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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 fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property 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.

NOTE: All works remain the © copyright of the original author. These may not be republished without the author's consent.

Any polite comments you would like the author to read send to Short and to the point would be nice. Venting at the author is not advisable since the Muses protect their own. 8-)


By J. A. Bard



Chapter 1-2 Chapter 3-5 Chapter 6-7 Chapter 8-11


Chapter 8

Red was walking next to the cart where Eleanor had joined her to get some exercise and to make sure Red didn't over extend herself. She still walked with a slight limp and sometimes she noticed she would get glassy eyed, as if she were somewhere else. Aleka had warned her that Red would lag behind if not watched. Eleanor smiled, as she didn't want Red to be left behind if she stopped to ponder a thought or an object along the way that grabbed her attention. With her heightened senses she was rediscovering the world! The horse that was pulling the cart now had the idea to follow the horses before him so he needed no extra attention to move along and the two were able to talk without too much distraction. Eleanor's job was to see if Red remembered anything of a past journey. Agnes feared because she couldn't remember herself as Red she was going to think what she experienced in her dreams was her present reality. No one as of yet knew who she was so they could offer no guidance to her.

Red let the cart enter the entrance before her with the attached string of horses, including Argo. She had been feeling a subtle change of pulse since they had entered the village and now it was evident where the source of that change was coming from. The pulse was just like a steady beat of a heart at rest. It was very comforting.

Red followed the glow of torches that were moving further into the dark tunnel. Occasionally she ran her fingertips along the side of the smoothed walls of the tunnel letting a different type of energy tingle its way up to her elbow.

Red came to an abrupt halt as the tunnel opened up into a large cavern.

The horses and cart were being led to an area of the cavern that had pens that were falling apart with an underground natural spring about a furlough from it. The other side appeared to have been where the preparations of rituals and whatever business the Temple performed took place here. Red walked to where the horses were being settled to make sure Argo was content. The way the mare sometimes looked at her Red had the distinct feeling she was being given a look of disapproval.

The railings that were falling apart were pulled away and what was salvageable was used for keeping the horses in their area. The women were clearing debris out of the half moon shaped clay pipe that outlined the pen area that was dug into the ground.

"Look at this." Erica pointed out excitedly to Red. "It’s used to keep the livestock waste from going into the water ways that people that used this cavern must have used. The stable keeper must have taken buckets of water and sloshed them across the pen area with the waste being washed into these pipes and down into that pit." She pointed to a dark hole near the wall of the pens.

"Wouldn’t the pen turn to mud?" Red asked doubtfully.

"It’s a stone floor. Right now there’s a thin cover of dirt over it." Erica rubbed her boot over the dust to prove it, "but under it there’s stone." Erica nodded in admiration at whoever had arranged the pens.

"Why would they keep livestock here? The early followers of Gaia didn’t sacrifice anything that was alive. Life was sacred to her. Part of the harvest was left but it was used to feed the hungry." Red shook her head looking about her for some clue for the meaning.

"You know a lot about Gaia, Red, for someone who can’t remember her own name." Erica teased.

For a moment her green eyes flashed a look of impatience at the imagined patronizing tone of Erica. Erica was looking away from her when she had said it so she had missed the look, but a pair of bright blue eyes from across the way had picked it up and had over heard the conversation.

"It’s really an ideal place for a Temple to Demeter and Persephone." Grace whispered in awe as she kept looking up from her work and again looking around her.

Aleka looked up from the work she was doing in preparation for the warlord’s arrival. Her eyes for a moment watered but she quickly looked back at the small strands of hemp she was shredding. When it was hung over entrance archways it would either catch fire from the torches of Hadrius and his men or touch their skin without being seen leaving marks from the liquid they would soak the fine strands in. The seeds and leaves from the thorn apple had been gathered and were being prepared for the fire.

Satisfied with her handiwork Aleka rose to check over everyone's work making sure the other small traps that were set where ready. She then moved on to see how the outside traps were going.

"Agnes, have the others gotten back yet?" Aleka had sent them to keep track of the Hadrius progress and to try to add some of the herbs to as many water bags as they could.

"You know, these are just like pranks we use to do as kids." Grace was telling Red as she was helping her weave a cover that was to conceal another trap that would drop whoever was stupid enough to walk over it down to another level where they would run into another series of pranks that Aleka and the others thought up. It didn’t take much for the others to remember things they had done or had done to them when younger and full of verve.

Red had earlier helped Agnes think of a small drama with Demeter and Persephone condemning the warlord and his army for entering her sacred temple. She had been surprised that she had such an imaginative mind. The others hadn’t been surprised at all. They seemed to have expected it.

"Are you sure he’s not going to think that someone is just pulling kid pranks on him and his troop." Agnes asked doubtfully as she helped move a log into place.

"With all the hallucinogenics they will have been exposed to by the time they get to the second level, they won’t know what’s real and what’s not." Aleka grinned as she checked the old wine caskets. "I can’t believe they still have wine in them. Help me open this."

"Agnes, do you have some of the Belledonna mixture left?"


"Put as much as needed in here."

"What does it taste like?"

Aleka had tasted enough to know it wasn’t too bad. "Good enough to temp the men into trying it."

She rolled the barrel with Agnes’help to the outside of the tunnel. "Let’s put it under here making it look like someone forgot it. Berik see if you can get those other barrels and put them alongside of this one."

"They’re empty." She pointed out.

"Right. We want them to think this place is used to produce wine secretly. Make some wagon tracks outa here. Lots."

Oh, yea. They are just the type to not let a good taste of wine go by.

"Ohhhh. Aleka. You are so devious." Berik hurried back into the tunnel to get the wagon and some help.

"Hey, wait a minute." She asked Aleka who was following her to help with the barrels. "How are you going to get the rest of the stuff in them?"

"All it has to do is get onto their skin or in their lungs. That gives us power form, paste or smoke."

By dusk they had their stage set above ground and below. Now they just needed their unsuspecting participating audience.

Grace was assigned to watch Red who helped with anything that didn’t involve walking far or too much agility, as her legs were still sore. Red took that opportunity to talk Grace into letting her do something instead of waiting by the horses with a guard. Grace finally went over to Lily who had returned from her task and mentioned to her that Red was getting verrrry restless.

"If she wants to get up in some disguise that doesn't fall off at the wrong time, she can help you with the log thing." Lily sighed. Aleka had already warned her about the stubborn streak in Red and she didn’t want to chance that Gabrielle the Bard would be recognized by Hadrius. Especially since Red still had not retrieved any memories of herself as the Bard or Amazon Queen. And she was certainly in no condition to get in a serious fight with her staff. Holding the staff whenever she was out of the cart had to bring some sort of familiarity to her, Lily thought.

