The sun shone, calm winds gently brushing through the green leaves of the towering trees. It was a beautiful day in the Amazon Village. Xena spent the day training with Eponin and Solari while Gabrielle and Ephiny spent time with their "Queenly" activities.
Gabrielle sighed, going through another treaty in the large piles of parchment. Even though her and Xena were here on a break, she'd rather rough it in the wilderness than sit around all day reading treaties.
"Gabrielle? Gabrielle, you listening?" Ephiny questioned, pulling the bard from her thoughts.
"Oh, sorry, Eph? I guess I'm just tired," Gabrielle replied, yawning for proof.
"Go get your warrior and relax. I'll finish up," Ephiny chuckled as her Queen started to exit the hut.
"Oh and Ephiny?" Gabrielle added, "don't sign that one treaty. Those men are just trying to cheat us out of some of our major hunting grounds."
"OK? My Queen," Ephiny smiled at her sarcastic remark.
Gabrielle sighed once again as she walked toward the training grounds. Where her warrior would be waiting for her. She smiled as she listened to the ground crunch under her feet. The sound of battle screams and the clashing of swords, staffs, and other weapons sounded in her ears as the approached the training ground.
Her bright smile was echoed by the bright blue eyes that met hers as soon as she arrived. Immediately, Gabrielle found herself sinking in the comfortable arms of Xena.
"Hey," Gabrielle whispered.
"Hey yourself. Rough day, My Bard?"
Gabrielle chuckled softly, "That obvious?"
"Well? the fact that you're almost asleep while you stand gives me a little hint."
"Ha ha, So?you wanna' go train or something?" Gabrielle asked.
Xena chuckled, "Nope. The only thing I want to do is lay under the covers and watch you sleep?so let's go."
"What Xena wants, Xena gets," Gabrielle murmured as they made their way toward their hut.
"Shouldn't that be the other way around, Bard?" Xena smirked.
"Hey, are you complaining?" Gabrielle lazily chuckled.
"Not at all."
Immediately after Xena had closed the door behind their entry, they both were stripped and into the bed. Gabrielle sighed contently, resting her head on Xena's shoulder as she was held. Her sanctuary. The safest place in the world.
"I love you, Xena," Gabrielle whispered, her eyes heavy.
"I love you, too? now go to sleep. You deserve it," Xena replied, softly kissing the top of the bard's head.
"As long as you sleep as well?" Gabrielle soon found herself dreaming.
"So, Eph? did you tell her?" Eponin questioned, resting beside her partner in their comfortable bed.
"Tell her about what?"
"The party? tell me you didn't forget to tell our 'Queen' about the party."
"Oops? I guess I kinda' forgot with all of the stuff going on," Ephiny shrugged sheepishly.
"You better tell her tomorrow? she's gotta' make the first drink and I HAVE to see that!" Eponin teased, kissing her consort gently.
Ephiny chuckled, "It should be pretty humorous? this is some new wine that we found from a vender in Damascus. You haven't tried it yet."
"Wow? there's a wine I haven't tried?"
Ephiny laughed, "It's new? at least that's what the man said. Solari got a great deal so everyone is going to pass out."
"Uh oh? you definitely need to tell Gabrielle about the party tomorrow!"
The next morning, the warrior and bard were awakened by a knock on their door.
"Ephiny," Gabrielle drawled from her sleep as Xena rose, answering the door.
"Yes?" Xena asked, somewhat startling the regent who stood at the door.
"There's something I need to tell you and our Queen," Ephiny started, "there's going to be a party tonight I guess to celebrate the ending of all these treaties and other parchment work."
"Uh oh? I heard the word party!" Gabrielle exclaimed from inside the hut.
"Well anyway," Ephiny continued, "our Queen has to make the first drink?"
Xena sighed, "When does it start?"
"At nightfall. Make sure Gabrielle is in the whole Amazon outfit."
The night, the center of the village was filled with anxious Amazons waiting to party. At first they were discouraged that they couldn't start celebrating until Gabrielle took the first drink? but that soon changed everyone's attitude. They all wanted to see their Queen's face after the first sip.
"My sister Amazons!" Ephiny announced, silencing the activity before her, "tonight is a celebration. One that does not have a reason, but? who cares?"
