yelled as she pushed off and somersaulted into the tree, landing on the same branch as the shooter. He took what was left of his bow and tried to swat at Xena with it. She caught it and broke the rest of it over her knee. The man held up his hands in front of him and scooted backwards along the branch. The branch gave way to his weight and he went tumbling to the ground.
Xena gave another yell and somersaulted to the ground right next to the man. She grabbed hold of his ear and pulled him up off the ground, then towards Gabrielle. The other men were beginning to stir now. Their leader had already awoken and witnessed Xena's arrow catching feat. As Xena approached, she let go of the man's ear and threw him towards the others.
"Go on, get outta here!" Xena yelled.
Gabrielle used her staff to scoot the men along. "You heard her, beat it."
The men stumbled over each other, then disappeared into the woods with their tails between their legs, licking their wounds.
Xena smiled and turned towards Gabrielle. "I knew you could handle it. I had faith in you all along."
Gabrielle eyed Xena suspiciously. "Xena, next time you decide to put your faith in me, can you please find a less dramatic way to show it?"
"Ooohhh! Come on Gabrielle, you did fine. Besides, if you were ever really in trouble, I would have been there for you."
Gabrielle just looked at Xena, then turned to walk away, but Xena stopped her and moved out in front of her. She put both arms on Gabrielle's shoulders and look her square in the eyes. "Gabrielle, I mean that. I will always be there for you. I would never intentionally abandon you when you need me. Remember that."
"I know that Xena. You're always there for me. Just,...one of these days.....I hope I'm able to be there for you, for a change."
"Gabrielle, you have been. You are now. Don't you know how much your friendship means to me? I don't know who I'd be right now if you hadn't come into my life and kept me walking under the light. I'm afraid to think of what would happen to me if anything happened to you."
This got a sheepish smile out of Gabrielle.
"That's better." Xena said smiling back.
Suddenly, Xena's smile disappeared and she whirled around to look behind her. Standing a mere 20 paces from the pair was the oddest looking man they'd ever seen. Xena was a bit unnerved by this man. Not his appearance, but the fact that he was able to get so close without her detecting him.
"Xena? Who is he?" Gabrielle said with alarm.
"Gabrielle, stay back!" Xena warned. She placed herself in between Gabrielle and the strange man in a protective gesture.
Xena stepped forward, cautiously, to meet the man. She noticed immediately that he had no weapons. His hair was long and black. It was parted in the middle and braided in the back. The braid was wrapped in otter fur. His leggings were leather, and tucked into his boots which were strung up to the knee. On his leggings were designs. Some black horizontal stripes, some red vertical stripes and a few horseshoes were painted on. He word a breechclout over his pants which came to about mid-thigh in front, but was a little longer in back. He wore a headdress with three feathers tucked into it. He had a leather top on fronted with beads, and strapped around his shoulders, he carried a pack made of some sort of fur that Xena had never seen before. His face was extremely dark. Xena had never seen anyone who looked like him in her life, and she quickly determined that he was magnificent, even if odd looking.
"Hau mitakolapi! Anpetu kin le, cante mawaste, na napeciyuza pelo!" The man said as he extended his hand towards Xena.
Xena turned her head slightly and regarded him cautiously. She didn't understand what he had just said, but his gesture was a familiar one. She slowly raised her hand to meet his and they shook. They stared in each others eyes for a moment, hers were cautious and questioning, his were warm and hopeful. Then the strange man looked over her shoulder and pointed towards the fire. "Peta wakan." He said.
Xena narrowed her eyes and shook her head slightly. "I don't understand you."
"Peta wakan." He said again and once again he pointed towards the fire.
"Fire? You want to see the fire?" Xena asked. "Come on." She motioned for him to follow.
"Pilamayan!" He exclaimed as he gratefully followed her to the fire.
The man sat next to the fire and put his hands out to feel the warmth. Xena sat across from him and Gabrielle sat next to her. Gabrielle put her hand on Xena's shoulder and while staring at the man, she whispered to Xena. "Xena, who is he, what does he want?"
"I don't know Gabrielle, but I have a feeling we're going to find out."
"Wopilatichelo tanka." He said smiling. Then he reached around and brought the fur sack in front of him. He reached inside and withdrew an item that was carefully wrapped in cloth. When he finished unwrapping the item, he held it before him, revealing a pipe.
