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Disclaimer: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle belong in their entirety to Universal and Renaissance. No copyright infringement was intended.

Violence and subtext are restricted to the guidelines established by the television series. This story is fifth in a eight part series starting with Turning Point.


Windsong

by R. Az
hazels@emporium.on.ca

 

The rider and horse moved as one. A powerful union that tore up the turf as the pair charged across the countryside. So confident was the great beast of its rider's control that there was no break in stride as the mare leapt from the shore and crashed through the river to gallop up the steep northern bank. The rider yelled encouragement as they cut across the grasslands and cleared the stone wall that edged the dirt road. The equestrian shifted her weight and brought the great mount around to charge at a neck-breaking pace towards the village. There the woman reined in her lathered horse and jumped from the saddle running over to grab the arm of a man who had stepped out of a hut at the sound of the approaching rider.

"Where's Gabrielle?! What's happened to Gabrielle?!" cried Xena shaking the man's arm in distress.

"Xena?" asked the young man in confusion reaching out to touch her. He felt the leather and decorative armor of the warrior and smiled in relief.

"Thank the gods you are here!" the young man sighed, "We were attacked several weeks ago. I lost Gabrielle in the battle. I think she might have been taken prisoner or killed. I don't know!" explained the young man anxiously.

The face of the warrior woman went from fear to stone in a split second as she looked at the curly haired Bard in his long novice robes. She pulled the young man over and pushed him into a pile of straw. Her strong beauty was flawed by the look of rage that distorted her features. "Homer, I don't want an epic. I want Gabrielle. Tell me what..." The warrior stopped and waved her hand in front of Homer's face. He didn't react. "You're blind!" she said in shock.

"Yes, from the flames from the dragon trying to save Gabrielle. I couldn't and as I was blinded, I am not sure what happened next, but I tried to use my senses as best I could before I passed out," explained the boy nervously.

The warrior breathed in deeply and tried to control her emotions, "Start from the beginning and tell me all," she ordered kneeling beside the blinded Bard.

"Gabrielle came to visit, as you know and along the way she had picked up this story about a dragon, Remertha, of the Red Mountain. That one over there," explained the Bard pointing in the general direction of a mountain range. Xena ducked out of the way of Homer's swinging arm. " Remertha had been causing a lot of trouble lately. She convinced me it would be a great idea to come and check it out as it wasn't very far away from Athens."

"Gabrielle excels at good ideas," remarked the warrior dryly under her breath as she absently broke strips of straw into pieces. Her eyes were scanning the mountain ridges.

Homer nodded and continued, "We climbed the Red Mountain and found nothing. On the way down Gabrielle slipped and started a landslide. I grabbed her and prevented her from sliding with the rock and as we sat there watching the rocks crash below a dark shadow fell over us. Xena it was huge and red and it breathed fire! There was no chance to reason with it. It came right at us. Gabrielle tried to protect me by standing in front of me and hitting it with her staff but it grabbed her in its claws. I grabbed the staff and started swinging at it but suddenly there was this bright flash and a searing pain and well, when I came around I was blind and alone. Some shepherd found me and brought me here and I sent messengers out to find you."

"What did you sense after the flash?" asked Xena standing up to scan the mountainsides better.

Homer concentrated, "I heard its wings beating. The sound echoed like it was in a great well. I heard Gabrielle scream and her voice faded away. I felt a cold, damp draft and I smelt wet earth and sulfur," listed the scared Bard.

"Itís taken Gabrielle to its lair," remarked Xena. Had Homer been able to see he would have noted a nerve pounding at Xena's temple and her hands tightening into fists.

"Will she be alright?" asked Homer. There was no answer. "Xena, will she be alright?"

"Dragon's like to eat in their caves. They eat every few days," Xena said in a strained whisper. Homer stood up and reached for Xena, horror written on his face. The warrior reached out to take his flaying arm and held him against her shoulder.

"I'm going after it. I have a dragon to kill."

The Bard nodded, "Xena, is she dead?" he asked in a shaky voice, tears mounting in his eyes.

Xena patted the young man on the shoulder, "Probably. But Gabrielle is smart. There's always a chance," reassured Xena. "I've got to go. See that Argo gets cooled down and cared for," she instructed as she walked over to remove her saddle bag. Slinging it over her shoulder she headed out of the village at a run towards the Red Mountain.

