A tall, large, muscular man walked slowly towards the cemetery. He headed towards one grave in particular. It was only a year old and the name that was on the grave was very familiar to him. He stopped in front of it and stood there for a while.
A few people walked by noticing the man and who he was. He was a good friend of many of them. They all knew not to disturb the man while he was in the cemetery. He was saying good bye to a good friend of his. He had been out of the country when his friend had died. The rumors said that he was in Britannia at the time that was why he was not able to help.
"Sorry I wasn't there when it really mattered Iolaus," the man said silently even though no one was around who would have heard him. "I promise that I'll keep an eye on Thedious, if he's anything like you and I were, I'll have my hands full again," he said with a sad smile on his face.
The man turned and began walking towards the small inn that was in the small village. It was owned by Thedious, Iolaus' son, and Iolaus' wife, Erin they kept the inn operating. He walked up to the door and walked in.
There were a few patrons inside the inn scattered around the room. There was the local group that always gathered to drink and gamble, usually not trouble makers. There were a couple of strangers at another table who looked to be a good source of trouble. They wore armor and had their weapons with them. He decided that it would be a good idea to keep an eye on them.
Then his eyes fell on a figure in the back of the room. It was a female form and she looked to be like a warrior. He walked over to the bar to not taking his eyes of the figure in the back.
"Hey, Herc," a blonde man said walking over to where the man stood.
"Thedious," Hercules said looking over to the man. He was taller than Iolaus was and had green eyes. He reached out and shook the man's hand before looking back at the woman in the back of the room.
"Ah, I see you've found my only source of trouble tonight," Thedious said noticing where Hercules' attention was.
"What do you mean," Hercules replied not really believing that such a small woman could cause any trouble even if she did look like a warrior. But as he looked he could almost notice something familiar in her.
"She's been drinking since she got here and beat up a couple of my costumers, granted they were out of line," Thedious said indicating the group of men that Hercules thought would have been the problem.
"She looks familiar somewhere," Hercules replied.
"Yeah well if half the stories that my dad said about you two were true then she could be anyone," Thedious replied with a bit of a laugh that caused Hercules to laugh with him.
"Speaking of you dad," Hercules said with a serious look on his face.
"It was his time Herc," Thedious said turning serious as well. His father had told him that as well on his deathbed. "He left something for you, hang on for a moment and I'll get it for you," he said and walked back to his living area.
Hercules turned back to the figure and decided that while Thedious was gone he would approach the woman. As he approached there were some features that began to stand out. She had reddish hair that came down to her shoulders. She wore a leather top that was a bit revealing and a short battle skirt. That was not what caught his attention as it was the chakrum on her hip and the design was very familiar.
The woman looked up when Hercules approached and he almost fell over at the eyes that looked up at him. They were a haunted green and full of sorrow. He knew who she was.
"Gabrielle," Hercules asked as the woman stared at him.
"Herc," she slurred as she glance up at him and he knew that she was drunk. It was something that he had never seen before. He glanced around to see if Xena was around.
"Where Xena," he asked not expecting the reaction that he was about to get.
Gabrielle had glanced up annoyed when her peace and quiet was disturbed by the man walking up to her. She glanced up and thought in her drunken, sorrow haze spied a figure she knew. It was Hercules standing right in front of her. It was obvious that he had not heard and the weight of everything that had happened that she had kept inside broke forth.
Hercules was not expecting Gabrielle to launch herself into his arms and begin crying, actually sobbing hard. Though muffled sobs he heard her say that Xena was dead. He was a bit stunned by the news. The last he had heard was they were headed to Japa. He wondered what had happened there.
He turned his attention back to Gabrielle and wrapped his arms around the sobbing woman and provided a place for her to cry. If Xena was dead then he would provide what he could to Gabrielle. Picking her up he walked back to where Thedious was.
"I take it you know her," Thedious said noting that the woman did not seem so intimidating in Hercules' arms.
"Yeah, and she was a friend of your father," Hercules said. "What room is she in," he asked and Thedious replied and he walked up to the room.
By the time he had gotten to Gabrielle's room she had stopped crying and had fallen asleep. He placed her down on the bed and noticed her for the first time. She was thinner than he realized, and her hair usually was vibrant but it was a dull reddish color now. He carefully took off her weapons and tucked her into bed.
"Hello Hercules, Thedious said that you know her," a soft voice said from behind him. He turned around to see Erin standing there. She looked just he remembered, except for a few more grey hairs she looked like she had when he and Iolaus had rescued her. He knew that Iolaus had found someone that he would settle down with right then and there.
"Erin," Hercules said walking over to give the woman a hug. She was a bit taller than Iolaus' had been and her hair had been blonde like his. She had beautiful green eyes like Gabrielle. He turned back to the small figure on the bed. "She's an old friend."
"She looks kinda young to be an old friend," Erin said with a knowing look. Hercules had been somehow blessed, or cursed, with immortality after his battle with Zeus. It was something he really did not talk about and Erin did not push it. This woman she could tell was a friend by the way Hercules had carried her up to her room. There was tenderness in his movements she had not seen since Hercules had carried Thedious to bed when he was young.
"Her name is Gabrielle," Hercules replied not seeing any recognition in Erin's eyes. "Xena's bard."
"That's Xena's friend," Erin said in a bit of a shock. She glanced at the woman and wondered about it. "She must be here with the rest to prevent the warlord Hagest from sacking our village."
"That would explain the number of armored men around, they are hired help," Hercules asked looking at Erin who nodded her head. He had just arrived back in Greece and headed here when he had heard about Iolous. He did not know about the warlord, but he would definitely help out.
"So where's her friend," Erin asked.
"Apparently she died in Japa," Hercules replied and Erin went quiet. She had heard from Iolous that the two women were close and there were even rumors that they were even lovers, but nothing that was ever proven. Looking at the woman she noticed that the rumors were true, they were close and the death of one would cause pain in the other for the rest of her life.
"They really were soul mates," Erin said to Hercules who nodded his head. He had known the truth from the last time he had seen them.
"She'll probably sleep off her drink, and I'll talk with her in the morning," Hercules said.
"I'll put some water with some ginger in it for her in the morning," Erin said walking out of the room.
