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Last Battle

by Simahoyo

Xena and Gabrielle, as well as a few warlords, are characters copyrighted by Universal and Renaisannce. The rest of it is my fault.

They knew it was dangerous. After all, Talmadeus and Cortez together had raised the biggest army seen in Greece since Xena's. And there was only one who could have helped them both escape--Aires.

It didn't look good. There were two villages trapped in the valley between armies (King Gregor's being the other). Xena was sick of seeing villagers sacrificed just because they were in the way. And Gabrielle, well she was just tired and it showed.

She'd grown up so much in her years with Xena. And it was her love for the Warrior Princess that kept her at her side, year after year, fight after fight in a seemingly endless round of killing. And so the cycle, fight and kill, agonize over it, make love to reassure themselves that love even remained in their world, then pack up and travel some more.

But there was something different in the air and they both knew it. A sense of finality. Maybe it would end tommorrow. Maybe peace would be declared. Or, maybe they would both be killed. So, they took the time to declare thier love for each other one last time, to say the words...and to feel the silences. And when they both ran out, they held each other. The campfire flickered. Xena turned her huge blue eyes on Gabrielle.

"Remember when you made me promise I wouldn't turn back into a monster if something happened to you?"

Gabrielle smiled at the memory. What an idealistic kid she had been.

"Of course I do."

"Well, Gabrielle, the same applies to you. Promise me you *won't* seek revenge if I die tommorrow."

"Who, me? I'm the pacifist around here. I'm not the revenge type."

"Liar. And I love you for it. But Gabs, I'm serious. You walk away if I fall on the battlefield."

"I won't seek revenge, but I *will* write a vengefull story, is that okay?"

"Sure. You know what to do with my body."

"Gods, you're talking like you've been signed, sealed and delivered to Hades already. Yes. I take you back to Amphipolus to be with Lyceus."

Xena was silent for a moment.

"Gabs--what should I do if...?"

"If I die and you don't?" I don't know. I want to be with you, but my family will want me with them. And Poteidaia has weird burial rites. You won't like them."

"Why? What do they do?"

"Way outside the village walls is a forest. The bodies of the dead are hung in the trees along with the person's most treasured possessions."

Xena shivered. Gabrielle was right. She didn't like it. Out where the vultures could get you...

Gabrielle could see that Xena was upset. She rubbed her back to calm her.

"What do *you* want to do if I die?"

Xena shook violently just once, then looked at Gabrielle. Her eyes were sad.

"I'll take your body back with me and you'll join my family inside our masoleum--all covered up and safe from the animals."

Gabrielle was touched. She knew how much real Greeks feared having their bodies torn by beasts. Her Gepid heritage had sometimes handicapped her in truely understanding Xena, but now, they were as one. Xena was even begining to understand the parts of Gabrielle that just didn't think like a Greek.

"Gabs, I know what you're thinking."

"You do? Tell me."

"You want to celebrate life now. Live it to the fullest, just in case. You want to feast and make love until the sun rises."

Gabrielle grinned and nodded. It was exactly what she had been thinking.

"You must be having an effect on me.", and Xena opened the saddle bag, taking out a wine skin and flatbread, a cucumber, yoghurt, nutbread and stuffed grape leaves.

"Where did you get..."

"In that last little village we passed through. And we have the two quail I caught cooking in our little pit right now. They should be about done."

Xena dug in the ground with a big stick, flipped the hot rocks aside and pried up the two clay covered birds. She expertly cracked open the hard clay and the savory smell filled their camp. So they dug in, fingers deep in the oily meat, the yoghurt flavoring the meat and flatbread to perfection. Gabrielle ate two grapeleaves, leaving the rest for Xena, who loved them. Xena ate just a bit of the nutbread and left the rest for Gabrielle. They drank just enough wine for a pleasant glow.

They talked and made love the whole night, but as Apollo's chariot began its journey across the sky, fear gripped their hearts. they clung together. It was Gabrielle who spoke first.

"Xena, I was told not to do this unless my life was at stake, and I'm not sure I remember how. There's an old Gepid ceremony I'm going to do. It only works on me, so you won't be affected. After I'm through, stay away from me. I'll be dangerous to everyone--even you. You'll know when I'm okay again.

