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"Isle of Medusa"
The characters, names and storylines which have appeared in the syndicated television show Xena: Warrior Princess are copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters in this story and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story can not be used or sold for profit in any way. This story has been written solely for the reading enjoyment of Xena: Warrior Princess fans of the internet.
This story takes place during the fifth season of Xena: Warrior Princess
Note to Reader:
My fourth Xena story has: a goddesses of light, an arrow attack by night, a sailing crew, a gathering of both old friends and new, an ancient serpent feared by man, and a mythical deadly island.
Continues from here.
"Xena?" Gabrielle whispered. She shook Xena's shoulder gently. "Are you awake?"
"I am now, Gabrielle." She opened her eyes and yawned slightly.
It was daylight now. The sun had been up for only an hour or so. Xena reached her hand up and rubbed her eyes. She knew she hadn't had enough sleep last night, but that couldn't be helped. With the attack that had happened last night, she had promised herself she would stay alert just in case something became bold enough to board the ship. She had half expected something like that to happen.
Xena looked toward Gabrielle to see if she were alright and then back to the rest of the ship. Other people were stirring around. A few crawled back to the entry to the decks below. Crewmen tried their best to continue with their duties though they were crouched down in case of another attack. Xena turned her head to look in the other direction. She didn't much care for what she saw.
"You're a heavy sleeper. I didn't think you were like that." The soft voice of Najara greeted her.
Xena frowned to herself slightly. "Where did you come from? The last thing I remember, Amber was on the other side of Gabrielle."
"I sent Amber back to check on the others Xena." Gabrielle responded. Xena nodded hearing that.
"I heard yelling last night and came up on deck." Najara explained. "Someone said to get down and I found myself just narrowly avoiding a stray arrow."
Xena tried to ignore an amusing thought of the arrow's bad timing. Gabrielle probably wouldn't approve of it. She looked around the ship. There were many arrows stuck into the deck, barrels and grainsacks. Each of them was made of stone. All resembled the appearance of a snake. She turned her attention back to Najara.
"The important thing is to make sure we're no longer threatened. We can't even set sail to get out of this place with conditions as they are." Xena told them. She was reaching up for the wooden handrail as she spoke.
Gabrielle looked to her actions. "What are you doing Xena?"
Xena raised her head up above the railing and took a quick look at the island. She lowered her head for a few seconds and then looked up again. In the morning sunlight, she could see much more than she had on the previous evening. The shore appeared undisturbed except for where Jason had led them on the rescue. There were some faint signs of footprints leading out to the ocean. There was also an unusual pattern in the dirt. She couldn't quite make it out from here, but she was certain it was probably from whatever had attacked the ship last night.
Xena looked back to Gabrielle. "Its alright. I think we're safe for now."
Gabrielle looked reluctant. She slowly stood up however and looked around as well. She couldn't see anything on the island either. "Whoever they are they move fast."
Xena nodded. "And skillfully. Those arrows were striking targets as far away as the back of the ship."
"Divine intervention?" Najara offered her opinion.
"Maybe." Xena didn't want to give her the satisfaction of admitting it, but she might be right on some level.
"I've never seen an archer's attack move with that kind of speed."
Amber returned from the right side of the ship. She heard the last part of the conversation. "Well, Artemis maybe. But that doesn't seem her style."
"Right." Xena looked to the young Amazon. She appeared awake and alert for whatever dangers lie ahead. "I don't think Artemis would do something like that. No, we're dealing with something godly alright, but it sure isn't divine."
All of them looked back to the island for a few seconds. The shoreline appeared as peaceful and calm as the day before. Amber spoke up. "Five dead. One wounded. Lucky for the mercenary he was still standing halfway behind a door or it would have been six."
Xena shook her head. "This was a warning. Stay away."
"A rather effective warning by the looks of it." Najara replied.
"Yeah, well I don't scare so easily." Xena told her. She leaned forward on the handrail and looked down to the front of the ship that was facing the island. There were well over thirty arrows stuck into the ship's hull. Xena knew that meant a lot of minor repair work once they reached port. It was nothing serious. None of the damage would interfere with ship's operations, but it would need to fixed all the same.
"I wonder what's happened to Beorn?" Gabrielle asked. She was looking to the island again.
Xena tried to comfort her friend. "He'll find a way to make it."
Gabrielle didn't see how the man could survive given that kind of hostile environment. She appreciated Xena's attempt to make her feel better though. She tried to appear relaxed. Amber turned to her and asked if she were alright. She responded that she was. She smiled slightly to the young Amazon and assured her not to worry about her health. Amber agreed and asked to return to help the others. Gabrielle allowed for it.
"She sure has taken a liking to you Gabrielle." Najara commented. "You seem to have that effect on people."
"Well, I am an unofficial queen of the Amazons." Gabrielle explained.
Najara nodded and looked to Xena before walking to the back of the main deck. "See. I told you she was special." She smiled to Xena lightly and walked away.
"What was that about?" Gabrielle asked.
"Nothing important. You can bet on that." Xena frowned slightly and shook her head. "Listen Gabrielle. I'm going to be going back to the island today. After what's happened, I'm sure captain Herabus will be heading back inland. He wont take last night's attack lightly."
"Let me guess. You want me to stay here?" She considered Xena's unspoken request for a few seconds and then nodded. "No complaints here."
Xena smiled at her friend's quick response. She touched Gabrielle's shoulder and joked with her. "Don't worry. If I find something big, mean and ugly, I'll save it for you." Both of them laughed lightly.
Gabrielle mentioned that she would go back on the main deck and help with the wounded. Xena thought that was a good idea. She excused herself and headed back in that general direction as well. As Gabrielle passed a few turned over barrels she reached down and broke off another arrow. It had the same design as the one's Xena had been looking at before, gray stone with a snake's design. Gabrielle shook her head. She wondered what kind of creature could be capable of such speed and accuracy.
As she passed behind the first small storage building on the main deck, Gabrielle could see that Amber and some of the other's were trying to treat the wounded as best they could. There were only a few people there to help. Gabrielle could see Amber and Karissa among them. She assumed that most of the passengers and crew were below deck. They were probably coming up with a plan of attack for the day.
Gabrielle wasn't sure how, but she eventually become the one in charge of treating the others. She knew why Amber regarded her as the leader of course. News of her honorary status among the Amazon Nation was becoming well known by now. Amber had asked her earlier why she had turned down the offer to lead the Amazons. Gabrielle had politely made the comment that she knew Chilapa well. She would do a fine job.
In truth, she didn't feel like the best choice for leading the Amazon's at present. She spent so much time with Xena on her travels, that she was unaware of the daily responsibilities that were a part of Amazon life. Amber had suggested the day before that she could quickly fall back into the role of a queen with little effort. Gabrielle thanked her for the compliment. She had stated only that she felt a different calling in her life for now. Amber had seemed to accept that explanation, though she still held Gabrielle in high regard.
Gabrielle instructed the others with her to rearrange the wounded on deck. The dead would be placed on one side and the wounded on the opposite side with a clear path in between. There were only two men wounded. Amber had spoken of one standing partially behind a door. The second had fallen back onto some broken glass in order to avoid last night's arrows. He had a few deep cuts in his arm.
She looked up to the sky for a second. When Gabrielle looked across to the three sailing masts, she quickly recalled the night watchman who had been hit up above them. She sent to men to the front sailing mast. They quickly climbed up the rope ladders and made their way to the watch tower. When they returned, they carried the dead body of the watchman. He had been hit in the side with an arrow.
Amber pulled out the arrow slowly and managed to keep in it one piece as she took it out. She quickly handed the arrow to Gabrielle and looked for something to bandage the man's side with. He was dead of course, but there was no sense in letting flood spill onto the deck. As she held her hand against the wound and got some bandages, Gabrielle held the arrow up in front of her. It was a stone, snake arrow like all the others. She could that the snake's mouth was open at the front of the arrow. Fangs could clearly be seen. She assumed the arrows to be poisonous.
Karissa approached her and mentioned the casualty list. Two crewmen and three adventurers were dead. Karissa told her that none of them had any valuables on them. Gabrielle instructed Karissa and another crewmember helping them to take what the people had and distribute it to those that needed more supplies. It was a strategy she had seen Xena use in several battles and it made sense.
Gabrielle was lost in thought when she saw the reflection of sunlight hit across something near her. She looked down but saw nothing. Karissa was near her leaning next to one of the wounded men. She was holding his side and talking softly to him. Gabrielle smiled. Her new friend had a bard's touch with words. That was certain. Gabrielle stood up and walked over to the back of the deck, not noticing the healed place on the wounded man's side Karissa had touched.
Captain Herabus and several of the adventurers walked up the steps and onto the main deck. All of them passed by her including Xena. Xena looked to her briefly before continuing along with the others. The captain stopped when Gabrielle held her hand out to him. She told him of those wounded and no longer living.
The frustration on Herabus' voice was obvious. "I hope she's satisfied."
Before she could ask the captain what he had meant by that, Herabus and the others were already making their way to the two boats. Crewmen were preparing them for launch. Gabrielle looked to the people who were going to the island: Xena, Jason, Najara, and a few others she had met on the trip. She hoped that they would all be careful and return safely.
Ocean mist sprayed against Xena's face as the two boats made their way once more to the island. She, Jason and two others approached the shore in the small boat while Najara and five others followed along in the larger boat. The waves appeared to be calmer than they were the day before and Xena was at least thankful for that. She had no desire to experience the feeling of seasickness again.
