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Disclaimer: The characters that appear on the show Xena Warrior Princess (Xena, Gabrielle, Argo, Salmoneus, & others made mention of from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Hercules, Iolaus & Autolycus) are the copyright of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. The other characters and the original story idea, are my own and I reserve the rights to them. If you like some of my original characters and would like to use them in one of your stories, that would be great, but please do not do so without my permission. This story was written for the sheer joy of creating a story that everyone could enjoy and because I am a big fan of Xena Warrior Princess, but mostly it was written for my sister, Sam, who is an even bigger fan than I am.

Content: Could be classified as a Hurt/Comfort story. Moderate language. The story centers around a war/battle and does contain what some may consider extreme violence (PG-13), but it is not described in graphic detail. There is a level of subtext in this story, but I’ve tried to be as faithful to the series as possible, so there is no more subtext than what you would see on the show.

Spoiler Warning: Takes place between "The Debt I & II" and "Maternal Instincts" episodes of Xena Warrior Princess. You may want to watch the "The Deliverer," "Gabrielle’s Hope" and "The Debt I & II" episodes if you have not already seen them, since several aspects of these episodes are directly dealt with.

Acknowledgements: This story would never have been possible without the help of my sister, Sam, whose thankless job (at least, that’s what she thinks) it was to advise me in the ways of the Xenaverse. Since I am not as well scripted as she in all those simple little quirks of Xena and Gabrielle’s, she chose to stick her nose in and nit-pick my entire story. But, if truth be told, if Ididn’t have her to nit-pick my story, to urge me on and to be there when I call late at night just to ask: "Sam, does this sound right?" "Sam, do you think Xena would do this?", I wouldn’t have a story to begin with. So, I need to take a moment here just to say: "Thanks, Sam." I would also like to thank my Dad, who is an excellent writer in his own right, for his great editing work and ideas that really pulled my story together and made it work.

I would love to hear from all Xena fans out there and am willing to take a little objective criticism, but please take into consideration that I am quite fragile and could crack under pressure. Drop me a line at

Chapter 1 2 3 4 5 5(cont'd)


The Hunter

By Jennifer Lawson

Part I: Xena Warrior PrincessSoulmates

i’m going hunting
i’m the hunter
i’ll bring back the goods

-- "Hunter", Bjork

Chapter One

A Beautiful Day

"It’s such a beautiful day! Don’t you think so, Xena?" Gabrielle said, as the couple walked along through a wooded path. "The sun is bright and warm, a cool breeze is rustling in the trees, birds are singing. It's so refreshing." Gabrielle's happy smile was radiant as she walked with her staff in hand, strawberry-blond hair blowing about in the breeze, taking in the clean scent of the air. Xena's expression, as usual, lacked Gabrielle’s enthusiasm. Unlike Gabrielle, whose senses were tuned in to the beauty around her, Xena’s keen senses were always more in tune to the potential of danger around her: the: the snapping of a twig, rustling of the bushes or the stench of a swarthy stranger. . Her horse Argo, being gently led by the reins showed about as much interest as Xena who answered Gabrielle’s praises of the day with a bored grunt.

Gabrielle was accustomed to Xena’s boredom with the mediocre, but she wasn’t known as ‘the irritating blond’ for nothing. She intended to be heard. . So, as she continued to walk ahead, she said with exaggerated gestures, "Xena, the sun is shining! A cool breeze is blowing through the trees! The birds are singing." When she heard no reply, she turned to find Xena had stopped and appeared annoyed, maybe even a little angry. Why would it annoy her to hear the day being complimented on, for Gaia’s sake? ? "What is wrong with you this morning? Is it the time of your cycle or something?" " However, after a second look, Gabrielle realized that it was not her babbling that had captured Xena’s attention.

Xena’s eyes shifted from what had caught her attention to actually fixing on Gabrielle. Then, a frown creased Xena’s face and she asked, "What?" She seemed surprised and kind of annoyed by Gabrielle’s question.

