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Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this story. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. No aspect of this story may be used elsewhere without the expressed prior written consent of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.


This story contains some violence. No more than a usual episode of X:WP, so consider yourself warned. There is no implied subtext, so if you find any, you are looking too hard!! :-) No severe language to speak of, again, it is about the same speed as an actual episode. Don’t use near open flame, do not use around water, for external use only, not intended for use by small animals or household appliances. There, that should about cover it!!!!

This is my first attempt at X:WP fanfiction. Suggestions (no flames, please. Be NICE!) are welcomed. Contact me at

Soul Searching

by SuzyRNC

Midnight loomed across the sky, assisting Morpheus in carrying mortals to slumber. Few sounds filled the air, such as the occasional chirp of a cricket, the crackle of the campfire and the breeze as it flooded across the land, rustling the trees in the process. The scene was a campsite with a low but warm fire with two figures gathered around. The scent of roasted venison still filled the air. The other sound coming from this immediate area was the crisp yet hi-pitched grinding of Xena’s sharpening stone against her sword. She sat silent and contemplated many thoughts. Some thoughts were of the battle of the day. Xena silently berated herself at how closely Gabrielle came to getting hurt. She ran over and over in her mind as to how she could have let it happen. Nothing made sense, and it frightened her to realize that in only one second more, she could have very well lost her best friend to death. She shivered as she thought that, trying in vain to dismiss the horrifying thought. She knew that something should be done, and yet she was afraid of losing her friend because of what must be done. She decided to wait to talk to Gabrielle, perhaps until morning. The dark warrior just sat and took in what she thought might very well be her last few hours together with her best friend.

Dawn broke and found the pair face to face with danger once again. Xena’s keen sense of hearing woke in time to prepare for battle, but Gabrielle’s stubborn slumber allowed her to wake just before the battle took place over her. The young Bard tripped one of the three ruffians as she grabbed her staff in hand. She swung low and caught the man at the knees with the staff and sent him to the ground, rendering him unconscious with a blow to the head. Xena’s battle once again took on new forms of weaponry. The warrior this time had a waterskin in hand and was using it to promptly wallop the other two ruffians single-handedly. Gabrielle just stood there; taking in the awe that was this woman, her best friend, the warrior. She never seemed to do the same maneuver twice. Every fight was fresh. The young Bard was secretly jealous of the creativity of the warrior’s fighting style. As Gabrielle observed, she never heard the footsteps behind her, until it was too late. A fourth man came up from behind and fiercely struck Gabrielle over the head. Darkness filled her mind; she never saw the man’s face. The man reached down and picked up the young Bard and carried her about 20 feet. Xena finished off the two ruffians as she saw the man attempting to make an exit.


The battle cry filled the air as the Warrior Princess did back flips over the man and stopped facing him. The man dropped Gabrielle solidly on the ground, and attempted to dive into the woods. Xena caught the man with a roundhouse kick and sent him to the ground. The man rose with sword in hand and charged her. The fire in her eyes was the last thing he saw as she sent him for a ride on Charon’s boat. Xena turned and hastily returned to Gabrielle’s side. It appeared that Gabrielle had landed on the ground head first and struck her head on a rock. The young Bard was bleeding moderately from a cut on her forehead and had several scratches all over. Gabrielle was moaning and slowly began to rouse. She had been stunned for a few moments, and jumped soundly as Xena touched her cuts with a poultice to help the wounds heal.

"Xena, what happened?" Gabrielle asked still groggy from her injuries.

"Stay quiet for now, I’ll tell you but you need to stay still for a while, OK?" Xena asked.

Gabrielle nodded and Xena proceeded to tell her about the events of the last candlemark. The warrior cleaned up the Bard’s cuts and offered her some herbal tea that would help with the pain. Gabrielle winced at the bitter tea.

"Xena, this is the worst concoction that I have ever put in my mouth. What is in it?" Gabrielle asked through a strained expression.

"Some things are better left unknown. Finish it and we will talk for a while. You need to stay awake and I need to tell you something." Xena said.

Gabrielle held her breath, twisted her face and swallowed down the rest of the tea. She faced Xena and began to speak, when Xena interrupted.

"Gabrielle, I need you to listen. Try not to say anything until I am finished. I may not have the courage to tell you this if I have to stop." Xena said as she took a breath and continued, "I want you to go home for a while. You need the rest and it would be good for you to see your family. You have been through a lot these last few moons and it would be nice for you to get away, take it easy. "

Gabrielle’s face looked panicked. She felt her heart sink and said, "I don’t want to go to Potiedaia. My home is with you."

