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Disclaimer: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle and others belong in their entirety to Universal and Renaissance. No copyright infringement was intended.
Violence and subtext reflect the guidelines established by the television series. This is the fourth story of a series that starts with Turning Point.
by R. Az
Gabrielle packed the last of their morning meal into their bags and then reached for a dandelion and blew its fluff onto the wind. She watched with delight as the little seed parachutes floated off. "Xena, do you think we will ever fly?"
"You were flying pretty high at that festival last week," observed Xena sarcastically walking passed with Argo's saddle.
Gabrielle gave her friend a weary look, "No one told me that dandelions made wine. I thought it was a herbal drink."
Xena snorted as she threw Argo's saddle on to the mare's back. "Yeah well, ask next time. You're lucky you aren't married to that ugly ape that ran the jail."
Gabrielle shuddered, "Don't keep reminding me!" she sighed picking another dandelion to blow on.
"Are we going today or are we just going to sit around and pick the flowers?" snapped Xena impatiently. Gabrielle gave her an annoyed look and returned to packing their bags. Xena pulled on Argo's cinch strap until the horse whinnied in protest. Xena ignored the complaint and turned to Gabrielle who was on her knees fastening their saddle bags. "Are you ready yet!" she growled.
Gabrielle shot Xena a dirty look and picked up the bags as she got up. She walked over to the Warrior Princess with an uncustomary stormy look on her pretty face. The warrior towered over the petite Bard. The two were opposites; Xena, dark and strapping with a classic bone structure and cold, sea-blue eyes and Gabrielle petite and blond with soft, innocent features. Xena wore leather and armor and carried her weapons of war with a confident grace. Gabrielle wore home-spun in the earth colors favored by the Amazons. She carried no weapons but a thick, blunt staff. "You're mood has gone from bad to worse, what's the matter with you?" demanded Gabrielle angrily throwing their bags over Argo's rump and wheeling on her friend.
Xena scowled, "Maybe, I'm tired of waiting for you," retaliated Xena moving intimidatingly close so that she glared down at Gabrielle.
Gabrielle looked up and held her ground, "Well, maybe I'm fed up with being with someone with the disposition of a wet hen!" snapped Gabrielle.
"I can fix that," snarled Xena, pushing passed Gabrielle and swinging up on Argo's back. She reached for the reins and as she did, a zap of power leapt from her fingertip to Argo's neck. Argo reared up in fright and sent Xena rolling off to the ground. Argo side stepped around in panic her eyes rolling and reared up in front of a stunned Xena.
"Xena!" screamed Gabrielle running forward and grabbing Argo's bridle. "Steady Argo, steady girl," she cooed. Xena got to her feet and Gabrielle walked over to her. "What happened?" she asked taking Xena's arm. "Are you all right?"
"Yes, I'm fine. I think I gave Argo a shock," explained Xena. "Don't worry," Xena reassured reaching out to pat Gabrielle's shoulder. Again there was a flash and zap and with a startled cry Gabrielle went flying over to land on the ground near where Argo stood snorting with rage.
"Hey," cried Gabrielle, "What did you do that for?" She got up slowly and dusted herself off looking at Xena with open suspicion.
"I didn't. It just happened! Gabrielle, are you O.K.?" asked Xena moving forward. Argo snorted in indignation and Gabrielle held up her hand.
"Stop. Don't come near us!" she ordered and Argo nodded her head. "You are clearly a demigod out of control!"
Xena shook her head in angry frustration and, placing her hands on her hips, in a condescending tone she responded, "I am not a demigod. There has to be a perfectly good explanation for this," snapped Xena.
"Zeus said you'd unlocked powers that you would find it hard to control. He warned you that you were changed from having lived on Mount Olympus with the gods. He said your powers would grow," reminded Gabrielle. She went on with her argument moving to circle around Xena who had thrown her hands in the air in disbelief and turned away. "Zeus throws lightening bolts and you are his granddaughter. He called you a demigod and he should know! And you can't deny you're zapping," finished Gabrielle pointing to Xena's hands with some hesitant.
Xena's anger rose, "I am not zapping!" she growled in frustration. "And no matter what that old god was going on about," continued Xena raising her finger and pointing at her chest," I."...Zap! Xena felt a shocking blow hit her chest and she was knocked off her feet.
Gabrielle crossed her arms and Argo walked over to look over her shoulder. They looked down at Xena in annoyance. "Zapping," Gabrielle concluded raising an eyebrow as she looked at her friend and Argo nodded in agreement.
Xena pushed herself up on her elbows and looked at Gabrielle, "There's something wrong here," muttered the warrior.
Gabrielle nodded and came up to Xena but did not offer her a hand up. "Xena, you've been more and more bad tempered and now you're throwing lightening bolts. There is some sort of change occurring here." Gabrielle explained to her friend with concern.