Eventually the boats came to rest not far from where Beorn had abandoned his yesterday. Xena carefully studied the shoreline along with the trees just beyond. The dirt appeared smooth and untouched for the most part. She looked far off to the right and noticed a set of deep footprints heading out to the ocean. She imagined they must have belonged to Beorn. Xena frowned slightly. His yelling from last night must have been a cry for help. Considering whatever lived on this island, she could only imagine what threat he had faced.
There hadn't been much she or any of the others could have done for him of course. Just like now, it would have taken fifteen to twenty minutes to reach him. If he was being attacked, that would have been far to long to be of any use to him. It would have also placed more of the crew and passengers in harms way as they would have been out in the open. They would have been easy targets.
Jason and a couple of the men jumped out of the boat. They helped to drag the boat to shore before Xena and the rest of them jumped out. With four people helping, pulling the boat up on the dirt shore was an easy task. Xena looked over to the boat that Najara had ridden in. The six people over their were dragging their boat up from the water just as easily.
A total of ten men and women stood on the shoreline. The group consisted of Xena, Jason, Najara, the two men Xena had sparred with the day before, a couple of rogue mercenaries and three crewmen from the Sargasso. With some help from the others, two of the crewmen began to take the two boats back to the ship so they could bring back another set of people to help. Large numbers would be a big help in this struggle. Xena was certain of that.
The third member of the Sargasso crew agreed to stay with the rest of them. When the second attacking party arrived, he would go back and inform captain Herabus of the decisions being made on the island. He mentioned that the captain always liked to keep informed as to the activities of passengers and crew. Jason made the comment that that was a good policy.
Xena and Jason spoke to one another. They both agreed that as with the evening before, they should proceed in two groups. Xena was quick to insist that Jason take Najara on his team. The fact that Xena wanted nothing to do with her caused Jason to ask of the woman's skill. Xena assured him that the woman was capable enough with a sword. It was a personal issue that would keep her distracted. Jason understood and agreed to her request.
Jason's team would consist of himself, Najara and the third crewman. They would remain near the shore to ensure the next group of adventurers could arrive without interference. Xena's team would consist of the two mercenaries, Veren the retired Athenian soldier and Maltees the militia trainer. She trusted the last two men. The three of them had come to understand each other rather well. Xena looked to the others that were to follow her and pointed her sword forward. All of them took their weapons in hand and headed toward the trees.
Jason stood back and watched as Xena and her group disappeared behind the trees. He silently wished them well. He looked over to the other two people next to him. The crewman was already looking back to the Sargasso. He could see that the two boats had almost reached the ship. Another group of passengers were lined up against the side of the ship. They would reach the island in about twenty minutes.
Najara was studying Jason. He looked over to her and smiled. "Other than the danger here, its not so bad a place."
She smiled to him. "A person could even plan on retiring here if they wanted." She tilted her head up and took a deep breath of the clean ocean air. She then looked back to him. "Ex-king of Corinth? You're a long way from home aren't you?"
Jason shrugged. "I have to pay the bills somehow." He noticed her peaceful smile as he spoke. This Najara seemed pleasant enough to him. Maybe Xena had just read her wrong.
"I could use with some financing as well. It's difficult to help other's on an empty pouch." She walked over to him so that they were closer. She appeared very calm for a person facing the dangers of this island.
"Not to worry." Jason suggested. "I'm sure Xena's plan will work. She's to go down the middle and draw attention to herself. Then pull back. By the time she's pulling back, our two groups should be on either side of her. We'll allow whatever it is out there to follow her back here and then circle behind them. She'll move forward again and then we'll have them circled."
Najara nodded. "Oh I have every confidence in Xena. I'm not worried at all."
Jason smiled to her politely, though to himself he was just the slightest bit concerned now. This woman was telling the truth. She didn't appear to be worried at all. That was a concern in his view. Anyone who could go into a potentially dangerous situation such as this without some concerns was either poor at reading their surroundings or overly confident of their abilities. Both possibilities spoke of a bad outcome.
The sound of water splashing against wood caused the two of them to look back to the shore. The two boats were returning. Each was full again. Ten more people to head in to shore and two more crewmen to head back. The boats finally reached in close enough that some of the passengers jumped out to help pull the boats up to the dirt. The crewman on the shore exchanged places with one of his fellow shipmates. He would head back to the Sargasso with news of their progress, while the new crew member kept his place here to await the next set of boats.
The two crewmen in the boats started back again. They mentioned that the next group would consist of less men. They need just enough to guard the boats, probably three or four men total. They also wanted to keep their numbers down just in case those people already on the island needed a quick escape route. The crewman who stayed behind assured them that if need be, excess people could hang onto the boats from the outside and help swim forward to speed up the trip back.
There were ten people standing on the shore now. They included Jason, Najara, the new crewman, a mean looking woman swordfighter, a mercenary, a couple of men who looked like pirates, a man that claimed to be an ex-slaver, a retired soldier of Corinth who knew Jason well and a woman who had kept to herself for most of the trip. Najara recognized her as being one of the two other passengers that had stayed below decks beside herself.
Jason decided that the woman who was keeping to herself should remain behind. She thought to protest the decision but he reminded her that someone had to protect the crewman. With three teams being sent in it was unlikely that she and the remaining crewmen would be in any harm. That seemed to satisfy her. Jason would take his friend Cordow and two of the pirates as his team. They would go to the right of where Xena had entered the trees. Najara would take the woman swordfighter, the mercenary and the ex-slaver as her team and she would approach to the left of where Xena had entered the trees. Najara thought to protest the choice of the ex-slaver being with her, especially since he was one of the men her army had dealt with in the past, but she decided not to. To bring attention to the fact would only create an open invitation for trouble.
The two teams separated and made their way up to the trees. Each of them disappeared into the forest. The mysterious woman and the lone crewman were on their own. The crewman thought to make some light conversation, but the woman only returned his comments with a cold, silent stare. He sighed and turned to look back at the Sargasso.
Gabrielle looked over to one of the crewmen who wasn't busy securing the lines to the two boats. She called out to him. "Do we have any more clean bandages? We'll be running out soon."
The man promised to go and see. He quickly left and she could see that he went down the stairs that led past her and Xena's room to the main galley. There would probably be several clean cloths there. Gabrielle sighed at the sight before her. There were only two people now that need to be cared for. Those who had died from the arrows had been placed over to the side. Amber had asked a couple of crewmen to help her lay the bodies in a neat row and they had done so. Karissa sat near the wounded man now. His scars seemed to have miraculously healed somehow. Gabrielle asked how that was possible and Karissa's response had been a believe in the blessings of the gods. Gabrielle wasn't so sure it was that, but anything of help was good enough for her.
Right now, she was helping to wrap a bandage around a crewman's hand. He had injured it while the second set of boats had been lowered down to the water. His hand had become caught between the ropes as the heavy boats had released. The weight had pulled the rope in tightly on his hand and a deep bruise mark could be seen all around his left hand. There was even some blood on the side. Gabrielle wasn't bothered by that though. She had seen her fair share of blood on her travels. It would probably take a couple of weeks to fully heal.
When she finished with the new wrappings, she asked if Karissa would mind watching over him. Karissa promised to and the man thanked Gabrielle for her help. She smiled warmly to him and stood, walking over to the captain as he watched the third set of passengers slowly depart for the island. Gabrielle could see that the boats weren't as fully loaded as they had been. Instead, only three crewmen and a warrior by the name of Darinus traveled with them. Gabrielle thought the man looked familiar and then she remembered something Xena had said at the tavern. Darinus had traveled with the warlord Draco some time ago.
"Well, that about does it." Captain Herabus stood back from the side of the ship. He instructed a couple of crew to be ready in case of the boats' quick return. Then he turned to Gabrielle to speak again. "Something I can do for you?"
"Only a few men this time?" Gabrielle looked back to the boat which was being lowered.
"Yes." Herabus replied. "No need to risk a bunch of people until I get news from the others. You had a question or something?"
"Um yes, I was wondering actually when we might get around to the burial for those who didn't make it from last night's attack." She requested. "I heard it was customary for the captain of a ship to give a burial at sea."
Herabus nodded. "Yes, that it is. But that will have to wait for now. I'll need my men ready in case of any trouble. They can keep for now."
His response seemed a little uncaring to Gabrielle. She turned to head back to the wounded man when he spoke to her again. "Oh yeah, and make sure you leave their valuables on them. They like it that way."
Gabrielle turned to him with a curious glance. "They?"
"You know. The relatives and such." He shrugged a bit in frustration. "Nobody likes to think their loved ones have been looted just after they died."
She understood that of course. It had been her understanding though that none of those who had died had any relatives. That didn't matter to Herabus right now. He said they would still like it better that way. Gabrielle frowned at his mention of they if there were no relatives, but she let that pass. She excused herself and made her way back to where Karissa was sitting with the wounded. Amber approached her as she stood next to the far back railing.
"So what's the word?" Amber asked.
"He said to leave them as they are." Gabrielle explained. "It's the way they want it most likely. The relatives back on shore that is."
Amber nodded and said she would do that. She tossed a couple of bloody cloths over the side of the railing down to the ocean. Gabrielle asked if they might not have been washed instead of thrown over the side. Amber shrugged and reasoned that with a sixteen-hundred dinar reward waiting for them all, the captain could always buy some more bandages. Gabrielle smiled at Amber's reasoning and the two of them walked over to Karissa.
Out in the ocean below, a man was just barely holding onto the side of the Sargasso hull. He spat out some more water as he tried to stay up and alert. Dirty bandages hitting him on the head didn't improve the situation. Beorn cursed the ship silently as he dug his fingertips into the wet, shifting hull of the ship.
