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Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.
NOTE: All works remain the © copyright of the original author. These may not be republished without the author's consent.
This story depicts scenes of violence and/or their aftermath. Readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of depiction may wish to read something other than this story.
SPECIFIC STORY DISCLAIMER:
The story itself is about two women who are madly in love, and there will be some scenes depicting that love. There will, however, be NO explicit sex in this story! I figure you all would rather use your imagination for that stuff.
I got off to a bit of a shaky start with the character development, but I think things are starting to come together now. Please bear with me because I'm still working on Callisto...GOD she bugs me! J
By the way, this is my first attempt at fan fiction, so please let me know what you think by e-mailing me at email@example.com Constructive criticism only! All other kinds will make me cry...
Last, but definitely NOT least, I need to thank my partner in life for being so supportive in my endeavor. I love you!
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THE DARKLING - PART FIVE
By Lynne Knowlton
Gabrielle stood and looked around at the flat, barren landscape. There wasn't a living thing as far as the eye could see. No trees, no animals, no birds, not even a solitary insect inhabited this strange land. There was nothing but sand and rock, and a blue, cloudless sky. She squinted against the brightness of the sun, tried to remember how she had gotten here, but found that she couldn't. She looked down and saw that she was attired in a short, white leather skirt and tunic. A wide belt circled her waist, and she wore a pair of well-made boots the same color as her clothing. "Ok, the last thing I remember is fighting, and then being injured, and then talking to Xena." Her eyes widened in horror. "Am I dead? If I am, this is definitely not the Elysian Fields. That means this must be...no...if I were in Tartarus, I would be hanging from a cross, or burning alive, or getting my skin peeled off, or something disgusting like that." She looked around and saw the wasteland continued as far as she could see in every direction. The only exception to the monotonous landscape was a mountain range far to the south. "Well. That's it. The mountains it is!" The bard had no idea where she was, but in light of the situation, the mountains seemed to be the most logical objective. She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. "Ok Xena, you had better be waiting for me somewhere in this awful place. Please be waiting for me..." Her thoughts trailed off as she turned and headed toward the distant peaks.
The bard felt like she had been walking for hours, yet the mountains seemed no closer now than when she began her trek. She noticed that the sun was slowly making its way toward the western horizon, so she knew that time was passing. What she didn't know was how long it would take her to reach her goal. As she kept moving southward she realized how thirsty she was. Her mouth was dry and her lips were beginning to crack. "Ok...water would be a good thing right now." Although she had been keeping her eye out, she hadn't found anything that even held the promise of water. She tried to push the incredible thirst from her mind as she focused on each step she took. Sweat was running in rivulets down her face and into her eyes. She wiped her brow for what she felt was the thousandth time. "Hey! Maybe I can just suck on my tunic. Gods know I've sweated enough into it!" She laughed to herself as she realized how desperate she was getting.
Finally, the sun began to sink into the earth and the light grew more and more dim. Gabrielle realized that she wouldn't be able to continue in the dark so she began looking for a place to rest. She saw a grouping of large boulders several feet to her right and decided that would be as good a place as any. As she made her way toward the rocks, she heard a noise behind her. She whirled around and froze in a defensive stance. "Oh great! First I deal with no water, and now I'm facing Gods know what without my staff." Her eyes were having difficulty penetrating the dark, but she could definitely hear something moving around out there.
"OK! Whoever you are out there, the least you can do is show yourself!" Gabrielle shouted in the general direction of the noise.
Hearing nothing, the bard became bolder. "I have to warn you that I'm armed and I'm not afraid to use my sta...ah...sword to cut you into tiny, little pieces!" She carefully took a step forward and kneeled in the red dirt. Keeping her eyes focused in front of her, she felt the ground for anything she could use as a weapon. Her fingers closed on a fist-sized rock and she stood, ready to hurl it at the offending...whatever it was out there.
Suddenly, a figure stepped out from the darkness and advanced toward the bard. When she realized just who the mysterious person was, she let the rock fall from her hand and rushed forward. She threw her arms around the figure and pulled her into an embrace. "Xena! Gods, am I glad to see you! Where have you been? Where are we? How do we get out of..." Gentle fingers pressing against her lips silenced the bard's questions.
"Gabrielle!" The dark-haired warrior laughed and smiled down at her friend. "One thing at a time. First, I just found myself here. It was dark and I didnt know who you were right away. That's why I waited to step out into the open. Second, I have no idea where we are. I've never seen anything or anyplace like this. And third, I'm not sure how to get out of here, but the mountain range seems like the best place to start."