Many snickers sounded in the crowd.
"Before us is great entertainment. Queen Gabrielle will take the first drink, starting the celebration of? whatever!" Ephiny cheered, smiling at the enthusiasm shared by her fellow Amazons.
In her hut, Gabrielle shivered in anticipation in taking the first drink. If she really thought about it, the thought of taking the first drink wasn't that horrifying. But when she doesn't drink that much to begin with, and the rest of the Amazons, meaning Ephiny and Eponin, graciously explained how strong the wine was? the thought made her nervous. Her and Xena both took a deep breath when they heard the Amazons cheer outside. Gabrielle was anxious. Xena was amused.
"Alright? I guess it's time to go," Gabrielle hesitated.
"Gabrielle, it can't be that bad," Xena smirked.
"Well then why aren't you going to drink any?"
Xena chuckled, "Because I want to stay sober? so I can see the face you make when you take that first sip."
"Ha ha," Gabrielle sarcastically commented, "you know? I don't see why everyone thinks this is going to be so entertaining."
"If only there was a device that could copy the faces you make when you drink?"
"My sister Amazons, I now present? Queen Gabrielle!" Ephiny announced, chuckling as the bard slowly walked up beside her. Smirking, the regent handed the glass of wine to the Queen. Gabrielle grimaced from the smell alone.
"Hades! What is in this stuff?"
Ephiny snickered, "You shall find out, My Queen."
"Ugh, I'm going to regret this," Gabrielle grimaced, "well? bottoms up!"
"Xena it's not that funny!" Gabrielle grimaced, guzzling a large cup of water. She could still feel the burn in her throat from the wine. Xena continued to chuckle from the sight of Gabrielle's face.
Gabrielle sighed, "And guess what?"
"What?" Xena questioned, still smiling.
"Now? I'm going to be sick," Gabrielle moaned, running outside of the hut.
Xena winced, hearing the sickly sound of Gabrielle throwing up, as she rushed outside to help her bard.
That night was very restless?
The next morning arrived too quickly. The sun rose over the trees it had fallen behind last night, lighting up the thrashed area of the village. Amazons were lined up, regaining consciousness, regaining their senses, and...pretending they were flying?
Xena was awoken by an irritating poke in her side.
"Gabrielle..." Xena said, rolling away from the bard.
Pinned to the bed by the force of the warrior's glare, Gabrielle's nervous smile grew broader. "Xena, you wanna have a thumb war?"
"Rock, Parchment, Dagger?"
"Aw, c'mon Xena. You win every time!"
"Xena, how 'bout that wine?"
"Look, I tell you what - I drink the wine and you laugh. Xena? Xena?"
"Gabrielle, what is wrong with you?!" Xena asked, becoming frustrated at the way her bard was acting.
Gabrielle continued to walk as if the warrior hadn't said anything, "Ephhhhuuuuny!!!" she slurred.
"My Queenie!" Ephiny hiccupped.
Suddenly, Gabrielle became very serious, pointing her index finger at the point of the regent's nose, "This is very serious? you might want to take notes."
Ephiny searched, seemingly trying to find a quill somewhere hidden in her bosom.
Gabrielle continued, " Now listen? this could save our lives one of these days. Have you ever seen Xena naked?"
Xena coughed from her position beside the blond bard, and suddenly felt very uncomfortable.
"Well," Gabrielle hiccupped, "it is the most beautiful sight I've ever seen. Are you sure you haven't seen her naked? Many people have, remember Xena?? You clobbered those men chasing after Icus? with the fish?"
Xena slightly blushed, "Yeah? with the? fish?drugged."
"The fish were drugged?" Ephiny questioned puzzled.
"No, Gabrielle was!" Xena exclaimed.
Ephiny's eyes brightened, "OH! Okay I get it? Gabrielle caught the fish that were drugged and so she became drugged because the fish were?drugged?"
"You're a hopeless case," Xena rolled her eyes.
"Hey! Don't call me hopeless? I haven't even seen you naked!"
Gabrielle giggled, "I have!"
"Alright! Props for the Queenie!" Ephiny exclaimed, holding her hand in the air.