Veren and Maltees stood on either side of Xena as all of them slowly continued into the forest. She had requested that the two men position themselves that way. The two mercenaries were staying back some distance in order to cover their back sides. Xena knew that in close surroundings such as these, it paid to spread your men out if at all possible. All of them had their swords in their hands. The tension among the members of the group was high. Last night's attack on the Sargasso had proven something was here, even if it chose not to show itself.
Xena looked down and noticed that the path was becoming full of leaves. She looked up briefly and noted that there were a lot of trees on the island. That wasn't exactly a surprise to her. The rainfall that this island saw was probably considerable. That was enough to make all kinds of vegetation well grown all over. It explained why the beach was so narrow. Trees and grass grew up to about twenty feet close to the ocean. On a lot of islands she had seen, the distance between the ocean and the vegetation had been far greater.
It was just another bit of unpleasant irony to this island. All of the trees, the grass, the plantlife and flowers suggested a peaceful location full of life. She looked to the left and right for any signs of movement but she didn't see any. She saw nothing but more trees and plants. The fullness of natural growth around her was deceptive. She knew that somewhere on this island there was a deadly creature of some kind. She had resolved herself to that thought. Nothing could have fired off that many arrows so constantly and not have been alive.
Maltees pushed back a large branch and moved forward ahead of them. Xena followed and then Veren and the two mercenaries. They had reached a larger clearing where there was a lot of leaves. Maltees pointed to the odd piling of leaves in front of them. Xena looked to where he pointed and told him this was where Beorn and his soldier had hid. Xena and Jason had passed by here at a distance of only about twenty feet or so. It angered her to think that the man could have escaped her notice that easily, but then again he had nowhere to go. She reasoned his cleverness hadn't really earned him much.
One of the mercenaries was kicking his boots through the leaves slightly. Xena turned to face him and was about to warn him against making so much noise when she heard his boot hit something. The rest of them looked to him as he reached down into the leaves to find out what it was that he had hit. He pulled up a pack of something. It was wrapped in a simple cloth. The mercenary unwrapped the cloth and held up a small pack of food. Xena was sure now that this had been where Beorn had hid out the day before.
The mercenary kicked at something else and reached down again. He pulled up a boot. The two mercenaries laughed slightly at that. One of them said that Beorn must have been pretty scared to escape if he didn't even leave himself enough time to put his boots on. Veren brought his finger up to his lips to silence the two mercenaries. He had caught a look in Maltees' eyes. The man had his head tilted over to the side. The rest of them quieted down to see what it was Maltees was focusing on.
Maltees tilted his head further to listen to the forest out in front of him. There was the slightest sound of rustling leaves in the distance. The sound was unmistakable. He raised up a single finger to alert the others that it was only one sound. Xena nodded at his gesture. She had come to the same conclusion as well, though she was concerned that a single sound could drag out for so long.
They stood still for a few minutes more. The sound continued. It sounded as though it was heading in their general direction but it was difficult to be exactly sure. The length of the rustling made it hard to pinpoint exactly where the start of the sound was coming from. They looked to one another hoping that someone might have an idea. Nobody offered any suggestions. The sounds stopped suddenly and they heard a very frightening sound. Something was hissing in the distance.
Xena's eyes widened. She hadn't thought that the creature would have been a snake. The sound though was much louder and deeper than she had expected. Almost as though the snake was larger than it should have been. She looked over to Veren and read the expression that was on his face. Deep concern. Then she remembered why snakes generally stopped their movements to hiss. The large snake was tasting the air around him. He was trying to get a direction on a new scent. Their scent.
The rustling sound of the leaves started again. It was much quicker and growing louder. Xena didn't need to give the command. All five of them turned quickly and ran back in the direction they had come from. They were running on instinct, not needing to coordinate with each other which way to go. One of the two mercenaries was in the lead and the rest of them were following.
The rustling sound of the continued to grow louder and faster. Xena could tell that whatever it was, it was gaining distance on them. She forced her legs forward as fast as she could. Xena was trying to keep up her fast pace, but the amount of leaves under her boots were making her strides uneven and too deep. She could see the same thing was true with the others. The inevitable problem happened. One of the mercenaries got his boot hung up on an outlying root. He fell to the ground and struggled to stand. The others had ran past him by the time he was on his knees and the sound was right behind him.
Xena, Veren and Maltees stopped and turned around to help the man. The other mercenary didn't have such a generous thought on his mind. He kept running as fast as he could. Xena could hear his labored breaths and his sharp exhales as he was forced to jump over a couple of roots. She was going to stand her ground. Veren and Maltees were thinking the same thing. All three of them drew their swords and raced back to help the fallen mercenary to his feet.
Out from the brush they had just passed, a huge serpents head appeared. The serpent snapped his mouth forward. Before the mercenary could even finish standing, he yelled out in pain as the jaws of the great snake clamped down on him. Xena and Veren attempted to rush the great beast while Maltees tried to circle around to the side. The attempt was futile. The great snake shook its head back and forth quickly, trying to shake the very life out of the mercenary.
Veren swung his sword out at the beast but by the time his blade reached forward the creature was no longer there. It was moving too fast for either of them to cause it any damage. They tried anyhow. Maltees yelled out to it from the side, but it's attention remained fixed on the prey in its mouth. Xena could tell by the lifeless way the mercenaries arms and legs swung in the air, that he was already dead.
The huge serpent flung the mercenary out of its mouth and the man flew through the air twenty or thirty feet before he fell to the soft, leaf-covered ground. Maltees yelled out again and this time the huge snake took notice of him. Xena could feel her nerves building. If she didn't do something quick, Maltees would become its next meal. She let out one of her war cries and the great serpent turned to face her again.
It's attention was clearly divided between two targets. Between Maltees and Xena's yells, the huge snake couldn't decide. That was all the time Veren needed to strike out again with his sword. His blade cut into the snake's side slightly. The huge beast shifted its body and its tail lashed out with lightning speed. Veren was sent flying into the air. He landed several feet behind Xena.
Xena turned her back to the snake to check on Veren's health. He was breathing irregularly, but he still managed to stand. Maltees noticed the huge serpent's gaze on Xena and Veren. It drew its head back as though it were ready to strike. Maltees let out another yell and the beast turned in his direction. It spit out a spray of venom at him but he was quick. He managed to dodge the acidic spray and hide on the other side of the tree. The huge serpent was clever though. It's tail shot out to the tree Maltees was hiding behind and it wrapped around the tree.
Maltees was pinned to the side of the tree as the great serpent's tail coiled around the tree trunk. Xena turned to the beast and saw what had happened. She picked up a rock and threw it at the creature. It bounced off its side and the snake turned to face her. It hissed at her and she could smell the strong breath of its previous meals. The strength of the smell made her cover her nose with her arm.
It quickly turned its attention back to the tree. It's tail started to constrict. Xena and Veren could both hear Maltees cry out as the life was squeezed out of him. Then the tail roughly let go of its prize. Maltees lifeless body fell to the ground. By this time Veren was standing. He grabbed a strong hold on Xena's shoulder and pulled her forward. They had to get moving again or they would become the great serpent's next victims. As Xena forced her legs forward, she heard the rustling of leaves closely behind her.
Jason and Cordow were using their swords to cut a path in the brush in front of them. Between the two of them they were keeping up a steady pace. The two pirates followed along, looking out to either side. Jason had developed a certain trust with Cordow over the years. He was sorry the two of them hadn't crossed paths more often than they did. Cordow was an accomplished swordsman and a decorated soldier.
Jason smiled. He was thinking of his days as the king of Corinth. It had been an exciting time. Of course he had excitement in his life now. This little adventure was proof of that. He supposed it was a longing for the simple things in life. Having been trained from the time he was a young man to become king, Jason had seen the role as only natural. It had proven challenging enough, but there had always been that confidence in knowing he was ready for the position. Cheiron's academy had taught him well.
Cordow stopped cutting at the weeds in front of them. Jason turned to look at his friend and heard the sound of footsteps approaching. By the sound of them, someone was running in their direction rather quickly. Jason turned to the other three men next to him. "Alright. It's time."
All four of the men crouched down low. Jason raised his head up slightly to look at the noise. A man was approaching from the direction Xena had gone. By the look of him and by his labored breathing, Jason knew the man had been running as fast as he could.
Cordow let out a whistle and the man slowed down slightly. He looked to the brush and saw the four of them. There was a look of panic in his eyes and Jason thought for a moment that he might continue with his running all the way to the shore, but the man hurried over to where they were. His eyes darted back the way he came and he kept his hand on his sword.
"What happened?" Jason whispered. He placed a comforting hand on the frightened man's shoulder. It didn't seem to calm the man. He looked over to Jason and tried to take a deep breath.
"Big. Real big. Snake." The man's thoughts were coming quickly to him as he spoke.
Jason nodded. He didn't know exactly what the man meant by that, but he had an uneasy feeling they would all find out soon enough. Jason looked back in the direction the man had come from and heard the distant sound of movement. His eyes tensed and his hand reached toward his sword. The sound of running in the distance quickly became the image of Xena and Veren. Both of them were running as fast as they could. Jason thought to call out to them, but he knew that would only distract them.
Xena and Veren raced past Jason's group on their left side. Jason's eyes followed the pair as they continued toward the shore until a louder sound caused him to focus back to where they had come from. His eyes widened as he saw a huge serpent slither out from the forest floor. The thing must have been at least sixty feet long. It passed by them quickly, crushing the vegetation under it as it moved.