---------------------------------------------

The dragon rolled over and giggled uncontrollably "That's the funniest story yet!" it roared. "When you and Xena were Bacchae did you have canines like I do?" asked the dragon flashing a mouthful of teeth at Gabrielle.

The exhausted Gabrielle pulled back at the smell of sulfur from the dragon's breath. "Yes," she gasped waving her hand back and forth to clear the air. The dragon giggled some more in delight.

"But you said your warrior friend would come and she hasn't!" said the dragon suddenly becoming still and quiet.

Gabrielle stepped back in fear. "She will. You don't know Xena. She'll come as soon as she realizes I'm in trouble." stated Gabrielle confidently leaning her head against the stone of the wall. Her face was drawn and pale and her eyes drooped shut. Her blond hair that usually cascaded around her face was limp and sooty. There, pressed against the stone, her petite features gave her a child-like quality. She looked like a waif lost in a storm.

The dragon reached out and grabbed her it its claws and Gabrielle screamed in shock, "I'm getting hungry," the dragon said sniffing at Gabrielle and licking her with it's tongue.

Gabrielle squirmed in disgust and tried to pull away. "But I've been saving the best stories for the last!" she lied. "I've got all sorts of great stories to tell you yet, Remertha!"

"Hum," murmured the dragon dropping Gabrielle to the ground, "Then I'll go hunting." The cave was filled with the roar of the turbulence of the great wings of the dragon as it swooped up the deep sinkhole that lead to the dragon's liar. Gabrielle sighed and sank to the floor curling up to sleep. For days she had had little sleep. Telling the dragon story after story to entertain it. She was so exhausted that she could barely think. She had run out of food two days ago and her stomach ached and her head reeled. She had told stories often all night long trying to entertain the dragon and prolong her life. Where was Xena? Something must have happened to her, otherwise she would have been here. I shouldn't have come to Athens without her, worried Gabrielle, until she drifted off into an exhausted sleep.

By late afternoon, Xena had still not found the entrance to the dragon's cave. Dark panic was building inside her. She had to know what had happened to Gabrielle! Wildly, she scanned the rough terrain searching with a hunter's eyes for an entrance. Suddenly, the earth shook and the rocks echoed with a turbulent wind. Xena ducked behind a rock just in time to see a massive dark form glide over the mountain and perch on a ledge to rip a cow apart and devour it. The Red Dragon, Remertha! Xena ducked as various discard animal parts bounce by her. When the dragon had finished, Xena stood and moved forward. The dragon looked up and saw a long-legged woman. Tall and dark with the flawless beauty of Greek sculpture, the woman walked with grace and dignity yet she wore the black leather tunic and armor of a warrior with ease. The dragon smiled, "I was wondering when you were going to come out," It said knowingly, "Come closer."

Xena moved forward reaching back as she did so to slide her sword from its scabbard on her back. She found herself on the rim of a massive deep crater. The dragon smiled, and leaned forward so that its nose was only a few feet from the warrior, "Are you a Bard too?" it asked.

Xena looked up sharply. Gabrielle was alive long enough to tell the dragon of her occupation. "No, a warrior," answered Xena coldly, her eyes narrowing to look at the dragon. It was massive and covered in deep red plate. Its muscles bulged and it's claws were longer and sharper than Xena's broad sword. The smell of sulfur from the dragon's fiery breath was overpowering at this close range but Xena held her ground.

"A warrior! Are you a good one?" asked the dragon with curiosity, swishing its long tail with excitement.

Xena planted her feet more firmly and tightened her grip on her sword. "Yes," she answered impatiently her eyes flickering into every nook and cranny looking for signs of Gabrielle.

"As good as the god Ares?" asked the dragon in a mild, cunning voice looking at Xena closely.

Xena paled and her face went stony. Through tight lips she muttered, "probably."

"That's quite a boast!" laughed the dragon rearing up and looking down on the tiny warrior. "How do I know?" said the huge, red dragon pawing the air with its front legs.

Xena's eyes searched for a weak spot in the dragon's armor but could find none.

She sighed, closed her eyes briefly and then looked up at the dragon as she raised her sword. "Because I am Xena, daughter and warrior princess of Ares," she spit out from between clenched teeth.

The dragon smiled," Yes, I thought you might be. The Bard tells many stories of you"

Xena's heart skipped a beat, Gabrielle might still be alive! "Where is my friend?!" demanded Xena losing patience with playing mind games with the dragon.