Xena leapt up and gave Gabrielle a dirty look and started to pace rapidly back and forth. " I am not throwing lightening bolts!" roared Xena in anger.
"Small ones, but power bolts all the same," stated Gabrielle emphatically and Argo nodded. "Xena, Zeus did say you were a demigod. I think you are developing some of your grandfather's powers." she repeated.
"This is stupid! I'm human! I have no powers!" roared Xena pacing faster.
"Xena, eating ambrosia made Adonis immortal. It brought you back to life. You had only a small amount, but it must have had some effect. Look how seriously you've been wounded and yet you recover. Before Autolycus and I rescued you, you had been living with the gods Immortal for months. That must have changed you. And, I know you don't like it mentioned but, your father is Ares, the god of war and his father is Zeus," pointed out Gabrielle.
"Don't say it!" snapped Xena irritably, "What's going on here?"
"I don't know, but until we get some answers you are not to touch anything" ordered Gabrielle and Argo whinnied. Gabrielle came close to Xena and looked up at her with compassion and caring, "Xena, something is not right with you. I think you are a demigod out of control. You are going to have to trust my judgment here. You're temper is unreasonable. Until we can figure out what is happening, you had better let me make the decisions and do the talking," stated Gabrielle.
Xena snarled and whipped her knife out. Gabrielle jumped back in surprise. For a split second, Xena looked like she meant to kill her then shock spread across Xena's features and she dropped the hand with the knife. "Gabrielle, I'm sorry! I don't know why I did that!" cried Xena, looking up in bewilderment and pleading eyes at her friend, "I wouldn't hurt you..not again...I mean... You're right, I'd better do as you say until I can control whatever is going on within me. But what are we going to do about King Lysis? He has sent for us for help."
Gabrielle considered, "King's don't call for a hero unless there is a real problem. We had better continue on. But, Xena, try to stay calm and don't zap anything living." cautioned Gabrielle.
Xena raised her arms in frustration and stormed, "I am not a demigod and I am not a hero! I am calm," she raged, "And, O.K. maybe I did zap." she finished lamely. Gabrielle raised an eyebrow and picked up her staff to continue their journey. Xena went to mount Argo but the horse whinnied and trotted out of reach. "Coward!" Xena snorted. Gabrielle smiled and went and took up Argo's reins leading the indigent horse down the trail while a grumpy Xena followed on foot.
As they walked along Xena complained about everything. The path was too narrow, too wide, the trees too dense, the pace too slow. Her voice got louder and her vocabulary more colorful. "Don't listen," Gabrielle warned Argo, "Language like that is not fit for a warhorse." Argo nodded her agreement.
"Funny Gabrielle, really funny, maybe you'd like to step over to that clearing and... Zap! Look out!" yelled Xena in panic. Gabrielle turned to see a very large tree falling on her. She screamed and Argo bolted out of the way as Gabrielle dived just in time and was buried in a broken pile of leaves and branches. "Gabrielle! Gabrielle are you all right?" called Xena digging her way through the branches. A disheveled and annoyed Gabrielle surfaced between some greenery.
"Let me guess, you zapped a tree," grumbled Gabrielle fighting her way out from between the branches.
"I just pointed at it," justified Xena with a shrug and climbed over the debris to the other side where Gabrielle stood.
Gabrielle came over and looked up into Xena's face and snapped, "Don't point!" Xena smiled sheepishly. And Gabrielle laughed. For a second, Xena looked angry and then she laughed too. "You know what? said Gabrielle placing her hand on her hip and tilting her head to look at her friend. "You get more and more bad tempered until you zap and then you are nice again. Maybe if you tried to fire a few bolts off you'll be able to control your temper better."
Xena shrugged and pointed her hand at the ground, nothing happened. She turned to show her empty hand to Gabrielle and Gabrielle screamed and ducked. "Don't point that thing!" she ordered.
"Oh, come on Gabrielle, you're over reacting. There is no proof at all that I'm shooting lightening bolts," argued Xena in frustration. "It could be anything. If I was really a demigod, who could create power bolts, I should be able to just point and..." Zap! Twing! Crack! Twung. A fire bolt jumped from Xena's extended hand and smashed into a rock cliff, bounced off and came back at them. They ducked as it went passed and cracked a tree in half before scorching a hole in a log and dying out. For a second the two crouched in surprise then Gabrielle turned and gave Xena a dirty look. Xena frowned, "This is bad," she summed up.
Gabrielle snorted at Xena's understatement and then barked, "O.K. this is how we are going to handle this so that Argo and I don't arrive at the palace flame broiled on a lightening spit. You walk with your hands behind your back and stay at my side so that I know what you are up to."
