Convert this page to Pilot DOC FormatForeign Influences
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A second bowman fired an arrow at Xena when he saw the warrior woman enter the clearing. Xena tried to make a grab for it but her attention was split between too many things and the best she could manage was to knock the close range shot to the side. The arrow careened off her hand and into the upper arm of Ciaus, who had followed closely behind her.
"Enough!" Ciaus screamed as the arrow wobbled weakly and fell to the ground. It had only penetrated a few inches into his right arm, and the weight of the shaft pulled it back out again, but already the blood was beginning to flow heavily.
Raven was struggling in a tangled mass of arms and legs with the man who had shot Katrina. He held her to him and she cried out in whimpers and moans as she tried to get away from him, her limbs having no strength in her belief that her lover was dead.
"Let her go," Ciaus instructed his man, "put the weapons away."
The men grumbled slightly but complied with Ciaus's demands. To Xena, it seemed as though these men were willing to give up the killing easily.
The bowman released Raven and she rose weakly to her hands and knees. She crawled towards Katrina as sobs began to take over her body and fright came close to collapsing her even further.
Xena slid her fingers around Katrina's throat and pressed them against the fallen woman's jugular. Please, please, let there be a pulse.
Everyone was silent except for a devastated Raven. The bowman who had shot Katrina seemed to be hovering too anxiously.
"Get some torches going!" Xena demanded. "We need light!"
Ciaus looked to Loatian, "do it."
"There *is* a pulse," Xena said very lowly. "Let's turn her over."
The men left standing seemed to relax, particularly
the one who had
done this to Katrina. He put his hands to his face for a brief moment and
uttered an audible thank you to whatever deity he had prayed to.
Raven sat back on her legs as Xena lay her hands on Katrina's limp body to turn her. To Xena's surprise, Ciaus knelt beside her and helped with the gentle turning of the woman.
"I need those torches!" Xena yelled as she felt the stickiness on her fingers when she cradled Katrina's head during the turning.
Xena visually checked Raven. She had her arms wrapped
as she bowed her chin tightly to her chest. She was trying to hold in her sobs and it sounded to Xena like a wounded, frightened, animal. There were no words Xena could say to her to comfort her... not yet.. and she prayed that she would have encouraging words.. soon.
Two newly lit torches, still sputtering slowly into full bloom were brought in by Loatian and another man. Everyone was hustling to comply with what was needed for Ciaus and Xena to work on Katrina.
"Brings the blankets," Ciaus snapped at one of his men. "All of them. Get every bandage out of the gear."
Xena gripped Lotion's hand that held the torch, indicating to him where and how to hold it so that the flame illuminated Katrina's face. She placed it dangerously close to her own hair as she bent low to inspect the damage. She noticed that Raven had stopped making any sound.
Katrina's forehead up to her hairline had been lay open and the skull showed plainly, glistening with blood. The gash started at her right eye to the hairline above her left eye. Both eye wells filled quickly with blood and created a macabre effect.
"Xena.." Raven moaned in a small voice when she saw
reflect in the blood pooled in Katrina's eyes.
"Hold on," Xena urged. "I need brandy... anything strong."
A flask was handed to Ciaus and he opened it for her.
"Pour it over my hands.. yes, that's it," she said to him as she let the strong drink flow over her hands.
Without hesitation, Xena ran her fingers along the exposed bone and up under the skull cap. She could feel the scoring that the arrowhead had made and the tiny burrs around the score. Blood oozed out around her fingers as the unanchored flesh was pushed further back up the forehead.
"There's no break in the bone," she said softly. "There's no puncture or cracks that I can feel."
"We've got to stop the bleeding," Ciaus murmured as he leaned in closer to inspect the wound in the pitiful inadequacy of the torchlight.
Xena raised her eyes to study his face. Just a few
moments ago she
had been choking the life out of this man, and now he was leaning over a
wounded woman that he didn't even know and was working to help save her life... the life he had said he wanted to take.
"There's no room to work here... we've got to get her onto the path and build a fire to keep her warm. If blood loss doesn't kill her, shock will."
"Let me," he said as he slid his arms under Katrina
and waited for Xena to hold the wound closed and support the head. They
Before they began their cautious movement through the brush, Xena looked to Raven. She was still kneeling where she had stopped crawling and Loatian was by her side lifting her slowly by her shoulders and murmuring soft words to her.
