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The characters of Xena and Gabrielle belong to MCA\Universal, no copyright infringement is intended.

Disclaimer: There is violence in here.

Email me with comments on ANYTHING (even if it's not to do with the story, I like a good chat y'see), at:

Vansen@thefree.net

This story contains a character from one of my other stories called Eve Of Armageddon, to understand this you really need to read the other one, sorry, I know itís a pain!!

You may be able to understand this story without readin the first one, but donít say I didnít warn you…

Sequel to Eve of Armageddon:
The Pain Of Mortality

By Jessica Short

It was morning by the time Beth reached Amphipolis, she had been away for two weeks travelling back to Britannia and couldn't wait to see her mother, Cyrene. The young girl had been travelling for two days to get back home and now, as Orion slowed down, she wearily jumped off him.

The wind was sweeping a gentle breeze through the tame village and she recieved many smiles from passing villagers and friends as she made her way over to the tavern.

Opening the door a man sharply bumped into her knocking her back a few steps, he looked at her with a sinister glare his arm hiding something under his undercoat, he had few hairs on his head, not because of old age, it was a black crew cut with hair that seemed to grow all around his face except on his cheeks, nose and forehead, he was quite tall and well-built wearing a long coat, Beth stared at him and angrily muttered something to the gods as the man made a quick exit. In the collision Beth had felt something sharp scrape her arm, looking down at it she revealed a long red line of blood slowly dripping towards her elbow. She stepped into the tavern as another man furiously ran out looking to where he was running from she saw people crowded around someone, offering their help. Beth's heart missed a beat and rose considerably as she pushed her way through the crowd, she gasped at the sight of her mother lain on the floor grasping her stomach that leaked thick crimson blood. A man caught her eye, it was Kortez, the village elder. Beth quickly ducked beside her mother.

"Mother?" She whispered, Cyrene's eyes flicked onto her child as she gritted her teeth against the pain.

"Beth, Beth, please find Xena." She begged realising the fatality of her wound.

"What? What happened? Who did this?" She asked Kortez as she craddled her mother in her arms with tears flooding into her eyes creating a blurred vision of her mother in front of her, Hestigon appeared opposite her, the village healer, the one who had healed her.

"Beth we need to move her into a bedroom." Hestigon's voice was calm and toneless, Beth nodded slowly as she felt a hand on her shoulder pull her up, she turned to see Kortez.

"What happened Kortez? Who did this and why?" She asked as the tears fell freely down her paled cheeks.

"A man came in he just launched at her without any warning, none of us knew what had happeend until he was on his way to the door just before you came. He left saying four words." The man sighed.

"What did he say?"

"This...is for Xena." He frowned inwardly as the young girl took it like a blow to the gut, she shook her head realising the man she had bumped into was indeed the man who had attacked her mother.

"I sent Wick out after him but it looked like the man had a big head start."

She quickly walked into the room where Cyrene had been lifted into by the villagers, Hestigon inspected the wound, it had missed any vital organs but was deep and the woman was losing alot of blood, Beth knelt beside the bed in the small darkened room.

"Hestigon?" She asked hoarsely.

"I'm trying Beth, it's deep, and..." The healers voice faded as she smelt some of the blood that had spilt onto her hand.

"And what?" Beth demanded.

"The knife must have had poison on it." She finished the sentence quietly as she saw Beth's eyes close, her mother was in and out of consciousness, she found the strength to squeeze her daughter's hand who immediately looked up to her with all the love and adoration she had missed when they had been apart for so long.

"Please find Xena, I want to speak to her before I..." Her voice was through gritted teeth, her sentence cut short as she grimaced at the pain, her eyes closed and her body slumped onto the bed.

"Mother?" Beth's cry was silent. "Hestigon?" The girl turned to the healer.

"It's okay Beth, she's not...it looks like she's passed out from the pain though it maybe the poison taking effect, I can't tell you if she'll be alright, I'm sorry Beth."

Her puffy red eyes tried to blink away the tears to clear her vision, she could feel Kortez behind her slowly rubbing her shoulder.