Xena looked like she was going to protest and then changed her mind. She placed her hands behind her back and smiled at Gabrielle, who managed a nervous smile back as the three headed off once more. The afternoon brought rain and Gabrielle unpacked their cloaks and they trudged on through the mud. Xena seemed calmer now and lost in her own thoughts. Darkness was coming on when Xena called a stop and went to collect wood for a fire while Gabrielle awkwardly saw to Argo. She slipped the saddle off the horse and put a nose bag on the mare. Then she picked up their cooking pot and bags and brought them over to the overhang of rock that Xena had picked for them to camp under out of the rain. Xena was mumbling vulgar curses over the wet wood that she was trying to light with her flint. Finally, in frustration she jumped up and pointed at the soggy pile of branches and a blue flame arched out from her finger and a blazing fire lit up the area.
Gabrielle passing by jumped out of the way. " Traveling with a former warlord was always interesting but traveling with a demigod in training is nerve-wracking," she noted. Xena whirled and slammed her hand as hard as she could against the rock. Her jaw snapped in anger and a nerve pounded at her temple. Blood ran from her crushed knuckles. "Xena!" cried Gabrielle in shock and without fear for herself pulled out a cloth and gently took Xena's hand and wrapped it as Xena stood and panted in rage. "Xena, sit down. Come on, tell me what you've been brooding on all afternoon," encouraged Gabrielle kindly. Xena sat and Gabrielle sat close beside her wrapping her arm around her friend.
"Gabrielle, I don't want this to be happening!" Xena cried in frustration. "I want to be free of Ares' hold. I just want to be me. Not a warlord. Not a demigod. Just Xena, like I started out. The gods have messed up our lives so badly. Almost destroyed our friendship a...and you. I just want the gods to leave me alone."
Gabrielle said nothing but just sat very quiet at her friend's side and waited for her to find the words to express her feelings. "Every time, I try to bring normality into my life the gods interfere. It's like I have no control over my own destiny. I don't want to be a warrior with special powers. What does that prove? I want to be a mortal doing what I can to make a better world." Xena threw the stick she was playing with into the fire and a yellow bolt zapped from her hand and sent a cloud of sparks in all directions. The two women yelled in surprise and beat out their smoldering blankets. On all fours, the two friends looked at each other and then broke out laughing. "O.K. so I'm going to have to live with it," Xena sighed and then smiled mischievously. "Say, how do you address a demigod? Maybe, I'll have temples built in my honor," she speculated good naturally.
Gabrielle snorted and rolling her eyes she remarked, "If you zap me one more time, I'll be glad to add a few choice words to whatever title you think up! And as for temples, forget it. Who would want to honor a demigod that zaps randomly?! The best future you can hope for at the moment is a choice between stoning or hanging!" The two friends laughed and settled down on their blankets. After a few moments, Gabrielle leaned over Xena's shoulder and kissed her cheek. "Don't try to be something you are not, Xena. You are a very special person with a destiny that is going to take you on a long and very important journey. Don't fight what you are."
Xena smiled grimly and stared out into the rainy night for a long time after her friend had turned and gone to sleep. Somehow she had to gain control of her feelings and her power. Lysis needed help and at the moment she was a liability.
By late afternoon of the next day the two travelers had reached King Lysis' fortified town. Accept for an unfortunate incident when Xena had accidentally stampeded a herd of cattle when a pink flame had zapped out and hit the ground in their midst, the trip had been uneventful. Gabrielle glanced at her friend. It was clear that Xena was really making an effort to control her emotions. She was tense, grim and a nerve jumped at her temple. "Xena, remember, stay calm and let me handle things as much as possible, O.K.?" whispered Gabrielle. Xena snapped her head around and glared at Gabrielle but she nodded her agreement.
At the gates Gabrielle was met by the sentry dressed in fine armor and carrying a ceremonial spear, "This is Xena, the Warrior Princess and I am Gabrielle, Warrior Bard of Olympus. King Lysis has requested our presence," she explained.
The guard came to attention, "Welcome, honored guests, to the celebration of Summer Solstice. King Lysis asks that you join the receiving line and wait for his arrival.
Xena's eyebrow went up in annoyance and she went to speak but Gabrielle gave her a poke. "Thank you," Gabrielle said to the guard and giving Xena a meaningful look they walked passed the guard and went in through the gates. There a boy in livery took Argo's reins and lead her over to the stables. Xena would have followed if Gabrielle had not grabbed her by the arm and with a sigh of frustration pulled her friend through the stable yard. Xena scowled and the two walked on through a stone arch and into an open square. The main courtyard was hung with colorful banners and musicians played folk dances from a carved wood balcony overhead. To one side tables were laid with food and to the other Lords and Ladies stood in excitement waiting for the arrival of the King. "Wow! exclaimed Gabrielle looking around but Xena shrugged and headed for the food table. Gabrielle grabbed her arm and pulled her back. "Keep your hands behind your back and don't draw any attention to yourself," snapped Gabrielle.