"Come," said the dragon and spreading it's wings it dived into the huge deep well. Xena hesitated at the rim only a second and then jumped into the black abyss. On the turbulent air from the dragon's wings, Xena swirled and bounced to the bottom, the walls rushing past her. She landed with a thump on her face.

"Xena!" cried Gabrielle rushing over to her friend. Xena got up on her hands and knees, shaken from the impact as Gabrielle dropped beside her. Sitting back, Xena wrapped protective arms around her friend. She lifted Gabrielle's exhausted face and looked seriously into her eyes, "You O.K.?" she asked with worry.

Gabrielle nodded and Xena looked relieved. She staggered to her feet and turned to face the dragon who stood in a corner of the massive cave watching them intently. "What do you want?"

"Entertainment," stated the dragon. "It's very boring here. If you entertain me well, I will spare Gabrielle's life. If you don't, I kill you both," explained the dragon sitting down on its massive haunches and wrapping its tail neatly around its body.

Xena's jaw tightened and her eyes narrowed to slits as she moved forward to scoop up her sword from where it had fallen. She faced the dragon, "We are not entertainers," she snapped as Gabrielle came to stand at her side.

"She is," said the dragon nodding its huge head towards Gabrielle. "She's told me stories every night so I wont kill her."

Xena looked sharply at Gabrielle. She had lost weight and black circles were under her eyes. Xena placed a hand on Gabrielle's shoulder in sympathy for the stress and fatigue she must have endured. Gabrielle managed a weak smile. "Let her go, Remertha," ordered Xena tightening her hand on her sword.

Remertha gave a wide smile and flapped her tail in excitement, " I'll let her go as soon as you each complete a task," agreed the dragon obligingly.

Xena looked frustrated and glanced at Gabrielle, who shrugged in frustration and weariness. She turned back to face the Dragon. "What are they?" Xena asked coming around to face Remertha in combat position.

"Tell me a story, Xena," said the dragon lying down and batting its eye lids at Xena coyly.

Xena looked dumbfounded. "Oh gods! We're dead," whispered Gabrielle burying her face in her hand.

Xena gave her a dirty look and turned back to face the dragon, "I don't tell stories. I'm a warrior." stated Xena lifting her sword once more.

The dragon blew a jet of flame from its mouth and Xena's sword glowed red in her hand. "Ahhh!" Xena cried dropping the sword and grabbing her hand. Gabrielle rushed over and took it in her own. She reached into her pouch and pulled out an ointment which she gentle brushed on Xena's burnt hand. The she took a cloth and wrapped it while the dragon watched on with interest.

"You care for each other," observed the dragon placing its head to the side as it thought.

"Very much so," said Gabrielle coming to stand in front of Xena to protect her injured friend. But Xena stepped forward again to shield Gabrielle giving her a look of warning.

" I don't tell stories," Xena repeated showing no fear at what had happened.

"Yes, well a task to save a life has to be difficult and I know you can fight. But can you tell a story?" smiled the dragon.

Xena looked in panic at Gabrielle who threw up her hands in hopelessness. Xena sighed and looked for a rock to sit on, "Alright," she said squaring her shoulders and biting her lip. "A story...ah..well..er.."

Xena looked up at her friend who had come over to stand beside her with a weak smile pasted on her face. Out the corner of her mouth Gabrielle whispered, "Once there was..."

Xena nodded "Once there was... I mean, once there was...what?!" asked Xena turning to look at Gabrielle in annoyance.

Gabrielle rolled her eyes, "It's your story!" she reminded Xena, "I was just trying to get it going! You might say I have an invested interest in this!" snapped Gabrielle.

Xena frowned and licked her lips, "Well, ... er... I mean ...once..er," she stumbled. Gabrielle hit her forehead with her palm and turned away shaking her head, "I'm toast!" she muttered.

"She doesn't know any stories!" roared the dragon leaping up in annoyance and breathing fire in Gabrielle's direction. Xena raced to stand in front of her friend but Gabrielle grabbed her and dived to the ground covering Xena. The dragon laughed at their need to protect each other at the cost of their own safety.

Xena pushed Gabrielle off in annoyance and grabbing her friend she whispered into her face, "Will you stop trying to protect me!" She got to her feet and once again faced the dragon, "Yes, I know lots of stories!" she stated firmly, "I just need some time to figure out how to tell one. I haven't had the practice that Gabrielle has," explained Xena.