"You should have one of your men gather up your sleeping
They could use some attention, too," Xena said as she stepped backwards slowly. The open flaps of the head wound were swelling around the edges and with the flow of blood it made it very difficult for her to hold the head up and close the rubbery flaps. Blood flowed down over her hands and down her arms all the way to her elbows. She fought down the panic rising in her. If this woman were a stranger Xena would have only felt the blood, but the tickle of the flow mocked her ability to detach herself and she knew with great sorrow that her friend was dying.
"You could use some attention yourself," Xena added,
didn't go deep, but the wound needs to be cleaned and closed up."
"First things first," he said. "One of you men, go
get the others. The
rest of you... start the fire."
Ciaus and Xena had moved along the path to where the horses had been tethered. For a moment, they waited while one of the men laid out blankets on the mossy ground for them to lay Katrina on. Together they crouched down and lay Katrina gently on the blankets. A fire was being built as one man gathered standing deadwood and lay it near them. Loatian sat Raven down nearby and then set a torch to the pile of deadwood.
"You give orders pretty good for someone who's not
even a soldier,"
Xena smiled wryly at him.
Ciaus glanced at her as he began to remove his vest and shirt.
"Me a soldier? That's a joke. I may 'out rank' them..
but I'm no better than them." He looked a little guilty. "I might forget
to say please and thank you, but I don't forget that they are my friends...
and we've been
through a lot, lately."
Xena didn't answer him, but she made it known to
him that she
"My horse is near here. My healer's supplies are with her. It won't take more than 20 minutes to get her and be back here. I need those supplies."
"I have some..." Ciaus began to offer.
"So does Katrina, but I'm not that familiar with
them so I don't want
to risk it."
Ciaus looked from Xena to the woman on the ground.
"So, that's her name?" he shook his head sadly before
he extended his
hand to Xena's bloody hand. "Ciaus"
The warrior held Ciaus's arm briefly in a warrior's
grip before she
turned and jogged off to where she had left Argo and her sword.
"We need water set to boil... think you can do that
for me Loatian?"
Ciaus said to the boy as he clapped him on the back warmly. While he was
talking to Loatian his eyes were on Raven.
Loatian handed the torch to Ciaus who was without his vest and shirt now. Blood free flowed from the jagged wound the arrow had made as Ciaus cleaned it away with his shirt and then wiped his hands dry as well. The night insects found the aroma of the blood in the air and were buzzing around him hungrily. He looked at Katrina and saw that the smoke from the fire was passing over her and that at least kept the insects from swarming about her bloody head.
How many hours till sunrise, he wondered. Six?
The men left standing were pulling their fallen companions
in close to
the fire. It was obvious to them that the three sleeping men were not in any danger... even the man with the mini bolt in his leg was sleeping peacefully, snoring as he was laid out on his back. Ciaus gave them a quick inspection before he stuck the torch into the soft ground. He picked up a blanket and approached Raven cautiously.
"What is your name?" he asked softly. He wrapped
the blanket around
her shoulders and adjusted it on her back. A quick touch with his hand and he could feel the coolness on her back. She was blank and unresponsive. Her only focus was the dying woman laying by the fire.
Ciaus found the flask of brandy he had poured on
Xena's hands. He
knelt down facing Raven but careful not to obstruct her view of Katrina. He put his hand on her shoulder and held the flask near her face so that she might become aware of it.
"Drink, please, just a little bit," he said in his best soothing voice. "You're in shock, and you could use just one little mouthful of this... not too much, but just a little. Will you drink for me?"
Unexpectedly, Raven turned her tear stained face
to him and took the
flask. "Raven. My name is Raven."
Ciaus was taken aback by the direct eye contact from
this woman. Her
exotic appearance and diminutive size already moved him to feel... what? He smiled slightly as he watched her drink. So beautiful and yet, he knew, so deadly.
"I'm sorry," he said at last... a conclusion to a bad situation.
Again, she looked at him with those dark, almond shaped eyes.
When Xena returned she noted that Raven had managed to come out of her daze quite a bit. She was sitting close by Katrina, holding her hand and brushing away any swarming insects. Raven saw her enter and smiled down at Katrina.