Xena and Gabrielle watched with undisguised interest as the man began singing softly to himself. He took the pipe in his left hand and held the bowl with the stem of the pipe still facing himself. He took out another pouch from his sack, reached inside and withdrew what looked like dried herbs to Xena. He filled the bowl of the pipe and carefully tapped the material with the first finger of his right hand. He was very deliberate in all these matters and never spilled a single bit of the filling onto the ground. Then he picked up a glowing stick, not one with a flame, and proceeded with lighting the pipe.
As he smoked, he waved his hand over the bowl of the pipe, drawing the smoke towards him. He then turned the stem of the pipe towards Xena and motioned to her, with a nod of his head that he wished for her to accept the pipe. Xena did so and mimicked the motions that she had seen the man do while he was smoking. Waving her hand over the bowl and drawing the smoke towards her, she found this to be a pleasant experience.
"Wakan Wakantu." The man whispered as Xena smoked the pipe. Then he motioned for her to pass the pipe along to Gabrielle.
Xena turned the stem of the pipe towards Gabrielle and offered it to her. Gabrielle took the pipe but had a questioning look in her eyes. Xena gave her a silent reassurance that everything was ok. Now it was Gabrielle's turn to smoke the pipe. She did repeated the same motions that she saw Xena and the man do before her.
"Taku Wakan," the man whispered as Gabrielle smoked the pipe.
"ACK!" Gabrielle began to cough as she experience the displeasure of inhaling the smoke. Big mistake. She put her hand over her mouth and continued coughing. Xena laughed and started patting her on the back.
"All right, give it back to him." Xena said.
Gabrielle was all too eager to turn the stem towards the man and hand the pipe back to him. He smiled as he accepted the pipe back, then indulged in another smoke. He smoked the pipe until the bowl was empty, then he discarded the ashes over the fire and carefully wrapped up the pipe, then put it back in the sack. He then removed an incense of sweetgrass and cottonwood and proceeded to carefully place it in the fire. It was an affable aroma, and by the look on the man's face, Xena could tell that he was most pleased with the goings on so far. Next, he took a small waterskin from the sack and offered it to Xena.
"Oh, no thanks, I have my own water, but thank you anyway." Xena said smiling.
The man stood up and walked over to Xena with the waterskin. He put it out in front of her again and gave it a little push towards her for emphasis. Xena stood up to face the man. It was obvious that he wanted her to drink from the skin, but she couldn't guess why it was so important to him. Gabrielle stood up as well and put her hand on the small of Xena's back. She was still feeling a little insecure about this strange man, but standing next to Xena always gave her a greater measure of confidence.
Xena looked at the man for a moment. He nodded with his head and pushed the skin towards her again. As Xena searched his eyes, she could sense no deception or ill intent in the man. She trusted him, she didn't know why, but she did trust him. So she took the waterskin from him, raised it up to her lips and took a few swallows. He smiled and took the skin back from her, then he just watched.
Xena was staring at him when she felt a wave of dizziness cross over her. She closed her eyes and shook her head. When she opened her eyes again, she tried to focus on the man in front of her, but her vision was blurred.
"Xena what is it?" Gabrielle asked. She was becoming alarmed and the smile on the strange man's face didn't help matters much. "Xena what's going on? Are you all right?"
Xena took a step backwards and reached out in front of her trying to help her balance out with some phantom object. Gabrielle put her arms around Xena's waste to help her stay upright. She looked over at the man as Xena's knees began to buckle.
"WHAT DID YOU DO TO HER!" Gabrielle yelled.
The man just continued staring and smiling.
"Xena. Look at me." Gabrielle said, her concern rising.
>From her knees, Xena continued to stare at the ground. She put one hand down to give herself a little stability, but it wasn't working. She raised her head slightly to look at Gabrielle. The frightened look on Gabrielle's face was the last thing she saw before the darkness came.
"Xena? Xena!" Gabrielle yelled as Xena's body went limp and fell forward into her arms. Gabrielle looked up at the man in front of them. He was no longer staring and smiling. His eyes were closed and he was singing to himself again. "Xena wake up." Gabrielle frantically whispered in her ear. "Come on Xena."
As Gabrielle brushed the hair out of Xena's face, she began to stir. "That's it Xena, come on."
Xena turned her head from side to side, fighting to regain consciousness. Suddenly, the man stopped singing. He looked down and stared intently at Xena. Xena stopped moving, then slowly opened her eyes. For a few moments, she just stared silently and absently.
Still cradling Xena in her arms, Gabrielle cupped her cheek with her hand and turned Xena.s face towards her. "Xena, can you hear me?"
"Hau mitakola." The man said to Xena.