"How long do you think she has?"

"The wounds not bad, it's deep but I can sew it up, but the poison, I've dealt with it before but this time I don't have the antidote, I don't know anybody who has, if it's not found she only has a couple of hours to a day at the least." The healer sighed.

Beth sub-consciously squeezed the blanket as the news hit her like a tsunami of pain, she stood up and tried to leave, stopped by Kortez.

"Where are you going?" He asked.

"To find Xena." She replied bluntly.

"Cyrene needs you here."

"Cyrene needs Xena and the antidote." The girl argued angrily as she pushed past him out into the tavern, a man appeared he was panting badly.

"Wicks, any luck?" Kortez asked.

"I'm sorry, he had a horse, I tried." He gasped for breath.

"Kortez I need to go." Beth pleaded as villagers listened around her, most knew Cyrene and Beth as good friends.

"You don't even know where Xena OR the antidote is Beth.

"I heard Xena was in the Amazon village with her friend." A village volunteered the information.

"If I find Xena, she's bound to know where the anitdote is Kortez."

"It's a morning's ride to the Amazon village and you won't get far with the horse because of the river."

"Please just let me try." She begged.

"Very well Beth."

The girl returned to her mother and placed a gentle kiss on her forehead as Hestigon worked on the wound.

"I'll be back soon." She whispered.

Once outside beside Orion Kortez joined her.

"Go as fast as you can Beth, Cyrene doesn't have much time, don't stop until you find her, and please, be careful."

"I will Kortez, just take care of mother." She whispered.

Kortez shook his head as the girl rode off leaving a cloud of dust behind her, he knew he shouldn't have let her go, she was in shock, but he knew Beth well, she would never have defied her mother's pleads.

Beth rode Orion as fast as he would go without tiring him too much, she knew a short cut to the Amazon village from here but taking it would mean still crossing the river like Kortez said that Orion couldn't make, but it would proabably half the time it took for her to get there and so the desicion was made as she rode through a deep valley.

Xena turned to Gabrielle and stared at her in her Amazon queen outift, it suited her well.

"Looks great." She smiled, the bard picked up her staff.

"You ready to address the nation?" The warrior asked, Gabrielle nodded a little worried. "What do I say?"

"Exactly what you spent the last three nights planning, that the centaurs peace hold is still on and talks are going ahead with it, that's all." The warrior smiled. "Now come on, I'll be right beside you."

The bard smiled and grabbed the warrior's forearm. "Thank you Xena, for baring with me the last few days, I know they haven't exactly been your idea of fun, cooped up in one place for a long time, it means a lot to me."

"And you mean alot to me." The warrior smiled pulling the bard out of the small hut, Ephiny appeared smiling at the Queen. "Ready? It's nothing huge but reassuring the women that the centaurs aren't going to attack next moon will be a great weight off their shoulders."

The bard walked forwards and stood in front of the crowd and began her speech.

Beth stopped at the river after three furious hours of riding, she had made good time, the amazon village was over the river and through a forest, patting Orion on their departure she left her weapons with the horse knowing the Amazons wouldn't tolerate an armed warrior entering their grounds, in fact, she wasn't sure they would tolerate a warrior on their grounds, but she had to take the chance to find Xena, the girl kissed Orion on the nose then turned around and waded into the slow flowing river and began to swim across, she would have to hurry if she was to find Xena and the antidote, the cold water cooled her down and washed away the blanket of perspiration that had covered her body, as she began to swim the front crawl her right arm began to give way to a small pain and numbness, the scratch the man had left with...with the poisonous knife "oh Hades" had she been infected aswell? Maybe the water would clear the any poison out but the more she tried to swim, the stronger the pain became. After dragging herself to shore using only her left arm and legs she pulled herself out onto the grass ledge, trying to stand up seemed impossible, Beth was a good swimmer but she felt like she had the weight of the world on her shoudlers, only one explanation, the poison.