Lily smiled to herself. She didn’t want any trouble and after raising three children she already knew what mischief they could get into when not given something to do. She got the impression Red would be more dangerous than her three in creating mishaps. Wasn’t that what a lot of the Bard’s stories were about? No. Leaving her alone would certainly bring trouble.

"Whatdaya mean dye my hair?" Red grabbed her hair and pulled it back as if Grace and Agnes were threatening to cut it off.

"You’re going to be red-headed Persephone. Didn’t you say you wanted to help?"

"Well, ya, but red hair? Just how red is red?"

"We don’t have much time, Red. It's now or stay with the horses." Agnes told her firmly.

Red remembered someone once made the comment at why she didn’t let her make many decisions. It was the tall stranger’s image again that came to mind. She took too long to decide what was the best course of action to take and they usually didn’t have much time for long thought in a lot of situations they found themselves in.

Red pursed her lips. So, the relationship isn't on an equal basis. Does she feel the same way I do about her? How do I feel about her? Who is she to me?

She took a deep breath. "In that case, let’s do it."

Grace had already started on the red paste knowing that Red would not want to be left out.

"So, when can I remove this stuff?" She asked Grace for the umpteenth time.

Grace looked up from her work and checked the paste again. "Hmm, well Red it's almost there." It was hard to see in the flickering torchlight but she thought it could use just a little more time.

By the time Red's hair was ready, everyone was in position and ready for Hadruis. Lily came by silently to see if Red was okay. Her own post would be to check on the outside parameter but she didn't want to leave anything to chance, as their leader liked to advise.

"Now you know what to do, right?" She asked Red trying not to stare at the new hair color that the torch was revealing. Red was now a very appropriate name.

"Hey, this is simple, low keyed, easy on the brain." She assured the tall Amazon with a wry grin. "So, what do you think? I haven’t had a chance myself to see what it looks like so give me your honest opinion. Do you think I can do this red thing well?"

Lily didn’t want to tell her that the remake was different. She hadn’t quite seen anyone with hair that red, though she had heard that there were red heads this red in Rome. She merely nodded not knowing what to say. This is going to take some getting use to. She should forewarn Aleka before she...Lily stopped. Naaawww. It’s just too good to see that unreadable face show something more than stoic interest. Oh, yessss. This surprise is just too good to pass up.

"Well, it’s hard to say in this dark cavern." She temporized. "Make sure you don’t inhale any of that stuff or get it on you." She warned as she turned to leave. Grace and Erica were suppose to be watching Red but Grace was reassigned and Erica still had not come back from another job on the outside.

Red got comfortable in her corner careful not to go near where the pollen dust was piled liberally. Her job was to brush with the bark scraper the dust into the wind current that was blowing across the other half of the log. It would take the pollen dust of the hallucinogenic into the narrow tunnel that fed into the target cavern. She closed her eyes for a moment, which didn’t really change anything for where she was, was dark. She didn't have a torch. She glanced back to the log where the dust rested on. It glowed in the dark so she knew she wouldn’t be able to miss it. Red didn’t know for how long she dozed but she did doze. She caught herself as her head fell forward. Reflexively she jerked her head back up banging her head on an unseen rock projection in the wall behind her knocking her forward again. She put out a hand to catch her balance. Her face was just inches from the magic powder.

She was so busy congratulating herself on her not touching the stuff she didn’t hear Erica’s approach. What she did see was the burning stick she was caring that glowed enough for Erica to see her feet as she rushed back to guard her Queen. What saved Erica from being bashed on the head was that Red’s reflexes were not up to what they normally would be or her balance and she ended up falling over the log.

Another stronger torch was approaching them at the same time that Red was taking a swipe at the surprised Erica. Erica’s eyes were open wide as she saw Red realizing almost too late who she was. Red pulled her staff back losing her precarious balance and fell over the log, still missing the powder but pushing the log at a different angle and some of the powder blew in her face as she sat down abruptly next to it. Aleka grabbed her arm and pulled Red up quickly while pushing the log back into place with her foot. Not much of the pollen was lost.

"What in Demeter’s cavern happened to you?" Aleka’s mouth was open as she regarded the bright red head that she was holding up with one hand and shinning the torch on her with the other. She had only seen another with hair that red in Britannia and he was from another island near by.

Red pulled her arm away weakly. Her limbs felt wobbly. She was hoping it was because she was still recovering from her run-in with Malucu and not from the drug she was just lightly dusted with.

"I’m in disguise." She said with all the dignity she could muster. Red couldn’t remember being introduced to this tall woman; in fact she didn’t see much of her for she was always out on scouting patrols. Odd for the manager of a drama troupe to act like an Amazon, but she was from Lesbos, she reminded herself. Expect the unexpected, someone had told her about the residents of Lesbos.

She tried not to notice that the woman still had a firm grip on her arm, which if she hadn’t Red knew her legs would not hold her weight.

"Lily said if she was going to participate she had to be disguised, so we got her dressed as Persephone." Erica hastily explained, trying to cover her grin at Aleka’s surprised look.

Red shook her head as she tried to focus on the tall woman who she was unable to see clearly. She missed the rest of the conversation, as she became fascinated with the reflection of the flame on the wall then something that appeared to be walking down the side of it.

Aleka didn’t know whether to be amused or upset with the situation. She had just received word that Hadrius and his men, whom they were having this party for, were sneaking up on the village. She had been picturing them as soon to be a band of merry men, when she had a very bad feeling that Red was in trouble. She wanted to see what was going on feeling confidant that Lily would be able to handle the situations outside.

Lily had not told her that Red had dyed her hair only that she had pestered them into giving her a part in the drama. She would have to find something to pay Lily back for this, she thought humorously.

She would have laughed out loud at the sight of this small woman with bright red hair dressed in robes that were too long for her and now higher than Mt. Olympus, but she was in a hurry.

"Erica, you take care of this. We’re going to have a warlord who is not going to be in good humor by the time he reaches here. We can’t be having..." Aleka grabbed the arm of the Bard that had freed herself, as she was preparing to squirm her way into the log after something only she was seeing. "Ohhh, no you don’t. You’re staying with me." Her blues eyes glinted in the flickering torchlight.

"You know, you have this...way with words that reminds me of..." Red couldn't see the woman due to the angle she was being held at, but her mind was racing around on all sorts of memories of the familiarity of the situation and tone of voice of her capturer. The trouble was she couldn't straighten out the jumbled past and present and was only reacting to the similarities. But she didn't get much out for she was cut off with a hand that hastily covered her mouth. "someone I know." She started to giggle.

