Content Warning: This story contains references and descriptions of intimate, and at times, explicit activity, lets call it by its name - LOVE - between two women. If you do not wish to read about this type of relationship or are under 21, please feel free to go elsewhere. There are plenty of wonderful and fascinating stories in the General Fiction category.
Violence: Not really, it is more of a Hurt/Comfort and loads of love and mush.
Spoiler Warning: Ultimate Warrior/Bard fans should recognize references to various episodes, and the story line picks up after the episode "Ides of March". This story is just one idea of bringing it all around.
I welcome comments. Don't be nasty, the world already has enough people floating around that thrive on nastiness. I am also willing to read and review stories, for any fellow bard in need of a second set of eyes. I can be reached at email@example.com
Prologue: Death in the Snow
Cradling my head softly in her hands I heard Xena call my name. Following the voice, I found myself dissolving into the most beautiful blue eyes I've ever seen. Eyes that belonged to the one I love so dearly. Only Xena could claim my love at so deep a level. I smile and take hold of Xena's hands. As I caress her hands between mine she acknowledges my love for her with a smile. Within a moment of time, time that you could not distinguish in candlemarks or shooting stars I feel the communion between our souls. Words need not pass between us. I can feel the love and strength of her spirit as it merges with my own. Our death appears as an abstract, distant and left with history. Our spirits bonding become everything. She had promised on many occasions that even in death she would never leave me. I believed her then and I believe her now. I love my soulmate fully.
Gabrielle holds my heart; everything within me is hers. She is so very gentle with me. Her tenderness circles around me and in the promise of her smile she can and is melting my desire to challenge our death. With all my strength as a warrior I could not save my precious bard from this vision. The vision we now seem to be floating spiritually within. I do not want my soulmate to look upon our bodies as they lay against the crosses. I want to keep her from the sadness this phantom would bring. She gently squeezes my hands bringing me back to submerge happily within soft green eyes. Yes, we are one. Yes, we will go on. Through whatever awaits us together. I love my bard so completely. Intuitively my spirit enters her realm of love while the light surrounding us appears to bless our bonding.
In Caesar's arrogance he directed that the bodies of Xena and Gabrielle be returned to Rome, where they would be placed on display for all to see. Caesar wanted to gloat, to show Rome that the Warrior Princess who had openly taunted and challenged him in front of his empire on many occasions had died by his command. Caesar did not count on the betrayal of Brutus.
After the death of Caesar, Brutus returned to the prison. Knowing he would be too late, he sent a messenger instructing that their bodies should be delivered to the Roman occupied-temple located five candlemarks southwest of the prison. When the bodies of the women he had come to admire and respect were brought to the temple, Brutus had to call upon all his strength in character to maintain composure - to silence his unanswered questions. It was after all a loss to war. They were Greeks, enemies of Rome. Still the honorable man in Brutus, the makeup in his personality that Xena had counted on and Gabrielle had trusted, felt loss, disappointed and sad at his inability to keep his promise of protection from Caesar's crosses.
Brutus ordered that their bodies be cleaned with the purest of soaps, sprinkled with the most exotic of perfumes, dressed in finest robe. Brutus instructed that their bodies lay side by side in a joint sarcophagus. He was not completely sure why he ordered this to be done; he just did and felt it was not necessary to question the reason behind his decision. When the task was complete, Brutus would return Xena and Gabrielle to the Amazons.
Brutus turned away from the bodies struggling in his walk to regain composure in front of his soldiers when he heard the agonizing scream piercing the air.
In their haste to leave the prison grounds, Amarice did not see Gabrielle pick up the sword. She did not realize Xena became paralyzed. With Eli pushing her through the gates she thought the fight was over. Surprised and horrified at her own fear over the crosses she kept running with Eli and his followers. Amarice then attempted to justify her fear with what she sees now as an excuse; Eli was weak and would need her protection. How wrong she was. She hoped that Xena and Gabrielle would follow.
Amarice was not sure exactly at what point she realized they would not be following the group. Her instincts screaming that she waited too long. Amarice had to go back. The snowfall made it difficult to retrace her steps and Amarice realized the group escaped without thought of their direction. She had to stop numerous times to take shelter from the blinding winds caused by the snow. At one point, she even hid among the horse stables of a Roman outpost to rest and warm up. She left before daybreak relieving one Roman horse of its blanket, and several apples, figuring the Romans owe her. By the time Amarice arrived at the prison Xena and Gabrielle were being removed from the crosses. She was too late. She had failed not only the warrior she hoped would be her mentor but also her Queen, the one the warrior told her to protect, the one the warrior told her in confidence was considered Artemis' Chosen One. Hidden in the snow-covered granite outcropping surrounding the crosses Amarice quietly demanded * Where are you now Artemis! What kind of god are you to abandon your Chosen One.* Tears started to warm her eyes and she became aware of the cold. She hated Artemis for being a weak god, hated her Queen for wanting peace and hated Xena for being breakable. All Amarice's heroes fell from the mountaintop. Lastly, as she slowly followed from a distance behind the wagon carrying the bodies of her companions, she hated herself most of all for failing.
The Roman wagon brought the bodies of Xena and Gabrielle to a temple located outside of an extensive Roman encampment. At this point, Amarice's attempt to blend with the crowd was successful. Most of them seem to be from a peasant class, many appeared homeless. Either way these citizens or more than likely what she considered slaves of Rome were preoccupied in the news of Caesar's death and the stories surrounding it. She heard many debates over whether Caesar's death would bring freedom to their land. No one really paid attention to the Greek Amazon hooded in a Roman horse blanket. Thus far blending in allowed her to watch the bodies being carried into the temple. Before she could plan further soldiers were pushing the people aside. Amarice recognized Brutus and a handful of Roman soldiers entering the temple. *What are you doing Brutus.* Amarice decided she must get into the temple and find out. She noticed several elderly men entering the temple and quickly jumped the marble steps three at a time to fall in behind them. In her haste or as Xena would have said a lack of patience and preparation, Amarice entered the front hall unconsciously dropping the blanket from around her head and shoulders exposing her Amazon feathers. That was all the two Roman soldiers needed to see and they expertly grabbed her from behind. Internally she questioned *Is it because my body is so cold that I am too stiff to fight or did I loose hope.* Either way it did not matter because the Romans had her. Going against every fiber of her inner belief she surrendered.
Upon hearing the soldiers taunting laughter Amarice snapped. Somewhere deep within her spirit she scream in emotional pain "FOR EPHINYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!"
Ephiny's name thundered through the marble halls of the temple bouncing off the various internal structures causing the participants within to cover their ears. Brutus did not cover his. He recognized only too well the Amazon name of Ephiny. The one he killed.
Brutus bolted to the source of the sound to see the soldiers pinning the Amazon face down to the marble floor. "Stand back!" This would be the only command that came from Brutus. Amarice lifted her head and glared in the eyes of Brutus. What was she seeing *He looks confused, no lost. Yes, the mighty Roman looks lost.*
The soldiers let Amarice go and she stood defiant closing the distance between herself and Brutus. Brutus held his hand up to the Romans indicating they are not to touch Amarice. "You PROMISED" screamed Amarice, tears again betraying her feeling of failure. "I know," Brutus replied softly, realizing he would never have an answer that she would be satisfied with. Brutus placed his hand on her shoulder applying enough pressure for Amarice to realize she needed to obey. "Come with me," is all Brutus would say. Amarice followed.
The light carried Xena and Gabrielle settling them gently on a rock foundation surrounded by what Gabrielle would later call an ocean of belief. To Xena it looked like calm blue water. Xena looked to Gabrielle and squeezed her hand tighter. Gabrielle felt Xena was trying to reassure and protect. "Xena, together, we do this together. I love you." Xena would see a tear roll down the softness of Gabrielle's cheek. Reaching in time, Xena caught the tear on her fingers. She bent over and delicately kissed the path the tear had left on the other half of her soul. "I love you my Bard."
"The honor and devotion to your paths has touched the Creator." Both women watched as an apparition of questionable form approached them across the vast ocean. It moved swiftly not really touching any visible surface circling around them until finally settling itself in front of the couple without actually touching the rock formation the women were standing upon. "You are the one who spoke?" Gabrielle quickly asked, then wish she had not questioned so quickly. She did not wish to show disrespect to this apparition in front of them in case it was of a cruel god. Gabrielle sensed Xena's body deciding if this creature was looking for a battle, as she moved slightly in front of Gabrielle in protection. How she loved the Warrior.
"It is selfless love, is it not Gabrielle," came a statement more than a question from the apparition.
Xena let a small growl escape her throat glaring into the eyes of the apparition *I may be dead but I can still do damage.* It smiled at Xena and she found her defenses melting away with the warmth of that smile.
"First things first," spoke the apparition. "Is that not what you express quite often Warrior."
Again, a statement rather than a question. *I'm not so sure I am comfortable with this.* Then as if her partner read her thoughts, Xena felt Gabrielle move alongside, raising Xena's arm so it would slip over her shoulder. Smiling Xena pulled her Bard close to her. The apparition appeared in human form but was not a solid entity. Its coloring reminded Xena of rainbows that might partner with each other. Xena struggled with internal questions, thoughts and emotions ending when Gabrielle spoke. *Her woman of words, how easily they flowed from lips she longed to reach out for.* The Warrior began drifting to happier thoughts of her lover and did not hear Gabrielle's question.