She slowly pushed herself onto her feet, thinking of the previous events of how the knife had reached her led to thinking of her mother which sprouted new tears as she began to attempt to run, her wet clothes slowed her down along with the minimal affect of the poison. She entered the forest, twigs and branches scraping off the top layer of skin on her arms and face, she fell to the floor after tripping on an undetected tree root, her face scraped along in the dirt tearing more of her skin from her cheekbone, another root dug into her ribs, the dirt clung onto her wet skin and clothing as she struggled again to stand, in the end having to lean onto a tree to push herself up, she wasn't sure if she was just tired or if the poison was taking over, she didn't care, Xena was near, her mother was dying, she had to run. This time she felt slightly more stronger but still, even though begging them to, the tears didn't stop making clear paths through her dirty cheeks.

She knew she was in Amazon territory by all the signs, it was only a matter of time before they caught her, maybe they already had seen her and were just waiting.

Gabrielle was at the end of her speech when the alarm was raised, it was Solari who appeared.

"Pardon my Queen but we have an intruder in the north woods." She said it with such politeness that it seemd like no problem, but they all knew it was only because she was addressing the Queen.

"Centaurs?" Ephiny stepped forwards, the woman shook her head.

"Enemy?" Xena asked.

"Unarmed." Solari replied, Xena looked towards Ephiny.

"Solari and I will take a group out and find them, you stay here and finish the speech." Ephiny told them., the warrior nodded, slightly concerned by the intruder.

"We'll be fine Xena." Ephiny smiled seeing the look on the warrior's face.

"Bring whoever it is to me." Gabrielle told them, they obliged with a nod.

"Okay Solari let's go."

The two amazon women ran off and Gabrielle turned back to the Amazons in front of her.

Beth began to tire again from complete exhaustion, her breath ripped at her lungs, her heart pounded against her ribcage and her legs felt like jelly beneath her, she could feel the blood from the fall trickle down her cheek as an opponent to the free falling tears, the run brought back memories of her father when his men were chasing her, she shook the thought from her mind as she saw Amazons silently move into hiding in their trees in front of her, she didn't know whether she should try to avoid them or give into them, she certainly wasn't up to fighting them, she clung onto her battered ribs not bothering to wipe away the tears as she ran towards the Amazons, at small, it was an excuse to stop running, she had been running through this damn forest for half an hour, only stopping when she had fallen and not even then taking a breather.

An Amzaon slid from her tree in front of her and the girl stopped, falling to one knee as she half gave in to exhaustion, the Amazon took off her mask, it was Ephiny.

"You're lucky we didn't kill you straight away." Her voice was stubborn and dangerous, Beth looked up to the figure who gasped at the young battered face.

"Who are you? What do you want on Amazon territory?" Her voice hinted interest as Beth tried to calm her breathing. Ephiny could see the girl had been crying and battered by the forest but she had to do the interogation like it or not, for all she knew, this girl could be a spy.

"Please...Xena...I need...Xena." Was all the girl could manage as she closed her eyes to control the rising pain in her chest, she knew her ribs weren't broken and tried to continue.

"I know." She gulped. "I know...Xena is here." She saw the other Amazons, their arrows at the ready.

"Why do you want Xena?" Ephiny asked plainly.

"It's...it's...her mother...she needs her." Beth managed to stand on both legs and came level with the Amazon still clutching her ribs.

"How do I know you're for real?" Ephiny asked with interest.

"I have...I have no weapons to attack...I have travelled...from Aphi...Amphipolis, I need to see her...please just take...take me to her...she'll know who I am." The girl's answers had turned into pleads, Ephiny thought about it and quickly caught the girl as she fell backwards.

"Solari, give me some help here, she's in a bad way, we need to get her back to a healer."

"She could be a..."

"She's just a girl!" Ephiny cried as she swung the girls arm over her shoulder and, with little effort from the girl, began to drag her back to Xena, the other Amazons still holding their arrows towards the girl, just in case.

Gabrielle finished her speech to a huge applause from the crowd which was quickly interrupted by the call of an Amazon, Solari. "Clear the way, we need to see the Queen, and Xena."