Erica doused Aleka’s torch for her. They could hear male voices echoing through the tunnels. Aleka left Erica with Red in tow. She had other things to check up on and now that Red was really too high to stay out of mischief she wanted to keep an eye on her.

Aleka made her way through the pitch-dark tunnel to Kynthia and Berik’s post. Kynthia and Berik were going to provide the drumming and cymbals that would echo into the tunnels lending great atmosphere to their production. In the larger cavern the women had found a cache of small oil lamps with old oil that was still usable in well-sealed containers. The two women had one of the lamps sitting in a corner giving their small area a soft glow.

"Are you going to be quiet?" Aleka whispered into Red’s ear. A strand of red hair tickled Alekas’ nose. She got a firm head nod so she released her grip over the Bard’s mouth. "Do not make any noise for it will be heard just about everywhere in these tunnels. You got that?" Her lips moved against Red’s ear.

Red could feel a warm tingle running up her spine as the lips tickled her ear. She nodded an affirmative. Aleka turned her attention to the silhouetted form of Berik who was already at work with her drums. Kynthia was accompanying her with tiny cymbals that sounded eerie as the combined sounds echoed back and forth down the tunnels and into the larger caverns.

Aleka needed to go see how Hadrius and his men were reacting so far, but she didn’t want to take Red. Red appeared sleeping propped against a wall with her head slumped down. The dust did that to some people. She looked toward Berik who nodded toward her. It would only be a moment, she told herself.

Aleka took off down the tunnel knowing where it led and how long it would take her to get to her destination. Her goal was a ledge that had a view of the maze where she was hoping their participating audience was at by now. If the majority of the men were not under the influence of the hallucinogenic by the time they got to the maze, Erica’s release of the dust would complete the job.

Aleka with the gray wolf at her side looked over the ledge and watched with amusement as the men ran into each other as they felt the thin strands of hemp cross their faces. The strands had been coated with the translucent stuff that was covering the walls in one of the caverns so by now they should be looking at each other’s faces with glowing thin lines. The torches the men were holding started bobbing wildly as they reacted from the drug induced visions they were having at the sight of each other. They only had two torches and they were setting some of the strands on fire, which was probably adding fuel to their visions, as the strands popped with glittering colors.

Aleka couldn’t resist a soundless chuckle as she hurried to the next ledge that would give her a view of Agnes’s area. She was going to do a dance that should have the men’s eyes rolling back into their heads. The men would have to swim across the cold lake that separated her from them and there was an undercurrent that would drag them down the underground channel. The river dropped down in the form of a waterfall to the next level. It should give them a great rush. Dry land was a good distance into another cavern where Lily would be waiting for them. She was going to do a Demeter death scene with the young drama team adding their parts. Red was to be Persephone but they were going to have to do without her.

Aleka climbed to the next ledge and watched as the men did a panic run into the cavern and stop suddenly causing the ones behind the first three to run into them. It was a pile up of entangled bodies and waving swords. Someone could get hurt and some of them probably did from the sound of it. Didn’t anyone teach them that if they are following their own men that they should not go running with their swords extended? Ohhh, that must be painful, she smirked.

Berik’s drumming took on a different beat, as it demanded attention and movement. Agnes’s form seemed to suddenly appear from behind a cloud of smoke. She moved rhythmically to the drumbeat showing off her body and its ability to move well. The sound from the men below told her it was having the effect intended. Aleka suddenly gripped the edge of the ledge almost falling over.

"Athena’s tight leathers!" She whispered under her breath.

The gray wolf looked up at Aleka with amusement.

Red watched the torch light play on the cavern wall fascinated by a small dark shadow that suddenly darted down the wall and into the log. She tried to follow it but a firm grip reestablished itself on her arm and hauled her back up. This was so like...her mind stopped at a loss for a name...but she always seemed to be so serious. She knew that without a doubt...well...not always. A picture of the laughing blue eyes appeared briefly to her. But if she would let herself go more often and stop and smell the roses or stop and follow the mouse, as was this case, she would be able to smile more. She was sure of that.

As she was hauled off by Aleka she realized she didn’t really like mice so maybe that was good she didn’t follow it. As she was half carried down tunnels that she couldn’t even see to know where to put her feet she began to enjoy the contact with this stranger. Oh. Oh! Suddenly her eyes opened wide as she could feel the drum beat start in her sternum then travel down to her toes. It was making different parts of her throb to the seductive beat. Red shook her head weakly. This isn't the Amazon Village; this isn't a party...well, wait a minute. Lily did call this a haunting party. Hmmm. Shades or no shades, it has promise for a good show. She didn't question how she knew about what went on in an Amazon Village she just watched the mental images of scantly clad women dancing to the erotic drum beats, feeling, just like now, the power over the senses they evoked.

When Aleka released her she sank to the floor unable to stand. Leaning against the wall she was quiet for a while watching the replay of the dancers. One of them turned into the tall dark woman that was haunting her. The vision of the tall figure dancing against the night with the light of a fire reflecting off her sweat sheen body had her eyes opening suddenly.

Abruptly her eyes popped open, as she became aware that the wall she was slumped up against vibrated the drumbeat throughout her body. Oh, yes! Great beat, she thought as she pressed her body closer to the wall feeling the vibration move erotically up and down her spine. She started to snap her fingers and move her shoulders leaning away from the wall.

Wow! What a charge! Her eyes opened wider. Her night acuity seemed to have increased. In the dim lighting she could see the drummer with her eyes closed as if focusing inward on her music, swaying in sensuous movements.

"Oh, ya! This is great! Hmm." Red struggled to her feet and started to dance around, at first shuffling then picking up energy as she moved around. This is music I can definitely put a bardic epic to. I can make history by talking to the drumbeat. Right! I can call it ...talking with the drums!. She snapped her fingers and moved her feet letting a verse move through her mind. Hmm. Agnes’s dance scene could use some help. This is really good!

Somehow she managed to find the tunnel that led her to the other side of the lake where Agnes was dancing. She stood for a moment watching Agnes moving feeling the effect it had on her own body. It's suppose to make me feel this way, she reminded herself. Yah! Great. Okay. I need to get a message to these men. Hmm. Let’s see. Red snapped her fingers and let her body move close to what Agnes was doing. Right. Okay I got it. She moved near Agnes not wanting to pull the eyes of the men completely away from Agnes's movements. I'm a talented Bard. I know all about stage entrances and how not to steal the scene. She straightened up for a moment. A Bard? Yea! Right! I'm a bard. She shook her head and not missing a beat stepped into her write-in part.