"I am called Carrier and I am here to place you both back on your path," the apparition paused long enough to observe the puzzling reaction from the two women it was instructed to return to what humans referred to as life. Carrier found humans intriguing and was always willing to carry out the directions the Creator unfolded. The apparition would take on different shapes to please as well as ease any fear humans might have. This situation was rather unique. Had it just been the warrior, Carrier would have appeared as one, the Bard, then a poet would have been appropriate. For them Carrier appeared as a spirit filled with the colors of the rainbow, not naked and yet not clothed. The apparition mused, *It suits them,* and then continued speaking to both women.
" Your paths show??..," pausing then bowing toward Xena, "you, as a warrior," then winking an eye to Gabrielle "and you a path of ?.peace." Gabrielle could feel Xena tighten the hold on her shoulder. Looking into Xena's eyes Gabrielle could feel the love radiating from her. "I love you my Warrior." Carrier glowed at the love and support that passed between the two women. Love that was caught and bounced within the invisible circle surrounding them. Witnessing the bonding of their souls. Carrier sighed slightly and smiled at the reactions received from the women. The little one started to giggle at hearing the apparition sigh and the warrior gave a u-uh and smiled. Although not typical, Carrier had to ask, "Are you two always this distracting to those around you?"
"To some more than others," Xena replied with a smirk and a sense of satisfaction. "There are some who found us a terrible threat."
"Aaaah, yes, I can think of five," Carrier nodded before listing the names off, "Caesar, Callisto, Ares, Hope and most of all Dahok."
Xena gave a disapproving glare at Carrier's mention of the names. *What is wrong with you, don't mention those names around Gabrielle, they hurt her too much.* Facing Gabrielle, she was right, tears had already left her eyes burning a trail down her face. She pulled Gabrielle to her chest holding her tightly. "It will be okay, they will never hurt us again, please don't cry." But as Xena attempted to calm her Bard, she could feel the tears releasing from her own eyes. Soon she felt Gabrielle increase the strength of her hold on Xena. Her Bard had sensed the grief she was also feeling.
Carrier encircled both women reaching into their heart. Capturing their attention once again, the apparition released the hold.
"There is a place within both of you which holds love, truth, light and peace. This bonds you together. Your desires do not rely on the results your actions will bring; rather you act without consideration of what is good or what is bad for yourself. Repeatedly you have both acted selflessly - without consideration of the pain or horror realized on to your soul. Do you stumble? Sure, that is a part of walking the path. When one does not stay attached to the outcome one becomes free. And freedom will allow you to return to the path you are traveling."
Pausing, Carrier closed the distance once again and placed a gentle kiss upon the forehead of the warrior. "Xena, your path of the Warrior is your freedom, it is the right way for you. Caesar and Callisto interfered in a plan much greater than they imagined. The Creator is not pleased."
Gabrielle could no longer stay silent. "Who is this Creator, is he a god?" *My path was not warrior, yet I killed????.* Before Gabrielle could finish her thought Carrier interrupted.
Bending over to add a kiss to Gabrielle's forehead Carrier smiled. "What a thinker you are Gabrielle. The Creator is the One above all that ever was, is?.. or will be. The Creator is the Master behind love, a concept I know you have heard before." Cupping one hand under Gabrielle's chin, "Yes, you did kill, out of the selfless love you have for your friend."
"Neither of you will find immediate answers to your questions. What would be the point of life, if it came without discovery. Remember do not be afraid of being either weak or strong. Embrace each lesson."
Carrier stepped back. "Enough said. Your karma is to learn, embrace and pass on the teachings of your chosen path. I will take you both to a place within your homeland. Build a small and respectable altar at this place and retreat there to rest and gather strength as needed. I will come to you only when it is time to move to the next level of your joint destiny."
Xena raised her eyebrows forcing her forehead to wrinkle with puzzlement, "Are you giving us our life back?"
"Whatever is has already been. There is season for every activity and your season is for living."
Xena and Gabrielle could feel Carrier's force embracing and lifting them from the rock foundation. Feeling a tremendous amount of exhaustion no questions were asked by them. Gabrielle drifted off to a sleeping state almost as soon as Carrier embraced her. *They would get their life back, or a life to continue* mused Xena, and she wondered if they would return to the same bodies. She was grateful to be allowed to continue down her path as a warrior, to continue her journey with her soulmate, whose hand she was still holding. With that Xena too gave in to the sleep of Carrier's rainbow.
Carrier laid them down gently in the soft grass in front of the entrance to a cave dedicated to the women. They would remain under protection until they awoke and gained strength back into their physical bodies. Carrier left food and drink for them, as well as clothing, weapons and several other human desires. Carrier mused, *The Creator will be proud, they will be devoted soldiers throughout destiny.*
Touching the Warrior and the Bard, Carrier imbedded an imprint on the left hip of each woman. "Always remember your source." With that being said to each of their souls Carrier was gone.
Amarice found herself on a Roman horse heading for home. With her Amarice held a treaty of peace between Rome and the Amazon Nation. The treaty Gabrielle had desired so desperately. Brutus did not share a real conversation with her, which was okay with Amarice as it gave her the opportunity to tell him that he and his Roman's were animals among a few other chosen words. Brutus surprisingly allowed Amarice to bellow, yell, scream and slander him and Rome. For her words of hate, Brutus gave her food, warm clothing, passage through Roman-occupied territory and the Treaty of Peace. Brutus also told Amarice that she should never go to Rome. As the Roman camp faded into the distant, she did not look back, deciding she still hated Brutus and Rome.
A shadow crossed over Xena's body forcing her to instinctively respond by jumping from a laying position to her feet. The figure casting the shadow could smell the adrenaline surging from the Warrior before she was upright and thus the shadow swiftly fled into the surrounding woods seeking protection. Xena relaxed her battle stance and considered the fleeing doe that had so innocently startled her to a waking state. Stepping from the blanket she had been laying on prior to the interruption Xena felt the grass snake between her toes. The Warrior felt physically awkward then quickly realized her body was tired and stiff. *I am alive,* she questioned while rubbing and squeezing her hands over her arms and shoulders. Xena glanced down at her feet and then held out her hands. The holes that had pierced her hands and feet with such pain were gone. Surveying the hands who had killed and healed so many she found the calluses caused by years of sword fighting and practice were still visible. Instantly the Warrior realized she was standing. *My spine?.I can move?but it was????.* Tears flooded the Warrior's eyes when she realized the miracle that had taken place.
"Gabrielle," Xena quickly turned to find her partner curled up on the blanket. Xena knelt next to Gabrielle noticing that her breathing was smooth, even and calm. From what Xena could see without touching her friend, Gabrielle was also without the physical scars. The nails that caused her Bard so much pain. Xena remembered the screams exploding from Gabrielle as the Roman's pounded the nails into her yielding flesh. She was convinced the soldiers caused the Bard more pain than was necessary after they heard Gabrielle say that she loved Xena. *Her last words to me were of total devotion to our bond.*
Wanting to wake her and hold her closely, Xena decided instead to take her tears to the surrounding forest. *Gabrielle needs the rest and I need to gather strength so I can be there for her when she wakes.* As she stepped away she smiled, raising her face to the sun, "?.and knowing my Bard?she will be hungry."
"Might as well gather some wood while I'm out here," talking to no one in particular Xena focused her attention on her surroundings. Dressed in a dark blue tunic held by a braided leather belt, Xena wondered if she would ever wear leather again. By tuning into her ability to listen to sounds around her and the feel of the mountain wind, she decided they must be somewhere in the northlands, higher in the mountains. Heading back to the area she would turn into a camp Xena noticed the location of the sun. It had to be late in the day. Xena could hear a small stream off to the north and the music of several different types of birds. Satisfied that the forest was quiet, she finally arrived upon the grassy clearing and her sleeping friend, and she wondered why she did not previously see the cave with its back to the setting sun. Xena thought about entering the cave and then decided to wait until Gabrielle could explore it with her. *It is more enjoyable watching Gabrielle' excitement when discovering new things.* Xena noted several bundles at the cave entrance. Deciding she was thirsty, the Warrior allowed her self to examine the bundles hoping there would be at least a filled waterbag among those items.
Her wonderful sense of smell, especially for food, caused Gabrielle to open her eyes. Sitting cross-legged next to her was Xena.
"About time you woke up sleepy head."
Her beautiful Warrior was smiling at her. Gabrielle pondered about how spellbinding Xena's smile really was. Before Gabrielle could say anything Xena offered her a cup of hot tea. Gabrielle pushed herself into a sitting position and accepted the hot drink from her soulmate noticing that Xena had a campfire burning and what smelled like rabbit stew slowly cooking.
"Mmmm??.you added honey." Gabrielle sipped at the tea never taking her eyes off of Xena. "Was it real Xena? Tell me it was not a dream. Tell me Carrier was really there."
*Thank the gods you said Carrier's name first.* Hearing Gabrielle speak Carrier's name out loud helped Xena bend from the warrior state of mind to one of acceptance. No, the Furies had not again dealt her an unfair hand, Carrier was way above what the Furies could ever even imagine.
"Yes, Carrier was real."
The Bard's eyes peaked over the rim of the cup she was drinking from and smiled devilishly as Xena answered. Removing the cup from her lips Gabrielle sighed eagerly at her soulmate.
Sensing that Gabrielle would also feel the physical weakness Xena pointed to the tea, "You should really drink up all the tea, it will help."