Gabrielle smiled up at the warrior. "We're hopelessly lost, we've got no water, and I'm starving to death. But I can face all that, and worse, as long as I'm with you." She squeezed her friend again and stepped back, realizing that she was dressed in the same white leather that she wore. The only difference was that Xena wore breeches instead of a skirt. "And...I can honestly say that our fashion designer has absolutely no imagination whatsoever."
The warrior chuckled. "Yes we're lost, but it's not hopeless." She reached down and removed a waterskin from the belt around her waist. "At least we've got some water." She held a hand up against the question she knew the bard was getting ready to ask. "No, I don't know how I got it. It was just...here...like me, like you, and like these clothes." She saw the bard take a breath and again interrupted before a sound could be uttered. "Sorry. No food."
The bard grabbed the waterskin from her friend and took a swallow. "Aaah. It's warm, it's moldy-tasting, but it's water!" Gabrielle grinned at the warrior and tossed the skin back. "Thanks. I guess I can live without the food. But not for long, mind you."
"No problem. And how could I ever forget that food is your best friend?" Xena replied as she turned toward the boulders. "Let's get some sleep. We can start again in the morning."
Gabrielle wrinkled her brow in concern. "Xena?" The warrior had suddenly become stiff as she walked away from the bard, almost as if she was unaccustomed to her body "Xena, are you alright?"
Xena stopped and turned, staring at Gabrielle with a feral, almost evil look on her face. The look was gone as quickly as it appeared. "Yes, I'm fine. Come on. Let's get some sleep." She smiled at the bard and held her hand out. Gabrielle wrapped her hand around the warrior's and allowed herself to be lead toward the boulders.
As she cleared away the rocks to make a place for herself to lie, Gabrielle realized just how exhausted she was. She had pushed the earlier incident out of her mind. "She's probably just tired, that's all." The warrior was already stretched out next to the boulder, with her legs crossed and her hands behind her head. The bard smiled gently and lay down next to her friend. As she gazed up into the night sky, she realized something was missing. "Stars."
"There aren't any stars. This is so strange. There isn't a cloud in the sky, so we should be able to see stars. But...they don't seem to exist here. Don't you find that odd, Xena?" When the bard got no reply, she turned to see the warrior asleep. She smiled to herself. "That's another strange thing about this place. Xena actually fell asleep before I did!" Gabrielle reached out and gently touched the warrior's face, tracing the outline of the prominent cheekbone. "She looks so peaceful...so innocent...I wish she could be this way more often." The bard sighed and dropped her hand to her side. "I don't think I've ever felt so drained in my life..." It didn't take long until her eyes closed and she drifted into the realm of Morpheus.
She felt soft kisses on her face and a gentle hand on her thigh. A singsong voice whispered into her ear. "Gabrieeeelle..." She slowly opened her eyes to find that Xena was leaning over her, kissing her, touching her. The bard could scarcely breathe, unable to resist the exquisite feel of Xena's body hovering over hers. Although Gabrielle had been waiting for this moment, something about it seemed wrong somehow. She placed her hands on either side of the warrior's face and looked deep into her eyes, searching for the source of her discomfort. It didn't take long for her to find it and she jumped up in alarm.
"What's wrong, Gabrielle? Didn't you like what I was doing?" Xena asked with a seductive smile on her face.
"Ahh...nope. I...can't say that I did, Xena." The bard backed away from the warrior, who stood with fluid grace. "But, then again, you're not Xena, are you?"
Xena rolled her eyes. "Of course, I'm Xena! You're just tired from all that's happened to you in the past couple of days. You're letting your imagination run wild." She held her hand out to her friend and smiled. "Come on. I won't bite, you know."
Gabrielle continued to back away, intently watching the warrior. "Nope. I don't think so. And I'm not so sure about the biting thing, so I'll just stay over here, if it's all right with you. By the way, if you're going to impersonate Xena, next time remember that her eyes are blue, not red." The bard looked around frantically for something to defend herself with. Unable to find anything, she tried to distract it. "I can't exactly call it a 'her', now can I?"
"Sooo...where are you from? Got any brothers or sisters?" Gabrielle's eyes widened with fear as the Xena-thing took a step toward her. "Ah...how 'bout parents? Dogs? Cats?" The thing continued to advance and the bard realized that her only option was to run...fast. She spun on her heel but before she could take a step, the thing was directly in front of her.