The crowd seperated into two creating a small path down the courtyard towards the Queen who stood on a platform trying desperately to see what the commotion was, she could make out Ephiny dragging a young girl beside her, the girl looked pretty beaten but not past recognition as she came closer.

"Xena it's..." Gabrielle gasped.

"Beth." The warrior finished jumping from the stand towards Ephiny who was now surrounded by other Amazons muttering to each other.

"Beth!" The warrior cried who was shortly followed by Gabrielle, the girl had saved the bard's life almost at the expense of her own.

Ephiny looked up at the warrior who was quickly approaching, she could see the concern in her face and wondered who the girl really was. Slowly, she unhooked the weak girl from her shoulder just as the warrior reached out to catch her with more worry than Ephiny had seen on the warrior's face other than that day in the Thessalian temple. Gabrielle appeared behind the warrior and was quickly at her side as the warrior lay the beaten girl to the floor sitting her up on the warrior's stern knee.

"By the gods." The bard whispered.

"You know her?" Ephiny asked a little out of breath, the warrior nodded. "She's my sister, she's..." Ephiny raised both eyebrows at the unexpected introduction, there were many gasps following Ephiny's, the Amazons kept silence, though they all knew there would be questions asked later.

"Xena." Beth's weak voice had been made weaker by the way her lungs involuntarily felt like they were breathing for the world, the poison had obviously taken affect.

"Beth what's happened? Why are you...?"

"It's mother."

Gabrielle looked up at the warrior to see fear instantly set in her eyes.

"I was in Britannia, just returned, she'd...she's been attacked by...someone, it's...there was poison...poison on the knife...ahow" Beth gritted her teeth and twisted uncomfortably at the throbbing pain in her ribs, maybe she was wrong, maybe they were broken.

The warrior resisted screaming.

"Beth." Her calm voice took the place of the voice that was screaming insde her.

"What happened?" Xena's eyes became misty and she blinked away the tears that hung there ready to fall.

"I don't know, I just came." Beth closed her eyes as her chest rose and fell at an abnormal rate. "She's in a bad way." The girl squirmed slightly. "She doesn't have long."

"Who was it?"

"A man, looking for you."

"Xena." Gabrielle knelt beside the warrior gently placing a hand onto her shoulder.

"This was all because of me." The warrior whispered, her eyes wandering over the body of the young girl.

"No Xena, it wasn't, now we need to get Beth to the healer."

The warrior nodded.

"Beth, we're gonna take you to the healer." Xena whispered.

"No!" The protest caused the girl to have a small coughing fit. "No Xena, we...we need to find the antidote for the poison."

"Beth you're in no fit position." Xena remembered saying the exact same words to Beth when she had tried to fight her father.

"Mother is in no fit position Xena, she needs our help."

"I can't let you do this to yourself, not again. Your body needs to heal." The warrior explained, at the news, new tears began to spill down Beth's cheek, 'damn the warrior for being so stubborn'.

Xena lifted the girl and carried her into her own room that the Amazons had given her.

"Get a healer!" She cried disappearing into the room.

Ephiny grabbed Gabrielle by the arm and span her round giving her the questioning look.

"You wanna tell me about the half beaten girl that's Xena's sister." She asked with a hint of anger that she had not been told.

"Sorry, I couldn't tell you Ephiny, if people found out that Beth was Xena's sister, think what danger that would place her in." Gabrielle explained, Ephiny sighed in agreement.

"Look, I'll tell you later, but Beth saved my life, I need to know she's gonna be alright right now." The bard told her, Ephiny released her grip and Gabrielle entered the room to see the warrior sitting beside the small child who was struggling to stay conscious, the girl was sweating, her hair matted against her forehead, she wasn't letting on as much as she should be, Xena knew that.

"Beth, what aren't you telling me?" The warrior questioned stubbornly.

"Find the antidote Xena, go and find it." Beth ordered as strongly as she could, the bard sat beside her on the bed.

"We'll go as soon as we know you're okay but..."