Suddenly the sight of Xena sitting hit Gabrielle like an explosion. "XENA??.by the gods?.you're sitting?but your spine?..it's?.." she could not finish her sentence. Placing the hot cup down she crawled quickly behind Xena. "I have to see?..feel?" Xena smiled at the tenderness and care her friend always showed her. *I'm touching her in the same place the chakram broke her back, yet the bones are connected and the muscles feel strong around it.* It was then that Gabrielle noticed her hands and the missing punctures caused by the nails.
Xena sensing Gabrielle's discovery turned and pulled the Bard to her lap. Together they renewed the bond and the communication between their souls. Words did not seem appropriate, so they continued to hold one another while the sun began slipping below the horizon. They were going to be fine.
"You DARE come before me and state their bodies are gone!"
The temple priest thought Brutus would think him mad, but surely he would not believe the priest would make up such a tale. Brutus must know the he realizes death would soon follow, if his words proved to be a lie.
"This is absurd!" Brutus paced the dirt floor of stables his hands covering his eyes. How could they be gone. It is not like they could walk away. The bodies have been well guarded he personally made sure of that. He did not want anyone left who might still maintain loyalty to Caesar to steal the women.
Attempting to organize rational thought, "Well I know that pretentious little Amazon did not take them. So my most trusted priest who did?"
Falling to the sandy floor on his knees and bowing his head with the utmost respect and certainly fear at this point, what the priest would say did not come easily.
"I swear upon the name of Jupiter, I finished laying the bodies into the joint sarcophagus, as requested and walked to the altar to retrieve the broken chakram so that it may lay with the warrior woman. The time was not more than several blinks of the eye," the dryness in his throat was threatening to overtake the old man, "and?.they were gone." The priest then laid the broken chakram at the feet of Brutus.
"Get off your knees old man and leave me." Brutus turned away from the priest, but could hear him stumbling and shuffling. "Old man," Brutus growled and then paused long enough for the priest to find his bodily functions betraying him and burning a path down his legs. "I believe you, mention this to no one or you will find yourself on the block."
Once the priest was gone, Brutus picked up the broken chakram. *What gods have you both so charmed and gained so much favor of that they would risk the wrath of my Roman gods by crossing over the boundaries of their rule.* The chakram took on an eerie glow and crumbled instantly between his fingers sprinkling royal purple particles into the air. At that moment, Brutus realized the Warrior and her Bard now had more freedom than he a mighty Roman could ever hope for.
Over dinner each took turns speaking of the meeting with Carrier and the words passed on to them. The women were in harmony as they discovered both had interpreted Carrier's words the same way. Neither spoke of their death or events prior to it. For now that time was best left unsaid. Both knew that when the time was right, they would share their thoughts and feelings.
After eating several portions of stew, they decided to leave the cave exploration until tomorrow. There was a small stream less than a quarter candlemark northeast of the camp and Gabrielle wanted to clean the pot and bowls. Xena thought the cleaning could wait until morning, but she allowed herself to indulge in Gabrielle's apparent need to move. The walk might do them both some good. The full moon seemed bright enough to light a path for them, so Xena walked with Gabrielle carrying a towel and the lemon scented soap she found among the bundles left behind. Both had already assumed Carrier had provided their needs for them. Xena did not feel that either of them needed to bathe in fact she felt like she had been scrubbed cleaner than ever. *Probably a result of the spiritual encounter with Carrier* mused Xena.
"The stew was really very good Xena," Gabrielle beamed, as Xena filled her face with soap.
"I did do a pretty good job of cooking, didn't I," a statement of self-satisfaction escaped Xena. "However, don't get comfortable with my cooking, I still enjoy your meals much more than my own. You think you could maybe make those little things with the red inside."
Gabrielle moved closer to join Xena. Splashing the cool stream water on her face. "Mmmm?.sure, for you anything." She loved when Xena requested a favor from her; spoiling Xena was a prime objective for her and since Xena never really asked for much, she found she would jump at the chance when the Warrior did ask.
Both were quiet on the way back to camp, Gabrielle noted how nicely the dark blue tunic complemented the beautiful body that was under it. Gabrielle could not help but smile at the wonders the Warrior's body always unfolded for her. She felt a slight flush rise throughout her own body and wondered how long she could hold back from touching her Warrior. Events over the past few moons interrupted their lives so uncaringly. They had not been able to go much beyond kissing, hugging and cuddling since the celebration of her birthday in Amphipolis. Gabrielle remembered how Xena could hardly wait for the celebrants to turn in for the night so that she could have the Bard all to herself. "Mmmm?.oh yes?..," Gabrielle did not realize she moaned those reminiscing pleasures out loud and almost tripped into camp.
*What my dear Bard has you moaning so seductively.* Xena glanced at Gabrielle giving her a slightly wicked smirk and a raise of an eyebrow. Gabrielle's eyes instantly gave away her desire. Silently thanking whatever gods set Gabrielle in her path Xena opened her arms to her Bard.
Gabrielle watched Xena's expression undressing her body and recognized the same familiar and all to overwhelming desire in the eyes of her Warrior. *How I love her* And with that Gabrielle needed no further encouragement and stepped into Xena's embrace. Circling her hands around her lover's neck, she let her lips brush with Xena's and whispered softly into the Warrior's lips, "Never leave me Warrior."
Xena deepened the kiss and slipped her tongue into the warmth of her lover. Gabrielle responded with a passion that would match and go beyond all of Xena's dreams. Gabrielle's legs buckled from under her with her need for Xena. Sensing Gabrielle's weakness and becoming all too aware of her own weakening state, Xena guided Gabrielle to the blanket. The recent events of their death and rebirth became lost in the moment. Xena slipped Gabrielle's tunic off her shoulders and slowly let her lips trail into the tender spot that she knew would bring moans of love from her Bard. Xena was not disappointed. For a split second Xena mused, *what was it Carrier said?a season for every activity?..* Xena lost her train of thought as she fell into the heart of her soulmate.
Not far off in the forest a single doe watched and guarded the camp.
Two days had passed since Xena and Gabrielle experienced their awakening to the life of the living. The second day they stayed close to camp and decided to put off exploring the cave for another day. Neither one was willing to let the other one out of their sight and this togetherness led way to expressions verbal and physical of love, trust and a chance to continue life together. Between the closeness the lovers filled the day looking through the bundles left by Carrier, short walks to collect wood, several naps, eating and washing in the stream. Carrier had been more than generous with the supplies left for them, which led both to assume they would remain within the camp for several days.
The third day passed similar to the second and by that evening both could feel their physical and emotional strength increasing.
As both women stretched out on the blanket to gaze at the cluster of stars in the heavens, Gabrielle rolled on to her side lifting her self up with her arm so she could look at Xena's face. Slowly Gabrielle ran her fingers teasingly through Xena's bangs. "Xena."
"Yesssss," Xena smiled at her most favorite person in the universe.
"Did you notice my mendhi is gone?"
"Yes??.mmmm, how could I not notice," Xena purred at her lover.
Gabrielle sat up with a very serious look across her face. "We both have it you know."
Xena sat up alongside of Gabrielle and pulled her closer, "I know." Xena cupped Gabrielle's face in her hands protectively. "The tattoos represent our bond to each other and to our source."
Gabrielle closed the space between them leaning in to steal a small kiss. Wrapping her arms around Xena and settling her head into the base of her Warriors neck Gabrielle spoke delicately, "I think I knew that, I guess?.I just?..."
Realizing she was totally, helplessly in love with a bard, Xena tilted Gabrielle's head with one hand so she could see into her eyes. "Gabrielle, I am totally devoted to you, to our path, don't you feel the intensity of my commitment?"
"Yes, I do and??.." pausing Gabrielle looked into Xena's tear-filled eyes, "Make love with me Warrior."
Xena did not need any further encouragement.
And so as the third day came to an end, the doe stretched her neck arching her head to the heavens and remained on watch as the pair dedicated their love to the stars.
Amarice rode the Roman horse hard for two days; silently wishing the animal would drop to its death under her. Feeling the overwhelming need to lash out at anything Roman the horse did not mistake the tone in Amarice's voice as she yelled, "Maybe I will just slit your throat when I'm done with you."
In her darken mood she failed to notice that she crossed on to Amazon territory and was abruptly knocked from her horse by the staff of an Amazon sentry. Attempting to regain her breath, Amarice was immediately surrounded by four Amazons. Rolling gingerly off her back to a sitting position Amarice raised her arms over her head offering the Amazon signal of peace.
"I have a message for Queen Shulaba."
"Oh really," the tallest Amazon commented sarcastically. "You enter our land on a Roman horse, pass the warning of our boundary symbols, and expect us to take you to our Queen."
The four Amazons chuckled among themselves while noticing the Amazon garb this petite fierce personality wore, and allowed Amarice to stand.
"Do you have a name child," asked the tall Amazon.
Amarice had very little patience at this time; she was angry, tired, dirty and hungry. She realized, however, that she needed to see Shulaba and decided to respond without a battle.
"I am Amarice and I have a Treaty of Peace from Rome and word of Queen Gabrielle and Xena."
"Wait a minute," the tall Amazon's eyes opened wide, "I remember you, the one with the??.in my tribe?..attitude. You left with our Queen and Xena."