This was not the first time Xena’s keen senses had picked up on something to which Gabrielle was totally unaware. On the other hand, if Xena would pay attention to her on occasion, maybe she could get a point across …. oOccasionally. "Okay, fine, I get the picture…" Gabrielle said indulgently.

"Gabrielle…" Xena said absently, looking past her again.

Paying no attention to the direction of Xena’s gaze, Gabrielle said, "No, no. If you don’t want to listen to me, don’t, that’s just fine, but listen to the sounds around you, Xena…"

"Gabrielle!" Xena interrupted, a little more irritated.

But, Gabrielle chattered on, "…Listen to the birds, Xena. Smell that wonderful smell in the air."

"Gabrielle," Xena almost shouted. "That wonderful smell is the smell of smoke."

"Huh?" Gabrielle said.

Xena walked up to Gabrielle, took her by the shoulders and spun her around, pointing over her shoulder at thick, black smoke rising above the treetops. . Gabrielle’s eyes widened in surprise as she turned to Xena and asked, "What do you think it is?", as the adrenaline rush to which she had become accustomed to from traveling with Xena quickly spread through her body.

"I think its smoke," Xena said sarcastically.

With an exasperated smirk, Gabrielle said, "Funny. Is this serious or not?"

"I don’t know. Let’s find out," Xena said, leading Argo in the direction of the smoke. Gabrielle had to trot to keep up.

"You know, it could just be travelers…with a big fire," she said, as she leveled her pace with Xena’s.

"Could be, but I don’t think so. Smell the smoke, Gabrielle. It doesn’t smell like a big bon-fire. It’s stronger, acrid."

Gabrielle began to have a sense of foreboding. At the same time, however, she felt the excitement these encounters always brought her. Xena looked tense, but naturally on full alert. . Her stride and the look in her eyes said in short, that she was ready for battle. . In response, Gabrielle no longer used her staff for walking. She held it in both hands, ready for the unexpected.

A rustling in the bushes behind them brought them to a halt. Xena whipped around and moved Argo behind her. She took her sword from the scabbard strapped to her back and carefully advanced holding an open hand behind her, informing Gabrielle to stay behind. There were times when Gabrielle knew not to protest. . Anything could come at them from within that brush. . Though she stood at full alert with her sword ready, Xena did not seem overly surprised to see a hand emerge from the bush. Still, as she moved toward it, her sword was ready. Then a man emerged from the bushes, dragging his torn and bleeding body onto the dirt road before them. Xena stopped and eyed him carefully.

The blood drained from Gabrielle’s face as she beheld the tattered man. She took a hasty step backwards and nearly dropped her staff. Xena lowered her sword as soon as it was evident that the man was not a threat and watched him drag himself out onto the open road, leaving behind a trail of blood. He managed to crawl to the middle of the road before collapsing. Xena replaced her sword to its sheath and quickly knelt beside him, lifting a near lifeless body into her arms. . Her face was a mask of compassion as she beheld the extent of his damaged body. She could scarcely believe he was still alive. Though one eye had been torn from his face, he looked at them in fear with the other.

Following behind Xena, Gabrielle knelt and took one of the man’s bloody hands between hers and said, "Don’t worry. We’re here to help." UnfortuantelyUnfortunately, her words didn’t change his pained, fearful expression.

Xena was inspecting him, looking to see how badly he was hurt. He had been stabbed several times and both his legs were broken. This was not a mere case of being cut down in battle. It was a savage assault, the intent being to purposely mutilate and humiliate this man. . Why would one human do something like this to another? Were they trying to force out of him some sort of information? Was the man a traitor? Did he break some law that warranted this kind of brutal punishment? "What happened to you?" Xena asked.

In a harsh and guttural voice the man managed to say, "Dead … all … dead."

"Who’s dead?" Xena asked.

"Everyone … men ... women ... cchildren … even our livestock."

"Who did this?"

"A man … black armor … an army … they came … no warning … everyone dead …" he sobbed, blood oozing from his mouth and nose.