"Huh...you're really good at that jumping, flipping thing." Gabrielle said with a nervous laugh. "You've gotta teach me that sometime."
Xena smiled and eyed the bard with a look of pure evil on her face. "Come on, Gabrielle. What's wrong? You know I'd never hurt you, don't you? I... love you."
Gabrielle's eyes widened at the hideous transformation that was taking place. She watched the warrior's flesh begin to melt away, her body sloughing off chunks of skin and muscle. Her fingers split apart and curled up against the white tendons of her wrists. The Xena-thing screamed in agony as it's arms crumbled and fell away from it's changing body. "Oh yeah!!!" The thing screamed again. "No pain, no gain!!!!" Suddenly, it's head burst open with a spray of blood and bone.
The bard's mouth opened in absolute disbelief. "This can't be happening! Ohhhhhh no! This is some kind of trick that Morpheus is playing on me...another dreamscape! No way is this real!" The more she tried to convince herself, the more horrified she became. "Well, it's obvious that I don't have time to debate this...!!!" She spun again and ran as fast and as hard as she could. She ran until her lungs burned and her legs felt like lead. She didn't expect to stay ahead of the thing for long, and wasn't surprised when she heard it behind her.
"What the..? It sounds like a dragon!" Above her head came the sound of wings flapping...large and leathery. "But they're not real! They're just a myth!"
"XENA!!!" She screamed as she tried to find something to hide behind. Gabrielle's body exploded in pain as the dragon raked its claws down the length of her back, pitching her forward into the sand. She rolled onto her back as the monster landed just a few feet away. "XEEENAAAA!!!"
"Xeenaaa!!" The dragon mocked the bard with an evil, rumbling laugh. "She can't save you now, bard. No one can." The monster pressed one claw against its chin, tapping it thoughtfully. "Hmmm...now how should I do this? I could...say...incinerate you, in which case you would be dead instantly. Or I could...shred you with my claws, but that would be kind of messy. Besides, I hate getting skin under my nails." The dragon cocked its head and grinned, showing a full compliment of sharp fangs. "But I personally feel that the slow and painful process is the best way to go." The monster leaned forward and took a deep breath.
Gabrielle tried to scramble away, but was pinned to the ground by the dragon's long claw. She screamed as she felt it tear into her side. "Xena! Help me, please!"
The dragon laughed low in its throat. "Oh yeah...you gotta love that slow-roasted flavor." The monster exhaled, sending tendrils of flame toward the bard.
"NOOOOO!!! OH GODS, NO!! XENA, PLEASE HELP ME!! I'M BURNING!! I'M BURNING!!!!"
Callisto leaned over and put her delicate hand on Gabrielle's forehead. She looked at Xena with undisguised concern. "She's just too hot. We've got to bring this fever down or she's not going to make it."
The warrior snarled and grasped the slim woman by the front of her shift. "Don't even think it!" Blue eyes filled with tears of helplessness, which she blinked away in frustration. She released Callisto as soon as she saw the annoyed look on the woman's face.
"I've never been good at this..." Xena uttered what, for her, was as close to an apology as she could come.
"Nooo problem." The slim, blonde woman paused before going further with her thought. She needed to think about how she was going to broach this subject. Callisto stood and paced the camp. They had already been here three nights. That, coupled with the first night she was found, left only three more until the portal opened again. They were two days outside of Amphipolis, give or take an hour or two. She knew that Amphipolis was where that murdering bitch had come into this world. She didn't actually see the 'grand entrance', but she felt an unexplainable pull toward the unassuming village. She knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is where the door would be. Time was running out and she knew that she had one choice left. It was amazing that the bard had lived this long and she knew that Xena wouldn't leave without her. She had hoped the fever caused by the wound would have run its course by now one way or the other. It hadn't, so the only choice she now had was to use what she knew to heal the bard. She hated having to reveal her abilities this way, but she couldn't let Gabrielle die. The bard was the key to the survival of both their worlds, and besides that, she had grown fond of the girl.
"Xena." Callisto knelt down to make eye contact with the warrior.