Remertha considered this with some concentration and then nodded. "I am going out. When I come back I will have your story." With that the monstrous beast swept up the tunnel and was gone. Xena turned on Gabrielle. "What were you trying to do get yourself killed!?" she roared grabbing Gabrielle's shirt and pulling her close to snarl in her face.

Gabrielle pulled away and put her hands on her hips, "Listen, I wasn't the one who came to rescue me without a plan of escape!" snapped Gabrielle. "Do you think I'm going to let Remertha fry you like bacon just because you came to help me? Speaking of bacon, did you bring food, I haven't eaten in two days," finished Gabrielle reaching for the pack on Xena's back.

Xena's anger abated and she smiled as she slipped the bag off and passed it to Gabrielle, "All the trail sticks you can eat," she laughed.

Gabrielle squealed with delight and sat on the floor cross legged with the bag in front of her. She bit into one of the hard, brittle sticks made of dried lamb, berries, honey and oats. "Wonderful!" she mumbled.

Xena gave her a raised eyebrow of disbelief and wandered off to search for possible ways to escape. They were at the bottom of a huge well. The rock was sheer and straight with no likely handholds to climb. She considered the distance to the top. It was too far to throw her chakram with a line on it. She walked slowly on searching for shadows that might indicate even the smallest crevices. Occasionally, she stood still sensing for the slightest draft or whisper of air through the rocks.

"Have you found anything?" asked Gabrielle who had already spent days searching and held out little hope. Xena shook her head. " Couldn't you just wack it with your sword or put the death pinch on it or zap it with a powerbolt?"

"No," sighed Xena, " I've already checked. It's covered in armor. There are no openings. And I don't know how to put the pinch on a dragon. The small lightening bolts I can throw would more than likely bounce off and come at us. There's something strange about this dragon. It just doesn't feel right," she muttered almost to herself. "I might have to tell a story after all," she concluded matter of factly coming over to kneel by Gabrielle.

Gabrielle snorted and Xena looked at her in indignation. "Come off it, Xena! You're the person whose conversational skills were so lacking that you forgot to mention that your friend Goliath could see over tree tops! If I have to rely on you for a story to entertain Remertha, I might as well resign myself to being a burnt offering!"

Xena chewed on her lower lip. And Gabrielle looked at her with compassion and humor. "Hey," she said to get Xena's attention, " This isn't your fault you know."

Xena reached out absently playing with the buckle on her saddle bag. "Some rescue, huh?!" she laughed mirthlessly.

Gabrielle shrugged, "You've heard all my stories. Unfortunately, I've told most of them to Remertha. If I can think of one I haven't told, we could practice it before Remertha gets back," suggested Gabrielle looking at her friend with worry.

"No, It's not that Gabrielle!" snapped Xena in frustration getting up in one lethal motion and pacing the floor. One hand crushed into a fist and slammed repeatedly into the other as she walked. Gabrielle watched her friend with concern and interest. "It's letting go. It's the emotion needed to tell a story well. I can't let go, Gabrielle. I...I.. can't feel that vulnerable. I lack the trust."

Gabrielle got to her feet and stood in Xena's path, anger on her face, "Xena, you and I have gone through Tartarus together over this last year and still kept our friendship together. I know I betrayed you once but can't you trust me now?!" she snapped grabbing Xena by the arm and looking up into her face.

Xena shock her head in frustration and placed a hand over Gabrielle's patting her friend reassuringly," No, it's not you. I don't trust me," she whispered hanging her head down.

"How can I after what I've done?"

Gabrielle lifted Xena's face with her fingertips and looked into her friend's eyes, " I trust you. I always have from the moment you were there fighting for me."

Xena smiled and relaxed a little. Above them came the rush of air and the beat of wings. Xena pulled Gabrielle back out of the way.

The mighty dragon landed digging her claws into the rock as easily as through soft flesh.

The dragon looked at the two closely, "You are very entertaining you two. I wonder what your bond is."

Gabrielle stepped in front of Xena and Xena rolled her eyes in frustration and came to stand next to Gabrielle. "Xena's fate and mine are intertwined. Zeus told us we are soul partners for eternity."