"Where did this happen?" Gabrielle asked, her tender concern for this wretched soul showing in her troubled eyes. He painfully pointed back in the direction he had come, the direction of the smoke that still rose over the treetops.

Suddenly, clutching at Xena’s armor, he lifted himself partly up and looked directly at her with his one eye, his bloody face creasing with one last look of determination. "Stop him … you must stop him … or he’ll kill everyone … please, stop him." His grip on Xena loosened, but his eye never left hers. Slowly he slipped back down and died in Xena’s arms. His dead eye still pleaded with her to stop the man whose army had murdered everyone in his village.

Gabrielle reached over and closed his eye. Xena could only stare down at the man. She did not even know his name. His condition recalled haunting memories she did not even want to remember. How many men had she and her army killed? How much suffering had she caused to poor people like this? Of course, she and her army had been satisfied to kill and plunder. Maiming and mutilating had not been her style, nor had she allowed it. In this instance, it seemed someone much worse than she had ever been was doing the killing. Gabrielle sensed what Xena was feeling and understood. They had discussed it many times. Sensitive to Xena’s feelings she reached over and touched her arm, "Xena?" she said softly.

Looking up into Gabrielle’s concerned eyes, Xena felt fear and worry for her, as well as love and appreciation for so dear a friend. Despite the apparent danger, she was, as always, concerned for more than just her own safety. She touched her fingers to Gabrielle’s hand and said appreciatively, "I’m okay Gabrielle. Help me get him onto Argo. We have to find that village."

As they lifted the dead man’s mangled body onto Argo, shethe horse snorted and shifted beneath the weight. She found the whole idea distasteful, but even in her simple mind she understood the futility of neighing about it, so she just followed obediently as Xena conducted them through the brush. . Xena was hoping it was the quickest route to the dead man’s village.

It appeared that in his flight the man had been trying to remain undetected, because following the trail of the man’s blood kept them for the most part in heavy brush. Finally however, they broke through the brush and found themselves looking out onto a large clearing. To their disgusted horror the man’s dying words had been vindicated. . Bodies were everywhere littering the entire area. Burned bodies lay inside their smoldering huts. A woman lay dead near her hut, underneath a line of laundry she had obviously been hanging as she when she was killedwas cut down. Her small child lay dead next to her.

"By the gods," Gabrielle said, her voice only a whisper.

As they walked into the small village, Xena examined the hoof prints on the ground. T as the makeshift huts still burned around them, sending up the thick, black smoke that they had seen from the road. Up ahead, at the edge of the clearing, a group of children lay on the ground. One still held a large piece of parchment in his hand. They had been had been cut down mercilessly while playing a game. The fresh blood still flowing from their bodiess and the many bodiesothers strewn about told Xena that the perpetrator of this horrendous crime had not been gone very long. It must have happened earlier that morning.

Farther up ahead, towards the edge of the clearing, they found a set of unmistakable chariot tracks. There had been only one chariot, the rest of the army was either on foot or on horseback,horseback and from the number of hoof prints, the army had been large, perhaps numbering in the hundreds. Xena knelt down and examined the tracks the chariot had made. It had come from points unknown, west of the clearing, and had stopped here for a while, the occupant apparently watching the slaughter,. T then together with the army, they had continued on eastward.

If a killing rampage were the quest of this army, other villages in the area would surely be threatened. To the best of Xena’s knowledge there was a village about a half days ride from there to the North. . That could possibly be their next target. Xena knew the area to the north was heavily wooded and the army would have to go around, if in fact, that was their intention. They could not be very far off. Maybe she and Gabrielle could get there first. While Xena studied the tracks, Gabrielle was taking the clothing from the laundry on the dead woman’s line and covering up as many bodies as she could. Through tear stained eyes she asked in a fragile voice, "Xena, who would do something like this?"

Xena stood and faced her stricken friend. "I don’t know, Gabrielle," she said, seeing the pain on Gabrielle’s face for the death of people she did not even know. "But it was a large army," she went on. . "The leader was in the chariot, the rest on foot and horseback. They came. They killed. And they left."