Xena’s face maintained her icy expression as she continued, "I am sure Ephiny and Xenon would like to see you then. They haven’t seen you since my Amazon funeral."

"Xena...Xena, why are you trying to get rid of me? Did I do something wrong? I know I should have been more careful with that guy, I’ll do better, I promise. Please do not shut me out." The Bard’s eyes filled with tears at the thought of separation.

"Gabrielle, don’t get upset. I just think that it would be good for you to go someplace where you can think. Someplace..." Xena was interrupted.

"Away from you, is that it?" Gabrielle finished.

"No....not exactly." Xena answered. "I am destined to live this life, to walk in the shadow of my past and attempt to atone for my wrong. You have done no evil, yet you have been living this life of penitence. I want you to have time to think it over. You are my best friend, and nothing would ever change that. I just worry that one day I won’t be able to stop someone from harming you, even perhaps killing you. I don’t want to face losing you like that. Do you understand?"

"Xena, I have chosen to live my life. You have not decided for me. " Gabrielle paused before continuing. "I will not leave you, but I will tell you what, We will go to the Amazons. There we can both rest and re focus our lives, OK? If things change, and changes have to be made, then I will accept it."

Xena reluctantly agreed and the next morning, the two turned North to return to the Amazon nation. Just outside the kingdom, about half a day’s walk away, Gabrielle stopped, bathed and changed into Amazon dress. About a candlemark later, the couple stopped and clasped their hands over their heads in the Amazon symbol of peace. Gabrielle’s Amazon sisters then joined the two. They were escorted into the Kingdom, shown their huts and were shown the way to prepare for a feast to honor the return of Princess Gabrielle.

Gabrielle quickly put her things away and set out to find Ephiny. She wasn’t sure what to do, and since Xena was part of the problem, she needed someone else to be part of the solution. The young Bard briskly walked over to the Queen’s hut and addressed the guard. The warrior announced her and bowed in reverence as the young princess silently walked past her. Gabrielle entered the hut and ran into Ephiny’s arms, drained of strength. She could no longer play a strong, proud Amazon; she needed someone to talk to.

Gabrielle! What’s wrong? Hey, what’s wrong?" Ephiny spoke as she tried to console the visibly shaken woman.

Gabrielle spent the next candlemark attempting to relate the events of the day. When she finished, the ruler thought and came to a decision. She tried to be objective and honest, and was willing to do what she could to help. Ephiny wrote something down on a scroll and motioned for one of her guards.

"Give this note to Xena. Make sure she knows to come in exactly one candlemark from now." Ephiny commanded.

"Yes, my queen." The warrior nodded and was quickly gone.

"Gabrielle, rest now. I have a plan. We will work this out. Just you wait and see." Ephiny spoke as she helped Gabrielle settle in for a nap.

A loud knock on the hut door did not surprise the Warrior Princess. She had heard the guard’s footsteps long before the knock occurred.

"Enter." Xena said as she turned to address the woman warrior at the door.

The guard bowed her head slightly in respect to the visitor as she spoke. "My Queen has sent you a message. Your company is requested in one candlemark."

With that, the woman turned and left. Xena walked back to the chair and opened the scroll. The letter stated,


Gabrielle is here with me right now. She is going to rest for now. Meet me in the weapons hut in a candlemark. We need to talk alone. Please know that Gabrielle is the true Queen, as well as my friend. I am worried about her. You are also my friend and I want to help. Know that I am here to help.


Xena took the remainder of the time and cleaned herself up. She summoned an aide to draw a tub of water to bathe. She bathed while the assistant cleaned her leathers and prepared a clean change of clothes for the visitor. Xena finished and changed into the outfit, a leather wrap skirt and a short navel length top. She remarked that it looked at more like something Gabrielle would wear than she.

The candlemark passed quickly and Xena made her way to the armory. Ephiny had already arrived, she could tell, due to the large gathering of guards at the door. Xena parted the group and entered. Ephiny stood and welcomed the warrior with the warrior handshake- forearms clasped together. The two sat at a small table in the back of the armory.

"Xena, I asked you to come here because I am worried as to what is happening between you and Gabrielle. She seems upset, that you are upset with her and that you feel that she is in the way. If that is what is wrong, I can work with her. She has every warrior in the Amazon nation at her beckon to train her. I assure you, Xena if that is what is wrong, I can help to resolve it."