"No, I'll be fine...I'll be fine, just go, mother doesn't have long." Beth hated the idea of not going with them, but she knew she would only slow them down.

The healer entered, another Amazon, she was carrying a bowl of something that steamed.

"Drink this Beth, it'll help the pain, and slow the poison." The Amazon told her.

"Poison!" The wariror cried looking down at the girl who shut her eyes and sighed.

"What is she talking about?" She screamed then turned to the Amazon.

"the cut on Beth's arm is infected, I could see from the courtyard, I've seen this kind of poison before."

"Why didn't you tell me?" Xena asked.

Beth shook her head, she couldn't stand it any longer, either Xena was going to find the poison, or she was, she whipped the covers from her sweat ridden body and sat up on the bed bringing a dizzy migraine, she stood up.

"Beth." The warrior's tone was low and dangerous.

"If you won't help mother, then I'm going."

"You stay here, you're not going anywhere." Xena ordered gently pushing the girl back onto the bed, Beth grabbed Xena's breast plate with her left arm and yanked the warrior close to her face. "Find the antidote." She muttered through clenched teeth.

"Not until I..."

"Please!" Beth cried.

Xena turned to the healer. "Do you know where I can get the antidote?" She asked.

"Yes, in Hestan, a small village about thirty miles north."

"Thirty miles!" Xena repeated.

"If you go now Xena, ride on Argo on your own, you'll make it." Gabrielle told her, the warrior nodded.

"But I can't..."

"She'll be fine, we'll take care of her." Gabrielle told the warrior.

"When I get to Hestan, what do I do?"

"Ask for a man named Kapulas, say Dharia sent you and ask for the anitdote for Jeston." The healer explained.

"Right." Xena stood up and looked down at the beaten girl and sighed, the bent forwards and kissed the girl's forehead, suprised at how hot she was.

"How long do I have?" Xena asked.

"Not long I'm afraid. About five hours, the poison's in her blood stream, I heard about your mother, a wound to the stomach, though sounding more serious, may be less fatal."

"Why?"

"Because the organs will reject the poison, it's a poison that can only survive in blood it needs light and air so the deeper it goes the lgither it gets, any deeper than an inch into comebody's body and the poison dies, if it was only on the tip of the knife then it wouldn't have died, there's a big chance that the poison never made it into your mother's blood stream. But then I might be wrong."

Xena nodded. "I'll come straight back here with the poison."

The warrior turned to walk out the door.

"Xena?" Beth called.

"Hm?"

"If you run out of time, go straight to mom."

Ephiny entered the hut after watching Xena ride off in a mad gallop. Gabrielle went to her.

"Gabrielle, I've sent two Amazons to Thrace to find out about Xena's mother." Ephiny told her.

"Thank you Ephiny."

"Now you wanna tell me what's going on?"

The bard sighed, she turned turned to look at beth who was now fast asleep. They sat down at a table.

"We were in a town getting some supplies preparing to journey to Thrace when this boy runs into the courtyard shouting about omse kind of capture of someone, anyway, it's Beth who appears captured, the king's daughter. The king puts her in the cells and Xena and I, that's an even longer story though." Gabrielle smiled.

"So, what happened?"

"We met Beth, she got us out of the cells and we parted. WE followed Beth to her brother's grave where she was ambushed so we helped out. We made camp and around the fire she told us about her brother and how the King had killed him, she never mentioned anything about her mother until Xena had gone, then she told me that she was Xena's sister, that Cyrene was her mother. At first I didn't know what to think. Then Xena got captured by the king and Beth went after her, the King told Xena who Beth was and explained about Cyrene, Beth and Xena made it out of the castle but Beth was injured, nearly killed, protecting me, saving my life from a shower of arrows. She made it to Amphipolis where Cyrene admitted that Beth was her daughter and explained everything.

"How could she be Cyrene's daughter?"

"Cyrene met someone in Xena's warlord days."

"Ah."

"And that's the story."

Yísee I havenít yet finished this, it will be continued…


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