Hercules walked back to his room with a lot of questions on his mind. He had a lot, both Xena and who was Hagest. If the warlord was attacking everyone in sight then surely the Roman Legions would be there to prevent him from sacking the villages, unless, he was attacking small villages. The Romans would not care about the smaller villages as long the warlord remained away from the main cities or if he was getting help from the Roman's.
He would think about it in the morning.
Gabrielle bolted awake from the nightmare she had of Xena's death and wished she had not. Her head pounded from the quick action she had taken. She had opened her eyes only to close them again quickly as the sunlight pierced right into her eyes.
She groaned as she covered her eyes. It felt like an entire herd of horses were having a non-stop chariot race in her head. She wished she had some water and knew that it would require her to open her eyes. She glanced carefully around and noticed that there was a pouch of water with a note on it. For a split second she thought that Xena had done it, and then realized the truth.
She grabbed the pouch of water and slowly drank it along with herbs she had for hangovers. It would take a few moments for it to begin working and she used it to think about what had happened last night. She remembered beating some men up, probably other mercenaries that she would have to work with today. Then things got fuzzy. She thought she remembered seeing Hercules and crying in his arms then now.
Feeling a bit better and at least able to move around without feeling like throwing up she glanced at the note. It was from Hercules telling her where he would be in the morning. She glanced down and realized that she was still dressed. She spotted her weapons and put them on then went in search of Hercules.
She paused a moment at the door as a feeling came over her; it was one that she wished she could both feel forever and never again. It always reminded her of Xena.
Xena watched from her plane of existence as Gabrielle walked out the door. She knew that the bard could feel her as she could feel her bard. Xena had watched as Gabrielle had begun a downward spiral of self destruction and felt tears come to her eyes as she realized that she was to blame.
Her bard was barely eating and was taking great chances during any fights she came across. Part of her wanted to shake the bard for what she was doing; another part of her realized that she would do the same thing.
Hercules watched as Gabrielle made her way over to where he was sitting. He noticed her posture, and realized that it was one of an already defeated warrior. Without Xena Gabrielle was a shell of her former self and her realized that she was looking to die. He wondered if anything he did or said would make a difference at all.
"How are you feeling this morning," Hercules asked as she sat down across from him.
"As good as expected," she replied and they both knew that she was not talking about her hangover.
"You look horrible Gabrielle," Hercules said honestly wondering what type of reaction he would get from the bard.
Gabrielle just shrugged and did not say anything. She knew that what he said was true, but she just did not care about it.
"If Xena," he began and was cut off right away.
"She's dead, gone," Gabrielle yelled back at him. "She left me, alone," she said whispering the last word so softly that he almost did not hear it.
Hercules knew that bringing up Xena would not work; there were some issues there that he would not tackle today. "I take it you're here because of Hagest," Hercules asked changing the topics.
"Yes, is that why you're here," she asked as a thought struck her. "And why are you still looking young?"
"I've been in Briton and I'm here because I was told that Iolous was killed last year. And I'm young looking because I'm immortal now," Hercules said. "In my battle with Zeus I somehow became immortal."
"Iolous is dead," Gabrielle said a bit stunned at that news as well. The blonde man had been a good friend to them. She would have thought about it some more but the memories brought back Xena and she was trying hard not to thing about her. It would remind her of the emptiness that she felt in her soul.
"Yes, he tried to fight in a battle, but age had caught up with him," Hercules said having been told what happened by Erin last night. Iolous' reflexes were not what they had been and when you lived by your reflexes it was dangerous when they were not there anymore.
"Are you going to help with Hagest," Gabrielle asked.
"I didn't know about it at first, but yes I am," Hercules replied seeing a flash in the green eyes, almost like it was disappointment.
"You're not going to leave are you Gabrielle," Hercules asked her. "I could use your help."
She thought about refusing but knew that she could not. "No, I'll help Herc," she replied and was rewarded with a grin.
"Good, you can watch my back," he said with a grin.
Gabrielle only nodded her head and then made her way to where the warriors were gathering. They would have to begin their preparations for their defense if the village was to survive.
"Sounds like she still has some issues Herc," Erin said having watched the scene from across the room she was sure that she was going to have to rescue Hercules from a small blonde.
"It seems like they were closer than even I thought," Hercules said thinking about it. He was sure that Gabrielle was going to attack him and if she had he was not sure what he would have done.
Hercules decided that he should get over to where the rest of the group was before someone said something to Gabrielle that would set off her temper. He was not sure that he wanted to try to contain the young woman.
Hercules was glad that Gabrielle had just sat down and no one was giving her a hard time. He noticed a coupe of the men who had been in the inn last night. They were sitting as far away as possible from Gabrielle and not looking at her at all.
Hercules figured that it was the brightest thing that they had probably done in a long time. He was about get everyone's attention when a large man stepped up into the center before he did. His skin was dark and he had black hair. He glanced at Gabrielle for a second almost in recognition before he began to talk.
"I would like your attention please," the man said and Hercules watched as a spark of recognition flared in Gabrielle's eyes. The man waited for the talking to die down before continuing. "My name is Cecropes."
Hercules was shocked for a second at the name. He had heard of the man, but it was only because of his legend and Hercules suddenly realized that the man was immortal just like he was.
"I wish to thank you all for coming to help out. There is more at stake than just this village and not many of you realize that," Cecropes said. "Hagest is running around destroying villages, killing everyone around and so far the Romans are slow to respond from Athens. I don't know what their plan is yet, but I'm working on it."
Hercules listened as realized that the man was right. Rome was slow, but usually not this slow in responding to threats to their realm.
Gabrielle stared in shock at the realization that Cecropes was here. He had not aged one bit and realized that his immortality had not been affected with the lift of the curse. Of course thinking about that time also made her think about the fact that Xena had leapt onto his ship knowing who it was just because she was on it. A sad smile came to her lips at the thought. She realized that she could still feel Xena's presence.
Xena had watched from as far away as possible and still listen to what was going on. She was a bit surprised to learn that Cecropes was there. The man looked good. He had kept himself in shape and he knew that he recognized Gabrielle. The description of what they were up against did not set well with Xena. There was obviously some sort of political situation in Rome that was going on. She decided that she would find out what it was. She could travel great distances quickly on this plane of existence.
Xena took off for Hagest first to see if the man knew anything at all then she would go from there. With one last look at Gabrielle she took off for Hagest's camp.
"Does anyone have any strategies in village defense, because to be honest I'm more of a sailor when it comes to strategy," Cecropes said looking around hoping that someone had some ideas.