Xena waited for Ephiny to finish before she began, "Eph, that’s not it altogether. I can work with her, training is not it. I just think that she has chosen to walk this path with me because she is enamored with the life of a warrior, something to use as subject for her stories. I am afraid that one of these days, I won’t be able to intervene and she might die."

Ephiny placed her hand on Xena’s shoulder for support. She and Gabrielle were the only people that Xena had become comfortable enough with to not to be startled and defensive.

The Queen began, "Xena, I don’t mean to offend you, but this does not sound like Gabrielle’s fault, it sounds more like a problem that you have alone. Wasn’t it a little cruel to try to send her away?"

Xena chuckled slightly at that question and added, "You know, Eph, if it were anyone besides you that said that, they would be seeking a healer by now."

The Warrior rose and walked over to look out the doorway. Her gut was twisting in this internal battle. She silently took in what Ephiny just said and tried to see things from Gabrielle’s point of view. Had she been too worrisome? Was she just being protective? She could not tell, her outlook was clouded.

"Ephiny, I could use some advise here. I can’t tell up from down on this. I hold Gabrielle’s safety paramount over my own. I couldn’t live with myself if I hurt her, but I feel as if I already have. I just can’t see this one through."

Ephiny rose and went to the doorway, opposite of Xena. She took a deep breath and decided to ask a question.

"Xena, how long have you and Gabrielle been traveling together?" She asked.

Xena looked thoughtful, "About 3 winters. Why?"

Ephiny took another deep breath and before she knew it, she said, "Why are you just now worried about this? How many times have the two of you had rough times, times that seemed like nothing but bad could come about?"

The Queen stepped back when she saw the former warlord’s eyes. She could feel the heat from her rage growing. Xena immediately realized what was happening and reeled the emotions back in and regained control, before Ephiny spoke.

"Xena, I am sorry. I shouldn’t have said it like that. I apologize. "

Xena held up her hand, "No, you have the right to ask. I know it seems a little late in the game, but over the last few moons, especially after Perdicus and the whole thing with Callisto, I have been afraid of losing her again. She is the most important person in my life, my kindred spirit. I would battle Tartarus with a waterskin if I thought it would keep her from harm."

Ephiny laughed at the mental picture that last statement produced. She came up with an Idea. "Come with me." She said as she led Xena by the arm out of the armory. The two crossed the compound and returned to the Queen’s hut, where Gabrielle had just risen from her nap. The two entered the hut and Ephiny took charge.

"Gabrielle, Xena, the time has come for you to part. You must be separated before bad befalls you. I have canceled the feast. There will be no celebration here tonight."

The two across from the Queen looked shocked. Did they hear her right?

Gabrielle asked, "Ephiny, I thought you were going to help. Maybe I am a little groggy from my nap, but I don’t see how this could be called helping."

Ephiny continued, "What I am saying is that from the next moon, the two of you will be separated. Xena, the warrior will meditate and seek battles within yourself. Gabrielle, the Bard, you will spar and train with the best warriors of the Amazon nation. You will seek battles outside of yourself. At that time, we three will return here together. You will not see each other during that time, and have no contact whatsoever. Perhaps, then the world will look a little differently to you both."

Xena looked at Gabrielle and sought her approval. The young Bard simply nodded, silently and seriously. Xena per hand on the Bard’s shoulder and said,

"Gabrielle, I want only the best for you, I hope this will turn out as you wish."

Xena looked at Ephiny, who was standing in front of her, motioning for the warrior to follow her. The Queen and the Warrior exited the hut and made their way to Argo and to Ephiny’s horse. The queen asked the healer to check out Gabrielle and tend to her injuries, which was not life threatening, but looked worse than they were. Ephiny and Xena mounted up and rode to the middle of the land, almost 3 candlemarks away, at a fast pace by horseback.

The Temple of Artemis was very isolated by the surrounding forest and brush. If the participant of the day was not the Warrior Princess, the person might be terrified at the fearful sight of the Temple. Ephiny walked Xena in and began lighting candles. There must have been over a hundred huge candles. Xena watched slowly as Ephiny lit about half of them. Slowly, the small Temple was aglow in the light, and made the place seem slightly more comfortable. Ephiny walked over to a wooden crate and opened it, revealing its contents. She pulled out several pillows and throw blankets. Ephiny began to place them about on a rock slab, about 8 feet long by 5 feet wide. It stood about 4 feet tall. This particular area must hold some significance, Xena thought, as she saw Ephiny preparing the area. Ephiny finished as she turned to speak to Xena.