"Xena's back... everything will be fine."
For a moment, Xena had thought that the impossible
had happened and
that Katrina had awakened, but as she got closer, she could see that wasn't true. Raven was talking to her unconscious lover because she didn't know what else to do. She watched as Raven kissed Katrina's hand and then placed it back down on her chest before she backed away to give Xena some space to work.
"Where's Ciaus... and the boy?"
"There's a stream a little way back. They went to
refill the skins just
after you left." Raven let out a cleansing breath. "I know where they went... it's not far."
Xena opened the pouch she had brought from Argo's saddle bag. "And, how are you doing? Hanging in?"
Raven nodded solemnly, "Better than Katrina."
Xena noted the forced levity and checked Raven's face. Their eyes met and held for a moment before Raven's began to fill with tears again. It occurred to Xena that Raven wasn't the only one who felt like crying at the moment, but she had work to do, and for that, she needed to be detached and treat the wound and not the person. She wasn't sure she could detach herself from either one of these women. She had gone into deadly combat with one and was now wearing the blood of the other.
Xena handed Raven a jar and a flask. She had to give
"Pour some of the flask into the jar for me, will
you? Make a loose paste," she instructed. Xena poured a liquid over her
breast dagger and
handed it to Raven to use as a stirring rod. It relieved her that Raven was coming to life again and dealing with the situation as best she could.
Ciaus and Loatian rode back into the camp just as
Xena was ready to
pour more brandy onto her hands and Katrina's wound. They unloaded several skins onto the ground before Ciaus came to assist Xena.
"Need another set of hands?" he asked as he dropped
to his knees
"I need the blood wiped away. It's coagulating and
I need to see
everything," Xena explained.
Ciaus nodded and got to his feet. The small kettle
of boiling water set
in the fire contained boiling bandages for cleaning wounds. He withdrew his dagger and stirred them around until several had wrapped themselves around the blade. He withdrew the blade and dropped down to his knees at Katrina's head. Xena watched to make sure he cleaned his hands before he pealed one of the steaming strips off the blade and began to wash away the blood.
"The bleeding has slowed," he said. "If you're going
to get those burrs
out, you better do it while the blood isn't flowing so hard."
The warrior smiled in amusement before she put her
fingers into the
wound again and began to feel around for loose bone that she could pick out and flick off to the side.
"Where did you learn your skills," she asked Ciaus.
She also noted that
he had wrapped a bandage around his arm.
Ciaus shrugged as he tenderly wiped the blood from
other parts of
Katrina's face. As the bandage cooled, he removed the blood from her eyes.
"I've had companions wounded by the animals that
we hunt. Boars, deer... that sort of thing. When I was a boy, I learn to
clean the wounds...
and as I grew older, my mother taught me the plants and herbs and the
distilling. Sometimes, when we hunted far out from the village... away from the healer... my mother... these skills came in very handy."
Raven didn't look up as she spoke. "And how does
this wound look to
Ciaus grimaced. "It's a head wound, Raven. Even though
didn't crack the skull, it still caused damage to the inside."
"Meaning that your friend here will be in bad shape
for sometime if
and when she regains consciousness."
"If? Yes... if," she mumbled aloud. "When will we know?"
Xena and Ciaus looked at each other.
"At least two days," Xena answered softly.
The dawn was barely visible, but the birds seemed
to be aware of it.
They were loudly welcoming the new day as Gabrielle stumbled around in the semi-darkness of the Queen's Chambers. It had been quite sometime since Gabrielle had slept in a bed... and not having to check herself for creepy crawlies was a nice thing this particular day. She continued to get dressed in the candle light that Ephany had left for her.
After sleeping all day yesterday, Gabrielle found
it odd that she had
slept even more last night. After temple, she and Ephany had returned to the Queen's Chambers and sat on the huge bed, like two school girls,
discussing the changes in their lives since they had last seen each other. The babbling couldn't have lasted too long because Gabrielle found herself still in her temple robe and laying sideways on the bed when Ephany gently shook her awake just moments ago.
The public square was quietly abuzz. Women moved
in and about the
serving tables getting their food from the cooks and scrounging around on the tables for bread, fruit, and other travel food to put in their packs for later. Those who were eating sat around the sidelines away from those still getting their food. Dozens and dozens of women milled about quietly in organized confusion.