"No, Gabrielle," said Xena softly, "It's not as simple as that. I have a story to tell." Gabrielle and the dragon looked at Xena's calm composure in surprise. The dragon lowered itself to the ground and eyed Xena with interest. Gabrielle stepped back and waited in anticipation.

Xena swallowed several times and looked at Gabrielle who smiled gently and nodded her support. Xena's eyes stared far away and her voice was rich and lilting.

Once before the gods took their place,
Before life kissed the face of barren earth,
Long before the human race,
there was the Windsong.

Softly, like gentle rain in spring,
Sweet as fragrant blossoms in morning sun,
Free as the white dove on wing,
So is the Windsong.

Two powers joined in silent space.
The wind is the power of life and death,
Her mate, the song of love's face
That is the Windsong.

But gods saw only blackest sky,
And separated day from starry night,
The wind howled a plaintive sigh,
Lost was the Windsong.



And so it was that wind and song,
Hungered for each other through time and space,
Now fates go forever wrong,
Gone was the Windsong.

The lonely wind was a lost soul,
Until it was caught by Ares embrace,
Trapped within my mortal soul,
Mine is the Windsong.

Wind is power and passion's might,
No limits or boundaries to restrain,
Warlord wind twists what is right,
In the sad Windsong.

Song was given form by the gods,
To balance the power within my soul,
Right a wrong, so tried the gods
Unite the Windsong.

Song is compassion's gentle face,
Caring, loyalty, and love of all that's good,
Song of joy and loving grace,
Once in the Windsong.

Xena's voice faltered and stopped. The dragon looked up and Gabrielle sat frozen. Silence filled the chamber and time and place danced close together but not touching. "Gabrielle I'm not sure of the rest. I...I... sometimes late in the evening, I see the shadow of a bird float silently over a cliff face and in my heart I almost hear my song. But when I strain to hear her it is only the sigh of the wind in the trees." Xena groaned and turned and walked over to lean her head against the cold stone of the cave.

"I should never have been conceived Gabrielle. I am not what the Fates intended. The wind was never meant to be trapped by human form." Xena turned to look at Gabrielle, "They couldn't change what Ares had done, so they gave me back the song. They gave me you."

Wind and song dance close together,
Yet never can we touch or join as one,
Balanced but lost forever,
Silent the Windsong.

Xena's story ended as a gentle cool wind rose around them. The three strained to hear a sweet, lonely song that seemed to hover just out of hearing on the air. Gabrielle's eyes closed and she slumped to the ground asleep. The dragon looked at Xena through eyes that were surprisingly heavy. Remertha saw Xena lie down and close her eyes in deep sleep. And outside a shadow of a bird floated over the rough face of the mountainside. Within the cavern the dragon rested it's head on the earth and slept along side the two women. The three lost in ancient dreams.

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The dragon opened its eyes first and looked strangely at the sleeping warrior. It could not remember going to sleep. Had the warrior told her story or had Remertha dreamt it? For the first time in the dragon's life it felt a greater power.

Gabrielle gave a sigh and woke up slowly. Her first thought was of Xena and she got up quietly and walked over to her friend. Xena looked pale and was sleeping deeply. "Does she still sleep?" whispered the dragon.

Gabrielle turned to look at Remertha, "Yes." She walked over to stand in front of the dragon, "Did I dream? I thought Xena was telling me the most beautiful story. I could almost hear words like lyrics on the wind... I," Gabrielle faltered and walked over to look down at her friend again a puzzled look on her face. "That's what Zeus meant when he gave us the medallions. We are tied for eternity because the power of the wind is within her and the song within me," whispered Gabrielle in wonderment.

Xena felt very vulnerable. It was an awful feeling as if her soul was unprotected. She felt her skin creep with the fear and her heart pound with the danger and waking with a start she leapt to her feet and spun around ready to attack. Gabrielle gasped and the dragon reared back and snorted smoke. Xena looked around wildly and then seemed to realize where she was. She wiped her face with her hand. "Sorry, dream," she explained. Gabrielle looked at Remertha who nodded knowingly at Xena.

"Your story was very entertaining, Xena," the dragon said softly. Realization flowed over Xena as a deep blush spread. She had been vulnerable. Terribly vulnerable. Gabrielle sensed her friend's distress and came to stand by her. Xena placed her hand on Gabrielle's shoulder.

"It is time now for Gabrielle's challenge," said the dragon standing up and waving its tail in excitement. It looked closely at the little Gabrielle, " I wonder if she can do as well. Gabrielle, you are to kill Xena in combat".