Xena stepped close to Gabrielle and looked down at her with a dangerous expression, "I've just about had it with you!" she growled, "I'm going..." Trumpets sounded and the crowd buzzed with anticipation and then fell quiet. Xena and Gabrielle were pushed by other late arrivals into the receiving line. Across the courtyard the King appeared at the top of a flight of stairs and smiling to those below, he slowly descended the stone steps of the palace, followed by his family and advisers.
The King went down the line, greeting each dignitary by name and shaking their hand. "Gabrielle", whispered Xena irritably, "It's going to happen again." Gabrielle's happy smile vanished and was replaced with one of total panic as she looked up at her friend.
"Xena, no! You can't zap the King!" she wailed. Xena smiled cunningly and pushed Gabrielle in the chest. There was a quiet zap and Gabrielle gasped and fell back as stiff as a board between two banners just a split second before the King came up to greet the Warrior Princess.
"Xena, Warrior Princess and Demigod, you are an honored and welcome guest here at my palace," greeted the King taking Xena's hand between his. Xena gave a small bow of her head and smiled briefly. "But where is Gabrielle, the Warrior Bard?" he asked in surprise looking around.
"She's out for a few minutes," Xena answered truthfully and gave a quick worried look over her shoulder to see if there was any sign of her friend. "You sent for us and said it was urgent, your majesty," said Xena looking at the King with impatience.
The King leaned forward and whispered in her ear, "More than urgent, Xena, vital. Come to my chambers after dark tonight. There is business of the greatest importance to discuss." Xena nodded and the King smiled and moved on to greet others.
Xena looked around to see if anyone was watching and then stepped back between the banners to where Gabrielle lay on the ground out cold. Xena lifted her up in her arms and gave her a gentle shake. "Gabrielle, Gabrielle, are you O.K.?" she asked in worry.
Gabrielle opened her eyes slowly and looked up at her friend, "That all depends. How many heads do you normally have?" asked a groggy Gabrielle struggling to sit up.
Xena grimaced, "Sorry," she said helping a wobbly Gabrielle to her feet. "The King wants to see us in his chambers after dark tonight. He seems really worried about something. Come on, lets go eat!" suggested Xena. Gabrielle smiled and nodded her head and then turned and passed out again into Xena's arms. Xena lowered Gabrielle to the ground and stood up. "O.K. I'll just go eat and bring something back for you," she explained to Gabrielle's unconscious figure and pulling the banners closed behind her, Xena headed off towards the food table.
As she munched at the beautiful delicacies that were laid out for the guests to enjoy, Xena listened with some interest. "Is it true, it's here?!" whispered one lady to another. The other smiled knowingly and the two moved off.
"It was his son, Halus who found it, I heard. I haven't seen the boy." explained an old states man to another. Xena ate steadily and then filled a bowl to take back to her friend. When Xena slipped behind the banners she found Gabrielle sitting on the ground holding her head.
Gabrielle looked up and growled, "Couldn't you have thought of a better way to deal with your...little problem, than shooting bolts of lightening through me! Have you any idea what kind of a headache that gives a person?!" Xena pointed to the ground beside Gabrielle and a green bolt zapped out of her finger and zagged to the ground. Gabrielle jumped back and looked at her friend in disgust.
Xena sighed and came over and knelt beside Gabrielle, "I'm getting better at controlling it. Trust me," she said reaching out with her hand. Gabrielle instinctively pulled back and then looked at Xena. She sighed and relaxed and Xena reached out and placing one hand on her forehead and the other at the base of her skull she gave her head a pull.
Gabrielle wiggled her head back and forth and smiled, "No headache!" she announce. Xena smiled.
"I brought you some food," she said and Gabrielle reached hungrily for some fruit. "We're to meet with King Lysis in his chambers after dark tonight but there are a lot of rumors going around about something his son Halus found. And no one has seen Halus for sometime."
"Kidnapped?" suggested Gabrielle pulling apart a piece of bread and adding cheese to it.
Xena considered sitting on her hunches and drawing circles in the sand with her finger, "Maybe, or he is in hiding," I guess we'll know soon enough. If you are up to it, why don't you mingle with the partiers and see what you can learn." Gabrielle nodded enthusiastic and got up. Xena grabbed her by the arm and leaned close looking irritated, "I'm going to stay away from people, I can feel myself getting irritated again," she hissed. Gabrielle grimaced and pointed to her arm and Xena looked down in surprise and released her. "Sorry," she said. Gabrielle rolled her eyes and went to turn away. Xena grabbed her again and whispered in her ear. "Don't drink the dandelion wine." she warned and Gabrielle gave her a dirty look and disappeared between the banners.