"Xena, this is the altar of consecration. You should be there when you meditate in the Temple. It is the place set apart from all others within this Temple by Artemis herself. It is said that this is the spot to be to be heard by her. There is another area outside."

The two exited out the back of the Temple, revealing a small rock garden, surprisingly similar to the ones she saw while in China. In the center of the garden was a large boulder with a pair of much smaller rocks, as if representing islands in the sea.

"I know what to do here, no need to explain." Xena added.

Ephiny walked Xena back into the Temple and continued her instructions.

"Xena, give me your weapons. We will put them in the crate for safe keeping. You will not need them here. I have posted a secret guard to observe you for safety. No one will intrude. There will be only water supplied for you every day. This requires a special ritual of fasting, I will see to it that it is carried out for you."

"Ephiny, thank you for everything. I will be fine. Will you be coming to get me when I am finished?" Xena asked.

"Xena, only you will know when you are finished. Light the torch out in front and I will know when to get you. Oh, one more thing, I don’t need to tell you the most important thing to remember is sincerity. Do not give in to the flesh. Some warriors partaking have later reported visions, good and bad- both part of their healing. Good luck to you, Xena." Ephiny stated.

Ephiny left Xena and the warrior princess immediately set to work.

The Warrior searched around and decided that a fast would set her mind in the right direction. She needed that very same purity of essence that Lao Ma had spoken of in China. Xena changed out of her leathers into one of the robes that were carefully placed on the altar for her. She marveled at how soft the material was. It was light and allowed her to move, not that she would need to move to fight, she had a section of the Amazon army protecting her.

Xena sat down on a fur-lined blanket, flung out over the altar, and closed her eyes. She realized that the first step in her journey was to clear her mind. She took deep breaths and slowly her breaths came effortlessly and easily. She began to hear her pulse beating. Soon, she could even hear the blood rushing though her veins. She listened to her body, her mind and her emotions. She tried to push past the fear of losing her best friend, but soon found tears falling down her cheeks.

Gabrielle sat in front of a table and played with her food. She worried about Xena and how she was doing. She worried about the next morning, when she would begin her training.

"Well, now I know something is wrong." Ephiny stated.

"What?" Gabrielle said, previously unaware of the observer.

"I never thought that I would see you not eating when it was mealtime. I always thought Xena was exaggerating." Ephiny said with a laugh.

Gabrielle was lost in thought and seemed too preoccupied to render a response. This reaction solidified in Ephiny’s mind the link between the Warrior and the Bard. Somehow, this had to resolve. She only hoped that is would resolve the way these two wanted it.

"Gabrielle, hurry and finish your food. You need to get some rest this evening. You will be getting an early start tomorrow, so you should get to sleep as soon as you can." Ephiny paused before continuing. "Try not to worry about Xena. She can take care of herself. Worry will only slow the process down."

The young Bard looked up, took a deep breath and said, "Eph, I am not worried for her safety physically, I am worried that she might find out she doesn’t need me. That I truly was in her way. That she doesn’t really..." Her voice trailed off.

"That she doesn’t really what? Love you? Is that it?" Ephiny knew she hit the mark from the facial expression shot from the Bard. "Gabrielle, only you and she can answer that truthfully, but I can say from observation that there is no doubt that she loves you. You and she share a special bond, a bond that few blood sisters share, even stronger than most Amazons can claim. Never doubt that." Ephiny tried to reassure the young woman.

Gabrielle slowly rose and said goodnight to Ephiny, and made her way to her hut for an early night of sleepless angst.

The Warrior Princess took advantage of her quiet time to begin a deep meditation. She began to grow frustrated since she was not responding as quickly as she thought she should. Just before she gave up, her mind’s eye was flooded with a vision. She jumped in shock at the scene that she saw in her mind. She was back in the Thesselean and Mitoan war. She was looking down at the cold, lifeless body of her best friend. Panic overtook her and she fell into denial. She remembered how she tuned to anger and yelled "Come on, fight!" to Gabrielle as she pounded on the Bard’s chest, trying to pull her back to this life. She remembered how relief washed over her as Gabrielle finally took the long-awaited gasp of air. She remembered how fragile the Bard looked at that moment. She could swear she could see the situation as real as if it were happening right then, for the first time. The emotions swept over her, but she remained focused on the situation. She continued to push on through until she saw the next memory from that time: she and Gabrielle walking outside the temple talking about the other side. She recalled the sense of security that she felt in walking with her best friend, arms around each other. She never wanted that feeling to end. Somehow, the fear of that end plagued her even through the warmth of the moment.