Gabrielle's face paled, " You said you'd release us!" she yelled and would have raced at the dragon if Xena had not grabbed her arm and pulled her back.

"No, I said I would let you go," reminded the dragon smugly. It's eyes shifted from one to the other as it talked.

Gabrielle crossed her arms and set her jaw defiantly. "Well, I'm not going without Xena! You heard her story. We are supposed to be together!" exclaimed Gabrielle looking up at the beautiful face of her warrior friend. Xena smiled down at her sadly.

"Once, but the meddling of the gods broke the Windsong and now, thanks to Ares, the power is forever trapped in human form. The gods can release the song but only death can free the wind. It needs to be released," explained the dragon with determination. "Come meet my terms or die," encouraged Remertha.

Gabrielle felt Xena's hand on her shoulder and she looked up to meet her eye, "Do it Gabrielle. I've cheated death before. I can do it again," her friend encouraged. The dragon raised one eyebrow and smiled craftily.

Gabrielle turned to look at her friend, "Xena, you've always respected me because I do not kill if I can avoid it. That's always been important to you and to me. What kind of person would I be to save my life at the cost of my best friend? No, I'll die here with you," explained Gabrielle to Xena.

Xena sighed and looked down, her hands on her hips, "Circumstances change. There is never a never, Gabrielle. Didn't we learn that?" growled Xena bitterly swinging her arm around to catch Gabrielle on the side of the mouth with the back of her fist. Gabrielle fell stunned to the dirt floor. Blood dripped from a split in her lip.

Gabrielle got up slowly and smiled at her friend, " Xena, this isn't going to work. I can't fight you! You're my soul partner! Besides, you'll kill me in a blink of an eye. I wonít even see it coming!" Xena's only answer was to kick the feet out from under Gabrielle and pull out her sword.

"Oof!" cried Gabrielle as she hit the ground hard. She braced herself up on her elbows to look at her intimidating friend, "Cut it out! Zeus! If you start getting your blood-lust up everyone is going to end up worm meat around here!"

Xena kicked out with her foot at Gabrielle's face but Gabrielle, starting to lose her patience, caught it and twisted sending Xena to the ground. Gabrielle bounced up and straddled her friend pinning her shoulders and looking her straight in the eye. "There has to be a better solution."

For a second, Xena looked at her friend and hesitated. Then the dragon remarked, "There is no solution. Only a fight to the death will do." A snarl of determination formed on Xena's face and grabbing Gabrielle by the shoulders she sent her in a flip over her head. Xena sprang to her feet and from a pile of dragon hoard she selected a sword for Gabrielle and threw it at her friend. Gabrielle caught it and then purposely dropped the blade beside her. "No!" she yelled.

Xena charged at her, slicing her sword through the air. Gabrielle never moved a muscle. A look of shock flashed in the dragon's eyes but at the last instance, Xena checked her swing narrowly missing Gabriella's head. Gabrielle smiled up at Xena. The dragon sighed in relief. It hadn't anticipated the wrong mortal being killed. Gabrielle had won and Xena grunted in exasperation and pulled Gabrielle to her feet. "For gods' sake, Gabrielle, I can't let you die," snarled Xena, her stormy-blue eyes filled with deep emotion.

Gabrielle laughed and reached up and held the warrior's face in her hands, "You haven't got any choice," she smiled.

Xena appealed to her friend, "Gabrielle, I wasn't to be. As long as I exist the Windsong can never be whole. Only you can release the power of the wind by killing me. You have to do it!" Xena took her friend by the shoulders and looked into her eyes, "Gabrielle, don't you see. I was forced to tell the story to piece together the history of my being. Discord follows me because I am the source of the Earth's discord. We must have been deliberately brought together to bond so that when you killed me the power of the wind would seek you out. Gabrielle, all this was meant to be. You must kill me! I was not to be!" begged Xena.

Gabrielle shook her head. "Nothing good can come from such an act. If this is the price the gods wish to pay for their mistakes it wont be at our cost or that of the world. An evil act can never bring about goodness. The Fates are wrong and I will not be a part of this madness. Your place on this earth has done far more good than evil. We both know that. The gods' foolishness has caused the loss of the earth's Windsong and inner peace. I am not going to let them take away a hero too." Gabrielle reached up and touched Xena's cheek and searched her eyes for understanding, "That choice in mine. And my choice is you."