Gabrielle mingled, enjoying the food, music and dancing. It was just after dark, as Gabrielle was dancing her way across the courtyard back towards where Xena was waiting, when the sky lit up with the most beautiful array of fireworks. Blue, pink, green and yellow luminescent bolts shot into the sky floated and then blinked out. Gabrielle's smile was replaced by a worried frown. She pushed passed a particularly fat man and said absently, "Excuse me, I think my friend is calling." She looked quickly around and realized that everyone was mesmerized by what they had just witnessed and not watching her. She used the opportunity to slip behind a building. There she found Xena hunched over on the ground. "Xena!" she cried in panic and ran to kneel by her friend, "Are you O.K.?".
Xena looked up and smiled, " I'm fine now," she said cheerfully, " but there was a moment back there when I was seriously considering fire bombing the whole courtyard," she added contentedly. Gabrielle looked at her friend in disbelief.
"Well, I'm glad you found a less destructive outlet," she mumbled. "Are you under control now?" she asked gesturing towards Xena's hands.
"Fine, just fine," smiled Xena, "A little tired, but just fine," reassured Xena getting up and dusting herself off. Gabrielle go up too. "So what did you find out?"
"You were right, Halus has got himself in trouble of some sort and King Lysis has hid him fearing for his life. Whatever, the trouble is, it involves the gods. Everybody is a buzz because you are here. Word has got around pretty quick that Zeus has declared you a demigod and the crowd is evenly divided as to whether you are here to help Lysis or to thunderbolt the kid to Hades. By the way, that little display you put on will probably sway the crowd's opinion towards the latter view," reported Gabrielle.
"Zeus!" cursed Xena pacing in rage. "This is all I needed! Come on we're leaving," decided Xena, turning and marching off. Gabrielle reached out and grabbed her. She looked up into her friend's face meaningfully. Xena looked away and crossed her arms. "No!" she snapped.
Gabrielle sighed and came around and faced Xena, " You can't run from what you are. I know you Xena, you wouldn't get half way down that road," said Gabrielle pointing to the front gates, "Before your conscience got the better of you and you came back. O.K. This guy doesn't need a hero, he needs a demigod. You are a demigod, sort of," hesitated Gabrielle looking uneasily at Xena's hands, "so go and help the man."
Xena sighed and walked away, turned and walked back looking chagrined, "Come on, let's go talk to a King." Gabrielle smiled at her and lead the way. Xena put her hands behind her back and followed.
A waiting guard lead Gabrielle and Xena before the King who stood broodingly at a window. "Thank the gods you are here," he said turning and waving the guard to leave. The soldier bowed and closed the door behind him. "Xena, you must help me," the King begged, "My son is in grave danger and you were the only god I could think of who would help plead his case to Zeus."
"Stop!" snapped Xena, stepping forward, "Alpha, I am not a god. In fact, I'm having some trouble coming to terms with being a demigod. Beta, Don't think for a minute that I am on speaking terms with the Immortals. I am not. In fact, some of them are really not very fond of me at all. Look, I don't think..." Gabrielle gave her a kick and a warning look and Xena sighed. "Look, tell me your problem and if we can help we will," finished Xena slumping into a chair. Gabrielle smiled and went to stand behind her friend putting a hand on her shoulder.
"I blame myself. I spoilt him. He grew up having very few restrictions on his life. He tells me that when he saw it there he thought it would be a real hoot to take it. Can you believe, he had it nailed on his bedroom wall. By the gods, I don't know how he missed detection!" rambled King Lysis nervously.
"What has he taken!" roared Xena crossly and King Lysis looked at Xena in surprise.
Gabrielle gave a little nervous laugh, "Ha, demigods, so impatient," she explained and dug her fingers into Xena's shoulder. Xena looked up at her friend with a scowl and Gabrielle gave her a dirty look.
The King nodded his understanding, "My son was off hunting in the mountains near Thebes with some of his friends when he by chance came to a temple dedicated to Zeus..."stated King Lysis.
"Oh no! He didn't?!" cried Gabrielle in shook.
"He did," confirmed the King flopping down wearily onto a couch.
"He wouldn't," Gabrielle argued coming forward and looking at the King shaking her head in disbelief.
"He has," moaned the King holding his head between his hands.
"Has what!?" yelled Xena, jumping up and throwing her arms out in utter frustration. A pink bolt shot from her finger tip and flashed between the King and Gabrielle before it seared a hole through the wood paneling. The King and Gabrielle looked in shock at the wall and then back at Xena. "Sorry, some control problems," she explained. She put her hands behind her back and moved forward, "So what has he taken from the temple."
"The Golden Fleece," said the King and Gabrielle together.
Xena shrugged, "So no big deal. Just have him give it back." said Xena who's knowledge of the gods and their ways was not extensive. Gabrielle and the King shared a look of incredibility.