With that being said the tall Amazon hoisted Amarice on her horse and jumped up behind her. Since the Roman horse had already fled the area, Amarice accepted the ride musing *Smart horse, knew I would kill you for sure.*
By the fifth day Xena and Gabrielle found themselves totally emerged in turning the interior of the cave into a home. The previous day's discovery uncovered a cave much larger than either anticipated, holding seven chambers. The cave entrance was wide enough for two people to walk side by side and Xena, happily, did not have to duck her head to enter. Once through the entrance the cave opened to the left exposing a space large enough to board, what Xena believed at least two or three horses. However, if one walked straight in from the entrance for about 10 paces the ground sloped upward mildly for about 12 paces before leveling out to a flat surface that exposed a semi-circle shaped living area. A circular stone hearth already graced the center of the semi-circle and a small opening in the rocks directly above would allow smoke to escape. Gracing the back wall of the living area was one additional passage leading to the remaining five chambers. A few paces into this passage and a V-shape split occurred in the path. To the left were three small closet-sized chambers suitable for storing supplies. The right pathway from the V-split led to two separate chambers. The first cavity excited both women tremendously, as it turned out to be a shallow pool fed by a warm underground spring. On the far wall what appeared to be a miniature waterfall cascaded from a fissure. The chamber beyond the water although not as large as the main living area also held a circular hearth in the center. It too had an opening in the rocks above to allow the smoke to escape; however, the ceiling of this chamber was much lower to the ground. Both women agreed that this would be where they would build the altar Carrier had spoke of.
Out of habits grown from their years of traveling together each fell into a routine sharing the chores, building a pallet to sleep on, collecting wood, unpacking Carrier's bundles and moving several rocks to construct a proper altar. Whether intentional or not, by the time both were ready for an evening meal the cave began to have the appeal of permanence - of a home.
With a warm meal settling comfortably in her stomach Gabrielle sat cross-legged leaning back against a small boulder. She ran her fingers over the unmarked scroll that lay in her lap remembering the last scroll she completed detailing the zealot Najara. No matter how much Najara wanted and tried to convince her that she changed, Gabrielle knew without question her path would always be with Xena. The Bard continued to ponder the recent events in their life. Neither one of them was ready to speak of their death, although both knew it would inevitably become a conversation they would have to exchange and share. Closing her eyes in an attempt to hold back any tears, Gabrielle could feel the emotions running throughout her soul finally settling on one particularly deep, sadness peeking out from her heart. *Ephiny??yes, I should scribe the tale of Ephiny.*
Sitting on a flat rock across the fire from Gabrielle, Xena attended to the sword left by Carrier. Xena had not touched the sword when first finding it and was not sure she ever wanted to touch a sword again. Gabrielle was the one who brought the sword to her placing it tenderly on her lap. "My Warrior," she said, "do that sharpening thing, will you." Xena studied the temper of the blade reflecting at Gabrielle's choice of words. *So, my sweet little one because of you, here I sit falling back into a familiar rhythm.* Sliding the whetstone down the edge of the sword Xena found her thoughts drifting to how far they have come. *Yes, we need time to heal, time to start walking our path without guilt and sorrow.* Without breaking the rhythm of her sword sharpening, Xena lifted her eyes peeking over to where Gabrielle was sitting. Thoughts of how precious Gabrielle is to her filled her heart and she did not realize a small, pleasant laughter escaped her, *Gabrielle, you really know how to read what is in my heart.*
Xena's laughter caught Gabrielle's attention, "What my dear Warrior do you find so amusing?"
"Are you going to write in that scroll, or just run your fingers over it," Xena teased, realizing she had been caught with her thoughts.
"Xena do you have any idea just how?. how?enchanting you are right now," Gabrielle giggled at her choice of words, *that should get her juices going.*
Raising both eyebrows at Gabrielle, "Enchanting? Gabrielle I'm sharpening a sword."
Tossing the scroll to the side Gabrielle stretched her legs out in front of her and leaned back into the boulder placing her arms behind her head to act as a pillow. "Yea?..I'm almost jealous of the sword."
Watching Xena's expression change to pure seduction made Gabrielle shiver slightly, * Yup, that should do the trick.*
It did, within seconds Gabrielle found herself in Xena's arms, being carried to their newly-made bed. Xena set her down on the bed with gentle ease. After removing her own tunic she helped Gabrielle remove hers. Gabrielle gazed upon the tan muscular body of her lover and still could not believe Xena wanted only her. Xena met the Bard's precious lips with such softness that Gabrielle was not sure she could hold on. Pulling Xena's body to her with an extreme desire, she could hear Xena gasp when their bodies melted together. Gabrielle's appetite for Xena was tremendously uncontrollable so she gently pushed Xena over to her back, sliding herself on top.
As Gabrielle settled her body over Xena, she could hear Xena's tender, demanding plea, "Don't go." This only fueled her hunger and Gabrielle knew this desire would consume all of her.
Probing with her tongue over, under and around the curves of her lover's sensitive body the Bard could not resist tasting every bit of her Warrior. Claiming a succulent breast in her hand, she fondled and teased the nipple gently, while her tongue and lips firmly suckled the other breast eliciting deep moans from the Warrior. The Bard began rubbing her leg back and forth on Xena's center of pleasure and could feel the heated wetness she had caused to flow from the deep caverns of her lover's core.
Xena's thoughts were no longer cooperating, as her desires claimed control. She began arching her hips to meet with the pressure the Bard was producing and released her hold on Gabrielle's golden hair to grab the blankets beneath her. Gabrielle could feel her own wetness sliding over Xena's leg, and let a hot gasping sigh erupt pass her lips that sent a flood of heated breath to surround the nipple she still had claim upon. Releasing her hold on Xena's breast, her Warrior cried a gasp of disappointment.
Gazing into the deep blue of her lover, "My Warrior, I WILL possess all of you?.I promise."
The lust and domination dripping in those words sent Xena into a mini-orgasm. This did not go unnoticed by the Bard, as she continued to massage and stroke Xena with her hands, tease with her fingers, and caress with her tongue. Gabrielle inched down Xena's responding body, stopping only long enough to spread the Warriors thighs so she could taste the treasure that would only be devoured by her. Hearing a deep throaty plea from her soulmate, the bard pushed and circled her tongue between the velvet folds offered by the Warrior. Licking the spicy-sweet mixture offered so generously, Gabrielle could not help but smile as she heard Xena scream her love for the Bard. Gabrielle was sure that this was an addiction she would never give up.
Xena felt Gabrielle replace her tongue with those fleshy, luscious lips, rolling, sucking and mixing with air, hot and cold throughout her overheated mound. The Warrior could hear the desire and joy in Gabrielle's moans, and again found herself surrendering and unable to concentrate on anything but her lover. Fevered, sweating and overwhelmed with Gabrielle's love for her, Xena felt the last of her control slipping while pounding sensations overtook her body.
Increasing the pressure of her tongue Gabrielle held on to Xena as she started to lift off the bed. Gently Gabrielle entered Xena's treasure with two then three fingers rubbing the satin walls, sliding through the juices while increasing the speed of her tongue finding the one spot she knew would please her lover, driving her to the stars and back. Xena's breathing was gasping and rushed while her body was shaking with small tremors. "Oh?yes?.gods?yeesssss," was all Gabrielle needed to hear as she brought her Xena, yes her Xena to the edge, over and back into her embrace. As Xena collapsed to the bed, Gabrielle could hear light whimpers coming from her soulmate.
Raising herself from her lover's sumptuous body, Gabrielle saw Xena's hands over her eyes and her chest was rising and falling rapidly. "Xena, what, what happened, are you okay?" Quickly Gabrielle moved to grasp Xena's hands. Lifting them from Xena's face the Bard began kissing the fallen tears. "Sssshhh, its okay, I love you so much."
Wrapping her arms around Xena, Gabrielle slid on her back pulling Xena over so she could cradle her closely. Gabrielle asked again, "Sssh, talk to me Warrior. Did I hurt you?.Xena, please talk to me."
Xena's tears subsided and she realized she might have scared Gabrielle with her reaction to the love she had just received. Raising her body enough to look into those beautiful emerald eyes Xena saw the confusion in Gabrielle's face.
"Wh?what did I ever do to deserve the love you share with me?.my warlord ways, your death, my death?and?.and then?..the gift of this home. By the Gods I am so in love with everything about you, my Bard." The Warrior lowered her lips to Gabrielle, claiming them gently. The kiss was meant to be tender and sweet a symbol of her devotion to Gabrielle. Xena could feel the radiance in the Bard's return kiss. The Warrior pulled back and in Gabrielle she found the understanding she had hoped for.
With a huge smile, a soft giggle, tears glazing her eyes and the deliciously salty taste of Xena's tears on her lips the Bard responded, "I love you, my devoted Warrior." Gabrielle began tracing Xena's lips with her finger, which sent warm vibrations pouring throughout her body. Aware of the importance of Xena's words to her Gabrielle continued, "I too want this to be our home, our sanctuary?I?.I want to grow old with you my warlord." Gabrielle paused collecting her words. "I have absolutely no regrets with everything that is you - the good, the unpleasant, even our death. We are soulmates for a reason and I would not want that bond with anyone else but you."
As the fire in the hearth settled to several warm embers, two dancing hearts splashing their shadows on the walls of a mystical cave in the mountains of Greece could be seen once again.
And the doe, loyal to her charges, stood as keeper of the night mindful to the love that was now decorating a home.