"I think Gabrielle and I can," Hercules said walking up to Cecropes. "I'm Hercules," he said offering his hand to Cecropes.
"Good, I have most of the information as I was scouting their camp last night," Cecropes said. "We can use the inn to make our plans."
"Sounds good, Gabrielle, why don't you go with Cecropes and get his information while I get the men here organized and work begun on the defenses," Hercules said looking at Gabrielle.
Gabrielle walked away towards the inn waiting for Cecropes to catch up with her.
"Don't ask her about Xena," Hercules said to the man who looked at him a bit funny. "Xena died and she isn't taking it very well."
Cecropes nodded his head. He had heard all the rumors and stories about what they had done. Having known the woman and been in one of the stories he knew that they cared for each other deeply. He knew that only someone who cared for someone else more than a friend would knowingly jump on his cursed ship. At the time he did not know what he would do with a seasick girl, and a warrior woman. It turned out to be one of the best things of his life.
Cecropes headed inside the inn and found Gabrielle there holding Xena's chakrum in her hands. He could see the sadness in her eyes. It was something that he realized his echoed whenever he thought about his love. He knew the pain that she was in. She had been such a gentle soul full of life, but it seemed that without Xena she was empty.
"It's good to see you Gabrielle, I see that the rumor of your having been asleep for about twenty years was true," Cecropes said sitting down across from her.
"We didn't break your entire curse did we," Gabrielle said looking right at Cecropes.
"No, it seems like I'm still immortal, and parted from my love forever. I guess I've gotten used to it now," Cecropes replied.
"So what are we up against," Gabrielle said changing the subject before he could ask about Xena.
"There are about two hundred men in his army, the odds are not good, but with you, Hercules and myself we stand a good chance of defeating them. They are very confident in their victory that they are not going to attack until they feel rested. It might give us the chance we need," Cecropes said watching Gabrielle's face.
Gabrielle thought about what Cecropes had just said. She was not afraid of her own death, but if she could prevent others from dying then it would be worth it. She could place herself in the greatest point of danger.
"Well I've got them erecting some defenses around the perimeter of the village, now how many are we up against," Hercules asked.
"About two hundred," Gabrielle replied thinking of a plan.
"We only have about forty fighters, and about another twenty men who could fight, we will still be out numbered in this battle. He had no doubt that he could take on quite a few, along with Cecropes, but too many would die in the battle for it to be considered a victory.
"Cecropes said that they are not in a hurry to attack the village, we could use that time to attack him with a small group and maybe decrease his forces before they attacked," Gabrielle said already knowing that she would volunteer for it.
Hercules thought about that and he was not sure he liked that plan. He glanced at Cecropes before speaking. "That might just make them made and make them attack."
"Then we plant traps for them to run in to and lure him into attacking on our terms," Gabrielle said.
"That might work," Cecropes said.
"It's still risky, we will wait and see what type of defenses we can build," Hercules said making a decision. "Gabrielle, I will think about your idea seriously, but first I was to make sure that the village can withstand an attack."
Gabrielle nodded her head and allowed Hercules to take charge. She was glad for that, in the past couple of months she had been the one people had looked to for wisdom and leadership, something she had never liked, even with the Amazons she had relied on Xena in her decision making or other ideas.
Gabrielle excused herself and went out to help the people put up the defenses for the village leaving the two men in the inn.
"She looks lost and alone yet determined at the same time," Cecropes stated to Hercules.
"Yes, I don't think she means to survive this battle," Hercules said with a heavy heart.
"I think your right, and I feel like we can't do anything about it," Cecropes replied. It would be a sad day when Gabrielle died; a light would be extinguished in the world.
Xena stood waiting for Hagest to enter his command tent. She had been listening to the man ramble on and on with his troops about mindless rabble. She wondered how the man had even made it as commander of the army. It was poorly trained and undisciplined.
The man finally walked in with his second in command and another man. Xena's eyes narrowed at the sight of the man. He was a Roman that was for sure.
"Good work Hagest, my Lord will be pleased," the man said.
"Anything for a future emperor," Hagest said to the man.
"Xicius will be pleased to hear the report that I'm sending him. The current Emperor has had problems and some of the other senator's don't like him. This will make some of the military commanders come to our side then we can strike and take over," the man told Hagest.
"Then I will be governor of Greece," Hagest said with a smile.
"Yes, you will," the man said with a smile and Xena knew that he meant no such thing.
Xena went to see what the Athens's garrison was doing about the warlord. It was not hard to find the commander of the legions. He was walking around ranting to his second in command.
"The fools in Rome are allowing a madman to run amuck in the country while we sit here and do nothing. What are the fools thinking," the man said. His latest message sounded the same as the others. They were not to leave Athens as it was too valuable to lose because he was out chasing down a band of misfits.
"Sir, he could be trying to lure us away from Athens," the second in command said.
"No, it's a political war being waged in Rome, and it will cost us lives here," the commander said. "I have a feeling that our orders are being intercepted and changed Tildis."
"By who," Tildis said not liking this news. He was simple soldier and only wanted to do his job, without politics.
"I've heard from others in Rome that a power play is in effect between the Emperor and a senator," the commander said.
"So we wait until they finish their power play and in the meantime we are considered weak among the population," Tildis said shaking his head at the thought.
"Whoever said that you don't know anything about politics lied Tildis," the commander said. "Have the man of the second division ready for deployment, I'm sending you on a training march."
"Understand sir," Tildis said with a smile and left the room.
Xena had listened to everything and now it made sense to her. The senator was gathering support and if he could make it seem like the current emperor was weak by having roaming warlords across the countryside then he could gather support from the military. Once he had that he could overthrow the current emperor with little problems, the population of Rome often did not care about who was emperor as long as their lifestyles stayed the same.
Gabrielle and Hercules were waiting in the inn for Cecropes to return from his scouting mission. They had most of the defenses up and ready, but they would need the morning to finish. Most of the men were tired and with Hagest not in any hurry to attack they made sure that the men got a good night sleep.
Cecropes came walking into the room. He wondered how the news would be taken as he sat down across form Hercules.
"They plan to attack in the morning. It seems that they have pressure form an outside source to step up their plans," Cecropes said.