King Halus looked dumbfounded and Gabrielle rolled her eyes, "She's the black sheep of the family and really doesn't keep up with the family news," explained Gabrielle. The King shook his head in disbelief. Gabrielle turned to Xena, "Most gods frown on sacrileges acts, Xena. If Halus tries to take the Golden Fleece back he is liable to end up on the sharp end of one of Zeus' thunderbolts. And let me tell you from experience, that is no fun!" finished Gabrielle with some feeling.
"So you want me to take it back and apologize to Zeus on Halus part?" asked Xena with a shrug.
"Well, actually, I was rather hoping you'd leave my son's name out of it," requested King Halus nervously.
Xena shrugged, "O.K." she agreed. King Lysis beamed. Gabrielle looked worried. She took Xena by the arm and moved off whispering, "We've got to talk."
The next morning, the two friends left the town quietly before day break by a side entrance. Xena rode the nervous Argo and Gabrielle walked at their side swinging her fighting staff as she went. Draped over Xena's saddle was the Golden Fleece. As the day wore on Xena seemed to get more excited. She pulled out her sword and went through a series of exercises, slashing the blade around Argo's and Gabrielle's head. Gabrielle looked annoyed but said nothing. No doubt this was another phase that demigods in training went through, she thought. They stopped at midday and ate a cold meal of fish sauce, bread and black olives. Xena drank heavily from the wine skin and her mood changed from elation to sullen contemplation. She kept the Golden Fleece draped over her lap the whole time. Gabrielle looked at her friend in worry. Something was very wrong.
Gabrielle came and gently took the wine skin from Xena's hand. For a second, it looked like Xena was going to protest. Then she looked at Gabrielle's worried face and relaxed. Gabrielle smiled softly and sat down beside her friend, "What's going on inside you, Xena?" she asked. "Can I help?"
Xena leapt up and looked at her friend, "We need to get you a warhorse and a sword," she announced with a smile.
"What!" yelled Gabrielle in shook, getting to her feet, "Xena, what are you thinking about?"
Xena reached down and picked up the Golden Fleece and threw it over her shoulder. She paced back and forth in excitement, "Together with an army, you and I can clean up Greece and unite it into a safe and prosperous nation. Never again will warlords dominate and destroy villages. Gabrielle, I don't know why I didn't think of it before!" explained Xena, her eyes flashing with excitement. She stroked the Golden Fleece that hung over her shoulder. "The mighty Hercules wears his lion skin and Xena the Warrior Princess will wear the Golden Fleece," she announced with delight.
Gabrielle came forward and grabbed her friend, "You did think of it before! You started out protecting your village and before long you were terrorizing others. Xena! I am not going to ride with you to be the warlords of Greece! And I'm not going to let you fall back into your bad ways! Give me that Fleece! It's having a terrible effect on you!" cried Gabrielle grabbing at the hide that hung from Xena's shoulder. Xena kicked up with her foot and caught Gabrielle in the chest, knocking her flat. Gabrielle leapt up and went for the Fleece again. This time Xena drew her sword and Gabrielle grabbed Xena's hands. "Xena! What are you doing!?" yelled Gabrielle in a panic
"Let go, Gabrielle I'm warning you! Ride with me or die!" cried Xena trying to break lose from Gabrielle's hold. Gabrielle held on and was being whipped around like a rag doll. As Xena spun, trying to dislodge Gabrielle, the Golden Fleece fell from her shoulder.
"No!" Xena, by the gods, think about who you are!" yelled Gabrielle wrapping her hands around Xena and holding on tight. "Xena, you're good, your honorable. You are not a warlord," muttered Gabrielle with her head against Xena's chest. Xena stood still, panting with exertion.
"Gabrielle? What have I been saying! Gabrielle I'm sorry" exclaimed Xena coming to her senses. Then she grimaced, "Oh no! Gabrielle duck," cried Xena kicking the feet out from under her friend and sending her crashing to the ground. Gabrielle went to get up but then screamed and covered her head with her hands as lighting bolts of multiple colors zapped out in all directions form Xena's finger. Things exploded and burnt. And the air was filled with smoke and falling debris when the firing finally stopped. Xena collapsed to the ground and Gabrielle lifting her head crawled over to check on her friend. Xena was breathing normally but was out cold.
Gabrielle felt a sword point at the back of her neck as she bent over Xena. "That was quite a sound and light display. Does she do that often?" asked a supercilious voice and others laughed coarsely. Gabrielle turned to see a finely dressed warrior looking down a sharp sword blade at her. Behind him was a group of tough looking soldiers. " Allow me to introduce myself, I am Halus, son of Lysis and future warlord of all of Greece. I think you have something I own," he said scooping up the Fleece and throwing it over his shoulder.