Jason stood and started to advance forward when the surviving mercenary from Xena's group let out a yell in shock. The sight of the giant snake must have been an unpleasant reminder of his narrow escape. Jason looked back to the giant serpent. It stopped immediately and turned its head with amazing speed. In no time at all it was upon them. Cordow reached up to grab Jason's chest and pull him down.
The giant serpent passing by blurred Jason's vision. All he could see were scales moving quickly over him followed by the cry of a man bitten. Jason and Cordow backed off and held their swords out to defend themselves. They didn't have time to determine the situation. The serpent's tale lashed out in their direction and swept both of them off of their feet.
Jason's sword flew out of his hand and into some waste-high weeds. He crawled for the spot as fast as he could. He almost made it when the loud sound of hissing could be heard. The great serpent was upon him and Cordow. Jason could see one of the pirates trying to stab the creature with his sword. Its body kept moving back and forth, causing him to fall back and advance. Jason couldn't see the other pirate or the mercenary. He looked back up to the big serpent as it moved toward Cordow.
"Aiyiyiyieee!" Xena let out a war cry as she jumped up into the air and landed on the great serpent's upper back. It's body shook slightly at the increased weight and it lost focus on Cordow. The man managed to get to his feet, grab his sword and retreat to a safe distance. Seeing that Jason was busy looking for his sword, Cordow moved over to his left to cover his friend just in case.
Xena had a tight hug on the snake's scaly body. It was shaking its body back and forth fiercely to get rid of her. She could feel her legs and waist fly up into the air and land back down hard against the great serpent's body. Each time she did so, the force made her loose her breath. Much more of this and she would slip off.
One of the pirates made a clean stab and the snake's tail and it jerked to the side suddenly. The snake shot forward to bite into the pirate and Xena felt her body lunge forward with the same intent. She looked forward briefly and saw the pirate jump and roll to the side. He was safe. The snake stopped in response and turned to survey the others.
Xena took the opportunity to push herself back from the serpent's body. Its eyes immediately turned to her and she could hear it hiss as it tasted her scent in the air. With a loud battle cry, she caused its attention to be lost. She kicked off from its side and flipped through the air once more to land on its head.
The beast began to move and Xena started to slip. She barely managed to grab the cool skin on the top of its head. Her feet hung down along the side. The snake began to shake its head back and forth. She could feel her body weight working against her hold on the beast. Thankfully, Cordow's sword in its side caused the snake to stop trying to shake her off.
She reached for her sword and drew it out. Just as she did so, the snake shot forward toward Cordow and she slid to the side of the snake. Her left hand held firmly onto the beast. She saw the serpent clamp its jaws down on one of the pirates. The man yelled out and the snake stopped its movements briefly to bite into the man. As it did so, Xena's sword found her mark and she thrusted it into the snakes head.
The great serpent dropped the pirate body and shook its head violently. Xena lost her grip on the beast's head and held tightly onto the sword handle. With a couple of quick flips the sword flew out of the snake's head and Xena found herself flying through the air. She landed and rolled out of the fall as best as she could. She noticed a nearby tree and quickly leaned on the opposite side.
Her victory was short lived. The serpents tail went around her and the tree. Her eyes followed it as it did so four times. Xena tried to lower herself but the tail drew in suddenly and she found herself slammed into the trees side. She lost focus for a few seconds and was sure this would be the last thing she would ever see.
Xena opened her eyes slowly after a few seconds. She was still alive. She let out a sigh of relief. The great serpent's tail clung loosely around her. Xena pushed against it with both of her hands and it moved back from her. With the help of Jason, she managed to remove herself from the serpent's deadly grasp. They joined Cordow and the surviving pirate. Both men were testing the snake with their swords to make sure it was dead.
Xena walked up to the head of the snake and looked to its eyes. There was a slow steady haze building in the pupils. It was as though a fog of death had fallen over the great serpent. Xena told the others that though it did little to comfort them. She didn't blame them for that. She was still feeling wound up herself.
Jason smiled slightly and looked to Xena. "Guess we're done for the day right?"
Xena looked to him and nodded, understanding his quiet joke. "I wish it were that simple."
The pirate finished sticking his sword into the snake a few times and looked to the two of them. "What? You mean there's more of these things?"
"Where there's one, there's more to follow." Cordow explained.
Xena didn't hear exactly what the pirate said in response. She was sure it wasn't anything too optimistic. She was too busy looking at the serpent. Xena didn't see any strange markings. That was a good thing she imagined. She was still curious as to how a snake could grow this big. Sixty feet was longer than she had ever seen of any serpent.
Jason breathed deeply and watched her. "So... where's this Najara friend of yours? I thought she was supposed to help us attack it from the other side?"
Xena looked over to him. She had forgotten about that. "I don't know. That's a good question."
"Probably eaten by this thing here." The pirate offered his own reply.
"I doubt it." Xena responded. "It's stomach isn't full enough." She turned to Jason. "I want you to take the rest of the men back to the shore. We need to regroup and get more numbers."
"What about you Xena?" Jason asked her.
Xena's eyes narrowed and her tired breath showed a level of building frustration. "I'm gonna look for a good friend of mine named Najara and see where she is. She has some explaining to do."
"Before you do that, there's something you should know about this beast." Cordow pointed to the great serpent with his sword. Xena glanced over to him and gave him a questioning look. "This thing was a female." Xena's eyes widen slightly at that, not liking what it implied.
"You know, you've shown a great deal of compassion and caring toward these men Gabrielle." Karissa smiled as she wound up a small piece of cloth. She tied up the loose end of the cloth inside the edge and placed it down on the deck. A few wooden planks, cloth strips and fishing line were there. They had been used to sew up the wounds of the crewmen and passengers.
"You think so?" Gabrielle smiled. She sat back against an empty barrel and looked to her new friend. "I was just about to say the same thing to you."
Karissa smiled in return. "I suppose I've always had an interest in healing others. Its a gift."
Gabrielle nodded. "I understand what you mean. I've always felt this calling to... I don't know, reach out to others I guess. I thought about a hospice one time." She looked off in the distance, thinking of another passenger now on the island.
"You decided against it then?" Karissa looked to her.
"I still have an interest in it. Its just... well I suppose with my travels I manage to help people too. Either way is satisfying." Gabrielle thought about that for a few seconds. "Xena and I have done a lot of good for a lot of people. I'd like to think we've changed people's lives for the better."
"That is a very honorable path in life Gabrielle." Karissa watched as Gabrielle finished dressing the wound on a crewman's arm. "You should stay with it as best you can."
Gabrielle turned to look at her. "You sound like you know quite a bit about that. Helping people I mean."
Karissa nodded her head gently. "I do in a way. It is something I have set for myself as a life's goal. Making others feel better, whether through healing or storytelling. It gives my life a more lighter purpose."
Gabrielle and Karissa continued to speak of their interests for some time. Each explained how they had come to be on the ship. Karissa had only said she felt the need to be here. She didn't mention any news of receiving a message from the king. That didn't seem too unlikely for Gabrielle to believe. With the frequent problems she and Xena found themselves facing, such opportunities always seemed around the corner.
Amber approached from the side and knelt down on one knee near them. She watched the other two women for a few seconds before speaking. "The captain wanted to extend his thanks for all that you two are doing."
"Well, he has been rather busy with the passengers." Karissa explained. "I imagine some relief in his duties would be appreciated."
"Yeah." Amber responded. She looked toward the back of the ship and then to them once more.
"What is the captain doing now?" Gabrielle asked.
Amber looked toward the back of the ship again. "He sent another ship out. The smaller one. A couple of crewmen were supposed to go farther down the shore and check to see on the progress."
"I hope that they are well armed." Karissa's voice sounded concerned.
"I guess so. He didn't say." Amber shrugged. "But then I guess they're his men, so he must know what he's doing, right?"
It did seem unsafe for him to send a couple of men to the island alone, but Gabrielle agreed with Amber. Captain Herabus had been sailing these waters for some time. He probably knew what was best. Gabrielle looked to Amber once more and noticed the young woman was studying the area of the boat behind them. Her eyes seemed to narrow slightly as though she were concentrating on something.
"Anything wrong Amber?" Gabrielle asked.
"Huh?" Amber looked to her slowly. "Oh nothing. I was just wondering why that crewman over there keeps staring at me now and then."
"Maybe he likes you?" Karissa responded with a light smile.
"No." Amber shook her head briefly. "Its not that. I've never met him before." Amber saw the man look to her once more before he looked away. He walked away from the railing and headed down the stairs which were near him. Amber excused herself and approached the stairway.
Gabrielle stood up to stretch and told Karissa she would return. She walked slowly along the main deck taking in a few deep breaths of fresh air. The sun was shining brightly. She gradually made her way over to the railing where the man had been standing. Gabrielle smiled to herself. Amber most likely had an admirer. She was probably just responding in the way most Amazon's did when a man showed interest.
She reached out for the railing and ran her hands along it. Something rough caught her attention. Gabrielle looked down to see a piece of rope tied around the railing. It had been behind the area where the man had been standing. She curiously leaned forward and looked down to the sea below. The rope extended all the way to the water. Gabrielle could see nothing. She frowned slightly thinking the situation a little curious.
Then her thoughts drifted to Amber once more.
By this time, Amber had walked down the stairway and passed the room where Xena and Gabrielle had stayed. There was still no door there and Amber was curious as to why it hadn't been replaced. She imagined that a warrior and queen could defend themselves well enough. She had thought the personal privacy would have been wanted though.