"Props?" Gabrielle asked.
"Just go along with it? I made it up," the regent whispered, smiling as the bard clapped hands with her.
Xena whispered to herself, "Drugged? the wine was drugged?"
"Xena!" Gabrielle nearly screamed, startling Xena, "we can't hear you!"
"Heh? I sure can hear you though," Xena hissed through her teeth.
"My Queen, and Regent!" Eponin sounded, almost falling as she tried to bow, "there's another treaty!"
Everything was silent. No one made a sound?
"Nope! Tell them they're late!" Gabrielle shouted.
Xena's sensitive ears were taken a beating.
"Ephiny, listen carefully? where are the crates of that wine at?" Xena quietly asked.
"In storage? can't let good wine go to waste 'ya know?!" Ephiny answered.
"Thanks," Xena took off toward the storage hut.
"So? what about this seeing Xena naked thing?"
The wooden door of the storage hut creaked slightly as Xena opened it. Inside were bundles of crates filled with the bottles of the wine that Solari had bought from the traveling vender. Popping the lid off of a bottle, Xena sniffed the contents immediately noticing the drugged content. Xena sensed trouble? soon.
"Treaties?" she whispered, making her way back toward Gabrielle and Ephiny, who were chatting with other Amazons. Solari included.
"Gabrielle? what are you talking about?" Xena suspiciously questioned.
"Xena, your bard is saying some wild things? what's going on with everyone?" Solari asked.
Xena eyed Solari, "You're not drugged."
"I don't drink. At first I thought everyone was just drunk, but when I saw Gabrielle, I knew something weird was going on," Solari explained.
"Do you know where I can find the treaties? I have a feeling that this wasn't accidental."
Solari thought for a moment, "They're probably in Ephiny's hut. C'mon."
Inside, they searched through piles of parchment, scrutinizing each one.
"Xena what are we looking for?" Solari questioned.
"I'm not sure? wait, I found something," Xena concluded, holding up the parchment.
"What is it?"
"This treaty is a fake? Damaskenos," Xena discovered.
"Damaskenos? he's a warlord. He likes land. Lots of it," Xena replied.
"I've never heard of him," Solari added.
"He's very secretive. Rumor has it that his army is spread out all around Greece dressed as regular civilians. No one knows who they are. Damaskenos came from the city Damascus," Xena explained, "and I have a feeling that he's going to attack."
Solari read the parchment,
Queen Gabrielle of the Amazons,
I, Damaskenos, would like to offer a peace treaty in hopes of sharing some of your hunting grounds. We are in desperate need of food and we have hopes that the Amazons could be future allies. Even though we are men, we are honorable. I hope we can become friends. Smiling as the moon shines fully in the night sky.
"Hmm? kinda poetic," Solari concluded.
"Not poetic. A warning. The next full moon he will attack."
"Xena," Solari hesitated, "the next full moon is tomorrow."
"Hades," Solari whispered at the sight of the amazons running around like hooligans, "we're dead."
"I'm not sure what the drug is in the wine? all I know is that it's strong," Xena added.
"No joke? Gabrielle only drank a glass before drinking our whole water supply," Solari replied.
"Solari, do you remember what the salesman looked like?"
"Uhh? tall, dark hair. I swear if I would have seen if he was a soldier."
"It was probably one of his soldiers dressed as a civilian? is there any Amazons that weren't affected by the wine?"
"It's just me and you? even the elders party once in a while."
"Alright, I'll go to the town and see if I can find this 'salesman' and you try to group everyone together."
"How am I supposed to do that!?" Solari exclaimed, almost falling as a running Amazon shoved past her.
"I don't know? think of something," Xena said as she jogged over to the still drugged Gabrielle.
"Sheena!" the bard exclaimed, "I was just looking for you!"
"Oh you were," Xena quietly replied.
"Yeah?I missed you," Gabrielle drawled.
"Gabrielle I want you to listen to me," Xena started, "there's an army heading here tomorrow to attack us? are you listening?"
"Hanging onto every word? continue."
"Damaskenos, a warlord was the one that sold the drugged wine to Solari so that everyone would be out of it for an easy kill? I need you to pull yourself together."