At least two candlemarks before sunrise, a lone Amazon walked slowly to the Princess’ hut. She did not knock; she was under orders from Ephiny, her queen to show no preferential treatment to the once Queen, now renounced to Princess. The warrior entered the hut, walked to Gabrielle’s pallet, and in one swift move, yanked all the covers off of the Bard. Gabrielle failed to wake, so the warrior reached behind her to the water pitcher. She dumped the entire contents of the pitcher onto Gabrielle, and stepped back as the Bard snapped up in a quick shot, sending water droplets everywhere. The Bard gasped for air and leapt off the bed in yet another single move. She looked around, disoriented momentarily, for Xena. She remembered what was happening a split second after. The Warrior simply said, "Get dressed, my Princess. We have much work to do." With that, the Warrior returned outside of the hut and waited for her companion to emerge.

In only a few moments, the Bard was dressed, and quickly accompanied her teacher in a ring, circled by torchlight. In the ring was several posts, each standing end up, buried at different depths. Each post ranged in height from two feet to six feet. Gabrielle slowly assessed the posts and knew that she wasn’t going to like what this was about. She watched in awe as her teacher began the course of jumping up and down over and over again, wielding a staff. The Warrior stopped just as quickly as she began and motioned for Gabrielle to begin. The young Bard hopped onto the first post, two feet tall and remarked at how poor her balance was. She knew that was the reason for this course, to improve her balance and battle coordination. She slowly made her way through the course, her heart pounding, as she was afraid of heights. Occasionally she would fall and would have to begin again. She worked at this course for at least two candlemarks. Her feet felt as if the bones were going to come up through her skin on the tops of her feet. The Warrior then led the Bard to a small table with fruit, some bread and water. The Bard hungrily ate the food in moments. Just as soon as she finished eating, she was taken away to yet another drill. The day went quickly for her, as did every day of her training, for which she was grateful. Her days began to mix together; the only indicator for her that another day had passed was the time she returned to the hut at night to collapse into slumber. Slowly she noticed that she wasn’t as fatigued. She was into her training and began to feel stronger. Then one day, she met the teacher at the door before the Warrior even had a chance to enter.

"Well, that is an improvement. She’s almost there." The Warrior thought.

Xena continued through her vision quest. She continued to go through the events of the pair’s life together. She worked her way through all the times that Gabrielle came close to death, and also the times that her friend stayed with her when she was so close to Charon’s boat-ride to the other side. She remembered the diligence of her friend, how she stood up against the armies’ insistence to desecrate the Warrior Princess’ body. She saw the time her friend sadly sat in shock at Xena’s side. The Warrior had been poisoned and had in all appearances, died. She saw how her friend never broke contact with her and then sadly and slowly kissed her friend good-bye on the cheek. Again, waves of emotion filled the Warrior’s heart. She knew she must continue if she is to ever find release. She is a third person in these scenes, it is odd for her to be able to see her own body from outside, something she had not done since she traded bodies with Callisto. Xena continued to move forward to the present. Her eyes slowly opened and she realized that it was no longer dark.

The sun had been up at least for two candlemarks. She looked over to the entranceway for a waterskin. To her surprise, there were four waterskins on the ground. She had been "gone" for almost four full days. She felt rested, remarkably. Xena rose slowly, expecting to be stiff. To her surprise, she was neither stiff nor sore from remaining in the same position for all that time. She walked to the other altar and made a sacrifice to Artemis. Xena never considered herself to be a religious person, and she still contended that the gods were only immature, over bearing, power hungry immortals. She never thought in her wildest dreams that she would be here, in the temple of Artemis, offering up a sacrifice to that same god. Now, nothing ever seemed as important as doing so. She wanted Artemis’ favor in this journey. Perhaps a nod from the goddess would be helpful in getting back to Gabrielle more quickly. As she finished, she turned and walked to a basin to wash her face and hands.