Xena was oblivious to the blonde woman kneeling next to her. Her entire focus was on the pale, shivering bard in front of her. She methodically dipped a cloth into a bowl of cool water and squeezed it over Gabrielle's prone body. She was desperate to get the fever down. "I can't believe I was so damned stupid!" She cleaned and stitched Gabrielle's wound, never thinking for a moment that the fever would set in. She took such care with the cleaning. She used the paste, she made the curative tea from the herbs she kept, she did everything right! She did everything right and still...still the fever came. It came and there was nothing she could do about it. Except make more paste, make more tea, and watch. Her worst fears were coming to fruition here before her eyes. The light of her soul was dimming, growing weaker...leaving her. Gods, she didn't think she could bear the darkness that would engulf her in its absence. She got lucky in Thessaly. She didn't think she was going to be so lucky now.
"Xena!" The warrior was startled to find Callisto's face a mere inch from her own. She nearly fell back on her rump.
"To use Callisto-speak, you...bellowed??" Xena replied with a glare that normally reduced people to quivering, pants-wetting lumps.
The slim woman snorted, waving her hand in a dismissive gesture. "Why don't you try that 'Xena Warrior Decapitator' shtick on someone else? Now, do you want to hear what I have to say or not?"
Xena raised an eyebrow, which Callisto took as a sign to continue. "Look. I know this is going to sound...odd...but I can heal her." The slim blonde woman sighed at the look of disbelief on the warrior's face. "In my world, certain people have certain abilities, but only if they're favored of the Gods. I just happen to be one of those people."
"You're favored of the Gods. Yeah, right. You know, I may acknowledge the fact that you're not the Callisto I'm used to, but you're still insane." Xena snarled at the blonde woman.
"Whatever." Callisto moved toward the unconscious bard, hands outstretched.
Xena reached out and grasped the slim woman's wrist in an iron grip. "How does it work?"
Callisto's eyes traveled from the warrior's flashing blue eyes to the muscled hand wrapped around her tiny wrist and back again. "Well, I can't do anything if you break my arm, now can I?"
Xena's eyes narrowed as she roughly released the woman's captive wrist. "How...does...it...work?" She said through clenched teeth.
Callisto closed her eyes and took a deep breath to calm herself. "Athena...I don't know how you work in this world, but if you can hear me, please give me the strength to keep me from smacking her halfway to Carthage." Once she had centered herself, she opened her eyes and regarded the Warrior Princess. What she saw in the electric blue eyes brought an abiding sadness to her heart. She had absolutely no doubt that Xena truly loved the bard. Somehow, the word 'love' seemed so inadequate for what she was witnessing. The warrior's eye radiated an emotion so powerful that it defied description. There was also a look of sorrow so deep that Callisto could hardly bear the gaze.
Callisto averted her eyes and looked down at her small hands. "It's simple, really. I put my hands on the injured area, concentrate, and push some of my life force into her." The blonde woman shrugged and again turned toward Gabrielle.
Xena scowled and followed behind. "Well if it's so simple, why didn't you do this yesterday? I thought catching this 'other' Xena was so damned important?"
Callisto's face was beet-red as she whirled on the Warrior Princess "Look you obnoxious, leather-wearing, sword-wielding, round-thing-throwing, warrior BITCH! I am sick and tired of you constantly in my face! All you've done since you found me is complain about this, whine about that, order me around, and tie me up! I don't know what your world's Calli is like, and frankly, I don't give a Hydra's hoo-ha!!!" The blonde woman was in a rage, poking her finger into Xena's chest, completely oblivious of the deadly look in the warrior's eye. "If I didnt care about what happens to Gabrielle, I'd be outta here!" She paused for a breath. "And don't give me that look, either! I've seen a lot worse things than you!"
"Chakram." Xena smirked and raised an eyebrow.
"The round thing."
"Ah...it's...just a...phrase we like to use..."
Callisto tilted her head. "Let's begin, shall we?" She kneeled in the dirt next to the bard, placed her hands on the festering wound, and closed her eyes. She slowed her breathing and began to empty her mind of physical distractions. She concentrated until she could no longer feel the pebbles digging into her knees or the chill air against her skin. She could no longer hear the rustling of the wind through the trees, the chirping of birds, or her own breathing. She could no longer smell the fresh sweetgrass, the earth on which she sat, or the smoke from the fire. She was completely oblivious to the world around her and that allowed her to focus on the world within her. She searched herself until she found her essence...her life force, radiant beyond measure. She reached out with her mind and gently coaxed a tiny fragment away from the core. A sharp pain lanced through her soul, as it always did when she took a part of herself away. She expected it, and was ready for it. Once that was done, she concentrated on the conduit through which she would transfer her life force. She felt her hands begin to grow hot, and in her mind she saw a multicolored tunnel. This was the way to Gabrielle and she began to move toward the swirling light, holding forth the part of herself that would heal the bard. As she reached out farther, she realized that now she was being pulled toward the tunnel. This had never happened to her before! Every other time, she had merely pushed her life force into the conduit, which would then disappear. For some reason, she was being drawn against her will into the passageway! She struggled to pull back, but it was no use. Before she knew it, she was surrounded by myriad colors swirling so fast that it was impossible focus.