*I just can't get over how beautiful she is.* Xena sighed quietly, as she lay on her side watching the woman she loved more than anyone scamper about the cave rekindling the fire and preparing a modest breakfast. Xena allowed her thoughts to wander over the memories the two of them had created together. Accepting that fate may not always hold evil, Xena reflected on the head strong young girl who followed her relentlessly from Poteidaia, the selfless courage she always shared with people?.never looking for a reward in return, and the unquestionable faith and loyalty she held for a stubborn warlord. Xena also remember the times of pain the Bard had suffered, particularly with the Warrior's return to Chin, the betrayal of Hope and?. *Solan?my heart still misses you, but how you would have loved Gabrielle.* Xena could not help but recall how she dragged Gabrielle from the Amazon camp trying to kill her. Gabrielle had been the only person in Xena's life that remained honestly vulnerable around the warlord and Xena in her rage pointed the finger of blame directly at her best friend for the death of her son. She was amazed that Gabrielle had survived the violent drag and still managed to have enough fire in her to kick Xena in the head forcing her to drop the Amazon Queen. Gabrielle never brought the incident up, never threw it at Xena.
Wiping a tear from her eye Xena remembered Gabrielle's words to her not long after their renewal through Illusia, as she lay dying from the poison that invaded her body, as a result of a Persian arrow. "A long time ago, I accepted the consequences of our life together. That it might one day come to this?.it has. I'm not afraid?.." Gabrielle had totally accepted her lifestyle with Xena. And to Xena that meant Gabrielle also valued their relationship above all others.
*You did die, my lover, not then, but your acceptance of our life did bring death to your door.*
Silently reprimanding herself for her inability to verbalize her regret over the pain she had caused and the love she held so deeply for Gabrielle, Xena opted for action. *I will not disappoint you my soulmate, I will not allow you to ever regret that you and I share a destiny through time.*
Pushing the tears away with the back of her arm Xena sat up and noticed the tunic that Gabrielle had obviously left so lovingly for her. Grabbing it she slipped it over her warlord frame and stood up.
Gabrielle could not help but notice the movement of her soulmate. She sensed Xena's eyes penetrating her being and realized the Warrior was deep in thought. Gabrielle instinctively accepted Xena's need, and stayed busy preparing a breakfast for the two of them. But now Xena was moving, so Gabrielle in her most playful voice greeted her Warrior. "Good morning lazy bones."
The Warrior knew she had to respond to the little nickname Gabrielle created for her. Figuring action was her best weapon she calmly strolled over to Gabrielle, embraced her in a warm hug and began nibbling the soft earlobe of her lover. She could feel Gabrielle's body immediately respond, with a manner of 'yes do anything you want to me Warrior' groan of pleasure. That was what Xena waited for and she began tickling the Bard around her waist, knowing she could produce a squeal or two. The Warrior was not disappointed.
"XENA!" Gabrielle erupted with laughter as she tried to squirm out of Xena's grasp.
Replying with a huge smile, "Call me lazy bones will ya.," and she let go of Gabrielle.
Still giggling, Gabrielle pounced right back at Xena wrapping her arms around the Warrior's waist. "Good morning, you hungry? I made those little pastry things with the red inside."
*Gods?.she's good,* was Xena's most immediate thought. Smiling down at her Bard, "Thank you, I love you, do you know that."
"Yea, sure do, let's eat?.and by the way, I love you right back."
Queen Shulaba and the Amazon tribe were delighted to see that Amarice was safe. Shulaba and the tribe elders secretly admired Amarice's young, annoying insolence and her desire to fight for the Amazon way of life. They were sad to see Amarice leaving with Gabrielle and Xena, but knew that she would learn a great deal from both women.
*Ephiny, Gabrielle and Xena had all been willing to give the little hot-headed Amazon a chance and so would she,* mused Shulaba, as she began reading the Treaty of Peace.
The Amazon nation had already heard the horrible news about the painful death of their precious Queen and her Warrior. Xena's reputation was so great throughout the countryside that the rumors and tales spread like evil locust. A full moon cycle had almost come to pass since the Ides of March, and the Amazon God, Artemis was so distraught and angry that she threw all her temple priests out, and posted guards asking not to be disturbed. Both Shulaba and the tribes' shaman tried to visit Artemis, but she would have audience with no one. The new queen decided she would take the Treaty of Peace offered by Brutus to the temple. Maybe then Artemis would grant her an audience.
Eponin watched from the stables as Shulaba headed in the direction of Artemis' temple. Shaking her head in bewilderment at no one in particular Eponin turned her attention back to Argo.
Hearing about the death of Ephiny and Solari was difficult enough and then to add the loss of her Queen and favorite, sparring partner was too much for Eponin. The combination of tragedies brought Eponin back to her home tribe. For several years she traveled across the hot sands in the exotic land of the pyramids discovering and learning her destiny - her path. While always planning to return home, she never anticipated the reason would be because of death.
While trusting in Gabrielle's choice to appoint Shulaba as Queen in her absence, Eponin knew that with Gabrielle's death no one could ever replace the Bard, especially in the eyes and heart of Artemis.
"Well girl, what do you think." Eponin enjoyed talking to Argo. The warhorse always acted like she understood what Eponin was talking about, which helped her understand why the Warrior was so possessive of the old calvary horse. Argo gave a short whinny and shook her head back and forth. "Yeah, I know girl, I miss that old Warrior too."
When Eponin returned to the Amazon village, Shulaba requested that Eponin accompany herself and several members of the Royal Guard to both Poteidaia and Amphipolis. Shulaba believed Gabrielle's and Xena's families probably already heard about the deaths of their daughter's, but tradition and loyalty to both women drove Shulaba to seek out the families just in case news of the tragedy slipped by them. Eponin remembered how neither she or Shulaba slept much during that awful journey.
Tradition demanded they travel to Poteidaia first, birth home of their Queen. Eponin was only too aware of the dislike Gabrielle's family held for Xena, particularly her father. The Amazon women never even made it on to the land owned by Gabrielle's father. He saw them coming across the fields, grabbing an ax as he ran at them full force screaming words of hatred. Shulaba had the group stop at the perimeter of the old man's field. Realizing that Gabrielle's father had no intentions of stopping and looked very much like he was going to use the ax to secure blood, Eponin boldly commanded a retreat. She found no argument from Shulaba and the Amazons turned their horses commanding them into an all out gallop. Without conversation all realized Gabrielle's family had heard of her horrible death.
Two days later they arrived in Amphipolis. The greeting they received there was the difference between night and day. Xena's mother, Cyrene welcomed the women with open arms. She found rooms for them at her inn, fed them, allowed them to bathe, and encouraged them to stay for the week. Most importantly, Cyrene listened to them, talked with them and cried with them over the loss of both Xena and Gabrielle. Although not surprised, Cyrene was deeply disturbed that the attempted goodwill visit to Poteidaia might have become another tragedy.
Eponin remembered Cyrene's words to Shulaba and herself. "The way that man treated Gabrielle, he has no right to declare himself her father." Cyrene immediately realized what she let slip out and covered her mouth so hard with her hand that a red imprint was left.
Eponin knew she could not let this go unnoticed and begged Cyrene to explain her words. After a few minutes Cyrene decided to share Gabrielle's secret with the two Amazon women. She trusted them, and while she knew Eponin, Cyrene also knew Gabrielle would not have chosen Shulaba as Queen, if she could not trust her. Making both women swear upon Artemis; Cyrene was no dummy, she told them about the time three years ago, when she accidentally walked in on Gabrielle bathing and found her breast and then her hips with painful bruises.
Eponin remembered Cyrene's tearful words. "Gabrielle begged me not to tell Xena or anyone and that she would be okay. She did not want Xena to get mad at her."
Shulaba asked if Cyrene knew who hurt Gabrielle. "Not at first, I was so shocked that someone could hurt this beautiful young woman that I just asked Gabrielle to let me treat her bruises."
Eponin could feel herself battle internal rage, but had to know everything, so she asked Cyrene to continue her story. "As I treated her bruises she cried, oh did she cry, and I asked her why someone could hurt her."
Pausing a moment Cyrene continued, "Gabrielle's lips were quivering so hard from crying that she could barely get the words out and when she did all she said was - I'm different, father said I'm wicked, he hates when I tell stories and?..I shame him because I am not a son."
Wrenching herself from her thoughts, Eponin tossed the horsebrush aside, saddled Argo and headed out of the Amazon village. She roused Argo into a solid gallop as soon as they reached the fields surrounding the eastern region of Amazon territory. Needing Argo to take the lead, Eponin returned her thoughts to Cyrene and the visit at Amphipolis.
"Hey Argo!" The horse gave a few sputtering grunts and slowed to a walk. "Cyrene never told Xena about Gabrielle's father hurting her. Do you think Xena knew?"
Eponin turned Argo to the west and watched as the sun started to sink under the horizon. The Amazon Warrior responded to her own question, "No I suppose Xena never knew; she should have been told, I would have wanted to know."
Eponin recalled Cyrene's story of how Argo had wandered into Amphipolis. Cyrene always figured that horse was half human or possessed, and when she found Argo outside of her inn that one morning, she not only sensed Xena was lost to her, but also to Argo. Ever since then Cyrene kept Argo in the stables. When the Amazons came for their visit, Cyrene believed Argo would be much happier with someone better able to take care of her. So, Eponin inherited Argo.
"ONLY FOR NOW WARRIOR" Eponin screeched at the setting sun then permitted sobbing to again take over her body. "Only for now????."