Amber walked further down the hallway and passed the galley. She could see a couple of crewmen and passengers alike still there. The passengers were eating while the crewmen continued to prepare the galley for the next meal. Just two doors down from the galley was another set of stairs leading down to the hold. Amber looked around for any sign of the man, but she saw nothing. She went down the stairs.
There were just three doors at the bottom of the stairs. Amber stood there quietly for a minute and tried to listen for any sound. There was none. She decided to go to the room in the center and slowly opened the door. She was greeted with nothing but the general background noises of the ship. The wood creaked slightly as the ship changed direction in the waves. Some grain could be heard spilling from a small hole in a bag. That was the activity she could hear in the room.
She walked further into the room and looked around. There was enough lighting coming through the upper floor decks that she could comfortably see around her. This was the main storage hold. All kinds of crates, barrels, sacks and containers were here. Most of them were stored away in an orderly manner, but there were a few set out in the floor. Amber imagined they held food which was more likely to be used.
Amber stepped toward the far end of the hold and her boot hit something made of metal. There was a higher pitch to the sound that made her think of a smaller piece of metal. She reached down to pick it up and was amazed to see that she held a small gold coin. She turned it over a few times looking to the writing. Her boot hit a few more and realized someone must have stored their valuables down here.
Next to the side wall, she saw something under a large wrap. Curiosity got the better of her and she made her way over to the object. The wrap was tied down over the object tightly but she managed to pull the corner up. Her eyes widened at what she saw. The object looked like part of a stone statue, a statue of a person. She dropped the wrap and quickly turned around. As she did, she saw something big fly toward her face.
Amber fell back against the object and then to the ground. She was unconscious. A man stood up and stepped out from behind a nearby crate. Beorn laughed quietly as he dropped the piece of wood used to hit the woman. He turned and headed toward the door.
Xena quietly made her way through the forest. She pushed aside branches and continued to move forward. Looking to each side slowly, she could see nothing. The leaves and brush were thick in this area of the forest which cut down on visibility considerably. That fact made her more displeased than before. She wasn't holding too much promise on the results of this search. Even if it did prove successful, she doubted to woman involved would provide a very clear answer.
Najara was like that. She held a calm detachment from others that Xena found unsettling. It wasn't the cold experience of a ruthless warrior or the calm spiritual sureness of a peaceful person. It was something else. Something she wasn't quite sure of. Personally she thought it was the sure sign of a touch of madness. Najara's actions in the past seemed to support that conclusion. Still, the woman appeared clear thinking enough to make it throughout the daily challenges of life. Xena shook her head.
A sudden rustle of leaves off to the left caused Xena to rush forward with renewed alertness. She reached out and grabbed hold on something. Pulling it forcefully toward her, Xena could see the surprised look on a woman swordfighter's face. The woman was one of those people from Najara's group.
"Where have you been?" Xena asked the woman coldly.
The woman responded in a whisper. "I was told to wait back here in case the rest of you showed."
"That didn't answer my question." Xena voice was low. "We needed help and it wasn't there."
The woman looked down slightly before meeting her gaze again. "All I know is that she heard a rustling in the brush and told us to follow her. What we found later... well it seemed worth the diversion."
Xena gave her an uncertain look, not being certain what the woman meant by that. She let go of her and motioned with her hand. The woman understood what she meant and began to lead Xena through the brush. It didn't take long for them to reach Najara and the other two men. One was an ex-slaver and the other one was a mercenary. All of them had their backs to Xena, quietly looking through some tree branches to the area ahead.
Xena passed up along Najara's side and gave her a slight frown. "Nice to see you again."
Najara looked to her briefly and pointed to the area in front of them. She whispered. "We found this by accident really. I was going to go back, but one of the men said he saw some movement. I wanted to get a better look."
Xena sighed and decided to remind Najara of her mistake later. She decided to look forward to where the others' attention had been drawn. What she saw surprised her. Past a number of trees and waist high brush was a stone building. It appeared to be a crude form of a temple. There were vines and plants growing up the columns and in cracks along the stone. The edges of the stone steps and columns appeared worn smooth slightly due to the weather. Xena was sure the place had been there for a great many years.
"Anyone been up there?" Xena asked.
Najara turned to her. "Not yet." She pointed briefly to the man next to her who was an ex-slaver. "We walked up closer to it by some distance before the sound of something rustling on the far side of the brush caused us to turn around. I didn't want to take any chances with just the few of us."
Xena wondered if the great serpent that she and the others had dealt with could have been this far inland, but she doubted it. The timing of when she and Veren had met the snake and when Najara had arrived here was wrong. That caused her to frown. Cordow had mentioned that the great serpent was dead. She didn't like what that implied. One giant snake was more than enough from her point of view.
The female sword fighter tossed a rock in there direction. Xena and Najara turned toward the woman. She made a few gestures with her hands that said something was headed toward them from behind. All five of them reached for their swords or daggers and waited.
Within a few minutes Jason and some more adventurers appeared. There were ten of them in all. Cordow instructed the men and women to take up positions along the rest of the people already there. The new group of adventurers consisted of Jason, Cordow, Veren, the pirate who had helped with the great serpent, a couple of barbarian men, a female archer, an escaped prisoner most likely, Darinus the former soldier of Draco and a thief Xena recognized only too well. He was the man Najara had warned her about being too untrustworthy. All things considered, this was going about as bad as Xena had anticipated.
She looked over to Jason as he approached her. The two of them shared what they knew of the current situation. Xena mentioned the temple up ahead and the sounds that Najara had heard. Jason mentioned returning to shore and finding a crewman lying on the beach. The mysterious woman who had stayed behind with him could not be found and was most likely responsible for the man's fatal dagger wound.
As the two of them talked, the escaped prisoner who had just arrived with Jason's group yelled out and fell to the ground. Xena and everyone else looked to him immediately and saw a stone snake arrow sticking out of his back. Light whistling sounds started to rain through the forest. Everyone took cover behind trees and a few large boulders as more poisoned arrows flew out at them from the temple.
The mercenary that had traveled with Najara yelled out in surprise as an arrow buried itself into the tree he was hiding behind. Xena could see that he was unharmed though. She tried to look around the side of the tree and quickly leaned back. Two stone snake arrows hit deep into the opposite side of the tree. Despite the creature's deadly accuracy, Xena had still caught a shadowy glimpse of it. It had stayed still only briefly. The creature had seemed to be roughly like a person, but she couldn't be sure. She hadn't had a lot of time to really size up the situation.
The female archer stood from behind a nearby tree and chanced a shot toward the temple. Someone else warned the woman to get back and as she tried to do so, she stumbled and fell to the ground. She was a clear and open target. Veren reached out from the tree he was hiding behind and grabbed her shirt. He felt a sharp pain in his shoulder and fell to the ground. One of the snake arrows had grazed across his shoulder and the poison was already beginning to take effect.
Xena looked over to her injured friend and took action. With her head down low, she crept forward quickly from behind the tree and let out one of her battle cries. Jason thought to call out to her, but a series of arrows directed toward his general direction caused him to get behind a tree quickly. He looked to his side to see one of the two barbarians pull Veren and the woman archer aside with just one hand. The archer was already using a small knife to cut Veren's shoulder and draw out the poison.
The brush and weeds were just tall enough that Xena could continue to safely walk forward. She kept down as much as she could, hearing a few arrows pass over her back. Just as she was about to look up, she noticed a sudden movement over to her right. Something jumped over to her and knocked her to the ground. She didn't have time to think of who it was as another person's hands went for her throat. Xena instinctively reached out to the person's shoulders and she tried to push them back as best she could.
The other person countered her move with a knee to her stomach. Xena tensed as the pain hit her. She felt it again and again before she finally managed to get her footing. She freed herself slightly and spun around, her foot connecting with the other person's back. The attacker fell forward in the weeds. Xena started to rush toward the person, but a few sounds of snake arrows forced her back to the ground.
Her attacker wasn't so concerned. The mysterious woman got up on her feet slightly and crept back to her. She hit Xena in the jaw and knocked the warrior princess down. Before Xena could get her bearings, the woman was on top of her again. Her attacker had a viselike grip on her neck that she couldn't easily break free from.
Just then a light breeze brushed the weeds aside and the attacker looked up. She was more in the open to the arrows and knelt down. Xena used the distraction to force her feet up. With a sharp kick, Xena's attacker flew up in the air and Xena managed to roll to the side closer toward the temple. The attacker landed. Xena prepared to defend herself, but the woman continued to lie there unmoving. Xena saw that four snake arrows rested in the woman's side from when she had been in the air briefly.
Xena was impressed and more than concerned at the creature's accuracy. Enough of the surrounding weeds had been pressed down during her fight that she couldn't safely move. She would have to remain as she was until the situation changed somehow. Xena doubted it would change in her favor but she was wrong.
A burst of light blue and white flame appeared near the trees where the other's were hidden. Xena could hear more arrows pass above her and fly out to the new target, but nobody yelled out in pain. Xena dared to look up slightly and saw that Karissa now stood there out in the open. Several of the arrows flew out toward her but they appeared to bust into pieces when they hit her. Karissa raised her hand slightly and Xena could see a sudden bright light flash in the storyteller's hand.
The series of arrows shot out toward the trees stopped abruptly. Xena remained where she was for several minutes, unwilling to risk her life just to satisfy her curiosity. She looked up after about ten minutes to see Karissa calmly walking toward her. She stopped near the attacker's dead body and looked to her briefly before going to Xena.
"What the...?" Xena was at a loss of words.