Gabrielle spotted Ephany at the bonfire. She was
talking to two other
women who saluted her and headed off in the opposite direction. Ephany
noticed Gabrielle standing on the platform outside their chambers and waved her join her as she walked towards one of the food tables. The bard felt her stomach grumble and didn't need further urging.
"The hot food smells so good," she said hopefully as Ephany handed her a wooden plate.
"It's not good for you to have a very full belly when riding."
Gabrielle looked balefully at the plate and then
at the servers. Ephany
couldn't help but chuckle. She picked up a wooden bowl and handed it to the hungry bard.
"I suppose we can go slow for the first few hours... but if you feel sick, you take care of it right away so we can get on with harder riding."
"Thanks... Ephany," Gabrielle answered doubtfully as she felt her stomach do a flip already. "I'll be sure to 'take care of it'. No problem."
Gabrielle went to the kettles. They both held the
same mixture of winter stored tubers and spring onions except that one
of the stews was
without meat. The old woman serving told her the meat was venison and the bard held out her bowl to receive a ladle of the aromatic stew. Next, she placed her plate on top of her bowl and selected some cheese and bread.
Ephany was beside her again. "C'mon over here."
Ephany led her to a smaller fire off to the side where they could sit quietly amidst the increasingly talkative women. They sat straddling a large log, facing each other. The bard put her food down as she scrounged in her bag for something that Katrina had given her and shown her how to use. From her bag, she pulled two rigid, slender, carved sticks, each being about 10" long. She placed them in one hand and picked up the bowl of hot stew.
"What's that?" Ephany asked as if the bard had lost her mind.
"Katrina and Raven call them finger sticks," she smiled as she manipulated them in the air in front of Ephany's face. She clicked them together a few times and then proceeded to pick a piece of meat out of her bowl with them. She held it up for Ephany to see and then stuck it in her mouth.
"That's a big piece... what about the smaller ones?" she asked skeptically.
"You just hold the bowl closer and do this little shoveling action," Gabrielle half demonstrated playfully.
"Hmmm... I thought that was what bread was for?"
and she proceeded
to give her own little demonstration.
Gabrielle smiled and shook her head. Ephany the Serious. She had about as much humor as Xena did on a good day.
"You and I will be together... we'll go south while
the other's check out
the villages that have already been 'allied'. They know what to do about any supply wagons they see heading towards the army."
"What if there are villagers with the supply wagons?"
"Well, they better get out of the way... real fast. The escorting soldiers are not going to get a chance to target us when we attack."
"I know. I've seen."
Ephany looked across at Gabrielle for a good long
moment. She was in fear for this gentle hearted woman and doubted her fortitude
combat. But hadn't she already been in deadly combat while with Xena? No, as the bard had said last night, she had always counted on Xena to take on the really tough opponents.
They ate the rest of their breakfast in silence. Before heading to where the horses were, they filled their pouches with the leftovers from the tables.
Gabrielle took a deep breath before approaching the horse assigned to her. It was a medium tall brown mare with white spots along her sides and a star on her forehead. She stood in front of her and took an apple from her bag.
"See this?" the bard said as she waved the fruit
around. "I have six of
them... and they're all yours *if* you're nice."
Without being properly offered the fruit, the mare
made a grab for it. She missed her shot and impatiently nodded her head
up and down.
"Whoa! Do we have a deal or what?"
The horse nodded up and down and snorted her frustration.
"Just remember our deal," Gabrielle warned her as she finally gave her the apple. The bard spun around to see what the others were doing and was embarrassed to see 31 women smiling at her.
"We're friends now," she explained, "the horse and me."
Ephany grinned as she shook her head. "Roses."
"That's her name. We tried training her to be a war
horse but she
didn't have the heart for battle. She kept retreating to the field where the wild roses grew along the fence rail."
"Oh. I like it," Gabrielle said nervously. All the
women remained looking
at her. At first, the bard didn't know what was expected and then she
recalled something Ephany had coached her on the night before.
When everyone was seated, including Gabrielle, Ephany
joined her side
by side. The warrior leaned over and whispered something to the bard.