"Who is Da Mosquitoes?" Gabrielle questioned.
Xena rolled her eyes, "I'll be back later."
"Eponin!" Solari called, heaving in a large amount of air, "I need - wait? what in Artemis's name are you doing? Is that a doll?"
"It's an ACTION FIGURE!" Eponin exclaimed, hiding the "action figure"
"What's an action figure?" Solari asked.
Solari sighed, "Nevermind? where's Ephiny?"
"I don't know? but if she's playing with an action figure don't disturb her," Eponin added, "last time I bothered her she broke my Barbinas and Kenamos!"
"Ephiny!" Solari exclaimed, getting the regent's attention outside.
"Yes? What's going on?" Ephiny said, grooming the feathers on her mask.
Solari eyed her suspiciously, "Are you alright? I mean? are you normal?"
"Sure, why wouldn't I be?"
"Never mind? what are you doing?"
"Well? our masks look like birds," Ephiny explained, "and birds fly? so? TADA!"
"My gods? what in Artemis are those?!" Solari exclaimed, horrified at the new?additions to the mask.
"Wings!" Ephiny exclaimed cheerfully.
"Hello, what can I do for 'ya?" a bartender asked as Xena strolled in the door.
"Do you know where I can find a man: tall, dark hair? he was a salesman."
"Ahh, yes!" the bartender smiled, "he said that he had other callings? left about a candle mark ago."
"Thank you," Xena ran out of the door, trailing the soldier.
Finding him wasn't difficult at all. Obviously he was still carrying the cart full of the products he was selling. In less than a candle mark, Xena discovered the man still dragging the cart. He soon found himself on his knees and in the pinch.
"Alright, Soldier Boy. You've got thirty seconds to live so you better tell me what I want to know," Xena growled.
"Alright! Alright? A?. anything."
"Why is Demaskenos attacking the Amazons?"
"Going on eighteen seconds? any answer coming in soon?"
"He? he wants land, all of it? and? and? he wants all of them? dead."
Sighing, Xena reluctantly took the pinch off of him, leaving him choking on the ground, but she became puzzled when he started laughing, "He? he knew that you would leave the amazons? he's been watching the whole time? the amazons are probably already dead."
Xena's eyes became wide as she realized her mistake. They had been watching. She was worried. She had to get back to the amazons fast? but she was concerned about something else as well. How had Demaskenos been watching without her knowing?
"Damnit, Xena where are you?" Solari whispered to herself. She knew that it would take a few candle marks for her to get back, but the army was supposedly supposed to attack tomorrow. As the sun started to set, many of the amazons started to sober up some, leaving them drained and still a little loopy from the drug. Even if they sobered up some, they still wouldn't be a match against a mysterious army.
"Solari?" Gabrielle questioned, "where's Xena?"
"Gabrielle? are you feeling better?"
"Not really? the only thing I remember is talking about a naked Xena."
Solari sighed, "There's some bad news, Gabrielle."
"What?! Is Xena hurt? Where is she Solari!?" Gabrielle started to panic.
"No, no? Xena left to find out something in Damascus. You see, everyone in the village was drugged with the wine by a mysterious warlord named Damaskenos."
"Damaskenos?" Gabrielle repeated.
"Yes," Solari answered, "there's an army planning on attacking the village tomorrow? he drugged everyone so it would be an easy kill."
"An army? Here? Tomorrow?"
"Yes, yes, and yes? Gabrielle, we're not prepared to fight an army in the state we're in? everyone will be slaughtered."
"We can't run? what are we going to do?" Gabrielle paced slightly, shaking her head.
"The only choice I see is fight and probably die?"
Sprinting nonstop through villages and forest, Xena only thought one thing. Gabrielle. She didn't know if the soldier was bluffing or not, but she wasn't going to take any chances. This guy was smart and tricky, and it scared Xena just for the fact that Damaskenos was watching the village the whole time.
'I hope I'm not too late?'
An alarm went off?
"What is it?" Gabrielle questioned.
"Someone tripped the alarm," Solari whispered.
Gabrielle started to panic, "But you said they were attacking tomorrow! They can't be here now!"
The queen and Amazon were interrupted by a sudden banging on the door and a shout, "An army is approaching!"