"The defenses are not ready, and if we wake the men then they'll be tired by the time the battle starts," Hercules said not liking any of the choices he had. "Wake the men early in the morning to work on the defenses and post guards for warning. Let's get a bit of shuteye, even we need our sleep."
Gabrielle walked up to her room. She had heard the situation and knew what would happen. They needed time to complete the defenses. Time it seemed like they were running out of quickly. She sat there for a few more minutes before putting the chakrum back on her hip; grabbing her sais and staff she knew what she would do. She had her own plan.
Hercules woke up the next morning before the sun came up. He woke up several others and began telling them what was going on. He saw that Cecropes was already working on the fortifications of the village.
Several of the men groaned at the early wake up time but after Hercules quick explanation they went right to work. Hercules looked around and realized that he did not see Gabrielle.
"Cecropes, have you seen Gabrielle," he asked the man as he strained to lift a log as Hercules came over to help.
"I thought she was with you," Cecropes replied as together they placed the log on the top of the embankment.
Hercules then realized that Gabrielle had been missing the entire time. He quickly asked around to see if anyone had seen her.
"Yeah, I saw her last night. She was walking towards the forest that way," one of the men said.
Hercules shook his head; she had headed towards Hagest camp. She was going to slow down the warlord's army herself to allow them to build up the defenses.
"I think she was leaving, but going the wrong way," the man said voicing his own conclusions.
"She didn't leave, at least not the way you think. She went to slow Hagest's forces down," Hercules said.
Xena had appeared in the center of the village and was looking around for Gabrielle when she had overheard Hercules' conversation with the man. With a bit of a curse on her lips Xena closed her eyes and concentrated on her bard. Feeling the bard she took off in the direction she had to go.
Hagest had arranged his men and were beginning to march on the village when a young woman rushed into the camp. There was a high pitched noise as several torches from the night were cut and landed on tents and other supplies causing several fires.
The men panicked and raced to put the fires out before their own supplies were burned to the ground. Others took off towards where the woman had run to.
"Kill her," Hagest yelled as he raced to put out the small grass fire that threatened his command tent. The woman would pay for this he pledged.
Gabrielle ran through the forest away from the village towards where her traps had been set. She had worked all night to set them up, now all she had to do was avoid them. She ran past one and using her sai cut a rope.
Several men behind her screamed as a log swung down on a rope from two trees knocking several out. She could hear the curses from the men as they continued chasing her.
A few more traps were spring and triggered another one with her other sai. She approached her last trap and used the chakrum to trigger it. Finally she reached a clearing that she had her staff at. Running to a stop she picked up her staff and made ready for her last stand.
Several armed men came into the clearing and noticed that their quarry had stopped. They were weary because of the traps she had sprung earlier on them and they wondered if this was also a trap.
Two men came up on either side of her hoping to out flank her. They were not counting on the woman's quickness of her staff as it flew around her and quickly knocked the two men out. The men then began to cautiously approach her and the battle was on. The men quickly realized that aside from her quickness the woman also had a lot of skill, but they had numbers on their side.
Hagest arrived at the scene and noticed several of his men scattered around the clearing knocked out. He had also seen the evidence of several others knocked out of commission by traps that this woman had obviously planned. His anger began to rise in. He grabbed a bow from one of his men and pulled an arrow. He carefully aimed and released it.
Gabrielle had been fighting for a while now. There were several men on the ground, and the sun was now rising higher in the sky. She had been cut a few times, one on her leg, another on her arm but she just did not care. She was facing off against a large man and his had some strength. She was already weary from fighting and he was using a staff against her as well. Her defenses were beginning to crumble against him and she still had to contend with others.
She twirled her staff against a flurry of attacks by the big man when it hit her. The arrow hit her on the right side of the chest above her breast. Time seemed to slow down and surprisingly she felt little pain unlike the last time she had been hit with an arrow.
The man attacking her stopped as they watched to see what she would do. Gabrielle gritted her teeth and brought her staff up again and tried to attack the man in front of her.
The man was a bit in shock. The woman in front of him had taken an arrow and was still fighting. Her attacks were nothing compared to what they had been. He was strong but she had withstood them all. She was someone she would not have wanted to run across when she was fresh. He sent a quick strike knocking the staff out of her hands and another one across her temple.
Gabrielle felt the staff go out of her hand then a hit to her head sent her down. She fought through the fog to remain awake as long as possible, she had to give Hercules and Cecropes and the rest of them as much time as she could.
Hagest watched as the woman fell then ordered her killed. The large man pulled out his sword and with a salute to the woman brought it down to cut off her head.
Xena arrived in time to see Gabrielle knocked down by the large man. She heard the order for her to be killed and saw the man start to bring down his sword.
Everyone in the clearing suddenly went quiet. No one had seen the woman run into the clearing, but she had stopped the stroke.
Gabrielle had watched the sword come down and knew that she would finally be reunited with Xena. Of course Xena would probably be upset with her, but she would listen to it all as long as she could hear her. The blade stopped short of its target and she almost sighed in frustration. Glancing at who stopped the stroke she expected to see Hercules, or Cecropes or even Hagest, but not the figure she saw. Before she passed out she saw blue eyes surrounded by long black hair.
Xena stood there holding another sword blocking the slice that would have beheaded her beloved bard. Anger poured through her at the thought of what they were going to do. The dark energy that she had always been able to produce rolled off her in waves.
Without waiting for an introduction she attacked. She slicked through the man's defenses like she was not there. Ice blue eyes scanned the battlefield. She did not think about what had just happened, she had to get Gabrielle to safety, and that meant the village.
Hagest seeing that another woman had appeared fired another arrow at her. To his and everyone's amazement while fighting another man she causally reached behind her and caught the arrow. Hagest's jaw dropped at the sight.
Using the shock Xena reached down and picked up Gabrielle trying to be careful of her wounds and ran out of the clearing. The shocked soldiers quickly regained their senses.
"Wait, she headed to the village, head back to camp we attack the village in force," Hagest said.
Hercules paced around the perimeter of the defenses. He wanted to know what was going on. The sun had been up for over a candle mark now and there was no sign of either Hagest's army or Gabrielle.
There was a cry that someone was coming and Hercules raced to see who it was. The sight that greeted him was something he was expecting to see. There a tall dark haired warrior was running towards them. Over one of her shoulders was Gabrielle. It was not Gabrielle that shocked him; it was the fact that it was Xena coming.