"Annick? Ephany has already informed you of your
objective and I wish
you Athena's and Artemis's blessings. May the Goddesses be with you. I give you leave."
"I take my leave, Princess Gabrielle. May the Goddesses be with *you*."
Sixteen women donned their masks and formed a double
line with the
horses. They would wear the masks while in Amazon territory but put them away once they were out of the area. They would only then put them on for battle. The double line moved off quickly into the forest. Gabrielle had to hold Roses back from following them.
"She's a follower, not a leader... being in front
might stress her a bit
so make sure you reassure her every now and then," Ephany explained.
"I know how she feels," Gabrielle answered wryly.
In the graying dawn of morning, Gabrielle and Ephany
led 14 women out of the relative safety of their village into the unknown.
The women were
silent now as they put their masks on and followed their leaders in pairs.
Gabrielle, accustomed to always having her staff in her hand, removed it
from where it had been strapped to Roses, and held it at the ready.
"Just don't let her see that out of the corner of
her eye or you might
be kissing dirt," Ephany laughed.
"She doesn't like weapons?"
"No, it's not that. She's a horse that would rather
be safe than sorry
if she sees something at a glance and can't identify it right away. She's not really skittish... just careful."
"How do you know so much about her?"
"She's my horse."
"Yours? I didn't know that Amazons kept untrainable horses as pets. I thought you trained them and sold them?"
Ephany laughed behind the mask. "Some incorrigibles
you can't even
give away, Gabrielle."
The three men who had been unconscious through the
awaking as the dawn light filtered through the trees. Confused and sore,
they shook their heads in silent disbelief as they looked at the sight before them. Beside the dying embers of the fire, four sleeping people huddled closely around a grievously wounded women. Ciaus was one of them, as was Loatian. The other three men slept off to the side.
Their movements awoke Xena and Ciaus. Both of them
inspected Katrina now that it was daylight.
"Nice stitching," Xena commented as she inspected the wound.
"I missed a few spots in the torchlight... think you can finish it off?"
"No problem," Xena acknowledged as she started to
for the stitching supplies.
"Her breathing is steady and strong... so is her pulse."
"Good, she's going to need all the strength she has," Xena murmured as she closed up a few small gaps in the stitching. The flesh was so horribly swollen it appeared as though Katrina had a head twice as big as it should have been.
"What are you thinking?" Ciaus asked skeptically.
"I'm thinking of tying a litter onto my horse and
have Loatian take
Katrina to Athens to recover."
"No... too risky. The boy knows nothing of caring
for the sick... what if
she bleeds or has convulsions?"
"Well, what do you suggest? When's that army going to move?"
"I don't know that!" Ciaus groaned. "Wait... all
the hunting parties are
due back in tomorrow. I'm due back in three days."
"Can we keep ahead of them dragging a litter? It's four days to Athens."
Ciaus looked down at Katrina and then at Raven.
"We'll carry her by hand, not by litter. But *someone*
has to go back
and get my village moved to Athens."
"How many people?"
"Nearly two hundred."
Xena pondered for a moment. "Send two men They should be there in..."
"Two days with minimal sleep and resting the horses."
"Then, two of the men who woke up can go," Xena reasoned.
to take your people west and down the coast... it'll be faster. I don't think this army is finished its' sweep of the east side of this peninsula. And it's easier to go around the mountains than through them from here. No warlord is going to go over mountains if they don't have to."
Ciaus narrowed his eyes suspiciously at her. "Now I know who you are."
Xena met his stare. "No, you know who I *was*. You
are just getting to
know me now."
For a moment, Ciaus hesitated, and then he lowered his eyes. "You gave me a chance, so I suppose it's only fair."
"Then, let's get a move on. Get those men sent off...
and if we could
move Katrina to the camp site we had yesterday it would help. There's a
spring there. It's not far."
"I have an idea."
Gabrielle gave Roses her apple and talked to her
while she ate it. The
next step of giving her water was a bit trickier but she managed to get
Roses to drink from her hand as she poured water from the skin into her
"You do that for Argo?" Ephany called over to her.
She was doing the
same procedure with her mount.
"Sometimes... Xena usually handles the watering.
I just give her apples
and brush her down."
"You don't ride her?"