"Old warlord Hadrius, scared to lay down his arms." Snap snap

"Can’t keep a lady with his charms." Snap snap

"Old man Hadris lost his way." Snap snap snap

"Leads his men far astray." snap snap snap snap

"To capture the darkness, where he’ll never be found." Snap, snap

"He’ll lose his cool and stay below the ground." Snap snap

The Bard did what she thought was a smooth turn and was taking a deep breath to continue when she felt herself suddenly being jerked back into the darkness. It was so sudden her head was spinning and she lost consciousness.

If it were possible, the way Aleka’s blue eyes were setting off sparks of more than irritation; she would have been setting fires. She had moved with lightning speed to remove Red from the men's sight.

Artemis's feathers! What did Gabrielle think she was doing? Never mind, I don't wanta know. It might make sense! She managed to get a hand on her when she did a twirl that under other circumstances she would have been entertained.

Agnes managed to keep her composure and continued her dance as the men had suddenly jumped into the lake, whether due to Red’s antics or Agnes’s dance. And just as Aleka had planned, the strong under current pulled them all quickly to the next performance, first dropping them down a small waterfall into a lower cavern. The drop would send their hearts beating faster pushing the effects of the drug onto another level and so should the cold water. Hopefully none of them would drown in their armor. However, Aleka knew the underground riverbeds were not that deep.

"Aleka!" Agnes was laughing so hard she couldn’t stand without the support of Aleka’s muscular arm. "What was that?" She whispered.

"She got into the blasted pollen dust someone put her in charge of. I’m going to have to have a long talk with Lily. What on earth possessed her to ...Never mind. Do you think you can tie her up or something to keep her from doing any more impromptu command performances?"

Agnes was still laughing with her hand over her mouth trying not to make too much noise. She managed to nod and put a firm hand on the unconscious Bard. This has got to be a good story, Agnes was thinking with another bout of laugher trying to escape between her tightly sealed lips.

Aleka had already left to check up on the next and last performance in the caverns. This one should drive them back out and hopefully away from this area and leave the surrounding villages alone.

Lily made a good Demeter for her height. The shadow from the torches gave her added height and a scary appearance to her face, which was enhanced with stage makeup. Here was Demeter larger than life. Aleka watched the frightened faces of the men and Hadrius who had by then given up herding his men to rally around him. By the time Lily made her demand for the men to leave her sacred valley Hadrius was soiling his pants. They were out of the tunnels heading back in a real panic toward their horses. Brona and Gari were waiting outside to make sure they left the area, as they were pretending to be shades. The Amazon ability to fly though tree branches and at night enhanced their show to these men whose hallucinations would exaggerate whatever took place.

Aleka’s attention went back to Red. Can't leave her anywhere without something happening! Aleka couldn't keep the exasperated chuckle from escaping.

They all met back in the main cavern where their horses were resting. The women were exhausted and swapped stories of how well their pranks went over until they couldn’t leave their eyes open any longer. They were all a little high from some of the smoke from the herbs that swept through the tunnels. Aleka wanted to make sure their safety wasn’t jeopardized until the effects wore off. Red slept though it thankfully.

Berik had everyone howling as she told how Red had appeared to be sleeping off the effects of the pollen when suddenly she was up on her feet snapping her fingers and murmuring phrases, bobbing her head and just putting on her own show. Berik's description of her dancing down into the cavern keeping beat brought another fit of laughter. Berik couldn't stop drumming to chase after her and Kynthia was just as helpless. They had their parts to play and the show had to go on. Agnes picked up the story and recounted Red's unplanned participation in her dance.

Lily slapped Aleka on her powerful leg that was stretched out next to hers and laughed at Aleka’s expression.

"You know, that woman needs a full time, ten member team to keep trouble away from her." Lily shook her head wiping away the tears.

"Then life would be boring." Aleka returned, letting a smile touch her lips.

"When she wakes up, she may not remember any of this." Agnes told them drying her own eyes with the back of her hand. "It’s going to be hard not to burst out laughing and not explain to her what happened."

"We gotta work that" Berik snapped her fingers and bobbed her head in imitation of Red, " into one of our skits."

"Right. And call it something like a Warlord's Bad Dream." Lily snickered.

Aleka sighed and rolled her head to loosen her shoulders. It was funny, and she was glad the pranks worked, and thank you Demeter for the use of your caverns, Aleka thought tiredly. "You all may not remember it either. All of us have been breathing in the smoke from the hemp. Why don’t we all get some sleep? It’s been a long day."

Aleka laid her head back against the log and fell asleep. She was aware of the cover that was put over her but slept on.

"Hey, Erica. Did they drink all the wine?" Lily asked.

"Yea. But you wouldn’t want that stuff. One guy emptied his stomach contents after taking a few sips."

"Then why did the rest finish it?"

"It’s probably a guy thing." Brona quipped.

Before dawn Aleka was up. Her dream was still clear in her mind. She had been climbing the outside of a mountain whose peak was shrouded in clouds. The switch back trail was only on one side of the mountain. The other side was a sheer cliff face. She preferred to go up the sheer cliff side but she was leading a group of people who weren’t as experienced and instead she took them up the tiring switch back trail that seemed to go on forever. Whenever she looked up at their destination, the white glow of a temple seemed to show through the mist, but she wasn’t sure if it was really there.

She checked on Red and found her sleeping near Lily. Aleka pushed aside the small jealously and continued on her way out of the cavern. She wanted to check the outside parameter and the guards.

When Aleka returned everyone was moving slowly as if in deep in thought. Aleka frowned for a moment then smiled. Of course, no one could be unaffected after spending the night in the sacred caverns and with the added enhancement of the hemp, they probably had some very revealing dreams.

In the old days the Questor would drink the potion the priestess had mixed, form a question in her or his mind, and let the drug take its course. Some would remain another night or talk to those that were trained to help analyze the visions. She sighed. That meant they would be spending the day here. She couldn't just ask them to move on without them processing their dreams in peace. Especially since this was where they had all started their original journey.

Aleka found Lily talking quietly to Agnes who was shaking her head about something.

"Lily, Agnes." She greeted the two women. "We'll spend another day here."

"Aleka?" Agnes began hesitantly. "Does this place seem...familiar to you?"

"This is Pasiphae. It’s where our original journey began." She smiled.

"You knew!" Lily exploded.


Aleka looked toward Red who was sitting up but had her eyes closed. They opened briefly when Aleka looked at her. Aleka looked away hastily and nodded to the two women as she left the cavern.

Aleka saw recognition in those familiar malachite eyes that were glowing from the torch light. She didn’t want to talk to her right now. She needed some time by herself. She had some of her own dreams to process.