Callisto found herself in a rocky, barren place and the first thing she noticed was a large, black dragon standing over Gabrielle. The second thing she noticed was that the dragon had the bard pinned to the dirt with a long talon stabbing through the white shirt she wore. She heard the dragon take a deep breath and watched as tendrils of flame slowly reached for the bard. "What the...? Oh, I don't think so!" The slim woman ran as fast as she could toward the dragon, positioning herself directly underneath it's lower jaw. She punched upward as hard as she could, her fist connecting with tough dragon hide. "Hey ugly!" She yelled, punching again. "Yeah, I'm talking to you, you overgrown snake!"
The bard lay on the ground, certain that she was going to die, when she noticed a small, blonde woman standing under the dragon's head. She saw the woman punch the beast and heard the deep intake of breath, which drew the smoke and flames back into the dragon's maw. She flopped backwards into the dirt, breathing a sigh of relief.
The dragon felt an annoying sting on it's chin not once, but twice. Accompanying that sting was an equally annoying voice, insulting it no less! The beast stepped back to reveal a tiny woman, with white-blonde hair and liquid brown eyes standing defiantly with her fists clenched, ready to punch again. "Excuse me, but who are you, and why are you punching my chin?" The dragon decided to play a bit with this new distraction.
"Well, for starters, that's my friend you were getting ready to barbecue!" Callisto swung her arm toward the bard, pointing at the prone woman. "And aren't you kind of big to be picking on tiny, defenseless people? What's wrong with you anyway? Did you get up on the wrong side of the lair or something? Or...what...your pile of gold isn't big enough and it's put you in a pissy mood? Why don't you pick on me, you big, ugly lizard!" She jumped back in a fighter's stance, laughing maniacally, trying to provoke the beast.
"Wow! And I thought I could talk!" The bard's eyes widened with admiration for the feisty blonde assaulting the dragon. She stood to get a better view of the bizarre exchange, taking care not to jostle her injured side. "That laugh though!" She wrinkled her nose in distaste. "I guess there are some things that just don't change..."
The dragon laughed with a deep, rumbling sound. "You know, you've interrupted my little party and...well...I just can't have that." With that, the beast flicked Callisto away with one long talon. It watched as she somersaulted through the air and landed on her stomach in front of Gabrielle. Dirt and dust flew from the impact, creating a small red cloud, which hovered over the two women. "Oh yeah. Can I aim, or what?" The dragon spread it's wings and bent forward, bowing to no one in particular.
Callisto raised her head, spitting out a mouthful of red dirt. "Pht! Ptoo!!"
"Is this supposed to be your idea of a rescue?" Gabrielle reached down to help the woman out of the small crater caused by the considerable force of the landing. "Because if it is, you really need to work on you're planning."
The slim, blonde woman looked at the bard in annoyance. "Hey, I'm here aren't I? Not by choice, I might add." She then turned to the dragon and held up a slim finger. "Can you give us a minute here, pal? You've got all day to fire us up, so just cut me a break."
The dragon responded with a shrug. "I don't see the harm." It began to examine the dirt under its claws, humming off-key.
"What are you doing?" The bard hissed, grabbing Callisto by the shoulder and wheeling her back around.
Callisto shook off the hand gripping her shoulder. "Listen to me, Gabrielle. We don't have much time, and I can't explain everything. I need you to focus on making that dragon disappear." She ignored the confused look in the bard's green eyes and continued. "You've got more control here than you think. Just do it! Because if that thing kills us here, we die...both of us."
The bard sensed the urgency and the truth behind the words. She closed her eyes and began to visualize the dragon as it was. Once she had the image clear in her mind, she began to visualize the beast shrinking.
"Time's up!" The dragon bellowed, causing the rank odor of brimstone to waft toward the women.
Callisto felt Gabrielle jump and whispered encouragement into her ear. "Come on, bard. You can do it."