"Why? What could these people have possibly done?"

"My guess is nothing. They were just an easy target, and anyone else they come across will get the same." Xena knew what she would have to do. She just wasn’t sure if she wanted Gabrielle along for the trip. These warriors were ruthless killers. They seemed to be killing anything in their path. She needed to get directly in their path, and find a way to divert them.

"Gabrielle," she said pointedly, drawing a knowing look from her friend. "This army will continue to attack more villages unless something is done to stop them. You know what I have to do."

Gabrielle stood up from where she knelt to cover a body and added forcefully, "What we have to do, Xena."


"No.," she said, walking over to where Xena stood. " I’m not going to let you do this alone. We stick together."

"This could get very dangerous. I know people like this, Gabrielle. They won’t care who they kill. I think you would be safer…"

"Xena, believe it or not, I know what you’re feeling. I know what this is bringing back for you. And you’re not sure if the goodness that’s in your heart now can keep you from reverting to what you were. But, it doesn’t matter. We’ve been here for each other through a lot of rough times lately. I’m not going to back out on you now. We’ll need each other to get through this."

With a growing smile Xena said, "You’re right. We stick together. But, we do this my way, okay? If things get too dangerous, I want you to get yourself out of harm’s way. I’ve brought you into too many dangerous situations already, and we’ve paid the price for them. Promise me, if anything happens, you’ll leave. You’ll go and get help. Promise me, Gabrielle."

"I promise," Gabrielle answered reluctantly, downshifting her eyes. Xena knew Gabrielle didn’t like the idea and that, in a pinch, she could not be trusted to keep her word. She would do what she thought was best at the moment. But, she had promised, so there was little Xena could do but accept her word for all it was worth. What a dear and wonderful friend she had proven to be. Taking Gabrielle in her arms she held her closely, then turned to survey the damage once more.

"There’s not much we can do here now, Gabrielle.," she said with a sigh. "We’ll have to get help and come back to care for the dead." As they turned to leave, Xena noticed something glinting in the sunlight near the chariot tracks. Gabrielle followed her curious stare and saw the glint as well.

"What is it?" Gabrielle asked, as Xena knelt and picked up a small metal stick from the ground. It took a careful examination, before it dawned on her what she was holding. Her thoughtful, wondering expression enhanced Gabrielle’s questioning eyes.

"It’s a lock-pick," Xena said with a frown. "Like Autolycus would use."

"Autolycus? Do you think he was here?"

"I hope not," she said, starining at the pick. After a moment she stood and placed the pick behind her breastplate and turned toward the woods to the north saying, "Let’s get out of here. There’s a village not far from here. It could be this army’s next target. We need to warn them."



That evening, just as the sun was going down, the trio emerged from the woods just outside the nnorthern village, looking up at its large wooden gate.down on its large wooden gate. Thankfully, they had beaten the army there, but Xena had a feeling that if tthey were, in fact, intending to attack this village they could not be far away, though she doubted they would attack at night. Fortunately, the town was well fortified. The large gate and the high walls of huge hewn stones, probably imported from some mountain range, provided a solid defense. They must have seen their share of battles and felt the need to better protect their town and their people. Xena was impressed but wondered how their city would fare against this new foe.

Gaining entrance through the gate, they were greeted by a lively crowd. Banners were up pronouncing the beginning of the Harvest Festival the next day. People were out in the streets preparing for the festival, visiting the taverns that were still open, and just having a good time and being happy. Gabrielle tried to feel their happiness, but she could not shake her feeling of foreboding.

"Oh, my backside is killing me," Gabrielle said, rubbing her butt as she dismounted. Gabrielle, of course, disliked riding the horse, but Xena had insisted they would get there faster if they rode. . Walking would have probably delayed them until mid-morning.

"Sorry, Argo was our only chance of getting here in time," Xena said, looking around, trying to find someone or someplace she could go to inform the town leaders of the danger they were in. That was when she noticed aA man wearing a big smile began walking towards them. "Gabrielle."

"What?" she asked.