By midday Xena and Gabrielle managed to hike up the mountain southwest of the cave stopping when they found a break in the timberline. Looking out over the forest valley below, the women could see several more mountain ranges running north and south. There was also a good size river to the southeast.
Handing Xena the waterbag and a slice of jerky Gabrielle sat down on the warm surface of rocks below her feet. "Xena, do you recognize any of the landmarks?"
Pointing to the river, "We're up pretty high, but I think the river is Haliacmon."
"Mmmm, Haliacmon," Gabrielle closed her eyes hoping it would improve her concentration. "Isn't that above Thessalyia?"
"Yes it is?.and over the last few nights I've been watching the stars, so we are probably somewhere in the Pieria Mountains."
Xena looked down at her Bard, who was already in a yoga position, eyes closed, breathing was smooth. "Are you going to mediate for awhile?"
Gabrielle peeked out of one eye, "No, just resting for a bit."
Xena sat down next to her soulmate; leaning over she placed a sweet kiss on the Bard's cheek.
The Bard opened both eyes and scooted closer to her lover. Xena protectively placed her arm around Gabrielle pulling her closer so that Gabrielle could lean up against her.
"Xena, how much time do you think has really passed since?.well since?you know?"
Taking a deep breath Xena realized she really had no idea and felt a little loss because she did not have an answer for her soulmate. "I really do not know. The ground seems warmer than before, I can see the change in the greenery, and I've noticed several baby birds in the trees." Xena spoke reassuringly for Gabrielle, as much as herself. "I'm not sure about days; I do know this is our sixth day since we awoke outside the cave."
Gabrielle stood up pulling Xena with her. "I wonder if our families?" pausing for the right words Xena finished her sentence.
"I imagine they have already heard." Xena pulled the Bard in front of her so she could wrap her arms around Gabrielle and breathe in the heaven scent smell of patchouli and almonds that was always her lover. "As long as Amarice got away, I know she would return to the Amazon village to tell Shulaba. As an Amazon she is bound by her loyalty to her new Queen. And Shulaba is bound to tradition?.." pausing only seconds, "Shulaba will send word to our families."
Gabrielle circled around until she could lay her head on the breast of her soulmate. She listened to Xena's heart beating and the steady rate of her breath. "We should tell them we are okay."
The Warrior slipped her hand under Gabrielle's chin, lifting her head so she could claim the soft mauve tinted lips of her lover. As always, Gabrielle never turned Xena away and responded with an urgency that met with the Warriors.
Xena reluctantly pull away from the kiss, "Let's rest one more day and then we will leave."
Grabbing the front of Xena's tunic she pulled the Warrior back into a kiss. "You taste so good, I must have more of you."
"By the gods, Gabrielle do you have any idea what you do to me."
Gabrielle increased the passion of her kiss; cutting off any further words Xena would utter. Xena felt herself walking backwards while Gabrielle's tongue feverishly sucked hers. Not entirely sure when the tree stopped her from moving further, she only knew the Bard had already managed to find the wetness of Xena's desire for her lover.
Gabrielle continued pressing and sliding her body down her lover, pulling Xena's breeches off on the way. "Mmmm?..you are so-so wet?." Before she could finish her statement Gabrielle directed her tongue and lost herself in her soulmate's wetness.
Xena knew she could not help the gutturally moans and groans of pleasure that escaped through her lips as the Bard quickly took away the strength in her legs and the breath out of her lungs. Never would she imagine this young farm girl was capable of bringing her to such staggering orgasms.
It did not take long until Gabrielle felt Xena releasing the last tremor of her climax along with the inability to remain standing. Licking the spicy-sweet juices from her lips, Gabrielle helped Xena to the ground.
The deep blue in Xena's eyes was still glazed over, when she heard Gabrielle speaking to her.
"When we see your mother, remind me to thank her for creating such a delicious daughter."
Hearing the playfulness in Gabrielle's voice, Xena responded, "Don't you dare little one or I might have to find a way to torture you."
The Bard wrinkled her forehead in thought before responding, "I think I might thoroughly enjoy any torture you might come up with." Pausing a moment, she brought Xena's hand to her lips, giving the palm a long stroke with her tongue and then impishly added, "Can we use warm oil with my torture."
Several seconds later Gabrielle found herself pinned to the ground, smelling the aroma of fallen pine needles encircling her. Not much longer after that Gabrielle was now the one proclaiming sounds of ecstasy to the mountain and its valleys.
Cyrene sat near the front window of her inn with a mug of port that she was not really that interested in drinking. Watching as the rain clouds began to claim the sky Xena's mother released a big sigh, as she ventured through the memories of her Xena. *Why must such cruelty be allowed to happen. You worked so hard to rectify the wrongs you so foolishly brought upon others.*
Hearing the thunder in the distant clouds pounding and bellowing their warning of approach, Cyrene remembered Xena once telling her, "The dead can hear our thoughts."
"Xena, I really miss you my beautiful daughter. I am so very, very proud of you." Cyrene tilted her head slightly and a smile shaped her mouth. "I remember the time you wanted to travel to Athens. You had to be only six seasons or so, and you wanted to do it alone. When I told you no, oh did that temper of yours catch on fire. You grabbed the bow and several arrows that Uncle Ortis made for you and stomped out the door, threatening to never come back. You did come back though and in time for dinner, all muddy, claiming Athens was wonderful and you might go again tomorrow." Cyrene found herself chuckling slightly, but soon it turned back to the reflection she could only imagine of her daughter nailed to a Roman cross.
The visit by the Amazon's helped Cyrene to work through her initial grief over the death of her daughter and Gabrielle. She also knew it eased the pain for the Amazons, especially Eponin. Cyrene knew that while Ephiny was always a favorite of Gabrielle's, it was Eponin whom Xena favored. *I was right to give Argo to Eponin,* mused Cyrene.
Cyrene, like most of Greece was pleased to hear of Caesar's demise. However, Cyrene mused, *I would gladly have a hundred Caesar's plundering this land, if it would bring you back to me my daughter??..and my Gabrielle.*
Gabrielle had affectionately nicknamed her "Warrior Mom" shortly after the Bard confided in Cyrene about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her father. Laying her hands palm down on the rough wooden table she noticed age claiming the once smooth skin and reflected back to the times her father would take a wooden stick across the backs as a means of punishing Cyrene for her occasional bouts of independence. As Cyrene became an adult, she held firm to the belief that no child should ever suffer abuse at the hands of a parent. After that first confrontation with Gabrielle, the Bard only shared her injuries produced by her father two more times. And both times were because Cyrene had cornered the Bard after she knew Gabrielle had just returned from a visit with her family. After that, Gabrielle became much more inventive at hiding her wounds and made sure someone was always around so Warrior Mom could not confront her. Cyrene was certain that Gabrielle never shared her pain with Xena. Her Warrior daughter would not have stood by for that.
Expressing her musing openly, "Xena, I am so pleased that you finally chose to tell Gabrielle how much you loved her." Cyrene thought back to the season when her daughter finally accepted that she was worthy of love and that her love was worth sharing. It amused Cyrene to watch both her daughter and Gabrielle try to hide their feelings for each other, then all of a sudden one day they showed up holding hands. After that she could not imagine how Gabrielle hid any marks her father left on her. But knowing Gabrielle, if caught, she probably blamed them very convincingly on another cause.
Ripping Cyrene from her dreams she jumped as a bolt of brilliant lightening disturbed the sky and was promptly followed by thunder rolling across the heavens.
The Warrior and her Bard just barely made it to the cave as the heavens opened sending sheets of rain, flashes of lightening and pounding thunder through the mountain and valley.
Both stood close to the entrance and watched the rain for a few minutes, each lost in their own daydream. Xena placed her hand on Gabrielle's shoulder and mischievously proclaimed, "I'm hungry, what did you plan for us?"
Gabrielle shook her head giggling at how animated her partner has been over the past several days. *Not that she wasn't before, but there was something different.* Gabrielle paused in her thoughts, * No wrong choice of words, she is still very animated. Her spirit just seems happier.*
"Okay, my wild Warrior woman, you start the fire and I'll whip up something that will make you drooling for more."
"Mmmmm?.." Xena could feel a sudden wetness coating her breeches. Turning to face Gabrielle she arched her eyebrow and pressed her fingers to the Bard's lips. In a most tempting tone she whispered, "I'll save the drooling part for desert." Giving Gabrielle a quick wink, Xena spun around and headed to the hearth.
It took Gabrielle a second to compose herself, "Ohhh, very funny Warrior Princess, very funny indeed." With a big smile on her face and throbbing pressure between her legs, Gabrielle proceeded to cook an evening meal for them.
After their meal, both women retreated to the chamber dedicated to the Creator. While on their trek up and back down the mountain each collected various items for the altar. Objects they believed the Creator would be pleased with. The previous day the Warrior placed several candles on the altar, signifying the gift of the light they each received. Gabrielle placed a scroll, which spoke of Carrier's message to them from the Creator.
Today as a couple they would offer substances of the earth. Pine cones and needles, a variety of colorful pebbles, and a medley of seeds from trees and flowers. After placing their offerings on the altar the Warrior and the Bard settled into yoga. Positions created jointly to first show respect for their Creator and second an arrangement to announce their joining as soulmates.
Gabrielle fell into meditation much quicker than the Warrior did. Xena always enjoyed a few minutes to ponder her love for Gabrielle. Remembering the time she told Gabrielle how she liked to wait a few minutes and watch, Gabrielle reasoned that Xena was, "Making a quick reality check." She was right, of course, mused Xena as she gazed lovingly at the Bard, *Looks like, feels like, sounds like??.then it must be.* As Xena began clearing her mind to meditate, she understood she had to ask Gabrielle to enter into a marriage.