Gabrielle laughed. "I avoid it... you know that.
I've had to ride her a
few times by myself. She's so *big*."
The weight of the water skin was tiring out the bard's
she was grateful that Roses pulled away, indicating that she had drunk her fill. Gabrielle returned the skin to the pommel. She secured her staff in place and grabbed a hunk of bread from her traveling bag.
"Think I'll walk around and eat this," she mused. Her bottom was aching and her legs were stiff at the joint. She wondered why that was, considering all the walking she did... her legs shouldn't be sore. She kicked out to her sides with her legs, trying to snap the knee joint.
"Don't grip the horse so tightly with your knees,"
one of the women
suggested. "And take your feet out of the stirrups and let them dangle for a bit when the horses are walking, or stand up in them."
"Thanks," she nodded as she hobbled by. Dangle? Stand
up? Way too
daring for me, she thought. She turned to say something to Ephany and met Roses face to face.
"You're a quiet one aren't you?" she smiled as she
touched the soft,
velvety nose. "Well, c'mon then... we'll go for a walk together."
As her legs loosened up and circulation was restored,
quickened her pace. She picked a wide path through the trees, up a small
slope and down through some rocks that circled back to the others with
Roses happily following her. She was on her third lap when she noticed that the other women seemed to be ready to go.
"Feel better?" Ephany smiled.
"Much. It's like walking a big dog."
Gabrielle mounted herself on Roses. "Where are we now?"
"We're coming up to some grassland... we'll be doing
some hard riding
across them for several hours. Another day and we'll be within range of the hunting parties and the army's scouts."
"Hard riding?" Gabrielle hissed as she leaned over closer to Ephany.
Deep inside, the bard groaned. How she wished that
Athena would come for her and get her off this horse. The thought of enduring
the rest of today was enough to cause her to dream of being whisked away by the Goddess to Xena's side.
"Tell me when you've had enough," Ephany said to her.
"Two hours ago," Gabrielle joked.
Ephany looked a bit crestfallen. "What happened to the determined bard of last night?"
The smile faded from Gabrielle's face and her eyes
suddenly felt angry with herself.
It didn't take them long to come down off the slopes
where the plains
stretched before them. Flat and expansive, the vista provided little cover from the hot sun and the eyes of the unwelcomed. Waves of heat shimmered up into the air even though a breeze swept the tall yellow grasses flat against the ground.
"How far is the nearest village?" Gabrielle asked.
"Forty miles straight out."
Gabrielle noticed the other women winding cloth around their heads and covering their faces. The dust would choke anyone riding behind.
"Spread out... chose your best path but don't lag."
Gabrielle wrapped a cloth Ephany handed to her about her head and took up the reins again. She kicked Roses into a slow lope and began her trek through the plains. She didn't have time to look for where the others were as she scouted for rabbit and weasel holes and rocks to avoid. Roses began to keep her own pace and selected the best routes that she liked so that after a few minutes, Gabrielle realized her only job was to stay mounted on the galloping mare. With wonder, she marveled how Roses traversed the ground knowingly... not out of control as if on a wild run. Only a few times did one of the others get a head of her as Roses continued her run.
Roses set the pace for the others, and despite the
several of the other horses moved behind Gabrielle and followed the pair over the terrain. To Gabrielle, it seemed forever before Roses slowed her run to catch her breath. The horses moved slower and slower, snorting foam from their lips.
"Every body off now!" Ephany ordered. "Get those
saddles off right
Gabrielle looked about her for a moment as she dismounted.
women had stripped their horses with lightning speed and the bard suddenly realized why. With fumbling fingers she stripped Roses of all her gear and threw it to the side.
Rose's front knee seemed to buckle, and then the
other. Carefully, and with a comical groan, the horse lowered herself to
the dirt and grass and
rolled to her side. She undulated and rolled for a bit and then sat upright on her belly before grunting and rolling to the other side. Dust rose up about her and she snorted her relief.
Gabrielle grinned as she held the reins so that Roses
them up with her rolling. She had seen Argo do this many times after a long sweaty ride out with Xena.
The bard's grin faded and she felt the separation
through her being as the anguish settled in her heart. What was Xena doing
now? Was she safe from the men who would be pursuing her, Raven and Katrina?
Xena... are you?