Xena dressed and put on her armor. She sharpened her sword as she watched Gabrielle. Gabrielle had dressed, then she slipped a fur bundle out of her part of the saddlebags. She had told Xena not to touch it, so this was Xena's first experience with the bundle. A drum and the forked end of an antler were inside, as well as a small bundle of bark. Gabrielle took out her chert and pyrite set and struck a light onto the bark bundle, waving it in the air. She held it under her nose and inhaled deeply several times. Xena smelled hemp seed mixed with birch bark and lichen. She raised an eyebrow. After a while, Gabrielle crushed the bundle out with her left hand and put on the skin. It was Black Bear. Xena had never seen a Black Bear.

Gabrielle picked up the drum and antler, beating the drumhead with a single tine of the forked drumstick. She chanted until Xena's teeth hurt, then got up and danced while playing the drum. It was like a few festivals Xena had seen, only more primative. Gabrielle danced until she began to growl and her eyes took on a glassy look. Then the dancing grew more and more frenzied as Gabrielle worked herself up. Finally Gabrielle ran up the trunk of a tree, never touching it with her hands, and did a back flip to get back on the ground.

Thunder shied away from Gabrielle in the same way she would a wild animal. Xena took Gabrielle at her word and stayed away. The armies would converge here anyway. That's why they had chosen this spot.

Xena watched Gabrielle pick up her sword and sheath it, then grab her glaive. The staff lay forgotten on the ground. Those days were over. And Gabrielle's decision to kill hadn't been in anger, or in the cold, calculated manner of an assassin--it had been to protect a child. It had been the right thing to do. At least Xena thought so. And Gabrielle had taken her sword from the man she had killed. The heavy bladed glaive had been a gift, and not from Xena--but that was another story.

Giving Gabrielle a wide berth, Xena waited. The sound of hundreds of hoofbeats came from the south, then the north. Xena looked at King Gregor and his son. He nodded, knowing what she wanted to do. Then she turned to face Talmadeus and Cortez. They were old. She still hated Cortez for what his men had done to her--ripped her innocence to rags and left her, bleeding and naked on the ground. But she had killed those men long ago and now...she just wanted it to end.

"Alright, which one of you is running this show?"

"I am.", they both said simultaneously, and then glared at each other.

"You mean Aires is. Why have him tell you what to do? Why not just walk away?"

Then Aires appeared, arrogant as ever. He grinned suggestively, and ran his hand over her thigh. It was almost funny. Xena was forty by now. "I'll let you be in charge instead. You can declare peace all over Greece--under one ruler, as long as you promise to bring Greek culture to other lands. the barbarians need civilization--especially those primitive Gepids.(he glared at Gabrielle, who ignored him). You could even rid the world of slavery, if you'd just join me."

Xena gave him her best whithering look combined with a snear.

"Give it up. I heard you've been eyeing a young kid from Macedonia named Phillip. Go bother him."

"Very well, Xena--let this be your last battle. I'll see you in Tartarus."

A shiver ran through her. He probably was right. She'd be stuck for all eternity with people she'd killed and who hated her. Oh well, too late now. Aires dissappeared and Talmadeus attacked. Xena rode into battle while Gabrielle just stood there, glaive in hand. The chakrum went flying. Xena was in kill mode and it was covered with blood when it came back. She could hear chariots behind her and men on foot as metal clashed on metal and swords found their marks.

Recognising Gabrielle, Talmadeus attacked her, certain that she would not kill. She swung the huge blade and his head rolled on the ground. His body jerked, then fell and jerked over and over. Gabrielle began to move forward, swinging her glaive. She literally cut her way through the army.

The chakrum was useless now as the blood made it too slipery to handle. Xena unsheathed her sword and slashed her way to Cortez. He grinned evilly at her.

"Gods, if I had known who my men were raping, I would have joined them. It would have been fun to control you--to have complete power over your body. Only I would have killed you, slowly, with the most exquisite pain."

They began to ride at each other, swords drawn, and hack at each other with each pass. The noise, the dust and the sweat were overpowering. Finally Xena knocked her tormenter to the ground. He was up in seconds trying to kill Thunder. Xena did a double flip off Thunder and landed behind him.

"Turn around, you coward."