Later that night, as darkness took over the light, the rain and thunder ended their control. The fires in the cave continued to burn protectively as the two lovers embraced and drifted to the land of Morpheus.
At the edge of the forest a single doe watched. Tomorrow my friends???.tomorrow.
The Warrior awoke before her soulmate and allowed herself a few minutes to recall their passion last night. Brushing several golden locks from Gabrielle's eyes Xena remembered how Gabrielle attained the short cute cut. Xena really did like the style, but she also missed brushing and braiding her lover's hair. *Any excuse to touch the little Amazon,* the Warrior smiled inwardly. Xena, however, was secretly pleased when Gabrielle told her she was planning to let it grow long again. The Warrior mused that by the end of the next moon Gabrielle's silky golden fleece should be on her shoulders. Xena brushed her lips on her soulmates forehead and slipped out of bed. As she moved to re-light the embers left over from the night Xena wondered how her mother might view her return to life. Xena could feel the warm glow in her heart as she imagined her mother would be shocked and totally joyful at the same time. *Yes, it would probably be a mixed bag of emotions for everyone for a while.*
As Xena was brewing the tea, she heard movement coming from the bed. She looked up to see her soulmate with her feet planted on the ground pulling her sea green tunic over that scrumptious body. As her head popped through the top of the tunic, Gabrielle gave Xena a silly grin.
"Good morning beautiful." The Bard came over grabbing the hairbrush on the way, knelt down behind Xena and with a caressing kiss to the side of the Warrior's neck, Gabrielle started brushing the long, silky raven hair of her partner. "Would you like a few braids?"
"Sure, whatever your heart desires my love." Xena relaxed, as she absorbed the attention she was receiving.
Brushing Xena's hair was one of Gabrielle's favorite activities and was actually one of the earliest forms of touch in which the old stuffy warlord would allow her to be this close. So the Bard kept the joy of this activity near and dear to her heart.
When Gabrielle finished, she sat down next to Xena and joined her for a light breakfast. Since they would be traveling, neither wanted to overeat. Over their meal, Xena shared with her soulmate what she felt was the best route to Poteidaia.
"Xena, let's go to Amphipolis first or to the Amazon village. Then we can send a messenger to Poteidaia." Gabrielle really did not relish the idea of facing her father, but did not want Xena to figure that out.
"Well, you sure?" Xena found Gabrielle nodding her head yes, but there were no words to emphasize the nod. "Okay, if you are really sure, why don't we go to the Amazon village." Again all Xena witnessed was a nod, so she continued, "The Amazon's can send messengers to both our families, then we can decide whom we will see first."
Gabrielle moved from Xena's side and started packing for the trip. No words were exchanged, but in the Warrior's mind, she sensed Gabrielle was much too quiet. *No, I can't let this go, something is wrong.* Just as Xena started to approach Gabrielle she felt a presence in the cave with them. Quickly Xena turned to see the doe standing at the edge of the semi-circle of their living area.
Xena whispered, "Psssst, Gabrielle, turn slowly."
The Bard turned as instructed and saw the most beautiful fawn colored doe she has ever seen.
"Xena, is that the doe you've been telling me about. The one you've seen around the perimeter of our camp?"
The Warrior nodded her head yes.
For what seemed like an eternity the Warrior and Bard teamed together in an attempt to understand the doe. Abruptly the doe turned and ran from the cave. Both Xena and Gabrielle instinctively were at her heels, but the doe was much faster and was into the forest by the time the two got outside the cave.
The air was heavy with a misty fog left over from the rainstorm. The mist clung closely to the ground making it difficult to see much of anything. Xena and Gabrielle moved away from the cave following the tracks left by the doe.
"Gabrielle, give me your hand, I don't want us to get separated by the mist."
Gabrielle shivered slightly and held tightly to Xena's hand. The Warrior sensed her partner's uneasiness, "You okay sweetie, we can go back."
*Sweetie?* Gabrielle smiled at Xena's use of the endearing word. *She must be worried, never heard sweetie before. Hmm, I think I actually like that.*
Xena stopped and Gabrielle almost ran her over. "Hey, Gabrielle, are you with me. Do you want to go back to the cave?"
"Ummm, sorry. No I'm okay, as long as you don't let go of me."
Xena returned her attention to the impressions left by the doe in the damp soil. They moved several more paces until Xena stopped once again.
"Gabrielle, you better take a look at this." Xena pointed to the tracks stamped into the ground.
The Bard circled her arm around Xena's waist and together they looked at the tracks. "Xena, they are human footprints!" Gabrielle started to stumble over her words, "But, but we saw the doe running this way?.and?.Xena what is going on?"
Sure enough the tracks left by the doe abruptly turned into human footprints. The Warrior felt her skin crawling and decided they should get back to the cave where she can at least put up a defense to protect Gabrielle, if necessary. Just as she started to turn them around the Warrior heard movement.
"Gabrielle, ssssh - listen."
Stepping through the mist from the edge of the forest the doe emerged cautiously. Xena pushed Gabrielle behind her for protection and took a battle stance in preparation for a fight.
The doe stopped once it reached the outer edge of the forest. Time seemed to stand still for the Warrior and her Bard.
Then they heard the voice?? "Do not fear me, I am your sentry and my duty is to protect you both. Do you not recognize me." With that final statement the doe approached the women and with each carefully placed step the doe started to change shape.
As they watched the doe changing shape and closing the distance between them, shock was registering in both women. Xena relaxed her battle stance and her mouth dropped open, her eyes became huge with surprise. Gabrielle moved alongside of her soulmate and covered her mouth with both hands as tears flooded her eyes.
Before either woman could react further, a sentry was standing only arms length away and she spoke with laughter, "Hey, close your mouths, you trying to catch the flies that hover around Ares."
"Ephiny ?" Xena questioned and yet she knew the answer. Gabrielle was not capable of speaking and rushed to Ephiny almost knocking her to the ground, as she wrapped her arms around the Amazon with a hug so tight, Ephiny thought she was going to be crushed. If it was possible, to crush a spirit.
Xena soon followed wrapping both Ephiny and her Bard in a huge bear hug. Together the three women began crying and laughing at the same time.
Ephiny broke the hug first and asked Xena and Gabrielle to listen to her. "I am not of this world anymore. I'm in.." Ephiny paused and waved her hand around in the air at no place in particular. "I guess it is a spirit world of sorts. When I died, Artemis came to me and gave me a choice. I could rest in the Amazon afterlife, or stay around and help her out." Ephiny reached out with her hand and wiped the tears from Gabrielle's face. "So, here I am."
"Ephiny," Xena had to clarify what was going on, "Gabrielle and I both died at Caesar's hand. A God or Creator higher than Artemis or even Zeus returned us to this life. How did you or Artemis become involved?"
"Xena, I'm an Amazon, I follow the rule of Artemis and do not ask anymore questions than I have too." Ephiny shrugged her shoulders and struggled for the right explanation, "Look all I know is there are things that go on in this universe that we are not suppose to know about. We just act as if."
Xena and Ephiny both looked at Gabrielle, who spoke so softly they almost did not hear her. "That's it, that's the secret?..we?we must live by faith ....and we must believe through our faith."
Sweeping Gabrielle into her arms Xena could not resist tasting the soft lips that spoke such words of wisdom. Her love for the Bard was so overwhelming.
"Look, you two," placing her hands on her hips, acting as if she was impatient, Ephiny continued to speak, "Smooch later, I can not stay, some spirit-world rule or something."
Both lovers blushed as they turned to face their friend. Out of the mist that surrounded them, Ephiny presented Gabrielle with her Amazon staff. Observing Gabrielle's surprised expression, Ephiny acknowledged her Amazon Queen, "Yes, it is the same one I gave you as a gift so long ago, and the same staff you threw into the river. It is time for you to take the staff once again.
"?.and Xena, I believe this is yours." Ephiny placed Xena's chakram in her hands. The Warrior felt like thunderbolts had penetrated her soul. She tried to find the proper words, but none would come. Finally Xena realized just how important faith was playing in her destiny.
Stepping back away from her friends, "Your home is on this mountain. The cave will always remain protected and here for you both, return often." Bowing her head in respect Ephiny turned and ran to the forest before either woman could speak. As she broke the forest edge the Warrior and the Bard watched, as Ephiny became the doe once again.
Xena and Gabrielle found themselves drained emotionally after the meeting with Ephiny. They agreed to wait one more day before traveling. One of the beautiful aspects of their bonding was they discovered at times like this each one could read the emotions in their soulmate. From this built-in connection they found they could nurture one another equally.
The Warrior threw a log on the still burning fire and then accepted the cup of hot tea offered by her lover. "Thank you," Xena spoke quietly, as she detected the warmth coming from Gabrielle's hands while accepting the cup. "Come sit by me?.please, I?.I need to have you close." Xena tossed a blanket on the ground in front of flat rock she sat on during the times she sharpened her sword. Then leaning against the rock she patted the ground in front of her inviting Gabrielle to share the blanket. The Bard needed no further encouragement, as she too wanted the closeness with Xena.
Pulling Gabrielle in tightly, both continued sipping the tea. Kissing the top of Gabrielle's head, she murmured, "Mmmm?wonderful choice, you added mint." Xena was pleased with the added flavor and was proud that Gabrielle knowingly chose the mint to boost their spirits a bit.