Gabrielle gave a quick glance down at Xena and shook her friend's shoulder, "Xena," she whispered, "Wake up!" The soldiers laughed and Halus gestured to his men to grab Gabrielle. Gabrielle tried one more time to wake Xena as she was dragged up and bound. "Xena," she yelled kicking out at her friend with her foot as she was dragged away, "This would be a really good time to act like a demigod and throw lightening bolts around," she cried but Xena did not respond. As Gabrielle was dragged away she tore the medallion from her neck that Zeus had given her to match the one Xena wore. She knew that when Xena saw it she would know that her friend was in dangerous trouble and hadn't just left her.
Xena slowly crawled to her feet and looked around trying to organize her foggy thoughts. They had stopped for lunch and she had tried to convince Gabrielle to become a warlord. What had she been thinking about!? The Golden Fleece must have some influence over it's holder. Thank the gods, Gabrielle couldn't be swayed from what was right. She'd tried to kill Gabrielle! Where was Gabrielle!? Xena looked around in a panic. She's left me! There in the dust was Gabrielle's medallion. The Amazon feather within the chakram, a golden symbol of the bound that existed between the two companions presented to them by Zeus himself. Gabrielle would never have parted with it unless she was in grave danger. Xena studied the ground. Large heavy boot prints were everywhere. Five men in all and they were mounted. Six horses had ridden off, so they must have put Gabrielle up on Argo. Xena looked around. The Golden Fleece was gone too. She picked up her sword and straightened her shoulders and started to run at a steady pace after the horsemen.
Gabrielle thumped along on Argo's back. She hated riding. If she lived through this day, which was doubtful, she was going to be very sore in the morning. After many hours the party came to a halt near the Temple of Zeus near Thebes. The men busied themselves with setting up a camp while Halus came over and pulled Gabrielle from Argo's back. Her legs felt like jelly and she swayed awkwardly. "Why have you brought me here?" asked Gabrielle.
"I'm going to make you an offering to the god Zeus in exchange for the Golden Fleece," explained Halus smugly.
"Offering? Me!? Let's reconsider here. Zeus, you know, doesn't approve of human sacrifice. And then there is Xena, who is going to be one out of control demigod when she finds out there is nothing left of me but alter gifts. This is a really bad idea, Halus." explained Gabrielle truthfully as she was dragged into the Temple.
"I should take your advice?" laughed Halus picking Gabrielle up and laying her on the altar. He took some cord and tied her down tight. "I have stolen a great gift from Zeus and only a great gift can replace it. So I am giving him the mortal who dared to scale Mount Olympus and steal his son's future wife for herself. I think he will be very pleased!" smiled Halus with arrogance.
Gabrielle grunted pulling at her bonds. "I don't think you quite understand my relationship with Zeus and Xena. Why don't you untie me and I'll be glad to explain to you in detail and candidly, just what the whole picture is here," offered Gabrielle in mounting frustration.
"Tomorrow, at dawn, I'm going to rip your still beating heart out of your chest and burn it as an offering to the gods," sneered Halus into Gabrielle's face before he turned and strided out.
"Great. Great. I'll look forward to that," muttered Gabrielle putting her head down on the alter and preparing to wait for her friend to come to her aid.
Xena came to a wide ford in the river. Here the prints disappeared. Did they go up stream or down? One way would take them towards the Temple the other towards the road to Rome. Xena turned towards the way to Rome. She reasoned that Halus would try to leave the country. But she had only taken a few steps when the shadow of a bird crossed her path and curved to fly in the other direction. Xena looked up but there was no bird to be seen. Yet on the wind, she could just make out a song. She started off again, then stopped. The wind blew the other way carrying with it the words of the song. Xena strained to hear it but couldn't quite make it out. She took several more steps then turned and ran as fast as she could up the riverbank towards the Temple.
Xena picked the hoofprints of the horses up again about a half mile down river. They were definitely headed towards the Temple. Xena smiled. But she had much ground to cover and she knew to save Gabrielle, she most move quickly. By the depth of the prints and width of the stride, the horsemen were galloping. That meant they could be at the Temple near sunset. Xena gritted her teeth and pushed the pain of her aching muscles to the back of her mind and started to run. She kept up a steady pace until it became too dark to safely run. Then she rested until the moon rose and she could set off again.
Morning came. Gabrielle watched the horizon turn pink through the columns of the Temple and shivered in the early morning chill. Where was Xena? She had no horse. Could she cover that distance in time? Would she see the medallion and know to hurry? Even now, she could hear the men building a fire to sacrifice her heart on. Halus came in. In his hand was a very long and sharp knife. He walked to where Gabrielle lay on the altar and raised his knife over his head. Gabrielle closed her eyes and waited. "No don't!" screamed Xena, and outside a commotion broke out. Gabrielle opened her eyes as Xena fought off a soldier and charged into the Temple. Her clothes were dust stained and her face white with exertion. Gasping for breath she throw her chakra. The ring of razor sharp metal whistled as it twirled through the air and ripped the knife from Halus' hand. It then banked around and sliced the rope holding Gabrielle wrists behind her back before curving and returning to Xena's hand. Gabrielle fought to free herself of the binding ropes as two soldiers charged into the Temple and jumped Xena from behind. She gave her war cry and tumbled the two of them over her shoulders and into Halus who had come forward to help his men. Xena reached for her sword and met the other two warriors as they entered the Temple. One she kicked with her foot hard in the stomach and he doubled over with a groan. The other felt the flat of her sword against the side of his head and he dropped his sword and covered his ringing ear. She turned to met the swords of the first two soldiers who had managed to untangle themselves and come at Xena again. Swords clashed in vicious battle.