Xena ran through the defenses quickly scanning the layout for weakness where she could go after she took Gabrielle to the healer.
"Where's the healer's hut," Xena said before Hercules could say anything. The large man mutely pointed in the general direction. "There about a quarter of a candle mark behind me," Xena said then left to the healer hut carrying her precious cargo. She and Gabrielle would have to talk about what just happened after the upcoming fight.
Xena walked into the hut where there were several cots in the room. She walked over and place Gabrielle onto one of the cots. She had been careful with the arrow wound.
The healer walked over to where Xena was and bent down to offer his help. He had not heard any sounds of a battle and wondered if something had happened. "What happened," he asked looking over the wounds that the young woman had suffered. It looked like she had been in battle for a while.
He watched in silence as the tall dark haired warrior woman pushed the arrow through the still unconscious woman. The small woman flinched as the arrow went through and he realized that she needed to cauterize the wound. He grabbed the small piece of metal that he used for such occasions and placed it in a fire to heat up.
Xena felt just like last time she had done this with Gabrielle. She sniffed the arrow in reflex and was relieved that there was no smell and it was a normal arrow. Her bard was still breathing and she figured that the blow to the head and blood loss was the most probable cause for Gabrielle's unconsciousness.
The healer handed Xena the heated metal and Xena took the bard's top off a bit so she could work. Pressing the metal made the smell of flesh burn in her nostrils, a smell she never liked even in her warlord days. With the help of the healer she was able to do Gabrielle's back wound and hold on when the bard flinched.
"Ahhh," Xena heard Gabrielle yell in her ear as she regained consciousness at the pain.
Xena looked into pain filled eyes and the clinched jaw that indicated that she was in pain. She glanced at the healer and asked if he had a certain herb. The man nodded and headed to his supply and returned with it mixed in some water.
Xena smiled a bit at the man as he handed her the herb, some water and some honey. He smiled at the warrior woman. Keeping her attention focused on Gabrielle and helping her bard through her pain she used her fingertips to measure out the herb and put it in a cup along with a drop of honey. After mixing it she handed it to Gabrielle and told her to drink it.
Gabrielle thought she must be dead. Xena was here and holding her, but the pain gave her mixed signals. She must be hallucinating, but the voice was defiantly Xena's. There was something going on and she was determined to find out what happened.
"Xena," Gabrielle asked afraid of the reply and that it was not her, but a look alike like Meg had been.
"Yes Gabrielle, it's me, I don't know how, but well talk about it after this battle," Xena said realizing that she needed to go see Hercules before the battle. If they had any archers they would be the best defense against Hagest.
Cecropes walked over to where Hercules was standing wondering why the man had just been standing there for the past little while. Cecropes had heard that someone had brought Gabrielle back injured and that word was Hagest would be attacking soon.
"Hello Cecropes," a voice said from behind him. It was a female voice that he knew, one that he thought they had said was dead. He turned around and found himself face to face with Xena.
"Xena, I thought they said you were dead," he said wondering if they had been mistaken, but then Gabrielle had not mentioned anything and he thought with Xena here now that there had been a rift between the two women.
""I don't know anymore," Xena replied turning to talk with Hercules. "Do we have any archers," she asked getting a nod that they did. "Good, set them up there and there," Xena said pointing to a couple of places. "Cecropes, you and Herc go get everyone to the west wall; Hagest is stupid and has ordered a full attack. They'll use full force to barge through. Hagest doesn't know how to use strategy."
"And if they do attack from a different direction," Hercules asked.
"Then the three of us will stop them," Xena said calmly as she strolled off leaving Cecropes and Hercules looking at each other.
"I see she hasn't changed one bit, always taking over," Cecropes said.
"Yep, but in a way I'm glad. She has a way of looking at things and reading others in a way no one else can," Hercules said then slapped Cecropes on the shoulder and they made their way to move the men.
The soldiers had just settled down when the call came out that the attackers were on their way. Xena unsheathed her sword and readied her chakrum. She had gone by Gabrielle's room and picked up her sword and had retrieved her chakrum on the run back to the village.
The archers in the high parts of the village began to open fire. Their positions allowed them clear views of the battle and the opened fire as soon as they were able to.
Xena felt the battle lust rise in her as she spied the first of the attacker. A feral smile came to her face as she swirled her sword a few times to get herself loose. She glanced over to Hercules and gave him a grin. He had no sword but a staff and Xena knew that he was more dangerous with the staff then most people were with a sword.
"Aiaiaiai," Xena yelled as they rushed into battle. Xena's blade twirled in a deadly dance around her as the attackers fell to her blade. Several lost their nerve and began to run when faced with the grinning laughing warrior woman that was opposing them.
Hagest watched as the small village army defeated his army. He began to make his own retreat away from the battle. He was defeated and he had to remake his army if he was to become governor of Greece.
Xena scanned the battlefield as she soon as she noticed the attackers retreating. They had suffered heavy loses, many by her own hands. She then saw who she was looking for as the man tried to calmly walk away in another direction than his army was going.
Lifting her chakrum she let it fly hitting Hagest in the head and dropping him to the ground. She walked over as Hercules and Cecropes wondered what she was up to.
"Hello Hagest, I have some friends that I know you're dying to meet," Xena said and Hercules and Cecropes wondered if she was going to kill the man. Instead she roughly picked up the man, then with a vicious right hand knocked the man out. "Put him in a dungeon with guards, a group of Roman guards lead by Tildin will be here in a couple of days. Give him to them, they'll understand."
"Ah, Xena, what's going on," Hercules asked.
"It seems like this was all a set up from some senator in Rome to overthrow the current Emperor," Xena said with a bit of disgust. The Roman's played games and it cost the live of hundreds just so they could find a winner.
"That's why we weren't getting any support from the Roman Legions in Athens," Thedious said as he walked up to group.
"I'm glad to see you made it Thedious," Hercules said turning to Xena. "Xena this is Thedious, Iolous' son."
"I know, Iolous says he's proud of you," Xena said watching as his eyebrow went up. "He also said that it wasn't you fault Herc, it was just his time that's all," Xena said putting a hand on Hercules' back.
"That's what Erin said as well," Hercules said.
"I want to apologize to you for Gabrielle's behavior," Xena said and Hercules looked a bit perplexed at the statement. "I allowed the greater good to once again hurt the person who I love the most the greatest pain."