After a few more sips, Gabrielle put her cup to the side and turned her body so she could snuggle with her favorite Warrior. Within a few minutes she was sleeping. Xena smiled at how absolutely wonderful Gabrielle could always make her feel. Placing her cup to the side, the Warrior wrapped her arms around her whole world and soon, she too fell asleep.
Over lunch, Shulaba shared with Epinon how she had absolutely no success in gaining entrance to Artemis' temple. The Goddess just flatly refused to see anyone, including her new Queen with a Treaty of Peace. Eponin knew how special Gabrielle had been to the Goddess, so suggested Shulaba give her some more time to grieve. What no one in the Amazon village realized, was that Artemis was not at the temple anyway.
Suddenly, interrupting without permission to sit at the same table with the Queen, Amarice plopped her self onto the bench next to Epinon. "Excuse you," Epinon remarked in a scolding fashion.
Amarice stood up quickly, "Oh?.sorry. May I join your table for lunch my Queen."
Shulaba nodded in agreement and then snickered to herself. *You still need some work with those manners young pup.* Pausing, Shulaba could not help notice the glare of admiration darting out of Amarice's eyes, and it seemed to be directed towards Epinon. *Yea, maybe being Queen might have a few fun aspects.*
Using her official queen-like tone Shulaba addressed the two of them. "Epinon, it would please me greatly if you took Amarice under your wing, and Amarice pay close attention to your mentor."
Epinon glared at Shulaba. "WHAT !!! This?.this??.. KID !!!"
Shulaba stood up, smiled at Epinon and walked away without further comment. *Hmmm, I'm beginning to like this queen stuff.*
Epinon slammed her mug of port on the table, spilling most of its contents. Pushing herself away from the table she bent over to glare directly into Amarice's eyes. "I DO NOT LIKE TO REPEAT MYSELF." And with that being said Epinon left the lunch area with Amarice happily trailing behind, trying her best to keep up with the lengthy strides of her new mentor.
Xena left her dreamstate, when she realized there were tiny, delicate, soft kisses being placed all over her face.
"Wake up my beautiful Warrior." Gabrielle kept pouring kisses over her soulmate. "Time to play."
Immediately, no warning given, the heat between Xena's legs began to rise, throb and swell. *What is it with her, she can say the most innocent, sweetest thing and I loose total control.*
Just as Xena opened her eyes, Gabrielle moved away and stood above the Warrior. Very playfully, very seductively Gabrielle began removing her tunic letting is slink down over perfectly firm breasts, catching only for a second on her already harden pink nipples. Pulling the tunic to uncover her tight abs, Gabrielle rotated her hips erotically forcing the tunic to expose her tattoo. The emerald clothing eventually slipped across the curves of her hips and fell to the ground. Xena was caught in a trance, one she did not want to end. Gabrielle stepped away from the fallen tunic watching Xena's reaction and she was not disappointed. The Bard enjoyed pleasing and fulfilling Xena's many sexual fantasies. Moving away from the Warrior so she was outside of arms reach, but still facing her, Gabrielle placed her left hand on a breast and began squeezing and fondling the nipple causing the skin to redden. Surprising herself, she let a small sigh of satisfaction escape. While attention was being given to her breast she licked her fingers on her right hand and began to trace her lower lip allowing a kiss to touch her fingers. Gabrielle slid her fingers between her lips sucking them for a moment. The Bard found she could not stop her self at this point, and she was very aware of the excitement it was causing for Xena. The Amazon intentionally let her fingers slip from her mouth dripping with wetness. With the heat now consuming her body she darted her tongue licking between her fingers slowly and then faster forcing herself to pant slightly. Gabrielle could hear Xena's groaning praises to Aphrodite. Sensually Gabrielle dropped her wet fingers dragging them down her body. Arching her head back and letting the excitement in her breath escape, she moved her hand from her breast around to grab and manipulate her buttocks. Her right hand and wet fingers kept sliding down her body, allowing them to creep under her breeches stopping only once she reached her center of pleasure. Feeling herself become very hot and very wet she let a few moans and a few 'yes's' slip through her lips, before sliding her breeches off to the ground.
Xena could not take anymore she wanted, no NEEDED to have Gabrielle. By the time Xena's mind sent the message to her mushy muscles, weakened from her lover's seduction, Gabrielle had already bolted to the back of the cave. Stripping her tunic off as she followed, the Warrior could hear her lover splashing in the warm spring water of the pool.
Xena slid into the warm water and was welcomed into open arms by her lover. "Turn around Xena, let me wash your hair." The Warrior and Bard intimately washed each other's hair and scrubbed each other's backs. They splashed water at each other, giggled, hugged and kissed each other playfully finally calming down until they were both just holding each other.
Finally, Xena pulled away from their embrace so she could look into the emerald eyes of her soulmate. "Gabrielle."
The Bard knew the tone. Tilting her head slightly she asked, "Everything okay Xena."
"Gabrielle, I want to be with you always?..forever?and I know our destiny is to be that way." Pausing for a moment, feeling as if she would never be able to express verbally want she wanted to say Xena inhaled deeply, placing her fingers lightly over the Bards lips and asked, "Gabrielle will you bond with me?.marry me?"
Feeling like Xena stopped the world just for her, Gabrielle knew there was no way to stop her tears so she let them go. Gabrielle knew the expression on Xena's face was one of total surrender to their bond, to their love. Cupping Xena's face in her hands the Bard knew the only word necessary to complete the circle was, "Yes."
As Gabrielle's arms glided around Xena's neck, the Warrior lifted her into strong arms and carried her to their bed. Never has Xena loved anyone like she loved this young woman from Poteidaia, and she had every intentions of not only finding someone to marry them, but to show through her actions exactly how much she treasured Gabrielle's love for her.
Claiming Gabrielle's yielding lips, the memory of the Bards earlier strip tease act came to mind. As their tongues sought out to possess the other, Xena was jolted when she felt Gabrielle slide one hand between the folds of her wetness. "Ah...uh?oh no you don't, my love," whispered Xena, as she secured both of Gabrielle's arms, lifting them over the Amazon's head pinning them to the bed. The Warrior nipped lightly at a tender earlobe, evoking a pleasurable groan from her lover, as well as a slight tug from her hands. "My Bard, I will have my way with you first." Peering down at Gabrielle, Xena licked her tongue over her lips showing the Bard just exactly what she had in mind.
"Ohhhh, Xe?thi?.is, is..is tor?turrrre?" the Bard found she could not form complete words and stopped fighting for the dominance.
Xena cupped both of the Bard's breasts in her hands, squeezing, nibbling, and sucking rapidly. The Warrior found herself extremely excited by the texture and firmness of her lover's breast. She had always been very turned on by Gabrielle's breasts, and even before they became lovers Xena found herself fantasizing about touching and sucking them frequently. In fact a lot of perimeter checks took place because of those bountiful mounds.
The groaning and occasional squeals of please and yes coming from Gabrielle only further increased Xena's desire to take her instantly. The Warrior began her descent touching, licking, teasing and memorizing every curve and valley of her soulmate. Gabrielle willingly spread her legs for Xena's heated tongue and the Warrior aggressively buried her nose and lips into the golden curls protecting the Bard's center of pleasure. Xena hissed lovingly, "Mmmmm?you smell so sweet, so-so ready to eat."
Her lover's words sent Gabrielle's body into heated tremors and shivers and she lost control, finding herself releasing animalistic moans and eventually screams of ecstasy coming from her heart.
Not being able to wait much longer herself, Xena let her tongue travel feverishly among the soft folds and petals, darting in and out, circling around, stroking up and down, all the while consuming every drop of sweet nectar Gabrielle could offer.
Gabrielle's breath became extremely short and fast, her hips lifted from the bed and began shaking uncontrollably. Xena kept her tongue, lips and mouth sucking and licking, until finally centering on the small target that she knew would give Gabrielle her release. As soon as Xena began sucking the swollen nub, Gabrielle began her climax. Xena heard her soulmate beg "Xe?..pleaseeee?..come with meeee." The Warrior was already so close to an orgasm just from listening to the Bard's reactions and rubbing her own mound on the bed that she had no trouble agreeing to her lover's request. While keeping her tongue securely to Gabrielle, Xena quickly took her free hand and rubbed vigorously on her own center with her thumb while plunging her remaining fingers in her swollen shaft.
Seconds later both women could be heard broadcasting their love and devotion to the universe. Collapsing next to Gabrielle, Xena quickly pulled her close, as both attempted to regain their breath and will the muscles in the body's to stop quivering.
Rolling over to snuggle in closer, Gabrielle closed her eyes, kissing whatever part of Xena's skin she could touch and whispered in a rather hoarse voice, "I really do want to marry you my Warrior, can that be our first adventure when we leave here?"
Xena squeezed her little Amazon Queen tightly and kissed her forehead. But before closing her eyes she replied, "Get some sleep my love, because tomorrow we will set out on that adventure."
As the Warrior and the Bard drifted off to sleep, a comet blazed across the night sky. At the edge of the forest, the doe smiled and spoke to her friend, "Nice comet, don't you agree."
Artemis smiled at Ephiny and then raising her arms to the night sky she thanked the universe for bringing back her Chosen One and the Queen's Champion.
Thanks for reading. Interested in a sequel, let me know, cause I'm working on one. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org