Karissa smiled down to her gently and looked for any wounds. "Not to worry. She wont be shooting any more arrows at us." Karissa held her hand out.
Xena took it and allowed herself to be pulled up to her feet. "Yeah, but how in the world did you do that?"
"It was nothing really." Karissa explained. "A simple family power. I just prefer not to use it much that's all."
Xena looked back to the temple and stared at it for some time. She slowly made her way over to her attacker, never fully taking her eyes off of where the deadly arrows had come from. Xena turned the body over and recognized the person instantly. "Satrina."
Karissa asked who that was. Xena explained that Satrina was an enemy from long ago that she and Gabrielle had met. A student of warfare who had served Xena during her dark past to learn of her strengths. Satrina had been responsible for the death of Borias. Xena gave Karissa the clear impression that her death was no great loss as far as she was concerned.
One by one the others slowly worked their way forward up to where Karissa and Xena were. Jason asked what had happened, but all Karissa would offer as an explanation was that it had been within her power to help so she had done so. She told them that their problem was by no mean solved, however. Their greatest challenge lie ahead in the temple of the gorgon.
Xena recognized the name gorgon as being part of the story Karissa had told on the first night of the boat. The gorgons were the sisters of Medusa. Karissa told her that she was right. Medusa herself was dead, slain by a hero named Perseus weeks ago. Medusa was only a half gorgon however, cursed by the gods. The beast inside was her sister, a full gorgon with much more deadly potential.
Jason asked how she knew all this but Karissa would only say that she knew. He thought to ask more but considering the fact that they were pressed for time at the moment he chose not to. Karissa stood and said that she would be returning to the boat. She would take the injured. Xena looked over to the thief Najara had warned her about earlier and suggested he be taken as well. The man protested, but one of the barbarians grabbed him by the shoulder. The thief became silent.
Karissa wished Xena well and tried to assure her that all would be better soon. With that said, Karissa disappeared in a blaze of light blue and white fire. Veren, the female archer, the thief, the ex-prisoner and Satrina's bodies disappeared in a similar manner.
Xena and the others regrouped in their efforts to go into the temple. It was agreed that Xena would lead the raid. Jason and a few would stand outside in case a second group was needed. Najara would take a few men around the back side of the temple to cover any exits. They all approached the steps in front of the temple slowly. There had been many snakes on the steps before, but now there was only ashes which the light breeze swept aside.
Everyone took their time to gain their focus before the attack started. With a quick pointing command, Xena sent Najara and the female swordfighter around one side of the temple and one of the two barbarians around the other side. Xena would take Darinus, the other barbarian and the mercenary with her. That would leave Jason with Cordow, the ex-slaver and the pirate should their efforts prove unsuccessful.
Xena and her group stood against the front wall to the left of the entrance while Jason's group stood to the right side of the entrance. The barbarian walked forward past Xena and stood directly in front of the doorway. There was a short stone wall that directly blocked the entrance, but had openings on either side. It kept either side from seeing beyond it. The barbarian let out a fearsome growl to announce his strength.
Xena shook her head at the man's arrogance. She would be sure to have him enter last. He was too big and too bold, an easy target. Just then the sound of stone cracking made her reach out to the wall beside her. Others did the same thing. She was concerned the stone foundation beneath them might be falling apart but it wasn't. She looked up to the entrance and her eyes widened. The barbarian no longer stood there. In his place was a seven foot statue. Something inside the temple had turned the man into stone.
"Excuse me. Have you seen a dark blonde woman in hunting clothes? Her name is Amber?" Gabrielle asked.
The crewman shook his head. He said he had been cleaning the deck most of the morning and had not taken notice of anything other than the mop and bucket. Gabrielle thanked him for his time and continued on her way. She wasn't too concerned over not finding Amber, it was just that once she set her mind to a task she liked to see that it was finished.
Two other crewmen had agreed to watch over the few wounded on deck while Gabrielle took a chance to rest for the first time that day. The job of changing bandages and speaking with the people had taken up much time. Gabrielle had hoped to speak with the captain about the progress on the island, but she hadn't seen him in several hours. She walked around the main deck slowly, thinking to herself and greeting the occasional crewman that walked by.
She stopped and remembered her talk to Amber. Amber had mentioned something of a man looking at her on the deck. Gabrielle thought about the rope again. That was strange to see a rope just hanging over the side of the ship like that. That was another thing she intended to speak to Captain Herabus about. She looked toward the back of the boat and the railing and started to walk back that way.
The stairs were not far from where she was now so she went down them and glanced over to the room she shared with Xena. It looked undisturbed. She decided to continue along and saw that there were a few people in the galley. She asked one of them if he had seen Amber. The man mentioned that a woman matching her description had passed by about a half hour ago, but that she had not stopped in there.
Gabrielle thanked him and continued down the hallway until she reached the stairs going down to the holds. There were only a few other doors in front of her and it was very unlikely that Amber would have went into any of the personal rooms. Gabrielle took a few moments to consider before she walked down the stairs to see three hold doors. She tried the middle door.
The room appeared to be fairly lit from light that drifted through the uneven floor planks above. She could see several types of containers and crates. Something moving caught her eye. She walked over and to her amazement, she saw Amber lying on the ground. The Amazon was stirring from sleep.
"Well, well. My lucky day." A man with a deep voice said. He stood in the entrance of the room. Gabrielle turned to face him and recognized him as the man who had been looking at Amber up on the main deck.
"What happened to Amber?" She had the slightest trace of anger in her voice.
The man put his hands forward as if to suggest he had no idea. "You found her just before I. But its just as well." He gave a mean grin and walked further into the room.
Gabrielle quickly grabbed a round lid off of one of the crates near her and threw it at the man. He ducked his head quickly but the lid still hit him hard in the shoulder and caused him to take a step back. He growled and looked to his shoulder before looking up again.
"That's going to cost you woman." It was the last thing he said though. Gabrielle had already picked up a heavy fishing weight. It was sailing through the air even as he spoke. He blinked in surprise as the fishing weight hit him in the head and knocked him to the floor unconscious.
Gabrielle made sure he was out of action. She used some spare fishing line to tie his hands and feet together before she returned to Amber. She knelt down beside the Amazon and raised her head slightly. "Amber. Amber. Are you alright?"
Amber shook her head slowly, fighting off the effects of being knocked out. She looked up and smiled weakly to Gabrielle before sitting up. When she finally did manage to sit up fully, Amber looked over to the man who Gabrielle had hit with the fishing weight. She let out a slight laugh.
"There's something not quite right here Gabrielle." Amber looked behind her. "There's a statue of someone back there under a wrap. And there's all kinds of gold and possessions just lying on the deck down here."
Gabrielle reached over to where Amber was looking and picked up a coin. She held it in the air and read its markings. "Thracian." Gabrielle remembered something about Xena telling her about the captain's previous journeys to the island. She had remembered something Thracian soldiers being mentioned. This didn't sound very good at all.
"Was he the one that did this to you?" Gabrielle asked. She stood and reached out to Amber.
Amber shook her head. "No, but it wouldn't surprise me too much if he hadn't had something to do with this." Amber stood up with Gabrielle's help.
"You two are clever aren't ya?" Gabrielle and Amber looked to the entrance and saw the warlord Beorn and a second man, a criminal Beorn had spoken to several times on the main deck. Both of them held pieces of wood with nails sticking out of them. Beorn sneered at the two women and started to walk toward them.
Xena tried her best to be considerate about the problem, but there really was no way to avoid it. As the others tried to move the stone barbarian to the side, he tipped over and broke into many pieces. They all stood there for a few seconds, worried for some unspoken reason. There was no need to be. The barbarian had been turned into solid stone all the way through. Xena took some small comfort in the fact that he had been dead the second the curse had took effect.
She didn't like the results of what had just happened though. She could tell on the others' faces that the tension within the group had just doubled. Seeing the strong, brave man reduced to rubble in a matter of seconds brought back all the fearful childhood tales of this place. It was having a noticeable effect.
Xena pointed toward Darinus, the mercenary and now the ex-slaver as well. She wanted at least four people in there if it was possible. Jason, Cordow and the pirate would remain just outside. She instructed the men to follow her in slowly one at a time. She wanted this to be spaced out and timed properly. There was no sense in any more than one person at a time risking entry into the temple.
She pulled her sword out of its scabbard and held it in front of her. Xena gave Jason a quick look of confidence and slowly walked toward the entrance. A wall of stone stood just within the entrance, blocking her view of the inside area. She did manage to see the inside area briefly from either side. She turned around and stood with her back to the wall so she could face back out toward the entrance. Darinus was ready to enter on her word and the other's appeared ready as well. She motioned for Darinus to join her and he did.
Darinus was proving to be useful on this adventure. She had had her doubts of him, considering the way she had parted with the warlord Draco. She and Draco hadn't seen each other in a few years. His men had probably been no more pleased to learn she had turned on Draco any more than Draco had been himself, but for his part Darinus hadn't said anything. How long that would stay true after this was dealt with remained to be seen. She was already thinking of who would likely turn against the group afterwards. It was always good to be prepared.
Xena stuck her head out from the side of the stone wall and looked into the main chamber of the temple. She quickly drew her head back behind the wall. She hadn't seen anything or anyone that looked like it might attack. That was good enough for her right now. She knew of course that would change soon enough.
The temple was big. It had many columns in the central area and many tapestries and decorations along the wall and in the front. She thought she had caught a brief glance of a table or two up front, but she decided against a second look. That wasn't important just yet. The columns were set unevenly in the main room. That made it more difficult for her to see the creature. She hoped the same was true for it.