"Stop rubbing your butt. Somebody’s coming."

Gabrielle quickly removed her hands from her backside and folded them neatly in front of her in a lady-like manner.

"Good evening," the man said as he, bowinged in a gesture of greeting. . "Welcome to Phestia. My name is Minion {pronounced Minnie-un, not minyun}. Have you come for the Harvest Festival?"

"No.," Xena told him. "My friend Gabrielle and I have come to seek an audience with your town leaders."

"The Magistrates?" Minion asked curiously.

"Yes. It’s very important."

"I’m sorry," Minion said, trying to maintain his smile, "but that won’t be possible tonight. The Magistrates are celebrating the eve of the festival with their families."

"Listen, Minion," Xena said impatiently. "Do me a favor? I want you to go to each of your Magistrates and tell them that Xena has something very important to tell them. And if they don’t listen to what I have to say, they just might not have a festival to celebrate tomorrow."

Minion’s expression suddenly changed from smiling to concern and then to fear. "Z-Z-Xena? The W-w-w-warrior P-p-princess?"

"That’s her," Gabrielle said proudly.

Minion stepped back and swallowed deeply. "Yes, ma’am. Right away, ma’am," he said, as he turned and hurried into the city.

"We’ll be waiting in the tavern," Xena called to him as he moved away.

The tavern, it turned out, was one of the first buildings in town. Leaving Argo tied to the hitching post, Xena turned toward the tavern door, but Gabrielle stepped in front of her, bowing as Minion had and opened the door for her. "After you, ma’am," she teased.

"Don’t you start," Xena warned, playfully pointing her finger.

Gabrielle chuckledlaughed and followed her inside where they encountered boisterous laughter and merriment.

"What can I get you?" the bartender asked as they seating themselves at the bar.

"Ale,." Xena answered. When the bartender turned his attention to Gabrielle she said, "Oh gods, I’m dying of thirst. I think I’ll have a cider, thank you."

As Gabrielle received her cider, Xena was savoring her first taste of the sparkling brew with obvious delight. There was a large group of people gathered around one corner of the tavern. They seemed to be bidding on something, haggling for prices.

One huge, burly man, in somewhat tattered clothes, called out, "Three dinars." " Another, more dignified looking gentleman, bid, "Five dinars."

The person obviously in charge answered saying, "I heard three, now five. Do I hear ten dinars?" After a moment of silence he said, "Eight dinars?"

Gabrielle turned to Xena with a smirk and asked, "Does that sound like who I think it sounds like?"

"If it sounds like Salmoneus, yes," Xena said.

"That’s great," Gabrielle said lamentably. Not only would she have Xena to be concerned about, but now with Salmoneus in town, her concerns would be centered on him as well. "What’s he doing here?"

"Oh, come on, people. This is quality stuff!" Salmoneus said.

Then as a man from another table, who had been watching the bidding, stood and called to the bidders, "If I were you, I wouldn’t buy anything from this man!"

Muffled voices could be heard sayingsaying, "Who’s that?" and "What’s he talking about?"

"He’s a liar and a cheat!" the man said angrily. . "He sold some of his ‘stuff’ to me two days ago and it wasn’t worth the money I paid for it."

One of the biggest and burliest of the men grabbed Salmoneus by the collar and pulled him close, demanding, "Is this true?"

Salmoneus, obviously repulsed by the man’s bad breath, answered defensively, "Of course, not! I don’t even know that … that … kind gentleman over there!"

"Liar!" the accuser shouted, his eyes blazing with anger. Shouts and accusations flew around the room. Xena looked at Gabrielle, shrugged her shoulders with amused tolerance, then got up and approached the group, pushing two men aside.

"What’s going on here?" she demanded.

"Xena!" Salmoneus exclaimed, his face brightening.

"What?" said the big man, quickly releasing Salmoneus’ collar.

"Oh, I’m sorry, Atreaus.," Salmoneus said confidently. "Have you met my very good friend, Xena? You know, the Warrior Princess?"