Solari sighed, "? Let's just hope Xena gets here."
Snatching her staff, Gabrielle and Solari both darted out of Solari's hut, both hearts pumping into their throats at the sight of a huge army heading their way, and only a few amazons prepared to battle.
Truly afraid now, Gabrielle started commanding the amazons, "Everyone grab weapons and head to the middle of the village."
"They're going to meet us in the middle," Solari whispered, unsheathing her sword.
"Gabrielle!" Ephiny shouted, joining the queen, "what's going on? what happened?"
"We're in trouble? our fate doesn't look too well," Gabrielle sighed, looking upon the army that continued to slowly approach.
"Does it look like the have archers?" Eponin asked, approaching. Everyone had major headaches, but at least they could see straight. That would give them a little bit of an advantage.
"I don't see any archers? if they had any they would be shooting upon us by now," Solari replied.
"Eponin, gather up all of the amazons that are able to travel in the trees. Sneak over them and attack from behind while the rest of us hold them off here," Gabrielle commanded, exhaling when Eponin sprinted off to complete her mission. 'Xena, where are you?'
"What do you need me to do?" Solari asked.
Gabrielle sighed, thinking for a moment, "Gather every other Amazon in the village, drugged or not? we have no choice but to fight."
When Xena finally made her way back into the edge of Amazon Territory, she was overcome with a sense of panic. The army had passed through here. And the sounds of death barely registered to her ears. Running full force, Xena continued to make her way to the village. To Gabrielle.
Gabrielle grunted, her staff colliding with the edge of a soldier's sharp sword. Blood flowed from a small wound in her shoulder, her heart pounding in her ears. The sound of agony echoed on the battlefield. Amazons and soldiers continued to fall in their own crimson. Rolling with a kick to the abdomen, Gabrielle leaped back onto her feet, crouching toward the ground as she blocked an overhead strike from the soldier. Earning an advantage from her position, the bard twirled the staff toward the back of the soldier's kneecaps, hearing the satisfying sound of bones cracking. He laid on the ground moaning in his pain.
Taking deep breaths, Gabrielle stood in the battle, viewing the killings around her, "Amazons don't let them get by! Keep fighting ----" She gasped as the edge of a sword impaled her through the side. She clutched her wound, crimsons flowing through her fingers. She knew that it wasn't too serious, but she couldn't go on much longer. The pain and the fatigue were too much. But Gabrielle knew that she would hold on? at least until she could see Xena's face one last time.
In anger the bard twirled, the edge of her staff colliding on the side of the grinning soldier's head, immediately knocking him unconscious.
Ephiny, noticing Gabrielle's wound, rushed over to her side, "Gabrielle! We need to get you out of here!"
"No! Even if we tried they would kill us? we're surrounded," Gabrielle panted. The lost and pleading look in Ephiny's brown eyes caused tears to rise to the surface, "We have to keep going?"
"Gabrielle!" Xena screamed, cutting down another soldier in her path. She would not rest until she found her bard. Even if she had to kill everyone in her path, "Gabrielle!"
She continued to search, screaming her bard's name frantically. It reminded her of the battle against the Romans, only she found Gabrielle safe, mourning over the loss of Phlanagus . Was she safe? Or was she injured? Xena didn't know, but she prayed to whatever god that was listening in hopes of finding her bard soon.
"Gabrielle!" Eponin exclaimed, rushing to the bard's side as she dropped to her knees.
"Eponin?this is too much? where's Xena?" Gabrielle whimpered.
Eponin shook her head, "I don't know? but we can keep this going for much longer? everyone is tired!"
Eponin grunted, impaling a charging soldier as he rushed toward her.
Gabrielle looked upon the battle. The sight of both the men of Damaskenos's army and amazons on the ground dead horrified her. Crimson continued to pour out of the wound in her side, and she knew that she had lost a lot of blood already. Her hands ached from gripping her wooden staff in fear, her knuckles white.
By the gods, though, if this was her end then she was going to take these bastards with her. Finding new renowned strength in her decision, Gabrielle stood up, prepared to die as an Amazon.