Gabrielle freed herself from her bonds in time to see Halus sneaking up behind Xena with his knife. Gabrielle stood up on the alter and took a flying leap and knocked Halus flat. Xena knocked the legs out from under her two opponents and then turned to put a blade to Halus' throat. "Stop or he is dead," she warned and the four soldiers pulled back. Suddenly, the sky rolled with black clouds and lightening struck near by. Out of the blue flame stepped a massive and muscular man carrying a bolt of lightening in his hand. "Only you Xena, Warrior Princess would have the nerve to fight within the Temple of Zeus" roared the great voice of the king of gods.
Xena shrugged. "It looked like rain outside," she remarked dryly. Gabrielle rolled her eyes and moved to stand by her friend. They might as well die together. But much to her surprise the mighty Zeus laughed. "You O.K.?" asked Xena looking down at her friend. Gabrielle nodded and smiled. Xena put her sword back in her scabbard and turning she took Gabrielle's necklace out from where she had kept it safe between her beasts. She reached around Gabrielle's neck and reattached the binding. "A little bird told me that you'd lost this," she smiled.
Zeus walked over and looked down at the cowering Halus, "Wouldn't have made much of a King anyway," he growled, raising his hand to release a thunderbolt but Xena was just as quick and raised her hand so that the lightening that zapped from her finger tip hit Zeus lightening bolt in mid air. There was an explosion and sparks shattered in all directions. Zeus roared in rage and turned to glower down on Xena.
Xena shrugged, "A little trick I picked up from my grandfather," she explained holding her ground and not letting the god-king intimidate her. Zeus moved forward and grabbed Xena around the neck pulling her back against his body. He laughed and ruffled her hair with his mighty hand and slapped her on the shoulder and punched her with glee. "Who would have thought that my least favorite child would sire me a grandchild that is worthy of my blood," he bellowed with delight hugging Xena until her eyes were nearly crossed. Gabrielle, watching on, giggled behind her hand. The soldiers around were afraid to move. "But he that steals from my Temple and tries to sacrifice a god-friend, why do you want him to live?" the great god asked his granddaughter bending down and looking into her face.
"He is someone's son. We don't always get the sons we want but he is still a son. Let me take him home to his father as you took Ares back," argued Xena.
Zeus nodded. He placed a finger under Xena's chin and raised her face to his, "You do not understand yet how significant it is that you exist to the gods and this mortal world. Slowly, you will learn." Zeus looked sad. "How I hope you can continue to cheat the Fates. Gabrielle take care of my granddaughter. She needs you." Gabrielle nodded and Zeus disappeared in a roar of thunder and lightening.
"Tie him up, Gabrielle," ordered Xena, sneering down at the terrified Halus. Gabrielle took some rope from the alter and tied Halus up. Xena looked at the other soldiers who stood dumbfounded about. "You have offended the god-king, Zeus. If I were you I would get as far away from here as I could, as soon as possible. The four men turned and scrambled for their horses.
Xena and Gabrielle returned the delinquent son back to his father and received from him much thanks. Xena and Gabrielle refused both his gold and his hospitality and headed out once more. That night they camped by a high cliff from which a waterfall tumbled. Gabrielle turned a leg of mutton over the fire as Xena sat moodily by the water's edge. Gabrielle came over and sat by her friend. "Your grandfather likes you," she said. "I like him too. Xena shot her a look. "O.K., so I can't see him at any family parties but as a god goes he's a fairly decent sort," assessed Gabrielle. Xena smiled then turned back to look moodily into the waters.
"Do you ever sense that something is not right. As if there is something important that you have forgotten or lost?" asked Xena. Gabrielle looked at Xena in surprise.
"When I was a child, I used to dream that I had lost something and couldn't find my way home. I'd wake up crying because I knew that something was not right about my existence," confessed Gabrielle.
Xena looked up and pointed to a bird's shadow that drifted across the face of the cliff in the setting sunlight. "I'm glad you are with me, Gabrielle," said Xena.
Gabrielle got up and returned to the firepit. "The meats ready," she observed. Xena got up and came over and joined Gabrielle. Gabrielle cut some meat off with her knife and passed it to Xena. "I don't get that dream anymore," smiled Gabrielle, "I found myself a home," she said biting into a piece of meat. Xena smiled.
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