"Uh, no, no, I haven’t," Atreaus said, caution apparent in his voice. "It’s a p-pleasure to meet you."

Offering him her famous steely gaze with a raised eyebrow, she said, "Same here. Now, what’s going on, Salmoneus?"

"Nothing. I’m just trying to make an honest dinar here."

"Honest? Ha!" the accusing man said in disgust.

Xena offered him the same gaze then turned back to Salmoneus. . "What is this ‘stuff’ you’re trying to sell?" she asked, moving past him without waiting for an answer. There were several large sacks on the table. One of them had been sliced open showing a thick, white powder inside. She took a pinch of it and rubbed it between her two fingers.

"Salmoneus?" she asked suspiciously, with a tolerant expression.

"What! It’s flour!"

With a distrusting "yeah right" expression, Xena sniffed the powder, then tasted a bit on the tip of her tongue. it for quality.

"See. I told you," Salmoneus said defensively.

"It’s rotten," the accusing man shouted. "The stuff doesn’t even rise!"

Egged on by their numbers, the men began shouting and hollering again. Salmoneus cowered behind Xena as they threaten all sorts of things.

"All right! All right! Quiet down!" Xena said in a commanding tone. "I’m sure we can find a way to settle this."

Gabrielle, who had been standing next to Xena the whole time, stepped up and tasted the flour as well. Making a disgusted face she complained., "He’s right, Salmoneus! This flour is rotten!" This, of course, only incited the shouting once again.

"See what I told you? See!" the accuser said with determination.

"Thanks a lot, Gabrielle," Xena said, turning to herGabrielle.

"Sorry, Xena," she responded, with a smile of regret on her face.

At least three of the men lifted sacks above their heads, shouting, "Let’s get him!" Xena and Gabrielle managed to back away before the flour began to fly. Salmoneus was not so lucky. Shielding his face with his hands, he cried out, "NOOOOOO!"

A few seconds later, Xena and Gabrielle made their way outside the tavern, snickering to themselves, and waited for Salmoneus’ hasty retreat. From just inside the tavern, they could hear him saying, with a sarcasm typical of Salmoneus, "Oh no, really. I can show myself out. It was nice meeting all of you,. eEnjoyed the hospitality. Have a nice evening." In the next moment, Salmoneus’ ghostly figure exited the tavern. Gabrielle felt a mite responsible and, therefore, tried hard not to laugh, but failed miserably. Xena swatted her on the arm, but could barely keep a straight face herself.

"Xena," Salmoneus said, smiling insincerely through the flour. . "I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for not getting involved. A true businessman must always be ready to accept the anger of an unsatisfied customer."

Xena’s composure failed her when she saidand she chuckled, "Well, we’ve got you covered."

With that theyshe and Gabrielle both lost it and doubled over in laughter. It felt good to laugh after a day such as this.

"Go ahead. . Laugh, I deserve it.," heSalmoneus said, licking flour from his upper lip. His expression displayinged disgust similar to Gabrielle’s. "Ugh. It really does taste rotten!"

Just then, Minion returned with a wavering smile and outstretched arms. . "Miss Xena. Miss Gabrielle," he exclaimed as he approached.

Still laughing they both answered, "Yeah."

"The Magistrates will see you now. Right this way," he said, bowing again.

"Right this way, Miss Xena," Gabrielle teased, bowing down, as Minion had, with an outstretched arm...

Repeating Gabrielle’s gesture, Xena said, "Oh no, after you, Miss Gabrielle."

They laughed again and walked together after Minion. Salmoneus followed close behind dusting flour. After a few steps he asked, "So, we’re going see the Magistrates. What for?"

"We’ll explain it to you when we get back," Xena said, then stopped and said to Salmoneus over her shoulder. "Actually, you should leave Phestia while you still can."

"Why?" he asked, curiously.

The laughter had left Xena’s eyes. They were now deadly serious. "The next couple of days are going to be really bad."

Salmoneus watched them walk away, with curiosity and concern in his eyes.


Continues here

Chapter 1 2 3 4 5 5(cont'd)

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