Her routine continued for almost seven days, each time the reflections focused on another area of her life. This time, not unlike any other, Xena washed up and dried. She looked outside; something compelled her to go into the rock garden. She took off her shoes and remained only in her robe as she climbed onto the largest rock in the center of the garden. She clasped her hands together, took several cleansing breaths and focused. She slowly began to move through the ancient movements that Lao Ma had taught her to tune her mind and body together. She slowly moved through each position with cat-like grace. She seemed to move away from the physical world and moved back to the place of security and selflessness that she felt in the kingdom of Chin. She leapt up into the air and performed a complete double spin in the air before landing on the smaller rock about five feet away. She felt a warm sensation that she had never felt before. She was almost afraid of the sensation. She continued to flow through the movements, each graceful movement aiding to remove the stress and tension out of her body. She was amazed at how good she began to feel. She longed to continue, but the movements were completed, and she once again felt a compulsion to return to the temple. She made her way to the altar of consecration. She bathed and changed her robe, took a drink of water and climbed onto the altar. She knelt on her knees and began to silently pray to Artemis. As she prayed, a bright light shone in front of her. She opened her eyes to find Artemis in front of her.

Artemis began, "Xena, you seek protection for your friend, when actually the insecurity is yours to bear. Your diligence is not in vain. You have searched for the answer and now the answer is here for you." The goddess reached out and touched Xena’s shoulder. As she made contact, a surge of energy transferred into the Warrior Princess. She felt reborn, as if today was her first day alive. She felt alive again and refocused. She felt light as air, as if she were floating above the altar. She seemed unaware of time and space, and just as quickly as it began, was over. She opened her eyes to find herself lying on the altar and in a different colored robe. She looked over to the right and saw Ephiny standing there with a concerned expression on her face. Xena was weak and unable to move. She needed assistance from Ephiny and her soldiers to stand. Xena fell slightly before being caught by the warriors. The warriors helped Xena lie back down on the altar.

"Xena, are you OK?" Ephiny asked.

"I am alright. I was going to send for—wait, why are you here?" Xena asked.

"Xena, it has been a full moon since I brought you here. Don’t you remember? I had a dream last night and Artemis visited me and told me to come for you today." Ephiny explained.

Xena said, "Ephiny, I can’t walk. I am too weak. I feel wonderful, but weak."

Ephiny seemed amazed that all the waterskins were still full and Xena was not dehydrated. She also was amazed at how peaceful and relaxed Xena had become. She could tell a change had taken place. Slowly, they small group helped Xena off the altar and made a pallet for her to lie upon. Ephiny had decided to let the Warrior Princess have one more night in the Temple to eat and gain her rest before the trip back to the other side of the kingdom.

The cook of the warriors made a broth for Xena. She knew that the Warrior had probably been on some sort of a fast, and didn’t want to cause any distress to the woman’s stomach. The Warrior ate two bowls full of broth, and took a small piece of bread. She washed the meal down with a large goblet of water. Xena was surprised at how well she actually felt. She doubted she would be able to sleep, as she yawned and seemed to nod off silently, much to Ephiny’s amusement.

The next morning, the small band rose, dressed, and made their way back to the village. Just outside the village, Ephiny made Xena stop and dress into the ancient dress of an Amazon warrior. This dress was one Xena had only seen once before, when Gabrielle took her place as Queen. She had not paid too much attention to it then, but now, it seemed familiar to her. She changed quickly into the outfit, with the assistance of the warriors. She returned to Ephiny’s side and Ephiny began to instruct her.

"Xena, there will be a dinner tonight to honor you and Gabrielle. Do not attempt to speak with Gabrielle until I direct you to do so, understand? It is important that she finish her training as you have. Wear the mask of the warrior as will we when we enter the village. I have sent a messenger ahead to tell the villagers that they will receive an important visitor today, from another Amazon tribe, they will treat you as one of our own, you must act accordingly."

Xena acknowledged Ephiny’s instruction and donned the mask. The others followed suite and the small band entered the village to a regal reception, as a visiting royal. Xena heard the sound of battle when she entered the village gates. She searched for the source and found a sight that she had never seen before: Gabrielle, as graceful as a cat leaping from pole to pole and back again, fighting with her staff with such strength and poise as she could never have imagined her little friend to possess. Something within Xena broke open, which became reflected on her face through tears. Was her little one gone? Had the small girl who depended so much on her disappeared? Xena continued though the reception line, made her way to her hut and disappeared into a bed of tears and thought. Perhaps things would not turn out as she had planned.

Xena began to meditate to center herself once again. As she did, she began to think more clearly about the situation. Although she had become a little more centered, she was still overall the same person. No matter how much physical training Gabrielle had endured, she was still the same person, too. Perhaps she was worried over nothing. She decided to rest. Her answer would come soon enough at the festival.