She nodded her head to Darinus and lowered herself. A few quick steps and she was out in the open area of the temple, standing behind one of the columns that was in the back corner near the entrance. She dared to look out once more at the many columns. She stood back quickly. This time Xena had seen something move in the distance. Something tall and dark.
Darinus did the same thing as she did but in the opposite direction of her. He now stood behind a column on the opposite side of the entrance. The mercenary was standing behind the stone wall and the ex-slaver had just joined him. Both held their swords up and to the side ready to strike out if need be. Xena tried to calm her breathing and ready herself for the attack.
The main chamber was wide enough for five rows of columns. Each were separated by about ten to fifteen feet of open space. One or two columns had been knocked down, but that was not a problem for them. There were about twenty rows of columns running forward. She wasn't sure exactly. The only thing she had not counted on was the number of stone statues and discarded weapons lying around on the floor. It was more than obvious that they had not been the first to travel to this forsaken place.
Xena moved quickly and ran up to the next column. She caught the movements of the mercenary out of the corner of her eye. He took up the position behind her that she had just left. Looking across the temple, she could see that Darinus was doing the same thing. He moved forward and the ex-slaver took his former position.
An uneven sound could be heard ahead. It was like something being dragged against the smooth marble floor. If Xena was any judge of history and tales, The creature they would be facing had a serpent like body. It explained a lot. The great serpent near the shoreline, the hundreds of snakes on the temple steps. This was a gorgon alright. A hideous female creature with the upper body of a female and the lower body of a serpent. One false move... a single look into her eyes and a person could be turned to stone in seconds. The barbarian was proof of that.
Darinus moved forward again to another column. The ex-slaver behind him took up the position opposite of Xena. She frowned slightly. Darinus was getting a little too eager. They had agreed she would make the leading moves. She let it go for now and walked around the column to approach the third column. The sound of a poisonous snake arrow hit the column behind her and shattered into pieces. She ran and slid down behind the third column for safety.
Darinus used the distraction run forward toward the fourth column. The mercenary followed close behind him to take up a position behind the third column. Xena made a slight face as she stood up behind the column. Darinus was breaking with her plan. That wasn't good. She had wanted to keep the beast occupied on both sides for as long as possible. Better to have it on the defensive that attacking.
The ex-slaver behind her made a bold move and ran sideways to the column just in front of the stone wall near the entrance. Two more arrows flew through the air, striking the stone wall and breaking to pieces. The ex-slaver jumped at the sound of grinding stone. All of them looked back. Xena realized the arrows hadn't been shot at random. There were small triggers on the back side of the stone wall that made it slide forward. The gorgon intended to seal them inside the temple so they couldn't get out or receive any help.
The ex-slaver panicked and ran to the wall, past the column to the edges. He was trying to stop the wall from sliding forward. Xena could hear from the other side that Jason and the others were up against the wall, trying to push it back as well. She yelled out to the man to take cover but he refused. A couple of arrows hit the stone wall again and the man ducked down quickly.
A loud shaking of the temple near the entrance announced the sealing of the temple. They were trapped inside. She quickly realized her mistake as soon as the sound died down. They had all taken their attentions off of the front of the temple. The sound of the gorgon slithering along the ancient marble floor could be heard off to the other side. She glanced up and saw the creature barely as it passed behind a far column. Its hair danced in the flickering torch light as snakes hissed and looked for a target to strike.
The gorgon glared at her and she quickly looked down. A painful headache gripped her hard and she brought her free hand up to her head. The back of the temple where she was looking at seemed to turn a pale color of gray briefly and then it returned to normal. When her senses returned, she realized she must have just caught a glance of the gorgon's stone cold eyes. Fortunately, a second or two less than needed had saved her.
Darinus ran toward a column in the middle and fell down. He had done so to avoid an arrow meant for his side. The mercenary behind him reacted quickly and made a large sound off to the right. The gorgon looked toward him and fired off a couple of arrows which missed. Darinus had the time he needed to regain his footing. He grabbed a small shield which was resting on the floor.
Xena saw a blur in front of her and recognized the ex-slaver. He made a run toward the next column in front of her. A spear had been resting against it. The man made it to the column but also yelled out. One of the gorgon's arrows managed to graze into his side and the poison no doubt felt like wildfire.
She thought to join him and check on him, but the gorgon still had its attention in her general direction. Arrows were hitting the wall on either side of her column. Each exploding on impact into small pieces of rock and debris. She stood there quietly for a few seconds and heard the familiar sound of something passing through the air. Xena's hand shot out to her side and she caught one of the stone snake arrows. She quickly drew her hand back before another one hit her.
The ex-slaver looked to her clearly impressed. He held the spear in this hands and took her initiative as a sign to do the same. A few quick moves back and forth to dodge arrows and he was another column's distance from her. He was trying to position himself behind the beast.
Darinus was still trapped behind a column, but he had at least tested the small shield he had reached out for. It took the arrows without breaking, though he had to hold it tightly so it wasn't pulled from his hand each time. The mercenary still had his sword and had managed to cut down one of the hanging tapestries along the wall. He had fixed his sword blade out to distract the gorgon and it was working enough for the ex-slaver to make his move to another column.
Xena heard something big fly through the air and slam into Darinus' sword. He grunted and thrown back slightly. The gorgon had thrown a spear at the shield and knocked it free from his hand. The beast seemed almost entirely fixed on Darinus and Xena. It had realized the mercenaries diversion with the sword and tapestry by now. It was then that Xena realized the creature's battle skill.
The quick sound of scales slithering across the floor announced the gorgon's sudden movement. It was heading directly toward the ex-slaver. It hadn't been distracted as they had thought. It wanted to give the man time to distance himself from the others. He would be an easier target now.
Xena yelled out for the man to be on guard. She heard the gorgon's movements continue along the floor. Looking around the corner of the column, she could see that Darinus had taken hold of the shield once more and was staying toward the center of the chamber. The mercenary rushed forward along the opposite wall. She tried to motion for him to move back so he did not distance himself too far as well, but he ignored her warning. Two columns separated her and Darinus. Four columns separated Darinus and the mercenary.
The sound of a wooden pole striking stone could be heard in the distance. It was quickly followed by the scream of the ex-slaver. The gorgon's weapon had found its mark. Xena closed her eyes briefly. She was still having some trouble concentrating. She could hear his body slump down to the ground as well as his wooden spear's hollow sounding rattle as it fell to the marble floor.
Xena quickly made a few calculations in her head. She thought of the columns and all of the walls before reaching to her side. The gorgon was moving back the way it had came, toward Darinus. She reached up with the chakrum in her hand and threw it at the nearest wall. It began to ricochet against one column after another, creating enough echoing noise that the gorgon was became confused. Its dark face glanced back and forth at the sound. It managed to drop down just in time to avoid the flying weapon.
The Chakrum continued to ricochet off the columns until it worked its way back to Xena. She reached out and quickly took hold of it, placing it back at her side. No sooner had she placed it back where it belonged, than she heard the mercenary yell out as he charged toward the beast. His stabbed at the gorgon's tail and hit it on the second try.
The creature let out a deafening roar and used its tail to hit the mercenary. He was sent sailing through the air where he landed hard against the side wall. The air had been knocked out of him and he gasped for breath. When he looked up the burning white eyes of the gorgon drew down upon him. He looked up to it to hold it back and quickly turned into stone.
Xena rushed forward two column's distance and picked up the spear the ex-slaver had dropped. She cleared herself of the column and drew her arm back. The spear flew through the air and was but a second away from striking the creature in the back when it suddenly moved to the right. The spear hit the back wall and fell to the ground.
Darinus used the distraction to rush forward and swing out with his sword. His sword tip caught the beast and it let out a second roar of rage. It tried to stare at him but he brought the shield up to cover his eyes. It tried to quickly stab him with a sword of its own but he brought the shield down again.
Xena ran to the creature's side as Darinus kept it busy. She swung her sword forward quickly and cut into the gorgon deep. It's body slid away from her as it cried out in pain. Darinus smiled to her briefly. That was all the time the creature needed. It thrusted its sword forward as he protected his eyes. Darinus groaned and dropped the sword. The creature quickly lifted him into the air and the two of them made eye contact. By the time the gorgon had thrown him clear, he had already turned into stone and busted into many pieces as soon as he hit the floor.
Xena tried to react fast by running behind a column, but the creatures hands reached out and tripped her. She swung her sword back to stab its hands, not even mindful if she happened to cut herself in the process. Her sword was knocked from her hand and clattered on the floor to the side.
She found herself being flipped over onto her back, drug forward toward the gorgon. Xena closed her eyes and took wild punches at the beast, none of which did any good. In no time at all, the four armed creature held her up. Two of its hands held her hands up and to the side so she was suspended in the air. Its other two hands reached out to her face. It was intent on forcing her eyes open so it could turn her to stone.
Xena brought her feet forward and kicked off the gorgon's chest. The momentum allowed her to flip backwards in the air and her feet connected with the top of the creature's head. It released her and she dropped to the ground. Her shoulders were aching with pain from the sudden twisting they had been through, but she still managed to reach for the chakrum. The sound of it hitting against the many columns in the temple distracted the gorgon once more.
She reached out for her sword and brought it up in front of her. The chakrum had hit a bad angle and fell to the floor. It was too far for her to reach. She looked to her sword one last time and blinked as the shine of temple torches reflected into her face. The creature reached out for her once again and she felt herself suddenly raised up into the air by the shoulders. With a quick movement, Xena raised the sword up so the creature could look at it. It caught a reflection of torchlight in its eyes and dropped her once more.