"Hey!! What the...? HEY!!!!" The beast screeched in rage.
The bard opened her eyes to see that what she had visualized was actually occurring! She squeezed her eyes shut and continued making the dragon smaller and smaller. Within seconds, it was reduced to the size of a field mouse. As she was concentrating on the dragon, the realization of Callisto's words hit her. "Somehow, we're inside my mind. I don't know how, but all of this is my doing. That means if I kill the dragon, I kill a part of myself!"
Callisto walked over to the tiny, extremely annoyed dragon and looked down at it. "Gabrielle, it's still here! Don't stop now!" The pint-sized beast ran to her boot and attempted to breathe fire onto the thick leather. She heard a high-pitched sound emanating from the tiny dragon near her toes.
"Hey! I may be small, but I'm still a dragon!" The beast looked up at Callisto and it's evil, red eyes locked onto brown ones.
"Not for long." Callisto snarled and raised her foot, ready to stomp the little dragon into oblivion.
Callisto's foot stopped its downward motion at the sound of the bard's voice. She looked over her shoulder, exasperated by the interference. "What?" She snapped.
"You can't kill it, Callisto. You do know that, don't you?"
"Yes, I know." She turned back toward the defiant little dragon and ground her heel into its leathery body, laughing at the squeak of protest coming from underneath her boot.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING???!!!" Gabrielle yelled as she wrapped her arms around the slim woman, taking them both to the ground. Callisto twisted under the bard's weight and rolled from underneath her, jumping to her feet and gracefully dancing away.
"I'm just releasing a little tension, is all. You said it yourself...I can't kill it. You're the only one who can." Callisto sighed and did a graceful pirouette. "I feel so much better now. Besides, the little guy is just fine." She pointed to the mouse-sized dragon, shaking out its wings and spitting angry sparks.
Gabrielle stood and angrily brushed the dirt off of her now-not-so-white clothing. "You're telling me you stomped on a defenseless creature to release tension?! I guess you're not so different from our Callisto after all, are you?" She shook her head in disappointment.
"Well, since I don't know her, I guess I really can't respond to that." Callisto approached the little bard, and took one hand. "Look...I'm sorry if I scared you. Listen, let's just concentrate on why I'm here, OK?"
Gabrielle looked up and returned Callisto's gentle smile. "OK. But, just so you know, this isn't over." She took a deep breath. "Now...why are you here?"
"I need to give you this." The slim, blonde woman placed one fist over her heart and closed her eyes. After a moment, she opened her clenched fist to reveal a small sphere of brilliant light, which she held toward the bard.
"What is it?" Gabrielle whispered. "It's beautiful."
"It's a part of my life-force. You need to take it."
"I can't take that from you!" The bard was alarmed. "It wouldn't be right! Besides, don't you need it?"
"Gabrielle, it's very important that you take this from me. You're very sick. Xena's tried everything and it's...well...to be perfectly blunt, you're dying. This part of me is the only thing that can save you. Please take it. I don't know how much time you've got left."
"I just don't know..." Her thought was cut short when Callisto took her hand and thrust the sphere into it. Her eyes widened in amazement as she felt an intense, though not painful, heat radiating from the light. The light grew, slowly encompassing her entire being. Soon she was bathed in its brilliance and the pain of her injured side disappeared. She closed her eyes, allowing the warmth to seep into her very bones. She began to feel strange...as though she was floating. She opened her eyes to see everything around her fading away.