She held the torch she picked up as she left the main cavern out in front of her, not paying attention to the glyphs and images that appeared on the sides of the smoothed walls. They were as familiar to her as the lines on her palm. She sighed a little; annoyed at not remembering what part Gabrielle played in the past. She started to chuckle at the remembrance at the sight of her in bright red hair. Even the pale lighting from the torches couldn’t dull the look.

Aleka wasn't aware of where she was going she simply followed the gray she wolf. She was deep in thought realizing that she needed to put some sort of order to her confusing dreams. Since Gabrielle's arrival her dreams overlapped with present memories and scenes from Aleka's life. Maybe alone for a few candle marks she could fit more pieces of the puzzle together.

Aleka’s eyes opened wider as she caught sight of something glittering down the darkened tunnel. The gray wolf’s bushy tail was no longer waving before her like a silvery plume as she trotted along confidently. Aleka walked into an underground chamber that lit up into brilliant colors from her torch. The surrounding walls and ceiling, which hung with crystals, magnified her torchlight in a rainbow of light. Aleka took a deep breath as she realized where she was. The sacred pools of Gaia. The change of energy around her was immediately noticeable. She could feel a pulse beating gently against her body as if the air around her were one big heart. She put the torch in a bracket near the entrance and walked forward to another place she was familiar with, the Questor’s chair, or the Petitioner's seat. Two pillars, one dark and one light framed the carved marble chair. Both pillars were covered with symbols in the ancient language of the temple.

Without trepidation or hesitation, Aleka approached the chair and sat. Her arms rested on the arms of the chair as her eyes focused ahead of her. Before her in the center of the pool was a small island with a cluster of crystals that were wider than her body. Her eyes were drawn to the center of the cluster where the light from the reflection of her torch seemed to be most intense. Staring she began to see and feel that here was where the pulse of the mountain radiated from and filled the caverns and out to the outskirts of the village. She remembered a time when the energy went beyond the small village’s boundaries.

Closing her eyes she remembered when the quest was placed upon her shoulders. She was one of the youngest, yet it was to her that the leadership and completion of the covenant was given. It was a heavy mantle of responsibility and at first she only wanted to cry feeling undeserving and unskilled. She was only the shaman's assistant. It was at that moment the goddess herself had appeared, giving her the confidence she needed. Aleka’s eyes opened as the imagined warmth and love permeated the air around her as if it were real.

Aleka’s hands gripped the arms of the chair as her eyes fell upon the vision of Gaia once more standing before her surrounded in a soft white radiance. Her smile was devastatingly serene and yet compelling. Xena knew this was why so many of Gaia’s followers refused to give up their worship of her. The goddesses Xena knew did not even come close to the beauty Gaia possessed for her beauty radiated from within. Of course, she was the essence of the earth, both the darkness of death and the light of life.

"You have kept your promise, my child. For one whose inner fires have been influenced by Ares, you have laid them aside willingly for the sake of the others." Her voice was amused.

Aleka felt her face turn red. "I didn’t do it for the sake of the others." She didn’t want praise that she didn’t feel was hers. "I did it to --- for --- my own curiosity."

Gaia’s smile touched Xena's heart and she felt as if it would burst with happiness.

"I can see into your heart. Remember, it is what is in your heart that I weigh."

"Oh, no." The Gaia laughed warmly as if she knew what question was in Xena's mind. "I will not tell you about your past journey. This journey is about whom you are now, a summation of all that you've done from your life as Aleka up until now. So even if you knew what had gone wrong on the first journey, it would not work for now. You must redefine your quest."

Xena took a deep breath. "My quest or the groups?" Xena asked helplessly. She was getting a very disconnected feeling.

"What do you feel it is? And ask it from Aleka's point of view, not Xena's." She suggested. "Xena will put the others before herself to the point of endangering herself. You mustn’t do that for once the Named is gone, the quest is over for the others."

"Everything is so scattered." She muttered frustrated as the familiar presence of Aleka’s personality reasserted itself.

The figure of Gaia looked around the cavern. "You remembered my people that at one time had used these caverns. You also took time out from your journey, knowing you may be late to the ultimate destination to protect my sacred pools. I thank you for that." She turned back to face Aleka. "It is when you try to understand your quest in the light that you find confusion." She pointed out. "Within me is all. I am paradox, where beliefs collide. I am chaos, from which order is not a polarity. I am intuition, the veil to certainty. All that and more is within me and is also within you. As Xena you used your intuition to survive and to help others. As Aleka, you had not developed it sufficiently to protect you and your group. That is why your quest has changed. Your awareness as Aleka has expanded from the experience of your other lives."

The figure remained silent as Aleka's personality and Xena's tried merging together again.

"In your visions you saw the vortex of energy that acts as portals to other places." Gaia continued. "Some will take you to different temples that had once been dedicated to me. You must decide whether to use them or not. Read the signs on the pillars and -- remember!"

The goddess raised her hand and Xena felt a hot charge of energy flow through her burning the tips of her ears. The presence was gone and the intense feeling of love became lessened so that it didn’t hurt as much. Her two selves finally merged peacefully.

Aleka closed her eyes as she thought about the compelling command to remember. Vortex of energy. They were the passageways the ancients from Gaia's temples used to move around between her various temples. At one time the village temple stored surplus food and supplies not just for it's own village but would share it with other villages both far and near that had experienced hard times. In her minds eyes she could see whole caravans of supplies moving through the energy portal to take much needed supplies to a village hard hit by famine or raids from wandering marauders. She also was able to put together her confused memories of the original journey so it was in an orderly sequence instead of flashes of scenes in no particular order. Aleka realized that by Gaia reminding her of the portals to different temples, she was giving them a chance to make up the time they used to protect her sacred pools.

Aleka didn’t know how long she sat in the chair with her eyes closed but as her consciousness returned she felt Gabrielle's presence. She struggled with the knowledge that Gabrielle had been Iaia from their journey.

Iaia was a young painter who had been traveling with an entourage including a possessive and jealous husband, to visit the holy site on a pilgrimage. She was dying and traveled to the Questor’s chair for answers to her sickness. Not getting the answers she wanted to hear she decided to see the Pythia in the Mountain. Aleka had fallen in love with the sad young woman, but had made no overtures toward her as she was on a pilgrimage with the responsibilities of leadership and Iaia was married. However, Iaia had picked up on the attraction and had flirted with her, which inflamed her jealous husband’s rage. It was her husband who had sent his men to kill them all.

Chapter 9

Red woke up feeling disorientated and hearing everything around her. She didn't try to focus her eyes for she just got dizzy. Instead she listened as the women spoke about the success of their running Hadrius off. She listened to them describe her participation but she didn't feel like it was her. She smiled inwardly at their name for her, Red. She was sitting on her bedroll near the cart with her head titled slightly back feeling a slight breeze over her. Her senses shifted, as a memory of another person in the same position was feeling sick while waiting for her turn to sit on the petitioner's chair.