Cortez turned and attacked. He lunged low, knowing she liked to fight high. He nicked her outer thigh before she kicked him in the face. He rolled over and jumped to his feet, then cocked his hand behind his head and came down. Xena was ready for him, but at the last second, he flicked his wrist and changed the angle of his slash. Too late, Xena saw it. The blade came down hard on her head. Xena felt the blow and her head being jammed into her jaw. Her knees buckled as she fell. This was it. The final blow.

Gabrielle saw Xena fall. The glaive was too heavy for what she needed to do now. She left it in a soldier and unsheathed her sword, hacking her way to Xena's body. There she stood her ground, attacking all comers.

"I've killed Xena! I killed that Arcadian she-devil murderess!", shouted Cortz.

He brought his sword up to deliver a killing blow to Gabrielle when suddenlt she changed into a growling black bear. Magick! Cortez was horrified. He dropped his sword and ran. So did most of both armies. The bear collapsed on the ground. King Gregor sent his men after his enemies, then got out of his chariot, walking among the dead bodies. Grief clouded his face. These were the women who had given him his son. Now, both were dead. The bear was gone and in it's place was Gabrielle--pale and...breathing?

He hurried to her and turned her over. Then he saw that Xena was breathing too. He called for his healer and Hippocrates came running. He laid Gabrielle aside and set to work on Xena. Blood was everywhere, he took a clean cloth and wiped it away as gently as he could--prepared for the worst. There was a big cut in her scalp, and her skull showed through, but it was intact. She was a lucky, lucky woman. Apparently she had been hit with the flat of the blade. He sewed up the cut and poured alcohol on it , then bandaged her as well as he could. He left Xena to his assistant as he turned to Gabrielle.

Her face was cold and her breathing shallow. Her lips had a bluish tinge. He rolled up his cloak and put it under her feet. Then her looked at her eye. Her pupil was really dialated. She seemed to be under the influence of some sort of drug. He grabbed a blanket and laid it over her, then ran off to help the next victim.

The field hospital was filled with the wounded. Hipporates was busy, but kept being drawn back to Xena. He was still in love with her after all these years. And that head wound was worrisome. She was not responding to anyone. Gabrielle was begining to wake up. Hippocrates ran to her side. It seemed that he was always running. Her eyelids fluttered. She opened her eyes.

"I'm alive?"

"Yes. Thanks to that drug you were on. What was that?"

"Where's Xena's body?"

"She isn't dead--yet."

"Take me to her."

"You're too weak. Rest. Then go to her."

Gabrielle struggled to sit up, then tried to stand. She fell against Hippocrates. He helped her up., putting a strong arm around her.

"Where is she? I need to see her. Thank Freya she lived."

"A Gepid Godess. She's the one who saved us."

"By turning you into a bear. I saw that. I almost ran myself. Xena has a bad head wound. She isn't awake and, well, I'm worried. Talk to her. See if it helps."

Hippocrates steered Gabrielle over to where Xena lay on the floor, between the other wounded. He helped Gabrielle kneel down next to her.

"Xena, it's me, Gabs. Come on, I want to see those gorgeous blue eyes."

Xena stirred like someone struggling to wake up. Gabrielle took her hand and kissed it.

"Come on Warriorbabe, I know you're in there." Gabrielle grinned to herself. She knew how much Xena hated that particular pet name in public. The blue eyes flipped open.

"I hate that.", said Xena. "Oh Gods, how hard did he hit me? My eyes won't focus."

Hippocrates bent down and examined her eys. He held one finger in front of Xena's eyes.

"How many fingers am I holding up?"

"One, but it's blurry."

"Follow my finger with your eyes."

He slowly moved his finger to the right, then the left. He put one hand over her right eye, and held up a finger.

"Now what do you see?"

"Your finger.*One* finger, but it's blurred, like I said."

He covered her left eye and uncovered the right.

"Now what do you see?"

There was a pause.

"Nothing. I see light and nothing else."

"No shapes, no light and shadow?", asked Hippocrates.

"No. Did I lose an eye?", Xena looked concerned.

"Not in the conventional sense. You look beautiful, as always, but that blow to your head did something. Your right eye is sightless."

"Perfect. Tell me something I don't know. Just what a warrior needs. And don't flirt with your patients. It's bad technique. Go do your rounds. I need to talk to Gabrielle."

Hippocrates left. Xena turned to Gabrielle.

"Gabs, how can I fight when I can't see?"