Xena slowly turned her head towards the man and sat up. "Hau mitakola." She said in response after a slight hesitation.
Gabrielle was confused. Xena and the strange man were speaking to one another.
"Hello my friend." He said.
"Hello my friend." She replied.
"Why is it that I can understand you all of the sudden.?" Xena asked.
"It was the medicine in the water that I gave you. It allows us to communicate to one another as if we were born of the same language."
"Xena what's going on?" Gabrielle asked.
Xena ignored Gabrielle's question for the moment and kept her attention on the man before her. "How is that possible? Did the God's send you?"
"Yes, but from my observations since I've been here, I think they are not the Gods that you know." He replied.
"Xena?" Gabrielle was confused and more than a little frightened.
Xena looked at Gabrielle, then back to the man. "What about her?"
"Give her the medicine and she will speak with us." He replied.
Xena turned back towards Gabrielle. "Gabrielle, I understand him. Whatever's in that water, it allows me to understand what he says. I want you to take some."
"I don't know about this Xena. It really had an affect on you. How will I react when I get that stuff inside of me."
"Gabrielle, that effect was only temporary. Take the water, then lie back. I'll be here. Remember? I'll always be here for you."
Gabrielle looked into Xena's eyes and trusted her judgement completely. "All right," a breath, "Let me have it."
"Give me the bag." Xena said as she reached her hand out to the man. He handed her the bag which she turned over to Gabrielle. Gabrielle hesitated for a moment, then took a couple of swallows. "That's it Gabrielle. Everything's gonna be all right."
Gabrielle leaned back as Xena sat next to her. She stared up at Xena and her vision began to blur. Xena could see the effects starting to take place and she grabbed Gabrielle's hand to reassure her. Gabrielle closed her eyes and was soon unconscious. Xena waited a few moments, the leaned over Gabrielle. Still holding her hand, she used the other hand and brushed the back of her fingers lightly over Gabrielle's forehead.
"Come on back Gabrielle." Xena whispered. "Come on."
Xena looked back at the man as Gabrielle continued to lie there. "Why isn't she coming around?"
"Be patient, her medicine is strong, but not like yours. It will take just a little longer." He said. "And when she wakes up, we will be speaking together. We will be able to communicate with each other, my people, and our enemy." Then he closed his eyes and began singing to himself again.
Xena raised an eyebrow and stared at the man for a moment, then turned back towards Gabrielle and continued with her ritual. Finally, after a few more moments, Gabrielle began to stir.
"Gabrielle?.........Gabrielle!" Xena called gently.
Gabrielle opened her eyes and looked over towards Xena. Xena smiled at her and gripped her hand a little tighter. "See, I told you it would be all right."
Gabrielle smiled back at her.
"Come on, let's get you up." Xena helped Gabrielle into a sitting position.
"Hello Gabrielle." The man said.
Gabrielle looked at him. She could understand him perfectly. "Hello." She replied. Then her brows furrowed. "How do you know my name.?"
"I heard your friend calling to you while you were sleeping. I am called Ten Bears." He said "I would like to know what you call yourself." He said, motioning to Xena.
"Before I answer that, tell me where you got that water from." Xena said.
Ten Bears looked towards the lake. "From there." He said.
"No you didn't. That lake isn't magic. I've been here a hundred times in my life and I've drank from that lake about as many times. There's never been any magic in it." Xena stated with slight contempt.
"Believe me when I tell you, this water is from the lake. You are confused now. All will be explained to you in time. You must believe that this will happen. Then, you will understand." Ten Bears stated.
Xena looked at him for a long moment. Finally, she gave in to his first request. "I'm Xena."
"Warrior Princess." Gabrielle added as a smug remark. She wanted this man to know who he was dealing with. Xena gave Gabrielle a slight grin. However, the connotation was lost on him. He had never heard of Xena Warrior Princess before, but that didn't matter right now.
"I have traveled far to find you. I have seen you in a vision while meditating on the Deer Medicine Rocks. The Great Spirits have shown me the way to you. My people need your help. Our land is being taken away by Wasichu, the white man. We will fight to defend our land, but I'm afraid we cannot do this alone." He looked at Xena and his eyes became sad. "These people that I speak of,....they have no heart. They have no soul. Their world is one where material possession is what's most important. They take what is not theirs. They do this without asking. They have us sign treaties, then they go back on their word when it suits them. My people have no faith in the honor of these people."
Xena and Gabrielle were listening intently. They could see the pain in the man's face as he continued to describe life amongst these people.
