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Editor's Choice Award

Last Reflections of a Heart Most Pure

by L. Fox

Editor's note: I don't usually put my own thoughts in here but I will for this gem. Get the kleenex ready because I had a hard time reading this without having a tear in my eye.

My name is Gabrielle, and this is my last hour. It is my time. Already I feel the cold hand of Death upon my shoulder. For seventy summers have I walked this earth but it now seems no more that a blink of an eye to me.

My life has been a most eventful one. I was a bard and, in all modesty, a very good one. I spent years perfecting my craft and ultimately my tales could compel the most hard hearted of men to weep or the most timid to want to do great deeds. I was present at great events, the siege of Troy, the rescue of Prometheus, the Thessalian War. I saw Zeus with my own eyes. I met great men; Hercules, David( who later became a king), Hippocrates, Homer. I became an Amazon princess-- could have been queen--but it was not for me for my heart was elsewhere. I saw the manifestations of indescribable evil: Ares and Callisto. I saw acts of courage and kindness, cruelty and hate and all of it I recorded in my scrolls. They number in the hundreds, seldom read now, but as fresh in my mind as the day I wrote them. Yes, I have had a good life.

I see my sister Lila, eyes red, keeping vigil by my bed. I am too weak now. I am no longer able to speak to her. But in my mind I have to laugh. Although both of us are wrinkled and gray, still we squabbled and bickered like silly young girls. Oh, Lila, I love you so!

Beside her stands my son, sturdy and tall. A miraculous gift to me from the gods in the autumn of my life. Eighteen summers old now, see how handsome he is! Just like the father he never knew. Weep not, my son! It is only the natural order of things. But he buries his head in the bed covers and softly cries. Oh my son, many times I told you I loved you but I never told you how you helped to mend your mother's broken heart. After Xena's death I thought I would surely go mad but, like a little lamp in a cavern of darkness, you came to me. I wish you had known her. It is almost time now, I can feel it. And so I give my last moments to the memory of the one who, for more that fifty years, dominated almost every thought I had, conscious or unconscious. All through the day little incidents or simple words bring your memory rushing back to me. And at night I still dream of you; dreams so real I wake up aching to touch you, to smell you, to hear your voice just once more.

Oh sweet gods has it been twenty years? Was it not only yesterday I held your hand and sobbed as I felt your life ebb away? You lay there with your once jet black hair now streaked with gray and with crows-feet around those wondrous blue eyes but, by the gods, you were as beautiful as the first day I ever saw you. Whether you felt cursed or blessed I know not for you did not die a warrior's death on some bloody battlefield but quietly in a soft bed surrounded by those who loved you.

The great healer Hippocrates, himself now aged and renowned throughout Greece had rushed to your side at the news of your illness. He worked feverishly using all his considerable skill to save you but, as you slipped away, like me he could not hold back his tears. You know, to the day he died he called you "Teacher".

And they were there. Your temporary enemies turned lifelong friends; Hercules and Iolaus. It was the only time I ever saw the mighty hero cry. And you know, Xena, I felt a little guilty. In my heart I still believe if not for me the two of you would have one day been together.

They are all gone now. Hercules-- so revered that mighty Zeus placed him in the heavens for all to admire forever more. And Iolaus, now dead these fifteen years. Til the day he died he was strong of hand, keen of eye, and merry of heart. I miss him so. And Hippocrates, too. His legacy will be one for all the ages, I think.

Ohhh, my head is swimming. Forgive me, Xena, but I am glad my end will not be as hard as yours. I have not your courage. I remember how you fought for every breath and how Hippocrates' voice cracked when he said your heart was getting weaker. Even now, at the end of my time, I can still see you lying there and wonder how this could be. You seemed so indestructible even though many times over the years I saw you hurt. But, as with all mortals, there is no escaping Death. He comes to all sooner or later.

At last Hippocrates said your time was at hand. You surely must have heard him for I remember how, with your last bit of strength, you beckoned to me. Your struggling voice was barely a whisper so I laid my ear to your lips and heard the words I have carried in my heart from that day to this, "My love, I will wait for thee."

And you were no more.

Xena, let the chronicles record I kept my promise to you. Today, still, your body lies in Amphipolis, resting beside your beloved brother, Lyceus. And let them note that each year on the date of your death did I return to you to once again be near you and honor your memory.

For over thirty years my companion, my friend, my lover.

I feel a tear on my cheek and Lila gently wipes it away. They see my tears and think I grieve but I do not. For I rejoice. Had I voice I would shout to the top of Mount Olympus, "Thank you, Death, for the work you do this day!" For this is not the end, oh no! This is merely the beginning.

Xena has earned her place in the Elysian Fields. I know it in my heart. The lives she touched over our thirty-odd years together more than made up for her early years of shame. I know she waits there for me. Once again we will walk the gentle fields together. I can't wait to see her. She will be young and strong and her step will be one of grace and pride. And, as always, slow to allow me to keep up.

He is here. Death has come for me. Good bye, Lila. Good bye my dear boy. Grieve not, instead rejoice and think of the day we will once again be together. But until then--oh gods!

"Xena, my warrior, I come to thee. I come to theeee. I co-"

A voice not heard in twenty years beckons to the beloved little bard from beyond the light.

"Welcome home, Gabrielle."

For this is a love that time will not abate. So long as two atoms from their being exist in the universe, their love will be whole.

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