Solari ducked, wincing as the edge of a blade nicked her sword arm. In her crouching position, the Amazon rolled, appearing at the back of her enemy. She smirked as the blood of the soldier coated her.
"Eponin!" Ephiny screamed, noticing her consort falling to the ground. Gripping her sword tightly, she charged the soldier, tackling him in the process. Eponin, regaining her composure, leaped back up, kicking the soldier unconscious as Ephiny held him down.
Gabrielle groaned as she earned another slice to her collection across her thigh. She wasn't going to last much longer. She screamed, disabling her attacker as she continued to move through the bundles of attacking soldiers? until one voice stopped her in her tracks. Damaskenos.
"Queen Gabrielle? such a pleasure to meet you in such standards."
Gabrielle growled, "Go to Tartarus."
The warlord chuckled as he approached her, "Save me a seat will you?"
The bard shuddered, brandishing her staff in front of her. He attacked viciously, never missing a step as he tried to get through her defense. She ducked under the backswing of his sword, jabbing the end of her staff into his stomach. As he doubled over, losing his breath, she immediately kicked him in the forehead, sending him backwards.
"Oh? you're going to pay for that, Bard," Damaskenos snarled, charging once again. This time he got through her blocks, getting a good slash on her right bicep. Gabrielle screamed in pain as she went down on her knees.
Damaskenos chuckled, "I would say that I got first blood? but it looks as if you've already started?draining."
Gabrielle glared at the smirking warlord as he continued, "How does it feel, Gabrielle? Knowing that your little Warrior Princess isn't here to save you this time? That you will never look into those beautiful blue eyes? Feel her wonderful touch? How does it feel to know that I'm going to kill her soul?"
"Well," Gabrielle breathlessly started, "I'd say that you were already dead."
"I'd have to agree with her," the low alto voice of the Warrior Princess sounded behind the now worried warlord.
"It was a nice trick. Drugging the amazons, attacking earlier than scheduled to catch them off guard. I was even impressed at the fact that you were watching us the whole time," Xena snarled, trying not to show her worry as she noticed her bard lying on the ground injured a few feet ahead of her. The only thing she wanted to do was gather the blonde in her arms and make all of the pain disappear.
"Xena," Damaskenos gulped, "I was wondering when you would show up."
"Yea? me too," Xena growled, charging the man. Their swords continued to clash, blocking each other's attacks. They were evenly matched. Becoming overwhelmed by the warrior's strikes, Damaskenos stumbled, almost losing hold of his sword in the process. Earning the extra advantage, Xena struck, slashing a gaping hole in the warlord's abdomen. He fell to the ground limp, crimson flowing freely.
Xena rushed over to Gabrielle's side, "Gabrielle?"
Noticing that their leader had been killed, the soldiers were now scared. Most of them started to run, while others were killed in their shock. Amazons and men alike littered the ground, turning the grass and leaves red. It was definitely one of the most bloodiest battles the amazons had ever participated in.
"Gabrielle?" Xena questioned once again, holding her hands over the wounds. Ephiny, Solari, and Eponin all rushed over to her.
"Let's get her to the healer's hut," Ephiny stated, as Xena easily cradled Gabrielle in her arms. The battle was over, but it cost the amazons dearly?
Xena quickly and gently laid her unconscious bard on the hut as Ephiny collected what gut they could get a hold of. First, Xena stitched up her more serious wounds, including the one in her side, and worked up to the less fatal ones. Every once in a while, Gabrielle would moan as Xena continued her tasks, and Xena prayed that she would open her eyes soon. 'I should never have left,' Xena thought.
Finishing her tasks on the bard, she slowly laid beside her, wrapping her arms around the injured being. Immediately, Gabrielle seemed to sense who was beside her and she snuggled closer, allowing the warrior to hold her tighter.
Everything was silent the next morning, no one made a sound. Today would be busy work, making pyres, lighting them, bidding farewell to the women who were friends. Today would be a saddened day, filled with tears. But yet it was a happy one... The amazons still lived. They beat one of their roughest challenges that day. Wars lasted more than a day... this was just a major battle. One that the amazons were not prepared for... and it cost them so much.
Gabrielle groaned as she stetched, her wounds burning. Slowly she opened her eyes, noticing her warrior watching her. She whispered, "Hey."