She got up on her feet and stood her ground. As the beast opened its eyes with rage, its looked directly at her. All it saw was the woman holding the flat side of the sword toward it. Then it saw the hideous image of its own reflection before letting out a roar that cut short by its turning to stone.
Xena backed away from the creature and fell to the floor. Her breathing was labored and her voice was forced. She let out an exhausted laugh. The sound of stone moving in the distance caused her to look back to the entrance. The others were managing to push the stone wall back. She could see the other barbarian run around the corner of the wall. He walked out in the open with his two-handed sword held up high.
Everyone else entered the temple shortly after that. Jason ran over to her and asked how she felt. She assured him that she would survive. He helped her up as the others made a quick survey of the temple. There were no hidden room or second floors, just a couple of simple rooms in the back. The barbarian and others were near the back where gold coins and jewels had been stacked up. Xena rubbed the side of her face slightly and looked to the gorgon.
It's mighty strength was now reduced to solid stone as with its victims. Xena looked across its face and her eyes stopped at the gorgon's neck. There was a small necklace made of stone hanging there. It was in the shape of a half moon. The same shape as the necklace worn by Captain Herabus. Xena quickly told Jason. Jason ordered the other's to leave. They had to reach the shoreline as soon as possible.
Gabrielle and Amber looked to the two men as they slowly walked forward. Gabrielle reached for a flat crate lid and stood up. She held it out to hit Beorn with it but he took it from her hand with a single swing. The nails in his piece of wood pulled it away from her hold on it. She brought her foot down on his and he made a face of pain. The pirate that was with him brought his own piece of wood against the back of Gabrielle's leg.
She yelled out and fell back as the nails cut into her leg. Before she hit the floor, Beorn reached out and roughly grabbed her. He spun her in the air and pressed her back up against his chest. Amber tried to defend herself from the pirate, but the close area limited her movements. He smacked Amber hard in the side with his piece of would.
Amber fell leaned forward and the pirate's boot connecting with her jaw quickly sent the young Amazon flying back against the crates behind her. Gabrielle yelled out and tried to brake free from the warlord's grasp, but he was too strong for her. She could seen blood at Amber's side. She hoped the wounds were not as serious as they looked.
Beorn carried the struggling bard with him back to the entrance. He took note of a couple of full barrels of explosive powder and told the pirate to stay down here. If he didn't send back the right signal, the pirate was to set the barrels to explode and run up to the main deck as fast as he could. The pirate agreed.
Gabrielle continued in vain to struggle against the warlord's grip, but it did her no good. In no time at all, the two of them were making their way up the stairs, pass the galley and back up stairs that led to the main deck. A couple of crewmembers saw Beorn holding Gabrielle forcefully and quickly ran off to the front of the ship.
Adventurers and crewmen alike began to slowly surround the warlord. He didn't appear too concerned. As long as he held the girl and a dagger near her side, none of them would be so foolish as to rush him. It took no time at all for the captain to reach the back of the ship and demand what Beorn was doing.
Beorn waved the dagger around threateningly, making sure everyone kept their distance. He yelled to all who could hear him. "Seems the captain here's been keeping a little secret! Haven't ya?!"
Herabus gave him an ugly look but kept silent. Beorn sneered at him and continued. "Captain here's got himself a lot of gold! Thracian gold in fact! Anybody wanna bet who the last set of passengers was?!"
Some of the crew and passengers looked over to the captain. "He's lying!" Herabus replied.
"Oh am I now am I?!" Beorn yelled out. He brushed the dagger lightly across Gabrielle's side and she yelled out lightly in pain. A couple of the crewmen thought to rush the warlord but he waved the dagger in the air and warned them back. They backed off. "Tell them woman!"
Gabrielle yelled out in frustration. She felt little sympathy toward a captain that might be risking his passengers and crew, but she didn't want to help this warlord in any way either. "Its true. I saw the coins with my own eyes. They're Thracian."
"And there's more too!" Beorn continued. "He's got a stone statue out there! For all ya know, he's the one that's been delivering men to that beast!"
That last statement had the intended effect. The sympathy of those on board was beginning to turn against the captain and he could sense it. Herabus held up his hands. "Hold on! Hold on! There's a good explanation for that! Lets not take our minds off whose got a knife at a young woman's side!"
Several among the crew and passengers were grumbling to themselves, but they did recognize the more immediate threat. They started to approach Beorn slowly despite his waving the dagger in the air.
Beorn yelled out to them again. "I want a boat off of this ship and I want safe passage! If I don't get both, my man down below will light the explosive crates and this whole ship will go up!"
Captain Herabus looked to a couple of crewmembers and they nodded their heads. There were explosives in the hold that could do the job. Herabus could have jumped across the deck at Beorn, but he knew when he was cornered.
Just then one of the lookouts from above shouted out. "Boats ahead! Boats ahead!"
Everyone turned slightly to see that two of the boats were returning from the island. Everyone was surprised to see them. Beorn saw them as well. He saw them as a further threat.
Beorn raised his dagger to Gabrielle's side once more and threatened them all. "The girl gets cut and the ship blows unless you raise the anchor and set sail now." Someone asked about the boats and Beorn made it clear he intended to leave them stranded on the island. Nobody much liked the idea but they could do little else.
Out in the lead boat Xena could see several of the people on the ship gathered toward the rear of the main deck. She tried to focus her eyes and saw that the warlord Beorn was onboard holding a dagger to Gabrielle's side. Jason quickly mentioned that the Sargasso was raising her anchor. Xena realized too well what he was up to. She looked up and down the length of the ship, trying to think of something.
Beorn yelled out to the pirate below to see if he was ready but he received no response. He yelled out twice more and still heard nothing. Finally, someone walked up the stairs to the main deck. It was Amber. Everyone could tell by the red color of her boot dagger, that the threat of the pirate was no long a problem. All eyes turned toward Beorn.
Beorn was smart enough to keep the dagger at Gabrielle's side. He threatened her a few times as the crew and passengers slowly started to close in on him. As they did, a sharp crack could be heard overhead. Several of the people on deck looked up. Gabrielle looked up as well and was surprised to see a chakrum stuck into the sailing mast.
The chakrum cut through the rigging and one of the sails was falling down toward all of them. Everyone ran to the sides and forward to avoid it. Beorn looked up and was stunned enough by the sight that Gabrielle managed to break free of his hold. The sail was still connected to a side mast beam on one end. It caught against the railing before sliding over the side. The other end of the sail and the sail itself fell on top of Beorn.
Beorn struggled as best he could but the sailing was too heavy and he only ended up wrapping himself up in the sail further. As the other end of the sail fell over the side and down toward the water, the sudden change in weight pulled him toward the railing. Gabrielle quickly took the initiative and pushed him as hard as she could. Beorn tripped over the railing and fell down toward the water below.
Lines of rope from above still held the sail in place. Beorn was now caught in the sail like a fish in a net, hanging over the side of the boat unable to free himself. Amber and the others went over to Gabrielle and complimented her on her quick thinking. Other crewmen ran to the sides of the ship to draw the boats back up to the deck. Herabus joined the crew in congratulating Gabrielle. They were not impressed. He soon found himself surrounded by four crewmen who quickly escorted him to his cabin where he would probably have a lot of explaining to do.
Chapter 20..... Conclusion:
Xena and Gabrielle sat on the wooden bench near the galley stairs where they had seen the ship leave the dock days before. Both were exhausted, but they smiled and nodded to the well-wishers who passed by. In between their visitors they spoke to each other, sharing in their activities.
"I knew it couldn't be Beorn." Xena explained about the night of the arrow attack on the main deck. "It was too smart for him."
They both smiled at that. The second mate had told Xena that King Oreastes guards would take Beorn and Captain Herabus into custody as soon as they got back to port. It was welcomed news as far as Xena was concerned. Beorn was not to be trusted. His actions had proven that much.
Gabrielle expressed some minor sympathy toward Herabus. Despite the troubles they had been through, he had appeared to be a troubled man to her. Xena agreed with his being troubled. She explained that when she saw the half-moon necklace around the gorgon's neck, she remembered the same necklace around his neck. She knew the connection instantly. Herabus served her. The small ship with two men that had been sent to the island was probably intended to loot the slain adventurers on the island. Fortunately, this time the group had been successful.
The sun was beginning to set and the port town could now be seen in the distance. The ship would reach the small town just before nightfall. Xena looked out over the ocean's surface and enjoyed the changing blue and purple colors of the fading sun. She turned to face Gabrielle after hearing the bard ask a question.
"So how are you going to spend your part in the reward?" Gabrielle looked to her curiously.
Xena sat there for a few seconds. She thought about all the possibilities. Their share of the sixteen-hundred dinars promised to the remaining adventurers could buy a lot of things. Xena allowed herself the thought of riches and fine clothes. Maybe she would look into a small piece of land or a few nights of relaxation in a nice room in town. She kept an eager bard waiting a few minutes more before answering. "Oats."
"Oats?" Gabrielle asked her with a light laugh. "The first thing you think of is oats."
Xena turned to her friend and smiled. "Oh, that isn't the first thing I thought of at all. First we'll need to get a good cooking knife. That way you won't be using my chakrum."
Gabrielle smiled and shook her head. Xena did as well. Both of the women looked out to the dark orange sun as it slowly began to sink below the horizon. The night was reclaiming the seas once again. Thanks to both their efforts there was at least one small island that could start the next day with a new sense of peace.
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