Iaia closed her eyes as she thought of her husband outside waiting impatiently and probably jealously watching all the people that went in and came out. She felt sorry for him but not enough to be doing this for him. He had purchased damaged goods, she thought cynically and he couldn't go back to her father and demand a return of funds. Her father had died a season after her sale. It must be killing him that he was losing his youngest wife, and before she could bring him the child he wanted. But he surely made enough money selling her paintings, so she had no guilt. She turned her head toward the breeze hearing her name called.

Four candle marks later she was out of the cavern hurrying to her litter. "Up! Up!"

"Iaia! What are you doing!" Cad grabbed her arm and forced her around to face him. "I will give the orders!"

"I will die if we don't get to the Pythia in the mountain within five days." She lied but he wouldn't know. She didn't like the message she heard while sitting in the petitioner's chair and was going to the Pythia in the mountain. She was believed to be the most powerful of the Pythia's of Gaia. It was rumored a python lived there. As she was leaving the cavern she had heard a group of pilgrims had left candle marks earlier. If they were fast enough they could catch up with them and they would lead her to the mountain. No one knew where it was actually located, but she knew the young girl who was chosen, as that group’s leader, knew.

"Well! Are you going to let your investment rot in front of your friends?" She hissed angrily. She made sure no one over heard for if she hurt his pride it would take days for him to get over it while he did nothing but sulk.

"You will not rot! They didn't say you would rot!" He whispered back fiercely. When he had purchased her from her father he had seen her with not just lustful eyes but greed as she had a talent that he could market for a good profit with the right guidance. What he hadn't bargained on was her strong personality. He was twenty years her senior and she had just come into her own womanhood. She was his sixth wife. Since he was a trader he had kept a wife in each of the main towns he traveled in to avoid petty jealousies and so he would not tire with them. All his wives were intelligent and ran his businesses in each town and knew not to challenge his authority when he resided with them. However, this young one did not show such wisdom, and he refused to admit it held an attraction to him. This one demanded to travel with his caravans. He hadn't been prepared to take this young bride on his journeys but she had insisted that if she was to paint as he ordered she needed worldly experiences.

"What do you think scaling skin is?" She hissed back.

"Get in your carrier." He angrily ordered. When Iaia had settled the carrier was lifted. "Where are we going?" Her husband asked from the other side of the curtain.

"The large group of young women that left a few candle marks, follow them. They know the way."

Cad had watched the group leave as he had watched all the business around the temple with suspicion. He didn’t worship any particular god or goddess for he was more involved with running his caravans and took interest in only what effected his business. He developed a cynicism for those that ran temples and promised cures for the sick, as his young wife whom he had paid good money for, believed in. However, he found himself involved in this quest his young bride was obsessed with.

He pushed his group of bodyguards and carriers hard to catch up with the group of young women. It wasn’t until late the next day that they caught up with Aleka and her group before dusk. Iaia joined the women around the campfire, thinking her husband would not feel threatened by women, however she was wrong.

Iaia sat close to Aleka on a log near the fire. There wasn’t much room for two, but Iaia was intent on forming a friendship with the young woman that wasn’t much older than herself. Sitting that close she didn’t miss the attraction Aleka felt for her. Iaia flirted with her and found to her surprise that she liked her. Before they were to retire for the night and without batting an eye, Iaia asked her where the temple in the mountain was and without hesitation Aleka had told her. It was so simple.

Cad observed the flirtation from his wife with hooded eyes, in the darkness just outside the light of the fire. Once Aleka give the directions to Iaia, he put a stop to Iaia's conversation with a sword that nearly had met its mark had not one of Aleka’s guards stopped him. Aleka felt abashed at what she felt was her fault and politely asked them to leave in the morning but Cad had angrily pulled his wife after him and left right away with his group.

Aleka had given Iaia the directions willingly, knowing that it was not up to her to decide who gains entrance and who did not.

The next morning Lia was entertaining them with a story when Cad's bodyguards hit them with a barrage of arrows then overran the camp of wounded to finish them off. Cad wanted Aleka taken alive and tortured to death in front of Iaia but one of the women had shot Aleka with an arrow to the heart to prevent her being tortured to death, though she was dying from the two arrows that already pierced her. The entire group died fighting rather than be captured.

Iaia did not know of this attack until she had reached the mountain entrance and attempted entrance. The old blind woman at the entrance had asked her a question regarding self-sacrifice. It was the old woman who told her about Cad's doing. Iaia was in shock for as pampered as she was she had never caused the death of another and found it difficult to not blame herself. At the entrance of the cave she made a vow to Gaia that she would dedicate her life to the goddess to atone for what she had caused. The old woman laughed and pointed out that her life was not her own, it was her husband's. Iaia had cut both her palms and pressed them against the stone that covered the entrance to the cavern in the mountain. She swore that somehow she would repay Gaia. She and her husband never reached home for a band of raiders killed their party.

Red blinked her eyes open and stared at the flickering ceiling of the cavern. Taking a deep breath she brought both hands to her face staring at the palms. Relieved she looked around and found the others either sitting alone or in small groups talking in low voices. Her sensitive hearing could hear bits of the conversations. Her dreams now made sense. Embarrassed at what her over sensitive ears were hearing, she rose and left the cavern. She picked up an unused torch lighting it from one burning in the wall socket, as she started down one of the tunnels. She could see one set of footprints going in the direction she was taking. The walk was familiar as she waved the torch back and forth to read the glyphs and signs that were marked on the walls. As Gabrielle she recognized many of them. She kept an eye on the single set of prints that seemed to know where they were going.

Her hearing picked up the trickle of an underground waterway. There were a lot of underground waterways in these caverns. Ahead of her she thought she saw the reflection of a light and put her torch behind her then risked putting it out. There was a bright light before her.

Red stepped into a cavern that was breathtakingly beautiful. Rainbows were shimmering everywhere. She could feel a vibration that sent shivers from her head to her toes. She spotted a figure sitting in the petitioner’s chair between the magnificent contrasting pillars. She remembered the chair. She could feel tears of anger working their way to her eyes. No! She wasn't going to get caught up in regrets. What had someone once told her? Just improve. But, that was a very bad mistake! She was furious with herself and ashamed, but it won’t happen again! Red watched the figure in the chair frightened that she would remember and hold her to blame. Red relit her torch from the one on the left side of the entrance and slid hers in the holder on the right side.

Turning back to the figure in the chair she stopped her movements. The captivating blue eyes found hers and she could feel her pulse quicken as her eyes were caught in the cool gaze. I didn’t feel this way toward her as Iaia. Who is she? Her mind struggled for a moment trying to conjure up another name but it was elusive and she gave up.