"Eight winters ago, there was an Indian chief who lead a group called The Cheyenne. He was interested in pursuing peace with these people. They made their village along a river and settled down for the winter." He continued.
Xena and Gabrielle just looked at each other, then back to Ten Bears. "Go on!" Xena solicited.
Ten Bears took a deep breath, then looked downward in rememberance. "This chief, all he asked was that his people be given lodging and protection from the soldiers that were attacking those that they considered.......savage. They asked this of the wasichu. They were denied this protection, but it was promised that they would not be attacked if he returned to his village and kept his aggressive warriors under control. So the chief agreed to this, but there were still attacks being undertaken against the Indians."
Xena's eyes narrowed as she started to anticipate where this story was going.
"A council was called by the chief. It was decided amongst the leaders of the tribe that as soon as the snowfall subsided, they would send people to head off the army and convince them that they were a peaceful tribe." Anger settled on Ten Bears face as he finished his story. "They never got that chance. The next morning, at the break of dawn, women were heard screaming at the approach of Wasichu. The soldiers were coming across the river. The chief and his wife mounted their horses and rode out to meet the soldiers........They stopped.....they raised their hands in a gesture of peace.....then......they were killed by the soldiers."
Gabrielle visibly shuddered at the merciless and cruel treatment given to these people. "That's incredible. These people only wanted to live in peace and for that they were murdered?"
"That's not all." Ten Bears started.
Xena pursed her lips and raised an eyebrow. She was already in a dark mood because of Ten Bears' story, and now there was more. Gabrielle couldn't believe it either. Sad eyes gazed at Ten Bears as he continued with his account.
"More than just the chief and his wife perished that day. Several of the villagers including women and children were massacred."
"Women and children?" Xena growled.
"Women and children." Ten Bears confirmed. "The man who led this charge is now in our valley. He has brought many more wasichu with him. Soon, they will be too many. Our people signed a treaty giving us possession of this land and promising to keep the wasichu out. Then this man came. He discovered gold. Now these people keep coming and they will not leave. We were a free people once. Then these people came with their mini wakan, intoxicating water, and their maza wakan.....guns. They were full of promises, but their promises were empty. Lies! Now they would try to keep my people from being free, from hunting in the lands that we've hunted on all our lives. They would try to confine us to a small area that suits their purpose and then they go back on their written word when they decide that they want our land afterall. We will fight these people now. We will run no more. We will move no more, and we will die to defend what was once freely ours."
Xena and Gabrielle were silent for a moment. Xena let her eyes float from Ten Bears to the fire, then back again. "That's a very noble cause Ten Bears. I have no problem helping you defend your lands, but I do have a couple of questions for you. Just how do you expect us to help, and how do you know that it's us that you need?"
"The Wakan Tanka showed me a person of marvelous and unexplainable power, ....you!" He continued. "When one has such unexplained abilities, this person is called 'Wakan'. Anything that cannot be explained is Wakan. Some Wakan are good and some are bad. Of the good, the superior ones are called.Wakan Wakantu. This is what I called you when you smoked the pipe." He said indicating Xena. Then he turned towards Gabrielle. "Other Wakan are called Taku Wakan. These are relatives of the Wakan Wakantu. Not relatives like a mother and a father however, but like my people, they are all relatives to one another. Mitakuye Oyasin. All are my relations. You, Gabrielle, are Taku Wakan.. I have seen you two together, and though your bodies are separate, your spirits are one. You need each other. We need you now."
Gabrielle and Xena absorbed this information for a moment. Finally, Xena spoke. "You aren't under the mistaken impression that I'm a God are you? 'Cause if you are, I have news for you and it's all bad."
"No, not at all. But you have strong medicine. So strong that I was pulled here to you. I have never seen anyone with a medicine like yours. Your friend's medicine is strong too. My people need your help."
"Who are your people?" Gabrielle asked. "Where are you from."
"The Wasichu call us Indians. My tribe is Sioux. Lakota Sioux. I am from a land called America by the Wasichu. I am from a different time. In your world, my time has not yet come. In my world, you have long since passed on."
"You'll forgive me if I'm just a little skeptical won't you?" Xena stated dryly.
"You have doubts. I understand this, but if my words are not true, and you believe all of this to be too incredible to be real, then I ask you to think about one thing. How is it that you are able to talk with me now? It's because of the water. The Great Spirits have given me the ability to communicate with you and have given you the ability to communicate back. Is it not possible then, that I can be from another time?"