"You can't. You'll have to retire.", said Gabrielle. "Just think. we can finally quit fighting and settle down."

"Oh sure, I'll live out my last years and when I die it's straight to Tartarus! Do you have any idea what that feels like?", said Xena.

"Yes.", said Gabrielle. "I've killed my share of people too, Xena. I'll probably join you there."

"No, Gabs, you have a good heart. It's the Elysian Fields for you. We'll be seperated." And tears filled her eyes. The old fear was coming back. Gabrielle took Xena in her arms and held her. She knew the emotional outburst wouldn't last and would be followed by a big tantrum about not being allowed to fight. Gabrielle was ready for both. There were times she wondered which of them was supposed to be older.

Hippocrates was really very sweet. He actually carried Gabrielle over to the bed next to Xena's. Of course, the beds were just nests of blankets on the floor, but it was very nice of him, she thought. She thanked him, but he just shrugged it off. She did have the strength to move her nest of blankets close to Xena's so they could cuddle. An old, grizzled soldier laughed at her.

"Could ye git any closer?"

"Not in public."

"I seen that bear trick. It was sumpin else. I once knowed a body who could do that kinda trick, some time back it was."

"I learned it in my home village."

"So where do ye hail from?"


"I mighta knowed. Them Gepids moved in down there and married with the local folks. They shure was an ornery bunch."

"I know. Fortunately they learned to get along."

"It'd be real nice if the folks who fought today would learn to git along."

"You fought against us, didn't you?"

"Yep. You might say I was volunteered when I was a young fella. At sword point."

"I'm glad you didn't die."

"ME too. And I'm real glad your friend there didn't die neither."

"Me too.", and Gabrielle kissed Xena's hair, and settled herself close to Xena to sleep, her arms wrapped around her.

By morning Gabrielle was feeling much more energetic. Unfortunately, so was Xena. She was up, digging around for her things and trying to pack.

"What do you think you are doing?", asked Gabrielle.

"I'm going after Cortez."

"Oh no, you're not. You can't even see to fight."

"I can too. Just watch me."

"Prove it."

"I don't have to."

"Yes you do. Outside, come on. Show me."

Xena and Gabrielle went outside the field hospital. Gabrielle took out her sword and saluted Xena. Xena unsheathed hers.

"First blood, okay?"

"How about first touch?"

"Fine, fine. I'll still show you I can too fight. You'll see."

They began to circle each other. Gabrielle could see Xena's good eye follow her every move. The other just stared. There was no grin, no joy in this. Xena made the first move and it was fast. Gabrielle parried the blade out of her way and made a tight circle around Xena's blade. She lunged, hitting Xena square in the middle of her breastplate. Xena frowned, then shook her head.

"The armor protected me. Go for first blood."

"I don't want to hurt you."

"Then do it, for Zeus' sake. Do you think I want to sit around this hospital when I could be cleansing my soul?"

Gabrielle flicked the blade up, then over to Xena's sword hand, drawing blood before Xena even saw it move.

"I'll be damned." Xena threw her sword down and got out her throwing knives. She tossed them at a tree and missed, hitting the ground instead. Her hand reached for her chakrum.

"No, Xena! You'll hurt someone. You can't see. Now leave it at that."

"Noooo! And Xena lept for Gabrielle, trying to knock her to the ground. Gabrielle side stepped her and Xena fell in the dirt. She tripped Gabrielle, punching her hard. She was screaming by now.

"I'm a warrior! I have to fight! I have so much to make up for!"

Then Xena pounded the ground with her fists. People came running to watch--such an ignoble end to the Warrior Princess. Gabrielle helped her up and stripped her armor off. She got Xena to walk with her, and put her back to bed.

"I'm sorry I punched you. That's twice now. Do you forgive me?"

Gabrielle kissed Xena on the mouth.

"Yes, I forgive you. But, you aren't going anywhere--got it?"

"Okay, okay. Maybe my sight will return later, then they'd better watch out."

"That's right Warriorbabe.", whispered Gabrielle as she kissed Xena again.

She knew she had to come up with a wonderful story about the Last Battle to make this up to her lover. Gabrielle cuddled up next to Xena and held her, thinking in Heroic Epic Form as her heart broke for her Warrior Princess.

the end

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Anya Dot Tethl(respect for kindred)

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