Xena's eyes narrowed and her eyebrow arched as her mouth formed a determined line. She dropped her sword and pulled a sharp knife out from her belt. Reaching out she took hold of Gabrielle's hand and forced the knife handle into her palm. Then as they struggled she wrapped her own hands around Gabrielle's. "No!" cried Gabrielle but Xena simply over powered her and stabbed the knife into herself. Gabrielle looked down in horror to see Xena's blood flowing hot out on to her hand. Xena moaned and closed her eyes. Gabrielle reached out and grabbed her friend lowering her to the ground.

Blood oozed out of Xena as Gabrielle pulled the hideous curved knife out of her friend. In a panic, Gabrielle ripped off a section of her skirt and tried to stop the bleeding with it. "Xena, no, no, Xena! Oh my god!" cried Gabrielle trying everything she could to stop the bleeding. The dragon looked on with interest. Suddenly, a breeze ruffled Gabrielle's hair playing around her. Gabrielle twisted this way and that as if she was aware of some being around her. She raised her blood soaked hands and touched the force of the wind. "Go back," she whispered, "Go back to my friend." she instructed gently. The wind whirled around her but she shook her head. "No, don't you see this is the way it was meant to be. Two separate forces, balanced. Nothing has gone wrong. The gods played their small role in a greater play" The wind circled once more and slowly faded. As Gabrielle watched, the blood from Xena's wound dried and the torn flesh healed. Gabrielle smiled and gently shook Xena's shoulder, "Xena?" she whisper. Behind her, she heard the thunderous roar of the dragon and the cavern lit up with flashing flame. Gabrielle covered the body of her friend with her own and waited to die.

Suddenly a quiet and mighty voice spoke, "Are you so much wiser than the gods, Gabrielle, Warrior Bard of Olympus?" Gabrielle looked up to see that the huge dragon had changed its form into Zeus. A god of incredible muscle and strength, he wore a crown of stars and sat on his mighty black throne towering over Gabrielle.

She slowly raised and faced the great god of Olympus. "Zeus!" exclaimed Gabrielle in surprise. Then she square her shoulders and faced the god of the sky. " I know that your time will pass. Even now some talk of one compassionate god, who is a shepherd to us all. Your kind and your foolishness will drift into history and become tales for children. You Immortals are only bit players in a greater reality."

"Your words are blasphemy! A world with no respect for the ancient gods or the Fates can never be!" snarled the god of the sky in contempt.

Gabrielle snorted and wagged her finger at Zeus, "You have had your chance and been corrupted by it. There will be a time in the future when even dragons are myth."

Xena stirred and Gabrielle reached down and pulled her to her feet. Xena felt her wound and then looked at Gabrielle in surprise. "I told you, you had no choice," Gabrielle smiled. And Xena smiled back at her friend's wisdom. Gabrielle nodded towards Zeus, "It seems there is no dragon. We are just the sport of gods, again," explained Gabrielle with anger.

Xena picked up her sword and stepped between Gabrielle and Zeus and Gabrielle rolled her eyes and shook her head, smiling. "So it was you all along was it, Zeus?" asked Xena flexing her sword in her hand.

"You grow in power, granddaughter," observed Zeus looking down on the Warrior, "Your place is with us. The power of the wind belongs on Olympus if it can not be reunited with the Windsong."

"My place is with the people. Using my strength to make a better world. My place is with my friend. I think we balance each other well. Don't you?" asked Xena of the mighty god of the sky. Zeus considered this and rubbed his chin in thought. Gabrielle came up to wrap her arm around Xena prepared to die with her friend. Finally, Zeus nodded and with a tremendous flash and thunder roll that flattened the two friends to the ground, he was gone.

--------------------------------------------------

When the two friends woke they were lying on their bed rolls beneath a tree at the base of the mountain. Argo grazed near by and Homer was reading a scroll and mumbling to himself. He looked over at Xena and Gabrielle. "Good, you're awake! The sun's been up for an hour. I didn't want to head back to Athens without saying good bye to the two of you. I can't thank you enough for the stories but it is too bad that we didn't see a dragon."

Gabrielle looked at Xena in shock but Xena touched her arm and pointed to the cliff face.

There the shadow of a bird drifted gracefully across its surface, a silent song in the wind.


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