"What happened," Hercules asked curious as to what had happened.
"I was killed in Japa, and I had a chance to come back," Xena said as they made their way to the healer's hut. "All Gabrielle had to do was spread my ashes into the sacred pool and I would have been revived, but at the cost of thousand of souls. It was something that I could not take."
"If you died, then why are you here now," Cecropes asked curious about the reason why she was back.
"I don't know, but that's something I want to talk with Gabrielle about first. I think she deserves to be in on the conversation," Xena said reaching the healers hut. She walked in to see Gabrielle still asleep with a bandage around her chest and appeared to be comfortable.
"Anything I can do to help," Xena asked the old healer. He motioned to a group of soldiers that were lying on the cot. Xena noticed that a few needed to be stitched up and went to work with some needle and thread.
Hercules went with Cecropes to help rebuild whatever had been destroyed in the attack. They had been fortunate that not much had been destroyed. There were a few building that had some damage, but most of the damage was human lives. They had lost ten men; two were local farmers along with dozens injured.
Hercules was not afraid to admit that with the addition of Xena in their forces that it prevented many more deaths. He did not doubt Gabrielle's skill, but Xena did something that both he and
Gabrielle tried not to, and that was kill.
"I wonder if we'll get the entire story," Cecropes said as they repaired a bit of a barn that had been near the focus of the battle. There was a hole in the wall that he and Hercules were repairing.
"I don't know Cecropes," Hercules replied. He liked the man, his heart was in the right place and not at all like the stories he had heard. "I guess only time will tell."
"Well, I've got forever," Cecropes said and Hercules thought he heard something in the tone of the other man's voice, but did not know what.
Xena worked on several of the injured men while staying close to Gabrielle. Xena had come back and was determined not to lose her bard.
"I can finish up," the old healer said walking up to where Xena was. He had been watching the warrior ever since she had brought the young woman into the room. He could see the concern in her eyes and knew where the woman wanted to be. "Go sit with her," he said with slight nudge of Xena towards Gabrielle.
Xena looked around and realized that the man was right; they were on the last patient who just needed a couple of stitches. She had been using the work to try and figure out what had happened to her, who had she come back.
She walked over to where Gabrielle was sleeping and glanced down at the face she could never get enough of. Even with all the things that had happened to them the bard looked innocent to her. Her hair had gown back out and it reminded her even more of the girl who had followed her.
Xena replayed the events that had happened in the clearing when she had come back. She had gotten there in time to see the large man knock Gabrielle down. She could tell that Gabrielle was struggling to stay awake after the blow.
Xena remembered hearing Hagest ordering his men to kill Gabrielle. She saw the man raise the sword and she knew that at the angle it would behead Gabrielle. Something inside her had made her move to try and intercept the blade.
She remembered running into the clearing and wishing she had a sword and it just suddenly appeared in her hand. It was her own sword and without much thought she had tried to intercept the strike.
She did not know who was more surprised, her or the man when she blocked the blade. Xena realized that she could be seen and made short work of the man and got her bard out of there.
Hercules and Cecropes came walking into the hut to see Xena and see how Gabrielle was doing. Hercules noticed that Xena had not noticed their approach and that all her attention was on Gabrielle whose hair she was softly stroking.
"Hey Herc," Xena said as they got to the bed. He was a bit surprised that she had seen them approach. He was sure she had been too preoccupied to notice.
"How is she," he asked quietly.
"The herbs that I used should wear off in the morning, I'll know more then, but it looks like she should recover fully," Xena replied hoping that what she said was true.
"What happened to her," he asked.
"She went out last night and set some traps, and used herself as a stalling tactic to allow you the time to finish the defenses," Xena said as she realized that one part of her was very proud of her bard, the other wanted to shake the woman for what she did.
"It worked, I should have listened to her a bit more," Hercules said realizing that Gabrielle's plan was actually really good.
"She does have some good plans," Xena agreed.
"She was not planning to come back," Cecropes said bluntly and although Xena tried to deny the truth she knew that it he was right.
"No she didn't. She was hurting so badly that she wanted to end it her way," Xena said.
"Dinner is being served, you're probably hungry and you need to eat for Gabrielle," Hercules said using Gabrielle as a way to get the warrior to eat.
Xena warred with herself for a few moments as she knew that Hercules was right. She did not want to leave Gabrielle, but also knew that she would probably be asleep until the morning.
"Lead on," Xena said.
Xena walked back into the hut after eating a quick dinner. She had not realized how hungry she was or how late it had become. The sun had set and she had eaten everything on her plate along with seconds.
Xena now realized that she was tired from the day's activities and glanced at the cot that Gabrielle was sleeping on. It was not very big, but she was not about to deny herself the pleasure of sleeping with her bard.
Crawling carefully onto the bed she slowly positioned the bard so she would hurt her. With the comfort of her bard she fell asleep.
The healer walked into the hut in the morning and noticed the two figures on the bed. The dark haired woman was on her back with the younger woman curled up almost on top of the woman.
He quietly walked around checking on his patients that were still in the hut. He had no doubt about the condition of the young woman. She would live, and probably make a full recovery.
Xena heard the healer enter the hut but made no attempt to get up at all. She was very comfortable where she was right now and had no reason to get up.
Xena placed one of her hands on Gabrielle's forehead to check on fever and relieved to find none.
"No fever," the healer asked seeing the movement and knowing that the warrior was awake.
"No," Xena replied.
"That's good, my name is Detrime," the healer said.
"Xena," Xena replied watching as the man's eyes lit up.
"Xena, as in warrior princess," the man said
"Yes," Xena replied wondering why the man was getting excited about.
"You and your friend Gabrielle saved my brother's life against the Horde. He could not stop talking about you when he returned home to Athens," Detrime said.
Xena let out a sigh of relief. She was afraid that he would be someone who wanted revenge against her for what she had done. She was still embarrassed when someone thanked her.
"Mmmm," Xena heard coming form the sleeping form. She realized that Gabrielle was about to wake up.
Gabrielle slowly began to regain consciousness although she did not want to. She had been listening to Xena's heartbeat in her ear and she did not want to lose that. She figured that she had not died, and was probably captured by Hagest.
The soft stroking of her hair was something she could not ignore anymore. Green eyes slowly opened not vary anxious to greet the day.