"Hey yourself," Xena smiled, taking her bards hand in her own, "How are you feeling?"
"Better now that you are here... I didn't think you we're going to make it when-- yesterday."
"But I did... I just wish I hadn't left," Xena sighed, kissing the bard's forehead.
Gabrielle sighed, "Xena don't blame yourself... you did what you thought was right, and that is all that matters. And you saved me once again... great timing I might add."
They were interrupted by the arrival of the regent and her consort.
"Ephiny... Eponin, it's good to see you," Gabrielle smiled, wincing as she moved the wrong way. "It's good to see your eyes open," Ephiny replied, smiling at the warrior who watched silently.
"I know that this isn't a great time, but... there are many pyres to be made..." Eponin sadly added.
"I'll come help. What about the men on the battlefield?" Xena asked, standing from her seat.
"That's already taken care of... we just need pyres built," Eponin replied.
Gabrielle asked fearfully, "How many?"
"Gabrielle maybe we shouldn't--"
"How many?" she pushed.
Ephiny sighed, "Twenty five deaths, others are injured. Five children, three elderly, and the rest on the battlefield."
Tears rose to the surface. Gabrielle held back sobs, "Children?"
Eponin bowed her head, "They tried to run... huts were destroyed, they had no other choice."
Gabrielle sniffed, angrily wiping tears away, "I want to help."
"Gabrielle, you need to relax," Xena softly added.
"I can't! I can't relax in this bed while people are mourning their lovers... their children... their families. I am their queen, and I need to help! I need to do something!" Gabrielle exclaimed, unable to hide the sobs anymore.
Ephiny sighed, "Would you do the honors of lighting them then?"
Gabrielle nodded, holding her warrior's hand tightly as she felt it rest on her shoulder.
Many candle marks later, the pyres were finally built. The bodies were wrapped and placed in the center of the village. After many tries of getting out of her bed on her own, Gabrielle painfully allowed Xena to help her up. She leaned against her warrior as they walked to the center. She was handed a bow and arrows while Ephiny lit a large torch. Reluctantly, Gabrielle loaded the bow, dipping the arrow in the torch. After lighting the first of twenty five pyres, she began her speech.
"My sister amazons, today we mourn the loss of our relatives. Our lovers, our families. Children that should be standing with us today..."
"They may be gone from our world, but they are watching us from the other side, knowing that we are thinking of them, knowing that we love them and cherish them..."
"Knowing that they will be waiting for us. And while they are waiting, they are still with us in our hearts..."
"Even though we lost so much, we gained so much as well..."
"We gained the knowledge of knowing that we won the battle. Even knowing that it costed us so much..."
"We are Amazons. Yes, we have problems with each other, but it shows that we would do anything to keep this village alive..."
"As these magnificent women did..."
Gabrielle sighed, continuing, "At the rising of the sun and at its going down, We remember them..."
"At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of Winter, We remember them..."
"At the opening of buds and in the rebirth of Spring, We remember them..."
"At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of Summer, We remember them..."
"At the rustling of leaves and the beauty of Autumn, We remember them..."
"At the beginning of the year and when it ends, We remember them..."
Another lit. Another tear shed...
"As long as we live, they too will live; for they are now a part of us, as we remember them..."
"When we are weary and in need of strength, We remember them..."
"When we are lost and sick at heart, We remember them..."
"When we have joys we yearn to share, We remember them..."
"When we have decisions that are difficult to make, We remember them..."
" When we have achievements that are based on theirs, We remember them..."
" As long as we live, they too shall live, for they are a part of us, as we remember them..."
"Do not stand at my grave and weep. I am not there. I do not sleep..."
"I am a thousand winds that swiftly blow. I am the diamond glint on newly fallen snow. I am the sunlight on ripened grain. I am the soft and gentle autumn rain..."
"When you wake from sleep in the early morning hush, I am the swift, uplifting rush of quiet birds in circling flight. I am the soft, starlight at night..."
"Do not stand at my grave and weep. I am not there. I do not sleep."
And with the last one lit, tears fell freely. Not as much for mourning. But for knowing that they will live on. And knowing that the Amazon Spirit will never die...