Her mind stopped struggling with the memories and accepted them and the dreams she had as factual and as part of herself. She had been a young painter named Iaia. She wasn’t a stranger to the concepts of reincarnation and without the memories of who she was in this life it was easy to move on to the next phase of accepting these memories as truthful. She had heard the conversations the other women had in the troupe, though she had not intended to listen, and put together an idea of what this group thought they were all about. It fascinated her and since she had no where else to go, nor could at this time, she didn’t mind accompanying them. Now she knew why she was with them. After this recent dream she felt compelled to look for more connections.

"How are you?" She asked with trepidation. The warm smile that followed left her shaking on the insides from relief. Embarrassed that Aleka would see her feelings in her eyes she looked down at her hands to collect herself. Did this woman still have feelings for her? Did she see her as Iaia or as Red, a women who lost her memory of who she is in this life?

"I understand I tried to turn Agnes's dance into a musical review." Red's joke was rewarded with a chuckle and a smile that continued to warm her insides. For a moment she remembered the tall dark haired warrior whose image had been haunting her since she joined this group, but it slipped back into the inner most recesses of her memory. It was like having a word sitting on the tip of her tongue and not being able to get it out.

Aleka relaxed her grip on the chair. "We survived the critics review and the audience was swept away in –awe." She joked lightly, belying her fluttering heart that spoke in volumes of the emotional reaction she was having on her.

Aleka could hear footsteps coming through the tunnel. She looked toward the tunnel to take her mind off the brilliant green eyes that were picking up the reflections from the crystals, threatening to melt her resolve to keep an emotional and physical distance.

They're remembering where the pool is. Good. Aleka thought.

As Aleka she remembered where the vortexes were that could not only cut days off of their travel but also, get them around two potential trouble spots. What made her hesitant was that if they traveled through the vortexes to their ultimate destination would that interfere with the purpose of this journey? She turned it over in her mind knowing that the experiences they encountered and how they handled them was the heart of this journey. It was both an individual and group quest. She couldn't make decisions for the others, only for herself and for the good of the group.

The site she wanted to use the vortex to was still used as a holy site. Most of them were, if not to Gaia as they were originally dedicated to, then to another god. She would have to go through first and find out what was on the other side before the others with horses and cart could be brought through.

Lily and the others came into the cavern stopping at the entrance and glancing around in wonder.

"It’s more beautiful then I remembered." Agnes whispered.

"It feels --- good." Eleanor murmured as she put her hand to her heart and turned around to see as much as she could.

Aleka had only glanced at the others and returned her gaze to Red who never let her eyes move from her.

Aleka didn’t move from her seat for fear her shaky knees would give her away. She didn’t know what Red was remembering, but she could feel her eyes on her. Why am I feeling this way? It suddenly dawned on Xena that it was Aleka that was -- turning to mush! Get a grip! I’m not the only one whose heart is beating faster than usual, Aleka accused laughing. Xena thought better of returning a comment.

The others settled themselves on the ground around the chair waiting for Aleka to say something. Great, she thought with consternation. It was funny that the feelings she was experiencing were the same Aleka had when the mantle of leadership was laid on her. Xena was use to leadership roles as she naturally assumed them whenever it was necessary. With both personalities awareness Aleka glanced around her calmly.

"I’m sure all of you recognize this place now. The Sacred Caverns of Pasiphae, where the Pools of Gaia are." She got nods from everyone including Red, which surprised her. Iaia had sat on the Seat the day our journey had started, Aleka reminded Xena. Of course. Her reluctant husband and his retainers had caught up with the group a day or two later.

"There is a portal here to other sacred sites. It is hard to explain how it works, so I won’t. You shall have to trust me and experience it. The site I have in mind will give us three days catch up and a way around Cyzicus. From what we’ve heard in the last village they are having problems with raiders and we don’t need to take that on."

Lily and Agnes nodded with the others. Red’s eyes darkened for a moment then she shook her head as if trying to rid herself from a discomforting thought. It wasn't lost on Aleka.

"Before we leave, we need to seal the caverns entrance from within." This is where her chakram would have come in handy but items that were such strong symbols to her shrouded self would have shattered the illusion that was sometimes fragile to maintain. She would rather have Gabrielle here than her familiar weapons, and Argo, she added ruefully. Too many things from Xena's world would keep her anchored to that personality.

The cavern's entrance had a large stone that could be moved to cover it’s passage way but it was wedged open, probably from the followers of Demeter. It was puzzling why they hadn’t sealed it before they deserted the village. While they were getting the place ready to seal Aleka kept her eyes looking for a reason why the Sacred Pools were left vulnerable. She could find none. The village had fallen into disrepair not from violence but from neglect. What had happened to everyone? People just don’t desert a village without a reason. She glanced at the gray she wolf who merely blinked her yellow eyes at her.

After two candlemarks they had the track cleared and rolled the huge circular stone across the entrance. The women had also removed all outside marks that may indicate it as a possible entrance into the mountain. If Hadrius decided to return there would be no trace on the outside of his previous visit or the entrance to the caverns.

"That should really get him worried." Lily smirked as they stood outside before covering the entrance, regarding their finished work. The barrels had been returned to the inside and the scattered foundation stones were moved around to create a false impression. The ivy and wild herbs growing everywhere were flexible and allowed the women to lay a false cover. The brush covered the marks the moved stones created.

"Yep. Nice work. Now let’s get moving to our next place. I want to get there before the sun is down so we can check the area out. We’re all going to be tired and..."

"Speak for yourself!" Lily laughed. "This place has me so wound up I don’t feel tired at all!"

Aleka put a hand on her shoulder. "When we leave here, we will feel a drain. I don’t know if the next site is still considered sacred enough to be protected."

Lily nodded and hid her smile. She was feeling so energized it was hard to not be laughing all the time or skipping around. Eee Gads, Lily thought to herself, I can’t stand to be around myself, she tried unsuccessfully to get the grin off her face.

The others were just as jumpy. Even the horses were fidgety.

Aleka avoided being alone with Red hoping it would be easier on both of them. She still didn’t know what Red was remembering but she had seen her talk to Eleanor while they were working.

The vortex she was going to use was in the main cavern. It made sense since that was where the supplies and livestock were stored, making it convenient. The women had the horses ready and were moving into the order of their advance through the portal. While they prepared Aleka was concentrating on the site. She remembered it as it had been. It was out in the open, surrounded by sacred groves near a busy road. However, that was long ago.