Drums beat a rhythmic, yet compelling beat and filled the camp. It would soon be time to begin the Feast to honor the Amazon Queen and the visiting royalty they had so graciously received earlier in the day. Xena summoned her help to prepare for the feast. She was doted over in a fashion that she had missed severely since Gabrielle had gone, and felt awkward in allowing someone other than the little bard to assist her in her ministrations. She soon was ready and sent one of the servants to summon Ephiny. Ephiny arrived and inspected Xena’s costume, impressed with the sincerity and respect that the Warrior Princess paid to the Amazon custom. The Warrior was instructed to wait for one of the Amazons to summon her. It seemed like hours when it was in all actuality only a half candlemark. When the time passed and the Amazon arrived to lead Xena to the feast, the Warrior Princess took a deep breath and placed her mask on and made her way to the celebration.

Xena saw Gabrielle standing on the platform and stopped momentarily to look at the transformed Bard. Her muscles rippled on her arms and legs and her entire body seemed to possess an aura of authority that she had never had before. "Surely she will not want to leave now, she has set up her authority here." Thought Xena. "I was wrong not to trust her enough to make her own decisions, I have probably driven away my best friend from my side."

These thoughts flashed through Xena’s mind as she then continued on. Gabrielle looked into the eyes hidden behind the mask. She seemed to know those eyes. "Could Xena be behind that mask? No, they look alike, but these eyes are of a person more at peace with themselves than Xena has ever been." the young Bard thought.

Ephiny raised her hands and the drums stopped immediately. She continued, "My Queen, we are honored by the presence of a Princess from a distant tribe. She has had a long journey, traversed much danger, endured much hardship in order to be with us tonight."

Gabrielle, being the gracious host, began, "Princess, we all here are honored by your presence. Truly, may your travels have not been in vain, for we intend to celebrate your presence here tonight, and we invite you to join us as a fellow sister, a fellow Amazon."

The crowd cheered, sounding their approval. The Bard made her way to her royal table, and sat. The Princess, who was actually Xena, was led over to sit next to Gabrielle. Gabrielle was amazed at the tradition this Princess observed. She could wear the masks, but by the gods, they were hot! She studied the Princess out of the corner of her eye, trying not to stare. The Princess’ hair was covered with a silk cloth, emerald green in color. It was fastened to the hair and mask with golden ties and completely covered the hair, obscuring the color from anyone’s vision. Gabrielle was anxious to see just exactly who this was, who this princess, with eyes colored from the same sky as Xena. She missed the Warrior, no matter how busy she had been kept, she could not shake the homesickness she felt, only she was able to conceal it a little better from the tribe.

The evening passed rather uneventfully, but joyously. The Princess seemed rather quiet, only nodding when asked questions by the young bard. Xena whispered something to Ephiny, who then relayed it to Gabrielle.

"Your highness, the Princess requests a private meeting with you after the ceremony."

Gabrielle agreed and resumed her dessert of fresh grapes. She was startled when Ephiny rose and silenced the drums and stopped the dancers. She slowly marched in cadence to the drum beat as she made her way to the platform. She took a deep breath and began, "My Queen, the time has come to ask something of you. As Queen in your absence, I take a personal interest in your answer. Either way, your reign is not in question, do not mistake my motives, but this is something that must be done. My Queen, Gabrielle, will you remain our Queen here with us, or will you return to Xena’s side as her partner?"

The camp remained silent and Xena’s heart began to pound in anticipation to that answer. Gabrielle rose, stepped away from the table and made her way to face the platform to face Ephiny. She took a deep breath and faced the camp as she began her response.

"Ephiny, my dear friend, sister Amazons, this time I have shared with you has been some of the most valuable in my life. I am honored that I am even your Queen, perhaps too honored. I sometimes am amazed that I am even here. I would be honored to remain here as your Queen,"

The camp broke into a loud cheer, interrupting Gabrielle. Xena’s heart sank. She looked down, grateful for once that she actually had the mask on. It was helpful in covering her sadness. Gabrielle raised her hands to silence the crowd, the crowd stopped so suddenly, it almost startled her. That amount of power was still new to her. She continued her reply, "I need to finish. I said that I would be honored to stay here as your Queen, but my heart is somewhere else. I am a woman, I am an Amazon, I am a Bard, but I am also a friend, a companion, a partner to Xena. I feel that the gods put me with her to benefit from each other. I then hereby permanently relinquish my throne and my rights as Queen to our sister, Ephiny."