"He does have a point there Xena." Gabrielle retorted. "One thing though Ten Bears. I'm a little confused." Gabrielle started again. "You say that your Gods, or Great Spirits as you call them, have made it possible for you to transcend time barriers and bring us with you to help your people. They gave you this water that allows us to communicate, yet your Gods are not powerful enough to help you defeat your enemy? How is that possible?"
"The Great Spirits have many powers. Sadly, there are bad spirits as well as good ones. They fight against one another. They fight now and it has made the medicine of the good spirits weaker. The spirits will not directly interfere in our fate, but they can give us what we need to help ourselves. The good spirits combined their medicine to bring me to you. This has made them even weaker. The evil spirits would undo their work if they could. The good spirits must keep the evil spirits away while you do your work. Their time and energies are almost totally consumed by this. It was a tremendous effort to bring me here. It will be a tremendous effort to bring you back, and to do all of this without the evil spirits knowing. All this, I have seen in my visions."
"You say you have visions? Are you a seer?" Gabrielle asked.
"I am wicasa wakan. A holy man. A shaman. I am also pejuta wakan. A medicine man. I belong to the Bear medicine people."
Gabrielle and Xena looked at each other, then back to Ten Bears, shook their heads and shrugged their shoulders to indicate that they didn't quite understand what he was telling them.
"I know that you have many questions. It is best if you come back and see things with your own eyes. Then you will know what I say, and you will understand. All will be explained in time." Ten Bears added upon seeing the looks on their faces.
"If we go with you, how will we get back." Xena asked.
"You will be allowed to return without me in the same manner which we come. As we arrive, I will do my best to explain my people and our enemies to you. You will understand why we are saddened by the approach of wasichu."
"Who are the wasichu?" Gabrielle asked.
"They are the enemies. The White man." Ten Bears said. Then he looked at the ground disconsolately. "I hope their appearance will not sway you to side with them. I hope you consider what's right and what's wrong and that is how you will determine your loyalty."
"What are you saying?" Xena asked.
"The wasichu.....they look like you. Their skin is pale, their hair is finer, their eyes are different colors. If it was your time and your land, you would think they were your countrymen."
"Weeelllll! That doesn't mean anything to me." Xena said standing up. "There's plenty of my own countrymen that I dislike. Don't worry Ten Bears. The way you explained things to me, I'm sure we'll have no trouble deciding who's right and who's wrong. We can come up with some way to help." Xena replied.
Ten Bears smiled. "Come then. We must go."
"Where are we going?" Gabrielle asked.
Ten Bears looked at the water and pointed towards it.
"In the lake? We're going in the lake?!" Gabrielle asked in disbelief.
"Come on Gabrielle." Xena said. She gathered her sword and began to turn towards her things near the bedrolls.
"You won't be needing to take anything with you." Ten Bears stated.
"My sword and chakram go everywhere with me." Xena replied as she grabbed a small pouch and tucked it inside her breastplate.
Ten Bears nodded. "Take your weapons. Everything else will be supplied for you when we get there."
Gabrielle grabbed her staff, but Xena halted her. "Gabrielle, why don't you leave that here. I'm sure we can find something suitable for you when we get where we're going."
"Xena, you're bringing your sword and chakram, I'd like to have my staff."
"I understand Gabrielle, but how are you going to swim with it?"
"Huh, good point." Gabrielle acquiesced.
Xena hooked her sword and scabbard on her back and the three of them turned towards the lake. Gabrielle's teeth were already chattering as she anticipated the cold water. Xena just kept her head high and moved towards the water with the graceful confidence that was her hallmark.
"We swim out to the rock. On the other side, we go under and head towards the bottom. There is a passageway between your time and mine there. It will close behind us once we are through, so it is important that we stay together. We will best do this if we all stay in each others sight when we go under. When we come back up, we will be in my land where some of my people are waiting for us."
Xena nodded to Ten Bears. She turned towards Gabrielle and smiled. Gabrielle's eyes gave away her insecurities once again. Xena just put her arm around Gabrielle's shoulders and stared intently into her eyes. "Remember." Xena said.
That was all Gabrielle needed to hear. Xena would always be there for her. And she silently promised herself that she would always be there for Xena too. Then she took a deep breath and nodded in affirmation.
The three walked into the lake fully clothed. The water was cool, but not cold. It was certainly bearable. They walked further out until the water was just above their wastes. Then they each dove in and started swimming towards the boulder in the middle of the lake.
Argo stood close to the fire that was left burning in the pit. She watched as three forms caused the only ripples in the lake, then gradually disappeared.
|Part I||Part II||Part III||Part IV|
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