Her first sight was of a sleep shirt, and not her own. Then she realized that the heartbeat she had been listening to had not stopped. Risking a glance up she noticed blue eyes and her breathing stopped.
"I'm not dreaming am I," Gabrielle whispered wishing that she was not.
"No my bard," Xena replied moving her arms around Gabrielle filling her with a layer of protectiveness.
For Gabrielle the pain in her right chest faded away into nothing as she realized that Xena was here with her right now. Unable to stop the tears that started to fall she allowed them knowing that Xena would keep her safe.
Xena held onto Gabrielle and would allow the bard all the time she needed to recover.
"How do you feel," Xena asked after Gabrielle had stopped crying.
"I think I ache all over," she replied as she listened to her body. "My chest hurts where the arrow hit my, but now as bad as last time."
"You'll have to take it easy and regain your strength," Xena said running a hand down Gabrielle's side feeling the ribs as she did. "You've lost weight and have not been taking care of yourself."
"I had no reason to," Gabrielle replied honestly as her voice was still a bit horse from crying.
"Why don't I go get us something to eat," Xena said attempting to get up out of the bed. She would have been successful if Gabrielle had let her go. The bard was still hanging on to Xena and not letting go. Xena thought for a second then realized that her bard was afraid that if she left that it would be a dream.
Xena recalled the same thing had happened after she had come back form the dead the first time. Gabrielle had not let her out of her sight for the next couple of moons. Things were just back to normal when Britannia happened. This time Xena was determined that her bard came first from now on. They had sacrificed too much to the greater good.
"How about I take you back to your room at the inn," Xena said. "We can have something sent up."
Gabrielle nodded her head and felt herself picked up and cradled as Xena walked over to the inn. Hercules looked up as he realized that Xena had just walked into the room. She was holding Gabrielle as she walked into the inn.
Hercules had been thinking about Xena the entire night and could not get her out of his mind. There was something there that he just did not understand, something deeper than everything else.
"Hello Xena, Gabrielle," Hercules said as the two approached him.
"Hello Herc, do you think that they could send some breakfast to Gabrielle's room for two," Xena asked her friend who nodded his head.
"Ah, Xena do you know where her room is," Hercules asked for a second forgetting that Gabrielle was awake.
"I know where it is, I've been keeping an eye on her ever since Japa," Xena replied knowing that a serous discussion was coming up between her and her bard.
After making sure that Gabrielle was comfortable on the bed Xena went over to the table to set the breakfast that had been sent up. She placed some fruit on a plate for Gabrielle and handed it to her along with some milk.
"I knew that you had been watching me," Gabrielle said. "Why did you stop appearing after the boat ride back?"
"I could feel your pain Gabrielle, and I couldn't take it," Xena replied casting her eyes down. "Knowing that you could see me and no one else, I couldn't even help you out, and that was hard on me as well."
"But you stayed around, why," Gabrielle asked.
"I couldn't go on without you, and you would have done the same thing," Xena said.
"I know," Gabrielle said knowing that she would have waited for Xena as well.
"Will you being back affect all those souls in Japa," Gabrielle asked.
"No, Iolous said they had all made it there, he was looking for me in the afterworld," Xena said.
Gabrielle thought about that for a few moments before replying. "That's right he passed away last year," she said remembering that Hercules had mentioned it to her.
"When he discovered that I was dead he told me what happened and that he would wait for us on the other side," Xena said.
"Xena how did you come back," Gabrielle asked now curious about it. "I thought that I was going to be joining you, not the other way around."
"I arrived at the clearing just after you had taken the arrow and been knocked down. I just reacted without thought like I always do when it comes to you," Xena replied not sure how it had happened either.
"Well, I don't care, you're back," Gabrielle said with a smile as she bit into the fruit.
They talked some more until Xena was satisfied that Gabrielle had eaten enough. It seemed like the role had reversed for now. She was the one making sure that Gabrielle was eating. She noticed that Gabrielle now looked tired again.
"Why don't you rest some," Xena said.
"You'll be here when I wake up," Gabrielle said in a soft venerable voice.
"I won't leave the room," Xena promised and knew that she would keep this one.
"All right," Gabrielle said as she lay down and let her body heal and with her hand in Xena's providing a connection for her.
Gabrielle had just fallen asleep when there was a knock on the door. She told them to enter and was not surprised to see Hercules walk into the room.
"How is she," He asked as he walked in and sat down.
"Physically she'll be fine in a couple of days, mentally that will take some time, but I'm not leaving her again," Xena said.
"I don't think that will be a problem, at least for a while," Hercules replied.
"What do you mean," Xena said.
"What happened out there," Hercules asked. He sat and listened carefully as Xena described the best she could what had happened. He leaned back after it was all over. "I didn't defeat an immortal Zeus."
Xena was a bit confused at the turn of the conversation and wondered what it had to do with her. Her face showed the shock but she allowed Hercules to continue.
"Zeus gave me immortality before the fight, his immortality. He knew that he was to die, but Hera came to me after and said that I was to do so much good in the world. We talked like we never had. Zeus knew that their time was over, it was his way to preserve the best of our world," Hercules said.
"By giving you immortality," Xena said.
"Yes, and I think that you have it as well," Hercules said. "I 'm not sure which god or goddess gave it to you but you have it, otherwise you would not have been able to come back at all."
"And when Gabrielle dies," Xena said not sure she would like the answer to that.
"You will be separated again," Hercules said.
"Then I'll kill myself," Xena said calmly.
"Xena, there is not hinds blood anymore," Hercules said but knowing that it was a futile effort to try and convince her otherwise.
"It couldn't be Ares, he gave his up to heal Gabrielle and Eve when I was fighting Athena," Xena said thinking about the fight then thought of something.
"It was Athena," Hercules said. "My half-sister was too smart to not know what was happening," Hercules said. "She had a reason for it, but I'm not sure what it was."
"But she did not loose her abilities and Ares did," Xena said not sure what had happened.
"Ares healed two people, not one otherwise he would still have his powers, he would just be immortal," Hercules said. "And remember that they knew how to heal themselves from injuries."
"That's what made it so tough, but why give me immortality," Xena said a bit perplexed at the thought.
"You are like me, we fight for the good of the people," Hercules said.
"I can't do it with her," Xena said looking down at Gabrielle's face.
"We'll do it together Xena," Hercules said knowing that it was a tough uphill battle coming.