The crowd seemed disappointed, but understanding. As Gabrielle relinquished her mask of Queenship to Ephiny and returned to her table, the crown still bowed in reverence to her.

Ephiny called out, "Gabrielle, wait! As Queen, my first decision is to reinstate Gabrielle as a Princess of the Amazons. She will regain her rights and status of that role."

The crowd cheered in approval. Gabrielle, suddenly overcome with emotion, ran to her hut. Xena wanted to go to her, but Ephiny stopped her with just a simple mouthed word--"NO!"

Ephiny entered Gabrielle’s hut. She comforted the bard and asked, "Hey, you chose to follow Xena. Why are you crying? "

Gabrielle sat up from her bed and wiped her eyes. She looked at Ephiny and said, "Why? Because Xena is my life. I hope she would realize it and return. I guess she learned to live without me. Perhaps she even has a new sidekick!" Gabrielle added, sarcastically. She turned and faced the other way on the bed.

Xena was crushed as she stood outside the hut, listening to the exchange of words. Upon hearing the sarcastic remark, she charged into the hut, and looked hard at Ephiny, demanding to be allowed to speak. Ephiny chuckled at how much restraint Xena had actually been able to draw on. "Oh Gabrielle, remember the Princess wanted a word with you. " Ephiny continued, attempting to keep a straight face.

Gabrielle was amazed that Ephiny would even suggest such a thing after what they had just spoken of. "Eph, listen I don’t think that is such a good idea. Besides, how could she even speak with all that garb on, anyway?"

"I have many skills......" Xena said in answer to the Bard’s question.

Xena removed the mask as Gabrielle turned to find the source of the reply. Her eyes filled with tears and she sprang off of the bed as she ran to hug the Warrior Princess. The two exchanged a strong hug for several seconds, before Gabrielle pulled back.

"By the gods, why didn’t you tell me it was you?" The Bard asked.

"Because you needed to make that decision without me being there. I needed to know you wanted to be with me, even if you weren’t sure I wanted you there. Thank goodness you had enough faith in me to choose to stay with me. I don’t think I could bear it if you left. Gabrielle....."

Xena paused as she studied the young Bard’s face and wiped away a tear from the young girl’s eye. "I am sorry for not having enough faith in you that you could make your own decisions. I love you and only want what is best for you."

Gabrielle’s tears began to flow more freely now. She hugged the Warrior once again, and they both sobbed tears of joy. The two embraced and drew strength from each other’s presence. They briefly told of their experiences during their separation, and soon began to tire and became in need of rest. Gabrielle insisted that Xena stay in her hut, and that she sleep nearby, for she was not going to give her a chance to change her mind.

The next morning, the pair rose and saddled up Argo. The horse had been well taken care of by the Amazons and for that, if nothing else, Xena was grateful. The Amazons prepared the pair’s traveling packs, filling them with trail rations and a couple of new bedsacks and other articles of clothing and supplies.

Queen Ephiny and the Amazons bid the two farewell, and the pair was on their way, once again ready to right wrongs and do good over evil. As the two walked, for once Xena was in a mood to talk, much to the surprise and delight of Gabrielle.

"Gabrielle, I want you to know that I respect your decisions and I don’t want you to think that you do not have a say in our decisions, OK? We are equals, each with half the decision. I hope that you believe me." Xena started.

"Xena, I do believe you, and I understand you completely. We are equals in spirit. I know that when it comes to our friendship, I have been blessed by the gods for another chance. I know that you had doubts and fears, but I know that your motives were not selfish, but out of concern for me. In a way, I understand. I love you too, Xena, and I know that I trust you completely, I can see a change in you. I can feel the depth of your soul. You have blossomed. I am so excited for you."

Xena smiled and stopped to look into Gabrielle’s eyes. She wanted to make sure the Bard understood what she was going to tell her. "Gabrielle, the reason for the growth was you. I had to give you up to find you again. Does that make sense?"

Gabrielle said, "Yes, it does. Sometimes, the only way to discover what we have is to let go of it so we can really see it. Xena, our friendship will be even stronger for it, because you know see from a different perspective, as do I. I learned what it was like to be the one making all the decisions, the one who was depended on to protect and defend. I think that we each got to see what the other had been exposed to. It can only make us stronger."

The pair each put an arm around each other as they continued to walk down the path. As they had taken a few more paces, Gabrielle smiled, tongue in cheek and said "Race ya!" She took off at a run.

"The more things change the more they stay the same!" Xena said with a smile as she sprinted off down the path to catch up to her best friend.


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