Xena sat on a boulder next to the two women, watching...and waiting. She knew it hadn't been long, but it seemed like hours had passed since Callisto went into her trance. She knew she was taking a big chance by trusting the woman even halfway, but she just couldn't bear the thought of losing Gabrielle. She had tried everything to save her friend...everything! Now she was reduced to putting her faith in someone she knew to be completely insane and completely unpredictable. The warrior was angry with herself for believing even a little bit that Callisto might be able to help Gabrielle. She should have just killed her and been done with it. Now she was forced to watch this charade. She slammed a fist into her thigh, cursing herself for allowing this to happen. As far as she was concerned it was over. She stood, reached for her sword and readied herself to do what must be done. Gabrielle would die...of that she was certain. Every second that passed, the bard's face grew paler and her breathing more ragged. So...she would simply kill Callisto right here and now; she would rid the world, and herself, of another corrupt soul. She raised the sword above her head and brought it whistling down toward Callisto's exposed neck. At the last second, she saw a subtle glow surrounding the woman's hands. Xena was able to check the trajectory of her weapon and bring it behind Callisto's head. The warrior was dumbfounded at what she was witnessing. She had seen the handiwork of the Gods before, but never had she seen something like this issue from the hands of a mortal. The glow grew beyond Callisto's hands to cover her entire body. The woman stiffened as the light flowed from her into Gabrielle. In an instant, it was gone and she collapsed on top of the bard. Xena roughly pulled the unconscious woman away from her friend, not caring that she nearly dislocated Callisto's shoulder in the effort. She knelt next to the bard and tenderly brushed a lock of hair from the damp forehead. She noticed several things all at once, not the least of which were those beautiful green eyes staring up at her. She gently removed the dressing covering the bard's wound, only to find that it had been completely healed, leaving only the trace of a scar. She touched her friend's forehead and found the skin cool to the touch. Once she had satisfied herself that Gabrielle was truly alive and well, she allowed the tears to fall freely down her cheeks. She gathered the bard in her arms and held her, rocking back and forth, as one would do when comforting a child.
Gabrielle reached up, gently caressing the warrior's face. She brushed the tears away and sighed. "Oh Xena. I've missed you so..." She took one callused hand and turned it over, gently kissing the palm. She leaned her face into the warrior's trembling hand and smiled. "I was inside myself...my mind... the entire time, and you were there...only it wasn't really you. And then Callisto showed up and saved me from..." The bard shook her head sadly.
"What, Gabrielle? What did she save you from?" Xena pulled away slightly to focus on her friend's face, immediately noting the troubled look.
"It was a part of myself, but I don't know which part! Xena, it was horrible! First it was you...and then it wasn't you...and then it was trying to kill me!" The bard began to cry softly.
"Shhh...Gabrielle, it's going to be alright. We'll figure it out. What matters now is that you're safe and you're healthy." Xena pulled the trembling girl closer to her, trying to ward off the fear.
Gabrielle suddenly pushed away from the warrior. "Callisto! Where is she? Is she alright?"
Xena jerked her head toward the right. "Over there."
"My Gods, Xena! Is she alive? What happened? And...why is your sword laying out?" Gabrielle gave Xena a suspicious look as she tried to stand.
"I'll tell you about it later." The warrior got to her feet, pulling the bard up with her. She placed a steadying hand on her friend's waist as they moved toward the unconscious woman. Callisto was lying facedown, with one arm trapped underneath her body. Just as the two reached her side, she rolled over and groaned.
"Ugh. I feel like I've gone three rounds with a crazed Minotaur." She raised up on her elbows and immediately noticed Gabrielle. "Hey! You made it!" She jumped to her feet, grinning like a fool. "Yes!! Thank Artemis!" She bent down, placing her hands on her knees as a wave of dizziness hit. "Whew. I forgot how this feels afterwards." Xena and Gabrielle moved to help, but she waved them away. "Just give me a minute. I'll be ok." After a minute, she regained her composure. She reached for the bard and grasped both her shoulders. "I wasn't sure this would work, but it obviously did!" She pulled Gabrielle into a crushing embrace and kissed her on one cheek. "You have no idea how glad I am that you're still around!"
Xena, annoyed by the contact between the bard and Callisto, stepped forward and pushed the two apart. She raised an eyebrow and glared at Callisto. "I think you both need to rest."
Gabrielle looked at Xena with surprise clearly etched across her face. "Xena...I'm fine. I feel fine. Callisto feels fine. We both feel fine. Don't we Callisto?" She paused for a moment and really looked at the warrior and what she saw in those blue eyes shocked her. "Jealousy? Could she actually be jealous of...? Wow..."
Callisto crossed her arms and watched the exchange, enjoying Xena's discomfort at inadvertently showing her feelings. "Ha! You'll have to admit it now, Xena Stoic Princess!" She slapped the warrior on the back, ignoring the 'look' being directed toward her. "Come on. We don't have much time. We can rest later. We need to be in Amphipolis before the other one gets there. We've got plenty of daylight left, so let's get moving." She started toward the bedrolls, but was stopped by Xena's hand on her arm. She turned toward the warrior with a look of abject determination on her face. "Look, Xena. We don't have time for this. We've got to..." She was interrupted by one surprising word from the dark-haired woman.
She nodded; acknowledging the effort it took for Xena to say that word. "You're welcome."
CONTINUED IN PART SIX
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