"All right, loosen up everyone." When the women settled she looked at them closely to see where their energy levels were. As Aleka she could see shimmers of light around everyone. "It will feel," She pulled out of her memory what she remembered the feeling was like to walk though a portal, "like a rush after a cold dip in a river. Your body will be tingling and you will feel dizzy for a moment. But it will be very brief."

She looked around again catching Red’s eyes then moving on. "I will go first and will return. I want to make sure it is safe on the other side."

Agnes held up her hand. "You cannot be the first Named." She firmly stated when she saw Aleka start to object.

Aleka took a deep breath. "Alright, Agnes. You and Lily will go. If it’s clear, toss into the portal a feather. If you need to get back quickly, think of this place."

Lily’s eyebrow rose. A feather?

"I don’t want something heavy flying back out at us." Aleka explained. "Okay. Let’s prepare." Agnes rested a hand on Aleka's arm and reached up to whisper in her ear. Something told her that she needed to update Aleka before she went though. Maybe it was her own fear of the unknown.

"She remembers herself as Iaia and is frightened you will hold her to blame. She still does not recall herself as Gabrielle. You will have to let her know that you do not blame her, for it rests heavy on her heart."

Aleka looked down into the worried green eyes of Agnes. Aleka nodded. So, that was what was in her eyes. Later, she whispered to herself.

Aleka led the women to where she could feel the difference in the air. The fine hairs on her arms stood up. She closed her eyes and began humming the sound that was the key to opening the door to the vortex. It became a word and she continued until she felt the sudden change of air that breezed over her. Aleka stepped back.

Lily absentmindedly rubbed her arms as if the raised hairs were tickling. "We will wait up to a quarter of a candle mark for your return. If you do not return, we will find you." Aleka was thinking that if they did run into trouble it would give them time enough to get out of it or send them a warning.

Lily and Agnes nodded. As Lily stepped though she closed her eyes. Agnes counted to herself then stepped forward, following the disappearing form of the tall Amazon. They were gone without a dramatic flash, just a sudden disappearance as if they had stepped across an invisible threshold.

Chapter 10

Lily could feel a cold chill run up and down her body as she stepped though something she didn’t see. Her eyes were closed which she realized too late was a mistake. A whistling sound of something moving quickly through the air brought her eyes open just as the club caught her behind her ear. Soundlessly she sank to the floor that was littered with leaves and dirt from the outside.

Agnes started through the portal with her eyes closed also but realized as the chills grabbed her that she needed to see where she was going so as not to bump into Lily. As she stepped into the room she found herself surrounded by a group of surprised men whom had weapons drawn. She nearly tripped over an unconscious Lily lying at her feet. In that split moment of knowing she would not return without Lily she sent a heart felt thought out to the Named. For a brief moment she defended herself from her attackers but a dart hit its mark and her limbs and consciousness shut down.

Both women’s hands were bound behind them and a bag placed over each of their heads. They were tossed into an empty cage on wheels that had recently been emptied of slaves. If both women were conscious they would have smelled the previous prisoners fear.

Lily’s first conscious thought was that she had drunk too much at another official function. She immediately started admonishing herself that she needed to pull herself together and find something in life that interested her instead of drinking herself into a stupor at the almost nightly parties. Thoughts of her mate whom had moved into Hades realm nearly three seasons ago brought her to another level of consciousness and this level smelled bad. The next level after that was the worse. She became aware that her hands were bound behind her back and her fingers were numb. She was nearly gagging over the stinking sack over her head that was made worse from the bouncing around in a cart that was not on a smooth road.

In a moment of panic she tried to sit up to try to get the suffocating sack off her head but another jolt over a rock sent her pitching to another area of the small cage, colliding with another moving object. The breath was knocked out of her and for the time it took for her to regain her breath she spent in agony. Lights blinked behind her eyes as her lungs struggled for air and her body was tossed about. Her consciousness didn’t last long.

Agnes had been shot with a dart so she was spared waking until their captures dumped her onto a rock hard floor. The stink of the unclean sack with the queasy feeling in her stomach started her on dry heaves. Her situation brought her quickly to the reality that she was someone’s prisoner.

Agnes was dragged to her feet by her bound arms and pushed against a wall roughly.

"Who are ya and whatdaya doing in the temple?" A deep voice rumbled.

Agnes didn’t answer and felt something smash into her arm. The impact sent her back to the floor. The questions continued as did the beatings with Agnes saying nothing.

She didn’t hear when they started on Lily as she sank into a blissful darkness.

Chapter 11

The others stood around expecting the feather right away. It didn’t come. A quarter of a candlemark went by and still no feather. Aleka could feel the tension of the others mount.

We are all going to make it together, she thought determinedly. Aleka knew three breaths after the women disappeared that something was wrong and was already planning what to do. She was not going to leave anyone behind. There was another place about a half a day way, and further away from their ultimate destination, which was why she had not picked it in the first place. But it was safely within a cavern. It would mean they would have to back tract a full day and with caution. Without the other two the journey would be null. What is happening near the village of Malis that would not allow the two to return?

The second vortex was in a cavern surrounded by a forest outside of the village Naticus. What she could remember as Xena was that it was a small village trying to establish itself. As Aleka she didn't remember anything of the area. She didn't know how far the village had extended itself since she had last been through the area, but she was sure that no one would think to live anywhere near the vortex. Energy sites always became temples or shrines where a local seer would become ensconced and start a productive business of selling dreams. Dreams. A sudden thought occurred to her. "Psyche's curse!" She muttered to herself.

She felt Red's approach as she contemplated this new bit of information that both personalities had knowledge of but which she had forgotten. It would be plan B since it was too late to be used for A.

"Got a plan B?" She asked quietly standing in front of her.

Aleka looked into the veiled eyes and thought about how they use to be sparkling with laughter or reflecting a mischievous side. Now they were unfamiliar.

Aleka smiled with a twinkle in her blue eyes that the torchlight reflected back. "As a matter of fact, yes."

The others over heard the conversation and gathered around hopefully.

"We need everyone to complete this journey." Aleka announced with quiet determination. "There is another site, a day away. It's just as risky, but this time we all go together. Some of you will have to take two horses through. When you step across, make sure you move aside for the next person." She looked around as she could feel the excitement rise. "Grace you will come after me. Erica you and Red. The rest of you come in the pairs you are already working at. Camila lead the carthorse. We will leave in half a candle mark. Take this time to do what is needed to do to prepare yourselves."

She didn't want Red to come in after her, which she knew she would want to. Familiarity could lead to a mistake.

Aleka leaned back into her chair and closed her eyes. "Now leave me for a while." She told them softly.

Continued in Road Show II

Chapter 1-2 Chapter 3-5 Chapter 6-7 Chapter 8-11


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