Neither one heard the footstep leading away from the room as a silent figure made his way away from the room to his own. He walked inside and sat down.
"I've never asked the gods for anything in a long time, I'm asking now, I need your help," the man said.
A flash of light and a scantily clad woman appeared in the room. It was not who he was expecting but she could do.
Xena watched as her lover steadily got stronger with the rest. The bard looked better than she had in a while now that she was eating again. Xena was pleased that her appetite had come back. She just did no know how to approach the subject of her being immortal.
She thought that Hercules might have been wrong, but had cut herself and was surprised at the healing rate. Within seconds it had been like there was not cut at all. She had asked Hercules about it and realized that he did the same thing when cut.
Yesterday the Roman legion had arrived at the town where they had told the commander, Tildis had been more than pleased with the information that he could return with to his commander. Hagest had not been pleased to have been captured especially since the Romans had shown up.
Xena was glad that she could now concentrate on her lover. She was trying to think of a way to inform Gabrielle that she was immortal without causing her pain. It hurt her to know that when Gabrielle died they would be separated again.
Gabrielle sat down next to Xena as lunch was being served. Thedious had been grateful to everyone for what they had done in protecting the village. Most of the mercenaries had left to go with the Romans, as they had promised them employment. Those who were against Rome had left after the fighting.
"What's wrong," Gabrielle asked seeing the mood her lover was in. She had noticed that Xena had been in that mood ever since she came back.
"You should tell her Xena," Hercules said sitting down next to them.
"You have to leave again," Gabrielle said getting worried about the silence from her lover and began to shake at the thought of losing Xena again so soon.
"No," Xena said quickly pulling Gabrielle into her lap and encircling the bard in her arms.
"Then tell me," Gabrielle said pinning blue eyes with her own green ones.
"I'm immortal," Xena said watching as Gabrielle's face expressed shock.
"Then I won't lose you," Gabrielle said with a bit of relief.
"No, at least not until you die," Xena said.
Gabrielle thought about that for a second then she realized that Xena was right. When she died they would be separated again.
"We have sometime to figure something out," Gabrielle stated knowing that there might not be anything they could do.
"There are very few ways to kill an immortal Gabrielle," Hercules said knowing it for the truth. Even the gods of distant lands were not sure how to do it.
"We'll cross that bridge when we get to it," Gabrielle stated not wanting to talk about it anymore.
"Actually there might be a way," a voice said from behind them. They looked to see Cecropes come walking toward them.
"Cecropes," Xena said greeting the tall man. They watched as he sat down across from them. He looked a bit different, like he was very tired and not from lack of sleep.
"What did you mean," Gabrielle asked wondering what Cecropes was talking about.
"Xena, I've walked around knowing that my beloved is dead for a long time. The ache will never go away," he said looking at her with knowing eye. Xena could see what she would look like when Gabrielle died.
Hercules watched with interest. He had many lovers and a wife, who was killed by Hera. He missed them but knew that his destiny laid somewhere else. It had just taken him a while to know it.
"I talked with Aphrodite last night, she confirms that you are immortal Xena, but that's not what we discussed," Cecropes said. "I asked her how to give up my immortality."
The group looked at him with curious stares. They were wondering what he meant by what he had just said.
"I'm offering you my immortality Gabrielle," Cecropes said.
Gabrielle sat there stunned for several seconds not sure what to make of that. She knew that if Cecropes did they would lose a friend of theirs, but she would be with Xena forever.
"I can't ask that of you Cecropes," Gabrielle finally said.
"You're not asking, I'm offering it," Cecropes said hoping that Gabrielle would take it.
"I don't know if I can take it," Gabrielle said.
"Of course you can," A female voice said and they looked over to see Aphrodite standing there. "Hello Herc," she said with a wink to the big man. "It was part of Athena's plan."
"What plan," Xena said not sure she like this. Athena was dead, so she was not sure what a dead goddess had to do with her.
"My sister was not stupid, she knew that you would win, but the others persuaded her to join them. She told me before the last battle what she was going to do, but I could not interfere. She gave you her immortality. Cecropes is to give his immortality to Gabby babe here and you two will make a difference in the world. Cecropes goes home and everyone gets what they want," Aphrodite said.
Gabrielle looked at Xena for a few moments. "We could do a lot of good," she said.
"And we will be together," Xena said.
"I could use some friends," Hercules said not sure if it would sway them one way or another.
"What do I have to do," Gabrielle asked.
"You'll have to heal first; otherwise the transfer will go to healing you instead, like Ares did when he saved your life. If you had not been hurt you would have become immortal," Aphrodite said in a no nonsense tone with was unusual for her.
"If you're sure Cecropes," Gabrielle said.
"More than anything in my life," He said.
"Then I guess I just have to get well," Gabrielle said.
The car pulled up to the small inn in a village in Greece. They did not get too many visitors as there was nothing of real importance around the area.
A tall dark haired woman got out of the car and opened the door for her smaller companion. She had blonde hair that came to her shoulder blades.
"Thank you," the blonde said with a smile as they walked into the inn together.
"May I help you," the small man said. He had blonde hair at one time, but it had now gone grey with age.
"I have a reservation for Alex Xena," the tall dark haired woman said to the man. He glanced down looking and finding the name. He gave them key to the room and watched the two women walk away. He was a bit curious as to what two woman were doing in the village but gave them their privacy.
He was not busy and decided to walk around the inn to check on everything. He rounded a corner and noticed the two women standing near the only thing in the village that was worth studying. He walked over and was going to give them the standard speech about it. It was a grave for a great warrior when he noticed them speaking in a strange language.
He listened a bit more and realized that it was Ancient Greek. He had learned it when he was younger by an old woman in the village.
"He was a good friend," he heard the blonde woman say almost as if they knew the person in the grave.
"He's at peace, we both know that," the taller woman said.
They stood there for a long time at the site and he watched on with interest. They finally turned to walk away when he heard the blonde say 'thank you Cecropes.'
It triggered something in his mind. It was something he had heard when he was younger and thought it to be a joke, but his grandfather said that every hundred years a warrior and a bard come here to pay their respect to a friend. He had even described them. One was tall with dark hair and cool blue eye, the other was shorter, with a shade of blonde to reddish hair and green eyes.
His grandfather had not made up the story; they were real and standing in front of him right now. He would have a story for his grandchildren as well, about a warrior woman and her partner a battling bard.